Axelle Carolyn Interview – SOULMATE

Axelle Carolyn's new feature film SOULMATE is a poignant, charming, and pretty tale of love and ghosts set in the English countryside. Treading a fragile line between drama, horror, and Gothic romance, SOULMATE resembles her first directing endeavor, the short film THE LAST POST, in which the afterlife intrudes into the natural realm.

SOULMATE is about Audrey (played by Anna Walton), a suicidal woman mourning the recent death of her husband. Isolating herself in an old country cottage away from friends and family, she soon develops a relationship with the ghost (Tom Wisdom) haunting the property. What follows is an atypical genre film in which love is not the untimate cure-all. Carolyn answers some of my questions about the film, her direction, and her choices for SOULMATE in the following interview:

SOULMATE has a decidedly open ending and does not end on a "happy" note the way, say, American films tend to end. Can you tell me why you decided to leave the film ambiguous?
I just tried to make the ending as truthful as possible. An unhappy ending would have made the film too bleak, considering how it starts off; but I don't think a real happy ending would have made sense here. I felt the events in the film pretty much naturally led to that conclusion. Also, that's one of the perks of indie films: I don't have to make it end with rainbows and unicorns!
Do you think SOULMATE is a decidedly British or European film, or do you think that genre films are now blending across borders, culturally?
Mmmh, tough one. I read a few reviews mention me as a 'British director', and as a Belgian living in LA, I found that funny. The landscape and the setting are very typically British, and I suppose there's a tradition in the UK of slow-burn atmospheric ghost stories that I built on. But I also think the themes it deals with – grief, and finding comfort in the supernatural – are universal.
Do you think it is important to place a film in a "genre" in order to market it to audiences?  As someone whose films are not easily categorized, do you fear it is a hindrance, or believe it is a benefit?
To market it? Oh, yeah. People tell you they want to see original work, but if you defy their expectations – if you step ever so slightly away from the tropes of the genre you work it -, it becomes a hard sell, because you can't easily pinpoint a target audience. Also for the audience, 'ghost story' comes with all kinds of expectations these days: it has to be scary, it has to have jump scares… Some people love to be surprised; others hate it. I've seen both reactions so far.
SOULMATE reminds me on many levels of a traditional classic Gothic thriller in the vein of JANE EYRE, THE INNOCENTS, or GAS LIGHT. Can you tell me how you used the old house, the solitude, and the countryside to craft a story that is, on the one hand, traditionally Gothic and, on the other hand, updated for modern audiences?
That's some fantastic comparisons! All those stories, in many ways, are hard to classify within a genre… The whole story came from the fact that I knew I'd have a limited budget for my first feature, and I wanted a small amount of characters in a tiny amount of locations. I've always been obsessed with that idea of finding comfort in the supernatural, because if there are ghosts, there's an afterlife, and the people you've lost are not gone forever. So the story was born from that idea – something anybody who's ever lost someone can relate to. The locations, the atmosphere are very much inspired by those Gothic classics, but at the heart of it is a very human story, very real and contemporary. Some people have referred to the movie as a romance, by the way, and I feel it couldn't be further from it. If anything, the love story is between Audrey, the lead girl, and her late husband; but this story is about a bond broken by a premature death, not about romance. She could have lost a son and found the ghost of a little boy, it would have been the same idea.
I'd like to know a little more about your casting choices.
Anna Walton, who plays Audrey, played a part in my short film THE HALLOWEEN KID, and she was so great to work with that I immediately re-wrote the script for her. She was the first one on board and she was extremely focused and prepared. Anna is a wonderfully instinctive actress who knew the character inside out. She also has a fragility which made her character instantly likable, but also an inner strength which was essential to avoid portraying her as a victim.  Tom Wisdom, who plays the ghost, brings so much subtlety and layers to the part. Audrey is obviously essential, but the film lives or dies with the performance of the ghost: anything too big would have looked like pantomime, yet we have to understand that he's a lost, tortured soul. Tom brought exactly the right balance. Nick Brimble and Tanya Myers are both wonderful character actors, and they're both at once funny, menacing and sad. Everybody in the story deals with a loss of some kind. And of course Anubis, my dog, is a star in the making.
What have been the most challenging, and most rewarding, aspects of making SOULMATE?
The best part was the shoot, no doubt. I loved being on set, directing the cast, working with our awesome crew. We were sharing cottages around the location so at night, I'd hang out with the DoP and the producer, but also with the editor, who could show me roughly assembled scenes, and that was incredibly exciting.  But getting it financed took such a long time, so many ups and downs, and now letting go of my baby, leaving it in the hands of distributors and marketing guys and festivals and audiences, is an odd experience. Love it or hate it, it's hard not to see that it's a very personal movie, and sometimes it feels like a part of my brain is out there on display.
 You can watch some interviews with the cast and producer along with Carolyn at London's Film4 FRIGHTFEST screening just a few weeks ago:

