INTERVIEW: José Pedro Lopes & Daniela Love
– By Chris Barnes
Ten years after producing their first short film, The Bride, a giallo horror short that played in Women in Horror festivals around the world, production company Anexo 82 took the plunge and decided to make their first feature film, The Forest of Lost Souls.
Anexo 82 is the joint effort of Ana Almeida and José Pedro Lopes. José, who directed TFoLS, has been making horror shorts ever since the company’s inception. The Line and Survivalism were both festival favourites in 2011, and he created an online short for The ABCs of Death II competition called M is for Macho, that involved playing basketball with zombies. In 2016, he directed the short Saint John’s Night for Crypt TV.
One of the unusual things about The Forest of Lost Souls, the Portuguese arthouse slasher, is its villain. Instead of the stereotypical strong, silent, male butcher we get an attractive, talkative girl who is just as merciless. The role marks the breakthrough of young actress Daniela Love.
Born in Portugal in 1992, she has been working ever since she finished her studies at the Contemporary Academy of Spectacle, in Oporto, Portugal. Her more noticeable roles were in TV’s Offline and The Girl with the Movie Camera, as well as highly-regarded festival short Video Store and a creepy role in The ABCs of Death II entry M is for Mail. The Forest of Lost Souls marks her first feature film in a lead role, and Daniela certainly didn’t decide on a less challenging option to ease herself in!
After the exciting announcement that the UK’s newest horror fest, Triple Six, would be giving a UK Premiere to highly anticipated The Forest of Lost Souls, I gratefully managed to catch up with José and Daniela for a chat –
in fluent Portuguese. Yeah, I surprise myself, too.
The Forest of Lost Souls deals with some serious issues and holds them bravely aloft for all to see in a macabre yet beautiful way – where did your original idea come from?
JPL: The Forest of Lost Souls was pitched as a short film at the Pitching Forum of the FEST – New Directors New Films Festival. When Anexo 82, my company, decided to move forward with a feature, it was this idea that won over others. We wanted a horror drama and a film with both commercial and artistic attributes.
I had the family tragedy story in mind and the hipster slasher story, so I made them collide. Above all I wanted to make a good art genre film – one that would pick up the slasher scenario and twist it. This slasher is female, is modern, is small, and is actually kind of a coward. Nothing like Jason or Michael Myers.
Daniela, how did you prepare to become the many-layered Carolina?
DL: When I first got the script I wrote several pages of her backstory (which were later dismissed! 😛 ). For the slasher side of her I concentrated mostly on her physicality, and for the suicidal, poser side I tried to have the same references as her: I read the books that she mentioned and I heard the same music she listened to, since I realised this part had to be an intuitive process.
José Pedro gave me a list of films to watch and we talked a lot about Carolina and her motivations.
Was it hard to balance being the talkative hipster and the silent slasher?
DL: I think the hardest part was to understand Carolina’s motivations. More than focusing on her character arc, I tried to work on Carolina as different characters. She’s always playing; playing the talkative hipster, the hunter, the cool friend who likes to party, the well-behaved daughter… I had to look at the different moments of the story and see different characters played by Carolina. In the first part I wanted her to look theatrical (because she was trying to look charismatic) and in the second part I tried to convey the least emotion possible. The film was shot at different times of the year so it helped me a lot to separate these moments.
How TFoLS looks was what instantly drew me in. Why did you go with the melancholic, black and white noir style?
JPL: When Francisco Lobo (cinematographer) and I sat down to talk about it, it was clear this was a story that called out to be shot in a very visual, wide manner, and that B&W cinematography would keep the tone of the film constant, even though the story shifts from light drama to macabre horror.
It is a movie set in a colorless, sad world and the characters are in these big B&W frames, but they seem drawn into them. A lot of people look at the lake scene and think that place just isn’t real.
Is the film delivering some sort of social comment or generational message in its last reel?
JPL: Not really generational, but definitely about our times. People live too much online, hide online, and aren’t interested in basically anything. This transversal nature is part of Carolina’s alibi and motivations. She has read a lot on suicide culture, but most of her knowledge is kind of silly. Her alibi is based on Facebook. She haunts her victims with SMS. In the end, she isn’t at all interested in either the forest, death or suicide culture. It was just a tweet for a murderer.
DL: I don’t think it is something about a generation but about bad people that will always exist, in every generation and in every place (even in the saddest place on earth).
How long was the shoot?
JPL: Since we had a tiny budget, it was shot in separate periods. The “haunted house” setting was filmed in a very hot week of August 2014. The “forest” setting was in a very cold week in January 2015. Additionally, photography took place in late 2015 and mid-2016.
If I wasn’t stopped, I guess we would still be filming new scenes for the film! We had, like, three endings!
How has your work been received in Portugal, in the festivals it has played?
DL: It has been surprisingly good, in Fantasporto the theatre was almost sold out. Prior to the premiere I thought that it would be a movie for a specific audience, but it turns out I was wrong, the public seems to like it!
JPL: Both screenings in Lisbon and Oporto were packed and audiences reacted very well to the film. They actually found it to be a bit of a comedy. I think non-Portuguese speaking audiences won’t get the same comedic feeling. But above all, I heard a lot of people were happy to see a Portuguese feature in the horror genre. It is very unusual, even though horror is a popular genre.
We’re working to get the film to mainstream audiences, outside of festivals. Let’s see how it goes.
How was working with Daniela?
I’ve worked with Daniela before as a producer of a wonderful short film called Video Store, directed by Ana Almeida. It is a 90s-set adventure with two teens distributing the obsolete VHS tapes of a vídeo store. Her character has a bit of a connection to this one, so Forest’s Carolina is a bit of a dark version of Video Store’s Carolina. It was written for Daniela, who is a great actress and wonderful person.
Why choose the Triple Six Horror Film Festival to showcase Forest to the UK?
JPL: I’m a young filmmaker with a first feature and a lot of ambition. Triple Six is a new and ambitious festival. So it makes sense to me.
In filmmaking there’s too much of a “snob” attitude, even in festival programming and choosing. Sure, Michael Hanake only screens in Cannes. But when you’re small, you should bet on like-minded people.
What’s next for you both?
DL: Soon the last short film I starred in will be released and now I’m working on my independent projects, in performance and theatre.
JPL: Me and my company, Anexo 82, are currently developing projects. We’ll see which ones get financing and move forward. We’re definitely into doing a second feature and some of our ideas are ambitious genre shifters like Forest. But at this point is it pivotal we see how this film works to learn what we should do, and shouldn’t.
The film will also screen at Fant Bilbao in Spain and will soon be distributed in the US by Wild Eye Releasing.