Elston Gunn interviews Sylvain White, director of I'LL ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER!
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I don't know why Elston interviewed the director the direct to video I'LL ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, but he did. And now you can read that here. Enjoy!!!
Sylvain White is the helmer behind the third installment of the I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER franchise, which is out on DVD Tuesday. White was raised mostly in France and came to America where he studied film and worked at Propaganda Films alongside Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze. After a series of commercials, music videos and short films, including QUIET which Grand Jury Prize at the WorldFest International Film Festival 2002 and aired extensively on HBO White is applying is visual talents to features. Once ...LAST SUMMER was finished White went on to direct the dance drama STOMP THE YARD (formerly titled STEPPIN'), currently in post-production. White took a few moments from editing dance sequences to answer our quick Q & A via email.
[Elston Gunn]: Having grown up mostly in Paris, were you drawn more to U.S. films than French? What did you absorb the most from French cinema?
[Sylvain White]: Growing up I was definitely more drawn to U.S. films. French films were generally more adult-themed and didn't seriously catch my interest until film school. At that point Truffaut, Godard, but also more recent filmmakers like Jeunet, Kassovitz, and Kounen were heavy influences on me.
[EG]: Why did you choose to study film in the U.S. rather than France?
[SW]: My father is American and I always wanted to come study in the U.S., I like the system better here. But I originally came to study journalism. It wasn't until the end of my sophomore year that I decided to double major in both Journalism and Film Production.
[EG]: You used to work for Propaganda with Jonze and Gondry while you were still a student. What did you learn while working there?
[SW]: It was my first time on a set, my first time writing concepts for music videos for various directors, etc. But getting to spend some creative time with Gondry was probably the most valuable facet. He really encouraged me to follow the directing path.
[EG]: What drew you to I'LL ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER?
[SW]: Well, I simply got a last minute call as someone was fired and they needed a new director shortly. There were only two weeks of prep left, but I enjoy the horror genre and thought it would be a good opportunity to show my potential. And so I jumped in, re-cast, re-prepped all the locations and shooting schedule within those couple of weeks. Think that the average prep time for a small movie is about ten weeks. It was tough, but I had a blast.
[EG]: What did you want to do differently with the franchise?
[SW]: The material was very much in the same tone and feel as the franchise, so I just wanted to come in and edge the visual quality and energy of the film. I also wanted the gore to feel more real than in the previous two.
[EG]: I read you didn't use any CG effects in the pic for the entire film in favor of practical.
[SW]: That is correct. When it came to the murders and the gore, I wanted to go all practical. I just hate CG gore because it always just looks like CG and it takes you out of the horror of the moment.
[EG]: How come the switch to the mountains of Colorado from the North Carolina fishing town?
[SW]: It's taking the myth from the original films and starting over with a new group of kids years later. The fisherman is not the same guy as in the original, but you have to watch the film to figure it out.
[EG]: Are you happy with the final product?
[SW]: I think it's a fun popcorn film, with cool visuals, good scares, and hype music. So, yes, it's a fun rental or DVD purchase. It's the kind of film you can have fun watching with your friends and jump at the scares.
[EG]: What did you learn about horror filmmaking that you'll apply to future projects?
[SW]: Well, it's the perfect school for creating suspensful moments and building up tension and angst in scenes.
[EG]: So, how do you go from filming a slasher film to the dance drama STOMP THE YARD?
[SW]: You just dive from one world to another. Making films is often very much like watching them. You can rent a comedy, then dim the lights and watch a horror film later on.
[EG]: Is this a musical where people break out into song?
[SW]: No, it's an actual drama where the characters take part in intercollegiate "step-dance" conpetitions. I actually treated it more like a sports drama.
[EG]: From Fred Astaire to THE RED SHOES and SINGIN' IN THE RAIN to Bob Fosse's work, I've always thought dance really lent itself to the nature of cinema. It's about as visual as you can get even if the camera is kept still. What do you think sets STOMP THE YARD apart from other dance films? How did you shoot it?
[SW]: I really went to work on the dance scenes. It's hard to summarize but I applied tailored shooting techniques to each dance sequence. I studied everything that had been done up till now, starting with the classics, and really tried to break new ground. I also studied how some classic Hong Kong films shot fight sequences and re-adapted the techinique to dance. The result is quite impressive, if I may say.
[EG]: Why do you think a lot of dance films today do not connect with the audience?
[SW]: Well, they often feel artificial and the dancing contrived. But in this case you'll almost feel like you are watching a documentary.
[EG]: Was it hard not using dance doubles? How did you work around that?
[SW]: Not using any dance doubles was my prerogative from the earliest stages of my involvement with the project. I just cast the most amazing actor/dancers there are and the rest went pretty smooth. Columbus Short, the lead, is an astonishingly gifted dancer and he carries this movie with the ease of a true acting star.
[EG]: What's next for you? Any future plans to return to the horror genre? You also directed the horror short QUIET a couple of years ago written by your cousin, Chris White. Do you have plans to collaborate again?
[SW]: Absolutely. We have two screenplays in development. LAST STOP (www.laststopthemovie.com), for example, caters to the darkest of horror with a fresh and original tone. Ever thought about falling asleep on the subway and waking up alone at the last stop at 1am, not knowing where you are and missing a kidney?
[EG]: What films did you look to for inspiration on both ...LAST SUMMER and STOMP THE YARD?
[SW]: For IK3: THE RING, FIGHT CLUB, EVIL DEAD, THE EXORCIST, IDENTITY, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3, HALLOWEEN, THE IKWYDLS franchise, of course, THE OTHERS and many more.
For STOMP THE YARD: CHICAGO, FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, ANY GIVEN SUNDAY, YOU GOT SERVED, FLASHDANCE, WEST SIDE STORY, MICHAEL JACKSON'S THRILLER, RIZE, ALI, CINDERELLA MAN, WHITE NIGHTS and many more.