Monday, May 25, 2009

DEADGIRL / SOMEONE'S KNOCKING AT THE DOORThe Evening Class Interview With Noah Segan

Having already spoken with Gadi Harel when he accompanied Deadgirl to San Francisco's IndieFest earlier this Spring, I welcomed the opportunity to follow through with Noah Segan who was in town filming Peaches Christ's All About Evil. During down time on the set at San Francisco's Victoria Theatre, Noah and I sat down to talk.

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Michael Guillén: It's a great pleasure to meet you, Noah. I've become a fan of your work by way of Deadgirl. Recently I interviewed Gadi for that film. Then I went back and caught Brick.

Noah Segan: Have you had a chance to see Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever?

Guillén: Not yet.

Segan: I'll tell ya, I've seen the current cut and it's fantastic! I was invited to a Fangoria panel at their last convention for the Cabin Fever film. Of course, there were a few people who had seen Deadgirl at the time; it hadn't really gotten out there yet. It started with a festival run. A lot of people had seen Brick. So there was some overlapping of people who thought they might be fans of the Cabin Fever film. I feel really good about it. I feel it will slot in nicely.

Guillén: You've done about nine films in the last year or two.

Segan: In the last couple of years I've done about 10 movies, yeah; I'm lucky. And I produced my first film last year. Are you familiar with
Chad Ferrin and his work? He did the Troma film Unspeakable, The Ghouls, Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill!, and I produced his last film and starred in it as well: Someone's Knocking At the Door.

Guillén: Paul Sado—who wrote your mini-biography for IMdb—said that you were self-educated and too intelligent to graduate from high school. Is that true?

Segan: No. Sado was intelligent enough to write that. He's an old buddy of mine from New York and a very smart writer who imparted a love of Terry Southern, Sam Peckinpah, Monte Hellman, Warren Oates, and '60s counterculture upon me. He put that up on IMdb years ago before I had even done Brick. Over the last few years as I've worked more and become a little more well-known, and done press, and had proper biographies printed, I keep expecting that IMdb biography to be pulled down. It's hilarious; but, it's not professional. I keep expecting some business person to yank it down. I keep telling people I work with not to take it down. I want to see how long I can go with this absurd bio on IMdb. My favorite quote is: "Noah's favorite actor is Warren Oates, who died, as Noah expects to do one day as well."

Guillén: I truly admired your performance as JT in Deadgirl. I recognize it as a difficult performance. Do you tend to accept roles where the characters are barely likeable?

Segan: [Chuckles.] I think I'm the most likeable character in the world in Brick. I'm the sweetest guy in the universe. Dode is one of the most heartfelt people in the world.

Guillén: JT, however, is another story. Are unlikeable characters challenging for you? Is that why you choose them?

Segan: I don't know. I tend to not look at the roles in terms of likeability or even in terms of good and evil. I've been lucky in that the roles I've performed that I find the most fulfilling are ones that are conflicted; ones where the character or the circumstances are ambivalent. Deadgirl is a perfect example of that. The whole film is about ambivalence, and the conflict of youth, masculinity, friendship and power. There's a lot of that in Brick as well. It's easy for me to do those roles because I'm personally conflicted. I'd like to think most actors are. I'd like to think that most actors who immerse themselves in their work do so because they're trying to answer questions about themselves. There's some catharsis in that as well. I'm a pretty nice guy. [Laughs.] I'm not really a jerk; but, I think playing jerks helps me be a nice guy. It's definitely therapy, man.

I look at my character JT in Deadgirl and I see a guy who really does want to be liked and who wants to be strong, powerful and helpful to his friend. He wants to achieve a level of success in a way. His relationship with the dead girl, with Jenny Spain's character, is one where he's trying as hard as he can to get somewhere in life. He thinks he's found the girl of his dreams. He thinks he's going to have a future. He thinks he's hustling on his way somewhere. It's tragic. It's more apt to say I have a tendency to play tragic characters than evil ones.

Guillén: Can you speak to your attraction to genre films?

Segan: I'm a fan of Peter Jackson and these guys that push the envelope into different genres within the horror genre. That's the beauty of working within a genre. When you have these established rules and your audiences are aware of them, then they're also aware when you break the rules. It's obvious when you break the rules and make that joke or go too far or don't go far enough. That's a great challenge. There's a great delight in that. That's why I like genre fans and why I'm a genre fan and why I like working in those environments. If you really want to read a manifesto, you should read this piece I did for
Bloody Disgusting after Deadgirl played Toronto. They just fucking let me go off and I gave them this manifesto on genre films and westerns. They printed every fucking word, which is the beauty of writing online. It's the ultimate soapbox. If you want to look that up, it's my best piece on where it's all coming from for me.

Guillén: Were there challenges preparing for the role of JT?

Segan: Right before I was to start Deadgirl, I was off in a far faraway land shooting another movie. I was concerned about how to negotiate the role of JT and how to remain in the zone. Simply enough, remain in character or to be able to get back in touch with the character on a regular basis, right? I was also about to move. I had secured a new apartment on the other side of town. I lived on the beach and was moving towards the city. I was bitching and moaning, to be honest with you, at these other actors on this other set, concerned about how I was going to stay in character and have a handle on the character. It's fairly easy for me to figure out the arc of a character, especially in something as well-written as Deadgirl. You read the script and take your character out. You see where he goes and you try to figure out where he's been, maybe where he's going afterwards, what he's doing when you don't see him; it's a little crossword puzzle. But how do you keep that up? How do you maintain that?

