Wednesday, 3 August 2011

An Interview With "The Twisted Twins", Jen & Sylvia Soska

First of all let me thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview :)

Q1 - I'd like to start at the beginning, What inspired you to make "Dead Hooker In A Trunk"?

S: Before we made DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK, we had been acting since we were little girls. As we grew up, the roles directed towards identical twins shifted from being childish and silly to overtly sexualized and silly. I think having beautiful women in projects is great and I have no problem with sexuality, but we would look at our resume and it consisted only of 'sexy twin sorority girl' or 'sexy alien twin' or any combination of twin and something sexual. We wanted to do more, we wanted to make the films we enjoyed watching.

We enrolled in a film school that has a top notch 'Action for Actors' training program within its other studies. Jen and I have extensively trained in martial arts, becoming certified personal trainers, but what interested us was leaving acting for stunt work. That way it would be our skill set that we got to show off in film. The program was great, but it was outsourced by the school and did not represent the actual make up of the business. It turned out to be what is very common in film - an opportunity for people to make money by promising success in film. There was no curriculum and it was a huge disappointment.

If GRINDHOUSE hadn't been in theaters at the time, we wouldn't be talking today. We grew up, in particular, watching Robert Rodriguez's work and it left a big mark on us. Not only did he make the coolest flicks ever, he showed you how in his Ten Minute Film Schools and in his EL MARIACHI-chronicling book, 'Rebel Without A Crew'. The last insult from the film school was that they didn't have money - each project was allowed a budget of $200 - for our final project and were told to merge with another group. That was fucking it. We refused and decided we would make a final project, but we would do it on our own. We would collaborate with our friends in film, pull out every favor we could muster to write, direct, produce, star in, and do the stunt work for the project. We were spending more time in the theaters watching the glorious-ness of GRINDHOUSE and learning film school from the folks that do it the best.

We walked out of one particular screening and Jen turned to me and said, "Dead Hooker in a Trunk". It was perfect. I asked her what the film was about and she said that she wasn't sure, but that should be the title. We built the story up from there - we made a fake trailer for the epic film and made sure it had everything and anything we wanted to see in a flick. On top of that, the school had a list of things that were too inappropriate for student projects - this being our own project, we put everything on the list in the script as well as some things that have probably since been added.

We spent all that time looking for a place to fit into the film industry we loved so much, but the answer was always there. It's something people hear a million times - if you want to make a movie, go out and make your own.

J: DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK was our EL MARIACHI. It was our attempt against all odds to follow in our hero Robert Rodriguez's footsteps. People spend too much time talking about the movies they want to make. It's true. No one is going to make it happen for you. You have to go after it yourself.

We had been leaving our film school looking for something to actually learn from during the summer that GRINDHOUSE hit theaters. It was awesome. We loved the faux trailers in between the films. We were excited when we discovered that HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN was the brainchild of fellow Canadian filmmaker, Jason Eisener. It was incredible to see an independent filmmaker have his trailer up there along with Rob Zombie, Edgar Wright, and Eli Roth. And it was a damn good trailer.

We wanted to make a faux trailer worthy of playing alongside these amazing filmmakers. I came up with DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK admittedly before anything else. Being unknown filmmakers in a group of thousands of independents, we knew that we needed a title that would be a game changer. Something unforgettable, something that makes you say "I have to see that movie", something that stood out, something that stirred a strong emotional reaction in people, something that told audiences exactly what they were in store for. DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK was exactly that title. Then we came up with the characters. We're long time lovers of comic books and video games. In a strange way that played a big part in influencing us. We wanted our characters to be as unforgettable as our title. We decided we wanted their personalities to be larger than life so we based them on stereotypes and built from there. We decided they, much like any costumed hero, would never change what they're wearing so their outfits would make them instantly recognizable.

