Wir hatten die Chance, Interviews mit dem Regisseur des Geheimtipps Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl, A.D. Calvo, und den beiden Hauptdarstellerinnen Erin Wilhelmi und Quinn Shephard zu führen. In seiner Besprechung zu diesem atmosphärischen, figurenzentrierten Geisterfilm schrieb unser Redakteur Thomas Heuer:
„Sweet, Sweet Lonley Girl thematisiert komplizierte Beziehungen. Mit viel Fingerspitzengefühl wird die Transformation von Adele inszeniert, die auf ein ungewöhnliches, aber sehr gelungenes Ende zusteuert. Für Fans von anspruchsvollen Horrorfilmen ist Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl ein Must-See.“
Aufgefallen ist uns diese Perle des Independent Kinos auf den Fantasy Filmfest Nights in Berlin, wo auch A.D. Calvo und Erin Wilhelmi eingeladen waren und für ein Q&A bereitstanden.
Die Interviews führten wir in Englisch. Wir präsentieren sie euch hier im Original.
Director A.D. Calvo and the two main actresses Erin Wilhelmi and Quinn Shephard gave us an interview about their participation in the extraordinary movie Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl (SSLG).
Interview with A.D. Calvo
about his movie Sweet, Sweet Lonley Girl
"All of my favorite horror films are all character-driven: […] because human behavior and emotion never changes"
(A.D. Calvo) I very much enjoyed visiting Hamburg and Berlin. I was awestruck by the historical architecture, modern and efficient infrastructure, and your warm and diverse culture.
How have the reactions been about the movie in Germany?
I hope folks enjoyed the film. I was happy to see everyone stay for the Q&A and many fans came up to us afterwards, expressing their warmth for the film.
Has it been difficult to find a producer for SSLG?
I’ve been working closely with veteran indie producer, Mike S. Ryan for a few years now. In 2014, we made another film together called The Missing Girl which premiered at Toronto in 2015.
SSLG has been produced for the streaming portal Shudder. Has there been anything different in production according to work for a streaming portal?
The film was made for a limited theatrical release. Shudder purchased all the rights for USA, Canada, UK, and Germany/Austria/Switzerland. They first saw the film at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas.
"Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl is more of homage to a certain kind of retro-horror and would more accurately be defined as gothic, gothic horror or gothic romance."
Shudder is a platform for horror genre films. Would you define SSLG as a horror movie?
Not in a pure sense. It’s more of homage to a certain kind of retro-horror and would more accurately be defined as gothic, gothic horror or gothic romance, I think.
I perceived SSLG as an artful movie, which uses coming of age themes as well as the desperation of a young woman trapped inside a life offering nothing but more desperation, until Beth enters the scene. Is that correct?
I tried to blend my love of art house with my love of horror, so, in essence, yes. It’s a relationship story that offers a lonely girl escape and excitement but ultimately leads her to entrapment and even more desperation.
Let’s get to the look and style of SSLG. The look and feel of the movie breathe the spirit of the 80’s. Has it been difficult to find a location like “Aunt Dora’s house”, that feels like 80’s and creepy at the same time?
I live in the oldest part of the U.S. (i.e., New England), so this is a good place to find older gothic architecture. We worked closely with our local state film office (here in Connecticut) to find the specific house. The house you see in the film is actually an amalgam of three different houses: one for the exterior and downstairs, another for upstairs, and yet another for the kitchen. This created a disorienting feel that I think benefits the film.
You suggested in Berlin, that the movie was realized with a small budget. Why did you stick to the idea of creating a period picture?
Despite the concerns of a few production designers (note we had a hard time hiring one because many felt it couldn’t be done with our limited funds), my co-producer and I felt sure it could be pulled it off—and we were lucky that Robert Wise agreed to do it. The small town we filmed in (Vernon) had a “stuck in time” retro feel and that was half the challenge.
"I strive for realism and oftentimes too much score can get in the way of that."
