The 2019 Fantasia Film Festival is home to surprising and shocking cinema and their Fantasia Underground program is the showcase “dedicated to unconventional outsider visions”. Fans of Indie horror have come to recognize the program as a treasure trove of new ideas and unique voices, challenging the very idea of what a movie is and can be. The Adams’ The Depper You Dig opened this year’s program, and its DIY sensibility is the perfect example of what filmmaking can be when you put all of yourself into your art. Read our full review HERE.
The Adams’ are a family of filmmakers, continually looking to sharpen their artistic edge, pulling from their own life experiences to craft original stories. The Deeper You Dig is a haunting and unsettling story of a mother searching for her missing daughter. Such is their love for one another that even death can’t stop them from being apart. We sat down to talk with writers/directors/stars (and that’s just the beginning) of the film Toby Poser, John Adams, and Zelda Adams just after the film celebrated its world premiere at the festival to talk tarot cards, real-life darkness, and what it takes to roll up your sleeves and pull something you love out from the abyss.
“…we take our life and we make a movie.”
Jonathan Dehaan for Nightmare on Film Street: Looking at the credits of the movie, it seems like it’s a lot easier to ask you guys what you didn’t do on the movie. You’ve done everything yourselves.
Jon Adams: Well, what we didn’t do is [from] our wonderful Trey.
Toby Poser: Trey Lindsay came into our fold, and he worked on our special effects, and created our poster and our closing credits, and the opening effect with the title- and we have never had that. We’re a small group of three people, used to be four with our daughter who went off to college, and inviting someone in is very personal. He was just the perfect fit and just completely took us to another level of artistic design. And he’s just the most lovable person too.
JA: And fit right into the dynamic of the family, which was incredible.
NOFS: I super-duper loved the sound design in the movie, especially when the lightbulb goes out. I know it’s such a small thing, but how it sounded like a record player coming back to life, it was genius.
JA: Sound design was basically using organic sounds like the old broken piano in the house, the old dishwasher that I had to remove, the furnace that I had to remove, when I was pulling things apart- the way they rolled across the floor. And so, I really started to notice all those things and I brought my zoom mi over and I got sounds every time I heard them. And then I would put them into Pro Tools and stretch them and cut them and put them backward and things like that until they kind of worked and it was so fun to do The sound you’re talking about- Actually, another thing that I did is I went to a guitar store and I said, “Hey, I want to buy an effects pedal. Can you recommend one?” and they’d recommended an effects pedal and I’d go home and for the whole day just mess around with the effects and then bring it back like, ” I don’t really love that. Do you have another one you can recommend?” I got to four [pedals] and the guy’s like “Dude, you have to buy one of these,” and I was like, “Okay, I’ll just take this last one,” but I got four days of nonstop messing around with effects pedals. And that [lighbuld sound] was taken from a lucky accident with one of these effects pedals. It was super fun.
NOFS: So who’s the taro expert? I’ve got to assume somebody is a big Taro expert.
TP: A friend of mine, Sasha Graham, is a world-renowned Taro expert. We met her at the beginning of this film and she really introduced the cards to me and also gave us permission to say ‘This is a jumping-off point. These are what the cards archetypically suggest, but you can really bend them to how you like,’ and that was perfect for us because there was a little bit of technical truth to “this card means this” but then we just used it to completely run from there.
NOFS (to Zelda Adams): You’re super creepy in the movie, by the way.
Zelda Adams: Oh, thank you.
NOFS: The scene where you first show up is so haunting. How did you build your character? What did you have to bring to the role to do that?
ZA: Well, we knew that we wanted my character to be Goth but we wanted Echo to be likable so that her mother and Echo could have a connection, and that way you would like Echo and you’d want her to get revenge on her killer. So, that was really important and I also wanted to make sure that she was kind of a badass, like when getting revenge on Kurt and kind of also had a humor.
“…because it’s a horror movie, to have so much artistic license with visuals […]And that’s what’s so fun about horror fans, they love that stuff.”
NOFS: Were there any large discussion about creating a visual language for the introspective [hallucitory] moments of the movie?
JA: Zelda is on a terrific soccer team and we are driving all over the place all the time, and we have a lot of talks. Zelda and I love to talk together about cinematography and themes, and stuff like that. Obviously, we talked to Toby about that stuff too but I think that Zelda and I spent a lot of time talking about how we wanted the visuals to look in this movie. And in fact, we kind of did a practice run the year before, with a small little thing that we put together just to see how it is to shoot in the snow and what we can do with the trees and the mountains and the river, and things like that. We worked really hard on putting the visuals together. I think together, we came up with a fun, very contrast, pull out the saturation, tending towards black and white, and I think we just had a lot of fun putting together the visual theme.
NOFS: And what about [when] we’re “inside the box”. Like, the clown itself is that representative of a tarot card? What does that mean to [Ivy]?
TP: That sprung from The Fool. She flips the full card, and I thought, Oh, The Fool, that’s basically a clown. And the circles represented the seven stages of grief and to me, they also were karmic circles. It was a keen way for us to get inside Echo’s karmic journey to find her daughter to refine that her psychic prowess to actually find her daughter and also to help spur the story along with with with her realization of what Kurt is about. And also, I’ll be honest, just gave us an incredible invitation to find artsy fun things to do that we wanted to. we thought Oh, this will add some avant-garde texture too, And also break out of this very isolated natural setting that we’re in. And the clown, just to finish, It also is incredibly tragic. Some people think the clown is creepy, but for me, she’s just the ultimate tragic character. And What a fool Ivy is until she regains her sight.
JA: Also, the first circle is fun because the first stage of grief is denial. And so when she first says, okay, I want to go through this grieving process, so let’s start with the first stage of grief, which is denial. And we opened up with her not even being able to, but saying “No! No!” and having to not just start with the knowledge- She’s going to find the knowledge of what’s happened to her daughter. The snake is there, not to deliver the apple but she can take the whole snake, which is super fun. Do you know what I mean? We were able, because it’s a horror movie, to have so much artistic license with visuals like that. And that’s what’s so fun about horror fans, they love that stuff […] and that’s what was really fun to to do with this movie.
NOFS: So are each of these characters going through their own seven stages? Like, you [Zelda] you’re dead. Do you have seven stages of grieving your own death?
ZA: I don’t know if I’m grieving my own death, more of just trying to get revenge and get to be with my mother. I die, and then first I warn him. I say, “I’m not in your head yet,” and I’m not in his head yet, literally. And then I start taking over him to be with my mother.
NOFS: The cottage in the movie- is that your own? Because it was a lot like watching an HGTV show as you update it throughout the movie
JA: That house is one that I’m working on, that’s what I do, I’m a nail hitter. I got a job re-doing this old house, and so it was a perfect opportunity. You know, we always film whatever we’re doing. We take our lives at the time and then say, “Hey, how can we make a movie out of this life that we’re living at the time,” and at this time, we were going through lots of things, including Toby going through cancer and that plays a huge role in this movie of loss and sadness. Very early on [in teh movie] I pass Toby in the truck right after Echo’s disappearance. I look at her and she’s looking for Echo, and that day was the second day after Toby came home from the hospital. What’s amazing is she’s not acting. She’s-
TP: I was acting [laughs]. I’m just kidding
JA: All I’m saying is, we take our life and we make a movie.
NOFS: That’s really dark.
JA: Totally dark.
“…this story of a mother losing her child really correlated with the kind of cancer I had, […and] really helped me as a writer.”
NOFS: But, I mean you’re out through it now-
JA: But celebrate it, because it is. She is out, we’re all sitting here on the couch together.
ZA: You take advantage of the dark things.
TP: It informed my writing in particular. It’s something that nobody would really look at the film and see but I, as a writer, definitely was aware that this story of a mother losing her child really correlated with the kind of cancer I had, which was reproductive organ cancer, and losing that side of me and re-finding my attachment to the world without that reproductive youth and prowess, prowess. So it was it really helped me as a writer.
JA: And then ultimately, our two characters are finding our way back towards our love for her. All that stuff is informed- It can’t not be. That’s what’s beautiful about making a movie as a family. It’s not a crew. Like, nobody comes and says, “What’s my motivation?” Our motivation for finding our way back to this character of Ivy is how much we just love her In life. And so you just hit the camera on and we’re there.
NOFS: It sounds like my family has been doing it wrong my entire life. Okay, sure, I can look back through photos of my childhood but I’d much rather watch a movie.
TP: Can I add something real fast?
NOFS: Yeah, of course!
TP: Typically, all of our films are about families because that’s what we are, that’s what we have but they’re very atypical, unusual families. We don’t like to make your cookie-cutter “la-la-la”- our families often have wicked senses of humor, they’re wrong, bad senses [of humor], politically incorrect. And so, in this sense, we really could marry our love of weird families and what it takes- like, how kind of screwed up is that that, a family that loves each other so much, the mother can actually accept her daughter’s killer? You know, because the daughter happens to be inside of him. That is fucking twisted.
NOFS: It’s obviously very early days right now, but is there anywhere else people can expect to see the film on the festival circuit?
TP: Next, we’re going to London for Fright Fest in the end of August, and then from there we’re just waiting to hear from other festivals until we put it out there.
The Deeper You Dig celebrated its world premiere at the 2019 Fantasia Film Festival Thursday, July 11 as the opening film for the Fantasia Underground program. The Fantasia Film Festival runs until August 1, 2019 in beautiful Montreal, Canada. Click HERE to check out all of our continued coverage of the festival, and be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to see silly photos, immediate film reactions, and the occasional photo of lunch.