Since we were only thinking we were making a trailer, we just came up with larger than life scenarios. The trailer bits are always only the best bits. We put every over the top thing we could think of in there. It was originally intended as a project for film school, but the school wouldn't give us the modest budget that every other group had received to make their own short films. The school said there wasn't any money and we had to absorb into another group. As you can tell, we made it anyways on our own time with our own money and resources. We were still allowed to show it at our graduation as part of our body of work. The reaction was fairly epic itself. Half of the audience walked out and the other half were cheering so loudly you could barely hear the trailer. During the making of the trailer we would joke that we'd punch a bear in the feature or do this or do that. After showing the trailer and getting such a strong reaction, making the feature only made sense.

Q2 - Are you happy with how the film has been received?
S: I am humbled by the extremely gracious response from the public. When I read a review and the writer truly enjoyed the film and got what we were going for with the project - the pride associated with that experience is immeasurable. The best part of my day is when I get a message from someone who saw the film and they wanted to let me know how much fun they had watching it. That's such a great feeling. I have received messages from people around the world and a lot of those conversations turn into very good friendships with people who love the genre like we do.

Even when the film was banned from a theater in Canada, we had an onslaught of support from people around the world who stood up against censorship, ignorance, and misdirected frustration. I was deeply saddened when I heard the film was banned for its satirical title without anyone bothering to watch the film, but it gave us and the horror community an opportunity to open a dialogue on horror and censorship which is something we need in this day and age. Horror seems to be labeled as the red-headed step child of filmmaking, a scapegoat for society's frustrations with a sometimes upsetting world - as can be seen in the situations with Remy Couture, the effects artist that was taken to court for moral corruption due to his realistic creations, or with the Sitges Film Festival when the festival director scheduled to A SERBIAN FILM.

The people who make up the horror community are the best people in the world. They are educated, smart, and aren't afraid to stand by what they like. A lot of the success our film has experienced is because people in the community heard about it and stood behind it like crazy with articles, reviews, and spreading the word to all their cool friends. I feel very lucky.

J: The response we've received for DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK has been overwhelming. I am blown away by the emails, letters, tweets, messages, reviews, interviews, and write ups that we have been showered with. We wanted more than anything to make a movie that was pure enjoyment for our audiences. Just pure fun. And we dreamed of having the opportunity to be able to share that film with as many people as possible. With the release of the film earlier this year in Australia and the UK through Bounty Films and now the release through IFC Midnight, we are having our greatest dreams and ambitions realized. The film is out on VOD on August 3rd and will also be coming to limited theaters across Canada and the USA.

I believe in the horror community. People who love horror, as well as the films themselves, get judged unfairly. People who love horror are the sweetest, most supportive, open-hearted group of people that I've ever had the privilege of knowing. The opinion out there is that horror isn't for everyone and it's weird and it's not done all that well. I'm a weirdo myself and so I feel right at home with my fellow outcasts. There are so many of us. We outnumber the "normies". It means everything to us that we can make the kind of movies that we want to see and that our work has hit home with so many other horror lovers. Exciting things are happening within the genre and I am honored to be a part of it.

I can't begin to thank everyone for all they've done for us. They've gone out of their way to see the film, tell their friends, write about it, blog about it, and get the word out there. I feel like I have an army behind me. I am really looking forward to hitting the conventions and festivals. I'll be there until the very end shaking hands and thanking the people for believing in us.

Q3 - How are you enjoying seeing your fan-base grow?

S: Not only do we have the extreme pleasure of getting to make films, but we get to meet some truly remarkable people from around the world because of what we do. We grew up with a passion for horror and the odd which made us stand out even more than just being twins. In school, people look for those that don't fit in and that is often the material for ridicule. It was very hard to feel like we fit in.

I feel like I've found a place where I belong now. I get to talk to people who like what I like and who gives a shit if we're weird, because we're proud to be so. Every time I hear from someone who dug the flick, it's a very cool feeling. DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK had its television premiere on The Horror Channel this past July 29th and we had the three of us - Jen, CJ, and myself - on Twittering talking to everyone who was watching the film. It was fucking awesome.

J: I wake up every morning and get to make new friends with people all around the world who dig what we're doing and that is very cool. I see the people who support and enjoy our work more as friends than fans. We're very hands on. We reply to every email that isn't a "make me famous" or "have sex with me" email. We get to know a lot of the people who take the time to drop us a line and chat about the film. I'm really just a fan of horror and film myself. I am so privileged to be doing what I love and being able to branch out and reach so many viewers. We wear our hearts on our sleeves and I think it's something that fellow horror lovers see and relate to.

