Wendigo: Conversation with Larry

Posted on 03. May, 2010 by in Press, Wendigo: Press

From the Director
December, 2000

“With Wendigo I’m trying to evoke the power of metaphor in our lives, the basic need to construct stories to deal with the shocks of life. Wendigo is like a puzzle or sculpture or mosaic of interlocking pieces which tell the story of a child jostled out of innocence as he becomes aware of the anger and aggression all around him. I wanted a spare story, a stylized shooting technique, and a monster that was gestural, so that there’d be no hiding the artifice of the story-inviting the audience to step outside the experience and ponder its meaning.

“The nature of the Wendigo, which is an American Indian spirit that has also been depicted in pop culture (in prose by Algernon Blackwood; a poem by Ogden Nash; in Marvel Comics, The X-Files, Antonia Bird’s Ravenous, etc.), is that it is described differently in every account. And so, like some religious parable, the creature’s indefinable quality makes it beg for interpretation. I came to it visually-inspired by a first grade teacher who told the story and made a lasting impression with his image of the creature: half man-half deer. There is something of the man-animal archetype that holds great potency for me (The film opens with a Wolfman doll).

“I approached the project as if I were embarking on an art installation, building first the elements of the creature with technicians, shooting footage in s8mm and DV, building models, and employing comic artist Brahm Revel to make a graphic novel of the story based on my script and real locations. I interested the independent producer Jeffrey Levy-Hinte on the pitch that we could accomplish much on a low budget because of our extensive preparation, and that the special effects could be accomplished because they’d be more German-Expressionist than American-realist.

“We set up two crews, First Unit under Terry Stacey’s command, to work with the fabulous actors we hired through Walken and Jaffe casting. And an additional unit to film jagged interstitials and serene nature animations. This to convey the inner perception of the child, and the raging existence around us.

“We shot for twenty three days with a crack crew, in the cold, trying to live up to austere and ambitious shotlists, and winging it when necessary. For a snow movie, the warming weather was a curse. But reality was not the agenda.

“Post production saw the director in excruciating solitude, editing the images into a subjective dream, and emerging to begin one of the most critical collaborations of the film: The music and sound. It was up to composer Michelle DiBucci to establish a tone for the film in keeping with my vision, made concrete by two years of working with music that had inspired the images. By mapping out the film with temp tracks and sound effects, I try to guide my sound team towards the mood-the most elusive element of film, and the hardest element to translate from the inner vision. But DiBucci had access to a wide array of internationally recognized instrumentalists and a battalion of samples effects and was able to compose a rich, evocative soundscape.

“Labwork has been extremely complex, translating opticals from the AVID back to film and then reshaping the edit again. Like the Wendigo itself, the film shapeshifts constantly, and even after a preview screening at Slamdance 2001, there have been modifications.

Wendigo is third in a trilogy of revisionist horror movies that includes my other films Habit and No Telling. On a purely analytical level, 1 have this to say–Through genre, the language of Pop culture–I seek to step back and objectify the cliche’s in our stories, in particular our horror stories, so that we can see them freshly and think about the assumptions as well the truisms of these stories we retell, these archetypes that haunt our thinking.”

“For all its layers of potential meaning, Wendigo ultimately strives to be a mood piece. A visceral, linear ride. A small cinematic gesture. Not all films need to be ‘events.’ Along with the film, I’ll present a comic, because, since the dawn of the twentieth century, no truly populist work is presented in one format only. And check out the Wendigo on the web.”

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