I met Michael Kay a few months ago when Director Christopher Eilenstine held the first cast reading meeting in Long Branch, New Jersey. Michael is one of the screenwriters and he plays that part of Johnlah in the upcoming film, Shadows of the Forest, which is a fantasy horror film.
Granny: “Hi Michael, nice to chat with you on Skype. I guess my first question is, how did you get involved with Christopher Eilenstine’s newest film?”
Michael Kay: “I actually got involved with Shadows of the Forest through Nicolette Davis who is playing the part of Heather. She and I had done a Shrek Musical together and, through Nicolette and her mother, I ended up meeting Chris.
Chris invited me to do pick up scenes on his previous project The Soulless and from there we struck up a good friendship. When Chris told me about Shadows of the Forest, I was brought in to do the writing along with you and Nick Kisella.”
Granny: “Michael, can you tell me a little bit about the part you are playing in the film?”
Michael Kay: “I play the part of Johnlah, who is Scaretina’s father. Johnlah is responsible for educating the younger shadows. He is responsible for training them on how to fend for themselves and to take care of each other. He is somber character. When he speaks, you know to pay attention because you don’t want to be on his bad side. Johnlah is very caring, but he is specific about doing what is best for the group.”
Granny: “I hadn’t realized that Johnlah was Scaretina’s father.”
Michael Kay: “We don’t directly come out and say it, but the way these creatures interact is not the same as being a husband, wife, or child. With these creatures, basically, the entire group is taking care of everyone else. When we came up with the background in regards to these creatures, I did a lot of research in regards to Native American history, and particularly, in New Jersey and looked at the ways that tribe would interact and care for each other.
Along with this research, I began to check the myths and different elements of the Jersey Devil because this creature has always popped up in the history of our state and there is no officially agreement of what this creature really looks like. The Jersey Devil is always pictured as a large creature and, we end up writing that into the story with the background of these creatures, Shadaohs, and that they are able to shape shift. They are able to take on the forms of any animal that they come in contact with and they are able to control vegetation; taking on the properties of vegetation in order to conceal themselves.”
Granny: “How did you prepare for your part as Johnlah?”
Michael Kay: “When Chris first thought of the character of Johnlah, he was originally going to be a large, old creature; like a guard dog for the Shadaohs. When the time came where Chris was finalizing the script, he evolved the character into a whole persona. Since that time of the first script reading, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the character and, what his drives or goals would be.
Once this project is done and, I don’t know if this will be done in film or novel form, but there are additional stories now being developed with the first being a prequel called, “The Scars of Johnlah.” This will give us more background on Johnlah and how he got to where he is in the tribe. Working with all these new ideas has made the character of Johnlah stronger, realer for me where I find myself making these slight adjustments to my own personality in the way I handle people and events.
I’m in Pennsylvania right now visiting my girlfriend and I went for a walk along the Delaware Canal. I was connecting with nature the entire time, absorbing this while in the Johnlah mindset.”
Granny: “I understand perfectly having worked at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia; you do find yourself looking at the world differently. I can see how connecting with nature helps you with your character’s ways.”
Mac Edward Nicolette
Mac Edward Nicolette
Michael Kay: “Yes it does, and I’m really excited about this whole project and I truly love it. Casting has come together really well. I work with Christopher Eilenstine on a regular basis. He’s given me additional responsibilities like getting the word out about this film; basically banging the pots and pans together.
Granny: “It makes sense when promoting an Independent Film to do what you call “banging the pots and pans together” and getting the word out there. Congratulations on becoming the production manager, Michael! What are your duties in your new role?”
Michael Kay: “Essentially, anything that Chris needs done, I’ll be making myself available in order to help people put their whole heart into this film. I just got in touch with a cast member Sarah Elizabeth Chapin who is playing Anderina, the Queen of the Shadaohs. We will be going over the background of how these creatures interact. This is going to be exciting.
Brandon Allentoff, who plays the character of Brian Fischer, is very into his character and the girls, Mackenzie and Nicolette have been knocking it out of the park with everything that they’ve been doing and they are very excited with their parts. Edward X Young, I love this man’s stuff. He is so great and whenever we get together it is always a good experience.
Last week, Christopher, Brandon, Edward and I went to Connecticut to audition someone for a role. It was a great bonding experience. The more people we get involved, the more it will be like this for everyone.
But back to my responsibilities, this week is the Asbury Zombie Walk, Chris and I will be looking for additional make-up artists and, I’m contacting people I know and bringing them into the project.”
Granny: “I’ll be at the next cast reading on November 7th and I know Christopher has already done some publicity shots, but when does the actual filming of Shadows of the Forest begin?”
Michael Kay: “Christopher has already done work on a teaser trailer for the Indigo Website, Facebook and for our website once it’s up. I helped by setting up the costumes for the creatures. We will be officially starting directly after the cast reading and throughout the holidays and, I think into March or April. Because of the girls and their school work, we will be shooting mostly on weekends, plus both are currently working in plays right now.
The ultimate goal is to have everything completed and available to people by October 2016.
Granny: “Before I end this interview, let me ask you about the Indigo Kickstarter. When will this start?
Michael Kay: “Chris wants this done by the time this article goes. Once the Kickstarter is up, people can see what the film is about and what we’re doing so they can contribute. The make-up for the Shadaohs will be very detailed. We want people to see the creatures and say, “That’s amazing.”
Granny: “Any last words for my readers about the film? Why would they want to contribute and support this project?”
Michael Kay: “Christopher has always said this film is ET meets Pan’s Labyrinth and I agree 100%. It’s a great story about two girls from two different worlds bonding with each other, bonding with family and, identifying who the real villain is. We’re seeing this from all sides and going into the heart of the story. And, I promise you are going to cry at the end of the story. We’ll probably be shooting for a PG-13 rating, but kids and adults will love the film.”
Granny: “Thank you, Michael. See you at the next cast reading.”I’ll keep my readers updated on Shadows of the Forest both here on my blog and on Biff Bam Pop. See you later, my little Shadaohs.
You can read the interview I did with Chris, Brandon and Mac, here.