Interviews: Christopher Soren Kelly Talks Infinity Chamber and His Career

Christopher Soren Kelly is a prolific actor, writer, and director best known for starring in Ink (2009) and The Frame (2014), but whose work has extended across multiple thought-provoking films – most recently, Infinity Chamber, an unsettling futuristic thriller in which a man is pitted against an automated prison completely run by a computer. Upcoming science fiction film The Tangle is currently in post-production, in large part thanks to a highly successful Indiegogo campaign, for which Kelly serves as writer, director, and star.

The Movie Sleuth caught up with this jack of many talents in an interview, in which Kelly details some of his inspirations and discusses some of his future plans.

TMS: First of all, TMS would like to thank you for taking the time to speak with us about your myriad projects. It’s very kind of you.

Kelly: Of course. My pleasure.

TMS: A lot of us at TMS really love Ink, and find it really interesting that you’d have taken such a huge risk with such a film – lower-budget, very much a niche film that could have gone either way in terms of reception. The dual role you play is unique, too, in that so much of the twist ending hangs on your performance. Can you tell us what inspired you to take on such an unusual venture?

Kelly: Well, as an actor, you can't really turn down that kind of role as you long as you trust the filmmakers. I'd worked with Jamin before, and he wrote the characters with me in mind. It was an exciting challenge!

TMS: It's an amazing film, and your performance is fantastic in it. Was it difficult to play both John and Ink, keeping the ending twist in mind?

Kelly: We shot all the John stuff first, and then all the Ink stuff. So, in that sense, it wasn't required that I switch back and forth. That being said, the core of the two characters is the same. They are just at different points in the same arc. The biggest challenge of the shoot was just the size of it. It was a very long shoot, and being as low budget as it was, pretty grueling.

TMS: The symbolism is so subtle, in a lot of ways -- I didn't see it coming the first time I saw it!

Kelly: Good! That will make Jamin happy.

TMS: You are very adept at playing characters that completely transform you, particularly when you're in full makeup. I can imagine the Ink getup got heavy after awhile...

Kelly: Only the chain! (laughs) The chain was real, and pretty heavy. The costume felt light by comparison. But that was okay; it added to Ink's existential weariness.

TMS: Yes, that symbolism again. So, with Ink, there is this wonderful overlay of the fantastical and the mundane. Then, with The Frame, you continued to explore roles in high-concept sci-fi and fantasy, and it looks as though you’re continuing the tradition with Infinity Chamber and The Tangle. What drives you most toward these genres? Do you plan on working with Jamin Winans again in any future projects?

Kelly: I have always loved sci-fi and the fantastical, so I feel very lucky to have been cast in interesting films in the genre. I enjoy things the push our perceptions and allow us to see our world differently. The Tangle is totally in that world, but I wrote it, so that's not surprising!

TMS: I'm really excited to see what you have in store for us all, there.

Kelly: Can't wait to share. The edit is literally sitting right behind this conversation.

TMS: Did you have any idea the Indiegogo would find so much support?

Kelly: We were optimistic. I am lucky to be a largely unknown actor with a bit of his own fan base. And each of the other actors have established fans as well, especially the talented Nicole da Silva. But when the money started coming, we were still overwhelmed with gratitude. It's one thing to plan to ask for help, and another to actually receive it. It was really rewarding. And we can't wait to share with everyone.

TMS: Now, we also LOVE horror over at TMS. Your short film, Chasseur, seems so different from your other projects, yet still so delightfully strange. What inspired you to make it? Do you think you will explore more of this kind of horror film?

Kelly: Thank you! I hope to make the feature version of that short soon, within the next couple years. I wouldn't consider it horror, really. But an intense supernatural thriller, definitely. Chasseur explores a lot of the things I find most interesting. Good and Evil, moral ambiguity, I love to play with language in my stuff -- see the Tangle teaser as an example. Originally it started as an acting piece for myself, and developed into a worthy short in its own right. It did quite well on the festival circuit, and we would never have made The Tangle if it 

The Tangle teaser:

TMS: I think it counts as horror, inasmuch as those concepts play into the general mien of most intelligent horror films. It’s brilliant and chilling.

Kelly: Sure! I just meant the feature will probably be classified more as a supernatural period thriller.

TMS: Your characters are always so delightfully multi-faceted. How do you prepare emotionally for such complex roles? Does meditation play a part for you?

Kelly: Each role is different, and the preparation is different. I worked on Chasseur for a year, for example, but that was a very challenging role for me. At this point in my career, I trust my instincts more than ever, so preparation takes a lot less time. But if I understand the character on the page, I try to find something in the voice and the body that feels like a natural place for that character. Something to build around. Once that's locked in, a lot of the rest seems to flow, especially when I'm working off of great actors.

TMS: Which you seem to do quite a lot, considering the casts you have worked with.

Kelly: Yeah, I feel very lucky. For working with the budgets that I have worked with, I have been in some really great projects with some really great actors.

TMS: Now comes the obligatory question: What can we expect from you in the coming years? Tell us a bit about what’s coming down the pike after The Tangle is released. You mentioned a possible full-length feature version of Chasseur.

Kelly: So after The Tangle, I’m planning on shooting a movie called Crossing the Flood, which is a metaphysical mystery about two men trapped in an infinite hotel.

TMS: That sounds intriguing, I’m definitely looking forward to learning more about that one!

Kelly: Then, after that, I hope to make the Chasseur feature which is about a down-on-his-luck bank robber in an alternate-history South who sells his soul to the devil. As an actor, I can't wait for people to see Infinity Chamber and The Tangle! And I have a few other movies coming out soon, and a few more in production!

TMS: That’s marvelous news! Sounds like a lot of exciting stuff we have to look forward to from you.

Kelly: I hope so!

TMS: Tell us some of your favorite films. Did any of them in particular inspire you to go into acting? (And writing!)

Kelly: Well, I love a lot of films. Here are some obscure ones that people might like: Burnt by the Sun, a Russian film about Stalin-era Soviet Union. The Dance Upstairs, a John Malkovich-directed movie very few have seen. And this little-known science fiction film, Blade Runner, was a huge influence on the writing of The Tangle.

TMS: Blade…Runner? Never heard of it.

TMS: Just one more question, how in the world did you end up getting stung by a stingray?!

Kelly: (laughs) It's actually quite common. They hang out in the surf, and I stepped on one.

TMS: It’s not common here in Michigan! We hope you’re feeling better.

Kelly: I think the transformation into Stingray Man is almost complete. There is almost no pain in my foot anymore. Thanks for asking!

TMS: Thank you again for what, we hope, has been a relatively painless experience talking with us. We're very excited to see all your future endeavors.

Kelly: Thanks for the chat! And good luck with all your endeavors as well!

For more information about The Tangle, see the Indiegogo campaign and its latest update:

Infinity Chamber is currently available to stream online via iTunes and Amazon.

-Dana Culling