SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2013
By Linc Leifeste | January 17, 2013
Austin’s own Kat Candler is building up quite the cinematic reputation, following up her well received 2012 Sundance short Hellion with her equally strong 2013 Sundance short Black Metal. Clocking in at just nine minutes, Black Metal intensely scratches the surface of the story of a black metal singer who is blamed by proxy for a murder by a young fan, looking at the aftermath in his personal life. Brilliantly crafted and featuring stunning performances by Austin actors Jonny Mars and Heather Kafka, Black Metal draws you in and leaves you hungry for more. I had a chance to chat with Kat about the film, her background in black metal, Jonny Mars and her thoughts on Sundance. (Also, check out Don Simpson’s review of Black Metal.)
LL: Black Metal did something that I would never have suspected a film could do in just nine minutes…humanize/personalize a black metal singer. What sparked you to make a film based on this lead character?
KC: I was getting into heavy metal years back. My husband started feeding me music to listen to and books to read. I became fascinated with the on stage persona of these bands and this world. A few years ago, I wrote a feature script about a huge metal band being blamed for a teen murdering his teacher. I was interested in exploring the aftermath of that blame and how it affected this man, his family and the band.
LL: Did you have some prior interest in black metal? Or were you looking for something relatively obscure to use as a vehicle for telling a very relatable story?
KC: I discovered black metal working at a bookstore when Lords of Chaos came out in the 90s. But not until a few years back did I really pay attention– listening to the music and digging into that world.
LL: Tell me a bit about your casting process. Jonny Mars, who was also in your last short Hellion, is exceptional in the lead role. As is Heather Kafka. Did you write this story with Jonny already in mind or at what point did you cast those actors in those roles?
KC: Jonny’s an extraordinary talent that I feel very fortunate to have worked with on several projects now. He’s like that 7-inch record you listen to over and over that the world hasn’t discovered yet, but when they do … it’s going to explode. I knew right off the bat I wanted Jonny to play this character. He was the only person I wanted, much less trusted. I knew how far he’d go with the character and frankly I just really trust him on screen.
I’d never worked with Heather but I’ve known who she was since she was on MTV’s Austin Stories. At the time, I worked at Book People and she worked next door at Whole Foods. I was so enamored by this super cool girl who was on TV. I think she’s fantastic in everything she does. And when I got her and Jonny into a room for call-backs, there was no question. They already had a history and a friendship that popped on screen. There was an intimacy I couldn’t capture otherwise.
LL: While I don’t find a lot of similarities between the two shorts, I find it interesting that both films deal with family, fathers in particular. Is that coincidence or is that a theme that you’re drawn to?
KC: I definitely find myself drawn to the parent/child relationship. There are universal themes and dynamics we can all relate to. Regardless of whether you’re a heavy metal singer or a refinery worker, we get what it means to have a family or be a parent or want so desperately to protect your children.
LL: Considering that this is a topic that is currently (and sadly too often) in the headlines and the national consciousness, and plays a major role in Black Metal, I’d be curious to get your thoughts on the connections between violence in entertainment and real life violence, if you think there is a connection.
Your heart breaks, plain and simple. It’s pretty emotionally crushing.
For me, I wanted to explore what it looked like after people started pointing fingers. How does someone deal with being blamed for something like that? Outside of the publicity, the press, the politics … what happens when that guy goes home? Has to wake up the next day and go to work? Talk about it with his family? What does that kind of weight and emotion look like? I just wanted to put a face and humanity behind it.
LL: Hellion and Black Metal both, to my mind, play like teasers to feature length films. They drew me in and left me wanting more. Is there a chance that you’d revisit either story down the road in a feature film?
KC: After about a year and a half of writing and workshopping, I literally just finished the feature script for Hellion last week. The project and our producer, Kelly Williams, went through the Sundance Creative Producer’s Lab this last year. We hope to give the Hellion feature legs this year.
Black Metal was pulled from the first act of a feature script I’ve been working on. Now that I’ve done the short and really immersed myself in that world, I’ll be diving back with fresh eyes. I’ll spend the next year trying to finish it up.
LL: Hellion was selected for Sundance last year. How has that impacted your film career, if it has? Talk a bit about your prior Sundance experience and what you’re looking forward to this year.
Sundance is like the holy grail of independent filmmaking. It’s been a major stamp of approval. It definitely legitimizes you in people’s eyes. And the people behind both the festival and the institute are the kindest, most supportive champions of filmmakers. They truly want you to succeed and produce great stories.
This year I feel a little busier than last year because we’ve got both Black Metal and the Hellion feature. So that means more meetings and obligations. I’m just hoping I get to see some movies. That’s the best part.