5 Questions With: The Soska Sisters - Directors of American Mary

The Soska Sisters took a break from their heavy promotional schedule to answer a few questions with The Movie Sleuth. We thank Sylvia and Jen for taking the time to give us this excellent interview.
TMS: I could see some definite and varied influences in American Mary. Can you tell us who inspires the two of you in making a new project and who would be your main influence over all? It seems to me that Asian horror could have been a definite influence on American Mary? Are my assumptions correct?
S: AMERICAN MARY is very much a love letter to Asian and European film making. I really like the art of horror and I feel it's taken a backseat in Western film making to the advanced technology we have to create the films, story keeps suffering. You're assumptions are very correct. The work of directors like Takeshi Miike, Dario Argento, Lars Von Trier, Clive Barker, David Cronenberg, Tomas Alfredson, Mary Harron, and Yoshihiro Nishimura had a big influence on how we would make this film.
J: Everyone Sylv just mentioned. Asian and European style horror, which are so much more broad than the slashers of North America. Their films are so much more than horror. We're not into labels, but it seems North American horror really follows a formula and it's gotten way past being tired.

TMS: How did you get your start in the film industry? From both of your IMDB pages, it looks like you've been involved in writing, editing, production, direction and various other positions behind the camera. Some of the world's greatest directors have had the same ambition. Are your plans to stick with directing or will you continue playing the field with varied roles behind the camera?
S: Jen and I started acting when we were seven years old, not because of any talent, just because they were two of us and having twins helped with child labor limitations. As we grew up the roles went from cutesy with little substance to overtly sexualized with little substance. I like sexuality explored in film, but when it has some purpose in the story. We worked for years but never with anything that we were even remotely proud of, by the time we were reaching our twenties we decided we needed a change. We decided to use our extensive martial arts training to try our hand at stunt work, we might still be in bikinis, but we'd be kicking ass. It led us to a film school that was anything but - a sham to rip industry hopefuls off of thousands. Highly influenced from watching Rodriguez our whole lives and the multi-collaborative GRINDHOUSE, we decided to follow in his footsteps and create our own film. Wearing multiple hats and creating the content had us finally working on projects we were excited about. We're stepping back from acting to focus on writing, directing, and producing now. We have a lot of stories we have to tell.
J: We're really born story tellers. I don't think enough young girls are told that they can grow up and be writers or directors or producers or owners of their own production company. They're encouraged to be actors or models or singers. As an actor, you're never really in control of the roles you play. You struggle just to work and maybe you can one day get to the Robert Downey Jr level where you can pick and choose your roles and have input on your characters, but not everyone is RDJ. I love how as a director/writer you get to create this whole world and fill it with real, living characters, and then tell your story in that realm. There's nothing in the world like it. When we finally discovered filmmaking, it felt like coming home. Everything just fell into place.
TMS: American Mary is definitely a twisted film that exists in the world of body modification. What made you decide to go that route? For me, it was a welcomed departure from the standard American slasher horror films. Also, I have to mention, Katharine Isabelle is great in this. Her character will stick with me like the Jennifer Hills character in I Spit on Your Grave. She's soft on the eyes with an extremely dynamic presence that scared the shit out of me.
S: Thank you for saying that and especially about Katie - she's my favorite actress, the thinking person's scream queen and it was a fangirl dream come true to bring Mary to life through her. I am a big horror fan, but it feels like there are so many soulless studio remakes or paint-by-numbers horror that the genre has really suffered. We wanted to explore what's so interesting about the genre, the fantastic elements based on real life issues that we can all relate to. You also have all these iconic male horror characters like Pinhead, Dracula, Michael Myers, Norman Bates, Freddy, but very few female characters that really explore women's capacity for evil. Mixing that with the final girl, we created Mary who is sexy, severe, and scary.
J: Being horror fans ourselves, we found ourselves so tired of the same predictable horror flicks. We grew up with so many cool, cutting edge films with killer practical effects. But somewhere that got lost. I'm not sure why, but I suspect it's because the wrong people are making these films. They aren't fans. They don't have a love for what they're doing. They approach it as a business and while I fully understand that business is a vital part of this industry and the longevity of any filmmaker's career, it has to be rooted in a love of what you're doing. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. When you care, it shows. We wanted to make a film that was original while paying tribute to all the films and filmmakers that have influenced us. We wanted to make something different with AMERICAN MARY and I guess we over shot a little.
TMS: Can you tell us about your next project? Will you be sticking with horror or are you going to move in a new direction for your next film?
S: It's funny, we never intend to make a horror film, even when we try to, it becomes this very us thing. We have a lot of scripts that we want to make, several of them I would not categorize as horror even with the subject matter. Our goal is to shake things up with each new project. There are two films, written by one of our favorite artists that we cannot wait to make big screen adaptations of; the next film is shaping up to be BOB which we are already in early prep work for. The tagline is: There's a monster inside all of us, sometimes it gets out.
J: No matter what we do, it'll have horrific aspects. I'm not into labels. I think a film, like any good art, really transcends definition. And it's interpretive. Depending on the viewer, it changes. It can be a lot of things, but, yes, there will always be bloody bits of horror in anything and everything we do. We make everything we do personal and there's just too much horror in us. It has to find a way out.
TMS: I was lucky enough to snag a UK copy of the American Mary blu ray. When can U.S. audiences finally grab a copy of the disc? Or will it possibly get a theatrical run here in the states?
S: Thank you for picking it up! AMERICAN MARY hits VOD May 16th, theatrical on the 31st, and DVD/BD release on June 18th!
J: ha ha, what she said ;)