I had the pleasure of sitting down with Director Seth Grossman and Actress Lara Vosburgh (Carson) about their horror movie, Inner Demons, for what turned out to be a refreshing, and enjoyable 15 minute interview, where we discussed in depth acting techniques, addiction, and of course, their movie.
Lara Vosburgh is known in Israel for her television roll on the Israeli TV show, Hatsuya, among other projects.
Seth Grossman has directed movies such as, The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations, The Elephant King, $50K and a Call Girl: A Love Story, and his most recent, Inner Demons. Seth Grossman has also worked as a producer on the television shows, Intervention, Hollywood Hillbillies, On The Rocks: The Search for America's Top Bartender, and MADE Presents Kiss and Tell: The Dos and Donts of Dating.
Inner Demons is a movie about a girl who is possessed by a demon. She uses drugs, including heroin and benzodiazepines, to self medicate. When her parents can’t take it any longer they invite a reality TV show to come intervene and help save the girl. Along the way she makes friends with one of the crew, and we get to see just how wonderfully awful and delightful family, school, and people in general, can be. The ending is super fun.
There are NO spoilers in this interview.
Dana: Have you been doing a lot of the press circuit for Inner Demons?
Seth (director): I did the premiere and the red carpet last night, and two interviews yesterday afternoon. Lara did a couple yesterday.
Lara (actress): Yeah, I did a couple on the red carpet, a couple on Wednesday, one telephone one… Um yeah, interviewing is interesting because you have to rethink the movie and re-translate it for yourself, and for who is listening.
Dana: Lara, you have been on Television and worked in other areas of performance, is this your first time interviewing for a film? How has this process been different that your prior experience?
Lara: Yes, so, first time interviewing for film, and I felt proud of my other roles… but this is something we all feel pretty proud of.
Seth: Especially about your (Lara’s) performance.
Lara: Thank you (To Seth). It’s interesting now because we’ve worked together, as far as him directing me when I was an actress, and now interviewing together... Well, I can’t look at him and ask for him to say cut. I mean… (both Seth and Lara laugh)
Seth: (joking) Well let’s do that one more time actually, and this time I want you (Lara) to be really demonic. (We all laugh). When we were preparing for Lara to play the demon, we spent a lot of time on it. We spent a lot of time developing it because it’s a really challenging role for an actor to play basically not only the nice high school girl, but also the heroin addict, and also the version of that person possessed by a demon. And it comes out gradually. So there is a whole spectrum of behaviors, and we played around with it a lot. She was very amazing and very real in the audition. That is one of the things I always push for, to be more and more real, if there is a false note I just want to figure out why that is there, get it out, make it more real, make it more grounded in the persons own… in her own experience and her own emotions.
Lara: Yeah, that is very very true. Everybody has been asking me in interviews what was more challenging. I always said, until now, it was a challenge bringing out the demonic part and feeling more free about that, but it wasn’t only that. He (Seth) insisted that I bring an emotional truth to this. So, allowing myself to have the courage to put myself out there, he really insisted on that and that is why the performance is so good. And also, I looked at everybody’s performances and it’s amazing. They are amazing and it’s a joy to watch because it’s a very good horror film but also the great performances.
Seth: I liked the performances too. It’s hard because I don’t want to be immodest but I thought the performances of everyone in the film across the board were really impressive. Particularly because a lot of them were new comers and they weren’t the most experienced actors.
Dana: Was the demon based on anything in particular?
Seth: The demon itself was based on a hyena. We, (to Lara) remember the animal work we did? Ok, there is this acting coach that I, when I first moved to LA, Ellen Burstyn, who was in my first movie, said you should meet Catlin Adams and take her class. Catlin Adams is a coach and a teacher and she has worked with a lot of movie stars. I sat in on her class and I asked her for advice on creating this demon character. She (Catlin) said, look at this documentary about hyenas. And so, then Lara watched it and we worked with Catlin together, and a lot of the physicality of hyenas, she brought it to the character, and the female hyenas are like very aggressive…
Seth: Yeah (they laugh)
Lara: That is another thing. He insisted also that I not only go to meet with people who are dealing with drugs at NA meetings and AA meetings, but also created a platform where with the acting instructor, to figure out the physicality of animalistic things. That is really important, that gives actors a lot. I’ve just been realizing it in the last couple months how much physical things help. Even before I prepare a monologue or an audition I do a physical warm up or dance a bit to Beyonce or whatever it is and it helps.
Dana: I felt that it came across in the movie that the actors were prepared for their roles, and it wasn’t, we are jut going to throw this together and not know what we are doing. How was the preparation?
Seth: It was a fast preparation but I felt it was really important to rehearse and to create an atmosphere of comfort with the actors. So, at our first audition I just talked about some of my own experiences with drugs, and some of the traumas that I’ve been though in my life, and I got myself to a very emotional vulnerable place because I wanted to let them know, this is a set, and a circle that we are in now where we can all be vulnerable. Where we can all reach into that well of pain that we feel inside ourselves to pull out kinds of emotional truth that will transmit into this story. I felt like there are a couple of scenes where Colleen, who plays the mom, where she finally admits the violence that has sort of been submerged in the family for so many years. Before she did that scene, she pulled me outside and she told me something about herself that was so painful, I think, to admit, obviously I’m not going to talk about what it was, but that level of trust between an actor and director was really crucial to get to that emotional state for her, because she was broken by the time she did that monologue.
