Back when life felt normal, prior to the devastation that COVID-19 has brought upon the world, director Natasha Kermani (Imitation Girl) and writer/actress/director Brea Grant (12 Hour Shift), were preparing for the release of their film LUCKY, which was supposed to have had its World Premiere at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival. However, due to the rapid spread of the deadly virus, SXSW was cancelled and LUCKY‘s festival release was put on hold. However, not all was lost, as the film found a home at the prestigious Fantasia International Film Festival and saw its digital World Premiere on August 23rd.
The film, which centers around a woman who finds herself attacked night after night by a masked intruder, uses a visually striking, slasher-esque approach to discuss the dangers, abuse, and gaslighting that many women face when dealing with predators. For the premiere of the film, I had the opportunity to speak with both Natasha and Brea where they discussed everything from working together, the abstract presentation of the film, and the process of bringing this story to life.
Thank you both so much for taking the time to speak with me today. I really loved the film and was wondering, where the idea for the story come from?
Brea Grant: This came from a personal experience of mine and expanded from there. I found that any time I spoke to other women about past experiences with violence, every woman had a story. The film takes that idea and expands it to the point of absurdity because honestly, it is absurd that women have to fear for their lives every day. So in part, it was me working through something of my own and in part, it was trying to show the world as it is through a surreal lens.
How was it working together on this project? Natasha – how did you get involved? Brea – what was it like to not only write the story but also act in the film?
Natasha Kermani: I read Brea’s script for LUCKY in the summer of 2018 and immediately fell in love with it. I felt that I could really come into the concept and bring it to life, and loved Brea’s clear perspective and the sharpness of the script. It was funny, poignant, intense, and had something to say. I felt like this was a project I could really sink my teeth into and emailed Brea to see if she’d be open to talking about the collaboration. The script was presented to me with Brea in mind as the character of May, which was also exciting to me because I knew Brea would be able to pull it off and be the centerpiece of the film. Luckily, Brea was open to it, and we started our collaboration off with discussions about script revisions and started putting all the pieces together from there! We were up and filming by the summer of 2019, so we really jumped into the project headfirst.
Brea Grant: This was the first time I had written something that I acted in and someone else directed. Once we had worked through the script changes, I stepped back from the production side of things and put my faith in Natasha’s vision. She came in with a really strong idea for every aspect of the movie so all I really needed to do was show up as an actor. It’s not an easy piece to act in but because I had lived with the character for so long as a writer, it came more naturally to me than starting from scratch. Lucky is about May’s journey so I had spent a lot of time in her head crafting her decisions. It’s the same process for me as an actor.
I really enjoyed the abstract nature of the film and how it leads the viewer on a journey to uncovering the truth. Brea – can you talk about crafting that during the writing process? Natasha – can you describe bringing that to life visually?
Natasha Kermani: One of the things that drew me to the project was the potential to create a visually interesting and at times bizarre world. I see the film as a descent into a sort of nightmare parallel to our world. Each head of department brought their own creativity about how to pull this off with the limited resources we had available, and we really tried to express an increasingly twisted version of what we set up in the first act of the film – so, we see things become more abstract and expressionistic with the production design (props, background paintings, even the plants that are in May’s house all become more exaggerated and violent), we hear the music become more complex, and the cinematography begins to become more and more “unhinged” with light leaks and more extreme use of color, and so on. It was really about finding ways to put that twisted world onscreen, and that was a lot of fun for us!
Brea Grant: I wanted to take the traditional slasher film and turn it on its head. I wanted to make it weird and bizarre. I found that when people read it, they were either onboard for a choir of social workers and EMTs becoming a mock chorus or they were not going to like the movie. Again, we’re viewing all of this through May so it should have an Alice through the looking glass quality. She has entered another world that is only going to get weirder and weirder as she leaves the world she knows behind and that allows her to really see how things have changed.
Can you talk about the importance of the mask our attacker wears? What inspired the design?
Natasha Kermani: The design was really inspired by a desire to have The Man look like he might be totally normal/human appearing from a distance, but that something about his face wasn’t ‘quite right.’ From there, I did a deep dive into some very interesting sculpture and paintings that were playing around with distorting the human face, and out of that, we had a conversation with Jeff Farley, who designed the mask. He brought a few ideas back to us, and eventually, we settled on this design, which, again, is close enough to looking “normal” that it has more of an unsettling feeling rather than an outright “scare.” I really liked the idea that we could still see aspects of the actor’s face underneath the mask, and I was thrilled to work with Hunter as The Man, as he really brought so much expressiveness to the character despite having this mask on his face for the whole shoot.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in getting this film made and how did you overcome that?
Natasha Kermani: We filmed LUCKY on a very tight timeline, so time was really our most precious resource. We tried to prep as much as we could, and really be smart about how we were putting our schedule together. We had an awesome production team, and our AD Mazzin Chaudhari worked closely with our LP Chelsea Davenport to really squeeze as much productivity as possible out of each setup. I think that’s especially hard on the actors, as we just didn’t have as much time to work through the scenes, but everyone came prepared and ready to hustle. Ultimately, we only ended up cutting a sequence or two and basically every other setup we captured ended up in the film! So we were very efficient with our scheduling and tried to make any cuts ahead of time before we started filming.
Brea Grant: Like most people trying to get an indie film made, this movie had been at a few places before it got funded. I found that a lot of people “got” it but some people just didn’t. Because it’s designed to be shot on a small budget, I was only talking to people who wanted to make it for that budget. That was fine with me. But I felt like if there wasn’t a lot of money being spent, then I should try to make the movie as I saw it. I didn’t want to make a more traditional slasher or prep the audience for a sequel. I wanted to make a bizarre little movie and I wasn’t really willing to budge on that if we were going to make it on a shoestring. That ended up being a challenge as you can imagine because people kept trying to push it into a more traditional space. But I kept asking why make a movie for under $1 million dollars if you’re going to make it so normal that it’s forgettable?
The film has a lot of heavy themes present but is still an entertaining film as it combines Black Mirror-esque elements into it. What do you hope people take away from this film?
Natasha Kermani: I really hope that LUCKY leads to some interesting conversations. I’d like for audiences to discuss the themes and questions that the movie brings up, and for the film to be a window to a larger discussion. The film definitely has aspects of The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror in its bones, and I hope it is received as a part of that sub-genre of horror which makes us think and question the world around us.