LA Film Festival Interview: Director Camille Thoman for NEVER HERE

NEVER HERE is a suspense/thriller that combines elements of Hitchcock and psychological terror in an arthouse packaging. Directed by Camille Thoman, the film had it's world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival last week, and stars Mireille Enos, Sam Shepard, Goran Visnjic, and Vincent Piazza. In anticipation of the film's premiere, Shannon spoke with Camille Thoman about NEVER HERE, the symbolism of the messages, and how the audience becomes a part of story's unfolding. 

Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Camille, thank you so much for speaking with us about your film NEVER HERE. For those who may not be familiar with your latest film, can you tell us a little bit about it? 

Camille Thoman: It was my intention with the film to genre blend a classic Hitchcock suspense mystery, like a "who dun it?" with a journey into the disintegration of a person's identity of who I am. So it's a mix of "who dun it" and "who am I" that propels this film. 

NC: What makes this film works so well is the talent possessed by the actors. How did you got about casting for these roles? 

CT: I wrote the film for actress Mireille Enos, she actually read the first draft of the film in 2010. The rest of the cast I casted very much by gut. I'm a big believer in when my gut lightbulb goes off. When that happens, I'm really happy and when it doesn't go off I usually can't say yes, and in this case I was just very thrilled with our entire cast. 

NC: What was the inspiration behind making a film such as NEVER HERE?

CT: I wanted to make a thriller because I love thrillers as well as horror films, but I wanted to do more than just create a plot that would entertain the audience, I wanted to create something that is almost explicitly a mirror for the audience and references them. When Miranda's experiencing her journey of disintegration, we as the audience members are referenced in that and are asked our own questions about our own identities. While that's all happening, on a subconscious level I wanted to do something that was fun for the audience's minds and do kind of a "keep them guessing"; that's where the Hitchcock comes in, a "keep them guessing" mystery/suspense tale. 

NC: So you always knew from the beginning that you wanted the film to be vague and open-ended, allowing for the audience to come up with their own conclusions? 

CT: I did, because "who am I" is not a question we can ever really answer and ultimately "who dun it" isn't really a question we can answer either because we think with the "who dun it" we have the facts but ultimately what we really have is a construction based on our interpretations, always. That's how it is in life and I think when a film ties things up too neatly it doesn't leave the audience with any questions and I feel like it's really important for a film to be a mirror towards life. 

NC: Something that I found to be really interesting with your film was that it didn't have any bloodshed or gore. Was that a conscious decision? Did you want the focus to be more about the story unfolding as opposed to using gore to shock the audience?

CT: That's a great question. I played with having more bloodshed but ultimately in this story I wanted the violence to come from her own mind and the destruction to really come from her own mind and not from actual gore. I am, however, writing a horror film with quite a lot of actual gore (laughs). So I'm not adverse to gore, I think it can be really effective but in this case it's not what I wanted to propel the violence. 

NC: I also noticed the many messages displayed with neon lights throughout the film. What is the symbolism behind those messages? 

CT: My intentions were to communicate the fluidity of identity to an audience's subconscious while keeping their brains really busy with the plot. I wanted the images and the sounds to work subconsciously on the audience. The viewer is referenced all the time through almost every frame of the film on a subconscious level through varying ways. One of the ways in which they are referenced is literally with signs, which surprisingly is subconscious. You would think it would go right to their consciousness (laughs). People are watching a story so they're not really taking in necessarily what the images are saying all the time. We have a neon sign saying "This is the beginning", and that sets up the dialogue between chance and fate, and also really looks at the depiction of our identities and the construction of our realities. We have these neon signs that say, "You are here" literally YOU the audience are here. All of Miranda's photographs of Arthur Anderton shown at the beginning of the film all have "YOU" and an arrow and it's "YOU" as in him but it's also you who's watching it. 

NC: Last, but certainly not least, are there any upcoming projects you are working on? 

CT: I'm writing a horror film that takes place in Northern Canada in the snow. It's very inspired by John Carpenter's THE THING. The protagonist is a 11-year-old girl and her pregnant mother, so it's not like THE THING in a lot of ways but the dislocation and loneliness that happens in THE THING is present in this film. This is a demon film and there's definitely going to be gore (laughs).