The Horror Nation has been following the film Infliction for some months now, and felt it fitting to extend our coverage to the actors themselves, with some insight from the director Jack T Smith behind us (in the form of an earlier interview), we wanted to give them a chance to speak about the film and the experience they gained. We would like to say thank you to Elliott, Ana, and Jason for taking the time to chat with us. We expect to be seeing great things in the future from these three, and hope you enjoy getting to know them a bit more!
Jason ~ My name is Jason Mac and I play John Stiles. John is the catalyst for his brother, Kenny, and himself to set out on this journey of redemption as they see it. John is driven, focused, and has one purpose in his mind...justice.
Elliott ~ I play the younger of the two brothers in this film, named Kenneth Stiles (goes by Kenny). He is a very introverted, yet perceptive kid who's soul loyalty to his brother takes him down this rabbit hole of revenge.
Ana ~ My name is Ana Shaw and I play Andrea, John and Kenny’s older sister. She is in love with her father. She wants to be with him. It is a very unhealthy love for the obvious reasons, but I believe she needed to feel loved. and she associated that with her father loving her. She hated her brothers because she wanted him (dad) all to herself. I think that is where the rivalry between her and her mother stems from, also. They both needed to be the one that her father chose and were never able to grow up as independent people and therefore felt safest and the most comfort under his control. All Andrea's actions stemmed from that.
Jason ~ I became involved through the normal process of auditioning and then a callback. I do believe that I got in the process a little bit later as I sent a tape in after the deadline I think. But I figured that I liked the sides and what I saw in the character in that and wanted to take a chance that maybe casting and Jack would take a look at it. Evidently they did and I got a call from my agent that they wanted to to drive from Atlanta(where I was living at the time) to Charlotte for a callback. As I got up there what I noticed they were doing was essentially building a family. They wanted us to look like we would be brothers and sisters and Mother and Father and all that stuff. It was pretty neat.
Elliott ~ The talent agency I was currently with in Wilmington, N.C. informed be about the open casting call in Charlotte. I was currently living in my hometown of Norfolk, VA but decided it was a potentially great opportunity so made the drive down for all rounds of casting.
Ana ~ I’ve been friends with the casting director DJ Barton for years, and he was nice enough to hook me up with an audition.
-When were you each bit by the bug (acting) so to say?
Jason ~ I've always been interested in acting, but I didn't really begin pursuing until a couple years after I graduated from college, with a degree in finance no less. I'm probably supposed to be a banker, but I love this too much. At the time I worked for a microbrewery, RJ Rockers, in South Carolina and I would travel up and down the East Coast selling beer to distributors and restaurants. I really enjoyed the people I worked with and what I did, but I wondered if that was going to make me happy in the long run. That's when I made the dive into acting. Started doing some independent and student projects and making stuff. I made plenty of mistakes but learned so much along the way. And now here we are.
Elliott ~ I grew up doing a lot of musical theatre, but that passion took a back seat through high school and college. I obtained a theatre minor in college but still wasn't terribly active in university productions. It was not until a year after finishing my undergrad and working a dull 9-5 office job that served as motivation to get back involved in acting. Doing small scale plays and film projects in the Hampton Roads area really rejuvenated my passion to the point where I decided it was something I wanted to try to make a career out of.
Ana ~It was always something I wanted to try, but never had the guts. Then my senior year of high school I said screw it I’ll never see these people again. I auditioned for a school play and ever since it’s all I want to do.
Jason ~ I leave the big picture to Jack as the director. I understood it and knew the message this film was sending. But my job was to convey and portray John as honorably as I could. And that is what attracted me. This chance to portray such a driven guy who you don't really know is he good or bad. There isn't a black and white here. It's definitely gray.
Elliott ~ Still being a fairly new actor, when any opportunity arises to be cast as a lead in a feature film, you take it. We did not get the full script until after booking but I will say that the scenes and sides that we did have to audition with were written in such a natural and passionate way, it made it easier to immediately start falling into these characters and finding their drive.
Ana ~ Yes and how dark it was. I usually do comedy so to get a script that required me to go to the darker places was exciting. I loved the challenge of stepping into the shoes of someone who has experienced so much.
-The film delves into some pretty dark, powerful emotions for the characters, how did each of you prepare for such gritty roles?
Jason ~ To understand these emotions and the ramifications of some of the actions in the film I spoke with a psychiatrist about child abuse and the effects of it. I also spoke to someone who was abused as a child and he was very honest with me. He's in his 30's and he is just starting to cope with what happened. It blew me away, and made it more real to me. I also realized when we were done filming we had an after party and I remember the moment it hit me. I had been walking around mad for the past 7 weeks. I don't walk around in character 24/7 and I respect everyone on sets but a piece of John had been resting on me for the entire shoot and I felt it lifted once we were done. That was a pretty wild realization.
