Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Steampunk Granny's Interview with Director Jeremiah Kipp


I have to say that I meet the most talented people in the Independent Film Industry. I recently had the pleasure of being contacted by Jeremiah Kipp. He’d sent me his website and the link to several of his short films. Busy tying up other interviews I’d been working on, it wasn’t until the beginning of January that I was able to watch the three films Jeremiah wanted me to review. Were they good? Hell, yeah! And, I’ll do a short review of Minions, Painkiller and Berenice right after the interview.

Jeremiah Kipp's directing credits include THE SADIST starring Tom Savini, MASTERMIND starring Chris Sarandon, THE POD starring Larry Fessenden, CONTACT (commissioned by Sinister Six annual screening series), The Days God Slept (Best Director-Horror Hound 2014), CRESTFALLEN, THE CHRISTMAS PARTY (Cannes and Clermont-Ferrand), EASY PREY (commissioned by NYC's annual Vision Fest, DROOL (commissioned by Mandragoras Art Space),SNAPSHOT and THE APARTMENT (commissioned by Canon to premiere their XL2 at DV Expo 2004) Producing credits include the feature films SATAN HATES YOU(created by Glass Eye Pix, starring Angus Scrimm, Michael Berryman and Reggie Bannister), GOD'S LAND, LET'S PLAY, IN MONTAUK, THE JONESTOWN DEFENSE AND THE BED-THING (directed by Pulitzer Prize-nominated Matt Zoller Seitz). Assistant director credits include I SELL THE DEAD starring Dominic Monaghan, SOMEWHERE TONIGHT starring John Turturro, ONE NIGHT starring Melissa Leo, and the Sundance Award-winning MAN (dir: Myna Joseph).


Marie Gilbert:  Hi Jeremiah. It's a pleasure to interview you. I'll start this interview by asking what got you interested in writing and directing films?

Jeremiah Kipp: There's an early photograph of me as an infant standing by a chalkboard, having drawn a picture of Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolf Man, so images and movies were always a strong part of my life.  My grandparents would read to me, so there was a sense of storytelling.  And one day I saw in the newspaper that they were seeking actors for a local drama troupe.  Filmmaking began in the form of a VHS camcorder our family had, which was meant to record weddings and gatherings, but I immediately co-opted it for zombie movies in the backyard.  Video-making combined the visuals of drawing, the narrative of stories and the performance of acting.  It felt like I'd found my home.

Marie: Is it just horror films that you like to do? If horror is your love, where did this inspiration come from? Who inspired you?

Jeremiah Kipp: I've had the good fortune to make movies in several genres, but horror is close to my heart. Fear is such a primal emotion, even stronger than love and hate.  An early inspiration was the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, which immersed the viewer into a strange and aggressive new world.  It felt like the filmmakers themselves were insane, and that the viewer was thrown into a world of mad people.  On a lighter note, DAWN OF THE DEAD played into fantasies of living in a shopping mall.  Genre films were beyond reality, they took a great imaginative leap into something dark and adult. Tobe Hooper and George Romero were two early, vital inspirations.

Marie: You have a lot of films listed in your IMDb, but which one is your favorite and tell me why it’s your favorite?

Jeremiah Kipp: I don't have a favorite but there are a few that felt like big steps forward.  THE CHRISTMAS PARTY in 2003 gave me an opportunity to work with children and older people in a dark narrative about a holiday event thrown by Christians, the kind who want everybody else to be Christian too.  It was my first time having a movie that suspended the viewers in a state of taut anticipation, and it was a great joy screening it at festivals around the world.  

The next big one for me was CONTACT in 2009, about a drug trip gone wrong, where we started paring everything down -- plot, dialogue, even color, trying to get down to the pure essentials.  The silence in that movie felt like an ambush; I felt like it was another movie where we gave the audience a compelling ride.  It was also a pleasure to make.  The movie is dark and unnerving, but the making of it was filled with a sense of jubilation and excitement.  It was my first time collaborating with director of photography Dominick Sivilli, who became a vital partner on several movies to follow.  And a very close friend.

Marie: Your films have won awards, but which one did you not expect to win?

Jeremiah Kipp: It's been surprising to see how much PAINKILLER has connected with people, since it was an intensely difficult film to make.  The behind-the-scenes environment was stressful, with various departments at odds with each other, going several days over schedule and way over budget. It was painful and I was happy when it was over, but what's funny is that a good or bad experience behind the camera often has very little reflection on how good the movie turned out.  PAINKILLER has proven to be intense and engaging, and I'm proud that my collaborators and I were able to make something that had such an effect. The fact that it's won awards and is building a good reputation is incredibly pleasing.


