Laura Lau Talks Horror Film 'Silent House'

I wanted to post this interview… oh… like, Friday, the 9th. But my site was having what is known in my industry as "server trouble". Server trouble is what you call when your website doesn't work, even though you have coded it expertly, because the people who own the server fucked up and put some screwed up, brand-new security setting protocol on all their clients' servers (without telling said clients) that make any HTML completely inexecutable in any form. So.

Lau directing "Silent House" with her DP
I have had the recent pleasure of talking to Laura Lau, co-director of the new horror film, "Silent House", in theaters now in the United States. You can read my review here, OR you can head over to Women and Hollywood and read a different review from me there. Whatevs. I'm kind of fascinated with Lau because women rarely direct horror that ends up in mainstream theaters, and because she was part of the directing team, with husband Chris Kentiss, on 2004's "Open Water" but was not credited as co-director. I have noticed that happens a lot, especially in husband-wife filmmaking teams (the man usually gets all the credit as the "director" while the woman, as producer, tends to be seen as merely facilitating the man's vision for the film). Lau is credited on "Silent House" as co-director and is getting her much-deserved recognition for her work on the film. Lau answered some of my questions, which I have posted for your viewing pleasure below in true "lazy journalist" Q and A style:



You and Chris Kentiss were directors for hire on "Silent House"; What made you say yes to directing the "Silent House" remake?


We had been offered to direct other people's scripts before, though our main focus has been to direct our own writing. We were immediately intrigued by the challenge of how to tell a story in a continuous shot. In this case, we were also charged with the challenge of doing so in a mainstream genre film. The story of conveying one woman's experience in a single shot felt like something that would give audiences a different kind of cinema going experience and we also knew it would be a very unusual way to make a movie.


What do you think your US version of "Silent House" brings to audiences that the original did not?


We had the benefit of watching what they had trail blazed and we were given some freedom to make it our own. The basic motivations and dynamics of the family are different in the two films and technically we wanted to build on what they had accomplished. We do think the US version will bring more awareness to the original and we hope people will watch both and enjoy each on their own merits.


I am curious as to why the ending of film was changed after the Sundance screening. What prompted the reshoot?


We did reshoot the last 15 minutes of the film. There were two main reasons why. Our Sundance ending adhered more to that of the original film in that there was a change in point of view from the lead character to one of the other characters. For our film we realized that this broke the identification with Sarah and confused the viewer's sympathies. Secondly, there were some other elements also that were not as clear as we would like. We could tell from the screenings at Sundance, which was the first time the film had been seen by anyone outside of the production, that some of our intentions were not so successful. We were given the opportunity by Mickey Liddell to make any improvements to the film that we might want to make and we jumped on that. We actually redid all the sound work and remixed the film as well.


How did you find Elizabeth Olsen as your actress? She hadn't been in any other films before "Silent House" ("Martha Marcy May Marlene" had not been released). How did she become an option for a theatrical release?


We were working with casting directors who we had been working with on several other projects. The moment the script was done we gave it to them and they said they knew who Sarah was. They had cast Jennifer Lawrence in "Winter's Bone" before so we were intrigued they were so sure. It's true that there was no tape on her, we didn't even know about Martha Marcy May Marlene. From her first audition, we could see that she had everything we needed to carry this film. She has the craft/technical background including theater experience and she is very charismatic on film. She also completely gives herself emotionally and there is a lot of depth and nuance in her ability to convey those emotions. We were very fortunate that she wanted to do the role.


This is your second thriller/horror. Do you prefer that genre to others?


No, we do not. We love movies of all genres and would love to stretch our wings into other genres.


Between "Open Water" in 2004 and "Silent House" you took a huge break from filmmaking. Why?


Not because we wanted to. We are independent filmmakers who had a relatively successful film and Hollywood beckoned seductively. We got involved in a number of studio projects including a couple of passion projects that had big budgets and ended up not working out. We were writing the whole time, at least one original script a year and though we were able to make deals for almost all of them, we got stuck at various points in the development process. There was also the writer's strike and the economic crisis that contributed to the general downturn in independent film making. That all happened during this time. It's not easy to get a film made period, but once budgets creep up it becomes all the more difficult. We welcomed a chance to do something super low-budget like "Silent House", which allowed us to cast a total unknown and take some chances with subject matter.


You and Chris are being marketed as a "filmmaking duo". Would you ever direct or produce a project on your own? How about a short? Do you have any film projects you'd like to do that don't necessarily involve Chris?


We have several projects lined up now which we are doing together. We have a great collaboration in work and life as our greatest creation is our daughter Sabrina. I think even if we were to do something separately, we will always count on each other to push the other to do their best work.




So, Laura Lau's filmmaking career is not so very different from many of the independent filmmakers I know; she still has to struggle to get projects made, even with two theatrical hits under her belt.



She's also not interested in directing anything on her own. Which is fine; there's nothing wrong with a couple working together as a team on film projects. You know, like Peter Jackson and his wife (whastername, you know, his producer) and Christopher Nolan and his wife (you know, whatsername, his producer) and James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd (Oh wait, we all know who Gale Anne Hurd is because she divorced that bastard and starting producing on her own for herself).


The fact that Lau us now credited as "co-director" on "Silent House" means she's getting more attention as one of the creators of the film; she's already been featured in interviews on many horror film websites that normally would only feature interviews with her husband, Chris Kentiss, if her were sole director on the film. I guarantee it.

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