A long, long time ago, we here at Flixist did some rocking coverage of the Tribeca film festival. It was an interesting festival, and there was some pretty good films amidst quite a lot of not so good. The best film of the bunch was a home invasion film called Replicas, which won our imaginary “Best Narrative Film” award. Since then, the film has seen a name change to In Their Skin along with a both a VOD and theatrical release thanks to IFC.
I got a chance to talk to the film’s director, a wonderful Canadian fellow named Jeremy Power Regimbal. It was a pretty awesome chat, and one of the more enjoyable interviews I’ve done. We generally stayed away from spoilers, and one that involves the beginning of the film only references the beginning of the film, so I don’t feel particularly bad about it being there. You’ll probably get more out of it if you’ve seen the film, so go do that. It’s great.
Then come back and read this, because we’re great and you’re great and so was this interview.
What are you waiting for?
First question: Why do you like home invasion movies?
To be honest… this is a weird question for me. I can’t say that I’m a huge home invasion lover or encyclopedia by any means. It actually was a film that started as more a family-relationship going through a really intense moment, and it kind of morphed into a home invasion film. Obviously there are films we referenced like With a Friend like Harry, which is a French film which is a borderline home-invasion kind of thing, but yeah. It’s weird. I can’t say that I’m a huge fan. I don’t have anything against them. I think they’re great, and I think one of the cool things about them is being forced to be stuck in an environment and deal with a situation is always interesting, I think.
A little bit about the process. So it started as a family drama. At what point did it become these people are going to steal these identities (or try anyway)?
When we were first developing it, we knew the kind of area that we wanted to explore, which was a family going through an intense situation which forces them to deal with their problems. And then we were driving through Oregon, and there were some really small towns that we went through on this big road trip, the three of us that wrote the story for it. And we just saw some really weird families that kind of looked like at you so strange, and we made some jokes: “That guy looks like he wants to steal your life.” [laughs] Joking around about just how far you could take identity theft and the different ways, and that’s kind of what morphed into it, and naturally the social inequality kind of morphed towards the, “Oh, you know, they have this beautiful house, beautiful car,” and then a family shows up and tries to take that from them.
There’s nothing particularly funny about the movie, and I saw that a lot of people compared it to Funny Games… but it’s a lot more serious than Funny Games. It was really unpleasant to be in the theater watching it. It was so tense and there was no letting up. Was there ever a question of putting any kind of comedy in it to lighten the mood?
I think we kind of knew what we were getting ourselves into, given that it starts in a really dark place. One of the things that kind of surprised me was actually how many laughs… there was a lot of awkward “I don’t want to be here” laughter in a good way, but it was surprising at some of the moments that was brought by James D’Arcy, who brought such an interesting element to the lead villain. He was so quirky and [laughs] over nice, I guess.
Why the name change?
We were kind of going back and forth with it. Replicas sounded a little too sci-fi, like Blade Runner, and we just got a lot of different kind of feedback, and In Their Skin was one of the titles we’d been playing around with for a long time, and it was just like, when things were about to get real and come, we were forced to weigh all of the options. That was the one that everyone liked and wanted to go with.
One thing I thought was particularly effective was the use of slow and quiet. There were just so many pauses. Did the script have a bunch of ellipses in it?
Josh [Close] is an amazing writer, and his strongest suit, if I had to pick one, would be writing dialogue in general. A lot of those pauses in the mimicking came from the rehearsal, and James did such a great job. I remember when we were rehearsing… when we weren’t even rehearsing, he was just sort of hanging out and going through these activities, he would constantly be copying Josh, and it was driving Josh Crazy. But that was the whole point. We would throw it in, and we wouldn’t tell anyone else he was going to do it. When Mark pushes in a chair, Bobby copies him, and I think he was trying to learn the whole demeanor and voice. That’s why he talked so slow. He was trying to switch his voice to sound like Mark. I think that’s where a lot of it came from. We definitely knew from the script and into shooting that we wanted to have as little editing as possible and have as many awkward moments. We didn’t have a studio or anyone stopping us, but we definitely had to fight to keep the silence. There was even less music in some of the first ones, and I wanted it even more silent. But there was some feedback that we needed a bit more… but I love the silent awkwardness of it all. There are even times when you question why it takes so long to do that, but we wanted the audience to feel like Mark and Mary did.
