Interview: Director Kat Candler on Her Sundance-Selected Short Film, Black Metal
Interview by J. Bennett
The 2013 edition of the annual Sundance Film Festival, which is going down in Park City, Utah, starting on Thursday, will be extra grim and frostbitten this year with the inclusion of Black Metal, a 9-minute short directed by University of Texas film lecturer Kat Candler. The flick features music from Pallbearer, Horned Almighty, and Vesperian Sorrow, and follows the leader of a black-metal band as he copes with a murder committed by one of his fans. We recently had a chance to chat with Candler. Read what she had to say below, and check out the trailer for Black Metal.
REVOLVER What was the inspiration for the Black Metal short?
KAT CANDLER I became pretty fascinated with this idea of “artist’s guilt” a few years ago: How an audience reacts to something an artist puts out into the world and how that reaction can come back to haunt them. I looked at A Clockwork Orange a lot and how it was pulled from theaters in England after a series of copy cats. The whole Judas Priest case. I did a bunch of research into bands, movies… My stance is that responsibility lies with whoever holds the gun or the knife, but inevitably as a human being it’s hard to shake a feeling of guilt.
I also felt like I hadn’t seen the metal scene on screen in a more humanistic light. I wanted to see the theatrics onstage and then more importantly the reality offstage. I’m much more interested in the human element of a metal scene that’s very fear-based and horror-based and what those musicians look like at home, with their families, their children, going to the grocery store.
I wrote a feature film that dealt with both of these ideas. It went through a bunch of drafts and will continue to go through a bunch more. With the short, I knew I wanted to make something last summer on the heels of our other short film, Hellion, and so I pulled the first act of the feature and whittled it down to a 13-page script. That’s where it started. Hopefully we’ll have a bigger film later on when I get back to writing.
How closely does the finished film resemble your initial idea?
That 13-page script got shaved down to a 9-minute film. So we lost a few scenes that ultimately weren’t necessary. I have to say for the most part it’s definitely what was in my head. We were pretty detailed with how to shoot the show, the house… I had a style and look I was going for. Luckily, I had a fantastic cinematographer, Andrew Droz Palermo, who’s mostly shot music videos and a few horror films and a really great Production Designer, Yvonne Boudreaux. We all talked a lot about the look early on. I sent them a bunch of videos of live shows. I loved that red drenched look. They pulled it off beautifully. I tried pretty hard to do my research and talk to a bunch of folks in the scene and go to black metal shows. I discovered some pretty fantastic bands in Austin and in Texas.
Ultimately, I wanted to be pretty respectful and honest about how I put things on screen. I completely understand how guarded and cautious folks can be about their world. I get it. I’d be the same way.
How were you first exposed to black metal as a music genre?
I was never a metal fan growing up. Even though I worked at the college radio station, was friends with the boys who ran the metal show, and went to support all my friends in bands every weekend. But it I was working at Book People in Austin when Lords of Chaos hit the bookshelves in the late ’90s. People started passing it around and talking about the Norwegian Black Metal scene. At the time I was really into true crime reading Helter Skelter, In Cold Blood, Bully…so my ears definitely perked up. With that said, I was aware of the Norwegian scene for a while. But not until several years ago did I really get into metal. My husband, who’s a total music nerd, started buying all kinds of records, books and pushed it all on me. I finally fell in love with heavy metal. The more I got into it, the more the idea of bringing it to a screen materialized. But to be perfectly honest, I’m more of a death-metal, thrash-metal kind of girl.