Marie: I loved all three films, but Painkiller, the short that won Best Short Film Bronze Antenna Award, really hit home with me because of having lost family to cancer (the slow, painful kind). Was it hard on the actors to understand what you expected from them and that some of the scenes would be, for a better word, brutal?

Jeremiah Kipp: You try to create an environment of trust with the performers, so they can mine the characters and understand the content of the film. We had a few rehearsals for PAINKILLER, which was great, so by the time we got to the set the actors could just parachute into the dark situations.  One of my favorite parts of the job is making discoveries along with the actors, and the cast of PAINKILLER was particularly fearless.

Marie: I checked on one of the commercials listed on your site. It was for Calvin Klein and it was good. You seem to carry over this sense of mystery and darkness that you bring out in your films into this commercial. Is this what they wanted or did they let you have complete control on how to present the product?

Jeremiah Kipp: I had complete artistic control over that spec commercial, so there was no conflict at any point.  

Marie: What are you working on now?

Jeremiah Kipp: We're finishing up post on a non-horror short film called SOUND/VISION about a Palestinian girl taking music lessons from an Israeli piano teacher. It felt great to be making a movie about a possible friendship, one fraught with cultural tensions.  And I'm gearing up to make a vampire feature that promises to be quite grisly.  A few other offers have just started coming in, so 2015 seems like it's off and running.  I love to work, and filmmaking allows you the chance to see places you might not otherwise get to. Last November, I filmed on an island in Maine, then a monastery, an abandoned hospital and a sound stage converted into a padded cell.  When people say they want to run away and join the circus, sometimes I feel like I already have.

Marie: Thank you Jeremiah for doing this interview with me. You have won yourself a loyal fan.

For all my readers out there, I’ll give a short review of the three films specifically sent to me by Jeremiah Kipp for me to review. I’ll tell you right now that I loved each one.

“Minions” was written by Joseph Fiorillo, produced by Lauren Rayner, directed by Jeremiah Kipp and stars Lukas Hassel, Cristina Doikos, Robin Rose Singer and Lauren Fox. “Minions” brings out the best features of what I consider, film noir. The tagline claims the film is a true story about witches, but we learn that it’s so much more than that. The music, which is haunting, sets the mood as we watch William (Lukas Hassel) heading down deserted streets towards the Witch’s Path, teased by the voice of the unseen Abigail (Lauren Fox).Is William in a trance? Has he been bewitched? When he comes across two young ladies, Sarah (Cristina Doikos) and Katrina (Robin Rose Singer) we fear that he has entered a trap. But, in this dark and sexual thriller, things are not what they seem. Here is the trailer for Minions

Berenice is an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s story. Written and directed by Jeremiah Kipp and starring Thomas Mendoza, Cheryl Koski, Susan Adriensen and Bob Socci, Berenice is part of a horror anthology called "CREEPERS" out on DVD right now, available for order at 

The film begins with us watching a quiet young man working on a model car. He is comfortable living in his own world, but we see quickly that he exhibits obsessive compulsive tendencies. His mother (Susan Adriensen) informs him that his cousin Berenice will be spending the season with them and they want him to keep her occupied. There was some type of connection between them as children, but as adults, Edward (Thomas Mendoza) seems to fear the beautiful Berenice (Cheryl Koski). Bernice is seriously ill and she suffers from epileptic episodes that leave her close to death. Unable to deal with the girl, who is both sexually attractive and increasingly ill, Edward focuses on the only healthy part of her anatomy. Berenice is a horror film that leaves you chilled to the bone. Excellent! Here is the trailer:


This was my favorite. Painkiller is A Jerry Janda Film in which he also has a part. It’s directed by Jeremiah Kipp and stars Kelly Rae Le Gault, Thomas Mendolia and Jill Di Donato. This is horror at its best and gruesome. What if science could find a way to block the horrid pain of cancer with an alternative to the harsh chemicals of Chemo therapy? Sounds innocent enough, right? When two scientists work with DNA manipulation to create a bio-symbiotic cure to block pain, all hell breaks loose. This film gives new meaning to pain management. Here is the trailer:


Do yourself a favor and check out Jeremiah Kipp’s website. You’ll thank me. As a special treat, Jeremiah has allowed me to include this full feature of The Christmas Party. Enjoy
THE CHRISTMAS PARTY can be seen in its entirety (for free) here:

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