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Meet the 2014 Sundance Filmmakers #35: Jennifer Kent Drags You to the Dark Side in 'The Babadook'

Indiewire By Indiewire | Indiewire January 16, 2014 at 3:0PM

Scary movies often vary on their level of quality, but Jennifer Kent's latest feature "The Babadook" certainly has what it takes to earn in its place at the top of the pyramid. Following the terrifying experiences of a single mother and her seven-year-old son, the film aims to bring out the more disturbing side of its seemingly innocuous characters.
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Jennifer Kent

Scary movies often vary on their level of quality, but Jennifer Kent's latest feature "The Babadook" certainly has what it takes to earn in its place at the top of the pyramid. Following the terrifying experiences of a single mother and her seven-year-old son, the film aims to bring out the more disturbing side of its seemingly innocuous characters.

What It's About: The film is about a woman coming to terms with her shadow side. We see what happens when that dark energy she's been suppressing explodes.

So What It's Really About: That IS what it’s really about! But there is a lot of light in the film too. It's not all darkness. A young boy's love for his mother is at the core of it as well.

Tell us briefly about yourself. I've been writing, directing and acting (in plays) since I was a kid. I trained and worked as an actor in my adulthood, but it didn't really suit my personality. I eventually migrated into writing and directing instead. I'm much happier doing these things. They're my way of processing the world.

What was your biggest challenge in completing this film? The biggest challenge was definitely the pressures we had to face on a smaller scale budget. The vision for the film wasn’t 'handycam just go and shoot it' style. We shot in a studio and we had to have time and money to get the world right. The long-standing efforts of my producer Kristina Ceyton were nothing short of phenomenal and are definitely what helped us realize this vision. She protected the world of the film every step of the way.

What cameras did you shoot on? Arri Alexa, which is a great camera. We used Zeiss Master Prime lenses on the Alexa. They were a dream to work with and gave a very filmic look, which we needed.

Did you crowdfund? If so, via what platform. If not, why? We received most of our funding from Screen Australia and South Australian Film Corp, but we did also crowdfund as a top up, through Kickstarter. The amount we raised through Kickstarter helped us to boost our art department budget, which we really needed. I’m glad we went through this process; every cent from that crowdfunding campaign went up on the screen. And we now have an early bunch of Babadook film supporters as a result.

What do you want your Sundance audience to take away from your film? If they can be moved by the story in some direction, I'll be happy. If that direction is in the direction of fear, so be it! But, it's not a jump scare kind of film. The story is what I've focused on. Hopefully, they will take something of that story away with them.

Have any films inspired you? David Lynch's films inspire me. I am amazed by their combination of beauty and violence. Also, he's not afraid to be abstract. "Lost Highway" is probably one of my favorites of his and "Mulholland Dr." too. Also, there is a beautiful heart running through the strangeness of "The Elephant Man". All around brilliant films. He stays true to his vision 100%.


What's next for you? I am working on a number of film scripts, two in particular. One is a very personal story (non linear) about my dad's death, set in three realities with three different generations. The other is a more simple structure western style film, set in Tasmania in the early 1800s. The western is so violent that I can hardly drag myself to the keyboard to write it everyday. But, it's true to the period, and I wanted to investigate that frontier violence from a female perspective. How does a female character respond to violence is my starting question.

Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2014 festival. For profiles, click HERE.

This article is related to: Meet the 2014 Sundance Filmmakers, Sundance Film Festival, The Babadook