The use of off-camera work, where you hear all of the sounds but can’t see the action. Did you have version of some of those scenes where you saw things and decided that it didn’t work as well, or did you know from the outset that the audience wouldn’t be seeing it?[Specific example] We knew we were never going to shoot anything else from that. I love that kind of stuff, when you leave it to people’s imagination. They’ll probably think of something even crazier and scarier than you could ever shoot. I just like sparse editing in general. We wanted to avoid any, your-line your-line, your-line your-line. That kind of TV style editing. Most of the times when it was a long shot, we just stuck with it.
Were there any big things you ended up cutting?
Nothing really comes to mind… there was a scene at the beginning that we shot and ended up getting rid of. Other than that, it wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t that the scene didn’t work out or anything, but it was a pacing thing and setting the film up to be a thriller. Other than that, everything turned out great. In many cases, better than we could have imagined. We only had 16 days to shoot it, so it was a pretty rushed process, and we were pretty happy with how things turned out looking. I’m hoping it doesn’t look like things were rushed. Other than that scene, no.
Mind telling me what was in that one scene?
There originally was a scene at the hospital which was right after their daughter died. It was a short scene setting up more of what happened. It was kind of a little more backstory to the family which was kind of unnecessary. Looking back, we laughed and said that that was just a rehearsal to get the characters into it. It’s perfect that we did it, because Selma [Blair] and Josh had to go through that moment and it was actually one of the most intense moments of the [laughs] film, but it ended up not working where it was. It was basically a little backstory, and it was unnecessary once we had the film all together.
How much time was spent rehearsing? Did those 16 days include rehearsals or just once the camera had started rolling?
Sixteen days of actual on-set shooting. Rehearsing we had almost everyone there; the kids were only there for a day or two, but the leads we had about a week to a week and half. There were a lot of other things, like fittings, going on in that time. Prep and stuff. But we had about a week and a half where everyone was in the city, and we tried to have a little rehearsal session every day.
Where was that house?
In British Columbia. There was a suburb of Vancouver, which we were so lucky to get that place. It was way out of range for our budget, and we were very lucky that we got it. We fought really hard, because a lot of the houses around that area were log cabins and the last thing we wanted was that. We wanted it to feel like it could be anywhere and have that kind of European, really high-class kind of feel.
You mentioned social inequality earlier. How important was that to the entire concept?
I think it was really important. That was Bobby’s whole motivation. He had been kind of shit on his whole life and have all these bad things happen in the past to his family. He was so… I think that was the message. No matter what class you are, you’re always looking up, and there’s always something to look up to that you’re so enamored by and want to be a part of. Part of it is realizing that you’re never perfect and will never reach this class level that you really want. With the economy the way it is and politics, it was kind of a current message that we wanted to play around with.
What are you working on next?
We have about… how our company works is there’s a magazine and film production company and there’s three of us: Josh, the writer and lead [of In Their Skin]; Justin, who was the producer; and me. And we work in a collective, so we have about five or six different scripts that are in development. One of them is, believe it or not, a dark comedy instead of a thriller. You know, we’re kind of dabbling in all areas, and we’re hoping to shoot something early spring and summer of next year. But it’s kind of all over the place. We have a dark dramatic love story, and a couple of others that are thrillers. More like Fincher kind of crime mystery thrillers rather than closer to like a… there won’t be any more home invasion movies I don’t think. It’s kind of all over the place, but there’s the collective of the three of us who are going to be putting films together over the next year.
Sounds fun. You don’t feel constrained by genre then?
No, I love dark stories in general [laughs]. I tend to watch a lot of thrillers, but the whole collective, we’re all very different people, and we’re into anything that’s a great story. The next one that I’m hoping to get together to direct is a dark comedy with a little bit of action elements and that. I kind of would prefer to jump around and not be peg-holed into one thing, which I think is hard in the film industry, because everyone is like, “Oh no no no, you’re the thriller guy. You did this, so that’s all you can do.” I would love to fight that whole way of thinking [laughs].
Was In Their Skin completely independently funded? Was it just you guys, or was there some outside help?
I wish I had that much money, but I’m lucky enough that I’m a Canadian citizen, and the government there, by the end of it through government grants and TV licenses and different things we were able to tap into by being in Canada and shooting in Canada, almost half the money came from that. Then there was a private investor who we found through the magazine [The Lab Magazine, which Jeremy co-founded] that we became really good friends with. Really young talented creative guy himself. He just really believed in it, and he was the one who put up the real money to make the rest of it happen.
Do you think getting money in the future will be easier because you have In Their Skin under your belt?
