Inferred Views :: Seth Smith & Darcy Spidle on Lowlife

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The interview below was conducted during the January dawning of 2012 via electronic-mail between Aaron Levin, Jesse Locke, Seth Smith, and Darcy Spidle. The words pertain to the trailer for Lowlife (see above), whose world-wide premiere was featured on Weird Canada on January 9th, 2012.

Hearts,

Aaron Levin
Weird Canada
http://weirdcanada.com/


WC
::
For the past decade plus, Darcy has been running Divorce Records and Obey Convention, while Seth has been playing in Dog Day and creating visual art with YORODEO. How did the two of you come together and decide to make the leap into producing a horror film?
Darcy
::
I’ve always had an interest in punishment and humiliation as it relates to performance. Seth has long been aware of this and I suspect that it was just a matter of time before the inspiration to exploit this personality trait arose. Once the initial idea of doing a film of this nature came along, the project took on a life of its own that we could do little to control.
Seth
::
I had been really wanting to do some sort of short film, and Darcy and Kate Hartigan were the first people that came to mind. They both have great looks and good work ethics when it comes to weirdo no-budget projects. We had worked on some abstract youtube skits and videos before and wanted to take it to the next level. Along with Nancy, the four of us began getting together for evening improv sessions to flesh out characters.
WC
::
Why Lowlife? Why black and white? Why a blob story about two people taking drugs and being haunted by a monster? (is that an accurate synopsis?)
Seth
::
We had settled on wanting to do something in the forest near our place by the ocean. We get a lot of wind here, so a good portion of the surrounding area is weathered and dead looking. In the beginning we were shooting to do a survivalist story with that in mind, but as we got further in, the story took a surrealist/mystery turn which was inevitable I guess. The fantasy / drug concept was a way to allow us some experimentation in filming and not have to commit to a realistic, linear narrative. As for the black and white look, I thought it would go nicely with the tone of the movie which is pretty dark, and it seemed like an interesting take on a psychedelic drug flick. The name Lowlife came from a prop we had on set. I had made up a bunch of fake book spines for a bookshelf shot, and overtime, seeing it in the scene, it just sort of summed it all up… and maybe reflected how we were feeling making it.
WC
::
How do the location, environment and cultural community of Halifax play into the film’s creation?
Darcy
::
After living in Halifax for most of our adult lives, we had all just moved to rural, coastal

communities. Our concepts of urban and country were certainly shifting. There seems to be a particular kind of alienation that comes from living in the sticks that, for better or worst, forces a person inward. I suppose Lowlife exploits this idea. On a more aesthetic level, I think using the forest and ocean in early spring gave our film a rugged look and feel. The actors and crew were always hurting, wet, and cold. It was often a brutal experience, and I hope it shows on the screen.

