For my next victim, I selected Writer / Director Mark Tapio Kines whose latest film 'Claustrophobia' has an excellent cast and has just been picked up by the excellent Lions Gate for distribution stateside. Will we get to see it soon? I really hope so as it looks to be a very tense time.
When did you first begin to get interested in film?
Probably when I was 7 years old and Star Wars and Close Encounters came
out. There was a lot of "behind the scenes" material available for both
films - "The Making of" books, you know. I was still too young to
understand what a director was, but I liked to draw, write stories,
act, and create little sets for my action figures. Filmmaking brings
all those interests together so I guess it was a natural progression. I
started doing animation when I was 16 and when I was 17 I shot my first
live action short, a crude spoof of language training films in my
You studied at CalArts and graduated in 1992 with a BFA in Film & Experimental Animation. How valuable has your education been since graduating and are you glad you took the time to do it?
Of course I'm glad I did it; I grew up a lot during those 3 years. And
the degree did help get me work as a graphic artist. CalArts is a big
name in the design field; employers are always impressed. I doubt it
would have helped get me any film jobs though.
You mainly worked as a graphic designer/art director and in the internet biz after graduation. Why did you decide to quit the day job?
Because I want to make films! I enjoy graphic design but I felt I was
pissing away all my time and creative energy making little web graphics
instead of writing or promoting my film work.
You had gained some recognition with your feature film debut, and then quickly set about working on 'Claustrophobia'. Is it true that the story is based on a nightmare you had?
Yeah, when I was in my teens I had a nightmare where I was in my
brother's room with my family. It was a sunny weekend afternoon and I
looked outside and saw a man's shadow on the ground. I realized he was
on our roof and was going to kill us. The shock woke me up. I tried to
channel that feeling into the film.
Can you tell us a little about the plot?
It's about three girls in a house with a guy outside who's trying to
How long did it take to write?
Once I figured out the story in my head, it took just a month to write
the script, with maybe a week or two of mild rewrites.
How was the project financed?
Out of my wallet! Though one other guy did offer a small investment
after reading about the film on my web site.
What equipment did you use to shoot?
We shot with a Sony PD 100 MiniDV camera. The guys who owned the camera
came from New Zealand so it was PAL, which has a better look than the
American video standard (NTSC).
The 'Claustrophobia' crew get down to it.
You edited on Final Cut Pro, How easy did it make the process for you? I normally find it to be a quick one, but then again the majority of my films are 10 minutes long!!
It was great. In fact, I feel rather cheated that I hired a sound
editor who used Pro Tools, because Pro Tools gave us a lot more
problems. My editor and I probably could have used Final Cut Pro to do
all the sound ourselves. And next time we will!
Were you overwhelmed by the response you got during casting, I hear even Holly Marie Combs sent in her resume and headshot?
Well, her agent did. When you send out a casting call, it goes out to
agents and managers, and each of them sends you their standard list of
clients. Few actors themselves know about the call at first. Holly is
one of those people who are represented by a smaller agency that handles
mostly unknowns, and then gets lucky when one of their clients makes it big
(like Holly). So her agent sent one big envelope with about 30
different headshots in it, all of them nobodies. When I saw Holly among
them, I freaked out. Imagine, a big TV star like her in my little
movie! But of course her agent never set up her audition when we
contacted him, since he's making far more money off her work in
"Charmed" than he ever would from "Claustrophobia." This is typical
agent behavior. Anyway, I wasn't that overwhelmed by the number of
responses. Yeah, I mean, I received over a thousand resumes and
headshots, but LA is full of hungry actors, so that level of response
Ultimately you ended up with an excellent cast even getting Judith O'Dea to come out of retirement, how did that come about?
Judy was a friend of a friend. I'd known her off and on since 1998,
when she first contacted me for advice on a movie she was thinking of
making. When I wanted to shoot an opening sequence to my film where an
older woman gets killed, I immediately thought of her. She happily
accepted and we had a great day filming. She was very professional and
also lots of fun.
The shoot was relatively short, how did you cope?
