PLAY VIOLET FOR ME (THE OFFICIAL TEASER)
A Film Noir short
Directed & Edited By Matt Mercer
Written & Executive Produced By Kevin Sluder
Loner Foley Merrick's (Matt Mercer, Contracted: Phase II, The Mind's Eye) obsession with the love of his life Violet Dupree (Najarra Townsend, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Contracted) turns tragic when he finds her dead on her kitchen floor. When he calls on Violet's twin sister, Lyla Dupree (Najarra Townsend), for help, the faint line between reality and fantasy becomes increasingly blurred.
Q & A with Executive Producer/Writer Kevin sluder
Q: How did you get into indie filmmaking?
KS: Short answer? I grabbed a bite and a beer one afternoon in a place called the Formosa Café. I often wonder where my life would be now if I had gone across the street to a different place. But I stepped in to Formosa and behind the bar was this cool gent named Matt Mercer. We got to talking about movies and the fact we both went to the University of North Carolina and hit it off. We became good friends after that and talked from time to time about making something together. I had been a spec screenwriter for a number of years with a few things received consideration from some places but nothing ever took off. So I started investigating other ways of getting my stories out there. Matt was producing and directing a cool indie feature called “You or a Loved One” and he invited me on set one day and something just clicked. I really loved how it was a bunch of friends shooting a film in another friend’s apartment. They had a story and they just went out and did it. Turns out, several of the people who worked on that film also ended up working on Violet so I would say that “family/community” aspect of indie filmmaking was very appealing to me.
Q: What’s it like being both writer and executive producer of Play Violet for Me?
KS: The whole experience was rather fascinating. As a writer, you have this world created in your mind. You spend weeks, months crafting this story then, as a producer, you have to let that world expand into something else. You bring in other elements/ideas and it definitely pays to be flexible. Matt had his take on it as a director. Patrick McGinley had his take as a cinematographer. Then, on set, others had input that took a couple scenes to cool, different levels. So, in the case of Violet, it was awesome because everything they suggested took the film to bigger and better places both visually and conceptually. It was a tremendous experience for me because I got to be a part of it from the initial idea to final cut. That’s a rarity for a writer.
Q: How did you assemble your team?
KS: I had the actors in mind when I wrote the roles and was fortunate they were all available for the shoot. I knew I wanted Matt to direct and star from the instant I thought up the Foley character. I was a big fan of Patrick’s photography and knew he worked well with Matt so he was my first choice as DP. The beauty of working with Matt is that he has an incredible team of people who are super talented, super nice, and super fast on set. In the end, it’s friends working with friends which, to me, is a great and fun way to make a film.
Q: What were some of your favorite moments?
KS: Wow. There were so many. Two immediately spring to mind so I’ll go with those. The first one was on the initial day of the shoot. We were filming in my friend Eric’s kitchen. My wife Jen, who is also production designer on the film, and I are behind the crew watching Najarra absolutely nail a scene. I mean, her performance was just perfect. Everybody knew that was the take. Jen turned back to me with a tear in her eye. Being new to being on set, I was just blown away in that moment by the raw emotional power of an actor’s craft. Another moment I can think of was at the end of the shoot. Jen was taking photos of me with different members of the team. I took a look at them when I got home that night and everyone looked so happy in the shots. I felt at that point that I had done a good job and everyone felt like they had done something they were proud of. That meant a lot to me because the cast and crew of this film are very special to me.
Q: What were the challenging times and what did you do to overcome them?
KS: Well, this was the first film I’ve ever produced so every single thing was new to me. From finding locations to getting all the paperwork squared away. The challenging thing was simply the learning curve and not wanting to mess something up. So I learned pretty quickly to lean on the people around me, especially Matt and our co-producer Gabe Arredondo. Lots of phone calls and texts with each of them patiently telling me, “this is what you do, Kevin” and then it was my job to just go out and do it. It was the simple realization that everyone around me had done these things many times before. They had been through the same things or worse. They all had this amazing experience, so asking them questions and educating myself on my own – as it is said Google is most definitely your friend – were the ways I worked through a lot of stuff. That and the Ben Howard CD I Forget Where We Were. For some reason that was the only music I could listen to before, during and after the shoot.
Q: Play Violet for Me is very stylized. How did you choose the noir style for your film? Were you always drawn to noir films?
KS: When I first got in to film – and I’m going to show my age here – but I rented VCR tapes from the Asheville (NC) Public Library for free and I watched a lot of old 40s and 50s films. Key Largo, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca of course. I loved the black and white photography in them and the snappy dialogue and their overall style. They were just so cool. For Violet, I wanted to pull from those films as well as the neo-noir influences of John Dahl. He made some incredible films in the early 90s that I really love – Kill Me Again, Red Rock West and The Last Seduction. Then, of course, there’s David Lynch with Lost Highway and Mulholland Dr. The look of the film was a collaboration between the DP Patrick and Matt. I remember, in our first production meeting, Patrick asked me how “noir” I wanted to go with the film and I said “balls to the wall”. Patrick came back with a look book that blew my mind and Matt put together an amazing shot list. I just got out of their way so they could do their thing. I think, judging by the results, that was a pretty good decision.
Q: You mentioned David Lynch? Is he one of your influences?
KS: Interesting question. I wasn’t fully aware of what an influence David Lynch had on me until this film. The non-linear narrative, the film’s existence in its own time and place, etc… I was really drawn to his work when I was in the film program at Chapel Hill, so I guess a lot of that stuck. For the score, we went to the amazing composer, Mark Hadley, suggesting Lynch-esque touches. What he came back with was wholly original yet definitely reminiscent of the work of (Angelo) Badalamenti, so I couldn’t have been happier. As for other influences, I mentioned John Dahl before. His femme fatales were always a blast and his stuff always had these amazing twists in it. Another influence would have to be the Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing which I watched a kabillion times in college. A true, underrated classic from their canon.
Q: What do you like most about Play Violet for Me?
KS: Just how the film is the combined efforts of so many super talented people. From the extraordinary acting to the stylistic photography and direction to Matt’s unique editing choices to Mark’s evocative score, everything in the film is the cumulative result of everyone bringing their best. It’s a bit humbling to me as a writer, actually. What this cast and crew did with this twisted little story I wrote is something I’ll never forget. I’m so proud of them and this film.