Amy Seimetz's "Sun Don't Shine," which is currently in limited release after debuting at SXSW last year, is a startling, visceral freshman film from the "Upstream Color" star. In addition to receiving plenty of support in the form of rave reviews (you can read ours here), the film also serves as an announcement of the arrival of some serious talent. Both its director and two stars, venerable indie character actors Kate Lyn Sheil and Kentucker Audley, are about to be unavoidable in the indie film world.
READ MORE: Amy Seimetz Discusses Her Busy Year and Why She Hates Being Labeled a 'Breakout'
Both are certainly no strangers to the industry. Sheil has appeared in films by Joe Swanberg, Sophia Takal and Alex Ross Perry, as well as last year's controversial "The Comedy," and Audley is himself a filmmaker, having directed four features and a number of shorts while finding the time to curate a website that highlights unknown and micro-budget filmmakers. Currently, however, they're having something of a moment.
You'll soon see Audley in David Lowery's Sundance sensation "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" alongside Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck, and in horror auteur Ti West's "The Sacrament," alongside Sheil. Also cropping up in Sheil's breathtakingly prolific filmography is Adam Wingard's buzzy horror film "You're Next" and an HBO pilot from "The Color Wheel" director Alex Ross Perry. We sat down for an incredibly candid conversation with the two, who star in "Sun Don't Shine" as a hapless couple on a tense, sweltering road trip across Florida to dispose of the body in their trunk, about breaking away from the naturalistic "mumblecore" movies in which they made their name, their upcoming projects, and the dangers of filming in the Florida swamps (alligators).
Obviously this move is pretty intense, and I feel like the conditions under which it was shot only kind of heighten that; the claustrophobic car, the heat, etc. Did that inform your performance at all, being stuck in this small car in the Florida heat?
Kate Lyn Sheil: Sure.
Kentucker Audley: Yeah. I don't have a lot of access to immediate anger as an actor, so that was very helpful. You just try to use those things. You get in the car and feel like you have nowhere to move and it creates the condition where you feel like you have to punch out.
KS: The heat was stifling, and Amy wanted that in the movie. So it was good that we didn't have to act like we were extremely exhausted and hot.
And intensely sunburned.
KA: Any time we don't have to act.
KS: That's a plus. Those are the roles we're going after.
How structured was the shoot? Was it a very specific, rigid schedule every day, or looser?
KS: It was pretty scheduled. WIthin that there was a lot of room to move around. If something didn't work we would just move somewhere else. The crew and cast were able to move as a small, cohesive unit so you were able to shift it around very easily. But it wasn't like a loosey-goosey "I don't know... show up sometime tomorrow and we'll figure it out." It was like a real movie.
Because watching the movie from the point of view of this low budget indie, you guys do a lot of crazy stuff liability wise. You go in that river, for instance, that I immediately thought had to have alligators in it somewhere.
KA: She didn't tell us until after.
So you never saw any?
KA: We saw some, but never while we were shooting. Amy was very clear that there were no alligators in that area.
KS: Until after we shot. The producer asked first, "are there alligators in this water? Should we be careful?" And Amy said, "You should always be careful, but no, there are no alligators in this water." But there were.
The three of you have all worked together before, and have known each other. Was the creative process more collaborative from the beginning? Did the two of you have a hand in writing the film at all and creating the characters?
KS: A little bit, but it was mostly, in my experience, Amy. She would send us large blocks of prose writing, and that was about it. She would ask for feedback, but I would mostly just say, "that sounds good."
KA: It was based on her recurring nightmare, and what I was trying to do was just pull out the facts about what she had in her brain so my input was generally more about the narrative that she already had. We had been trying to make a movie together and we didn't know what to make it about and she told me about this nightmare and I wanted to get in on that. So I was just trying to get her to tell me that full story. Once she knew that it was all upstairs for her it was very little back and forth until we got on set and started rehearsing and playing with it.
KS: I mostly stuck to the script. By the time we got on set there was an actual shooting script. But Kentucker and I would talk about things and figure out how we were going to do things, and obviously Amy was a part of that conversation. For me I always felt like I was delivering Amy's dialogue.
Was there a rehearsal process? Both characters are so unique and specific that I'm curious about kind of the origins of both of your performances.
KA: We didn't have time to rehearse.
KS: I think we talked to each other in the phone one time and agreed that we were both very scared.
KA: I think we agreed that they were both... what's a less harsh version of "trashy?" The people, they're poor people. You always have reference points to how poor people are, anywhere you are. So I'm fascinated by disparity, and how people who are brought up in small towns without money interact with their environment and how unsocialized they are in some cases. So a lot of the character for me was making him not adept and not adjusted to societal norms.
KS: I think I tried to... I don't know how to act any other way than find personal reference points for everything in the script. So I just tried to figure out the nearest approximation of how I would respond to that situation. And lots of stuff in the movie is familiar to me; being in a relationship with someone and being in a bad situation. And then extrapolate all of that to this extreme situation. I think the costumes helped a lot.
KA: It sounds frivolous to say that, but yeah, in my experience costumes help an incredibly great deal. It's almost worth a week of discussions just to see how they dress you and how they put your hair.
KS: I felt really unattractive in the costume so that helps. This character is trying to hang onto her boyfriend. In her Skechers.
KA: We always say our attire is exactly how kids dress. Lots of oversized tee shirts. Long jeans.
Kate, what's really interesting about your character is a lot of the time it seems like she's in sort of a trance, like she's been hypnotized, which I thought was a really interesting direction to take. It almost helps you relate to her in a way because she never seems "crazy," more just that there's something else going on, that she's not herself and there's something else driving her.
KS: Yeah, I never wanted her to be crazy. I don't think Amy did either. I relate to the character a lot more than people assume. I think when you're dealing with a really horrible situation you either try to address it, which Crystal is in a very roundabout way, but Kentucker's character is very much trying to solve a problem which is essentially not really solvable. And another way to approach the situation would be to check out completely and distract yourself. Crystal is putting all of her problem solving capabilities to the much more specific problem of fixing her relationship with her boyfriend.
KA: That's interesting, I never really thought about the difference between being in a trance and being crazy. I also think being in a trance is less explored as a cinematic device so it seems richer.
KS: I do that regularly. Even if it's a problem, like, I don't know how to write this email, every time it comes up in my brain I'm like, nope, not gonna think about that, that doesn't exist.