Jane: "I should say I was interested in the research on witches, not the Catholic girls’ school angle".
Conducted by Phil
September 6th, 2004
Whilst Jane Simpson may not be a
name that horror fans will recognise instantly, I am sure that most of you
will have seen, or will be aware of her 1996 cult horror hit 'Little
Witches' which is famous for featuring Clea DuVall's debut and a lot of
nudity amongst performances from some genre regulars.
Being that Jane is not a huge horror fan, she was
reluctant to talk to me at first until I managed to inform her that the
film has a small following that should be embraced.
When did you decide that you
wanted to be a director and why?
I was bossy as a kid, so I suppose you could say I always wanted to
direct. I grew up as a movie fan & noticed there were few women directors
compared to men. That didn't really get in my way since I felt I knew as
much or more than many guys did about the craft of filmmaking. What you
have to understand is that many people do not actually know what a
director does, other than the part that seems glamorous.
Did you go to film
How did you get started in the
My focus was first on animation, but I quickly moved into commercials and
then music videos. My first video was for Chaka Khan, "I Feel for You." I
did lots of R&B videos, rap and indie bands along with established acts.
My last one was about 5 years ago for Enrique Iglesias... go figure.
Your first feature was Little
Witches how did you become involved with the project?
I guess if you look at IMDB, you would find my actual first feature which
was "Number One Fan," a very tongue-in-cheek erotic thriller with Chad
McQueen (son of....), Charlie Matthau (son of...), Catherine Mary Stuart,
Paul Bartel, Hoyt Axton, and Mary Woronov. 1995.
I became involved with Little Witches through the same production company,
Planet Pictures & producer Donald Borchers -- a B movie legend in his own
right. I was mildly interested in the subject matter before the script
was developed. Actually, I should say I was interested in the research on
witches, not the Catholic girls’ school angle.
Would it be fair to assume
that the idea behind it was to cash in on the success of The
Absolutely not. Little Witches was developed before the Craft. We found
out about "the Craft" as we were heading into production. By then, I
think the producers liked the idea of hitching a ride on the coattails and
used the association in the advertising.
Did you have much time for
It was a low-budget production, so you never have enough time. In this
instance, we had some time and then we stalled, and then we moved very
fast once the $$ was in place.
Is it true that you only had
two weeks to shoot?
It was - 18 days, which is 3 6-day weeks.
Considering that production
was rushed, do you feel that the shoot went well?
We had a great, fun, crew. Lots of laughs to diffuse the tension of
shooting on a shoestring. The production design team was great at coming
up with what we needed. The camera & lighting crew really worked hard to
make it look good. The cast was good to work with, with the possible
exception of the completely toasted Jack Nance (R.I.P.) who played the
priest. A good character actor, famous for starring in "Eraserhead," Jack
was a source of the funniest & most memorable moments on set, like when he
forgot his lines and the other actor in the scene had to say all of his
lines (with me nodding approval).
How hard was it to make the
girls feel comfortable in the nude scene?
Well, it was not fun at all. Of course, I was hired because as a woman I
might be able to get the girls to feel comfortable. Up to a point this
thinking worked because the girls trusted me. Unfortunately, the producers
wanted a bit more nudity than I ever wanted and I did have to go to the
cast and conjure some creative reasons to get them to do what they had to
Did you have any problems
trying to persuade anyone to disrobe?
Most of the girls had problems with it. Searching for reasons to
convince actors that this is crucial to the movie is always a game. It's
less of a game if the story is great, however.
The film is most famous for
featuring Clea DuVall's debut, how did she get the part and what was she
like to work with?
Clea stood out from the beginning as a very interesting actress. She had
no mannerisms to rely on -- a common problem for young talent. She was
intense yet natural. I think she thought I did not choose to cast her,
but I did. And I really liked what she did with the role.
Did you have any idea that she
would go on to become one of the most promising young actresses in
I thought she would be recognised as the fine talent she is, with her own
unique look and style.
You also got to work with
Jennifer Rubin who I am a huge fan of. What was she like to work
Very nice and very serious, actually.
Are you surprised that she
hasn't had more high profile roles?
I am not sure why her career did not take off.
Were there any problems with
distribution after the film was finished?
I believe there was a deal in place with a small distributor all along.
Back in the 90's films like this usually sold well in certain foreign
markets. I did not want to be involved with the picture after it was
How did audiences react to the
I have no idea.
Was it a financial
I have no idea. It was made as a direct-to-video release and foreign
distribution. I guess it did well enough.
Was there ever any talk of a
Not that I know of. I don't think it has interesting enough characters
or story to build on.
Would you like to make another
I have actually written one -- a rock climbing + monster movie.
Are you a fan of the
To me horror is a genre with a host of subdivisions. I am not fond of
slasher pics. I prefer psychological horror, thrillers and terror. But
then, the scariest thing I ever saw was the opening day of "Alien" in LA
at the Egyptian Theatre. The film kept breaking down and the theatre would
be plunged into pitch black darkness... scary.
I should add that as part of our research for LW, we did view Suspiria and
the Wicker Man. The latter has some nice thrills.
If so what are some of your
favourite horror movies?
Kwaidan. I hear 28 Days Later is decent and, of course, Alien. Classic
horror: Curse of the Demon. I am not a fan of Freddy, Hellraiser, etc.
What have you worked on since
Since then I did more music videos, some TV and commercials. I have
written some stuff/ Last 4 years I have been doing corporate projects and
What will you be working on
I hope to do a short film next year. I own a few nice cameras; it's time
to put them to work on something a bit more personal, or perhaps funny.
"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."