I'd love to expand our reach even further. I love Japan and have been dying to get our work over there. There are some countries that haven't heard about the Twisted Twins yet or our DEAD HOOKER. I hope to change that. In the future I'd love to have a Twisted Twins Army like the Kiss Army, complete with special rings for members. I know, I think big. But if you aim for the stars and reach the moon, it's not so bad.

Q4 - Would you say that you are living your dream?

S: Definitely. I go to camera on my second feature film in a few weeks, DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK will soon be available everywhere in the world, and there will even be a limited theatrical run with midnight screenings throughout the US and Canada. I have died and gone to nerd heaven.

J: I wish my dreams were like this. I always wake up too soon and then try to go back and re-dream it but it never works out that way. It looks like with the success and response to DHIAT we will be able to be making movies for the rest of our lives. Life doesn't often give you happy endings like that. I've never been so happy. It's kind of scary.

Q5 - Do you write as a team or is it individualistic pieces brought together?

S: We definitely write as a team, but tend to split up the process. Jen has certain elements that she brings to stories that I would never think of and I have a unique set of tastes that differ from what she's bringing. Together, we develop a story that first must entertain both of us. That means a lot of decent ideas get torn to shreds between us. It's a tag team process - once we write out an outline for the script, we take turns writing. One of us writes while the other plays video games, then we trade. We have our own set scenes to write, but if we get blocked we have backup, and we're often tweaking each others' work as we develop the script.

J: We think the same things in different ways. That's pretty much twins for you. The same, but different. We can be talking about the exact same thing, but our execution, our shots, our details can be very different. Sylv's a great writer. She's got a wonderful sense of style and this amazing depth and darkness to her writing. I love writing with her. We decide on our stories together and what key events will happen and where. We then decide who wants what and given our very different personalities it's usually not too much of an ordeal. I'll know what parts she wants to write before she even tells me so I know what battles are worth fighting and which I just need to be flexible on. The tag team writing style is great. I'm lucky to be have a twin that I get to work with.

Q6 - Has there ever been any arguments over your films such as who gets what part or what piece should or shouldn't stay in?

S: Yes! We are Hungarian and fiery, so sometimes we get into passionate discussions on things which seems like an argument, but it's how we talk to each other. Ha ha. There is one thing that I pitched to have happen in our script, BOB, and Jen fought me hard on it because, admittedly, it is pretty disgusting. But I won her over and now it's a proud stand alone aspect of the film. 

J: No, never. Ha ha, okay, there have been a few. It's often because we can see the same thing in different ways. When it comes down to it, we're both right and we're both after the same thing. If we were completely identical in our tastes our work would be a little stale. There are aspects we both bring to the work. We used to argue more, but it's exhausting. We talk it out and never bring any disagreements into our work or, even worse, onto set. With writing, we can both identify what's not working so we rarely disagree over what goes and what stays. We decide well in advance who gets final say on directing days. It's a partnership, but someone needs final say.

We never fight about roles. We see the project as a whole and if we want one of us in there, we always know who and why. We prefer to put the focus on our directing and acting these days. After a brief cameo in AMERICAN MARY we'll be retiring from acting. 

Q7 - What would you do if one of you decided to quit the film industry?

S: I would really miss my sister. I think she loves it too much, so she's going to be stuck with me for a long time, but if that actually happened I'd be pretty bummed. Knowing me, I'd probably make a dark movie about the experience. 

J: Wow. I'd try to talk her out of it. She's damn stubborn. If she made up her mind, that would be it. But I know her. She loves this and it's what she's meant to do. You know when you find that "something" in life you just know and for Sylv directing is that thing. She's got filmmaking in her blood. I don't think I'd ever risk losing her. If she left she'd probably be off being the Punisher, ha ha. I'd make a shitty movie just to piss her off and make her come back. 

Q8 - As women do you find it hard working in what's known as a a male dominated business?

