Monday, September 11, 2023


The great Kyle Edward Ball was kind enough to answer some questions regarding inspiration, horror,  interpretations of his feature debut; Skinamarink and so much more (in an effort to not repeat myself here, click here and here to read my my thoughts on Skinamarink from earlier this year).


PINNLAND EMPIRE: How do you feel about Jane Schoenbrun’s assessment of your film essentially being about a child going through the stages of a concussion? Her assessment was actually a lot deeper than that but I am generalizing/focusing on the biggest talking point she brought up. It’s also one of the best breakdowns/understandings I’ve seen of your film.

KYLE EDWARD BALL: I love hearing all the different interpretations. Before I even started writing it, I wanted to make a movie that people could interpret on a personal level and I think it worked out. I won't confirm or deny any interpretation or theory but I think it's interesting that lots of people gravitate to the concussion theory. It makes total sense given the falling down the stairs scene at the beginning. It's also so incredible getting kudos from someone like Jane Schoenbrun.

PE: Right. Just to be clear, for those reading who haven’t yet watched the film (or folks who have watched the film and have made their own assessment) - Skinamarink is the kind of movie to have so many interpretations. I mean, to me the “plot” comes second after the overall atmosphere. Was that one of your intentions? Feeling first then plot second?

KEB: Yes. At least that's what I tried to do. Feelings and ideas first and then plot second.

Skinamarink / We're Going To World's Fair

PE: Speaking of Schoenbrun - in a lot of film circles you are both kind of paired with each other/compared to each other. Similar to how Ari Aster & Robbert Eggers are. Or Lost Highway-era Lynch and Crash-era Cronenberg. How do you feel about this pairing/comparison to another filmmaker?
I also notice you guys seem to get along on Twitter and have a similar appreciation for the same filmmakers.

KEB: It's really cool. Both our movies premiered at Fantasia (I think in Jane's case it was the international premier) and we both made horror movies that polarized audiences that relied heavily on atmosphere so I think the comparison fits like a glove.

PE: I just hope you both never stop dissecting films out in the open on social media. It’s always a joy to watch young filmmakers not only make cool new movies but still enjoy & love cinema. Film dialogue on social media can sometimes be very negative so I appreciate you both.

KEB: Thank you.

PE: How important do you think it is for filmmakers to have reference points/connections to older films? I only ask because while Skinamarink is it's own unique film, you’re quite open about your cinematic influences & inspirations. I find not all filmmakers are.

KEB: I don't really know. For me it's important because I love older movies so much and draw so much from them but I can see a filmmaker not having connections to older films and still making great work. I think that's kind of the neat thing about film/art. There are no rules on how to make a good one or how to get from point a to point b.

PE: Very true. I’m always fascinated (in a good way) when a director makes a film that reminds me of a particular older films and then I come to find out the director isn’t really familiar with a lot of cinema and the similarities I noticed were just coincidental.
Speaking of influences - where did you discover the work of filmmakers like David Lynch, Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, etc? Was it through film school or your own personal film discovery?

KEB: When I was a pre-teen, I went through a whole “I'm gonna be edgy, I'm gonna get into experimental shit” period and discovered Lynch, Brakhage and Deren through the internet. David Lynch was kind of my idol as a teen. I wanted to be him so bad. If they made glossy posters of David Lynch, I would have hung it over my bed. Him and John Waters.

The Grandmother / 

PE: I dedicated a large chunk of my personal blog to Skinamarink at the start of the year (making side by comparisons to older films). Were there any comparisons that I made that were way off?

KEB: Yes, it was actually eerie how on point you were. I'm not just saying that. Even things that I wasn't completely conscious of. The comparisons to Lynch's early short films were particularly unnerving. I remember seeing his shorts when I was a teen and then kind of filing them away in my memory. When you made the comparison to them I thought “oh ya. This makes total sense." I remember the “black box” photography in Lynch's The Grandmother and it looming large in my mind. I was incredibly flattered by all the comparisons too by the way so thank you. Not for nothing, I did see Inland Empire twice in the theater, when it played at our local art-house. I was still in high school.

PE: What were some of your non-cinematic influences and inspirations? Art? Music? Literature?

KEB: In no particular order, Francis Bacon, Goya, Trevor Henderson, Jimi Hendrix (particularly the opening track of Electric Ladyland), Jonah Johannson, Whitley Striebers Communion, Delia Derbyshire, Blvck Ceiling, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Dragan Bibin, Joe Meeks, Mort Garrisons Plantasia and Les Baxter just to name a few.

PE: A lot of these make sense in an abstract way. Well - the names I’m familiar with. The sometimes “distorted” faces in Goya paintings almost remind me of the faces in skinamarink. And the fuzziness from Hendrix’s guitar and the overall fuzziness in his recordings remind me of the fuzziness and static throughout Skinamarink.

PE: Who was the biggest surprise fan of your film?

KEB: It's hard to say. I've been so humbled that the movie has any fans at all, that it's hard to mention ones that stand out. It's been cool seeing other film directors praise the movie, but to me that's not completely out of left field because they are filmmakers too. It's been cool seeing Gen-Z gravitate to the movie. I've heard about lot's of big directors who've seen Skinamarink but I don't know if they liked the movie or not. A part of me kind of doesn't want to know.
Jordan Peele had requested a DCP when it came out and I was over the moon. I loved Nope so much. I didn't hear anything about what he thought about it and that's probably for the best. If he didn't like it, I would kind of be heartbroken. I want to just live in optimistic suspense.
Some directors I know have super thick skin and don't care what their peers or critics think. I'm not like that. I'm like the most thin skinned wuss I know. I cry all the time. I cry during Oreo commercials.

PE: Skinamarink is a very tense film. At least that’s how it was to me. How did the cast & crew, especially the children, manage working on such an intense & seemingly intimate horror film?

KEB: The shoot wasn't intense at all. It was super kid friendly and relaxed. The kids for the most part seemed to have a good time. All the tension came together in editing.

PE: Great to hear that! 
I don’t get to talk to a lot of modern horror filmmakers so I have to ask - what are your thoughts on the term “elevated horror”?

KEB: I don't love it. I love a lot of what's deemed elevated horror but I don't like the term. It feels classist and revisionist. I remember for a while people were using the term "Post Horror” but it didn't seem to take off. I think that might be more appropriate although even that term feels weird.

PE: Without giving too much away - what are some future plans you have coming up? I don’t need a lot of specific info or to get too personal/behind the scenes. Just perhaps some themes, ideas, etc. that you’d like to explore in the future.

KEB: I'm currently writing my next feature. Hopefully I can start filming next year. It will be horror and it will be weird. I think that's all I'm allowed to say at this point.

PE: That’s all I need to know. I’m sold. Can’t wait for it!

Skinamarink is currently streaming on Hulu


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