By JUSTIN STOKES
A celebration of the darkest offerings culture can bring, Halloween is a time for the shadow self to come to the surface.
It’s an occasion that lets movie-goers indulge in madness, bloodshed, and thrills not normally in vogue.
Just in time for the season, the Nashville-shot feature film Fogg is the story of a psychopath and the cat-and-mouse games he likes to play. Fogg will be shown at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Franklin Theater
Signing up for a medical experiment, the monstrous subject begins to feel new
emotions he hasn’t felt before. Will his treatment take effect and “cure” him, or will the murderous protagonist give in to his old ways?
In anticipation of the Franklin Theater’s screening of the film, the Franklin Home Page recently caught up with writer/director Elvis Wilson about the film’s regional debut. Our interview is below:
Franklin Home Page: How was the idea conceived? What is your interest psychopaths, and how much research did you do for both the title character and the empathy project?
Elvis Wilson: I got the idea for Fogg shortly after reading a book by David Eagleman called Incognito. Eagleman dove into the processes of the brain and, in one chapter in particular, the processes of the amygdala – the bi-spherical part of the brain that’s home to emotions, feelings, rage and reason. The “spirit” stuff of what I think makes us the people who we are. Some of us are “normal” while a few of us are born with deformed, small, or malfunctioning amygdalae (some get their’s transformed by brain injuries or disease), and there turns out to be a
correlation between this part of the brain and sociopathic behavior. I made the leap and wondered what would happen if we were able to jumpstart the empathy circuits in these people, stimulate the amygdala, or even repair it. Sociopaths might have REAL feelings or emotions for the first time. Of course, supposing this could happen, I would also have to consider what the consequences would be once that cure fell apart. That’s how Fogg was born. At its heart, Fogg is just another monster movie with some real science involved.
FHP: Let’s discuss the cast: What did each of the main players bring to the table?
Wilson: I worked with Ryan Wotherspoon (Matthew Fogg) several years ago on a commercial project and I instantly liked him. I always kept him in mind for various projects and I knew he had great range. I actually wrote Fogg with him in mind. He left town to do the L.A. thing, and returned to Nashville (I’m not sure why) just as I was finishing the second draft of the script. I emailed him and told him I wrote a screenplay with him in mind (which, in retrospect MUST have sounded REALLY creepy!). He agreed to read it and I think I hooked him right away.
I’ve always followed the work of what I consider Nashville’s best actors in short films I see at festivals or on stage at local theatrical productions, and Jeremy Childs (Yansa Whittcomb) has always been someone I deeply admired
and rings true in his work. All my actor friends are hard working, but Jeremy sets the bar for everyone else. He is a jewel of a human being on top of being outrageously talented. I had a friend of a friend break the ice for us, and he
agreed to meet over coffee. I attempted to win him over and I’m sure he was wanting to feel me out as well. I’m not sure if we hit it off or not (you’ll have to ask him), but I think he got the idea that I was more than a fanboy and when he told me he was willing to work with me over the phone, I did a few fist pumps in celebration.
I forget how we met, but originally Leah Elmquist was cast to play Maggie O’Shea. She was pregnant by the time we needed to shoot, so she bowed out. On the night of our public table read, Leah graciously set us up with Hayden Wyatt to sit in for her. Serendipity smiled on me again. Hayden, Ryan and Jeremy had instant chemistry between the three of them and I knew I had something special happening. That night I knew I had a movie.
The rest of cast are all extremely talented folks as well with great and varied backgrounds. I did no formal casting, and preferred to organically feel out the players and “learn” them over coffee and reading parts of the script with
them. I feel very fortunate to have such a deep well of acting talent in Nashville.
FHP: The film incorporates a lot of familiar spaces in Music City. What was the experience like shooting the movie in Nashville, and getting to show off places like downtown Nashville or The Sutler?