WC
::
I understand you spent a lot of time and effort creating the perfect monster. What goes into making a blob?
Seth
::
There are a few different creatures in the film. The ones I was responsible for were made of whatever I had lying around–clay, latex, corn, carpeting, spay paint. The Mudman character was the makeup work of sludge sculptor Daniel Taylor. He had been experimenting with some slime recipes. I think the stuff for Casey’s mask was a mix of paint, hair, glue and borax and princess blood.
WC
::
Tell us about Seth’s tuba playing for the film’s soundtrack? Is there a general vibe you tried to create from the songs, sounds and artists chosen?
Darcy
::
Seth learned to play tuba with the record button on. Of course, the playing is manipulated and touched by the spirit as well. He came up with some murky stuff, and it works. The movie is all about dirt, parasites, mud, and discomfort, so we wanted the soundtrack to match. We used a lot of experimental or outer sound type music. With the exception of one ’70s track by some hippy monks, there aren’t any typical songs. It’s all squelch and screech from a bunch of our favourite experimenters.
Seth
::
Yeah, it also has pretty dreamy vibe, and some of the ambient and noise based tracks really helped in bringing out that subconscious element. The tuba idea originally came from Kate. We were toying with the idea of her character being some sort of bad musician and she brought up how she came from a family of tuba players. Always thought of it as a joke instrument, but now I have a new found respect for it.
WC
::
We also heard there was an interesting story about Seth’s German father-in-law providing the film’s narration. Can you share some of the details?
Seth
::
We wanted something different for the narrative parts that had some sort of tie to the region. Also, since the role of the narrator was played by an animal, it seemed like it shouldn’t be in English. We were initially looking for someone who spoke Gaelic. Nancy’s father, Ogi was always in the back of my mind. He’s a real old world guy with a fairly unique German/Newfoundland accent. We were having a couple scotches one night and he was telling me a sadistic story about how he used to shoot his friend between the eyes with a slingshot to teach them a lesson. I took him downstairs and recorded the lines right after and it fit the part perfectly.
Darcy
::
Yeah, it was a really last minute idea. I was basically writing the poems and emailing them to Seth minutes before Ogi would read them. It’s funny, I guess he got quite emotional. We ended up having to subtitle his narration to make sense of what he was saying.
WC
::
What did you find similar about making a movie v.s. making music? What kinds of unexpected challenges arose?
Darcy
::
Well, all art projects seem to become their own guides after awhile. Be it an album or film, this ‘thing’ just starts emerging that presents you with all its own rules and ideas. It’s like giving birth (I’m only guessing). As for movie vs. album, a movie is just so much more extensive. By the time Lowlife is seen, we will have been working for two years straight, usually with at least one person pulling almost full time hours. And, of course, we are all pretty much new to the film world. The learning curve is steep!
Seth
::
Yeah, it really is its own thing. It’s just a huge production even with a skeleton crew. I do like to treat every scene as a separate song or story, but with a film it helps if all the pieces work together to tell something bigger. It’s more like a concept album.
WC
::
Tell us about Darcy the thespian, and his brother Casey as the blob. Who else acts in the film?
Seth
::
Darcy’s always been a captivating performance artist, usually under the name of Chik White. I remember seeing him once at a show, slicing his guitar and hands with a butcher knife and screaming at the audience of 10 people. He definitely brought that mentality to the film somehow ending up as a weird GG Allin / Deniro cross with some Chaplin slapstick. A real stellar performance for an impossible role. I had to talk him out of living in a coyotes den for a week before the shoot. I worked with Kate before in a Dog Day vid and she had a really cool outsider approach to art. I also knew she would be up for going the limit but she really pushed herself and took the character above our expectations. I remember her constantly asking, “When do I get to eat bugs.” I wanted to get Darcy’s brother Casey in on board, but the two look too much alike to make sense in the story, so we just covered him in tar and then the resemblance wasn’t problem anymore. Michell Weibe, singer of Catbag and abstract art star, plays a weirdo slug breeder. The part was basically written with his eccentric charm in mind. There are also a few other roles handled by Cold Warps front man, Paul Hammond and Halifax legend, Rock Dad.
WC
::
Is this just the beginning of a cinematic career? More films to come?
Darcy
::
Well, I would do another film. Acting is a form of performance that offers a lot of possibilities. It’s very exciting to completely turn yourself into someone else. That said, I have no interest in the typical film/tv world. It would have to be a project I could really get behind. Writing and music would also have to play a part.
WC
::
Now that Lowlife is almost done, will you be returning to Divorce, Obey and Dog Day in 2012?
Darcy
::
Seth and Nancy finished Deformer during the film, but lots of projects were put on hold. The OBEY Convention was cancelled last year and Seth has had to take a lot of time off from YORODEO. So yes, life should get back to normal soon.
WC
::
How do people see the movie?
Darcy
::
We are planning for film festival screenings and a Canadian basement tour in the fall, followed by a dvd and/or a direct viewing online option.
Seth
::
Private showings can also be arranged
WC
::
How deep is the blooper reel?
Seth
::
Ha, there were a lot. Nearly all of them made it into the film.
WC
::
What happened to the slugs you ordered from Kijiji? Should we be phoning PETA?
Darcy
::
I actually made that ad as an experiment to see if there were any slug lovers out there. You know, test out the market. I got quite a few interested people, even some angry ones when I couldn’t deliver. We’ll see if that translates with theatre goers. No need to call PETA though… only people were harmed.