There comes a time in everyone’s life in which they can take a chance to live their dream, or abandon it due to fear of failure.
Nj Calder took the chance.
Sugar -n- Thunder is thrilled to share this exclusive interview with the man himself: NYC-born, Korea-based filmmaker Nj Calder (of Kinetic Film), the blood -n- guts behind up-and-coming horror flick Fear Eats The Seoul.
Just to play catch-up, here’s the premise: When a raging demon epidemic sweeps across South Korea, four surviving English teachers must choose between waiting for help or fighting for their very lives. The ‘net ate up the teaser trailer released back in September. Today, on 11/11/10, the FULL TRAILER is out and the next phase of this young filmmaker’s journey has officially begun.
We spoke with Nj about what led him from Queens, New York to South Korea, the experiences that spawned Fear Eats The Seoul, his favorite flicks of past and present, his personal history with filmmaking, his lifelong attraction to a darker aesthetic, and the all-important question: what is a horror director’s greatest fear?
What drew you to making movies in the first place?
I just love stories. My earliest memories were of movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, Alien and Predator or Land Before Time. I always associated good times with renting VHS tapes when I was a kid. I was like a “Be Kind Rewind” professional with my 1950’s car shaped tape rewinder. I enjoyed the spectacle of blockbuster movies because it transported me to another world. So naturally, Jurassic Park changed my life. As I’ve gotten older I find that the purpose of making films for me is to express myself and my perspective, which will no doubt change as I keep on growing both mentally and spiritually. I want to tell good stories that are fantastical and unavailable to experience in our everyday lives. Sorry! There’re too many reasons I was drawn to movies!! Moving on! Next question damn it! [Laughs]
What made you take the leap and move to Korea? How long have you been there and what have you been doing?
Fear made me come initially. I was afraid after graduating college that I was going to fail and so instead of doing what I deep down knew I was supposed to, I fled the states to find myself in Korea. I thought I’d take a break from my life and live a little. I became an ESL teacher in Korea to pay off loans and grow up.
But as I’ve learned, thinking about not having money is a poisoning of the mind because it dictates that you can’t work on your dreams, but should instead find steady work and sacrifice your happiness. When, in fact, money is so far from the motivating factor that will open you up to pursuing your dreams. Of course it’s important to be financially aware but most people are also not very frugal and end up chaining themselves to debts.
Next July I’ll have been here for three years roughly. I have been teaching this whole time to subsidize the film. It’s not easy. At all. It’s like having two full time jobs and kids who like to eat other children and small animals and you constantly have to keep an eye on them with chains and whips on top of all your other crap.
What kind of space/time in your life did Fear Eats The Seoul come out of? Why are you making this movie right NOW?
It came from hating my last job as a preschool ESL teacher and feeling like I had become complacent. There are situations in Korea that I can’t help but culturally clash with, including teaching English to 18 month old babies. I was very unhappy because I had no clue what I was doing in the classroom anymore. It dawned on me that I was venturing so far from the path I once set out to take. And ultimately making decent money and having a free place was not enough. My dream kept bubbling to the surface while I was trying to push it down for the sake of a comfortable lifestyle.
So I finally quit that job and found a part-time one and my own place, which opened up my mind and my time to follow my own path. It became clear then that money was not as important if I was able to do what I was passionate about. So I finally accepted I AM a filmmaker and if that is so, I should start making some films.
Can you fill us in on the plot/concept of the movie?
The plot came from me, I’m going to be arrested [laughs], it came from me being so miserable at work that I just imagined I was stuck in this post apocalyptic Korea. And I was secretly looking for a way to kill off the mental presence of some choice co-workers or employers who will remain nameless. It became a catharsis.
But the plot is about these English teachers like myself, or the hundreds of thousands of others, who have been teachers abroad. And how we all know the big elephant in the room is that complacency is all too common. So on top of complacency, these characters are stuck in a real Hell when a demon infection spreads across the country preventing them from progressing with their lives. We meet them almost a month into the infection and they’re faced with the choice to own their fear and attempt escape or wait for someone to come save them.
I know it’s sometimes easy to write horror movies off as mindless chop-’em-up fiestas, but what is different about Fear Eats The Seoul? Is there a metaphor/meaning behind it?
[Laughs] Well it’s definitely a fiesta! I can’t relate to a lot of the horror films that are made these days. I can enjoy them as a spectacle or a superficial level of cool or whatever. But I can’t do it myself, not if the larger justification is to shock or disgust the audience for its own sake. I want to make something that is relatable and emotionally drawn. The film is really about the fear of taking flight in the face of the unknown. The characters represent those parts of us that are weak and afraid until that fear manifests as its own demon. It eats away at your confidence and your passions, your will to live. It’s an emotional horror thriller.
What has the process of making this movie been like?
It has been very surreal, almost unbelievable when I look at where I was only a year ago. It’s extreme highs and extreme lows. There is so much that goes into a film and if your crew consists of five people max, it’s compounded exponentially. This film has been a master class in filmmaking. We’ve been shooting on and off from July. It’s difficult to keep a production afloat when everyone on board has a day job on top of supporting this film. It’s a testament to their sheer willpower that they have all stuck by my side! Even the lows are worth it though because shit, I’m making a fucking movie!
What are the biggest challenges and biggest thrills?
The biggest thrills have been the major attack sequences, especially the last one we shot on October 3rd. I had a lot of fun shooting a major attack/fight in one of the character’s Kindergarten classrooms. On our last day we had 20 demon extras on board and we had to shoot in the pouring rain, which was a day of weather change. It was both the most challenging night and the most rewarding.
I wanted this crane shot so we rigged some rock climbing gear and hung me off a bridge as demons chased after the protagonists. It was definitely a moment I will never forget – having to climb the rope over and over in the cold downpour, my camera hanging off my neck and getting soaked. I earned every shot that night.
Another one involved me riding on the back of a motorcycle tracking a car as it was driving around the city and over bridges. It was nuts. But we got the shots. And I’m still alive.