We are heading into the final stretch of interviews from the 2014 Blood in the Snow Film Festival. Next up is my interview for the short film Serpent’s Lullaby, which had its Toronto Premiere at the festival. Via a Skype conversation arranged by executive producer Byron A. Martin, I talked about the film with director Patricia Chica, who was in Los Angeles at the time of the festival. Please note that this interview features some majors SPOILERS.
Sean Kelly: What inspired you to make this film?
Patricia Chica: Charles Hall is the writer of the film and he wrote it for me, based on his own idea of Medusa, and it was supposed to be a short to be submitted to The ABCs of Death. He wrote the screenplay for me, so I could participate as the 26th director. Then the project became so ambitious, that we finally never made it on time for the deadline of the contest and it became a longer piece. It’s now called Serpent’s Lullaby, but it was supposed to be M is for Medusa. So, that’s how the idea originated.
I’m also very fascinated by mythological characters. Since I was a teenager, I’ve studied every book on Greek mythology [among others] and I’ve always been inspired by those mythological characters. So, it was very natural for me to delve into this realm of Medusa. I also wanted Medusa to become a contemporary character within a contemporary context and also to develop her in a more humanistic manor. I wanted to bring the humanity out of the monster, if you know what I mean.
Sean: Where did the idea of Medusa having a child come from?
Patricia: That came from the writer, it was his idea. Also, for me it was a little challenging, because I’m not a mother. I’ve never experienced maternity and motherhood, so I had to really research it and speak with the actress, who has a young daughter. Just going through the emotions of loss, the emotions of feeling lonely, maybe lacking the love of another person, whether that be a child, a lover, or anybody else.
For me, when I develop characters, I always want them to be anchored in humanity, with real life emotions, because this is how they will connect better with the audiences.
Sean: What was the most challenging aspect of the production?
Patricia: The most challenging aspect of the production was the overall production design – we had this big mansion to ourselves for two or three days of principle photography – and also having animals on set – lots serpents, rats, so many different reptiles – and having a little baby as well.
The film was very challenging because it’s almost like all the elements that are challenging to deal with in a [feature-length] movie, we had them on that short film, even the weather. We were filming on the mountains and it was not supposed to snow – it was supposed to be more like a bleak, end of the fall type of film – and on the first morning of principle photography, we had a huge snow storm. You have to be well-prepared for a movie, but you also have to be flexible. Because the whole plan changed – “What do we do with the snow now? We are supposed to be shooting.” Finally, what I did in the edit was to make it work to my advantage – use it within the story to tell visually the passage of time. And once the winter had completely settled, we went back to do more B-roll of the snow, with the scorpions and all that. It kind of looks cool – there is this transition between the fall and the winter, almost a life and a death. So, all of that was a pure coincidence – it was not in the screenplay originally.
Sean: Was the audience always supposed to know it was Medusa, or was that just a reveal for the end?
Patricia: I didn’t want the audience to know straight away it was Medusa, but I sent a few hints, like the serpents crawling down her neck and the way she moved, which was more like a slithering way of moving around – we did some acting exercises with the actress during pre-production, so she would learn how to use her body language to kind of transpire a serpent-like way. So little hints, like when she approaches the child and the mother for the first time at the park, you can hear the sound design of serpents, and things like that.
I think the viewers kind of feel awkward about it, which was my intension, and the big reveal at the end I wanted to be very powerful. I love powerful endings and actually, in the original screenplay, Medusa did not die of suicide, if we can call it that way. But, I wanted something more profound – kind of a salvation, a redemption – in order to save humanity and save herself from her own curse. So, I asked the writer to come up with a different ending and that’s the idea I had. I wanted death to be beautiful and poetic and something empowering, more than something tragic. I don’t see her as a victim, I see her more as a martyr. So, that was my intension with the film.