CHEAP THRILLS director E.L. Katz talks about his Film Influences and Genre Filmmaking

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I was given the opportunity to ask E.L. Katz, the director of Cheap Thrills about his influences on the film as well as his feelings on breaking into Hollywood and what he has lined up in the near future. You can watch Cheap Thrills on Movies on Demand now and in select theaters on March 21. Keep reading for my interview with E.L. Katz.

One of the strongest traits of Cheap Thrills is the unbiased perspective of the four main characters and it shows what moralistic people are capable of in desperate situations. Due to the strong central focus on tone, I was reminded of films like Into The Night and After Hours, where things spiral in bizarre ways and everything goes to hell. Was that coincidental or a conscience influence?

After Hours is certaintly one of my favorite films, so maybe even if it was something I was consciously referencing, I could have been influenced without knowing. I think one of my biggest influence is the noir, in literature, and in film… desperate protagonists that make increasingly insane decisions are some of my favorite stories… because they do give you the option to play around with humor and horror, sometimes simultaneously.

There were obviously advantages like creative freedom on this film and setbacks like time constraints, having just a couple weeks to make this film. If you were afforded more time, what would you have done differently, if anything at all?

I would have not aged an additional five years, that’s for sure. I would have gotten more then one or two takes on the last two days of shooting. I would have essentially done the same movie, it just would have perhaps been less of a hectic experience.

You’re doing a segment in the sequel to The ABC’s Of Death, how do you plan to stand out from the other filmmakers and grab the audience’s attention?

I’m not sure if I will, that’s for the audience to decide!

There’s been more of an acceptance to genre sensibilities in independent films lately and Hollywood has taken notice, Gareth Edwards (Monsters) has a Godzilla movie coming out this summer and Colin Trevorrow (Safety Not Guaranteed) is doing Jurassic World next year. If you were offered a blockbuster movie of your choice to make with a reasonable amount of creative control, what would you choose and what would you want to bring to the table?

I think the closest to a big budget that I’d be interested in, is something like District 9, or Looper… where the budget’s big enough to let me explore some fantastic visuals, but not so big that it has to speak to EVERY audience member there is. The more money you have, the more nervous investors you have, which is never a good thing for creativity… so it’s always best to try to do what you want for as little as possible.

There’s a great amount of cynicism in movies these days, independent and mainstream. Some directors still attempt to beat a dead horse by attempting to shock people that have seen everything and others are simply doing the bare minimum and in turn insulting the intelligence of viewers. Do you feel that as a somewhat jaded society, that we’re losing sight of what was magical about escapism in movies and do you as a spectator, as well as creator want to help change that?

I really have to approach everything I do from a story perspective, and try to not thing about the state of the union of filmmaking as a whole, because it would just make me overly self conscious, and fuck me up. We only have responsibility to what we’re making, and I believe that if we service that as honorably, and truthfully as we can, then we’re hopefully making something that can connect with people and allow them to get swept up with what they’re watching. Hopefully.

On IMDb, you are credited as a writer on The Unholy, what can you say about that project and what can you share about other projects you might be currently working on?

The Unholy is a crazy supernatural thriller with sci-fi elements that came from an idea by the Rec directors (Balaguero, Plaza). It’s been years in the making. I’m also working on a crime thriller with Pat Healy, and Snoot, the producers of You’re Next and The Guest.

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The Author

Sean McClannahan

Sean McClannahan

Sean McClannahan is a freelance film journalist and is the founder of Movie Time And Beyond. His passion for movies and pop culture knows no limits.