SXSW Interview: Director Trent Haaga, Actresses AnnaLynne McCord, Alisha Boe and Producer David Lawson for 68 KILL

Last weekend saw the SXSW World Premiere of director Trent Haaga's newest film, 68 KILL, which has since gone on to win the 2017 Best Midnighters Audience Award at the prestigious film festival. In anticipation of it's premiere, Shannon had the chance to speak with Trent as well as actresses AnnaLynne McCord, Alisha Boe and producer David Lawson about this non-stop rollercoaster of a film that takes aim at crushing traditional stereotypical roles in this crime filled, bloody rom-com.   

Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi everyone! Thanks so much for speaking with me today about 68 KILL. For those who many not be familiar with the film can you tell us a little bit about it and the roles that you each play? 

Trent Haaga: Sure! 68 KILL is based on a novel by a guy named Bryan Smith who I've been reading for years.  When the book was published about three years ago I was like, you know what, I'd like to see this get made into a movie, so I penned a script and that's pretty much how it went down.  I contacted Bryan myself, made a deal to do the option and adapt the script and it was just a matter of the slow, slow process of finding people to get me money to do it. I love this kind of stuff though, this kind of funny/twisted/crime style of stories. 

AnnaLynne McCord: I obviously play Liza who's a very sweet, caring young girl from a good family (laughs). Basically my character is the opposite of that.  I like to think of Liza as someone who really means well but probably has never had her mental illness treated. I like to look at every character as why did they believe in their world and their environment which led them to be who they were. We don't ever make decisions thinking we are doing right by our situation. We are either trying to be okay, or trying to survive, or just get through life. I know all about that, I grew up in a trailer just like Liza did. I think that trauma is a major thing that people don't understand in that hurting people hurt other people.  Obviously Liza has had an extensive amount of pain in her life, she's tired of feeling the pain, she's pushed back and now she's pushing back on another level. I play a lot of roles that are kind of fucked up or psycho (laughs) but at one point every single human being on this planet was absolutely perfect and never wanted to hurt a soul, even little baby Liza and then the world fucked us up. The environment around us, the people who are telling us we aren't good enough, the insane amount of rape and incest, especially in dynamics like that, the daddy issues that Liza has. I was sexually assault myself and I didn't go cry in the corner, instead I was trying to have more sex so as to get my power back and in turn I hurt good men while I was trying to get over the bad men in my life. So I look at Liza as someone like that, who just wanted to get out of a bad situation and she kind of likes blood and fucking people up a little bit (laughs). 

Alisha Boe: I play the character of Violet and you find her in a very unfortunate circumstance where Liza tries to kidnap her and give her to her brother who wants to chop her up and eat her or something (laughs). In this crazy situation, Violet and Chip (played by Matthew Gray Gubler) end up in this weird romance in about three hours flat. They find this light at the end of the tunnel because they understand each other and this common dynamic where they both have been taken advantage all of their lives. 

NC: What I enjoyed so much about this film was that the women had such a fierce femininity to them whereas the main character, being male, was more of the emotional, sensitive type, so there was a definite role reversal. What was the process like in bringing that to light and was it important to show the audience that these men and women could be in non-stereotypical roles? 

AB: That was the first thing that drew me to the script when I read it, I thought that aspect was amazing. You see films over and over again that show the same stereotypical roles with the girl always being the damsel in distress and they don't get to do the crazy fucked up things that you want badass girls to do and I loved that crazy dynamic. Women can be insane and when you push them to the right limit we can be very, very unhealthy for people (laughs). 

ALM: I agree with Alisha. I have an interesting outlook on this whole male/female dynamic in our world. Coming from someone who could very well be labeled by the dictionary definition of feminist, I don't believe in women's rights I believe in human rights. I think that obviously in order to move the needle a little bit you need to push far. What I love about this film is that on the one side it gives opportunities to really show strong female characters and maybe that will show men in the world that they need to be aware of how psycho we can be. It also shows that guys can be beautifully sensitive and on the search for love as well. I don't think men are portrayed that way enough and more in my life have I experienced men who are trying to love me than me being able to open up and love them. I learned how to do that but I had major intimacy issues stemming from the abuse I experienced in my life. I've met beautiful, wonderful men, some that I have hurt because of my pain and some of whom are my friends till this day because of what they've given me in a relationship. 68 KILL definitely challenges the status quo and I think Matthew Gray Gubler really drove that aspect of the film and did an incredible job in portraying the other side of the male dynamic. 

NC: When it came to filming 68 KILL, what sort of challenges did you guys run into? 

TH: Any independent film is a challenge, not having enough money or time is a challenge, but shooting the film in New Orleans we found that nature was one of our toughest foes to get this thing done. 

ALM: We found out that you couldn't shoot when there was lightning, and we had all this technology and we were like we'll be fine! We found out that the production would be shut down in a lightning/thunder storm, so there were times when we had to stop production. 

DL: We lost at least an hour 2-3x a week and a half a day twice. 

TH: Also, we had a decent size cast for this budget level, a lot of locations, trying to do a car chase, so it was challenging all around but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. 

DL: Anytime you operate within the indie spectrum, what separates, in my opinion, a good indie film from any other indie film is are you really trying to push what you can do with the resources that you have. If you are on an indie shoot and everything is going well than I don't think you are trying hard enough. 

NC: Last, but certainly not least, now that the film has had it's premiere, what can we expect to see from you all in the future? 

ALM: We are unemployed we are looking for work (laughs)!

AB: I have a Netflix show coming out on March 31st called "Thirteen Reasons Why." 

ALM: For me personally, I have nothing. It wasn't a joke or a lie, I legitimately have nothing going on so if you know anyone Shannon, I'm asking you, to put in a good word! If they need a psychopath who kills people and doesn't care then I am available!