All Images by Jason Bognacki
Experimenal photographer, musician, filmmaker... all of these handles apply to artist Jason Bognacki. But my first eye-opening, jaw-dropping exposure to his work was through a short horror film entitled The Red Door, which in a mere 16 minutes captured all the suspense, dread, sexual tension and raw violence of a dozen feature films. Inspired by Italy's lush and sensual giallo thrillers of the '60s and '70s, as well as the surreal cinemascapes of David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick and Andrei Tarkovsky, Jason's short films effortlessly balance fashion-magazine glamour and eroticism with shocking violence and supernatural terror... which is why I'm thrilled to learn that The Red Door and his more recently-shot occult thriller Another are being expanded to feature length this year. I sought out Bognacki and asked if he could share some of his cinematic secrets; he not only provided a treasure-trove of fascinating info, but shared some exclusive images from his films that you can only see here on FEARnet. Read on for the interview, check out those stills and watch some seriously haunting teaser clips...
FEARnet: What got you started creating films?
JASON: A few years back I directed an experimental feature that went to the Sundance Film Festival, titled Loma Lynda: Episode II. That experience started my filming making career. LL:EP2 was a live cinematic and musical experience that told the story of a fresh-faced girl moving to Los Angeles to be a film star, only to be inducted into an anti-pop culture doomsday cult. The film was accompanied by a live musical soundtrack performed by my group, Loma Lynda. We had a great run performing it – from Coachella to the Museum of Contemporary Art.
That's an epic way to kick off a film career. Speaking of Loma Lynda, did The Red Door begin as a kind of long-form video for the group?
I think the original impetus for me was creating a 60-minute cinematic music video of sorts… but what it developed into was much more.
Even though Loma Lynda disbanded a while back, do you continue to score your own films?
I wrote the score to The Red Door while I wrote the screenplay. There's something to the creative writing process for me that brings out musical compositions and vice-versa. On The Red Door, scriptwriting and composing were inseparable... that might explain why the dialogue is so lyrical and poetic, almost song-like.
The sound design for your films is also very effective in creating a nightmarish mood. How did you go about creating the audio elements?
I used many sources for sound, such as a dusty old Moog synthesizer, Mellotron tape banks, sample string elements, a broken cello, hollow body guitars, piano, and racks on racks of effects pedals. There were times when a certain sound or passage of notes would open up a scene to a whole new realm of possibility. If I had a block in scriptwriting, I would often turn to the music for inspiration.
I've seen the 16-minute version of The Red Door, but you mentioned there is a longer cut forthcoming. Will that be the definitive version, or do you plan to expand it to feature length?
I'll be releasing a DVD compilation of my films this year, and there will be longer 40-minute featurette version . That version takes the viewer deeper down the rabbit hole into the bent mind of Lynda. The DVD will also contain the 40-minute Another, and a film titled The White Face, which I shot on my honeymoon…and no, its not that kind of film. This year I also have plans to shoot more scenes for both The Red Door and Another, making them feature length.
A lot of filmmakers have deliberately set out to capture the look and feel of a classic giallo film, but so few succeed in doing so. When I saw excerpts of your work I got the sense that you'd actually nailed it. Did you consciously set out to create a modern giallo?
In a way I did. I love the stylish terror, the musical experimentation, the "what you see is not necessary what you get" story lines and wild characters in those early horror thrillers. I think a lot of films produced today lack the style and spirit of experimentation of their predecessors. I make a conscious effort to try and push the audience and take chances.
I'd love to learn more about the genesis of Another... was it a feature project to begin with?
Another started as a short film, but during the filming we decided to take larger steps and finish it as a feature. We've shot 40 minutes of the featurette, and in the coming months we'll begin production of the last 35-40 minutes. Like The Red Door, Another is as independent as it gets. Self financed, one or two-man crew, everyone involved extremely passionate, and devoted to the project. I could not ask for more from our small group.
The details of the film are still shrouded in mystery. Can you reveal anything about the story at this stage?
There's occult, possession, witchcraft, extreme indulgences, cursed bloodlines, and a little Atari thrown in there.
I love everything you just said. So when can we expect to see the premiere?
I will be the first to let you know.
Much like dreams, your films seem to blur the lines between sensuality and terror. Do you often turn to dreams and nightmares for inspiration?
Not dreams per se, but I am intrigued with alternate states like night terrors, pavor nocturnus, and the in-between states of sleep and consciousness. My characters unknowingly seem to be trapped in these transitional states, where the everyday can easily turn into nightmare; or as in the case of Another they are lulled into an alternate state of consciousness.
You've been getting some web buzz over your DIY fusion of a vintage Piccolette camera and a Canon 5D. Do you incorporate any similar modifications on any of your films?
I employed a few experimental shooting techniques on Another, but no custom lenses. For use on future projects, I wouldn't rule out strapping some of my creations to the EPIC X to get a certain look in-camera. Currently I'm having a beautiful vintage set of 1970's anamorphic cine lenses restored... these are the same type of lenses Andrei Tarkovsky shot the original Solaris on. Really looking forward to using them on a project; they produce a great vintage cinematic look and feel... and some sick sci-fi looking lens flares that would make JJ Abrams weep!
Be sure to drop by Jason's official site for the latest updates on his film and photgraphy projects... and rest assured we'll keep you posted on the status of Another and The Red Door!