Sundance Speed Dating with... HELLION Writer/Director Kat Candler

Valentina I. Valentini, Contributing Writer
Austin-based filmmaker Kat Candler's got a sweet spot for kids. (That sounds creepy, but I assure you it's not.) Many of her films, including her first feature Jumping Off Bridges, deal in the emotional space of children and what it means to be young -- all the bad things and all the good things included. Her short-turned-feature Hellion has captured Sundance crowds and Twitch sat down during her very busy Park City stay to dig a little deeper in.

Twitch: At what age did you know you wanted to be a writer/director?

Kat Candler: I knew I wanted to direct when I was in college for creative writing. I had a friend that I worked at a movie theater with and was helping with her thesis film at FSU. She asked me to be a script supervisor. I had no clue what that meant, but I was eager to get on set. When I watched the process of filmmaking, I fell in love. I was probably about nineteen.

If you weren't writing and directing what would you be doing?

KC: I'd be teaching. I'm already a teacher at the University of Texas for film production, but I'd probably be a full time teacher in high school or junior high. I have a major soft spot for kids.
 
Who's the person who's had the most influence on you or your work?

KC: My friends. I've grown up in Texas with a slew of talented filmmaking friends - the Zellners, David Lowery, Yen Tan, Kelly Williams, James Johnston, Bryan Poyser, Heather Courtney, Jeff Nichols... the list goes on and on. These guys make me a better filmmaker. They challenge me, support me and inspire me.

Is there anyone you aspire to be like, professionally or personally?

KC: I'm a big Jeff Nichols fan as both a friend and a storyteller. I think he's so gifted at what he does and has carved out a beautiful path for himself.

(In three words or less) what is it like to see your film up on the big screen?

KC: Exhilarating and terrifying. 

If you had a $100 million and no restrictions, what would you make with it?

KC: Probably a bunch of smaller films. That's a lot of money. Maybe because I'm super money conscious, but I'd probably just make a lot of smaller indies. 

Would you rather have six months of prep time and 15 days to shoot, or 15 days of prep time and six months of shooting?

KC: Whoa. That's a pretty great question. I'd probably go with six months of prep and a 15-day shoot. I'm a big fan of pre-production time and planning and scheming before getting onto set. I'm not the kind of filmmaker that can run and gun with a story.

How do you define success in the marketplace for your film?

KC: Large audiences seeing my film. Hopefully on a very large screen in a very dark theater.

What would have been different if you'd made this film 5 years ago? What do you think will be different in 5 years?

KC: I wouldn't have been able to reach out to talent like Aaron Paul. I hadn't proven myself in a way to be able to do that. And in five years, I hope that it'll be a hell of a lot easier to finance a film. Putting financing together is freaking hard.

What did you do the moment you found out your film had been accepted to Sundance?

KC: I paced a lot and kept repeating, "We did it! We did it!" over and over. We were supposed to edit that night but I cut the day short so I could go home and tell my husband in person. He was such an amazing sport this whole last year. 

What websites/magazines are the most important to read as an indie filmmaker?

KC: Fiction. Books.

What was the last mind-blowing film you saw?

KC: The Hunt. I loved that film. I thought it was such a well-crafted script. It's stuck with me ever since I saw it.

When have you been most satisfied with your life?

KC: These questions are crazy awesome. I'm satisfied with all of my life. I'm doing what I love. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

KC: Being invisible. I can get major social anxiety, so sometimes going to parties makes me super anxious and nervous. If I could be invisible and sit in a corner and just watch people, that'd be rad. 

What would I find in your suitcase if I looked in it?

KC: A large pharmacy in case I get sick at Sundance. Luckily I haven't had to bust it open yet. 

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