'Messed up' story cushioned in a mish-mash fairytale world

By Joanna Hunkin

Q&A with Chris Sivertson - writer, director of indie horror film, The Lost - based on the 2001 novel by Jack Ketchum.

Q: When did you first read the novel?

A: I read it in 2003 and just immediately thought this would make a great movie. Particularly because of Ray Pye. All the characters just felt really real to me so I thought it would be really cool to make a thriller with really strong characters. For my first movie I really wanted to take a strong piece of material like that and make a movie out of it.

Q: How true to the book is the film?

A: I was very true to the characters but I had to condense the action. The biggest change was the book took place in 1969 and for a while I was considering trying to do it in the 60s, but I figured on a limited budget it would look ridiculous. Instead of putting it in modern day, I put it in this weird, mish-mash kind of fairy tale kind of world.

Q: That makes so much more sense now. I watched it, thinking 'when is this?' because there were so many inconsistencies - like the portable phones.

A: Yeah, exactly. That's why I started it off with the title Once upon a time . . . I just put it into this fairy tale kind of world.

I like old fashioned stuff - like cars and music. Also, since the whole theme of the movie is people who are lost in one way or another, I thought it would be cool to put them in a town that is kind of lost in time. It also made it a lot more affordable to make.

Q: Did you independently finance the film?

A: Yeah, it was completely independently financed. It took about a year to raise the money. It was a lot of work but what was cool, was that I had complete freedom with the money I had.

Q: So how long has the whole process taken from conception to completion?

A: It's been about three years. It took about a year to find the money and during that time I was writing the script. The first draft was about 300 pages, it was like a phone book. I had this idea that I was going to make this huge, giant epic but then I realised that wasn't very feasible. It's still kind of a long movie for a first time independent movie. Shooting was only a month and then post production was pretty long because I did everything myself. I edited it and licensed like, 25 songs, which took a long time.

Q: When and where did you debut the film?

A: The first one was in Ravena, Italy and right after that was Sitges, Spain. This was the end of 2005.

Q: Have you been doing the festival circuit since then?

A: I was doing festivals and then I did another movie - I Know Who Killed Me. It's funny because that comes out next week and The Lost doesn't officially come out in America until a couple of months after it. That's a studio film with money to push it out so it's a totally different thing.

Q: How have people reacted to the film? Did it take off instantly?

A: No, it's been a slow process. What I've found is that people seem to either really like it or really dislike it. Which I kind of expected but I was kind of surprised because at film festivals, the people that didn't like it, not only did they not like it but they wouldn't want to talk to me afterwards. We were seemingly friends before the movie and then they'd watch it and ignore me.

Q: I probably shouldn't say this but before I met you I thought you might be this kind of dark twisted person. Of course you're not, but can you see why people might think that?

A: Yeah of course. When I watch the movie, the ending makes me completely uncomfortable. That was one of the things when I read the book that attracted me to it. I was like 'Wow, this is extremely messed up'. It made me feel really bad.

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