Fire City: Interpreter of Signs is an upcoming demon fantasy thriller set against the noir backdrop of a shadowy atmospheric world, where demons live among humans who are blind to what they really are.
The story follows Atum Vine, a 700-year-old demon with an attitude. To the humans who live unwittingly alongside him in a derelict tenement building, Vine is just the drug dealer at the end of the hall. But to the demons also living on the floor, Vine is a procurer of human misery, which they need to survive.
After Vine’s flow of addicts shuts off unexpectedly and apparently for no reason, Vine consults Cornelia, an interpreter of signs. She is a fortune teller in the demon world and an enigma even Vine can’t quite figure out.
We got a chance to catch up with Danielle Chuchran, the young actress who plays Cornelia, during our recent set visit for the film.
DC: Do we ever get to see the human version of Cornelia?
Danielle Chuchran: Yes, but it’s actually not me. It’s Mary-Margaret Humes who is playing the human version. I am the demon version.
DC: How come?
DC: I think they just wanted an older person because she is kind of psychic so she has been around for several hundred years. So I think they wanted a more aged and wiser look. For the more physical things and craziness, they wanted someone a little more demonic. She is in two or three scenes, but other than that Cornelia is a demon throughout.
DC: How did you first hear about this role?
DC: My managers actually sent me on an audition for it. And in the audition they started asking me if I was okay with prosthetics, and I was like, ‘Been there, done that.’ And they said, ‘Great! Well, if we end up picking you, are you available for rehearsal tomorrow?’ [laughs]
DC: So, did you know how blue you would be?
DC: In the audition Tom Woodruff, Jr. [the director], asked if I was okay with contacts and he described how the prosthetics would be just for my cheekbones. I did prosthetics for Cat in the Hat years ago, so I was like, ‘That is fine.’ And so I actually got a call two hours after the audition that I booked it. And we started rehearsal the next day and started filming the next week. It was a quick one.
DC: Do you have stunts and things that you maybe weren’t expecting? Cause I hear about a lot of beating hearts being ripped out of chests by you, and you’re stopping someone’s air by holding their windpipe shut…
DC: Not so much stunts; I think it is more just really cool effects that they are doing. In the end I am wearing this awesome harness that they built that has the beating heart and everything. It’s really neat. Not so much stunts but just a few little things where Vine threw me against the wall. But that is about it.
DC: Tell me a little about Vine and Cornelia.
DC: We have a very weird relationship. There is this little relationship, like you can tell they have been ‘on and off’ for a few years. But we are pretty mean to each other throughout. It’s so funny and I feel so bad… just getting into character and stuff, we glare at each other. And he’ll just growl at me as he walks by and I will growl back… It’s so funny; I get out of makeup and I don’t even recognize him because I just see him in makeup the whole time. But it’s been kind of fun.
DC: While on set today I have been hearing about the whole back story, and it seems so complex with so many characters… it’s an epic world… so can you put it in “dummy” terms for me? [laughter]
DC: Well, it’s so funny cause… I was thrown into this so quick, I have been emailing [writer-producer] Michael [Hayes] on and off the whole time just saying, ‘Okay, explain this. I want to know what am I talking about here.’ But dummy terms: That’s how I needed it explained, too! Basically, my character, Cornelia, is an interpreter. And there are multiple interpreters that see things through this bone mask who can tell the future. They are psychics. Like the demon psychics. They are basically like protectors; that’s kind of what they are seen as. And she looks out for this building that is full of demons. And she just foresees everything. She tells them, ‘This is what is coming up. You know, the disease is this…’ and she’s gets really confused when all of a sudden she loses her sight. And the interpreters can’t see anything anymore. It’s because of this disease and dark figure that has shut them off, and so she is kind of going along pretending like she knows what she is doing, but she does not throughout the other half of the film.
DC: So, there is something like the humans all become good. Suddenly, all bad people and criminals are 100% good. What’s the story with the human element?
DC: It’s basically this dark figure or this disease that has come over them. It has turned all the humans happy. So they no longer feel pain or anger… So the demons have nothing to feed off of, which is what they do. So that is why they all of a sudden start starving, because there is no suffering to feed off of anymore. So yeah, it’s basically a disease that turns everyone happy, so they only feel happy emotions.
DC: Let’s go back to your makeup a little bit. How long does it take to rid yourself of the blue?
DC: Um, they are really good about getting it off so maybe around forty-five minutes tops for everything. That’s in and out. They are real good about getting it all off.
DC: So you never had to stop by the store or anywhere on the way home with the blue skin?
DC: No. I have had to do that with other projects, and that was awful. But no, when I leave, I might have a little spot of blue on my ears or something and I would hope I wouldn’t get pulled over. Like, ‘Officer I can explain…’ [laughter]
DC: So you’re two weeks into filming, and you been here almost every day. How much is Cornelia in the film?
DC: I work nine days throughout the whole thing. So on and off. I am on a couple of days here, then three days off, and come back.
DC: What’s the most interesting thing you have seen on set so far? Any anecdotes you can share?
DC: Basically, I am just blown away by the makeup. It’s just so cool. And the way they lit this… normally you don’t get the creeps when you’re watching them film because you know you are kind of seeing everything, but there are just some scenes where… Vine will walk in the room and you will just see his shadow come across and you just get like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so cool!’ So I am continually blown away by the makeup.
DC: Your producer was saying they are going for a noir look for this film. Does it take a long time to get the lighting and the setups going?
DC: Honestly, no. They are so fast at getting everything done and getting it lit up. And it helps since we are kind of stationary in one building. So they have everything planned out as to how they want to light it and everything. I am shocked to how quick it has gone by!
DC: What is the scene you are looking most forward to shooting?
DC: My death scene. I am so excited. It sounds awful: to die. And I have had five people come up to me and be like, ‘You are going to die tomorrow,’ and I am like, ‘I know! It should be really fun.’ It’s just me yelling and so many emotions going on. And it will be interesting to see the whole heart rig and everything and blood everywhere. I think it’s just going to come in the moment. I think it all out, but it helps so much when you get on set and all the actors kind of talk and give their own two cents on how the thing is going to happen. And so I am just hoping it will come out great.
The film centers around a fragile balance that exists between humankind and the demons who secretly live among them and the crisis for all when this balance is broken. Mary-Margaret Humes, Harry Shum Jr., Danielle Chuchran, Kristin Minter, Matt Winston, Eric Edwards, Tobias Jelinek, and Robert Peters star.
Shum plays an abusive alcoholic boyfriend who suddenly transforms into a caring and loving person, along with the rest of the humans in his seedy tenement building. Dependent on human misery for survival, the demons in the building begin to starve.
Writer-producers Brian Lubocki and Michael Hayes successfully funded a Kickstarter campaign for the film in August 2013.
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