--Interview by Nic Brown--
Susan (right) sets up a shot with
Kimberly Amato (Raven, left) in UNDER THE RAVEN'S WING.
Susan (right) sets up a shot with Kimberly Amato (Raven, left)
in UNDER THE RAVEN'S WING.
Once the film begins, any doubts about the way the film would be received by the crowd fade with the lights. The audience sits almost in a trance as they watch the story unfold before them. This is the time that filmmakers wait for and while the crowd stares at the screen, Adriensen scans the crowd, judging reactions. At the end, the lights come up and festival audience applauds loudly. Although not the overall winner at the Fright Night Festival, it is clear that her film has won over the crowd.
Now B Movie Man Nic Brown has the chance to catch the energetic filmmaker between festivals and talk with her about UNDER THE RAVEN’S WING, her other film work, belly dancing and why it’s important to tell if you have a male or female iguana!
Nic - Susan you wrote and directed your newest feature: UNDER THE RAVEN'S WING. Can you tell us a little about that film?
Writer/Director Susan Adriensen
(in the white coat) on location shooting UNDER THE RAVEN'S WING.
Writer/Director Susan Adriensen (in the white coat) on location
shooting UNDER THE RAVEN'S WING.
Susan - Besides some production classes and comedy shows in college, UNDER THE RAVEN’S WING is the third film that I wrote … that got produced … by me, of course. The first film I wrote was an avant-garde Super 8 film I created in college, ILLUSION OF REALITY. The second was my featurette: MAVI GOZ which I also starred in. I have a comedy script that has been shelved that I co-wrote with friend, Michelle Radz, but we are hoping to dust it off and perhaps sell it. I also have a strange script, “Inside Out,” that I am hoping to direct and help produce myself.
I haven’t written anything “for hire” … yet. I’m not necessarily pursuing writing, but I do have some ideas. However, I wouldn’t necessarily trust some of these ideas, or scripts, such as INSIDE OUT, in the hands of just anyone. They could be misconstrued, so I am really hoping to shoot INSIDE OUT myself.
Nic - What was the most challenging part of making UNDER THE RAVEN'S WING for you?
post-production has its own challenges as well. Editing is a
very lonely process. It takes a long, long time and then you
need to trim and shorten even more than you expected. Then
there’s the promoting and film festival preparation. It
Nic - You’ve shown UNDER THE RAVEN’S WING at a number of festivals this year. How’s the response been?
Susan - As quirky as the film may be … with all its “Dramatizations” and faux … or real … trances by the character, “Raven,” I have been told it is an intelligent film. I didn’t plan it that way, but I think scripts change into something more deep when you put yourself into a script. I added some very personal experiences and interests into the script, such as my interest in cults, religious fanaticism, and my fears and nightmares from childhood….
So, that being said, if a person is “ready” to see a film that’s going to make them think a little, they can fully enjoy the film. If they want a little black humor, they will also find it. Although blood and gore is not something you’ll find in UNDER THE RAVEN’S WING, the film is dark and has a psychological creepy feel.
What I am pleased to find is that the horror community has really embraced UNDER THE RAVEN’S WING. Horror fans are intelligent. They like good scares, but they enjoy being surprised by the depth of something like UNDER THE RAVEN’S WING. I am glad that they appreciate the dark as well as subtle humorous aspects of the film.
So far, UNDER THE
RAVEN’S WING has been screened at horror film festivals.
Kimberly Amato (“Raven”) and I just got back from
Dark Carnival Film Festival in
Nic - Congratulations on getting accepted to
Susan - I’ve only contacted a handful of distributors so far. I got three rejections and the others I’m still waiting to hear back from. One distributor said they didn’t want to risk releasing my film because of the pseudo-documentary style. I realize making UNDER THE RAVEN’S WING was a risk. The style was a risk. The humor was a risk. Making “Raven” a realistic rambling psychopath was a risk … and creating a narrator who is a long-winded voyeuristic unlikable character was a risk. I hope to never stop taking risks. Once you get comfortable, you lose your soul and your essence.
Angel (Kamilla Sofie Sadekova) and
Jessie (Jessica Palette)
Angel (Kamilla Sofie Sadekova) and Jessie (Jessica Palette)
Susan - Yes. We were lucky and found “Jessie,” played by Jessica Palette, right away, on our first round of auditions. Jessica is perfect as “Jessie,” don’t you think?
Nic - Yes, she was excellent in the role. What about the others?
Susan - “Raven” was the next character we found. Kimberly Amato was the only actress who pulled that character off so incredibly well. Had I cast anyone else, UNDER THE RAVEN’S WING would have been campy.
We had a difficult time finding the voice of “The Director.” We were looking for a voice … that portrayed a character. Coy DeLuca has a rough and natural voice and you can imagine his character even if you don’t see him. That was very important as he is not only the narrator of the film, but he is an unseen character with emotions and terrible weaknesses.
“Angel” was the most difficult to find. The song of our cast and crew became “Send me an Angel” by Real Life. I was looking for an exotic, flirty, tough, yet vulnerable character to counter-act, yet compliment the other two, “Raven” and “Jessie.” Kamilla Sofie Sadekova auditioned and we found our “Angel!”
Nic - Talking about your acting for a moment. You were recently in a film that was very different from your own production: THE BLOOD SHED. Can you tell us a little about that film and your role in it?
