There are some truly amazing films written and directed by women screening at Fantasia International Film Festival this year. One of them is Lucky, which was written by Brea Grant (After Midnight), who also stars in the film. Lucky was directed by Natasha Kermani, whose last film, the horror/Sci-Fi hybrid Imitation Girl, was one of my favorite movies of 2017.
Lucky tells the harrowing story of a woman named May (Grant), who not only has to repeatedly fight for her life against a masked attacker, she also has to figure out the message the attacker is trying to send. Lucky is anxiety-inducing and thought-provoking and hopefully, the film will open up a bigger conversation and be inspiring, especially for women.
Dread Central had the pleasure of speaking with Natasha Kermani about working with Brea Grant on Lucky, the memorable production design, and a lot more. Read on to find out what we talked about!
Dread Central: I’ve seen Lucky and I loved it. I know it was written by Brea Grant, who also stars in the film. You directed it of course, and to be honest, I was on board as soon as I heard you guys were working together. How did the two of you decide you wanted to collaborate on this movie?
Natasha Kermani: It happened pretty quickly, actually. Brea thought of it as a film she was either going to direct or maybe play the role of May in, so she was sort of shopping it around town, trying to get it seen and I read it and sort of laid claim on it, I just loved it. There’s a turning point in the movie, moving into the third act and the finale of the film, where the scope of the movie suddenly expands outwards, and the sort of singular perspective that we’ve been following, the context for it really brought it out, and that was when I put it down and I pulled up my laptop and I reached out to Brea, because we knew each other socially. So I sort of made it very clear to her that I was definitely interested and I wanted to continue the conversation because of course, it’s her baby, and it was sort of like, “If you want me along for the ride for this journey, I really think we can do something special here.”
Thankfully, she was into it and we sort of just leapt right in and started having conversations and you know, she was May. I always wanted her to play May, so yeah, she was open to it. We had some conversations and it actually came together very quickly, to be honest. I think I read it late summer of 2018, we were greenlit in 2019, shooting by that summer and of course, it was supposed to premiere March of this year. It was a really fast, whiplash process, which is cool. With a small movie I think that’s the way to do it. You have the energy and you just want to go into production and get it all going.
DC: As far as Brea starring in it, was that more your idea? How did that happen?
NK: Yeah, that was just sort of how the script was presented to me initially, and I think for Brea as well, if this wasn’t the right thing for her to direct, she wasn’t sure she wanted to play the role of May. But I think after a few conversations she was open to it. For me, there was never any question because I know Brea is such a wonderful, charismatic actor, and just knew the role, you know? For me, it’s what is the centerpiece, especially for a small movie, what is the centerpiece that we are building everything else around? Sometimes it’s a location, sometimes an actor and reading it with her in mind, and her cadence, her humor, it really felt crystal clear. Of course, moving forward with a project and a script, with a director and actor attached, people were like, “I get it, I understand what this project is.” I think she took a risk playing this role, it’s not an especially easy hero role, so I really give her credit for jumping right in.
DC: I think you did an excellent job with the feeling of isolation and anxiety, almost making it tangible for the viewer. Even the windows in her house made me uncomfortable. How did you go about setting that up?
NK: Thank you and yeah, that’s definitely in the DNA of the project. The world is starting to distort around her, what elements could we take advantage of? Obviously one of the big ones is the house, so we looked at a bunch of houses and with that one, I was immediately struck by that big giant window. You can just imagine there is something looking in at you, and that strange sort of open architectural style. We really wanted to create a heightened version of our own reality and obviously with limited resources, it’s not so easy. So, in addition to picking the location, it was in every choice that we made to our team. Our choice of one thing, the lensing; the sort of changes as the film continues; the way we’re looking at May, starts to change; the colors start to distort; what little tools do we have access to, to create this sense of unease, beyond just the script and what the actors are bringing to a scene. I have to also tip my hat; we have an amazing production designer. She has a fine arts background and she took some initial concepts that I brought to the table and took them completely to the next level. We wanted to see twisted versions of a female body, really important images for the placing, so she really took that to the next level and when you watch the film you notice these sort of spooky headless torsos, body parts and all that kind of stuff.
That’s one example, each team member took the cues and maximized what they were able to do with the resources they were given, so it’s a 360-degree attention to each aspect of the film language we were using. Another fun thing that she did, you may notice it’s a bit of an Easter Egg, but there are these sort of hand mannequins throughout the film and she had this great idea that they are sort of like a countdown happening, so each time that May is visited by this scary guy, these hands sort of indicate which day we are on. It will say day two or three and have that number of fingers up on the hand, so just stuff like that where you can kind of switch out the art or the plants.
DC: Besides the themes of isolation, there is obviously a very strong message to women in this film, to sort of empower themselves in a way. What do you hope the audience takes away from Lucky?
NK: So, this is really meant to be the beginning of a conversation. It’s not meant to be an indictment on anyone or any situation, it’s meant to open up the floor. You watch the movie and one thing that drew me to it was the potential of welcoming audiences into this conversation. At the top, it’s really a satire so we’re hopefully making space for the audience to maybe giggle a little bit at the awkwardness of the situation and then by the time we are moving into our third act, with the parking garage scene, it sort of comes to this dreadful feeling, this weight is added to the film. That was a really interesting challenge for me, to say like, “Okay, can we bring people in on this level and then take them to the second level, and then leave them in a place where the conversation is going to keep going. Do you agree with what May did, do you disagree, what would you have done differently, how do you feel about what this character did?” So it’s less a specific emotion that we want the audience to feel as much as like, this is a base layer of experience we can all share and understand and then out of that we can have a discussion.
DC: I’m also a big fan of Imitation Girl, your previous film. Could you tell me what you’re working on next? I know we’re in a pandemic, but do you have plans?
NK: Yeah, it’s been a strange few months. You know, what do you do in a pandemic when you’re stuck in your house? A lot of writing, and we are also developing some projects that I’m excited about. They are all genre, all really different, there’s a few things I’m hoping we can get going and be back on set in 2021, be back on the circuit, hopefully things are up and running. I think they all deal with interesting themes, sort of continuing the track of Imitation Girl and Lucky and trying to really create conversation starters, as we were saying.
DC: I love Lucky so much. Good luck at the festival! I know we’re virtual this year, but I’m sure it will work out somehow.
NK: Yeah, to also answer your question about what’s coming up, we’re going to be on Shudder, and after that, a few more festivals. Have a good Fantasia!