I was talking about it to some other actors who I respected and one of them said, "Well, when I was working on a film that put me in a similar situation, I moved out of my house. I stayed in a hotel somewhere even though I was shooting in a location near where I lived. I lived in this hotel. I didn't own anything. I didn't have any belongings. I was quiet and alone." Knowing what I was going through at the time with moving, I decided that was my opportunity to do something similar. When I boxed everything up at the old apartment, I paid an extra month's rent, left everything there, went to the new place, put up blackout curtains and lived there alone without anything on the walls, no pictures of my mom or my sister, no clothing of my own. I had a blanket but it wasn't my blanket. It didn't smell like me, you know what I mean? That was the important transition: to make sure that I could be alone. The important part wasn't remaining in character, it was insuring that nothing came into the character that wasn't supposed to be there. When I was not working—which on a set like Deadgirl or All About Evil—you're only not working a few hours of the day; but, it was important to me that during those few hours I was shut down. It was almost like those hours didn't exist.

Guillén: And because of the controversial relationship with women in Deadgirl, it was important for you not to have contact with the women in your life?

Segan: Yes! It was very important for me not to have contact with the women in my life. There weren't many women on set other than Jenny Spain, who played the dead girl, who also understood what I was going through. She was sensitive and one of the most professional people on that set. At the very beginning of the process I also took Gadi and Marcel aside and I said, "Look. I'm not the kind of actor in general who feels like he needs to be patted on the head every time he does something well, as much as I appreciate it when someone pats me on the head or the back." I said, "In this particular case especially, whatever attention you would normally think to give to me, give it to Jenny instead and leave me alone. Just let me be in my weird, dark place and I promise you it will be worth it.

Guillén: Which it was.

Segan: You can keep yourself occupied on a set, especially if you had as much stuff to say as I did in that movie. I had a lot of homework; but—while we were shooting—it was important that when I was off that set, I was not in my own head. I wasn't Noah. I was no one. It wasn't that I needed to be JT 24 hours a day; it was just that I needed to get this gross, vitriolic, chauvinist, violent person to go away, and Noah needed to go away, so I could be in an empty place.

Guillén: I understand that Someone's Knocking At the Door will be playing Another Hole in the Head?

Segan: Yeah. I want to try to coordinate something with All About Evil and Hole in the Head to, perhaps, have Darren and/or Joshua come by on the day of, do a little introduction to my film and then, afterwards, maybe show a minute-long teaser of All About Evil. Or have Kris Boxell, our graphic designer, come by with some artwork. More than anything, it occurred to me that many of the people who helped out on All About Evil are not Hollywood movie people. It'd be nice to give audiences a taste of All About Evil because it may be six months to a year before the film is finished and able to be seen by a wide audience in theatres. It'd be nice to keep the San Francisco vibe going.

Guillén: How did you become involved in being the producer for Someone's Knocking At the Door?

Segan: I'd been introduced to Chad Ferrin through
Trent Haaga who wrote Deadgirl and who is a very close friend of mine. Trent and Chad have worked together a bunch. Chad and I had similar taste in film. We hit it off and became buddies. He sent me the script for Someone's Knocking At the Door. It had been presented to him. It was the first time anyone had ever asked him to direct something he hadn't written. He called me up and said, "Someone just sent me this script. I'm going to do some work on it. You've got really good taste in movies, do you have time to take a look at the script and let me know what you think? Maybe give me some notes on it? I don't know where to start." The next thing we knew it was a couple of months later and we had taken the script apart and put it back together again. It was very much a different kind of film. Our executive producer and investors liked the direction in which we were going. There was a role in it that, ostensibly, I could play that we had created that would be fun to come in and do. We started putting the movie together and the next thing I knew I stepped in as a producer, not only helping with the development of the script but the locations, hiring the crew, auditioning actors.

Guillén: Would you like to do more of that in the future?

Segan: I had a fun time doing it—I really did—and I'm still involved in the post-production process, the artwork. The festival premieres have been exciting.

Guillén: Can you provide a short synopsis of the film?

Segan: Someone's Knocking At the Door is a contemporary take on the classic '60s-'70s grindhouse grossout sex drugs rock and roll movie. It's a psychedelic story of murder, mayhem, rape and deviancy.

Guillén: Oooooooh! It sounds perfect for Hole in the Head.

Segan: It is. And the soundtrack is hip. It's by this band
The Mae Shi who I met playing The Screamers in the movie I did about The Germs. They're out of L.A. They're a really interesting band, lots of unique sounds, kind of punk rock meets synthesizer, very Devo kind of sound. I became buddies with them on the set of What We Do Is Secret and I thought they would be a cool addition and take Someone's Knocking At the Door into a different direction. Not only did the band provide some cool mixes of their songs for the movie that became part of the movie, but Brad Breeck—one of the leaders of the band—did our score. So it's a ground-up collaboration for the music and sound. We use a lot of his score as sound effects. Those were the cherries on the icing on the top of my producing cake.

A reminder that
Someone's Knocking At the Door will be screening twice at San Francisco's Another Hole in the Head Film Festival; on June 8 at 7:15PM and June 13 at 11:45PM. Chad Ferrin is expected to attend.

Cross-published on

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