Julia is the new revenge thriller by first time South African film director Matthew A. Brown. The film stars Ashley C. William (The Human Centipede), Ryan Cooper (TV’s “Eye Candy“) and Jack Noseworthy. We spoke with the director about his new film and what influenced him to make this gritty, brutal tale of trauma and revenge. Check out the interview below and look out for Julia in theaters now.
JULIA is a neo-noir revenge thriller centering on Julia Shames, who after suffering a brutal trauma, falls prey to an unorthodox form of therapy to restore herself. – Archstone Distribution
How did you wind up writing and directing Julia?
Matthew Brown: I actually made while living in Berlin called Victim and an executive producer in New York saw the film and approached me asking about how I would feel doing a feature. He was looking for something specifically that was elevated genre and he felt he could get it financed. So, I had a bit of a think and a couple days later I sat down with him and his business partner and gave them my first thoughts on the way I wanted to go with the feature and they went for it. They came to us almost a year to the day that we were in preproduction from that meeting.
What inspired you to write the film’s intense story?
MB: Around the time I had become really fascinated with Asian revenge, thriller-horrors like Jee-woon Kim’s I Saw the Devil, Takashi Miike’s Audition; and that left a lasting impression on my deep subconscious I think. (laughs) I was also getting into Hong Kong gangster noirs and those influences lead you down all kinds of paths. The influences of Johnnie To and getting into Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai; and at the same time I had come out of a really dark place.
How was it dealing with the film’s subject matter being that this is your first full-length feature film?
MB: I think when you’re moving really hard to make something a reality and you come very close on films and making short films and going deeper and deeper, realizing with feature films it’s really hard to get off the ground and what it is getting a film made. By the time I was at that point I was evolving as a human being and making more short films; it wasn’t even the question of how difficult it was to approach the subject matter for me, it was just something that was there and it felt real and was right at the time. The way I really got into it was on the whole sexual abuse side, I was really interested in the wholly awakening of this character.
For me the whole universe was just living inside me and the way I wrote this script was I just listened to this very dark underground German techno, which for me had a lot of ecstasy in it as well. So I was just kind of living in this world of darkness and ecstasy and always having the end of the character in sight, this woman who goess through this darkness and she’s awakening to who she is and of course it’s an evil awakening. She’s high on who she is at the end of the film. I never struggled with approaching the material and I did look at the whole sexual abuse side because my mother is a psychotherapist who deals with a lot of patients like Julia.
How was the experience working with your cast?
MB: The kind of people that are going to be drawn to the story actingwise, they were already interested in the material. As the director I’m looking for esences in people and there an esence of that wounded soul that you look for. I would always sit down with the leads one on one and it would come from me sharing personal things first things that I wouldn’t reveal to anybody. It’s just asking a lot of these people and asking them to go to dark and vulnerable places. When I’m on the set with them there’s already a strong basis of trust, and then I’m creating the circumstances to allow that to manifest in a very honest way. I’m always aware of how much I’m asking them, but I’m also giving everything I can of myself to pave the way for that level of commitment.
Was there a positive vibe on set with the cast and crew?
MB: Yeah there was. All were pretty ecstatic. Most of the shoot was at night. It was very grueling because it was the dead of winter in New York, so sometimes we started at midnight and shot till 2pm and it was just debilitatingly cold. Because of the intensity of the circumstances people really came together; and while it was obviously hard dealing with the circumstances, I just remember these mornings where we would be sitting in the car and there would be this stillness.
How have the festival screenings been for you and are you looking forward to the film reaching broader audiences?
MB: The festival circuit’s been pretty amazing, we’ve won quite a number of awards; and you know there’s people who absolutely love the film, and there’s people who hate the film and I think it’s impossible to not have that with this kind of movie. We had to really cut the film for the MPAA, we originally got an NC-17 and it gave me the opportunity to go back and make some tweaks I would have done all the long given the opportunity. The whole journey’s been good and I can’t wait for it to be available and I can’t wait for people to see it.