One of the strongest parts of SSLG is the embedment of the story in the early 80s. In a time, when not everybody was “amused to death” by media – to refer to Neil Postman and Aldous Huxley. In comparison to nowadays your main character Adele has not much ways to escape her fate at aunt Dora’s place. Before Adele literally escapes with Beth, she listens to music, which adds personality to her character. How did you choose the songs Adele listens to?
In terms of songs, we had assistance from Sony/ATV Music Publishing. We selected back catalogue hits from the 70s to add authenticity and a feeling of nostalgia. In terms of score, I worked closely with my composer and sound designer (Joe Carrano) in choosing period-appropriate instrumentation with cinematic influences of that same era.
The soundtrack is available at the official SSLG website. That is a very nice fan service and extends the experience of the movie to another media channel. What is the purpose of releasing the soundtrack on the movies website?
Well, it’s not actually an “official” soundtrack that you can purchase together; however, I found many of the songs on YouTube and posted links to those. You’ll notice some of them are songs that were in our “festival cut” as opposed to the release version.
Sound is one of the keys to intensify SSLG. There are a lot of scenes, in which the sound of everyday actions is centered. According to this, you tended to use less score music in many scenes. Why did you chose to concentrate on sound instead of music?
I strive for realism and oftentimes too much score can get in the way of that.
Usually nothing in a movie is coincidental. But sometimes coincidence delivers a special moment to a scene. Did during shooting come something to the movie by coincidence?
The scene where Adele sits down to play a few notes on the organ was something that wasn’t planned. Also, in that same scene, Mike Ryan noticed dead vines growing through a crack in the window. He suggested we film them for b-roll / texture, and, at that point, I immediately wanted to see Adele from outside the house, looking in, as she feels the curtains with her fingers. So that was something that was spontaneous and turned out to be one of my favorite moments in the film.
SSLG has a very slow-growing narrative. I really liked that slow paced style. Some other reviewers had a different judgment on your movie. I don’t know how much you had the chance to get in touch with German reviews of SSLG, but there has been one statement in particular, that I was curious to see your reaction to. Before I drop it, I want to point out, that it agonized me as a film critic and media scholar. And I was not involved in SSLG or any other horror movie on a festival lately. In the blog “Badmovies.de” the author points outhe author points out, that SSLG is a “festival porn”. According to the blogger this is a movie, that is made only to win prizes on festivals and open up doors for the filmmakers to get the chance of making better movies in the future. In accordance to this the author says, that Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl is one of those (I try to translate literally) “self-congratulatory 'arty' horror films” that are not well crafted and have no real right to exist. In these times, everybody can call themselves a critic, I assume it is not easy to create art these days. How do you react to blunt statements like the one pointed out?
Oh, dear. I like to think I have a fairly thick skin. That said, I read the blog you mentioned and I applaud the critic because he at least makes an interesting point. His analysis is not hateful (like some others I’ve read over the years for my other films.). At least it’s intellectual, so that’s better, I think. Regarding his thesis, however, one of the reasons I started working with Mike Ryan is because I admired his artful character-driven films—films like Kelly Reichardt’s Old Joy and Meek’s Cutoff, and Rick Alverson’s The Comedy. These aren’t plot-driven narratives, they’re films about people. We follow characters through a fictitious world that feels real because we believe in the characters. We aren’t trying to swallow a hard to believe plot, if that makes sense.
Also, I remember seeing an interview with Martin Scorsese, where he says his character-driven films are the most timeless to him (Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, for example). That’s because human behavior and emotion never changes, whereas plot can feel cliché and leave us feeling overly manipulated and eventually can become dated. All of my favorite horror films are all character-driven: Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, The Shining.
Some people don’t seem to understand the ending of your movie. Would you agree with my review, that anybody could interpret it freely among the given story and character transformation during the movie?
