Indie Horror Month Interview: Writer/Director Keith Hodder Talks Shift and More
Last year up-and-coming filmmaker Keith Hodder made quite a splash in the indie genre community with the faux Grindhouse-style trailer Van Gore he co-directed with Peter Strauss and Jerrad Pulham that was selected to be a part of the Hobo with a Shotgun home release.
Now Hodder is back with his latest project called Shift, a short thriller about recent university graduate Ryan Stewart (Nick Stojanovic), who travels to Toronto with dreams of big success but instead comes face to face with harsher realities.
When he's jobless and out of money, Ryan has to make peace with his own personal defeat and make the long drive back home to eastern Canada. But things take a different turn when he picks up a clever and manipulative hitchhiker (Christian McKenna), who begins to test Ryan's emotional and psychological limits along the way.
Recently Dread Central caught up with Hodder to hear more about his latest project, the inspiration behind the story of Shift as well as more on another short film project he recently worked on called The Tortured.
Check out our interview with Hodder below, and make sure to check back here later this week for more coverage in honor of Dread Central's Indie Horror Month celebration.
Dread Central: Talk a bit about the story of Shift and what inspired it; it seems like a very relatable story (guy struggling with success) that really resonated with me.
Keith Hodder: Shift came to because I was really wanting to do something different. Something more natural and ultimately more to the dramatic formula. I was working on Stephen King's Bag of Bones in the summer, and a lot of the job required that I drove between home and the set. So every day I was driving and I had the time to think and ponder and get an idea churning; I guess it's not surprising that I created a road film.
But I also remember thinking that I wanted to create a film that symbolized the struggle that we all go through at the same point in Ryan's life. The transition from school to the "real world" so to speak. I wanted to approach a lot of that discussion with the respect for the characters much like John Hughes would in The Breakfast Club and all his other fantastic films. I wanted it to be a film that captured a moment that we all go through. It's something we can all relate to, the anxieties placed on us at such a time, whether it is from internal or external sources. I believe there's a little bit of Ryan in all of us and it didn't hurt that, when I was done with the job, I drove back from Nova Scotia to Toronto.
Dread Central: You've got two very strong lead men in this; can you discuss your casting process and collaborating on Shift with both of them?
Keith Hodder: I'd never worked with Christian and Nick before, and the casting process was definitely fun and exciting. We knew what we wanted out of both roles and we knew that they both called for some fantastic actors. I'm really pleased with those guys - they really delivered and blew the characters out of the water. I was amazed by their commitment to the roles they were given and their ability to add some of their own flair into it.
I believe we did a day or two of casting, and when both of them came in, we knew we wanted them to be a part of Shift. Collaborating with them was very fun and lent to lots of laughs on set. I'm the sort of filmmaker that is serious when the camera is rolling, but between takes I enjoy fostering a humorous relationship with the actors (usually calling them assholes or something like that) and these guys handled that perfectly.
Dread Central: Even though most of the film is just two guys inside a car, I'm guessing there were still a lot of filming challenges on Shift.
Keith Hodder: Oh yeah, filming was challenging. Making a road film can be an incredibly unpredictable experience, and for someone who is an overt planner, that was a very difficult thing to come to terms with. We didn't have the financing and funds to close off certain roads and streets so we literally had to throw our actors in the picture car and then get the camera rolling.
We also had to find roads that were long enough to support long takes where the actors were spouting out their dialogue. We'd usually get two to three takes per length of road and then would have to turn around, take the drive and reset and start again. It was definitely a lengthy process. We shot for six days straight in Mississauga, Ontario, and I believe three or four of those days were driving scenes while the others were interiors.
Honestly, I really enjoyed shooting the interiors, and we had a great team the contributed so much to the film that, while the process challenged the group's patience, it was an amazing learning experience.
Dread Central: Shift has such a different tone than Van Gore did- was that intentional on your part to showcase your own different styles of storytelling?
Keith Hodder: Well, yes and no. Van Gore was completely different than anything I have done before and it was a blast to shoot. To be upfront, I am still very divided on where I'd like my filmmaking to go. If I continue with Van Gore, then I will be seen as a horror director and will guide myself through that niche.
There's nothing wrong with that as there is a lot that can be done with the genre, but I love films like Shift and I love action and crime so I'd be hesitant to dive into one niche. With that being said, feature ideas for Van Gore are still floating around so, as you can see, I'm very conflicted.
Dread Central: So what are the plans for Shift- is it going to be making the festival rounds? Do you see this story as a feature-length film down the road?
Keith Hodder: Definitely! The plan from the get-go was to send it around to festivals. We have a potential of 19 marked out, and we've thus far submitted to the majority of them. So yes, I'd love for it to do the rounds in a few festivals and then that'd be that. I have a very punctual mind so once I am done with a project, I am done with it. I don't see a feature for the future of Shift as I am already running around on another idea now.
Dread Central: I noticed that you also co-directed another short film called The Tortured; what can you tell us about that project?
Keith Hodder: The Tortured was shot last January in Thomaston, Georgia, of all places. I'd been frequenting YouTube at that time and had come across some very talented guys by the name of Nick Laurant and Brett Driver. We all starting chatting over YouTube and Facebook and then we eventually decided that it was time for us to make a film together so I flew down, Nick flew over from LA and Brett was from the area and we shot The Tortured.
We cast all local Atlanta talent and I was blown away by what each of the actors put on the table. It was a very exciting project and it can be found on YouTube whether it be on my channel or Nick's.
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