S: Yes and no. I have been treated amazingly by people in the industry and I am very fortunate to have had the experiences that I have. That being said, I have had some people be disgustingly rude to me but had I been a man in the same situation, I believe instead of sexist remarks, I would have received a different variety of asshole dialogue or never gotten the meeting at all. I've had people give me the benefit of the doubt because I'm a female filmmaker and I've had people dislike me because I'm a female filmmaker.

No matter who you are, the film industry is incredibly challenging and you have to deal with way more rejection than success. The only way to be successful is to make your own opportunities happen for yourself. Right now we are in one of the most challenging economic times ever and no one is getting their films made. There are two movies happening right now - the super budgeted studio flicks and the no money independents. Anyone is lucky to be working right now and I'm one of the lucky ones.

J: It comes with its challenges as well as its advantages. Some people like us just because we're females in the business and there are people who hate us just for that reason. We've had implications that we've had it easier than others because we're women which is stiflingly ignorant. No one came along and gave us a free pass because of our gender. There is no career HOV lane for women. We are proud to be women working in this business. Women can make films that are every bit fucked up as a film made by men and I'm proud to be a part of that. Horror has been very progressive as far as female roles in front of and behind the camera are concerned. 

I find it offensive to be told that we're doing good for female filmmakers like we need to be graded easier than our male colleges. My biological bits shouldn't even come into question. I focus on making good work and that's where the focus should always be. Even with our writing, we will write a badass hero and make them female instead of writing for a female character. I've never asked to be judged against other female filmmakers, I want our work to be judged against everyone. If we make a shitty film that we can't defend, I expect to be jumped all over because of it. I've seen some truly awful films by women that have been sold to me as some sort of accomplishment just because the filmmakers were female and it's offensive to me. The same work made by a man would be torn apart. 

Q9 - What were your favourite horror films whilst you were growing up?

S: POLTERGEIST was my first horror. The HELLRAISER series was a huge favorite - those cute little Cenobites bit right into my heart. CUJO was a big one because it was the first horror I watched after reading the book - that was my mom's rule: If you can be mature and read the book, you can watch the movie for the book afterwards. LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS and GHOSTBUSTERS and BEETLEJUICE were huge for us growing up.

J: I must've watched LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS a million times. I still passionately love that movie/play. We watched the Rick Moranis version. I'm sad he's retired from acting. GHOSTBUSTERS, both of them, were big hits for us, too, along with BEETLEJUICE. I loved watching Stephen King films. I had grown up reading his novels. Watching them was like visiting an old friend. 

Q10 - What would be your dream casting for one of your films? (Including actors/actresses that have passed)

S: You and I were talking back and forth about this earlier. I had some tremendous opportunities with casting for AMERICAN MARY and the script went to some of my favorite actors in the business. My dream casting was for the title character of this next film, as I have never written anyone like her before and to have her perfect would mean everything else in the project could fit into place as this is Mary's story. One of my favorite actresses is Katharine Isabelle - she has this strength and this intoxicating way of living as these characters she plays. The fact that we get to collaborate together on this project is dream casting come true.

J: Oh, wow. Good question! Damn, it's hard to answer without giving away any details on future projects. I'd LOVE to just write down my proposed cast list, ha ha, but that would ruin so much of the surprise. I've been lucky enough to have worked with some exceptional talent. I stand behind the people who stand behind us and our work. The faces you've seen us work with before will be back on future productions. I love Katharine Isabelle, Leah Gibson, Paula Lindberg, CJ Wallis, Connor Stanhope, and way too many to list off here. There are actually parts for all of them in BOB, which will likely be our next film. It's a very cool horror comedy. I wish I could give away more names, but I don't want to ruin the surprise. I live for the "holy-shit-look-at-the-new-Twisted-Twins-movie" moments.

Q11 - What's your views on the current state of the Horror genre?

S: For the most part, it's depressing. The horror genre is very popular and because of that fact, the market is diluted with continuous crap in hopes of making some easy money. There are too many soulless studio pictures that seem to follow a formula than any original thought. I like to watch more international horror and independent horror because there are still artists telling stories there. There will be more great films - like the recent I SAW THE DEVIL - mixed in with the release onslaught of unoriginal crap, but it feels like it's always been like that. I feel like people are getting bored of watching the same movie over and over again - I'm hoping to see more films come out that shake things up. 