Yes, I agree it could be interpreted in different ways; but there are specific moments in the film that lead to a logical conclusion, I believe. However, I’m okay if some think it’s ambiguous or makes them ponder, because, in the end, I think it’s better to “feel” a film than to understand a story. To me it’s more about the feelings you experience while watching the film rather than, “Oh, I get it, that was a clever story.” It’s interesting that films like Christopher Nolan’s Inception can be so difficult to understand and decipher and yet people enjoy them. I like a film that leaves me thinking and doesn’t spell everything out for me.
"it seems many of my favorite films explore the psychological bonding between two different women, always leading to dire consequences."
What was your intention in telling the story of Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl?
To tell the story about a lonely girl who becomes seduced by another, and ultimately finds herself trapped by her own selfishness and decisions. And to do this in a very minimalist manner, relying more on character and atmosphere than dialog and plot.
In Berlin you said, that the character constellation of SSLG was something you really liked. Especially the transportation of negative energy from one character to another seemed important to you. What excites you about this constellation?
Yes, it seems many of my favorite films explore the psychological bonding between two different women, always leading to dire consequences, e.g., 3 Women, My Summer of Love, Heavenly Creatures, La Cérémonie, Mulholland Drive, Persona.
Let’s focus on the cast next. How was working with Erin Wilhelmi and Quinn Shephard?
It was a great experience. We had a very collaborative working relationship, and have remained close friends since.
How did you find your actresses in the first place?
With the help of our casting director, Nina Day.
Would you like to work with Erin Wilhelmi and Quinn Shephard again?
You are Argentinean. Since when are you working/living in the USA?
My family relocated to the U.S. when I was around seven. Prior to that, I also lived in Brazil for a short while.
SSLG is your 13th work as a director. Many of your movies so far have a theme and setting in the fantastic and paranormal. What excites you about these?
13 films?! Ah, that’s because you’re including my shorts. I think I’m agnostic so I like to explore my fascination with the afterlife—the possibility of one anyway. And I like to explore it through genre, in both negative and positive ways—the horrific and the romantic / fantastic.
In Germany, your movies are not well-known now. How can people get access to your works?
My first feature was released in Germany as Jenseits der Gleise on SKY Cinema but it’s not without a fair share of problems. And, as I look back on it, I made a lot of mistakes (as a new filmmaker) and have since tried to recut it. My second feature, The Melancholy Fantastic, was never released. It was deemed “too small.” I’ve since re-cut it and was able to get it released in the UK under a different name: Doll in the Dark – and it’s become somewhat of an underground cult film because it stars Robin Lord Taylor who plays The Penguin on FOX’s Gotham series—that was before anyone knew him (www.dollinthedark.com).
In 2012, I made two back-to-back young-adult thrillers (House of Dust and The Midnight Game). Both of those were released in North America by Anchor Bay on DVD. I don’t think they’re available in Germany. With those two films, I didn’t write the screenplays and experienced more challenges because of that.
Then I started writing again around 2013, stepping away from the supernatural (to reboot) and that’s when I wrote my first character-driven story, a dark comedy called The Missing Girl (www.themissinggirlmovie.com). The Missing Girl premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival in the Vanguard category and later played at Fantastic Fest—so something about it appealed to genre fans. I don’t think it played in Germany though.
SSLG is published via Shudder in the USA. Will the movie come to Europe and especially to Germany any time soon?
I hope so. As I said, Shudder owns the German rights so hopefully they know something I don’t.
Which movies and other works of art had an impact on you?
Design in general, and photography influence me. Prior to filmmaking I was a user interface designer. On a side note, one of the things that fascinated me about Berlin was all the Bauhaus design influence—the beautiful simplicity and minimalism in German architecture and design.
What movies would you recommend?
With regards to Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl, I encourage you to watch Burnt Offerings (released in Germany as Villa of Dead Souls) and Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, a favorite and timeless horror film of mine. I also recommend all the art house films I mentioned earlier.
"I was terrified by that film as a child and only re-discovered it as an adult. The imagery of the dead woman in A Drop of Water haunted me."
