Blair Witch director Eduardo Sanchez’s extremely well regarded comeback, Lovely Molly (review), premiered to an enthusiastic audience this past week at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin. Having world premiered at the TIFF last September, Image Entertainment will release the haunting film in limited theaters on May 18th.
I recently hopped on the phone with co-writer and director Eduardo Sanchez, as well as Gretchen Lodge (who plays the title role in the film) to discuss the challenges of making the film, staying in character and their upcoming projects.
Starring Gretchen Lodge, Johnny Lewis and Alexandra Holden, “When newlywed Molly Reynolds returns to her long-abandoned family home, frightful reminders of a nightmarish childhood begin seeping into her new life. She soon begins an inexorable descent into evil that blurs the lines between psychosis and possession.” You’re showing Lovely Molly at SXSW. How is it being down there?
Gretchen Lodge: It’s great. It’s my first time being in Austin. Everyone is super cool. The audience we had last night was really, really amazing. It was really great to see it for the first time with them. I’m loving it.
Ed, I was wondering what the process with you and Jamie Nash (co-writer on the film) was. Where did this idea come from?
Eduardo Sanchez: Jamie came up with the idea of somebody videotaping themselves going through a possession. It was Jamie’s premise, and I was really inspired by the idea. I kind of took it over and wrote the script myself, but always collaborating with him on everything. And the rhythm for the movie kind of came out of the writing process. I’m not sure where it came from, but it was definitely inspired.
This is your first directorial feature in a while, what was the process like getting back behind the camera?
ES: It was pretty quick. We came up with the idea, we wrote the script and we were shooting pretty quickly. We really minimized our footprint. We did the film for a pretty low budget and kind of went back to many of the tricks and techniques we learned on Blair Witch. We went to New York to cast and just kind of did an open call for all the talent, and that’s where we found Gretchen. You see that segue way?
GL: He pretty much said it all!
A lot of it comes out of this really consistent, thematic content. Was it important to keep everything grounded like that?
ES: It was always part of the original conceit to make it more dramatic, to play up those aspects and hopefully the scary moments would come out of that, from that foundation. But it was always a challenge, you’re always trying to fight the cliche. You’re always inspired by other films and other artists but we definitely tried to do something different than before.
And Gretchen, this is your first horror movie. What was that like for you? Were you able to leave a lot of this on set or were you taking it home with you a little bit?
GL: I feel like I was taking it home with me a little bit. It’s just such a haunting story. I feel like the best way to put that across would not be to just turn it off and have nothing to do with the character on my off time. I had a whole different wardrobe when I was there so I wouldn’t fall back into all my old Gretchen habits. I really wanted to explore, as far as I could, what was going on with her. I was spending so much time in the house I feel like I was opened up a little more to scary situations. There was definitely an energy about the house, and to leave that on set totally and completely was kind of impossible. Not in the sense that I lost myself, but I was always taking her home as a character to be able to explore her more.
Ed, the sound design plays a key element as well. Did you want to talk about your approach to that?
ES: Yeah. We found these really incredibly talented sound designers in Maryland called “Studio Unknown” and they just got it immediately. And they were really eager to work with me. It wasn’t just building the sound, it was also building the personality of the house with the sound. And also the personality of what Molly was hearing in her head. And then melding all of that as seamlessly as possible with the music. Which is all very organic. It was pretty difficult but they did a phenomenal job. It’s the only movie I’ve made where people have pointed out how good the sound work is, so I’m pretty proud of that.
What do you guys have lined up after this?
ES: I’m doing a bigfoot movie called Exists that we are actually shooting 40 minutes from Austin at Spiderwoods studios. We start shooting that April 9th, this is the first bigfoot script that I’ve written and we’ve finally gotten it financed. It’s kind of a childhood dream to work with the big guy, so I’m very excited.
GL: I am in search of the next project at the moment. I took a break because I’m doing quote a bit of writing, but I’m looking for something that really appeals to me every bit as much as Lovely Molly did.
And Ed, I’m sure you’re sick of this question. But as late as September there was still talk of Blair Witch 3. Is that still kind of on your dance card?
ES: Yeah, we’re still talking to Lionsgate but I can’t say much more than that. We’re still toying with the idea and they’re talking to us about it. Hopefully it will be sometime this year, but it seems like every time someone asks me about the film that’s what I say.