Q&A with Jason Bognacki, writer/director of Another

Cult Projections: Another originated as a short film. Was the short produced only to secure funding for the feature, or did you always intend on making the feature version?

Jason: Another did not start out as a feature; pretty early on in the production of the short film we decided we wanted to finish it as a full-length feature. The film was self-financed so the idea was not to get funding based a proof of concept short film.

CP: How important is storyboarding? Do you improvise much during the shooting process?

J: Storyboarding and shot planning are really key for me and especially on Another as the film relies so heavy on the power of the visual experience. But that being said after all that prepping my favourite part is throwing all that away and truly being in the moment with the actors and building the scene.

CP: You’ve shot all your own films and edited them as well. Do you shoot with the editing in mind, or do you prefer to have multiple options during the editing process?

J: Working with the low budget and time restraints on Another it was really necessary to shoot for the edit. I would love to have had the luxury of multiple options and alternate takes during the editing process but it just wasn’t an option on this project. A few of the scenes I literally used every piece of footage we shot.

CP: Would you consider using a cinematographer and editor, or do you prefer to have that complete control over the look and rhythm?

J: I am very comfortable directing with a camera in my hand, but at times it would be nice to hand off the camera and really concentrate on the performances. I did have a great Assistant Camera, Matt Stiller, who really helped in those types of situations. Much of the story comes together in the editing so I don’t think I’d ever truly give up that piece of the process.

CP: Tell me about the casting process. Was it easy to find the right actors for the roles? How do you weigh up an actor’s appearance with their performance?

J: The cast came together quite organically. We found and cast Paulie Rojas (Jordyn) after auditions in Los Angeles and soon after we got together with Maria Olsen as Jordyn’s Mother. I’d worked with Maria on a previous project and kept her in mind for future films, she was a perfect fit. When the search began for Jordyn’s Aunt Ruth, Maria suggested her friend Nancy Wolfe, when that missing piece was filled in we knew we had a film in the making. During casting I am looking for true character, someone unique, someone who can bring multiple layers to their performance, someone who asks questions and tries to get to the bottom of the emotions in the scene, someone who explores the motivations and really owns and bring to life the character.

CP: Another is the demonic love child of Jess Franco and Dario Argento. What films of these two hugely influential European directors inspired you? What elements of each director do you admire most?

J: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Lesbos Vampyros come to mind as inspirations to my art of filmmaking. Argento has such a great sense of extreme style and experimentation, the nightmarish beauty of his earlier films and his ability to pull together so many other great artists into his vision is truly inspiring. I find Jess Franco’s films strangely fascinating, it’s easy to get lost in them. I think I am more inspired by the mystery surrounding his films then the actual films themselves. With all his pseudonyms, multiple cuts and recuts, his alleged 200+ film catalogue, and his apparent influence and collaborations with American cinema greats. If Argento is the maestro then Franco is the abstract auteur of the art house.

CP: There is also a dreamy David Lynch vibe floating through Another. What is your favourite movie of his and why?

J: It’s hard to choose really but Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet come to mind. In his later films, Lynch has really mastered exposing the surreal and uncanny in the everyday. To me these films are more horror then thrillers/mysteries … and contains some of the most chilling scene committed to film.

CP: Do you see cinema as still having any taboos, and if so, what are they? Should horror filmmakers be expected to push boundaries?

J: You know every time I think I’ve seen everything I am surprised by a film, but for the most part it seems like we are entering the age of the remake of remake. I think its up to the independents to really push the boundaries and shake up audiences. There is plenty of new ground to cover.

CP: What elements in the making of a horror movie do you rate as the most important?

J: Planning, Planning, Planning. When making a horror film like Another with little to no crew and limited time, and budget, planning was our best friend. Fitting everything to our days and maximising every moment we had with our cast was an absolute necessity. Getting the right people involved with the project was paramount as well. I’d take a small committed crew that really wants to make the absolute best end product, over a large apathetic group of “professionals” who are just there to collect a paycheck. Passion… did I mention passion? That too J

CP: All of your films have a beautiful woman as the central figure. How important is sexuality in a horror movie?

J: I am more interested in the strong characters of these women, and the struggles they are going through, it’s just a bonus that they are captivating.

CP: Another is a beautiful looking movie that dances with the grotesque. What do you love about shooting on digital? Could you have achieved the same look for Another if you’d been using 35mm? Are there any drawbacks at all to shooting on the Red cameras?

J: I would love to have shot Another on 35mm in keeping with the films 70s feel but the budget was just not there to even attempt it. The ease of use, resolution, look and flexibility in post when shooting “raw” footage on Red cameras far out weighed any longing for analogue mediums.

CP: How important is cohesion in a movie’s narrative? How obliged is a director in making a movie understandable to its audience?

J: Cohesion in narrative structure is important in telling any story but the manipulation of the story structure can open up frightening new worlds to viewers. Its not a director’s sole purpose to guide an audience thru a series of events telling a story… its more their duty to upend viewers expectations and open up new realities. Films like The Red Door and Another can be thought of almost like a lyrical song, a piece of music, or a work of art… its possible to see something different even upon multiple viewings. With Another I am dropping the audience into Jordyn’s world, and they are forced to make sense of the demonic schizophrenia that is terrorising her. Making the audience work a bit to sort out if what Jordyn is experiencing is real or some darker influence on her viewpoint was intentional. This subtle playing with structural expectations sends the viewer deeper into Jordyn’s nightmare and has an almost subliminal effect on them, and at times the audience is experiencing her journey on another level.

CP: The production values are high on Another, yet for budgetary reasons you’ve kept your cast and location shooting to an absolute minimum. What was the most expensive part of making Another?

J: Doing most the post myself I really tried to put every cent up on the screen. Outside of all the time I spent on the film the biggest expense was probably pay role. I made certain everyone was paid for the time they put in… no deferments.

CP: You’ve mentioned that you intend to make a feature from your earlier short The Red Door, is this still on the cards?

J: I still plan of completing a companion short that will play along side The Red Door, called Beyond The Red Door. It’s been shot for the most part but like The Red Door I want to write the music for Beyond, but finding the time to compose it is proving difficult.

CP: Thank you for your time Jason!


Another screens as part of Sydney’s A Night Of Horror International Film Festival, Saturday, November 22nd, 5pm, Dendy Cinemas.