J: It's not in a good state, but there's a change happening. Years ago there was this phase where horror was being watered down. Studios decided to try and make a play for the PG 13 audiences and we ended up with a whole whack of crap. Then something momentous happened. Eli fucking Roth happened. He kicked the horror scene in the balls with HOSTEL. All of a sudden horror had this powerful new life breathed into it. I feel it's happening again. The studio films have been a real disappointment to horror fans for a while now. The remake craze is so unoriginal and, honestly, we can all do better than that. I think the change that is happening is that horror is being put back in the hands of horror fans. There are so many independents that are making waves and it's an honor to be a part of that.

With AMERICAN MARY, we are hoping to continue and build on that evolution. It's a film like no other. It's a game changer.

Q12 - Who do you look up-to in the film industry?

S: Mary Harron is a huge influence as she is a Canadian director who has expertly stood up for her incredible work even when receiving harsh criticisms from a nervous public - as she did when filming AMERICAN PSYCHO. I first saw her talking so intelligently about the film and thought she was just amazing. I love the films that Lars Von Trier makes. They have this very beautiful way of digging into the darkest parts of human nature. He doesn't follow other people's formulas, he has his stories speak for themselves. 

J: Of course we admire Eli Roth and his body of work. He's been a really good friend to us. He doesn't gloss over things or tell you something is good when it's not. It's a rarity in this world. Everyone wants to make great work, but it's our mistakes that makes us grow as artists. You have to be open to hearing the bad with the good. Obviously don't take everything you hear as gospel. Be able to explain your art. If you're having a hard time doing so, something isn't right.

We love Tarantino and Rodriguez. That's a given. If you aren't fans of their work, you're not watching it closely enough. Check out a "Ten Minute Film School" on any of Rodriguez's films or pick up REBEL WITHOUT A CREW. A must have for any and every filmmaker.

Q13 - Do you plan on staying in the Horror genre or do you see yourselves branching out?

S: The funny thing about Jen and me is that we never intend to make anything a horror, our minds just always go to a weird place. DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK was a coming of age, road trip movie - our version of a chick flick and it ended up have some pretty grotesque moments. We have about seven scripts ready to go for future projects and each touches on another genre, but also has these very horrific moments. I don't see a rated G picture in our near future.

J: Anything we do will always have horrific aspects to it. It's a big part of who we are. We never set out to make a horror film. We focus on the story and the horror just creeps in there. It must be in our blood. We have lots of scripts in different stages of development, several ready to go. There's a Western, a romantic comedy, a TV series, a cartoon, all with horror in them. We like crossing genres and creating something new and fascinating. We'd never pigeon hole ourselves into a genre, but we'd never turn our back on horror.

Q14 - Your upcoming film "American Mary" featuring Katharine Isabelle is creating quite a buzz, what can we expect to see?

S: The film came from a conversation with our now good friend, Eli Roth. The man has been incredibly kind and generous with his support of us and our work. He asked if what other scripts we had - at the time there were none - and asked if we had something that was more of a 'straight forward horror'. There was something that I saw when I was in my late teens that scared the shit out of me that I always wanted to explore more, so I pitched it. I said we needed to do a final pass before we sent it over - we wrote it in two weeks. I felt awful and admitted to him next time we saw each other. He is a very down to earth, cool guy - he had a good sense of humor about it.

The film follows medical student, Mary Mason, as she becomes increasingly broke and disenchanted with medical school and the surgeons she once admired. The allure of easy money sends her into the world of underground surgery that leaves more marks on Mary than her so-called 'freakish' clientele. It's a very human look into the world today and the struggle to succeed in an unforgiving environment.

Katharine Isabelle is ridiculously talented. She brings these complicated characters to life that you feel you know so clearly. It's an honor to be working with some one who is dedicated to her work. I'm very excited to see the reaction to her in this role.

