INTERVIEW WITH ADAM KELEMAN

LONG DAYS

a film by Adam Keleman

Longs Days is a very different kind of vampire film in that it’s actually a good one. What inspired the film and the circumstances in making it?

I wanted to make a genre film but in my own way. In general, the horror films that are being released in mainstream theaters nowadays have lost what I thought was great about horror films from the 50’s, even up until the 90’s. The texture, atmosphere, tension and the visual allure made these films so good. Current horror films are just about shock and awe and mainly focused on making cheap thrills. I guess I just wanted to make a film that was a contrast to these recent films, and make something more of a slow burn.

Can you talk about what the production was like? What was the biggest challenge?

This is the first time where I had a decently sized budget. I had the chance to make a movie in similar terms to a Hollywood production albeit a very small scale. It was nice because I had actual departments. I was able to hire a production designer, makeup artist, special fx etc… my other films, normally would consist of me and 2-3 other crew members, in Long Days I had 7-8 key members. This was exhilarating because I had a chance to focus, although every element was still my decisions, it was nice not having to do everything. I trusted them, and I was very happy with what they brought to the table.

The biggest challenge for me was that production actually fell apart and it was difficult trying to pick myself up. I had to push the shooting date a month and make sure everyone was still on board. I’m glad everyone supported the project and was still able to be involved.

The framing and the camera moves are very meticulous. How closely did you work with the cinematographer?

The Cinematographer a good friend of mine and we worked together on my last short. He lives in LA, so we mostly communicated by phone but I did travel to LA and had discussions with him in person. He flew out to New York City a couple of days before the shoot, and we had the luxury of having secured the location prior to shoot so we were able to block the scenes together before the actors and rest of the crew were there. I acted out the scenes for him while he used his iPhone to record, and in essence, make a visual storyboard. He edited the footage and it’s amazing how the actual film stayed pretty true to how we initially blocked it.

What was the process like in working with sound and the score?

I had a musician friend who I thought could handle what I wanted in the film in terms of tone musically. I wanted a simple yet chilling beat that made your hair on your arm stand up. My film reference for the sound was this Japanese horror film from the sixties called Kuroneko. It only took my friend two-three passes and he got it.

I also worked with a sound mixer who did some work on David Lynch’s Lost Highway. He loved the project and added a lot of the sound fx; for example, when she pulls out her teeth he added an earthquake-like echo to it. He was great because what he did really helped create the atmosphere of the film.

Your choices with both sound and cinematography I see influences of late seventies early eighties film particularly Altman. If not Altman what where your film and filmmaker influences?

Altman is definitely an influence, I watch Three Women religiously. My first film was more directly influenced by Altman, not in terms of his use of multi-character arcs, but the of the world he places these characters in. I’m also drawn to his formal choices in terms of framing and camera work – the wide angles and the quick zooms.

But the main influence for this film is Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman. I loved the way the character in the film navigated through the spaces. Although my film does have similar plot elements, the main thing I borrowed was how the film captured mundane activities really well. The actor’s expressions, the long shots, how she moved through the room really affected the way I shot the film. I also think these elements help me deconstruct the vampire genre, which I was also interested in.

Another director I worship regularly and steal from is Claude Chabrol. Before production began I watched The Butcher repeatedly. It’s a film that is a true thriller and it’s very much about love, loneliness, and repressing those urges. And obviously, you can see hints of David Lynch and Twin Peaks in there as well.

Are you a fan of vampire films?

Yes! One of my favorite Vampire films is Katheryn Bigelow’s Near Dark. The film gives a sense of reality and explores how vampires would actually live if they were real. This film was an inspiration because I felt it was antithetical toTwilight in that it was less about romanticizing vampires but explored the psychology and the mythos which I also wanted to explore in Long Days.

It seems like all vampire film creates it’s own mythos i.e. In Twilight they glow in sunlight or even the most recent film by Jim Jarmusch they have to wear gloves. I feel her being bald and the dentures is a part of yours. Can you talk a bit about those decisions?

I took the rules and mythology of Vampires very seriously. But I felt bending those rules and adding to the mythos is what makes each subsequent film unique. I also thought about visually what would make my vampire interesting. For example, people have asked me about skin peeling. “What is that?” “Is that her own skin?” My idea behind it is that she has very sensitive skin and this gives her protection from the sun. I didn’t really care about explaining in the film I wanted to have it play out subtly. Her being bald was more of a riff on Nosferatu. In terms of her teeth, some films show vampires having the ability to retract their fangs but my vampire can’t do that, so she has to hide them. I like the idea that she has to make “real” societal responses, and that it informs the way she lives.

So we met at a quasi film school at UC San Diego almost a decade ago and only just reconnected again for this interview. UC San Diego’s film department was sort of an odd place in that stressed more personal work over technical and standard film practices. How has this impact your work and how has it changed since?

Ultimately, what I took away from UC San Diego was the ability to execute a project on any level. Even though we mainly worked on films by ourselves and didn’t get a chance to have proper training, I was able to get proper training on standard film production practices when I went out into the world and worked on sets.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on a documentary. Its quite personal about my health, my family and my sexuality. It’s quite difficult emotionally but I’m excited about it.

I’m also developing a narrative feature hoping to shoot next fall. It’s texturally similar to Long Days not in terms of the genre elements but about similar in that it deals with a woman drifter navigating through nostalgic Americana – the roadside motels, the late night diners etc. She’s a drunk and messy avon lady trying to find love. It’s also about the interactions with the people she visits, which I want to be real interactions – so you can say its sort of a hybrid narrative-doc film.

Adam Keleman was born and raised in Woodland Hills, CA. He first began sharpening his writing skills as the LA film correspondent for SOMA Magazine in 2007, interviewing several acclaimed directors and actors, including Evan Rachel Wood for ‘The Wrestler’ and Freida Pinto for her breakthrough role in ‘Slumdog Millionaire.’ Adam has also contributed to AOL Moviefone, SLANT, ARTISTdirect, BUNKER HILL and HyperVocal. In Spring 2009, Adam wrote, directed and produced the short film ‘Going Back,’ which made its world premiere at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival. The film went on to screen at the 54th BFI London Film Festival, Cannes Short Film Corner, Anthology Film Archives and Brooklyn International Film Festival. Adam received a 2011 Jerome Foundation Production grant for his new film ‘Long Days,’ which won the Hammer to Nail Short Film Contest and is currently playing the festival circuit. He is also a producer on the feature documentary ‘Brave New Wild,’ which was selected for the 2012 IFP Doc Lab. Adam resides in Brooklyn, NY, where he works as a freelance producer, and is developing two feature projects, which he hopes to direct.