Lara: Seth really helped me because in Israel there is a great industry, but a lot of it is time is money. So a lot of times there isn’t that much time for rehearsals, which means you don’t get the amazing benefits of really building that circle of trust. So I was skeptical of it in the beginning and I totally changed my mind. And if you can get there it’s great. I mean of course experiencing places where I don’t get to rehearse is… but I saw how much you can benefit form this type of process and work.
Dana: When you were working on Intervention, was it early on that you thought about making a reality based horror movie? How did this come about?
Seth: I didn’t come up for the idea of this movie, actually it was the producers Robin Schorr and Dan Seligman who came up with this idea, and then they hired a writer named Geln Gers who wrote the script. Then I sort of inherited that script and put my own spin on it. So, I had a meeting with them. My manager had sent me a script called, “Untitled Intervention Exorcism Film,” and I said well this is a no brainier they should defiantly hire me to direct this. I did my own draft of the script that incorporate the things that I learned about reality TV production into it. So, the genesis of the idea didn’t come from my experience with intervention but, and I want to say, that I think the characters in this movie, the reality TV producers are not like the people that I worked with at Intervention. The people at Intervention have so much integrity and they take addiction so seriously, and when I got this script its characters were much more exploitive and I tried to temper that a little bit, but at time I felt like them being exploitive gave some dramatic momentum to the story telling.
Dana: Yeah, it did. (laughing)
Seth: But there is a lot of interesting people and places and things that I learned form doing the show Intervention. Things that I learned about families, and addiction, and mental illness. So, definitely that all informed this movie. And I have to say that recently I’ve seen a lot of reviews… A lot of reviews have been very dismissive about found footage, the found footage genre, people are sick of it. I think there have been too many of them but I specifically am interested in stories about how stories are told. So it’s no accident that this is found footage. It wasn’t just, “Okay, we have a very small budget lets figure out how to make this movie on a small budget...” I mean I wanted to tell my story about how people tell stories. The way that the crew of the show approaches this family and the way their treatment of Carson (Lara) changes is really crucial, it is really the most important thing about the movie to me. The climax of the movie… I don’t know if I really want to give it away, but you use your judgment… When Jason puts down the camera, he stops documenting and he starts participating, and I think that story tellers keep their subjects at arms link by using the camera to separate them from what’s going on in front of them. So there is really something interesting about how documenting something can protect us form it. Until it becomes a point where it can’t protect us anymore.
Dana: I am sadly one of the people who are sick of poorly made found footage movies. So, I was really happy, that Inner Demons was well done, maybe it’s because you’ve worked on reality before but the camera work wasn’t so awful that I wanted to puke, and it didn’t take me in and out of the story, which is where so many other movies go wrong.
Seth: I didn’t want it to be too sloppy. The point of view is television producers so they know how to hold a camera and they know how to cover a scene. So it wasn’t going to be like sloppy cameras, although sometimes it did get to that point (shaky camera) when things got a little more chaotic.
Lara: It’s also, in the art world, or in any, I guess people who are creating high-end films, um, a lot of us, including me… I have criticism in the reality TV show world. Especially in Israel, I can talk about what is going on in Israel, not enough money is going into regular drama shows and a lot of it is going into reality show. But I had one director and instructor in Israel tell me. If you want to learn how to act, watch reality TV show because you can learn a lot about people. And its maybe not, we’re not talking about Tolstoy or Pushkin, but most people in this world right now are watching reality TV shows and to bring that into the film place, that is a courageous thing to do. And I think Seth did an amazing job and the producers, and that is a courageous thing to do. So people, we love the criticism because it just builds us as creators and keep it coming, we love it, thank you.
Dana: That is a healthy way to look at it because a lot of people don’t understand criticism or learn from it and it is incredibly important, especially as an artist or creator to know how to deal with it. As a journalist I have had people turn rabid in response to a negative review, including one director, who upon seeing me on the street, he pushed me from behind as I was stepping off the curb, then he ran away before anyone could do anything about it, it was incredibly inappropriate and juvenile.
Seth: Oh, that is awful. What a nightmare. We don't react that way. I learn so much from it. My first movie got some negative press. I went back and looked at it, and yes, my first movie got some bad reviews and some good reviews, but I went back and just looked at what was the consensus. Some people had their own opinions and some had things that they didn’t like, and some people loved certain things. I just looked at it all. What is the common element between all of these reviews? I defiantly learned form it, and I definitely have gone through and you know… learned.
Lara: Another thing that I learned from this is that, because I was very critical of myself while working on it, and also Seth said, and also when I watched it yesterday I was like, wow this is a good performance, so the critics can say… it’s great to hear what they have to say but we were there making it and we know what went into it.
Dana: I truly enjoyed the movie and am looking forward to it going the festival circuit and/or it’s wide release date. Can you talk about any of that yet?
Seth: We are getting interest from festivals but I can’t talk about it yet.
Dana: That is awesome. I wish you both the best in your current and future endeavors. That is all the time we have today. I really enjoyed our conversation. Thank you Seth and Lara for meeting with me and discussing, Inner Demons, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival.
Seth: No problem Thank you!
Lara: Thank you!
For more information on Inner Demons you can check out the links below: