and Sylvia Soska are twins who share more than the same appearance;
they share a passion for filmmaking. Of course ‘traditional’
Hollywood has its own idea of what kind of roles to give to
beautiful twin sisters and that just wasn’t good enough for Jen and
Sylv. They decided to make their own rules. The pair started
studying martial arts, and when the opportunity arose to attend a
film school that included training in stunt work, they jumped at it.
Writing, directing, acting, and stunt work are just some of the jobs
the sisters have taken on in producing their first feature film:
DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK. But they aren’t stopping there. Jen and
Sylv’s Twisted Twins Productions put out a short film called BAD
GIRLS for the 48-hour fast film competition Bloodshots, where it was
voted one of the top three Audience Choice Favorite Films. B Movie
Man Nic Brown managed to catch up with the Soska sisters as they
start work on their next feature AMERICAN MARY. Now we find out how
the pair got their start, which horror films have inspired them and
why Sylvia thinks romantic comedies should be ashamed of themselves!
Nic - Jen, Sylv, you
guys write, direct, act and even do stunt work in your films. How
did you get started making movies?
Sylv - We‘ve been acting since we were little girls.
It's an extremely difficult and often disappointing industry and, as
we got older, the roles that we were offered consisted of twin girl,
stereotypical, sexpot roles. Not that we have anything against that
- just in a proper time and place with some justification in the
script. It got to the point that we were just going out for roles
that we didn't really want in the first place and we realized that
we needed a change.
Jen had gotten us involved in mixed martial arts in the meantime. It
was a very empowering, so we thought we would mix our love of film
making and martial arts - we would see if we could get into the
stunt world. There was a film school that had a portion of the
program dedicated to stunts, so we enrolled. Unfortunately, the
stunt program ended, so we did anything that was organized or
worthwhile. It was a new, highly unorganized school and because of
that, they cut the funding from our final projects. Just ours in
We refused to let that stop us and, instead of 'merging with another
group' as suggested by the faculty, we decided to write, direct,
produce, and star in a teaser trailer for a movie we would actually
like to be a part of. We even threw in a couple crazy stunts. It all
came from Jen's random idea. She came up with the title DEAD HOOKER
IN A TRUNK before anything else. It was the start of everything.
It was incredible. We presented our project at graduation with a
huge response. Half the audience walked out and half the audience
was cheering so loud that you could barely hear our offensive
dialogue. People were asking about the full feature and it went on
from there. We used Robert Rodriguez and Carlos Gallardo's EL
MARIACHI as a guideline, and Robert's book/first hand account called
REBEL WITHOUT A CREW was nicknamed 'the Bible'. The full script was
finished in two weeks. We maxed out our credit cards and started to
recruit the team and that's the start.
Jen - I find that with simply acting, though it isn't without its
rewards, you have very little control in the creative process. I
find actors spend much of their time just trying to work and usually
chasing roles that mean little or nothing to them. How badly could
you really want to play Cop #2? We were constantly striving for more
opportunities, but in this life you can't just sit around and wait
for things to happen. You have to make your own opportunities, your
own future. With film making, especially the way we like to do it,
you have so much control. We involve ourselves in every aspect of
the film making process and absolutely love it. We love creating a
world and bringing our characters to life. It's so fulfilling.
Nic - Is it tough working
together on so many aspects of each feature, such as writing or
Sylv - Yes and no. It's hard in the fact that we are
both very creative and stubborn European women who sometimes have
conflicting ideas or thoughts. At the same time, I wouldn't want to
work with someone who wasn't that passionate about her work. Every
idea that is in any project is there because we both really wanted
it there. With storytelling, we want to be a part of every aspect of
the film making process. It never felt like too much work, just very
satisfying to be there to see it come to life.
Jen - Ha ha ha. No, I actually feel bad for you "normies". It's
great to have a twin to bounce ideas off of and share the work load
with. We can work twice as fast, cover twice as much ground, and be
in two places at once. We are on the same wavelength. I can ask her
to "do the thing" and she'll know exactly what I mean. Naturally, we
do fight sometimes. We're siblings and we're both incredibly
passionate about what we do. It can lead to arguments, but we get
over it quickly. Everyone disagrees sometimes. That's just life.
Nic - What are some of your
favorite horror films?
Sylv - I like the ones that stick with you. Some of
my favorites are SUICIDE CLUB, AUDITION, AMERICAN PSYCHO,
ANTICHRIST, MARTYRS, and LET THE RIGHT ONE IN.
Jen - SO many. I get obsessed with different ones at times and will
watch them over and over again. I just devour them. I love AMERICAN
PSYCHO, SUICIDE CLUB, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE,
INSIDE, DEAD GIRL, GINGER SNAPS... the list goes on and on....
Nic - Horror often gets a
bad wrap for its portrayal of women and the glamorization of
violence. What are your thoughts about this?
Sylv - There are some horror films that poorly depict
women, but I feel for the most part that it really gives a lot of
empowerment to women. If any genre should be ashamed of how they
portray women, it should be the romantic comedy genre. In horror, we
have women destroying unspeakable evil, female characters that give
audiences nightmares, some of the most interesting roles that women
have ever been given, not to mention the amazing women behind the
scenes who create these films. Mary Harron is my hero. I love her
work and her balls.
I think the thought of horror glamorizing violence is just too much
of a blanket statement to apply to all the horror genre films. It is
a hugely popular genre, which also sadly means there is a fair bit
of shit out there. When violence is done poorly, it loses its
meaning and impact. The world is filled with terrible things. Just
because these things are spotlighted and explored in horror doesn't
mean that it is glorifying anything. There are stories that have
awful things happen in them and they are good stories too.
Jen - I think people are way too hard on horror. It has always
supported women, in front of and behind the camera. Mary Harron is
one of our heroes. Horror has, yes, had its fair share of damsels in
distress, but it has also had some of the most empowering, strong
roles for women ever written. Ripley, Regan, the list just goes on
and on.... Violence has always been part of our lives and the world
we live in. Art imitates life. Violence must be represented in film.
It's almost therapeutic. We can see it, come to terms with it, and
be able to deal with it as we are exposed to it in our lives. I
think censorship and hiding the reality of violence breeds
ignorance, and makes it hard for people to cope with it when they
are forced to deal with it.
Nic - Speaking of women
in film, as filmmakers, have you faced any challenges you would
attribute to yourgender?
Jen - I've
never felt that being a woman has put me at a disadvantage. I feel
if you do good work, then it doesn't matter if you're a man or a
woman. I've always felt that our biggest challenge was being
independent. Some people think that we did our short films before
DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK. While that would've made more sense,
starting small and then moving up to a feature, we're fairly
nonsensical. DHIAT was our first film period.
Being completely unknown, we faced the challenge of making a film
that could stand out among all the others. Without any previous work
to rest our hats on and without a huge Hollywood name, we ran the
very real risk of being overlooked without even being given a chance
or a viewing. We named the film with the intention of being
unforgettable, sticking out, and dividing our audience. If the title
offends you, chances are the film is probably not for you.
Of course, we have had some blatant sexist remarks. When you put
yourself out there to the public like this, you're bound to have
some people that just don't like you. That's one of the toughest
lessons to learn. You will never ever be able to make everyone
happy. Some people are just dead set on not liking you or your work.
But that's their loss.
Sylv - I think there is a huge misconception about women and the
horror genre. We have gotten a lot of comments about why we prefer
this genre, why don't we make 'nice' films instead. There is too
much stupid in the world to even account for, so when you put
yourself and your work in the
public eye, you're bound to get some
ignorant, sometimes blatantly sexist comments. Being identical
twins, I am aware of the fetish - I was made aware by rude remarks
since before I knew what sex was - so either you find yourself
constantly upset or you try to look at it with good humor because
that is just the hand we've been dealt.
