Please explain what just happened.
We just released our poster and trailer for Hellion into the cyberspace and my mom emailed me to say she couldn’t stop crying. Moms rule.
What is your earliest memory?
The Big Wheel was the greatest thing that ever happened to me as a kid. We lived in Atlanta, GA in a cul de sac at the bottom of a terrifyingly steep hill. I used to ride that bad boy down that hill over and over and over again. Walk it up the hill, race it down. Walk it up, race it down. All day long. The simple things that bring us such joy.
If you weren’t a writer/director, what other profession would you choose?
I’ve been a teacher for a number of years now. It’s my second love. I grew infinitely more as a storyteller and filmmaker when I started teaching. I’d probably find myself doing anything that involved working with youth. Kids have a lot of shit to deal with growing up. So often they just need someone to listen and tell them it’s going to be okay.
Describe a typical work day.
I wake up super early. Most of the morning, I sit in my corner booth at Einstein’s Bagels and write. It’s kind of like Cheers. I walk in and all of the sweet elderly guys know my name and say hello. “How’s the movie business?” After several hours of either writing furiously or ripping my hair out, I go to my office at Arts and Labor, which I share with my producer, Kelly Williams. At my “non-coffee shop” office I return emails, send out DVDs, plot and plan with Kelly … Sometimes I go exploring.
I took a week-long road trip to Georgia recently to work on the next project. And when I say work I drove around with a friend to a bunch of different cities in south Georgia trying to figure out the place and the world for my next film. We wandered around little cities, sat in diners, took lots of photos.
And then when I’m teaching, I go to class for 3 hours and try and inspire and challenge the next generation. And usually they do the same for me.
Is there a time you wish you’d lied?
I’m a horrible, horrible liar. I can’t do it. I cheated on Mr. Gray’s Chemistry test in 9th grade and I still feel super shitty about it.
What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at age thirteen?
I wasn’t a bad kid by any means, but I think, probably like any teenage girl, I went off on my mom a few too many times about the dumbest stuff. I would probably tell my thirteen-year-old self, how much my mom sacrificed for her and my brother and to be grateful and love the hell out of her. My mom gave up a lot.
If you could have only one album to get you through a breakup, what would it be?
The album I listened to over and over again after a really sad break up was PJ Harvey’s Stories from the City Stories from the Sea. I would drive around singing super loud and sometimes screaming the lyrics. That teen angst never goes away.
What are three websites—other than your email—that you check on a daily basis?
From what or whom do you derive your greatest inspiration?
My friends. I’ve grown up with a talented group of filmmakers in Texas. Literally I’ve been making movies alongside these guys for over a decade. It’s funny when people talk like we all just came out of nowhere … we’ve been making movies for years and years and years. And I think what’s made our community so successful is the collaboration and the support. We’re all friends. We watch each others cuts, read each others scripts, share advice, pep talks, shoulders to lean on. I wouldn’t be where I’m at without them.
Name three books that have impacted your life.
Lord of the Flies. In Cold Blood. Franny and Zooey. And as a kid … Bridge to Terabithia, Frog and Toad are Friends, and The Giving Tree.
If you could relive one moment over and over again, what would it be?
On the eve of Thanksgiving in 2011 my producer Kelly Williams called me around 9 pm. I was like, “Weird, why is Kelly calling me so late?” I answered thinking something was terribly wrong. All he said was, “We got in.” It was the Sundance call for our short film Hellion that I’d been waiting on for so many years. I’d been rejected countless times. And it was something I’d been working toward for forever. I literally fell to my knees and starting sobbing. It was like, “Really? It’s my turn?” It changed my life. And my first kiss with my husband.
How are you six degrees from Kevin Bacon?
Do they still do that on the IMDB? Oh god, I have no idea. I’m guessing Aaron Paul knows him? Aaron seems to know everyone.
What makes you feel most guilty?
That would cut too deep.
How do you incorporate the work of other artists into your own?
I’m always inspired by the good and the bad. I’m always breaking things down as to why it worked for me or why it didn’t. Why did I connect or care or not?
Please explain the motivation/inspiration behind Hellion.
I made a short film called Hellion that played at Sundance in 2012. It was loosely inspired by stories of my mother’s hell-raising brothers when they were kids. The feature was inspired by the short, but more so it was inspired by southeast Texas. Kelly (producer), who grew up there, started taking me down for long weekends and field trips. I just started getting to know the area and the people. I’d never seen this part of Texas outside of Urban Cowboy and I wanted to capture its heart. Inspirational movies … Over the Edge, Stand By me, The Outsiders, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore …
What is the best advice you’ve ever given to someone else?
List your favorite in the following categories: Comedian, Musician, Author, Actor.
Comedian — I grew up on Carol Burnett, Steve Martin and Bill Cosby. My dad introduced me to movies like The Jerk and the Carol Burnett show and Cosby show were always on in our house.
Musician — Musicians would be a tough one. I have a million I love and adore. I worked in college radio at Florida State and became introduced to walls and walls of records and artists. It was heaven working there. And my husband is a total music nerd who still goes to Waterloo Records for new release day. Everyone from The Pretenders to Bruce Springsteen to Death, to the Ramones to Explosions in the Sky to the Breeders, Television, Bikini Kill, The Runaways, PJ Harvey, Metallica, Pig Destroyer …
Author — I was obsessed with Truman Capote and JD Salinger growing up. Probably like everyone else.
Actor — No way I could only name one. I love so many actors. I’m a big sucker for a stunning performance.
If you had complete creative license and an unlimited budget, what would your next project be?
My plan is to do the feature version of my short film Black Metalnext, but beyond that … I have a big budget kid’s comedy I want to do that was based on a one-act play I wrote in college. It’s called The Spider in the Bathtub. It’s super wacky, super colorful and crazy, part live action, part animation. I think that would be my dream job actually.
What do you want to know?
People. I’m fascinated by our poor choices, our beautiful mistakes, our struggles and what defines us.
What would you like your last words to be?
Please explain what will happen.
I’ll be true to myself and to the kind of stories I want to tell. I’ll try to savor every second of this crazy adventure we’re about to embark on as we release our little film into the world.
KAT CANDLER’s short films Hellion (2012) and Black Metal (2013) both premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Additionally, her previous films have screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival, SXSW, Slamdance and on PBS. She is a two-time IFP participant and was recently awarded the San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation Filmmaking Grant. Candler is also a film Lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin.
Candler’s feature film Hellion (2014) paints the powerful portrait of a family on the brink of dissolution set against the haunting backdrop of the refineries of Southeast Texas.
Obsessed with heavy metal, dirt bike racing and partaking in the occasional act of vandalism with his band of delinquents, the behavior of 13-year-old Jacob Wilson (Josh Wiggins in his feature film debut) has begun to raise concerns around town, especially when it starts to involve his younger brother Wes (newcomer Deke Garner). While the boys’ father Hollis (two-time Emmy Award-winner Aaron Paul) loves his sons, he is still reeling from the loss of their mother, spending more time drowning his sorrows at the local bar and working on his damaged beach house than being an active parent. When the local authorities catch wind of the increasingly volatile situation, Wes is taken into custody by his Aunt Pam (Academy Award nominee Juliette Lewis), leaving Jacob and Hollis to fend for themselves. In Wes’ absence, Jacob becomes increasingly obsessed with two things: winning a local motocross championship and getting his brother back. With a scorching central performance by Wiggins and heart-wrenchingly raw turns by Paul and Lewis, Hellion is impossible to shake. Executive Produced by Jeff Nichols (Mud) and Sarah Green (The Tree of Life).
* Photo of Kat Candler by Pamela Gentile.