The last time I had the pleasure of interviewing Director Jeremiah Kipp was in January 2015 for my blog here. Jeremiah Kipp is a talented, multi-faceted director and I wanted to catch up with Jeremiah to see how Painkiller did in the film festival and to chat about his new projects.
Gilbert: Jeremiah before you tell us what you’re working on now, I was curious about the success of your film Painkiller which I had the opportunity to view. I loved it. How was it received at the film festival?
Jeremiah Kipp: We screened “Painkiller” at a number of film festivals, and were happily surprised by the vibrant life it had along the circuit. We received very enthusiastic responses, and it’s always very exciting when the audience connects. I suspect some of it had to do with our screenwriter Jerry Janda basing the material on real-life horrors he knew about, including his fear of being addicted to painkillers after an accident and a domestic violence situation that was happening to a friend of his. Jerry took the brutal reality of these scenarios and twisted them into something nightmarish, involving a creature and a scientific experiment gone awry. Winning Best Short Film at Horror Hound Weekend and Best Sci-Fi Short at Macabre Faire were tremendous honors; a very satisfying reward after a brutal and uncompromising shoot.
Jeremiah Kipp: It’s funny how Jerry’s mind works. He heard me in an interview say my least favorite genre of horror was the found footage movie. He took this as a challenge. One day, while sitting on a beach, he imagined one of HP Lovecraft’s Elder Gods emerging from the waters. Soon after that, he wrote a found footage movie with a decidedly Lovecraftian bent. Within months, we were in pre-production on a feature film with producer Carlos Keyes, and a terrific cast including Nana Gouvea, Eric Roberts, Jonny Beauchamp from “Penny Dreadful” and the great Tom Sizemore.
I’d admired Tom’s work in “Natural Born Killers“, “Heat” and “Saving Private Ryan“…and being on set with him was a privilege. He’s an amazing actor and fiercely committed to finding the truth within a scene.
Gilbert: You are also working on a film called Theresa and Allison. How is this different than your run of the mill vampire story?
Jeremiah Kipp: The big difference for me was in the script by Charles D. Lincoln, who was completely disinterested in doing anything resembling “Twilight” or classical vampire’s tropes. I didn’t even necessarily think “vampire” when I read his script, which was more of a bizarre spiral of “Alice in Wonderland” but done in the style of William Lustig’s “Maniac” or Abel Ferrara’s “Ms. 45“. It got into a scuzzy underbelly of Brooklyn, a feeling of addiction and rot as our main character Theresa learns the ropes about the freaky new world she’s been lured into.
The savagery of that world will either destroy her or set her free. Lincoln also wrote a script with many terrific roles for women, to the point where actress Sarah Schoofs (who plays “Allison”) compared the rogue’s gallery of characters to the Cell Block Tango from the musical “Chicago“.
Jeremiah Kipp: “Pickup” is a feverish short film about how a housewife’s controlled family life is shaken by her destructive sexual addiction. It’s both scary and smart, written by one of my very favorite writers. Jessica Blank’s plays (“The Exonerated” and “Aftermath“) are politically charged works that are grounded in character, perhaps because they are “documentary plays” based on first-hand research she does with her husband Erik Jensen through a series of interviews. “Pickup” was something she wrote without Erik, relying more on visual storytelling — which is fascinating because her use of words has always been so powerful.
But I responded to the way the pictures told the story. We had a great actress named Mandy Evans in the lead role, completely unafraid of venturing into the darkness, and were lucky to be joined on our adventure by Jim True-Frost, a wonderful actor who I’d first seen in Steppenwolf’s production of “Buried Child“. The production was one of the most creatively satisfying experiences I’ve ever had, that feeling of being surrounded by the right cast and crew. It’s scary material, it’s going to make some audiences really uncomfortable. But I also found it exhilarating to direct scenes so beautifully written by Jessica. I’m really looking forward to sharing “Pickup” with everyone later this year.
Jeremiah Kipp: The script was written by Ari Rossen, who saw my short film “Crestfallen” and thought I’d be an appropriate choice as director. It’s a drama about a shy Palestinian girl taking music lessons from a disillusioned Jewish teacher, and the connection that forms between them. The script was so beautifully spare, so full of rich silence that was occasionally broken by the power of Beethoven. I remember the feeling of wanting that job so badly, since most of my work is incredibly brutal or nightmarish or weird. Finally I had the opportunity to make a film that was similar in tone to “The King’s Speech” (a movie I really admire), and would be afforded the chance to make a movie my grandmother could actually watch!
I’m not sure where Ari got the idea, it just sprung out of him very honestly and spontaneously. He gives a carefully nuanced performance as the teacher, full of quiet empathy and feeling. The movie doesn’t push itself on people, it allows them to feel their feelings. It felt good to do such a crowd-pleasing entertainment that respected the intelligence of the viewer. Like “Painkiller”, it’s terrific when a movie has a healthy festival life. It’s been so exciting to see “Sound/Vision” touch audiences. I was thinking of my art teacher the whole time from high school; I wouldn’t be where I am without her. She was incredibly tough, but fair. She taught me to learn the rules before I break them. A remarkable woman, Mrs. Callahan.
Gilbert: You also directed a great music video by Lindsay Katt called “Howling at the Moon”. How did you get involved with music videos and will you be doing more?
Jeremiah Kipp: I’ve directed several music videos for Aaron David Gleason, including “Mastermind” starring Chris Sarandon. With Lindsay, she hired me as an assistant director for a video called “Chains” and when the original director was unable to do the project, I asked her if I could take a crack at it sharing samples of my work with her. “Howling at the Moon” was my favorite of the videos we’ve done together (it is part of a 10-part series, of which I directed three) because it has a cycle of life quality that was both vital and strange.
I love to preserve that sense of magical mystery within the everyday. There’s a touch of melancholy to that track which suits me. Lindsay’s songs have such deep emotional resonance, such an aching quality. I tried to capture that in the video. I’d love to make more music videos, and am actively seeking more opportunities.
Gilbert: What films are you looking forward to direct?
Jeremiah Kipp: Right now I’m actively seeking the next passion project. I’d love to do a version of “Frankenstein” someday and have a few feature length genre films in my trunk that I’d welcome the chance to make. Let’s see what emerges.
Gilbert: Is there a genre that you haven’t done yet that you would like to try your hand at?
Jeremiah Kipp: My dream project is a minimalist road violence movie like “The Hitcher“, “Duel” or the original “Mad Max“… or a chase film like “Vanishing Point.” It would be sheer living hell making the film. A hard edged dark and violent killer on the road movie… that’s my dream project!
Gilbert: It’s been a pleasure interviewing you Jeremiah and, I will be keeping our Biff Bam Pop! fans updated on your continuous outstanding work.