As for in the film industry, there is the occasional asshole who
just doesn't like women and won't respect them, but for the most
part we have been incredibly lucky with the amount of support we
have been given. The issue of gender does get discussed but I don't
feel like it has been a hindrance on our career. I know lots of men
and women trying to get into the film industry and it's fucking hard
whether you're a man or a woman. How do you differentiate yourself
from all the other men making movies, what's your angle, what will
make you still out from your competition? With the realization that
there are quality female directors out there - Kathryn Bigelow being
the first female director to win an Oscar - there are a lot of
companies seeking out female directors and seeing them as an
interesting new opportunity. Which is funny in a sad way because
there are so many women working in the independent scene, paying for
their films out of their pockets, and getting nowhere.
Nic - Tell us
about your film DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK.
- DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK follows four characters - Badass, Geek,
Junkie, and Goody Two-Shoes - as they are forced to coexist when
they discover the body of a hooker in their trunk. We really wanted
to make a movie that was fun to watch and had the aspects of what
made us love movies. There are all sorts of insanity that comes from
that little body dump as the group has to deal with chainsaw
wielding triads, a Cowboy Pimp, perverted police officers, a
bestiality-enthused motel manager, a penis-issued serial killer, and
they might even run into God (played by Carlos Gallardo) in the
Jen - You can see our love of film and our influences throughout the
film. We wanted to make a film that, above all, was pure enjoyment
for our audiences. There have been far too many crap films made.
Especially horror movies. Hollywood sees that there
is a huge market for it, so they just pump out many average or awful
films hoping that the horror fans will bite. I feel we achieved our
goal. DHIAT is utterly ridiculous, littered with plentiful WTF
moments, but more than anything, it's a good time. We made it for
the people and will continue to make all our films with our fans in
Nic - Which do you prefer,
working behind the camera (directing, writing) or in front of it?
Sylv - Working behind it. It was a lot of fun playing
Badass in DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK and I am glad to have had the
experiences as an actor that I have had, but we don't plan on going
in front of the camera as often in the future. There may be an odd
cameo here and there in our projects, but
we prefer the creative control that you can only have from a project
that you write and direct. We will be having a cameo in our upcoming
next feature, AMERICAN MARY, that will be sort of a send off from
acting for a while. The next few projects after that are pretty much
just writer/director roles for us.
Jen - That's a tough one. Acting was our first love, so it will
always have a special place in our hearts. But directing and writing
feels just so right. From the moment we started film making, it felt
like it was what we were always meant to do. We had so many weird
skills that just didn't seem to fit together, but then it all just
fell into place. It felt like coming home.
Nic - So when you're making
a film what, besides financing, do you find to be the biggest
challenge for you?
Jen - The unexpected. You can have everything
beautifully planned and set and locked down for weeks, but at the
last minute, something can come out of nowhere and just fuck it all
to hell. A good film maker has to be a very creative problem solver.
We've gotten to the point where we will make plans and additionally
we'll discuss at length everything that could possibly (or
impossibly) go wrong just so that we're prepared to deal with
whatever should come to pass. You've got to surround yourself with
good people. If someone lets you down once, chances are they will
again and again. Attitude is extremely important on a set. We try to
surround ourselves with people who feel as passionately about the
work as we do.
Sylv - It's funny because when we're on set, the challenges don't
really feel that big. You just roll with the punches, if something
fucks up royally, you just figure it out, and make it work. The most
important thing is to be a duck on set, remain cool and collected on
the surface and paddle like holy hell below the surface to make sure
everything is being taken care of. The unpredictability of
independent filming and thinking on your feet - creative problem
solving - is the biggest challenge and what will save your ass every
Nic - You mentioned your
next feature, AMERICAN MARY. The advanced trailer for it looks very
interesting. What can you tell us about that film and when do you
think it will be released?
Jen - Sylvie
would kill me if I let anything slip. I can say that contrary to the
grindhouse style of DHIAT (though we're FAR from through with
grindhouse!), AMERICAN MARY is a much more straight forward horror.