Where Are All The Female ABC'S OF DEATH 2 Directors?

Meredith Borders, managing editor of BadassDigest, a genre news film site run by the people at Drafthouse Films, just posted a short article wondering where are all the female entrants to the second ABC'S OF DEATH contest.

You see, the first film was essentially a sausage fest except for two segments out of the 26: one directed by Angela Bettis (ROMAN) and the other co-directed by Helene Cattet (AMER). This year, the ratio is slightly better: three women directors, Jen and Sylvia Soska (co-directing one segment) and Kristina Buozyte with a potential fourth female director if one happens to win the current contest in which filmmakers are asked to submit a short film and viewers vote to pick the new director.  The comments on the article range from people lamenting how they can't name more than five women horror director to people suggesting that Karen Lam, Jovanka Vuckovic, and Maude Michaud are good possibilities to people saying that the reason women don't direct horror is because women characters are marginalized in horror and in our culture et cetera.

Borders states she is a feminist and I am really happy that someone with so much power at Drafthouse is willing to come out and say that she really wishes there were more women included in this thing. However, Borders doesn't ask the question that I think is really obvious: why were only three women asked to participate in THE ABC'S OF DEATH 2 from the get-go?

"Because there aren't any women horror directors to ask," you suggest? There are actually like dozens. I can name dozens. Right now. Danielle Harris, Karen Lam, Barbara Stepansky, Jovanka Vuckovic, Brea Grant, Axelle Carolyn, Marina de Van, Caroline Dupotet, Rie Rasmussen, Kristina Klebe, Devi Snively, Sofia Carrillo, Faye Jackson, Rania Ajami, Emily Hagins (she seems like a no-brainer for Drafthouse, which has been one of her biggest supporters in Austin, Texas), Amber Benson, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, Maude Michaud, Izabel Grondin, Danishka Esterhazy, Elza Kephart, Gigi Romero, Asia Argento, Debbie Rochon, Mae Catt, Rebekah McKendry, Marichelle Daywalt, Anouk Whissell, Julia Ostertag, Tii Riks, Jen Moss, Jessi Gotta, Lindsay Denniberg, Juliet Landau, Isabelle Gaumont, Jenn Wexler, Mattie Do, Amy Hesketh, Jen Thym, Ursula Dabrowsky… and this is just off the top of my head. Any of these directors would be completely qualified to stand next to The Soskas and any of the male directors already currently hired for the ABC'S OF DEATH 2. Not to mention that there are women directors with long careers in horror and even cult followings that may be available for something like this including Amy Holden Jones, Jennifer Lynch, Mary Harron, Mary Lambert, Katt Shea, Jackie Kong, Barbara Peeters, Tammi Sutton, and Deryn Warren. And, I can think of some actresses and writers that have been interested in directing for a long time who would be not only great at cutting their teeth on an ABC'S OF DEATH 2 segment but would also bring a lot of fan love  to the entire project like Tiffany Shepis, Diablo Cody, Heather Langenkamp, Juliet Snowden, and Brinke Stevens.