Many movies from the USA have different titles in Germany, for instance Mario Bavas Black Sabbath is called (translated freely) The three faces of fear, according to the Italian title of the movie. The 1963 Anthology Black Sabbath was one of your main inspirations for SSLG. How did that movie influence your work?
I was terrified by that film as a child and only re-discovered it as an adult. The imagery of the dead woman in A Drop of Water haunted me. In that story, a woman steals the ring off of a corpse and becomes haunted by her ghost. So that homage is very much woven into the narrative of Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl. That really was the catalyst for the story. In the end, it’s sort of a gothic Hagsploitation film. I’m terrified of the idea of an old spinster lurking in the shadows, or in the basement or attic. I love modern interpretations of this too, films like Drag Me to Hell and The Woman in Black, for example. Interesting there’s a phenomenon known as “Old Hag Syndrome,” a form of sleep paralysis, which I experience on occasion – you can look it up on Wikipedia – and I think it stems from the trauma of watching Bava’s film as a child.
You made an extraordinary movie about the transformation of a young woman. As I pointed out in my review, SSLG follows Adele from emancipation to degeneration. At the beginning of your movie Adele is an innocent and pure person. But in the end, well let’s not spoil this.
What do you want to tell your fans in Germany?
Well, I’m a fan of Wim Wenders, Tom Tykwer, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder—all wonderful German directors who have explored genre in an artful way. I’m sort of trying to do the same thing with my work, combining art house with genre. I hope they see that.
Are there any new projects you can talk about?
I’m now writing another character-driven ghost story—but even more minimalist than Sweet, Sweet.
Thank you very much.
Thank you; enjoyed it.
Interview with Erin Wilhelmi
about her acting as 'ADele'
"I used to think 'horror' movies had to be full of blood and gore [...], but Sweet Sweet Lonely Girl gave me the chance to be a part of the genre without having to see blood."
(Erin Wilhelmi) Absolutely! Fantasy Filmfest was wonderful and we were so happy to be screening there!
In SSLG you are the main actress for the first time. Has this been a challenge for you?
It was a very exciting challenge. I enjoyed every minute of it and I learned so much.
How was working with A. D. Calvo and Quinn Shephard?
It was such a joy to work with A.D. Calvo. He wrote an incredible script with two complex female characters, and he directs with an openness and a collaborative spirit that is contagious. I've experienced many different sets and the mood is always determined by the director. On this project A.D. created such a positive energy that led to a great working atmosphere.
Quinn Shepard is such a talented actor and such a sweet person. We connected immediately and that allowed for a comfortability that we needed in order to shoot those more intimate scenes. I learned so much from working with her.
How did you get involved in SSLG?
I first auditioned for Nina Day (the casting director). Then I auditioned again for both Nina and AD.
"The opportunity to play a leading role with such a complex and developed arch is any actor's dream."
Why did you take the role?
I loved the character first and foremost. The opportunity to play a leading role with such a complex and developed arch is any actor's dream.
Which part of Adele’s personality would you admire?
I admire her courage. She goes to a different city where she doesn't know anyone in order to make money for her family.
Which part of Adele’s personality would you deny?
Unfortunately, Adele is very susceptible to peer pressure and ultimately this leads to her moral breakdown.
"I had pages and pages of notes that I would read before we shot every scene so I would know exactly where Adele was mentally."
Adele is a very sensitive and innocent character; how did you prepare for this role?
I worked very closely with A.D. to make sure I understood every detail of her story. I had pages and pages of notes that I would read before we shot every scene so I would know exactly where Adele was mentally.
Do you like horror movies?
I used to think "horror" movies had to be full of blood and gore. I don't like to watch violent movies, but SSLG gave me the chance to be a part of the genre without having to see blood (haha). I especially enjoy the fantasy film festivals because the fans are so passionate and excited for new material.
How would you pitch SSLG to make me want to see it?