J: It's tough because I don't want to give too much away yet. I can tell you that we hate CGI and have a profound respect and admiration for prosthetic work and the artists that make these effects. The geniuses at MastersFX will be creating the characters in AMERICAN MARY. You'll know them from their work on TRUE BLOOD and SIX FEET UNDER just to name a couple things they've worked on. We are also working with some truly outstanding Canadian talent. There's a lot of talent up here and we plan to showcase that here.

Q15- In previous interviews you've stated your love for the UK, Why is this?

S: The UK has been very good to us. The first screening for DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK occurred during the first "Women in Horror Recognition Month", brainchild of horror aficionado and feminist, Hannah Neurotica of Ax WOund Zine, in a female-focused film festival in Birmingham called "Ghouls on Film". When it came time to take the film to the market, the incredible Bounty Films picked up the flick for distribution in the UK and Australia. This past July 29th marked the television premiere of DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK on the Horror Channel. All these amazing opportunities, and on a personal note, I have met some very dear friends in the UK because of the film and that I feel particularly fortunate.

J: I abso~fucking~lutely love the UK. It was the land of the first festival we ever played in. It was the first place our DVDs were released. It's also where DHIAT made it's television premiere. We even watched along on Twitter while DEAD HOOKER was playing on the UK Horror Channel with the fans and it was epic. We'll be doing that again. It's a love-love relationship. They're just so damn good to us. In fact, I think I'll end up marrying a Brit. No joke.

Q16 - Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
S: If you want to make a movie, go and make one. Don't kill yourself trying to make a million dollar picture, make something that will cost you nothing that looks like you spent a million dollars on it. A story that is original and interesting to you is of the utmost importance, make something that doesn't already exist - something that will stand out from the competition, something that is uniquely your voice. Figure out what high production value items you can get for nothing - ie, a restaurant, a sports car, exotic animals, explosions, martial artists, gymnasts, helicopter, etc. - and write a script around what you can do. It doesn't help you to write a twenty million dollar script in space when you have no hope in replicating anything that the script requires.

You can learn everything you need to know from your favorite directors. Robert Rodriguez wrote the book, literally, "Rebel Without a Crew", on how to make your own no budget indie and make it work. You can listen to the director commentaries from your favorite directors as they tell you how they made your favorite films. It's an opportunity like no other. With technological advancements, you can go online and find clips where famous filmmakers tell you their story and how they did it. We also have so much technology available to us that anyone can make a movie - with new cameras coming to the market - many affordable even to the broke.

My best advice would be to educate yourself as much as possible, make a script that works with the modest means to be created and put something spectacular together, then work your ass off to make it great. If you work hard and dedicate yourself, you can be successful and I would love to see your movies.

J: I fully agree. Find something that drives you, an idea. Make sure it's something that you really love because you'll be talking about it for the rest of your life. For Robert Rodriguez, it was a man with a guitar case filled with guns. For us it was a Dead Hooker In A Trunk. And watch everything. Good films, bad films, and this-is-so-shitty-how-did-it-ever-get-released films. Learn from them. Watch movies you love and isolate why you love them. Is it the use of sound? The dialogue? The character arcs? And when you watch bad stuff, find out why it's bad. Is it the acting? The story? That way you won't make the same mistakes with your own work.

Don't let anyone tell you you can't do it. Follow your dreams. We did and so can you. It doesn't have to be limited to filmmaking. Find what your "filmmaking" is. I could be poor forever and be making films and still be happy. That's how you know it's what you're meant to do. I know now that it's what makes me happiest in the world. And the fact that other people dig what we're doing? It's phenomenal.

Q17 - Any final words for anyone reading this?

S: If anyone wants to check out what we're up to, they can go to our website at where you can see all of our projects, read our personal blog, buy merchandise, and even send us a message. We love to hear from people, so if you want to send a message and say hi, please do!

J: Thank you so much to everyone who's supported us and our work. We truly can't even begin to thank you all. We can't wait to start hitting up the Horror Conventions and meeting you all. I guarantee we will be at them until the very end shaking hands and giving out hugs and thanking everyone from the very bottoms of our twisted little hearts. And we're just getting started. The best is yet to come.

To see the "Dead Hooker In A Trunk" Trailer click here

To see the teaser trailer for "American Mary" click here 

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