EXCL: Deadgirl’s Marcel Sarmiento & Gadi Harel

Directors of the upcoming indie horror movie

Love and loss figure prominently in many coming-of-age tales. None are so potent than those touched by the hand of Death. Where youth’s frivolous perception of mortality is given a rude wake-up call. Describe Deadgirl – the latest indie horror movie to explore this co-mingling of innocence and the inevitable – as a modern horror twist on River’s Edge and Stand By Me, directors Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel would agree you’d be dead-on. The Los Angeles-based filmmakers are readying their film’s debut at the Toronto International Film Festival this Saturday followed by a run at Fantastic Fest. When they get on the horn with ShockTillYouDrop.com to discuss the origins of Deadgirl their exhaustion is palpable. Post-production is running them ragged.

“It’s literally going to be one of those running to the festival with the print in hand, kind of things,” Sarmiento laughs wearily. He’s been collaborating on projects with pal Harel for years and their latest is the outcome of trying to find something they could creatively invest in, raise the money themselves and make the film their way under their Hollywoodmade production banner.

“Gadi had a friend from New York, Trent [Haaga], who had a lot of polished scripts,” says Sarmiento. “He gave us this one called Deadgirl but said we would never be able to make it.”

“He said it like, Don’t even waste your time,” adds Harel. “It’s about the horror of growing up, about two kids who are the outsiders. The ‘have nots’ in the school of ‘haves.’ They finally find something they can call their own.” More specifically, they find the body of a naked girl chained to a table and covered in plastic within the bowels of an abandoned hospital. Each have divergent reactions to this discovery and what follows is a warped struggle of doing what right and what is very, very wrong.

“People have read the script and said it could never be made,” says Sarmiento. “We had a take on it in way where we could preserve the idea but still make a movie out of it. We worked with Trent for about a year making changes. One that people could watch and a story that could reach the audience.”

Harel maintains it was important to make a film that would not repulse their despite its grim themes. “It gets under your skin and it goes far, but it’s never unwatchable. So much of what we do is left to the audiences’ imagination.”

Sarmiento continues, “We wanted to make a movie that was not just for those of us out there who can handle the extreme things in art and film. We wanted something that those guys would like but shouldn’t repel anyone because of the subject matter. There are a lot of good movies that have been pretty extreme and not a lot of people go see them because they just go too far for some people. Which is a shame because they have such great stories and great characters. Our story is what it is, and what happens does happen, but the characters are great and you’re drawn in. People seeing this are saying that they’re haunted by what happens in the movie, but not disgusted.”

At the center of Deadgirl‘s morality tug-o-war are Shiloh Fernandez (Red) and Noah Segan (Chain Letter) as Rickie and JT, respectively. The directors hail the actors for imbuing “their characters with real emotions, insecurities, tenderness, fears and hope. Deadgirlbecomes disturbing beyond its basic premise because the audience is invested in these two young men as real people.”

Joining Fernandez and Segan are Michael Bowen (Autopsy), Candice Accola, Andrew DiPalma and Jenny Spain, making her feature debut as the “Deadgirl,” who Sarmiento and Harel found at the end of an arduous audition process. The job required the actress to be naked for 20 days out of the production’s 25-day principal photography schedule.

“Someone pointed us to Jenny who lives in Michigan,” says Sarmiento. “We had her put some stuff on tape and we thought she had great instincts. She liked the script a lot and she was excited about the film. She was almost more excited than we were to be a part of it and we thought if you can get a partner like this in a movie that’s so tough, we’ll be in really good shape. We didn’t know what would happen working with her until it was happening and I have to say we couldn’t have made the movie without her.” Harel agrees, “She really set the mood for the set, if she had any problems, we had problems. She just let it roll and made the whole shoot possible.”

Also making the production (lensed in Los Angeles) a breeze for these two was the use of the Codex Digital system. Sarmiento is proud to boast they were the first to take a risk on this new capture technology which was later implemented by the Wachowski Bros. for Speed Racer.

Less than a week away from the premiere, the directors are curious about the pre-buzz online but are not watching it too closely. Deadgirl has no distribution yet, but the pair is hoping a deal will come out of one of the forthcoming festival screenings.

For photos and more info about the film, click here. Follow this link for screening info at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Source: Ryan Rotten


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