Interview – Steve Kahn, Director of ‘Fear’

steve kahn

beeston film festival

This weekend, Beeston launches its very own film festival, showcasing a vast collection of short films spanning all genres from around the world. This new two day event is set to bring the Nottingham area a new light of the art of short films. Ahead of the event, we spoke to Steve Kahn, a director based in Los Angeles, who brings to the festival his short horror film ‘Fear’, starring Jessie Rabideau.

 

‘Fear’ is very claustrophobic, and quite interesting on how far our fears go when we’re alone. Was the main aim of the film to portray what our minds think is going on around us when we’re alone and exposed?

Yeah, that is essentially the main aim of the film. When you think about it there are so many films about love and the meaning of life, and so little about the nature of fear itself and what it does to us, and when you think about it this, and the character in the film, is just a small example of what we all can go through. These fears of such little things can drive us crazy and control us, I made the film in the hope of recognition of what fear is, in essence a poem about its nature, and possibly prevent it.

You’ve cited Hitchcock as a strong inspiration, have there been any other directors or films that were particularly fear4inspiring?

Definitely Hitchcock – he’s a great suspense guy, I remember watching some of his very first films and loving them to bits. I’m also a huge [Stanley] Kubrick fan, with The Shining being a big personal favourite.

It did feel as though aspects had been drawn from The Shining whilst watching the film.

Oh good – thank god you spotted it. Those two directors Hitchcock and Kubrick are two amazing guys and it’s thrilling to see that their inspiration is clear.

The film looks great – the visuals look really crisp, fresh and sharp, the features of the bathroom the girl is in have really been addressed well. Was there a particular way you wanted this film to look?

Actually I did – I wanted to go from light to dark, to get my character to go through a real fear spiral into a complete darkness, almost symbolic of the place we go to when deep in fear. I didn’t want to hide things or muck things up – I wanted to show exactly what was happening and not play any tricks, to ensure realism. Colour was of real importance during filming, I wanted to make sure that the colour of her face reflected the level of fear she had, and so all emotions were reflected upon.

fear3The film is just under 15 minutes long, and it primarily takes place inside this tiny little bathroom, with your character developing fears for different things in there. Was this a challenge to find several cues of fear, or did it come naturally?

I like to think what I’ve made is a homage to horror films in general, and how I pay homage in a way in saying that we create these fears within our own head, including things that would scare me, like when she’s washing her hair in the sink, I could get scared by that for some reason. And then sometimes when I was in the bath tub all I could hear was this wind, and after a while this wind was scaring me, like a silly drift getting under your skin. In these cases you work with what you have, I had that bathroom, and it’s fun to work with small things, but I enjoyed drawing upon elements that have been used in horror films before, helping to pay homage and all.

Your star Jessie Rabideau is terrific in the film, she’s very confident. It looks like quite a distressing role, being terrified by many fears whilst she’s exposed (and predominantly nude). How was she to work with?

This was actually her first film, and so it was quite a challenge in places. I’m formerly an actor so I know how important and challenging it can be to get this core performance. The reason I cast her was because she had an amazing look and personality, and I thought if I could capture that personality on camera in a naturalistic way it would be hugely beneficial. So that was really the challenge, and to her credit she learnt her role and was patient take after take after take, for I idolise Kubrick and he was a perfectionist, and so I wanted every take to be perfect before I moved on. And I don’t think I entirely achieved that, I look back on projects and still think I could change some aspects. I think that Jessie was incredibly patient over the fact that I was a severe perfectionist.

I was thinking whilst watching the film that it could easily be fleshed out into a feature length production. Is that fear2something you’d be interested doing in the future, trying to write a story behind this paranoia?

That’s interesting, because the good thing about directing a short film is that it allows you to be poetic, and in essence write a poem about a character going through a short process, in this case through fear. But I have been thinking about a feature idea in the future, but the unfortunate thing about going into a full length feature is you tend to lose that beauty of the poem, so if a short film is a poem then a feature film is like a novel. And with a novel you have to have proper exposition. It’s a slight turn-off for me and it wouldn’t be the same, Hitchcock and Kubrick made brilliance in features, but I like to poem feel.

I should just clarify that this isn’t your first film, you directed another short ‘The Pink Balloon’?

The Pink Balloon is a funny one – ‘Fear’ has been circulating audiences now and people seem to love it, which is terrific and I’m so greatful, but everyone seemed to hate Pink Balloon – it’s so funny when you go from one time when a film (my baby, essentially) is hated be everyone and then loved by everyone. The only thing to do really is to make your babies and hope that people like them – some people like the methods, and if they don’t they like the visuals, seeing a naked girl or whatever it is. The Pink Balloon was a body-builder that I guess didn’t work, when everyone saying they don’t like it then that’s the real answer. If that happens then you pick up a new project and accept defeat, although I still liked it – I thought it was cute.

fear1

Well, Fear may not be cute, but it is an exceptional little horror film. Little dialogue, one character and her dog and her bathroom are all you have to be entertained – and they deliver. The cinematography is beautiful – every centimetre of the bathroom and the fears within are thoroughly addressed, with the camera up-close and personal to thrust you right into the paranoia. It does make you think that when alone and vulnerable, your mind could certainly conjure up some terrifying prospects about things that hurt you or be around the corner. Being filmed in a tiny bathroom for most of its 14 minute run time adds to the intensity and claustrophobia, and proves to be a very intense quarter of an hour.

‘Fear’ is showing at the Beeston Film Festival on Saturday 24th January. Tickets available at: http://festival.beestonfilm.com/tickets/

Ellis Whitehouse