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Interview: Actors Tackle the Found Footage Genre in "Raw Cut"

There’s no subtext shortage in films directed by Zoe Quist and co-written by husband Daniel Ponickly. “Raw Cut,” the duo’s well-placed stab at the found footage genre, features marital tensions between characters Jack (Christopher Kelly) and Amanda (C. Ashleigh Caldwell).

“There was a lot of complicated stuff sort of going on underneath the surface; most of it comes out in little ways here-and-there throughout,” Kelly said when reached by phone. “That’s why I like playing the character and working with Zoe on that. All that stuff had to be there even when we weren’t talking about it in the dialogue.”

Jack accepts an invitation from best buddy Adam (Ponickly) to spend time at his Wyoming cabin. Caldwell plays Jack’s wife Amanda, a woman prone to powerful headaches who arrives stressed out over problems at home. Actress C. Ashleigh Caldwell said it was really fun to creatively unravel these characters scene-by-scene, allowing them to sort of crack as they go.

“With Amanda, she’s really holding it together on the outside, which I think she has been practicing her whole life, so she’s quite good at it,” Caldwell explained, joining Kelly on the call. “But there’s just so much stuff happening underneath. You know, there’s only so much acting we can do in our real lives, and there is only so much we can hide from our true best friends, especially in sort of a claustrophobic environment.”

Living and working on a live set

Quist does double-duty in this piece as Stephanie, Adam’s new girlfriend. She’s working on a video project and needs everyone’s help to complete it. Most of “Raw Cut” takes place in and around Adam’s cabin, which is located in Wyoming.

“That was definitely one of the benefits of the whole shoot, to be out there with a bunch of creative people in a gorgeous area,” Kelly offered. “Some of that shooting was done after a hike; we hiked all the gear back and shot out in the mountains. [It was] a really great time.”

Caldwell points out, though, that the cast was living in the cabin, which was a live set for the shoot.

“That was an interesting, exciting challenge of indie filmmaking: sort of moving room-to-room as people working on the project, and then creating the sets out of the rooms we were living in and with each other,” she said. “It was interesting: as an actor, you are sort of whisked away to the set when they are ready for you. You don’t get to experience the other part of the process, but we were totally immersed in the process.”

A new spin on the found footage genre

With “Raw Cut,” Quist and Ponickly put a new spin on the found footage genre. Kelly said that though they followed the script pretty closely, director Zoe Quist wanted their input

“We worked on the scenes, we rehearsed the scenes, and once we got on location, that affected how the scene was going to go as well,” he said. “There was definitely an element of play—scary play. But it definitely was pretty close to the script by the end.”

The improvisation in the piece, Caldwell added, was more in feeling out the space so the space felt really organic.

“Even though Zoe had definitely staged it out, like Chris said, we had the luxury of rehearsal time and workshop time where we got to work with each other. When we entered the space, everything sort of changed. In order to make that organic, Zoe allowed us to work within the space in a way that felt organic,” she said.

"Raw Cut" now is available on iTunes and VOD.