I think, if maybe more women directors were represented as actual hires from the beginning, more women would be encouraged to actually enter the contest. I'm not surprised some women may not feel encouraged or excited about entering if they feel that there's already a barrier between them and the project. I'm curious why more women were not initially hired, especially when there are people at Drafthouse, like Borders, who are clearly aware of women directors and want more of them in the project. If the producers are interested in what women are doing, they're more than welcome to read my blog. And I'd be happy to make any suggestions or connections they might need for an ABC'S OF DEATH 3 that is more gender-balanced. The real tragedy here, of course, is that they haven't read my blog. I mean, that's the main, larger, much more important issue: me and my stuff and my ego. Me. Me. Me.

EDIT: director Marcy Boyle (NOBODY CAN COOL) reminded me of an article I wrote in 2011 about this same issue, to which producer Ant Timpson responded.  You can read the article here, and this was Ant's response to the original article:

Just wanted to say that I actually went all out not to make this a sausage fest and even though I didn't invite Marina (agggrhh one of my favourite films ever is IN MY SKIN) as I had a brainfart and totally forgot about her. Not sure she would have done it but I love her work.

I made an effort to try and get quite a few women involved. I wanted Katt Shea and even approached her via Facebook. You have to understand that this was a low-fi project at the start, Magnet weren't involved it was just myself and Tim trying to put it together. I don't want to mention other names. The issue was that some higher profile women directors simply did not respond or had agents protecting them from projects like this. So what happens is that we fall back onto who we know (and into that bloody boys club) which is directors we have personal contact with and who can make a call about participation immediately. This whole thing was being rushed for Cannes like you wouldn't believe.

I have no issue with the anger in your tone as I believe its totally warranted. It is a sausage fest in horror. I see all these gatherings of horror directors and its always dudes with one token woman in the photos. I don't think there's a conscious decision to exclude but there's also a huge fucking lack of getting them recognition.

Anyway, just wanted to say that there was consideration and I did try. We just had time and some other pressures working against us.

Keep up the good fight.

Ant

 

But my ego aside, here are the current entries in the ABC'S OF DEATH 2 search for the 26th director:

M IS FOR MAKE BELIEVE written and directed by Summer Johnson:

M IS FOR MEMORY co-directed by Melanie Coleman:

M IS FOR MONEY co-directed by Shelly Doss:

M IS FOR MASK directed by Arianne Goddard:

M IS FOR MISERYEATER directed by Alicia R Norman:

M IS FOR MATERNITY WARD directed by Val O. Morris (I know her! Hey Val!):

M IS FOR MOLESTER co-directed by Sebrina Bedard:

M IS FOR MUCUS also co-directed by Sebrina Bedard:

I happen to know that there are a few more women who are going to submit before the deadline, like Ama Lea and Emma Julia Jacobs, and the contest doesn't end submissions until October 31st, 2013 so who knows how many they may get between now and then. Voting goes on until November 30th, 2013 and the winner will be announced on December 15th. I really do hope it's a woman who wins (and because she deserves it, not as a hand-out because of her vagina) just because – honestly – out of 26 segments the producers only invited three women? That's a bit silly.

I'll keep you posted on this!

Axelle Carolyn's SOUL MATE And More Women Directors At Sitges 2013

Axelle Carolyn's ghost story SOULMATE is going to have its world premiere at the 2013 Sitges Film Festival in, well, Sitges, Spain! Her feature debut film involves a female protagonist, a dark country house, and brooding cinematography (hint: GOTHIC stuff that I like!). The official synopsis reads,

Following a failed suicide attempt, Audrey, a young widow, retires to an isolated country house. It won’t be long before she discovers that the spirit of its old owner still inhabits the place. Even so, Audrey decides to overcome her fear and stay, trusting that she’ll finally reach a somewhat harmonious relationship with the ghost.

No trailer yet for Carolyn's film, but she's in good company at the festival: there are a bunch of other women directors showing off their talents (though not as many in the competition features selections as I'd like to see).

First, it's not really that "fantastic" per se, but Gabriela Cowperthwaite's new documentary BLACKFISH is gut-wrenching, moving, tragic, and awesome – and that's just the trailer. I can't wait to see this film about a killer whale named Tilikum, who has literally killed several people as he has been held in captivity his whole life. You have to look at this:

Marina de Van's DARK TOUCH, about a young girl with telekinetic powers, is also screening (even though it's already out officially in several countries including the US, which is why it is out of competition)(. Yes, like CARRIE but with a MUCH darker approach:

Xan Cassavetes' pretentious vampire drama KISS OF THE DAMNED, also out of competition as it has been released already, is part of Sitges official programming:

There are a slew of animated, surreal shorts with women directors. but I'll just tell you about a few of the live-action short films that I think look particularly interesting.

ECCE MULIER, directed by Vanessa Pavie-Crottier, looks really creepy. The teaser shows men violently eating the least-appetizing porridge you've ever seen:

LA NUMERO 4, directed by Sara Pons Garrido, has a very ominous synopsis and trailer:

The fourth girl has managed to escape from her kidnappers. Dazed, she must face her fears and recall her terrifying captivity if she wants to save the other young girls who are still being held prisoners.

Last is Mia'kate  Russell's SWALLOW. Russell is an Aussie makeup artist, so I'm expecting some pretty amazing things from this film. It looks like we'll get some great effects. Enjoy this poster:

Mia Kate Russell Swallow
The festival happens October 11th through 20th, 2013, and is bound to be one of the best years yet. Wish I could be there to catch these in person!

Still From Axelle Carolyn's Ghostly 'Soulmate'

Check out this awesome still from Axelle Carolyn's feature film "Soulmate", from a preview in the March 2013 Empire Magazine!

Carolyn also wrote the script, about a women who decides to retreat to a remote cottage after a failed suicide attempt. She soon discovers the cottage is haunted by its previous owner but decides to remain, hoping to find comfort in the ghost.

More news as it comes!

soulmate axelle

Axelle Carolyn's New Ghostly Feature "Soulmate" To Begin Filming

Axelle Carolyn ("The Halloween Kid") will make her feature directorial debut on "Soulmate" – a supernatural story she also wrote.

"Soulmate" stars Anna Walton and Tom Wisdom, with Clare Higgins, Nick Brimble and Emma Cleasby and is about a woman who, after a failed suicide attempt, finds comfort in a ghost haunting an isolated cottage.

Neil Marshall, Carolyn's hubby, will produce.

I remember Carolyn talking about this project over a year ago, when she first released her short "The Halloween Kid" – it is something she's been brewing and is presumably a very personal project.

The 2012 Tabloid Witch Awards: 'The Halloween Kid' and 'Anniversary Dinner'

The Tabloid Witch Awards for 2012 have honored some outstanding horror movies, including Axelle Carolyn's fantastical "The Halloween Kid" and Jessi Gotta's "The Anniversary Dinner."

Gotta's "The Anniversary Dinner" earned actress Alyssa Simon a Best Supporting Actress Award as well as an Honorable Mention for the entire film:

Anniversary Dinner has strong production values and a talented cast, lifting the film several notches above most zombie fare.

 

while Carolyn's "The Halloween Kid" won Best Avant-Garde Horror Short Film:

The story, themes, and emotional ambiance are straight out of Ray Bradbury's October Country. A gentle tale of a sensitive boy, Henry (Leo Donnelly), who relates better to monsters than to people, and who loves Halloween. Naturally, he is mocked by the other kids, and scolded by his teachers and coach. Henry's loving but exasperated mother (Anna Walton) doesn't know what to do with her strange son.

(Incidentally, The Best Actress Award went to PJ Woodside for her role in "Spirit Stalkers." Woodside herself directed the 2009 horror film "Widow")

 

Telluride Horror Show: 'The Captured Bird', 'The Halloween Kid', 'My Brother's Keeper'

The 2012 Telluride Horror Show in Telluride, Colorado on October 12, 13, & 14, 2012, is screening three festival fave short horror films this year:

Jovanka Vuckovic's "The Captured Bird,"

Axelle Carolyn's "The Halloween Kid."

 

And Jen Moss's "My Brother's Keeper (Or How Not To Survive The Apocalypse)"

Watch Some Amazing Shorts By Women on Fearnet.com, For Free

Fearnet.com, land of contradictions, is simultaneously screening some amazing new short horror films directed by women while featuring strangely sexist forum posts about women horror directors. Hm.

But whatevs. While Fearnet may not know their audience very well, they seem to know good films by women very well.

Check out Jennifer Shiman's "30 Second Bunnies" series,  Jill Tracy's "The Fine Art of Poisoning",  Axelle Carolyn's "Hooked, Tyrrel Shaffner's (Viscera 20122 Award-Winning) vampire flick "Threnody", and Becky Griesheimer's "Bedtime for Timmy" right now, for free.

Women Directors at Fantasia 2012: Vuckovic, Carolyn, Whissell, Michaud, Lynch, Vozniak, and more

Jennifer Lynch's "Chained" is having its world premiere at Fantasia this year – here's mud in your eye!

It's playing alongside Penny Vozniak's documentary "Despite the Gods" (read our interview) about Lynch's experiences making the horror film "Hisss" in India:

Maude Michaud's "Cure Dents" is a new film about a woman's kinky dental fantasy – reminds me of Izabel Grondin's also Montrealean "Fantasy" which had a similar theme.

Emily McMehen's Haitian Voodoo Documentary, "Achante," is playing.

Jovanka Vuckovic's much-discussed fantastical horror "The Captured Bird" (review)

Gabi Kislat's short "Cry Baby" is about an infant's nightmare:

Celine France has two short films in the festival – "Leo" and "Elegie," for which I have practically no info at all, but this is the one I'm REALLY looking forward to: Anouk Whissell's "Turbo Kid" a post-apocalyptic French-Canadian experience I do not want to miss. Check out this short, which is the basis for the feature:

Alexandra Beuchamp's "Etre Humain" is the only straight-out horror short in the fest directed by a woman. It's a zombie flick, and I'm looking forward to see what she does with the sub-genre.

Emilie Rosas' fantastical short "La Fin de la Nuit" is – well, just watch:

Axelle Carolyn's "The Halloween Kid" is screening,

and so is Marie Voignier's documentary "L’HYPOTHÈSE DU MOKÉLÉ-MBEMBÉ" – about a prehistoric dinosaur-ic creature living in Africa!

Allison de Fren's  documentary on robotic women as sexual objects, "The Mechanical Bride," is one we've been looking forward to for a while!

 

"Noir" is co-directed by Emma Berthou – and seems to be a take on the classic noir film style, while "Nostradamus," co-directed by, seems to be a documentary about people who believe it's the end of the world.

While I don't generally like too many experimental shorts, nor to write about them, I think Annie Leduc's "Panic" sounds pretty awesome.

"La Trappe" by Sophie B. Jacques looks like a home-invasion terror short, however, and I wish there were a trailer!

Frightfest 2012 Shorts! 'Halloween Kid', 'Captured Bird' and "My Brother's Keeper"

I have about 9877 films to talk about that are screening at the 2012 Fantasia Film festival in Montreal, so I am avoiding that nightmarish write-up by writing about the pleasant surprises in the UK Frightfest short film lineup at the end of August in London, England!