Wilson: And don’t forget Bolton’s Spicy chicken & Fish! I wanted Fogg to be a Nashville centric film without the country music scene and cowboy hats, much in the same way Richard Linklater uses Austin and parts of Texas. You know his films are shot there, and there’s a whole other sub-culture that defines Austin, but then you see the places where “regular people” go. I hope Fogg has that feel. I’d like to make movies in L.A., but I don’t want to move there. I love the feeling of shooting spots here at home that no one has seen before or thought about as a
backdrop to their narratives. Shelby Bottoms is my Central Park.
The Tennessee Entertainment Commission, especially Gisela Moore, was quite helpful. While it was not her job, Gisela was kind to a hack filmmaker like me and stewarded me where to go to get some of the places I needed to see on my “no” budget. I went to great lengths to get the proper permits to shoot, but a neighbor at Old Hickory Lake gave us so much grief, I had to close set early and live with what we got that day. Did I mention cicadas in summer? Oh. My. God.
FHP: The film was produced by Movie City Films, but was also crowd-funded? How did that dynamic work?
Wilson: My Executive Producing partner is Kelly Frey of Movie City Films. I met Kelly at the Nashville Film Festival in 2014 when he was president. I was the winner of the Tennessee Screenwriting Award that year, and we got to know each other and bonded over our mutual love of screenwriting and narrative. Kelly told me he was stepping back from the festival and turning his attention toward stewarding local indie projects like mine. While I was already shooting Fogg with funds I made from an Indiegogo campaign, Kelly stepped in with a little more
funding and got my ship on a more professional course. I hope it’s just the first of many more movies to be made together.
Kelly and I also share the same desire to make Nashville a hub for independent film. If the right model of production were established, great scripts that only need a few locations could share resources with multiple productions and get made… I admire the way he thinks.
FHP: Given the thematic nature of the film, do you expect any sort of resistance to the content whatsoever? And did you grapple with wanting to show more?
Wilson: Oh please let my movie piss some people off! PLEASE! But seriously, that’s a great question. In the first act of Fogg, there is a rape scene. I struggled SO much with that. On one hand, I WANTED to NOT make rape look sexy. I wanted that act to be cruel and miserable, but thanks to the all the smart women around me, including my wife, Vicki Radford and my amazing D.P., Tamara Reynolds, under their consult, I pulled way back on how we shot and edited all that. I’m a male director, and while I could have made it more realistic, I felt I had a greater responsibility to women to be sensitive with that content. Showing all the gory detail would serve nothing. The destructive fallout of rape is what is most important to illustrate. The final edit of the rape scene is abstracted to just the horrific sound of the attack. It gives me chills. Somehow, those recordings of crimes you sometimes hear on news magazines like 20/20 or 48 Hours always feel more terrifying to me than video.
FHP: What do you see as being the future of this film? Where do you think the film will take you? Where do you think the film will go in terms of its reach to a major audience?
Wilson: Micro-budget indie films have a lot of barriers to break through to be successful. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about finding an audience. I really hope to do well enough to get financing on my next few projects. A calling card if you will. We are doing really well on the festival circuit and picking up awards. Ryan has received two best actor nods so far and I even got a best director nomination, so the indie fest market seems to respect the work. Keep your fingers crossed for us. Fogg is not the kind of movie I normally write. I took it on to stretch my story wings and see if I could do something with limited locations and resources. I love Dramedies the best. Drama spiked with humor. I have a cancer road trip movie called Driving Top Down that’s won or placed highly in several screenwriting competitions. DTD encompasses most of the story themes I love most: love, hurt, hope, redemption. I’ve written nine screenplays and have notes on 2 more. I just got to do my thing, you know?
Middle Tennessee Premiere
The Franklin Theater will hold the Middle Tennessee premiere of Fogg at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 22, with doors opening 30 minutes prior, with a Q&A after the screening. Those wanting to learn more about the Fogg movie may check out the website for the film its social media. Readers are also invited to check out the website for Movie City Films to see other locally-produced film projects and when they’ll be released.