Interview with Directors Rob Lindsay and Nicholas KleimanNovember 30, 2014
With their film Why Horror? making its Canadian premiere at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, I was able to talk to both directors about the challenges in making this film, super fan Tal Zimmerman and the fun they had with asking the question to people from all parts of the horror genre.
First, can you guys tell me a little bit about yourselves?
Rob: Sure, my name is Rob Lindsay and I’m a filmmaker. Nic and I have worked together for about the last ten years, mostly in television but we also do documentaries as well.
Nicolas: I’m Nic, I come from Argentina and I’ve been living in Canada for the past ten years now. I like to travel and eat lots of different foods! (Laughs)
Rob: It’s true, he loves eating food!
Tell me who in the world came up with the idea for Why Horror?
Nicolas: Well, it was an evolution, really but it all started with Tal. Tal approached us with an idea about doing a documentary about the horror scene in Toronto and at first we said no because it was too small and limited to take place in just Toronto. Then the more we spoke with him we asked you know, what is it about this that attracts your attention and he didn’t know! (Laughs)
Rob: We just asked him why do you like horror so much and we joke that if you were playing poker with him he’s all in so after we asked him that question he kind of looked at us with this blank stare and simply said ‘I don’t know’. The more we probed that question we started realizing why as a society we like it, why it even exists, why we go out of our way to read or view something that we really shouldn’t be attracted to.
Nicolas: In the end what it comes down to is the more we researched it the more we realized that it’s been a part of society for a very long time. Sure, sometimes it is pure entertainment but a lot of times it is also something more and we found that very interesting.
Rob: It also became very clear that what we knew, or what we thought we knew about horror was based on a North American viewpoint and so we had to get a more worldwide view on the subject.
Being a horror fan myself it was a simple but fascinating question, Why Horror? Were either of you surprised at some of the answers you received?
Nicolas: I really hadn’t put much thought into the subject before now but once I started doing the research I became very interested. People didn’t talk simply about entertainment but horror in the world of psychology and evolution and I found that fascinating.
Rob: You know, you being fascinated by the question is exactly what Eli Roth, George Romero and all the people who would actually sit down and speak to us were fascinated with, the fact that we were asking that question. I think they found it exploratory themselves just talking out loud about it, kind of like Tal’s reaction who was basically saying ‘Yeah, why do I like that? I’ve liked it for so long what’s the deal, here?’
So how easy was it or on the flipside, how hard was it, to get people to sit down and talk about horror?
Nicolas: It really wasn’t that hard once we got the right contacts. One of our producers knew some of these people and then we got in contact with others in Japan, some of who I didn’t know, but when we got there so many people were coming up to us and saying ‘Wow, you got to talk to them?’(Laughs) We were quite successful in the end in getting a lot of people we wanted.
Rob: What was really amazing to me was that one of the first interviews we were able to get was John Carpenter at Toronto’s Fan Expo. It wasn’t easy as he was quite busy but we were persistent and got him. Then two week later we got George Romero so it suddenly became a lot easier to get people when we could say ‘Oh yeah, we already have Carpenter and Romero’ so that was a great one-two punch.
How did you decide to split up the directing duties between the two of you?
Rob: Well, we have worked together for years so that helps. We did Air Farce for a long time with myself directing and Nic handling the editing, then as we graduated to this project we talked about it and figured we could easily spilt the duties of pretty much everything.
Nicolas: Basically, we complement each other very well. Rob has more of a background in writing whereas mine is more technical so working together is very easy. Telling the story and making it come alive visually then becomes that much easier and we can focus our energies on other things as well.
You mentioned that you were able to interview people right here in Toronto. Was there a point when figuring out the logistics of travelling outside of Toronto began to become an issue?
Rob: Well… yeah. [Laughs] We did do quite a bit of travelling but the one thing that worked in our favor was home many people come to Toronto for things like Fan Expo and TIFF. For example at TIFF, we got a room there and were able to bring some people to us without them really having to go out of their way.
Nicholas: I would say the same example applies for Fan Expo where we were able to book a room and did five interviews in one day so having these people come to us was a huge help.
What was the biggest surprise for the two of you while you were filming the movie?
Nichoas: Hmm… that’s a good question. I guess the biggest surprise was the fact we were able to pull this off, and travel all around the world, by really only using four people. So many people we know cannot believe we did it with so few people but we did! Also, the sense of family we found among all the horror fans was amazing. It didn’t matter where we were or what language they spoke, they accepted us like part of a larger community and it was very cool.
Rob: Even though they speak different languages, they all share the common language of horror and that has created such a sense of community that really surprised me. Tal explained it well in the movie, saying he travelled half way around the world to Japan and ended up trading almost identical stories with someone about their teenage years.
Was there anyone you wish you could have interviewed for the movie?
Rob: We had this white board where we listed our top five people we wanted to interview. They were Carpenter, Romero, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper and David Cronenberg. So we got the top two right away and we almost got Cooper but Cooper and Cronenberg are the two we wish we could have got.
Nicholas: Don’t forget Del Toro!
Rob: Oh yeah, Del Toro. It figures, two guys who hang out in Toronto the most, Cronenberg and Del Toro, we couldn’t get.
Do either of you view horror any differently after making this film?
Rob: I know I have a much greater appreciation for the horror genre than when we started. One of the comments we get a lot after non fans have seen the film is that they too have a greater appreciation and understanding of it now. We wanted to make sure we weren’t just preaching to the choir and that we made a film for movie fans and not just horror fans. It definitely opened my eyes.
Nicholas: For me, finding the reasons behind the fandom was more complex than I thought and very interesting. After travelling all around and talking to so many people, I can watch a horror movie now and look at it from a different point of view. I can look beyond the blood and gore and pay more attention to how I react to the movie, something I never did before.
What are some things you hope horror fans, or movie fans in general, take away from the film?
Nicholas: Will see after the movie is over! (Laughs) What I have heard from horror fans is that it’s like watching their own life up on the screen. For those fans that have gone through those years of feeling disconnected from others this is like and instant connection and a sense of belonging. For the average movie fan, it challenges their preconceptions they had about the genre and makes them look at it with a new set of eyes, which is very important and I hope happens! [Laughs]
So what is up next for you both?
Rob: Our big hope is to take what we’ve done here with horror and make a series out of it. We want to show how horror is ingrained in cultures around the world.
Nicholas: Like a horror tour!
Rob: Yes, that but much more.
Nicholas: My next goal, and I don’t know if it’s going to happen is to make a film as an excuse to go back to Tokyo and live there for a year! (Laughs)
Rob: We are working on another film called Go Boy, a Governor Generals award winning book about someone who escaped from more war prisons in Canada than anyone in history, so I’m hoping to get that off the ground in the next year.