Interview with John Klein: “Chrysalis” a post-apocalypse horror film
With 12-21-2012 looming on the horizon, post-apocalyptic films and TV shows are on the rise in popularity. TV shows like The Walking Dead (AMC), Survivors (BBC), and The Colony (Discovery Channel) examine the psychological and social effects an apocalyptic event has on its survivors. Post-apocalyptic films like 28 Days Later, I Am Legend, The Road, and even The Hunger Games have had an overwhelming amount of success at the box office as a result of their prediction/warning of what may come when the world ends.
So it comes as no surprise that our most recent Kickstarter find is a post-apocalyptic horror film called Chrysalis. With 23 days left in its campaign and over $8,000 of it’s $30,000 goal met, this film looks promising. We spoke to Director John Klein about his background in filmmaking, the film, and his and the screenwriter Ben Kurstin’s inspirations for the film.
Q: What is your background in film-making?
I graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in Film, Television, and Theatre, and set about being a freelance cinematographer in Chicago, which I’ve done for about six years now. In 2007, we started Glass City Films, and have used it ever since as an outlet for our passion projects and some of our finest work as artists.
Q: What is the plot of Chrysalis?
Chrysalis is a post-apocalyptic horror film, set 25 years after a bio-terrorist attack unleashes a virus upon the world, transforming much of humanity into vicious creatures and laying waste to civilization. The remnants and survivors have staggered about for years, as the “infected” slowly starve and die off.
Our story follows Joshua and Penelope, two such survivors who have banded together in the hope of rescuing others and hopefully rebuilding civilization. When they encounter Abira, the lone survivor of another group, their worlds and goals are irrevocably altered, and they must face new and terrifying challenges if they are to survive.
Q: What is it about this project that interests you the most? Where did the idea come from?
About two years ago, screenwriter Ben Kurstin was driving through a small, dilapidated Midwest town, and was inspired to craft a post-apocalyptic script that we could produce for a micro-budget using existing locations. The notion of urban decay in a world without civilization was a really exciting concept for him. The result was Chrysalis, and having worked with Glass City Films before, he felt we’d be a spectacular company to produce the film.
For me, what’s interesting about Chrysalis is merging my love of horror films with my love of straight-up drama and character development. Josh, Penelope and Abira are three of the most memorable, compelling, well-developed characters I’ve read. They leap off the page with a vivacity and realism and a genuine, honest behavior. Those are the character audiences will love. And those are the characters audiences will be frightened for when they encounter terrible, very real threats. It’s what makes good horror films like The Exorcist or The Blair Witch Project effective; a grounded, reality-based approach. We’re going for grit over style and dread over shock value. But…we’ll still have plenty of stylistic shocks to boot.
Q: What message are you trying to get across with this film? Who are you trying to reach out to as a audience?
The word “chrysalis” signifies rebirth and metamorphosis. An evolution. In Chrysalis, the world has been forever altered by this attack and subsequent infection. It has, in essence, let nature run its course while the remnants of humanity enact Darwinism. With Josh and Penelope, and whatever survivors are left, they’ve grown up in a new world, without notions of violence or cynicism. They represent the next hope of humanity’s growth, of its rebirth. And if there’s a message the film could convey, it’s that “light at the end of the tunnel” approach, even for survivors that may have never known what the light looks like.
So, as an audience, we’re looking to not only court the typical zombie- and horror-loving crowd, but also a group of people who might have thought those genres weren’t for them, maybe because they didn’t focus on characters or building the world around them or creating a mood of real, unrelenting dread. Chrysalis aims to transcend its genre, to scare with more than shocks, to showcase characters the audience will love.
Q: Which films and directors have you drawn inspiration from for Chrysalis?
We’ve obviously taken stock of our genre’s history; films like Night of the Living Dead (and other subsequent George Romero masterpieces), 28 Days Later, and even recent efforts like I Am Legend have informed both our visual style and the scares. But in building the world, we’ve also looked at films like The Road, which portray the apocalypse as a slow, real, gritty degradation of society. We’ve checked out documentaries like the Discovery Channel’s special “Life After Humans,” which offer shocks and research in equal doses. We’ve even simply referenced our favorite directors, ranging from Christopher Nolan and David Fincher to Scorsese and Spielberg. We’re all inspired in our own ways; the short point from that long answer is that we’re crazy excited about filmmaking in general!
Q: Where is the film shot? What is the importance of location to this project?
As the director of Chrysalis, much of my job on this film is getting details, large and small, absolutely right. And a big part of that involves finding the right locations for the job, locations that reflect a world decades removed from civilization. A building cannot simply be abandoned, but overwhelmed by foliage and plant life. A location cannot simply be decayed, but decomposed beyond repair. Screenwriter Ben Kurstin took great pains to write for locations we knew we could get, and in scouting those locations, we couldn’t agree more with his assessments.
Chrysalis will be shot in several run-down towns and abandoned buildings, predominantly in the city of Gary, IN. Several of our locations, including a church and several parks and houses, are located in the long-suffering town, and as an example, the Screw and Bolt Factory in which we shot the Kickstarter teaser has been abandoned for almost 40 years. As such, the dense plant life and the sheer scope of the warehouses – steel girders that now stand as monuments long removed from civilization’s gaze – were a perfect fit to illustrate the mood of Chrysalis.
If you are interested in making a donation to Chrysalis, you can visit its Kickstarter campaign page here: http://kck.st/OCMZII