A hypnotic, psychedelic acid trip for the eyes, LIKE ME (2018), the new film from first time writer/director Robert Mockler, opens in limited release on January 26th and lands on VOD on February 20th. The film stars indie icon Larry Fessenden (Marshall) and Addison Timlin (Kiya) and is produced by Fessenden’s Glass Eye Pix and Dogfish Pictures. This fascinating story about loneliness and the extremes an attention starved girl will go to on her quest for love and acceptance, incorporates spellbinding cinematography and powerful performances and represents everything I love about indie film. LIKE ME is a visually striking endeavor and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to talk with writer/director Robert Mockler about his first film on the day LIKE ME premiered in New York.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi, Robert! Thank you for taking the time to talk with me about LIKE ME! How are you?
Robert Mockler: Hi! I’m freaking out. (laughs)
Nightmarish Conjurings: Congratulations on the premiere!
RM: Thank you! How are you doing?
Nightmarish Conjurings: I’m good, thanks! First I wanted to ask you why did you want to be a filmmaker and how did you get started?
RM: I just fell in love with it. I don’t know why. I just love movies. I wanted to go to film school, but I couldn’t afford it, so I spent a couple of years trying to figure out how I could afford to go to school. I was actually misdiagnosed with MS and that was sort of like a moment. I’m really fortunate that I don’t have MS. I’m very lucky, so it was just a little scary moment. That was a time in my life where I wondered why am I not doing what I want to do. There was a local community college near me and they had a really amazing equipment room. I signed up for classes and there was a Professor there who was really pretty great. I met my producing partner Jessalyn Abbott there and it’s a small program; there’s not a whole lot of people who sign up for the classes, so we had unlimited access to all the equipment. We were learning about lighting and learning about different cameras, learning editing software and learning how to do it. We were so lucky. It was an affordable option and we found a great Professor and we could afford it!
Nightmarish Conjurings: This is a pretty wild film, but it also addresses some serious social media situations that are really relevant right now. What was your inspiration for the story?
RM: I always wanted to make a movie about loneliness and America’s obsession with the outlaw. These ideas started to converge into what I thought could be interesting territory. For me, social media is just one element of the film. It’s not necessarily the central focus of the film. Loneliness is just ingrained in our lives and it’s a part of many of us and it’s this major paradigm shift. I think at first people were trying to figure out a process and didn’t really understand to what extent it would infuse with our lives. I’m not an expert on the matter. I’m not an internet guru in any way. I just kind of have some opinions on it. I really don’t think social media is an actively corrosive force. It reflects or amplifies what alienates us and things are ugly and horrifying. That’s what sometimes bubbles to the surface. Social media can also be like this weird incubator for people to escape our isolation and our powerlessness. We kind of strangely resort to this communal pleasure of humiliating people or condemning people. For me social media is just a tool, so I think that’s coming from some place within us. It’s not so much for me about the tool itself, but what it is inside of us that the tool is exposing.
Nightmarish Conjurings: The entire cast is amazing! What made you decide to cast Larry Fessenden and Addison Timlin in the roles of Marshall and Kiya?
RM: I met Larry maybe two years into the project and showed him the script. I was introduced to Larry through Jenn Wexler, who is a Producer at Glass Eye Pix. I met her and she read the script and she really liked it. I really got along with Jenn and was comfortable with her sensibilities. Glass Eye knows how to band together and do something through very little resources, but not compromised. That’s a rare thing to find and we were incredibly lucky. For a while we were just searching for that sort of producing team. I met Larry and he was only on board as a Producer originally. I was familiar with his work and his Blu-ray box was being released around the time that I met him. I revisited Habit on Blu-ray and I saw a lot of parallels to Marshall and his character Sam. I thought he could bring a humanity to Marshall that was really necessary or else that character could have just completely fallen apart. I would always annoy him with questions about filmmaking (laughs). I just asked him if he was interested and luckily he said yes. I was lucky enough to be introduced to Addison and we had instant communication and instant short hand which was so valuable. We were in a situation where we knew we were going to be in a really tight production window. We needed to be able to communicate and feel comfortable with each other. We ended up not making the movie until after I met her. It was great to be able to meet her and we were exchanging ideas all the time and it was great to be able to tailor the script to her. Writing a role with someone in mind is usually beneficial. She’s so talented and has so many amazing ideas and I was just lucky to be able to partner with her. She’s brilliant.
Nightmarish Conjurings: I love the cinematography in this film as well as the use of colors and special effects. How did you and the cinematographer come up with the surreal, trippy look for the film?
RM: That’s James Siewert. He’s incredibly talented. He also did a lot of the animation. I was introduced to him through Jenn. We were looking for a Director of Photography and I saw his short film called The Past Inside the Present, which is on Vimeo. I think people should check it out. I love that movie. We have similar sensibilities. We both really like Chris Cunningham and his videos and Terry Gilliam. We started talking and we just got along. We lived together. He moved in with me right before production for 2 or 3 weeks. It was the first time he was ever the DP on a feature film and I had never directed a feature film, so we were just both kind of freaking out (laughs). The thing about James that I was so impressed with and so thankful for was that he can completely make something like this his life. I felt like he cared about it as much as I did. I had someone who could challenge me and who I could have conversations with and someone who sacrificed so much to bring this to life. I can’t speak highly enough of James. I hope people check his movie out and I’m really excited for what he does next.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What do you hope audiences take away from this movie?
RM: That’s not for me to say. There’s things that I hope that they take away from it, but I think people are either going to connect with it or they’re not. They’re going to explore as deep as they want to. I’m always trepidatious to discuss what things mean. I’m a huge fan of Stanley Kubrick, but I’m not equating this film to his in any way whatsoever. I’m just saying I appreciate him and I like his philosophy which is kind of absent now and missing from the culture. He didn’t discuss meaning and he left things mysterious and invited people to engage with it. I think sometimes people think if you don’t discuss what things mean then there’s the philosophy that it doesn’t mean anything. I hope there’s room for interpretation and I want to leave that as a sort of undefined margin. When you work on something for five years it’s not like you don’t put things in there, you know what I mean? It’s there, but at this point it’s kind of not my business anymore. It means something to me, but now it’s up to people that watch the movie.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Are you working on any new projects you can tell me about?
RM: I have two things that I’m working on and there’s nothing I can say right now. There’s nothing I can speak to with any thoughtfulness, but there is this haunted house film that’s very driven by music that I’m exploring. These things change so much, hopefully that answers your question in some way.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me about LIKE ME! Good luck with premiere and have a great day!
RM: Thank you! Have a good one.