What made you guys decide to become filmmakers?
Sylvia: Jen and I have loved films since we were little girls. Being identical twins, we could try out for the same role and with child labor laws play the same part making the production’s life somewhat easier. As we grew older, the roles available went from cutesy with little substance to ultra sexy with little substance. There’s nothing wrong with sexualized roles, but there’s a big difference from what, for example, what Michael Fassbender did in SHAME and the roles of half naked actors that are there purely for mastubatory purposes with zero character development. After doing these roles for a few years, we decided that we would quit acting and use our extensive martial arts background to try stunt work. We might still be half naked, but at least we’d be kicking ass. That led us to an excellent outsourced stunt program at a place that claimed to be a film school. After the stunt portion ended, so did anything that resembled a school.
The final annoyance came when the budget for our final project was cut and we were told to merge with another group. Thank God that GRINDHOUSE was in the theatres at the time. We had been going to the theatre to watch the flick constantly. We came out of the theatre that day and Jen said, Dead Hooker in a Trunk. It would be the name of a fake trailer and we would make it on our own – doing the stunts, writing, directing, producing, and acting in it and we would include everything that the school forbid in their projects. We presented it at the end of graduation with half the audience walking out and the other half cheering so loud that you could barely hear the crude dialogue.
After the screening, we were asked about the feature and we bullshitted that we were totally going to make it into a feature. We went home, wrote the script, and then maxed out our credit cards to get the flick made. We really walked ass backwards into filmmaking. We were frustrated with the projects being made in the industry and decided to make our own.
Jen: Not enough women are encouraged to be filmmakers. Usually they’re told they could grow up to be actresses, or models, or singers. We’ve loved films all our lives and it’s the stories that really got me. It’s the same reason we both adore Stephen King. His books just take you into this unique and wonderful and terrifying world. That had a profound effect on us as children reading his novels. I like to, at least in part, blame him for the way we turned out. It was always the story telling that had the greatest appeal to us. We couldn’t figure out what we didn’t like about acting until we got older. It was the total lack of creative control. Actors never get to create their own characters and until you get to a certain level in your career you find yourself more often than not chasing after roles you don’t really want.
We have this strange set of skills that never seemed to go together. In our lifetime we’ve done acting, modelling, been fitness instructors and personal trainers, taught martial arts, done promotions, managed retail outlets, waitressed, bar tended and it’s never felt quite right. We draw, paint, sketch, sculpt, write, can talk with anyone on any subject for any duration of time, can read people easily, can make up stories in a heart beat, and none of that stuff really worked well together or allowed us to use all of our abilities. When we found filmmaking it just all fell into place. It felt like coming home.
You’ve become a real sensation since the critically acclaimed Dead Hooker in a Trunk, how hard was it to get where you are now?
Sylvia: We started DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK at the end of 2007 and it wasn’t until January 31st, 2012 that the film got it’s US DVD release through IFC Midnight, Bounty Films released it in the UK and Australia May 23rd, 2011. It’s been a long process. We’ve dedicated all of our time and money to getting the film made and released. It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of time, but it has been totally worth it. Not being able to afford food and being broke at Christmas are parts of it that really suck. Losing people in your life because they don’t understand why you are spending all of your time working sucks, too, but when you are pursuing something that means so much to you everything is worth the end result.
Jen: It’s a common misconception that we achieved this level of success with the film over night. Ha ha, so not true. It may seem like that because the film now has its world release and is readily available. It was years of hard work, social media, emailing reviewers and bloggers and film festivals asking them to check out the film. You’d be surprised how many people were put off by the title alone. We worked full time jobs and would wake up, get online, mail screeners out, follow up with people, work on promoting the film, go to our jobs, come home, work on the film as long as we could, sleep, and then wake up and do it all over again. You really do get what you put in. I’m very surprised when independent filmmakers complain that no one’s checking out their film. You’ve got to make them see it. There are so many independent films made out there that you have to take the initiative and get the word out yourself. If you don’t take the time to, why should anyone do it for you, you know?
Tell us more about Dead Hooker in a Trunk, what was the inspiration behind it?
Sylvia: Jen and I have been huge Robert Rodriguez fans. We grew up watching and rewatching his films. Rodriguez and Carlos Gallardo’s EL MARIACHI was a big inspiration. They made it for next to nothing and it was spectacular. The cool thing is not only were those movies cool, but the filmmakers let you in on how they pulled them off. The making of EL MARIACHI first hand account book – ‘Rebel Without A Crew’ – gave us a lot of insight about truly independent filmmaking. It made us feel like we could make our own film and we did.
The story of following in Robert and Carlos’ footsteps even reached Carlos who makes an appropriate cameo as God in the film. There’s nothing like following in your heroes’ example and then having them to talk to for advice while you are making your film. It was a very fucking cool experience and Carlos is one of the most generous filmmakers out there. He truly cares about independent artists.