The movie has something for everyone! It takes place in the late 70s early 80s, it has a love story, a ghost story, and a creepy house! What more could you want?? :)
Thank you very much.
Interview with Quinn Shephard
about her acting as 'Beth'
"It’s always fun to explore a villain, especially when there is a supernatural element [...], so I had a great time creating an otherworldly backstory to justify Beth's actions“
(Quinn Shephard) Yes! It’s always fun to explore a villain, especially when there is a supernatural element. I had never had an opportunity to play a character quite like her before, so I had a great time creating an otherworldly backstory to justify her actions and world-weary persona.
How was working with A. D. Calvo and Erin Wilhelmi?
It was an overwhelmingly positive experience! A.D. is one of the kindest souls I have ever had the fortune to work with...he infuses his work with a gentle passion that, in most of Hollywood, is rare to find. Shooting Sweet Sweet Lonely Girl was like meeting a new family! And Erin is incredible, both as an actress and as a person. The entire experience was supportive and affirming.
How did you get involved in SSLG?
I was actually filming in Vancouver when I got the audition, and filmed a self-tape in my hotel room. Shortly after, I skyped with A.D. and he offered me the role — it was very painless, which I appreciated!
Why did you take the role?
A.D. immediately seemed like someone I would enjoy working with — warm and soft-spoken both as a director and as a person. I also liked the script and was a fan of The Missing Girl, his film that had premiered at Toronto. Beth seemed like a fascinating character that I had never played before, and I was very excited at the prospect of playing her! Obviously it was a great decision, doing the film!
„Beth is pretty manipulative and evil. I suppose her fashion sense and her sex appeal are the most ‘fun’ aspects of her…I definitely stole some wardrobe from set!“
Which part of Beth’s personality would you admire?
Oof—there isn’t much admirable about Beth! She’s pretty manipulative and evil. I suppose her fashion sense and her sex appeal are the most ‘fun’ aspects of her…I definitely stole some wardrobe from set!
Which part of Beth’s personality would you deny?
I personally don’t have much in common with Beth (which is definitely a good thing!) I think she is innately designed to destroy…it’s in her nature, it’s why she exists. As an actor I tried to play against that, and explore the loneliness of someone who’s spent centuries tearing down innocence. I think there’s probably a part of her who resents the way she is.
How did you prepare to play Beth?
As I mentioned above, I tried to connect with her on a human level (even if Beth ISN’T human.) As an actor, you have to believe that even demons get lonely, sad, angry, and hurt. There was a constant push and pull with her —a jealousy for Adele’s innocence and mortality, a longing for connection, mixed with the resolve to destroy her. I talked to A.D. a lot about her history, her experiences in different eras. It was all about getting to know a character that, on the page, was a bit unreachable.
"I love spooky…I’m just not a blood-and-guts girl."
Do you like horror movies?
I’m actually not a huge horror fan…I’m more into psychological thrillers. But Sweet Sweet Lonely Girl is much softer and more sensitive than some horror. I would have been excited to see this film. I love spooky…I’m just not a blood-and-guts girl.
How would you pitch SSLG to make me want to see it?
I’ve been describing it as a trippy art-house gothic horror homage to the seventies…it’s such a mesmerizing film. The first time I saw it, I compared it to a dream that is both chilling and beautiful. You wake up scared, but also not quite wanting to leave the hazy, seductive world behind.
Thank you very much.
Trailer zu Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl
„Sweet, Sweet Lonely Girl“
Regie: A.D. Calvo
Drehbuch: A.D. Calvo
Laufzeit: 76 Minuten
Produzent: A.D. Calvo, Mike S. Ryan, Budderfly Productions
Das Interview führte Thomas Heuer in Zusammenarbeit mit André Vollmer.
- Coming of Age
- Jung und Alt
- Fantasy Filmfest 2017
- AD Calvo
- Erin Wilhelmi
- Quinn Shephard
- Susan Kellermann
- Budderfly Productions
- Robin Lord Taylor
- Fantasy Filmfest