Oh yeah… I mean, I haven’t done it yet, so I don’t want to jinx myself, but getting any film together, no matter who you are. You heard stories about big time directors who have been around forever where it’s still tough. But your first film is the hardest thing ever. I didn’t really have even a short film or anything. This was kind of my short film. I had commercials and music videos, and I had done a lot of editing and stuff, so I think it’s a hard battle to convince someone to believe in you when you don’t have another film to show them. Now that we have this, it will make it a lot easier for people to trust us.
How different is the Canadian film industry from the American film industry?
A lot of the stuff in Canada comes from American companies coming up there. Vancouver in particular is like that. But it’s a really healthy kind of independent scene. I think the best way for Canadian films to thrive in that is just giving the films a worldly feel, and not necessarily tying to be from any certain place. I don’t know. I think that the biggest different is that we’re so lucky, and I hope it continues this way, that there are things like Telefilm and The Harold Greenberg Fund, these funds that allowed us to get 50% of our budget from the government and government sources. I’m so grateful that that’s even an option. I also think that in the States, investors and production companies are a little bit more willing to take risks, so in some ways it balances itself out. I can’t say this for all of them, but in meetings the idea of a low budget film in the States isn’t the same as a low budget in Canada. You know, we say, “Yeah we shot it for a low budget.” They say, “What, $7, $8 million?” And we’re like, “… No” [laughs]. There’s definitely a different outlook on how they sell their films or market their films. The entire world looks to the States when it comes to marketing and things like that, so it has a big effect.
How do you feel about the different distribution platforms the film is getting? It’s on VOD, theatrical release, etc.
It’s cool. I’m just so excited to finally get it out there. This is my first film, but I think it’s a really interesting concept that IFC is doing with the pre-release on VOD. We’ve been getting lots of good word of mouth through that. Then there’s the release theatrically. I feel blessed. It’s been in 12 really cool festivals, I get to go to Paris next month. I thank whoever allowed me to do this every time it happens. To even get a film done is so hard, [laughs] and then to get a cool distributor like IFC we are so happy with. It’s just nice to get it out there.
How do you feel about watching things on a small screen vs. watching things on a big screen?
It’s kind of sad, to be honest. It’s funny. We were in a meeting with a production company a week or two ago, and they were giving us these crazy stats that they had this movie, the last movie where you’d expect to see people 40 or older, and they said 70% of the crowd was of the Baby Boomer generation. The younger generation… and I’m not that old by any means [laughs], the younger generation doesn’t seem to bother with theaters much. And maybe it’s because they’re not used to it, and it’s just becoming easier. I hate the idea of everyone wanting to watch it on an iPhone, but at the same time, it’s kind of like what the music industry have done. It’s made films hugely accessible and available. Obviously I’d prefer everyone watch it in a theater, and I prefer to watch films in the theater as well.
Was In Their Skin shot digitally or on film?
It was shot on a RED [MX] camera, so digitally. We did our best to take the edge off. We shot it at really high ISO so it had a grainy look. I remember when we got to the post place; they thought we had screwed up. They were like, “You guys!” [laughs]. We’re like, “No, we want it to look like that.”
How do you feel about digital vs. film in general?
I definitely on future films would love to shoot on film. It was something we looked into, shooting on Super 16 or 35… there’s something about film. Same with photos. It’s a feeling of not knowing what you’re capturing. With this, we were able to use the paint box or whatever it’s called and set up the looks in the camera, and we’re looking at full-res HD on a big, badass HD monitor while you’re shooting, and you can see the color effects and the change of… it’s a different experience, and I think there’s something really special about film. Even when you’re on set shooting, because you can never really tell what it’s capturing. It forces everyone to focus more on the performance and the aesthetic and different things. I will absolutely do my best to shoot stuff on film in the future, but I also think that if it was film or nothing, this film maybe never would have happened. I’m grateful that there are things coming out that are making it so anybody can shoot a film. People are shooting films for $40 or $50,000 because they have [Canon] 5Ds.
I love film in general. We run a magazine called “The Lab Magazine” and we try to shoot every photo for it on film, which I don’t think a lot of magazines are doing. We’re all film lovers.
[PR PERSON] Last question
Damn… that puts a lot of pressure on me, doesn’t it?
[Awkwardly long pause] What’s your favorite movie ever?
… Woah. Favorite movie ever… That’s hard. I like movies in all different genres, so it’s hard. But one that I watch a lot of is Michael Clayton. I love that movie. I’ve watched it so many times. I love any Nicolas Winding Refn films and David Fincher… I’m kind of all over the map, but Michael Clayton is definitely one that Josh and I and Justin have watched many times.
Cool. Thanks so much for talking to me!