UK Film Interview 2020
"The moment a script leaves your hands, it's no longer yours. Every person that touches it leaves a piece of themselves in it until you collectively birth something covered in the artistic fingerprints of others."
Max & The Monster
Presented by A Voice For The Innocent available online now.
Haunted college senior Maxine struggles to regain normalcy after acquiring the company of a persistent Monster whom no one else can see.
Hi Jenna thank you for talking to TNC, how are you holding up during the lockdown?
Hi! Thanks so much for reaching out.
Most days I'm quite well; it's been nice to have time to devote to all the minutiae of both my career and personal improvement. The flip side of that, of course, is a massive loss of work and opportunities I've worked hard for, atop a painful global awareness of the detrimental aspects of all this. I'm still learning to walk the thin line between contentment and chaos.
Do you think this time will provide you with some new creative inspiration?
I feel very fortunate in that it already has. In waves, of course. But I've been a part of virtual table reads for charities and friends, revised two horror feature scripts and begun writing a third, revamped pitch materials, and more. Also doodled. Primarily cartoon cats farting through space.
Your short film Max & The Monster is set to be made publicly available online from Friday, how does it feel to be sharing your film online?
I'm thrilled! We filmed M&TM a couple of years ago, and it premiered during the opening night of the Austin Film Festival in 2018. In 2019 it screened at Get Connected, then went on to win "Best Female Representation" at the Women In Film and Television (WIFTA) showcase and "Best Short Film" at the Content Creators of Atlanta Awards. The film acts as a proof of concept for an animated pilot, in the tonal vein of Euphoria. And alongside all of this, it's always been important to me for this particular project to have an educational run.
Max & the Monster is presented by A Voice For The Innocent, as a filmmaker how important is it for you to have the opportunity to partner with important organisations like this?
Partnering with an organization like A Voice For The Innocent (AVFTI) is vital. Max & The Monster is a dark comedy about the lasting impacts of PTSD in the wake of assault; AVFTI is a non-profit which provides resources and support to survivors of rape and sexual abuse. Together I hope we can demonstrate what this kind of trauma feels like to those without it, and provide a sense of community to those living with it every day.
"I relish artistic collaboration and the use of art to communicate."
Do you ever get nerves ahead of releasing a film?
Absolutely. Partially because the moment I finish anything, I can't help but think of things I could have done better. Also, I generally feel the nerves ahead of doing anything I care deeply for.
Your previous short film #SLUT won the Papaya Films Bursary at FirstGlance FF Los Angeles 2019, as an independent filmmaker what did it mean for you to get this type of recognition for your work?
With so many fantastic indie films circulating now, recognition among my peers is an honour. It's a wonderful opportunity to celebrate with the team who worked their butts off together to make it happen.
How did Max & the Monster come about, what was the inspiration behind your screen play?
I was on the festival circuit with another project I'd directed, and seemed to see one film after another dealing with the topic of assault. But they all seemed to focus on the rape itself, often sexualizing it in a way that I find confusing as an audience member. These would provide shock for the sake of it, but we all know that rape is bad. I didn't understand the need to drive home that point. What I didn't see anywhere was, "okay, that happened, now comes the rest of your life. What does that look like?"
As a survivor myself, that's where the journey starts for me. And it's not always a melodrama; sometimes it's strange, and stupid, and even funny, the ways it continually pops up or shapes perception. So I immediately returned to the couch I was crashing on and wrote the film I wanted to see.
What was the challenging aspect you faced making Max & the Monster?
Money. Isn't it always? After writing M&TM, I set up Laser Pigeon Pictures LLC. Then every gig I had for the year following, I'd put a third of my paycheck into the business account. Private investors and some favors then helped us round it out after that.
What was the most valuable lessons you took away after making Max & the Monster?
The moment a script leaves your hands, it's no longer yours. Every person that touches it leaves a piece of themselves in it until you collectively birth something covered in the artistic fingerprints of others. There's a beautiful balance to be found between total control and a complete lack thereof.
How much does your background as an actor help inform the way you direct your films?
Years of training and working as a union actor provide me with the language necessary to communicate with other ones. The same can be said for working closely with directors as an actor and learning from the other side. I've also done a fair amount of assistant directing, which provides a greater logistical perspective.
Does this allow you to have a deeper connection & understanding of your actors?
Absolutely! Not to mention a certain amount of sensitivity and trust.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
I've always loved telling stories, even before learning to read and write. I relish artistic collaboration and the use of art to communicate. And I crave the sort of adventure that reality doesn't often provide.
How much has your style and the approach to your projects changed since you started out?
Infinitely. And it continues to every day. If I stop learning, and growing, just put me out to pasture.
Has there been any advice you've been given that has really stuck with you?
My Dad Michael E. Kanell will often quote a sports coach saying, "everyone wants to win. But not everyone wants to prepare to win." It's a reminder that all of the work I put in every day, even when I don't see tangible results for a while, work towards something. Seeds in a garden don't immediately blossom.
And finally, what do you want people to take away from Max & the Monster?
Trauma and mental illness never disappear. There's no cure. But what we can do is name them, put a face to them, and form a healthy relationship with them. They may be a pain, but in the daylight they aren't so scary.