Director, actor and producer Roxanne Benjamin has two films at Midnight Madness this year. She’s a director in the horror anthology Southbound and a producer on The Devil’s Candy. In fact, Roxanne Benjamin is probably responsible now for about 30% of the Madness at Midnight Madness, you might remember a little film series she co-produced, V/H/S.
Benjamin took time to answer some questions in advance of the Southbound premiere last night. (The internet passes through Hell itself, and so, you know, the answers got a little delayed in transmission. Demons always think that’s funny, that and 404’s…).
Carol Borden: How did you come to be involved with Southbound and The Devil’s Candy?
Roxanne Benjamin: Brad Miska and I produced the first two V/H/S films together. With those films, we wanted to take found footage, something that felt beat to death as a trope at that point, and find a way to make it interesting and new. With Southbound, we wanted to do the same thing with the actual structure of a multi-director narrative-we wanted to make one world-one mythology with a connected, interweaving story. Brad had been in touch with the Radio Silence boys about it, and I reached out to David Bruckner, and then we had a V/H/S reunion of sorts on our hands.
With Devil’s Candy, I was working under producers Keith and Jess Calder at the time, co-producing some of their film slate over at Snoot Entertainment and basically trying to soak up as much filmmaking knowledge from them as possible. Devil’s Candy was one of the first projects of theirs that I read, and being a huge fan of The Loved Ones (which I learned about from Midnight Madness, of course) I was beyond excited to get to work on Sean Byrne’s film.
CB: You’ve been involved in many aspects of filmmaking (and tv-making) from the art department to producing and now screenwriting and directing. How did come to directing? And, is there anything you learned in the other ares of filmmaking that you’ve been involved in that you brought with you to directing?
RB: Yeah. Drink a lot of water. Really though, every day on set in any capacity teaches you something new. My route to directing isn’t the most traditional, I’ve had a little experience in a lot of different roles, which hopefully informs me as a filmmaker and producer. I think directing was the obvious transition for me after working in the anthology format for so many years now, which is so creatively collaborative by design, and you’re way more involved in shaping the overall vision of the film than in traditional features. Also, working with people better than you makes you better at what you do, it forces you to raise your game. So I surround myself with as many talented people as possible. I’m also lucky to have some really rad director friends like Jason Eisener (Hobo With A Shotgun) and Dave Bruckner (The Signal) and Evan Katz (Cheap Thrills) that I can learn from, who have all definitely pushed me at various times to get behind the camera myself. It was definitely such an ‘Oh, THIS is what I’m supposed to be doing’ moment the first day on set in that capacity.
CB: You’ve produced a bunch of anthology movies including the V/H/S series and now Southbound. What’s some of the appeal of working in an anthology format for you?
RB: Working with friends, always first and foremost. And you get to collaborate in a way that is not totally available to you with straight features. A feature is really a two to three-year process from development to the release of the film. And there’s so many great filmmakers in genre today. With these types of projects I get to work with a whole gang of talented filmmakers that I respect in that same window. Sixteen, actually, between the V/H/S movies and Southbound, which is pretty crazy. Watching the whole come together as greater than the sum of its parts–these separate visions that we’re helping to bring to screen to make one cohesive narrative–is one of my favorite things about the process. I’d also say I’ve made as many multi-director/multi-writer films as I have because of a love for the writer’s room working in TV, and the entire process of TV production. Particularly with Southbound, we were all coming up with this world together and structured production more like a TV series than a feature. We’d be in my living room once a week breaking story and talking themes, leading up to production. Same thing on set and once we got into the editing process. We’ve probably watched this film no less than 50 times through as a group since the rough cut.
CB: What are some of your favorite horror movies, anthology or otherwise?
RB: Creepshow 2 and Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, particularly the Michael McDowell segment, “Lover’s Vow.” That messed me up as a kid. In the Mouth of Madness is also at the top of the ‘probably fucked up my psyche at a formative age’ list. I probably have way less horror film background than one would expect given my filmography, ha. I was always more of a reader—I grew up on EC Comics, Stephen King, USA Up All Night, and pulp novels. I remember biking into town to the corner drugstore to get the latest Tales from the Crypt, Haunt of Fear, and Vault of Horror issues (I swear this was the ’90s, not the ’50s). But I tend to be more obsessed with anything that evokes a sense of creeping dread when it comes to movies, like The Sentinel or Repulsion or Picnic at Hanging Rock. I’m also fascinated by the dynamics of female relationships–there’s so much fodder there to mine-which I don’t think is explored enough in modern horror. I guess you can see that obsession in my part of Southbound.
CB: What can the Midnight Madness audience expect from Southbound and The Devil’s Candy?
RB: Complete pandemonium, hopefully? I’m actually really excited to see both of these films with the Ryerson crowd.
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Roxanne Benjamin!
SOUTHBOUND Screening Times: Fri, Sept 18, 12:45 PM SCOTIABANK Fri, Sept 18, 6:00 PM SCOTIABANK Sun, Sept 20, 3:30 PM SCOTIABANK
THE DEVIL’S CANDY Final Screening:
Sat, Sept 19, 1:15 PM SCOTIABANK
This post originally appeared on the official Midnight Madness program blog at the Toronto International Film Festival.