Susan - THE BLOOD
SHED was truly fun for me. I describe the film as a mix of
“TEXAS CHAINSAW MASACRE,” “SPIDER BABY,” and “PINK
FLAMINGOS” (without the killing of animals!), with a splash
of “CARRIE” (without the pigs blood). It was my dream role –
the role of “Sno Cakes!” An inbred,
Susan - I belly dance, yes. I took it up for fun about a year ago. I also started for my lower back (I have herniated discs from being hit by a car when I was 13). So far, I have only performed in public … TWICE! First, was for my teacher’s talent showcase and then a week later for the Dark Carnival Film Festival. It’s a trip! There are many more talented belly dancers than myself, but I am doing it for fun and loving it. It challenges me physically and brings on this whole spiritual freedom I didn’t expect. There are many types of belly dance. I am learning the groundwork in Egyptian, but I like to perform what’s called Gothique, Fusion, and East Coast Tribal style.
Another hobby I
have … well, it’s not really a hobby, … it’s my FAMILY, … is
PARROTS. My husband and I have two parrots and I hope to,
one day, share the proper ways of taking care of them … from
my own failures and experience. My poor African Grey went
completely bald because I cuddled her too much! They are
complicated creatures. She’s fine now and is flying again,
but it was traumatic especially when she fell off her perch
so many times ... like a rock. She even chipped her beak.
Many tears were shed. I hope to share the story and how we
got her flying again.
Well, it’s a long story, but my pet iguana wound up being a MALE iguana and I took very good care of him as my previous docile FEMALE iguana passed on early due to my lack of knowledge in the diet of iguanas. So this iguana, “Moli,” (the previous iguana was “Guaca”) became so healthy and big that he was 5 feet long from snout to tail tip. And he was STRONG. Well, to make a long story short, he attacked my face. I threw him off of me, and he leaped up for more. When I ran into the bathroom, I could see my chin bone in the mirror. I had over 30 stitches on my face.
After that, and losing a dear brother, my husband and I thought it would be a good idea for me to get an “average” pet. Well, dogs are not allowed in my apartment building. I’m not a cat person, but was willing to give it a try.… but my husband always wanted an African Grey parrot for its intelligence.
So, we visited a parrot store and we were introduced first to a Green Wing Macaw. I fearfully held her … and she put her beak and head on my shoulder! I instantly fell in love! I scratched her head and a woman said, “Isn’t she like a puppy?” Well, my husband and I left the store and as we did some extensive research on the Internet about African Greys, I kept saying, “What about ‘Puppy?’” So… we also did research on Green Wing Macaws.… and we wound up getting both! We got our “Puppy” and we were handed an African Grey. Kind of like, “Here. Take this one. She’s ready to go.” And we named her Einstein. She is our little baby discount bargain basement bird. Well, not really, but we tease her because they gave us a slight discount on her because we bought two parrots.
But I must say, parrots are not to be purchased on a whim. People must do their homework and do a lot of research before buying one … better yet … ADOPTING one. They are a lot of work. They need more attention than cats and dogs … or they will self mutilate themselves.
Nic - As a filmmaker what affect do you think the internet is having on the industry, especially for independent filmmakers like yourself?
Susan - Oh my gosh, the Internet gets the word out! If you Google UNDER THE RAVEN’S WING you can see all the interviews and news and more! It is amazing how helpful the Internet is for a filmmaker. And now filmmakers have the ability to upload their films on various sites. I haven’t done this yet, but am slowly looking into it.
Nic - We’ve talked about the films you’ve made; now let’s talk about some of the films you like. What are some of your favorite movies?
Susan - There are many movies I enjoy, but I think the key thing for me is if I can watch it over and over and never get bored with the flick. You know when you’re in front of your TV, flipping through the cable channels, and you come across a movie you’ve only seen about … a gazillion times?! … and yet, you stop to watch a little … and then you never change the channel and you watch the entire movie AGAIN! … for the gazillion-and-one time! … and YET …you own the DVD! …that’s when I know I love a movie.
To name a few of those movies:
THE DOORS, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE SHINING, BLUE VELVET, DONNIE DARKO, FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, ALIENS and ALIEN: RESSURECTION, and most every Tim Burton movie. I can’t get enough of comedies like BOWFINGER (why can’t I get enough of that silly ass movie?! Is it the risky filmmaker in me?!), THE WEDDING SINGER (I’m stuck in the 80’s!), and MY COUSIN VINNIE.
Nothing good is going to happen to
the man in the red scarf...
Nothing good is going to happen to the man in the red scarf...
Those are only a few of my favorite flicks. I’m sure I’ve left out many others that inspired and influenced me throughout the years….
Nic - As a director, if you could work with one actor/actress on your dream project, who would it be and what kind of film would you like to make with them?
Susan - My dream project would be to produce and direct my script, INSIDE OUT. I’m very much a realist and I realize the “dream” project will be work.
There are many
actors and actresses I admire, but I admire them in the
roles they play. For instance, I love Anthony Hopkins as
“Hannibal Lector,” but I’m not going to write a character
like “Hannibal Lector” for
As a director, I guess I would want to work with versatile actors who can mold themselves into the characters the writer or I have created. There are many great actors who are like blank canvases and can become a character from scratch. Those are the ones I want to work with.
As for attainable actors for my “dream” project, I have chatted with my friends and associates, Kimberly Amato and Alan Rowe Kelly thus far. I can imagine them contributing their acting talents and making my DREAM project come true!
This time Susan wears her
cinematography/camera operator hat.
This time Susan wears her cinematography/camera operator hat.