Alex: First of all, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us here at Film Gutter. EAT was a really interesting and different take on cannibalism – how did the idea for the movie originally come about?
Jimmy: Thank you for having me! I came up with the idea for EAT while I was sitting in traffic. I have a bad habit of chewing on my fingernails and the calluses around my fingers. One day, I was chewing on my thumb and it started bleeding. It hurt, but I didn’t stop. I just kept chewing and biting with glassy eyes even though it was painful and I was still bleeding. I thought “What am I doing to myself?” About five minutes later, I had a pretty fleshed out story about a struggling actress who used self-cannibalism to cope with her mental pain. The idea of an extreme gore film with an emotional ending sounded fun.
Alex: And how long did the movie take to come together – it feels very carefully crafted visually.
Jimmy: EAT was a total “Do It Yourself” movie. We financed it with our own money and produced it ourselves. It was quite the ordeal and took about three years from inception to release. The shoot was only 15 days, but Annie Baker (Producer) and I did 90% of the post-production work so that took 6-8 months to complete by itself. Jon Stevenson (Director of Photography) and I had a very distinct visual aesthetic in mind going into this movie. If Novella didn’t eat herself and if the movie had a happy ending, I feel like EAT would be a Coming-of-Age film. We wanted to match that look and make EAT very bright, colorful and surreal so that EAT could be an Anti-Coming-of-Age film. We discuss this a lot in The Making of EAT: Web Series which you can watch on our website: www.PrettyPeoplePictures.com
Alex: One of the key elements of the film is the damage a person can do themselves by pursuing their dream – is there a hint of something autobiographical in that? As a writer myself I could really identify with Novella's struggles…
Jimmy: Absolutely and thank you for noticing that. Growing up, people always encourage you to “follow your dreams” or “you can do anything you want, you just have to set your mind to it.” But what if your “dream” just isn’t in the cards? At the end of the day, I think most people give up on their dreams at an early age. But if you ask any adult who is truly pursuing their dream, most of them will tell you it’s a constant struggle. And I think most of those people, no matter how much success they achieve, will never stop questioning their talent, passion or drive. It’s funny because I went into EAT wanting to explore those ideas. Ironically, the struggle of making EAT and getting it released helped me identify with Novella more than any other experience I had prior to writing EAT.
Alex: This seems to be one of a number of movies of late taking a swipe at the film industry – it put me in mind of Starry Eyes and Maps to Our Stars at times. Was that the intention, and why do you think we're seeing this as a theme?
Jimmy: It’s funny because when we started submitting EAT to film festivals long after we had finished production, that’s when the trailer for Starry Eyes went online. I was nervous at first, understandably, but when I saw Starry Eyes at NIFFF, I was relieved to see they had a very different and awesome story to tell. For EAT, I concentrated on Hollywood because I felt it was the worst possible industry to be in with this kind of condition. As a filmmaker who auditions actors, I can’t imagine anything more difficult or stressful than being an actor. I think the reason you are seeing these themes more is because so many people dream of becoming a famous movie star. 50 Cent popularized the term “Get Rich or Die Trying,” but I think that mindset perfectly summarizes America’s “Reality Show Generation.” We’re this weird, post-9/11 generation of attention-whores who are constantly seeking fame and fortune through social media, television and movies. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing because some really cool work has come from a lot of interesting artists as a result. But I think you’re seeing it in movies more because the “…Die Trying” part of “Get Rich or Die Trying” easily lends itself to a lot of interesting and fun stories to tell.
Alex: Do you see the lead character, Novella McClure, as the hero of the piece?
Jimmy: With these kind of movies, it’s hard to identify the “hero.” Novella can definitely be her own worst enemy. I think it’s easy for people to fall into a situation like this. Where you think the world is out to get you and no matter what you do, you can’t get ahead. Some people watch EAT and shrug their shoulders. They don’t understand why Novella doesn’t take any responsibility and shape up. Others watch it and cry at the end because they can identify with that feeling of hopelessness and isolation. So, like anything else, it just depends on how you perceive the movie and if you can relate to it.
Alex: I thought the characters on the whole had a lot of moral ambiguity about them. Was this something you were aiming for in the script?
Jimmy: Definitely. Weird people like Novella who do weird things to themselves don’t hang out with normal people. To me, Novella is transitioning from young adult to adult and is feeling all the growing pains that come with it. She’s finally questioning whether or not she should keep pursuing her dream and seeks advice. In most movies, the advice is usually profound and inspiring. But that’s not the way the world works most of the time. What if the person telling you to keep going is wrong? What if that person is crazy? Who do you trust in that scenario? Your best friend or your self-doubt?
Alex: Tell us a bit about the effects for the 'eating' scenes – these were so effective for me as a viewer…
Jimmy: I’m so happy to hear they were effective because a lot of work went into them, for sure. Midian Crosby of Monster Makeup FX built everything from scratch. We did full life casts of Meggie (Novella McClure) 3-4 months before production. We had arms and feet that were rigged to bleed and rip apart. Almost everything was edible and Meggie even liked the taste. I’m a huge fan of “endurance cinema” like Martyrs, Inside and The Human Centipede 2, so I wanted the eating sequences in EAT to be as extreme as possible. I showed a friend a rough cut during post-production and he suggested we cut the eating scenes down because he knew they would never get past the MPAA. That only encouraged me to make them more intense, so I added in a few more bits and sound effects. Fortunately, the movie got released Unrated and is just as gross as I wanted it to be.
Alex: And finally, can you tell us anything about what you're working on next?
Jimmy: Right now, we’re still trying to get EAT out there and into the world. We’re a two man operation, so it’s hard to keep up with everything. We’re opening a store on our website (PrettyPeoplePictures.com) that will include a bunch of cool EAT shirts, posters, stickers, buttons, and more! So definitely keep your eyes pealed for that. On the movie front, I have been developing a number of films since EAT. I’m not entirely sure what the next project is, but that’s only because I have a million ideas and want to pick the right one. Something will be on the way soon because I’m not one to sit around. Whatever it is though, it will be horror. I can’t imagine working in any other genre at this point. My dream in life is to make low budget horror movies that push boundaries and get genre fans excited. Considering I’ve already made one movie, hopefully my life’s dream will end up better than Novella McClure’s ;)
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