By Blood E. Bastard
Horror News Network: With the exception of a few minutes of flashbacks and hallucinations, My Little Demon’s action all takes place in a single room and in real time. These challenging ways of construction a film have been done in the past, with varying degrees of success- most notably Hitchcock’s Lifeboat and Rope, Louis Malleâ€™s My Dinner with Andre and more recently Devil. As a writer-director how did you prepare yourself for such an undertaking?
Steven James: This might surprise you, but Iâ€™m not a fan of Hitchcock. I find the acting (in those older films) a bit wooden and the writing a bit too black and white â€“ for my taste. Therefore, I wrote My Little Demon with no inspirations from films that tried this type of structure before. My goal was straight forward â€“ tell a good, engaging story, with real characters, real people, that an audience would want to hang out with for 80 minutesâ€¦
And thatâ€™s when I realized it was all gonna be about casting.
Horror News Network: The primary lead actresses Diane Cherkas (Evie) and Ali Stover (Rebecca) are charged with needing to drive the narrative largely through dialogue. What challenges did this present for you as a director and for them as actresses?
Steven James: Working with Diana and Ali was one the most amazing directing experiences Iâ€™ve ever had. Casting took three months, and then we had over 6 months of on and off rehearsals. This long rehearsal process was by choice, and made all the difference for the girls. It enabled the three of us to go very deep into character development. We would have endless conversations about a single scene or even a line of dialogue. Every single word that Ali says, as Rebecca, is deliberate. Every glance that Ali gives, every smile, all meticulously thought out. And Diana and I understood her character in the exact same way â€“ we both saw Evie as profoundly damaged as a person, as mother, as a daughter. And regarding the dialogue – the key word was pacing. I wrote long winded speeches, for both Diana and Ali, and my standard note was faster. By the time we were shooting, the girls knew their characters better than I did. All needed to do was get out of their way and guide them through the scenes.
As George Lucas says â€œFaster and more intense.â€ And injecting a bit of humor also played a big part of keeping the story/narrative moving forward. Ali is dry and as still as can be, and Diana is so physical, always moving around – both played off the other just wonderfully.
Horror News Network: The story is full of biblical themes and references Â¬ one of the more obvious is is the main characters names Evie or Eve Â¬ wife of Adam and Rebecca Â¬ wife of Isaac. How deeply did you need to research the names of your characters before choosing them.
Steven James: I did a bit of research, but not too deep. Evie and Eve was easy, nice and straight forward – which is why I played it up in the film. With Rebecca, I did some searching on ancient meanings of names and such, and came across Rebecca, and just liked it – thought it fit.
Horror News Network: The overall plot itself is very Faustian in nature Â¬ ala a â€œDeal with the Devilâ€ , yet your story seems to have less black and white. The characters exist in the gray-zone quite a bit. As a writer, at what point do you depart from the archetypal story and make it your own?
Steven James: I feel, My Little Demon departs from archetypal structure from the first frame. At a recent screening, after the film played, a person came up to me and said, â€That was damn slow, and very damn cool. I had no idea where it was going and loved it.â€ One of my goals was to keep the story as gray as possible. I really didnâ€™t wanna answer or spell out too much stuff for the audience. For example, why are there swords and knives all over Rebeccaâ€™s office? Well, Diana and I know the answer to that â€“ and itâ€™s not what you might think. Overall, what kept me from falling into archetypal norms was that I was telling a story about a damaged person and not a story about the Devil tempting a human being. Weâ€™ve seen all that before.
Horror News Network: Questions of Fate, Human Choice and Eternity are at constant play in My Little Demon Â¬ In the process of writing and ultimately making the film, do you think your own thoughts on theses subjects evolved- and if so, how?
Steven James: In 1989, I was in a car accident that should have killed me. The car I was driving flipped over 8
times, spun around on its roof, and I ended up in a ditch, up-side-down, and I walked away without a mark – physically anyway. But my views on life, death, fate and choice all changed, and continue changing to this very day. Youâ€™ll find these themes are prevalent in most, if not all, of my scripts, and in the film I did before â€œMy Little Demon,â€ â€œThe Ascent.â€ The questions/ideas talked about by both Evie and Rebecca are the questions I wrestle with all the time.
Horror News Network: Somewhat related to the previous question, what do you want the viewer walking away from your film asking about their own life philosophies?
Steven James: That what we do, matters. How we treat other people, matters. That the choices we make, no matter how small they may appear, do actually matter. Right before my car accident, I passed another car. Little did I know, that 10 minutes later it would be that same car that would pick me up and drive me to safety. Without the help of that selfless person, on that night, I would have been left alone in the dark. You see, my car accident happened at 3:30AM on an isolated highway, in Upstate, NY.
Horror News Network: Is there anything else about My Little Demon that you feel you as the creator hoped to convey in the work?
Steven James: Aside from the above, yes sure. No texting (and no reading maps and/or writing for that matter) while driving â€“ no kidding.
Horror News Network: What are you working on now and whatÂ¹s next for you?
Steven James: The film I did right before â€œMy Little Demon,â€ â€œThe Ascent,â€ with Josie Davis, Marty Kove, William
McNamara, Courtney Gains, Anne Griffin and Joe Estevez is set to be released in the fall. Itâ€™s a really cool story about a mountain guide, Emily Wilks, (Josie Davis) who is forced to lead a group of treasure hunters up The Devil’s Peak. But leading the group up the mountain is just a stalling tactic until Emily reveals her own dark secretâ€¦ Trailer Link: https://vimeo.com/61553673
Currently, I am in development/soft pre-production on three features – all with great casts.
“The Dying Breed,” a sci-fi/actioner with Miracle Laurie,
(Joss Whedon’s, DOLLHOUSE) Laura Vandervoort, (SMALLVILLE) John Schneider and Courtney Gains. The story revolves around the last surviving Secret Service Agent, who has two hours to get the President of the United States to a peace summit that will hopefully save the world from final annihilation.
“Climbing Life,” a family/drama with Teri Polo, (MEET THE PARENTS, THE WEST WING) Luke Perry, Lee Majors and Anne Griffin.
“The Killing Time,” an actioner with Shirly Brener, (RIGHTEOUS KILL, HIT LIST) Michael Pareâ€™ and Lance Henriksen (ALIENS).
Horror News Network: Thanks for your time, Steven ! Best of luck.