Filmmaker Ken Guertin was kind enough to talk about his latest film Antisocial Behavior, and also how he got into the craft in the first place. Out of all the filmmakers Influx Magazine has had the pleasure of speaking to, Ken is possibly the most widely experienced. There can’t be much left for the talented director, editor, producer, writer (to name only a few of his many skills), to try.
by Nav Qateel
Nav Qateel: How did you get started in the movie business?
Ken Guertin: Started shooting super 8 films when I was a kid, but it was expensive and I only made a couple. I started playing bass at 15 and then music took over my life for most of my late teens. During the time I was getting a degree in business at Ferris State University. I was in a rock band and the drummer brought film equipment to band practice one day. I never even knew I could get a degree and have that much fun. Immediately, I switched my major to Television Production. I created a television show called Make Believe it aired at universities all over the US in 1989. I was very lucky to get an internship at a company that had one of the first AVID systems, it was Beta software. I worked there for several years, then I wrote and directed my first feature at age 27. The Incorporated was released in 23 countries; it still shows up on cable in places like South Africa. I spend a lot of time working in Television but movies are really where my heart is. I put in 100% no matter what I’m working on.
Nav: How did you come up with the idea for Antisocial Behavior.
Ken: I co-wrote the script with Chris Perdue, we struggled to come up with an idea that was different than the typical horror plot. I really like the stories about people losing their grip on how they connect to the world. I believed watching someone lose that would be like watching them lose everything. I filmed an artist painting with a gas mask on and loved the look of it as well as the idea of the eccentric artist. I did a lot of research regarding the repression of memories. What could someone go through that would be so traumatizing they might block it out as if it never happened and what would that do to them. When the script was complete I talked to a psychiatrist to make sure we were on the right track. After watching the film, he remarked that you can’t put people under that quickly because it can really cause major trauma.
Nav: You’ve successfully handled almost every facet of filmmaking. Do you feel it’s given you an edge?
Ken: Yes, it’s a tremendous help. Writing is by far my favorite part of the process. I love being immersed in a story. I really enjoy directing but it can be very hard work with a low budget. For example, we shot so much of Antisocial Behavior in my house, all my furniture was in the back yard for weeks. But you do what you have to do. I’ve logged the most hours editing and I have a love/hate relationship with it. I began editing on the AVID in 1990, and was an assistant on the first feature ever cut on one. I find that my editing background is real advantage on set. On Antisocial Behavior we shot 35mm so I had to be careful. We only had so much film, so as the director I could rely on my instincts as an editor to make sure we had enough coverage. Sometimes we could only get one take because we only had one piece of film long enough. I did not shoot Antisocial Behavior but I had fun being the DP on three other feature films. I really love acting and I hope to do more in the future. I hope as my career progresses, that I can continue to utilize all my different skills in a really great way.
Nav: The mix of practical and CGI effects in Antisocial Behavior were extremely effective. Are you comfortable using CGI?
Ken: The effects work was done by Steve Gibbons using a Flame. He did an amazing job bringing the “Ball of Evil,” as we started calling the things Joe threw up, to life. I love having the opportunity to use CGI and am very comfortable using it, wish I could do more.
Nav: Which filmmakers inspire you?
Ken: I get inspired more by individual films then by filmmakers, although, some filmmakers really stand out. I grew up watching Steven Spielberg films, Indiana Jones, ET, Close Encounters and always enjoyed them. David Fincher’s Fight Club is one of my favorites and I like everything he’s directed. I really enjoy the uniqueness that the Coen Brothers create in their films likeThe Big Lebowski, O’ Brother, and Fargo. Clint Eastwood’s, Unforgiven and Letters from Iwo Jimaare amazing films. I also admire Tim Burton, Ron Howard, Kathryn Bigelow. Michael Mann’sHeat, Collateral and Last of the Mohicans are very inspiring. I like everything thing James Cameron makes and also Edward Zwick’s Glory, Blood Diamond and The Last Samurai. Scorsese’s Shutter Island, Gangs of New York and The Departed, plus I also think Wolf of Wall Street is fantastically edited. Paul Thomas Anderson’s, Magnolia and There Will Be Blood are outstanding films. Zack Snyder’s Watchmen and Sucker Punch are visually cutting edge. And I’m impressed with filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh who seems to do what he wants. Christopher Nolan’sMomento and Inception are awesome. Guillermo Del Toro has an amazing imagination and unique vision. No one makes a film like David Lynch. The list of films and directors could go on and on. All aspects of a good film can really inspire me, such as an amazing performance, score, sound design, cinematography or editing. Seeing people do their best makes me feel like I need to create and do my best. They make me want to make films.
Nav: There were quite a few scenes that really stood out, with my personal favorite being set in the dog-pound, when Joe begins to hallucinate that he’s attacking the angry guy. What scene was your favorite and why?
Ken: I do really like that scene as well, Joe is really channeling rage there, but my favorite scene is in the middle of the film after the therapist takes him back to his childhood. It’s the scene that takes place at the end of this section of the film and it involves Joe when he is young. I don’t want to give this part of the film away. I really love how the slow motion and effects worked. It’s the only part of the film I still rewind and watch again every time I see it, even though I’ve seen it hundreds of times. I’m still amazed by it, the scene really turned out the way I had hoped.
Nav: The casting for Antisocial Behavior was very good. How closely did Joe, played by Jackson Kuehn, and Wendy, played by the lovely Mary Elizabeth Boylan, match the characters you originally envisioned?
Ken: We auditioned a lot of people but waited until we met the actors who fit the role, so I would say very close. Jackson Kuehn came to the audition with paint splatters on his jeans and he was really able to capture the solitude that the character is cloaked in. In general, Jackson is very outgoing and likable, but while shooting he quickly became the character as soon as we rolled. He really gave everything he had and I think it shows on screen. Mary Elizabeth Boylan, who plays Wendy, was also what we were looking for. She is very honest and open about herself. She was able to play Wendy as quirky and a bit naive in regard to relationships. You believe that she just might go along with the insane things that Joe is going through, just to have someone in her life. And of course Mary is nothing like Wendy. She is really a fun amazing person with such a positive attitude about herself, film and life.
Nav: Has Antisocial Behavior garnered any festival awards?
Ken: Yes, we just started our festival run and the won Best Editing at the Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles and we were also nominated for Best Editing and Best Dialogue at the Action on Film International Film Festival held in Monrovia Ca. At the Laughlin International Film Festival in Nevada, the film won Best Thriller/Horror film. All the festivals have been such a blast and I’m very thankful that the film was chosen to screen at them.
Nav: Do you have anything new in the works?
Ken: Currently, I’m directing a music video and I edit national commercials and promos regularly so I’m always working on something. I’m writing another script, and for now, writing it with no budget in mind. Just letting my imagination run wild. I really want to make sure I love the next project I do because I live with it for such a long time.
Nav: Thank you, Ken Guertin.