(L-R): François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell for SUMMER OF ’84

A few months back, I had the chance to catch RKSS’ (Roadkill Superstar) latest film, SUMMER OF ‘84, and was blown away. For whatever reason, SUMMER OF ‘84 tapped into the nostalgia factor for me, sucking me in from the first frame and tugging on my heart strings as I yelled at my screen during the devastating climax. For the theatrical release of the film, I had the chance to speak with the directing trifecta that makes up RKSS: Yoann-Karl Whissell, François Simard, and Anouk Whissell about their latest film, the potential for a sequel, and working together as one unit.

Nightmarish Conjurings: Thank you all for speaking with me today! I’m such a huge fan of your film SUMMER OF ‘84, so for those who may not be familiar with your latest movie, can you tell them a little bit about it? 

Yoann-Karl Whissell: It’s about a kid that really loves conspiracy theories and believes that his next door neighbor might be a serial killer so he starts to spy on him with his friends.

François Simard: Then things begin to get dangerous.

YW: It’s like a fun adventure/thriller that slowly, but surely, goes into horror territory.

Nightmarish Conjurings: What was it about Matt Leslie and Stephen Smith’s script that interested you three in wanting to direct this movie? 

Anouk Whissell: It was from the very first moment when we met Matt Leslie at the premiere of Turbo Kid in LA. He gave us his pitch and his passion was contagious. He was telling us about the kids and their adventure and we all recognized ourselves in that. He then told us the ending and that’s when we really were blown away and wanted to jump in.

YW: The script felt like our own childhood, like we could recognize ourselves. We grew up in the suburbs and it just felt like an adventure we would have done, well, maybe not the serial killer part (laughs). We used to hunt ghosts and monsters and everything in our own neighborhood, so it felt close to our own childhood which made us want to tell that story.

FS: It’s the first time we directed something that we didn’t write ourselves but we were so passionate about it. Yes, we love films like The ‘Burbs, The Goonies, Monster Squad, all of those, but [in the case of SUMMER OF 84] we really liked the ending. The fact that it takes a huge risk is something you don’t ever see in a lot of other movies or in a big blockbuster. We knew that it would become special and memorable.

Nightmarish Conjurings: Since there are three of you, how do you split up the responsibilities when it comes to directing while also making sure that each of your voices are heard? 

YW: We come very, very prepared to set. We storyboard a lot and talk about every aspect before we even step on set. When the date comes we have a very, very clear vision that we all have in our minds. We are always together, everyday, all the time, so the only place that we actually split up is when we are doing our jobs. I’ll talk with the actors, François will be with the camera crew and the DP and Anouk will be with all the heads of the departments. But when we all go behind the monitor  we still talk about everything, every aspect of the film, among ourselves. Instructions to those specific people always come from the same voice, that way they know who to go to and there’s no confusion and we don’t lose time.

AW: We don’t give any notes that would contradict one another. We always like to say if someone were to come to one of us with a question they would get the same answer from either one of us.

(L-R): Caleb Emery, Judah Lewis, Graham Verchere, and Cory Gruter-Andrew in SUMMER OF ’84

Nightmarish Conjurings: One of the reasons why this film works so well is because of the incredible cast. How did you go about casting the roles? 

YW: It was a long process to find our kids. We watched a lot of auditions and tapes and had call-backs etc. Our goal was to find a perfect Davey and then build around him. Once we found Graham Verchere we knew we finally found him and were so happy. Davey needed a softness to him…

FS: …the public needed to like him, even when he was being annoying in trying to convince his friends about what was going on. There was a chance that he could come across too bossy…

YW: …but Graham did a fantastic job, all the kids were fantastic. To be able to talk about some of those complex emotions was interesting with such a young cast but they were able to internalize very complex feelings and show it on screen. It was such a blast to work with them.

FS: Thank God they were that good because the film was a very small indie movie with a small budget and we didn’t have the time to do multiple takes. Sometimes there were only 2 takes, but they would nail it the first time.

Nightmarish Conjurings: Due to the ending (which I will not give away because it is SO GOOD), some might wonder if a sequel could be in the works. What are your thoughts on that? 

AW: A sequel could be possible if the movie does well and the writers come up with a really good follow-up. However, it could take away from the ending and the notion that nothing is going to be alright anymore.

YW: If there is a sequel it needs to be something very, very special so as to not rob the audience of the original film.

FS: We need to be as passionate about the story as the first one, but to be frank, we love the fact that the audience is making their own sequel in their heads and we don’t want to rob that away from them.

Nightmarish Conjurings: Last, but certainly not least, are there any projects that you are all working on that we should be keeping our eyes out for in the future? 

YW: We love to stay busy so we have a lot of projects, some of them we can talk about like Turbo Kid 2, which we are writing. We are also adapting a European comic book titled Poverty; we are actually adapting two of them and one might go into production next year. We’re trying to get as busy as we can, but we also want to do different styles. We don’t want to always be making the same film, we want people to look at our film portfolio and think “My God, these people really had fun and tried so many different styles.” I don’t think we will ever do a straight up drama, it’s not in our DNA, but we want to do sci-fi, Kung Fu, Westerns… we want to do new things with those genres.

FS: So far, we’ve been attached to a zombie movie, which is one of the comic books we are adapting. We’ve been attached to this project for a couple of years now and it might happen so we are crossing our fingers. Yes, we are writing Turbo Kid 2, which could be something that could happen in the near future, but we want to take our time. I think people deserve the best sequel possible that we could write. They gave us so much love and we feel the pressure so we don’t want to rush anything and we want to make sure it’s the best sequel ever.

AW: Every indie film that gets the green light is kind of a miracle so it’s really hard to tell right now which one is going to be the next one, but there are several projects lined up.

SUMMER OF ‘84 is now out in select theaters and will arrive on VOD and Digital HD August 24, 2018.

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Shannon McGrew

Founder/Editor-in-Chief at Nightmarish Conjurings
Shannon is the Founder of Nightmarish Conjurings and a lover of all things horror and haunt related. When she's not obsessively collecting all things "Trick 'R Treat" related, or trying to convince everyone that "Hereditary" is one of the greatest horror films ever made, you can find her designing interiors for commercial restaurants. An avid haunt fan, Shannon spends the entire year visiting haunts and immersive experiences throughout the Southern California area and hopes to one day design her own haunted attraction.
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