Co-director and writer Chris Sivertson took the time to speak with us recently regarding his collaboration with longtime friend and cohort Lucky Mckee for their new film All Cheerleaders Die, which enjoyed its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Dread Central:Can you talk a little about how long the idea for All Cheerleaders Die has been rolling around in both of your heads? Did it just arise from a late night wandering around the USC campus?
Chris Sivertson: We came up with the idea about a year out of film school at USC. We’d been reading indie magazines, seeing how filmmakers were picking up the first DV cameras and making b-movies for very little money. We watched a bunch of those films and decided that it would be a great format to shoot our first feature. Low cost, low risk, freedom to experiment. So we cooked up a simple idea: football players vs. cheerleaders. And it just snowballed from there.
DC: How was everything divided up on set between the two of you? Did one of you focus more on the actors and another on setups, for example? Did you guys decide on what to divvy up beforehand, or did it happen more organically on set?
CS: It really is just a straight collaboration. We both do everything. We’re a true team in that sense.
DC: Why decide to reteam and work on All Cheerleaders Die together? Was it just a matter of getting back to your USC roots?
CS: We’ve collaborated in a variety of capacities since the original Cheerleaders so our creative relationship has been fluid and evolving ever since then. So even though this new one is the biggest collaboration since the original movie, it just felt like a very natural thing to do. We created the universe the movie takes place in together, and that universe has been alive to us ever since. We reference the characters and situations of the original in our everyday conversations. It’s never gone away for us. So even though I guess it is going back to our roots, it still feels immediate to me.
DC: It’s interesting that both of you have worked with Jack Ketchum and found success. Did working with such an established writer help or change your process at all and the way you now approach writing?
CS: Definitely. Ketchum is a consummate pro who creates real characters. His prose is lean and has bite. I learned a lot breaking down THE LOST into a screenplay. The first draft was ridiculously long because I wanted to retain everything I loved about the novel. I would bounce drafts off of Ketchum, and he would never fail to offer his honest and brutal opinion. Which was great. That sort of honesty is what informs his writing and makes it so powerful. So yes, it has impacted everything I’ve done since.
DC:Is this the most amount of fun you’ve had on set up to this point? It’s such a light horror comedy and it’s pretty apparent that the actors were having a blast.
CS: It was a blast, though it’s hard to quantify and compare to other experiences because making a movie is almost always fun. Even when things go wrong. And even when the material is very dark. All these different people come together for a period of time and focus all their energy on each shot you’re trying to pull off. It is a simultaneously wacky and profound sort of human endeavor. But I also think it’s no easier to make a “fun” movie than a dark serious one. This movie had a ton of built-in challenges and took a lot of blood, sweat and tears from a lot folks to pull off. But I’m not complaining at all. The challenge is part of the fun.
DC: Is this version or re-invention even sicker and more outlandish than what you guys first came up with in the late ‘90s?
CS: I’d say so. I don’t know that Lucky and I are any more outlandish than we were back then, but hopefully we’ve gotten better at harnessing our outlandish ideas and getting them up on the screen.
DC: Anything you’re developing, now or is it time to sit on the sidelines for a while?
CS: I’m always developing new material and working on different stories. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be making a slasher movie in the near future!
The high school-set comedy horror-thriller was written and directed by Lucky McKee (May, The Woman) and Chris Sivertson (The Lost, I Know Who Killed Me). It was produced by Andrew van den Houten (Funeral Kings, The Woman) and Robert Tonino (The Woman, In the Family) for Modernciné and stars Caitlin Stasey (“Reign,” Tomorrow When the War Began), Sianoa Smit-McPhee (“Hung”), and Brooke Butler and introduces Tom Williamson. The executive producer is Arrien Schiltkamp.
Look for the film on VOD and in limited theatres now with a Blu-ray/DVD release on July 22nd.
Teenage outsider Maddy (Stasey) is keeping some dark secrets and holding a serious grudge against the captain of the Blackfoot High football team. When Maddy joins the school’s elite and powerful cheerleading squad, she convinces her new friends to help inflict her revenge. After a late-night party goes awry, their plans take an unexpected turn for the worst, and all of the girls die. A sinister, supernatural power intervenes, and the girls mysteriously appear at school the next day with a killer new look… and some unusual new appetites.
“Sexy, campy, funny, subversive, angsty, and most importantly fun” (The Hollywood Reporter), ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE is a rebellious horror-comedy that redefines the genre.
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