While at the 2016 SXSW Film Festival, Daily Dead had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Another Evil writer/director Carson Mell and co-stars Steve Zissis and Mark Proksch. Here’s what the trio had to say about collaborating together for the genre comedy, the characters they created, and building camaraderie throughout production.
What was really interesting about Another Evil is that we've seen countless supernatural movies, but this film isn't what you would expect at all. Carson, what was your process of putting together this story and giving people an experience that they've never really had before?
Carson Mell: I just love horror and I love ghost stories and it was just really finding a way to put my own philosophy into it—how I feel about the world and the way the world works versus the default philosophy of a horror movie. That was really the jumping-off point for me. I've been trying to write a horror movie for a decade and when I thought of that and thought of these two characters that these guys played, that was when everything coalesced in my head and I was able to write it.
Steve and Mark, what was it that you guys saw in these characters, in terms of what was on the page? What did you think you could bring to the table that would elevate these characters?
Steve Zissis: Honestly, my role was to hold space for Mark's character and to ground the absurdity of the situation. I really needed to just be as human as possible, as grounded as possible, and really just hold space and commit to the reality of everything so that the universe would stay intact.
Mark Proksch: What I needed to do was that even though Os is funny and weird, I had to make him sympathetic, too. Otherwise, Dan would be completely, 100% justified in his actions and I would just be a villain in the movie, and that's not what Carson wrote. I had to make sure I came across somewhat sympathetic. We've all been in relationships where you really want to be friends with someone and they don't want to be friends with you. It hurts and it's really an awful rejection. I wanted that to come across. Whether it does or not, I don't know. But that's what I was aiming for.
Steve Zissis: No, it came across. That's what makes it so compelling, because you do feel for him. He's so vulnerable. As an audience member, when I watched the film for the first time, I was really feeling for Mark's character. I was feeling for Os and it made it that much more complex.
What I thought was interesting is that we have this obsession with the supernatural and ghosts because maybe there are parts of us that need that connection beyond the existence we're in. That yearning seemed to parallel the relationship between Dan and Os as well, because Os was in need of some kind of interaction, too. Was that the intention?
Carson Mell: It's not something I consciously thought of, but I'm a big believer in if you cannot edit yourself too much, hopefully there will be more in the script than you consciously meant to put in it. It's nice to hear when people get different things out of it like that.
How much did going up to the cabin and working those scenes out between the two of you add to the dynamic between Dan and Os? There are some really great bonding moments beyond the ghost hunting.
Steve Zissis: Yeah, for sure. It makes it all the more complex. It's like if you accept a gift from the devil, for example, it's a lot harder to extract yourself from the devil eventually. I don't know why I'm calling you “devil.” It's so terrible [laughs].
Mark Proksch: No, that's fine [laughs].
Steve Zissis: You're not a devil. It's more like “beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” That's why we have that expression. If you become enmeshed with someone in a relationship and you’re bonding, then it's harder to extricate yourself from that situation when everything goes bad.
Mark Proksch: Also, because Steve and I hadn't worked together and we hadn't really known each other before filming, we were becoming friends in real life at the same time Os and Dan were building their relationship. Being out in the middle of the woods with no cell service or anything, we were thrust into each other's space and that comes across in the movie—Os and Dan were thrust into each other's space and had to build a relationship. Steve and I were building a relationship at the same time. That connection surprised me a little bit, seeing that build while watching the movie.
It can be a leap of faith when you're working with somebody who is venturing for the first time into the feature film world. What was it that you saw in Carson as a filmmaker that made you want to work with him?
Steve Zissis: That's a great question. Carson had the sweetest, most sensitive demeanor on set and he was cool as a cucumber. He was fantastic. That made it so much easier for us to do what we had to do.
Mark Proksch: Yeah, having someone not go through the studio. Having someone who has a unique take on a genre and is a funny guy to boot. Then he writes these two incredible, great characters and it’s almost like he’s giving you a gift. It's a gift as an actor to get to do this. The fact that he was as passionate as he was and had been working ten years on the idea and the concept. We've all had ideas for ten years, but how often do they get done? He invested so much that it was a real no-brainer once I met him. The fact that he knew what I can do and what I have done and what Steve has done was a huge plus.
Carson Mell: I was so lucky to find these guys, too. The performances were exactly what I wanted when I was writing it, and it was nice to find people so in sync with my sense of humor.