I didn't! I hate production in general, as you are trying to accomplish
so much in so little time. It was worse in this case, because not only
did we have just nine days to shoot a feature, but as the whole story
takes place during the two hours before sundown, we could only shoot
during daylight hours. The upside was that we never had any 18-hour
days. Everybody showed up and went home within 12 hours, which is
amazing for low budget. But there were a couple of days where we had
over 40 camera setups! (Keeping in mind that those 12 hours also
encompass make-up and costuming, equipment setup and wrap, and an hour
for lunch, so it's really more like just 8 hours of actual filming.) It
was stressful. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, I couldn't wait for
the shoot to end! But I never lost my temper, everybody handled
themselves very professionally, we got all the shots and it turned out
Over the course of the shoot you faced many problems, what or who inspired you to keep going?
Well, you have to finish the film, don't you? That's inspiration
enough! You don't want to spend all that money and time only to have an
unfinished film. However, I should single out my First AD Michael Holm,
who kept me going even when I wanted to just run out to my car and
Can you explain why the house used for the shoot made everyone feel down?
Well we were all crowded into this one house, and there were some very
hot days which made everybody feel worn out. Plus, there was so much to
do, I think even though there were 12 hour days; everybody was working
constantly so it was exhausting. On top of that, the people who owned
the house were rather... well, let's just say that they should not have
let their house be used for filming. They just added bucket loads of
stress. The house looks great but has a creepy vibe. The previous
owners were making counterfeit Gucci products or something there, and a
few years ago a neighbour was murdered in her own home.
Despite all of the problems are you pleased with the finished film?
Very much so. I think it's as perfect as it can be.
What would you say is the overall tone of the film?
I'd say "realistic," but what does that mean. Mostly I hope people find
it scary. But watching it several times with audiences, I heard a lot
of laughter. So that's great too. If people watch it as a horror film
and are surprised by how funny it is, I think that's great.
It was thought that the film didn't get to festivals because it isn't really a horror movie would you agree?
Well, when I was working on the film I met this woman who runs a horror
film festival in Edinburgh. She encouraged me to send her a screener of
the rough cut, without music or anything. Then I never heard from her
again. I think the problem you're hinting at is that, yes, it IS a
scary film, and it IS technically in the horror genre, but because it's
not particularly bloody, and doesn't involve anything supernatural or
use any make-up effects, it doesn't fit so easily with the rest of the
genre. And yet it's still too much of a horror film for the "art"
festivals. But that's OK, as I never really made it for festivals in
the first place. They're fun, but I haven't been active in entering
them. I just got invited to my first horror festival (Estepona, in
Spain), so we'll see how the movie does there.
There's only one way out in 'Claustrophobia'.
Are you a fan of the horror genre?
I love a good creepy movie, but a lot of horror films are so poorly
written and acted that the gory effects are all they're good for. I
don't have the patience to sit through 90 minutes of crappy filmmaking
just for the odd bloodbath. I think the stuff that's coming out of Asia
right now - especially Japan - is the best horror out there, since they
focus so much more on mood than on shock value.
What are some of your favourite films?
Oh God... There are so many I can't possibly go through them all. For
now I'll just say Strangers on a Train, Blow Up, Blue Velvet, Vertigo,
and High and Low. I can see them a hundred times and they never get
50's era Hitchcock, first and foremost. But also Zhang Yimou, Kiyoshi
Kurosawa, Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch, Alexander Payne and Lukas
Moodysson. I actually get excited when any of those directors has a new
film. Michel Gondry, the music video director, is also awesome.
"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" was just OK, but his videos are
When can we expect to see 'Claustrophobia' here in the UK?
'Claustrophobia' doesn't have a distributor for the UK yet,
unfortunately. It comes out on video in the US and Canada on December
7, on Lions Gate, which is a big label. Hopefully if it does well, UK
distribution won't be far behind. Perhaps this interview might raise
enough interest, who knows?
Two weeks in Italy! Then I'm coming back to write another scary movie,
this one will take place in an office building after hours. We'll see
what happens with 'Claustrophobia' in December. If it does well, it will
be easier to get the money for the new thriller. If not, I'll just have
to raise the money myself, which I'm used to doing at this point!
"Thanks ever so much for taking part in this interview Mark.
And we wish you the best of luck in the future."
You can visit the official web 'Claustrophobia' website right here: www.cassavafilms.com/films.html