Jen: GRINDHOUSE was a huge inspiration at the time. You can’t keep us out of the theatres when there’s a Robert Rodriguez film playing. The trailers inspired us to make an over the top, Grindhouse inspired faux trailer of our own. The best thing about doing a trailer is you only have to shoot the very best parts, only the cool shit. The trailer itself as well as the film ultimately were very laden with our sense of humor. We re-write movies often while we watch them, like, “hey, wouldn’t it be cool if this happened?” It rarely works out that way, though, so with our own film we finally had the opportunity to do exactly that.
Aside from Robert and Carlos, who were the most profound influences on DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK, we took from things we loved. We’re huge gamers and comic book lovers so you can see those influences in there. We intentionally never had our characters change their outfits to give them that super hero costume look and effect. We also never named them because we wanted their character types to speak for them and make them larger than life. By the end of the film, anyone can tell you what Badass wears. We would have to thank Stan Lee and his outstanding creations for that.
What is it about horror that you find so compelling?
Sylvia: It’s weird because we’ve always been so drawn to it. Maybe it’s partially the taboo of little girls not being supposed to like horror – which is utter and complete bullshit. Jen and I would go haunt our local video store and hang out in the horror section. We would look at the movie cases for the best monsters and gore. If we found a ‘good one’ we’d call the other over to share. Sometimes, because we weren’t always allowed to watch the films, we would make up what we thought the film was about – like if there was a monster with bloody teeth and a guy without a face, we would assume that the monster eats people’s faces.
Jen: It’s hard to say. We didn’t wake up one morning and go, “hey, let’s watch a whole load of horror movies.” We’ve loved it our entire lives. Scary stories, scary movies, Halloween. We’d see something scary, scream, and seconds later we’d be erupting in laughter. Foolishly friends would tell us what they were afraid of and, ourselves not having any irrational fears, would capitalize on them and scare the shit out of our friends.
Our mom had a massive collection of Stephen King novels, everything he had written, and we’d see her reading them and naturally wanted to read them as well. We were still in Elementary School and she had even said if we could read the book we could watch the film adaption. As a result, we began reading them and developed this love for horror and humor. Stephen King has this incredible way of having you terrified in one instant and laughing despite yourself in the next. We just came to believe that that was what horror was supposed to be like. We still feel that way. I love a little joke thrown in there.
What has been the most difficult hurdle to overcome on your journey?
Sylvia: My grandfather taught me something very important when I was younger – if you treat people with kindness and respect, the whole world opens up to you. On HOOKER, almost no one got paid, so if you’re asking people to work for free, you better treat them kindly and work your ass off to earn their time and effort. It’s worked very well for me and I won’t ever change that, but some people who I have encountered in this industry misunderstand my kindness for a form of weakness. I don’t treat people that I work with like shit, some people don’t get that. The newest thing that I’m actually really shocked by is the treatment I have received by people regarding my age and gender. I’ve had people act incredibly disgusting towards me and my sister – completely inappropriate sexual advances that range from being told that ‘these things are expected perks’ to getting grabbed at meetings to being referred to as a ‘little girl’ and ‘girls don’t know anything about filmmaking.’ It’s bullshit and I don’t tolerate it, but it’s sad to see that kind of ignorance exist in any industry.
Jen: I agree with Sylv completely. Before experiencing it myself I assumed that blatant sexism was a thing of the past. I mean, it is absolutely ridiculous to think that someone would be more or less capable as a filmmaker based on their gender. I’m not a little girl. I’m almost thirty. I have a hard time believing that a man my age would be called a “little boy”. Seriously. It’s disgusting. Unfortunately these people somehow seem to find a way to survive in this industry like cockroaches, no offense of course intended to cockroaches. There are men who get into this business and somehow claw their way into power purely to take advantage of girls by being able to say, “I’m a producer” or “I work in the film business.” They are the same kind of men who will clumsily come onto you promising they (and they alone) can help you get further in your career and the moment you shoot them down, they try to make your life a living hell. A good friend told me that some men in this industry, if they can’t fuck you, will do everything they can to fuck you over. Dealing with these people has been the greatest challenge.
When you’re not making kick-ass movies, what are you generally doing?
Sylvia: I’m almost always working – it’s a pretty fucking awesome job and I have no complaints. I’m a complete nerd – I love playing video games, reading comic books, and I collect tarantulas. There are fourteen currently in my collection. I adore horror movies – Jen and I try to watch at least one new movie a day, often three movie marathons.
Jen: ha ha, working on the next one! We love what we do and find ourselves even working during our down time. We love writing. We’ve got a stock pile of scripts with new ones being worked on all the time. I collect weapons. I love playing around with them, it’s a great work out. Video games are a huge love of ours. If we truly are taking time off we game. Hard. Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, and Silent Hill are our favorites series. We’re playing Skyrim right now. It’s awesome.
