This year’s Brooklyn Horror Film Festival housed some great short blocks filled with familiar and up-and-coming filmmakers alike, with each block containing diverse subject matters. For the Creeping Terror short film block, I was able to sit down with director Martin Melnick to delve deeper into his intensely eerie short, CIRCLE and discuss inspirational origins, classic cars, and the supernatural.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hello Martin, thanks for sitting down with us today! So, to start things off, where did the premise for CIRCLE originate from? What were your inspirations?
Martin Melnick: My pleasure, thanks for having me. CIRCLE began as a short adaptation of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. As I got further into rewrites, I wanted to push the mythology a bit further and let it grow into something entirely new. CIRCLE uses the genre to tell a very intimate and emotional character struggle. A huge inspiration for me was the original Twilight Zone series. I grew up enjoying short format anthology shows and was fascinated by how allegory could be used to convey complex ideas, but in a digestible way. You could say I owe a whole lot of my inspiration to Rod Serling.
Nightmarish Conjurings: I love old and classic automobiles, as I find they produce such a great aesthetic. Was it a challenge to acquire these two cars for this short?
MM: The Mustang actually belongs to a producer friend of mine. She used it in one of her own films and was extremely generous in letting us use it for CIRCLE. The trucks were also acquired from friends. I love classic cars as well, but they can be a real struggle for production when your shooting location is a forest in the middle of the night. The Mustang performed wonderfully, but both of our trucks (our hero and our backup) had technical issues on location which required a lot of clever problem solving.
Nightmarish Conjurings: This story seems almost in the vain of either something demonic or other worldly/apocolyptic (science-fiction). Would you care to elaborate on this?
MM: I like to say that the film lives in two spaces, a literal one and an allegorical one. Without giving away too much, the film revolves around Eury and Daniel – two people stuck in a loop through purgatory, running from a fateful sort of evil. Beneath the surface however, Eury’s journey involves a more personal, internal struggle that exists only for her. In this way, the film exists uniquely for whoever is watching it. I’ve heard a lot of different interpretations of the film and I think they’re all equally valid.
Nightmarish Conjurings: I thought both actors were great and perfect for their chosen roles. How did you initially get hooked up with them for CIRCLE?
MM: Thanks. I loved working with all of them. I actually met Shannon Beeby (Eury) at a film festival in Portland in 2014. She was traveling with another film that she had made with some really talented filmmakers, and I fell in love with her performance. A couple of years ago I did some post-production work for her directorial debut and we stayed in contact as the pre-production on CIRCLE moved forward. Michael Draper, Jessica Lynn Skinner and Janae Werner were all local to Portland and I was lucky enough to cast them through auditions. It’s one of my favorite parts of the process.
Nightmarish Conjurings: I also love the opening title lettering. Who was the driving force behind creating that?
MM: A wonderful motion graphics team called Pixel-Fort designed the title for CIRCLE. When gathering ideas for shots or design elements, I tend to make a lot of Pinterest boards for references. I think I gave the team at Pixel-Fort several dozen examples of things I liked, and they came back with some rad options, including the mock-up for what would become the final title in the movie.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What was the most challenging and rewarding aspects for you in filming this short?
MM: Originally I wanted to tell a simple, dialogue driven horror story that took place in a single location. As the script developed, the ideas and locations became quite a bit more challenging. With our fairly low budget, shooting with a process-trailer and a huge crew wasn’t feasible, so we had to get inventive with a combination of on-location and in-studio filming. My producer Benjamin Ross Lyerly and I had to figure out the simplest way to create an atmospheric setting with fairly limited resources. Since most of the film takes place in the dark of night, it also meant figuring out creative lighting and camera solutions. Miles away from any major towns, on back roads in densely wooded areas, facing rain and the occasional snow, the biggest challenge was capturing the realism of the journey with only battery powered gear and an eight person crew. In the end, the story we were able to tell and the friendships that we fostered, made all of the cold nights and technical challenges completely worth it.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Do you have any other projects in the works that you’re allowed, and would like to discuss with us?
MM: Yeah, actually I’m really excited to talk about the feature film I’m directing next year. The film is called YOU LIVE IN OUR HOUSE and it’s a creature feature that deals with some of my own family experiences growing up. The film is about a little girl who forms a close bond with her uncle as he struggles with his sobriety. Through her eyes, his relapses with alcohol manifest in a monstrous transformation that threatens an already crumbling family dynamic. Much like CIRCLE, the film will make use of a mix of genres to tell an intimate story of adolescence. Production begins in October 2019 and you’ll be able to follow our progress on various social channels soon.