On Saturday, August 26th, you can catch Axelle Carolyn's "The Halloween Kid"

8-year-old Henry, a lonely and imaginative child, can only finds happiness on Halloween…Narrated by Derek Jacobi and starring Anna Walton, Julian Glover, Dave Legeno and Leo Donnelly

Jen Moss's "My Brother's Keeper"

Holed up at the end of the world with her well-meaning but dim-witted brother Jo (Alex Esmail), Jess (April Pearson) isn’t sure what will destroy her will to live first: the zombies or Jo’s incessant optimism.

(check out this behind-the-scenes):

 

And Jovanka Vuckovic's "The Captured Bird"

In this dark fable, a little girl is drawn to a mysterious mansion where she witnesses the birth of five horrifying apparitions…

2012 Viscera Film Festival Official Selections!

It's so nice to be able to announce this publicly.

After a grueling judging competition that involved hair-pulling-out, myself, Shannon Lark, Stacy Hammon, Kayley Viteo,  our judges, and all of the rest of the staff of the Viscera Film Festival were finally able to narrow down our amazing submissions to one final lineup of 13 short films. Competition was unbelievable. Unbelievable. We had to turn away so many good films because we just simply didn't have room to screen them all. Do you know how hard it is to turn away a really good movie from your festival for no reason other than that you just don't have space for them all? It's kind of cool, but heartbreaking, too.

We've come a long way from the first festival. Last year we had 80 submissions for roughly 13 spots. This year we had over 150. While this means that we will inevitably have to reject amazing films, it also means that more women are making horror shorts, and more women are submitting those shorts to festivals. Those are very good things.

Not only that, but this year we have decided to screen a feature film as well; a special sneak peek of Danielle Harris's amazing new feature horror film "Among Friends!"

Without further ado, here are the 2012 Viscera Film festival Official Selections, which will screen at The Egyptian Theater on July 7th, 2012, and the Tour Selections, which will not screen at the July 7th event but will be a part of our World Tour along with the Official Selections:

Shorts Program:
Baby Face – Kate Shenton
Barbie Girls – Vinciane Millereau
Bloodtraffick – Jen Thym
Escape From Hellview – Hadas Brandes
How to Rid Your Lover of a Negative Emotion Caused By You – Nadia Litz
Jump – Louisa Fielden
Nice Guys Finish Last – Kimberly McCollough
Sibling Rivalry (Under 18) – Tara-Nicole Azarian
The Dump – Rebekah McKendry
The Halloween Kid – Axelle Carolyn
The Morning After – Jen Moss
The Night Caller – Donna Thorland and Peter Podgursky
The Third Eye – Caroline du Potet

Feature Sneak Peek: Among Friends-Danielle Harris

2012 Tour Official Selections

Apple Head – Rebecca Thomson
Baby Face – Kate Shenton
Barbie Girls – Vincianes Millereuu
Bloodtraffick – Jen Thym
Dead Friends – Katelyn D. Mann & Stephen W. Martin
Escape From Hellview – Hadas Brandes
Hawkins Hill – Sara Seligman
How to Rid Your Lover of a Negative Emotion Caused By You – Nadia Litz
Jump – Louise Fielden
Locked In – Valeria Appel
Monster Slayer – Valorie Caskey Ebeling
My Mom and Other Monsters – Kate Tsang
Nice Guys Finish Last – Kimberly McCollough
Neighbors – Robyn Simms & Stephen Johnson
Red- Maude Michaud
Road Rage – Barbara Stepansky
Sibling Rivalry (Under 18) – Tara-Nicole Azarian
Sheeties – Paula Haifley
Smothered – Unn Lilleaas
Sylvie – Valerie Khoudari Ratner
Summer of the Zombies – Ashleigh Nichols
The Provider – Brianne Nord-Stewart
The Dump – Rebekah McKendry
The Halloween Kid – Axelle Carolyn
The Morning After – Jen Moss
The Night Caller- Donna Thorland and Peter Podgursky
The Third Eye – Caroline du Potet
Undetected – Kristen Anderson-Suave
Zeke – Dana Buning