Elliot ~ It was rewarding to be cast as character who is naturally almost the polar opposite of how view myself in reality. It's a challenge, but one that I think most actors crave. I had to totally play outside of myself. Rather than being outspoken and social, I had to internalize more. I prepared a lot by going to crowded and typically social places alone. I would sit alone and observe. Kenny has so much repressed shame and anger, I focused on how he contains that. Before shooting, Jack and I spent a lot of time discussing Kenny and to what extreme to take his anti-social behavior. Using motivation from characters in other films and actually making mental references and finding inspiration from a person in my childhood, we refined Kenny to where we wanted him. It was great that Jack let us have such a hands on influence.
Ana ~ Research helped a lot. How does being abused both physically and sexually as a child shape the grown up you’ll become. But I think the most important part for portraying Andrea was to remember that the reason for all her choices no matter what happened to her was that she was in love with her father. All her actions would stem back to him, and that’s a whole other bag of worms to then layer on top of.
Jason ~ I would love to say I have had extensive training in gun play and fighting but I don't. I've had some basic training and done a few stunts but this stuff we made sure we were as safe as we could be and communicated and luckily we all came out safe.
Elliot ~ I took some stage combat in college which certainly helped in a broad sense but a lot of it was trial and error on set. Seeing what works and what doesn't. The scene where I fall down the flight of stairs certainly got interesting but everyone was on the same page to do whatever necessary to sell it. Whether it was strapping me with makeshift protective gear (pillows and bicycle helmets) or throwing the camera down on it's own, it all came together. That's one of the joys of working on an indie set.
Ana ~ Definitely no training going in, which was good because Andrea wasn't supposed to have fight or gun skills. She is a survivor and her main weapon of choice, though there would be a good argument for a fire poker, is manipulation. As for training... Get pissed and try not to actually hit anyone with the fire poker. I will say I researched what happens to your body when you get shot (spoiler alert). I watched my fair share of other movies where someone gets shot, so I wouldn't embarrass myself. It didn't work it was still embarrassing, Jack stepped in a told me how he wanted it, which was a relief.
-Jack has been pretty open about how the movie sort of shook him emotionally, as performers since finishing the project have you found it hard to let go of the characters?
Jason ~ I love the character of John and I feel very resolved the way the movie ended. He reached and completed his ultimate objectives, I think he is at peace now. As far as me moving on I mentioned earlier in the story of the after party. But I have been able to leave him but the experience of making the film will stay with me forever. It was a honor to be a part of it.
Elliott ~ I think the insight I gained from playing such an emotionally tortured character will always stick with me. You take something away that hopefully makes you a better actor and a better person. A gained or heightened perspective. But you have to break that 4th wall and move on after the project is over.
Ana ~ Well it’s been awhile since we actually shot the film. Happy to say at this point I’m all better, but immediately afterwards yes you feel, for lack of a better word, icky. You feel icky because there is a chunk, though small, of your life where you had to go to the head space of I’m in love with my father, I’m the type of person who would give my brothers to him, so that he’ll love me, and if he’d ask, my daughter. And the only reason I don’t want to is out of jealousy that he’s not choosing me. It takes a few showers to get that off.
Jason ~ The way we did the found footage definitely involved some differences in normal film. For one Joe, the DP, became a character and would have to mimic our camera movements. John and Kenny had very different styles of holding their camera and Joe did an amazing job of conveying that. Also, we had to act to a piece of tape to the side of the lens at times which took a minute to get used to. Its so strange because you train yourself to ignore the camera and now you are in a situation where the camera is real and in the scene and you have to acknowledge it
Elliott ~ This was something I don't think ANYONE on set fully expected and was prepared for. Jack is great at blocking out and shot-listing every one of his scenes with very precise detail. But we ran into the unexpected all the time. We underestimated the tediousness of having to make sure every camera angle matched every camera movement. What I mean is that if the shot was from John's camera and it showed me holding my camera a certain way or making a certain movement, when the shot was reversed, we had to make sure there was continuity there, meaning my camera perspective must move the way the audience had just seen my arm moving. That was a job that had to be done everyday, with every scene. Throughout shooting we got more fluid with it and it became almost like second nature, but the second you got careless, that error was there to haunt you. The hotel mirror scene in particular was the hardest scene in my opinion we had to shoot. It was all one continuous take which is hard enough, but then you have to somehow hide the DP behind me who is actually shooting the thing, but still get John in frame in the mirror. There was a lot of diving, ducking and synchronized dancing between me and the DP, Joe White, to make that happen. An amazing but LONG night to get it where Jack wanted it.
