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Kat Candler Explains How to Adapt a Trailer into a Short Film Starring Josh Hutcherson and Jena Malone

Kat Candler Explains How to Adapt a Trailer into a Short Film Starring Josh Hutcherson and Jena Malone

Kat Candler’s latest film was inspired by a trailer.

Candler wrote and directed “The Rusted,” a psychological thriller starring Josh Hutcherson and Jena Malone, as part of Canon and Ron Howard’s Project Imagination: The Trailer contest. Howard and Hutchinson chose one winning trailer created by Mark Mukherjee, a college student in Florida.

Candler is best known for adapting her short film “Hellion” into a feature of the same name, which screened at Sundance 2014.

READ MORE: Attention, Filmmakers: Essential Short Filmmaking Tips

“The Rusted” is a film about a brother and sister’s attempt to renovate their childhood home into a recording studio, but strange happenings force them to deal with memories from their past. The global premiere of the film took place via a livestream with AOL BUILD on October 22 and is now available at imagination.usa.canon.com. Francesca Silvestri and Kevin Chinoy of Freestyle Picture Company, as well as Josh Hutcherson and Michelle Hutcherson, produced the film.

Indiewire recently chatted with Candler about her approach to the filmmaking process.

How did you get involved in Project Imagination?

I got an e-mail that they were interested in talking to me about the project. I think Kevin Chinoy, one of the producers, had talked to Trevor Groth, the director of programming at Sundance, and got the names of some short filmmakers and I was, luckily, on that list. I talked to Kevin on Monday and by Friday, I had hopped onboard the whole project…Coming onboard to get inspired by someone else’s creativity was really a cool process. 

How did you begin the process of making a short inspired by a trailer?

I really loved the tone and the mood and the atmosphere of this trailer and have never done anything horror-esque or supernatural and was intrigued by that idea and that mood and that tone. So really I just took that atmospheric quality of the trailer and then this idea of contaminated or corrupt water and then got out my little pencil and started jotting down all sorts of notes and ideas and brainstorming. I had come up with three ideas and then through our producers, we honed in on one that everyone was really excited about. It was a really cool experience watching something and then having your little story wheels start spinning out of control. How can I take this person’s piece of art or trailer and then come up with something with my own little stamp on it as well? It was a cool process.

Of course, you already had funding and the cast, so that streamlined the process, right?

All of the logistics were in place. It was definitely a speedy process of having to write something really really fast, but it was great because all of the producers were really involved in workshopping the script with me, giving me notes and feedback. So even though it was a really compressed amount of time to go through the whole process this summer, I had a really great support team, not only great support, but really great creative minds involved.

The cool thing about having Josh involved and bringing me onboard is he is an exceptionally gifted producer, which I don’t know that he quite realized going in. He was very involved from the writing of the script to being at tech scouts to being at our shotlisting session. Having his experience and his creative mind spinning brought a lot to the table. It made that compressed timeline go really really smoothly.

Knowing that he (Hutcherson) is going to star in it, obviously, I’m going to be writing a character of this age, and then again when we brought Jena onboard. She is such a powerhouse of an actress. I have always been an admirer of her work for so long because she’s such a badass onscreen. It just makes your life so easy as a director. You’ve got such craftsman performers, it makes your words sound so much better onscreen than they did on page. Just being on set, it was all so fluid.

What are the main differences between directing a short versus a feature?

I feel like you put equal amount of time in pre-production into a short. You’re still spending a month putting together locations. It’s just such a process. It’s such a challenge to write something that is contained within six minutes to 20 minutes that has a full arc of a story and has really fleshed out characters even though by 15 or 20 minutes, it’s over and hopefully, you’ve gone on some sort of emotional journey with these characters, regardless of worlds or histories. I think that’s probably the greatest challenge, to condense something that you can spend 90 minutes developing into a tiny little nugget of a story, which is fun and a wonderful challenge.

What was your favorite part of the process?

It’s really magical to watch the little bits and pieces of people’s lives that they find cool and complex stories out of — whether it’s a guy shoveling snow on a cold winter night and he finds this ridiculously wondrous story in a minute to grabbing your kids and going out in the backyard and making a really fun family film, it’s so nice to have tools at your hands to create. Any time we write up a story or pick up our families and shoot something, there’s something so wonderful about putting our hearts on the screen and putting our hearts into a story. People should have fun. Making movies is about having a great time and putting your heart onscreen.

Watch “The Rusted” here.

READ MORE: Watch: Kat Candler on How Short Filmmaking Encourages Experimentation

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