What has been the most rewarding part of your career so far?
Sylvia: It’s a very rewarding experience to tell stories and share them with people. We get messages from people all over the world who have seen DEAD HOOKER and are looking forward to AMERICAN MARY. When someone writes to me about seeing my film and that they really dug it – that’s the best thing ever.
Jen: The people. Definitely the people we’ve met. We wake up every morning to emails, tweets, and facebook messages from people who have loved the film. We’ve also met some incredible artists because of it. I feel truly privileged. Especially when someone sees DHIAT and reads about our story and tells us that they’ve always wanted to make a movie and we’ve inspired them to. It makes us so happy.
Who or what do you class as your main inspiration?
Sylvia: Amusing Jen. If an idea I come up with doesn’t disgust or make Jen laugh, then it’s not worth my time. We’re really brutal with each other’s ideas, but I think that’s why only the best shit makes it through the process. Some people have our same sense of dark humour and they are going to enjoy the projects we make.
Jen: ha ha. We totally amuse one another. I like to put that “what would I want to see happen” quality into our work. After all, we’re horror fans ourselves. We are our own demographic. Horror has fallen into the wrong hands and some of the work released is just plain insulting to the audience. Horror fans aren’t morons. You can’t just throw some blood around and say it good enough, but that does seem to be the case.
Tell us more about American Mary, and how you came up with the idea
Sylvia: I was dating this guy who showed me something online that disturbed the fuck out of me. When something scares me, I look into it – usually fear is associated with a lack of knowledge about something. I got obsessed and learned as much as I could just for my own amusement. Years later, we make DEAD HOOKER and we send the trailer to all the directors involved in GRINDHOUSE saying, you inspired us to make this. We didn’t really expect to hear back from anyone, but Eli Roth got back to us within a couple days and gave us a lot of advice with the film. Then he asked about our other scripts. At the time, there were none, so I lied and pitched some ideas that I thought I could write with Jen pretty quickly. He liked the one about the medical student based on the internet thing. We wrote it in two weeks and sent it over. I’ve since came clean about it. Eli’s a great guy and nice as hell – he has been an amazing friend to us and the movie wouldn’t have happened if it were not for his request.
Jen: AMERICAN MARY is the polar opposite of DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK in so many ways. Whereas DHIAT is chaotic, MARY is calculated, and deliberate, and just beautiful. I’m really excited to share the film with the world. Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps) is pitch perfect as our Mary Mason. She’s going to blow people away.
Is there anything you can tell us about your upcoming projects Bob and The Man Who Kicked Ass?
Sylvia: It’s funny because we were trying to get AMERICAN MARY made and it is a very different horror – it got passed on a lot. It got passed on so much, that we thought we would have to make a few more films before someone gave us the opportunity to make MARY. We wrote BOB and even got into early prep for the film when we got green lit on MARY. BOB is the most humorous and vile scripts we have ever written. It’s very much a horror comedy unlike anything that’s ever been before, we’re getting back to him as soon as we’re finished up with MARY.
Sylvia: Yeah, I love BOB. I love MARY, too, of course. BOB is hilarious and vicious and again something completely different from us. Well, maybe not completely different. Horror and humor will always be in our work. THE MAN WHO KICKED ASS? Oh, that’s a special one. It’s epic. I don’t imagine we’ll get a chance to do that one for a while, but it’s this legendary, gorgeous story that really shows our love of fantasy. It’s a beautiful blend of extreme violence and the most artful story telling. It’s got some of the best dialogue and characters we’ve ever written. But, that’s so cruel of me to say because that one won’t be made for awhile. It’s a much bigger scale and will need a bigger budget. Of course if someone comes along and says they want to make it, we’d make it tomorrow, ha ha
If you were to set a goal for the future, what would it be?
Sylvia: To get to a point in my career where I can not only finance my own work, but give new filmmakers an opportunity to make their films. I feel like there is a lot of talent out there, but it’s the same recycled soulless shit that keeps getting made. I want to be a part of changing that.
Jen: Of course, I share that goal. I would love to continue to build Twisted Twins Productions. There are so many films and side projects we’d like to do. I would love to one day have our names synonymous with horror.
And finally, who is your favourite horror icon?
Sylvia: Stephen King introduced me to horror. My mom had a rule, if we read the book; we could watch the flick. She tricked us into reading at a high school level at nine and it was some of the best experiences of my life. I love his mix of humour and horror – it’s had a lasting effect on me.
Jen: Stephen King! He’s had a real influence on us and the work we do. I’d love to one day meet the man. It would be a dream come true to do a film adaptation on one of his books, but only with his blessing.
Well there you have it folks. Keep an eye on The Twisted Twins! Chances are their movies will be hitting the big screens near you in no time at all.