Ana ~ Andrea never had to be the film maker so I didn’t have to deal with those challenges really, but as someone who loves film and the whole process of making them it was amazing to see it being made in a way I hadn’t worked with before.
-We all know films get edited and sometimes great stuff can end up on the cutting room floor, so I am curious as to whether there are any scenes that didn't make the movie that you really wish the audience had got to see?
Jason ~ I could be leaving some stuff out, but I think all but just 2 scenes made it into the movie. This thing was a well orchestrated machine. Jack knew exactly what he wanted and pretty much what we shot made it into the film.
Elliott ~ There were just a couple short moments of dialogue that did not make the final cut. Jack got everything in there that he wanted.
Ana ~ It’s been so long I could be wrong, but I actually think everything I shot made it into the movie. That never happens so it’s pretty cool to say.
Jason ~ My favorite memory is easy. It was the entire process. We all slept in the same house together and I got the chance to bond incredibly with Jack, Elliott, and Joe especially. It became such a personal experience and it helped to form me as an actor and it changed me. I truly am grateful for the entire experience.
Elliott ~ This was the first feature film I had been a part of, so the whole experience was priceless for me. The input Jack allowed us to have, the house that Jack, Jason and I (along with some of the production team) shared for 3 months, the great locations etc. I was just wide-eyed the entire time trying to take everything in and live up to the responsibility and expectations Jack had for me. Just absorbing everything I could on set, I walked away after it was all over feeling like I genuinely knew what it takes to make a story come alive into a real film.
Ana~ Lying in the hole with my face cut off, and bones right beside me. I remember thinking no one else in the world can say they are doing this right now, how awesome is my life!
- I notice, ANA, the guys both mention everyone living together for the period of filming, did that include you as well? If not can you tell us a bit about why and how it impacted your performance?
Ana~ I didn’t live in the house with everyone else. I think not living with everyone was good for the character dynamic with her brothers because she wasn’t supposed to have their bond. I did however spend a lot of time up there during the rehearsal process which was good because though she wasn’t emotionally close with her brothers she did grow up with them so there needed to be that familiarity. The audience needed to feel there was a history between the entire family. What was funny is other than her love to love and hate to love history with her father the person my character has the biggest and worst history with was her mother, played by Catherine Trail. I’ve know Catherine for years, have worked with her before and love the woman to death, which made it even more fun playing a character who ended up hating her to death.
-Now that everything is said and done, what is the biggest lesson that each of you walks away with?
Jason ~ Be prepared.
Elliott ~ I learned SO much just about being on a set, technical aspects of shooting, the entire process. But a valuable lesson that I think has helped me a lot since being out here in LA (to the credit of Jason) is that this is a business and you are there to do a job. Jason kept reminding me of that, and that has been so important to get ingrained in my mind, especially here in LA where you don't get spoiled with close-knit, collaborative groups as much. You show up, and you do your job, to the best of your ability, whether you believe or agree with it or not, you have to put yourself completely and totally behind it because at the end of the day, you are being payed to do a job, and if nothing else, you want to do it professionally and to the best of your ability. Because people will remember that and that's how you build a reputation. Jason opened my eyes to the business side of this passion and you have to keep that in mind if you want to seriously make it a career.
Ana~ Hand warmers are amazing, take them with you to every night shoot!
-Are there any upcoming projects that fans can look forward to? If so what?
Jason ~ Right now I've got an episode of NCIS: Los Angeles that will be the season 6 premier this fall. So that's exciting!
Elliott ~ I have a really fun role in another indie coming out called JackRabbit29. It was a great set with a super talented director named Kyle Klubal. Look for it!
Ana ~ Yes, I just finished a short film called Everyday Magic, that has been entered into the made in charlotte film competition. All the films can be viewed and voted on at http://www.madeincharlottefilm.com/web/mic/content/PlaceVote.aspx starting Friday August 8th!
-And lastly, is there anything in closing that you would like to add?
Jason ~ I think that covers it! Thank you so much for allowing me the chance to answer some questions and hopefully we will make another film and we'll do it again!
Elliott ~ Just a big THANK YOU Heather for taking interest and helping to get our work out there. We really all appreciate the support and enthusiasm that the 'truly independent' film world deserves.
Ana ~ Just that even with the dark nature of the film I had a blast working on the project and that was all thanks to the rest of the cast and crew. Thank you for watching the film and taking the time to interview all of us.
If you would like more information of the film Infliction or director Jack T Smith follow the links below to our accompanying pieces including a film review and interview with Jack Smith.