It's much more conscious as opposed to the shear
what-the-fucked-ness of DEAD HOOKER. We will be doing some pretty
spectacular tricks in this one. It's really going to make a mark in
Sylv - With DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK, we introduced people to what was
possible with a great group of people, some outlandish and crazy
ideas, and a lot of love of the genre with a modest budget. It's a
visceral, very crotch-driven fun movie with all sorts of insanity
sprinkled in. There was a rough feeling to it that just added to its
wild feeling, but we were asked what we would be able to do if there
was a more generous budget behind us. What would be the next story
that we wanted to tell?
AMERICAN MARY is a much more intentional and controlled beast than
HOOKER. It's one of the most prosthetic heavy stories ever done and
the effects are a huge part of the overall story telling. It is
still very much a reflection of our dark humor and what we would
like to see in a horror film. The new film is very much a thank you
to all the people that got behind us on HOOKER and made it the
success that is has been. I think people are going to be shocked in
the best of ways.
Nic - Technology has brought
a lot of changes to the business of filmmaking. What are your
thoughts about the future of the film industry?
Jen - I
really like digital. I've yet to film on, well, actual film and I
can't deny there is something very romantic about using real film.
It is pretty pricey, though. 3D, I pray, is just a fad. I'd hate for
it to end up being the future of film and having our classics either
redone in 3D or forgotten altogether. I don't want to see THE GOOD,
THE BAD, AND THE UGLY in 3D. I love old movies. I hope that with the
coming of new technology we'll find ways to preserve the classics.
I'd hate to think there would come a day when some up and coming
young film maker would never have heard of François Truffaut.
We need to remember the artists and work that have brought us to
where we are today as we move into the future of this industry.
Sylv - The technological advancement in film making is incredible.
With the rise of digital film making and the equipment being pretty
reasonably priced, anyone can buy a camera and start filming things.
We have directors' commentaries allowing us to be educated and
taught by our favorite directors. The internet connects to very
successful people working in the field. You can tweet David Lynch if
you want. The sense of community and ability to create from modest
beginnings is more reachable than ever. At the same time, if you
want to make your own movie, make sure you have a good story that
means something to you and be willing to sacrifice a lot and work
extremely fucking hard to get ahead. The term 'starving artist' is
Nic - So when you aren't
making movies, what do Jen and Sylvia Soska like to do for fun?
Jen - We
don't take much time off! I love writing. We're often pitching one
another and writing new projects. I read once that Stephen King said
that a writer has only so many stories in him. Because of that, I'm
always writing so I can get them all out of me. There are just so
many stories that we have to tell!
When I truly take some time off, I love playing video
games or catching up on comics or watching horror movies or playing
with my weapons collection...I mean, "training" with my weapons ;)
I'm a pretty big nerd. I love replaying my favorite
games. I love the METAL GEAR SOLID series. I think Hideo Kojima is
incredible. I'd love to get a chance to make a MGS film one day,
with Mr. Kojima, of course. We also play anything dubbed "survival
horror", especially SILENT HILL.
Sylv - I don't even know anymore. You get so busy, you forget what
it's like to have time to yourself. I think even when we're having
fun, we're talking about work or planning new projects. Jen and I
have been working on a television series since we were fifteen years
old so we'll just be hanging out and suddenly something will trigger
something for the show and we just break into talking about it. We
have all five seasons figured out and so much written, it's going to
be a real pleasure to make that one. With so many projects written
and planned, we talk about work a lot.
To relax, we play a lot of video games. We've been gamers since we
were five years old with the first Nintendo, which we still have
hooked up, and have a shit load of systems and games that we've
collected over the years to play. I collect tarantulas and they are
my pride and joy. I take care of them and handle them, and it's very
rewarding. Plus they are endlessly creepy, beautiful, and
fascinating at all times. I highly consider them as pets to anyone.
out the Soska Sister's AMERICAN MARY teaser trailer at the bottom of
If you want to learn
more about the Soska Sister's work check out one of these