"A murderous shape-shifter sets out on a blood-soaked mission to make things right with the woman he loves."
Here is the synopsis to Mr. Justin McConnell's thrilling horror feature:
Drew has to shape-shift, or face painful death. He has to find someone and make a copy. He becomes them, and they die horribly. Enter Julia, the object of Drew's affection. How can he make things right when he's never the same person for very long? LIFECHANGER follows one shape-shifter's twisted quest to repair the damage he's caused, while leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.
1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
This is a pretty general question to begin with. I'm not sure I have enough self-awareness to accurately describe myself, outside the obvious: I love film, I work in as many roles in the industry as I can, and outside that the rest would start to sound like a dating profile. I definitely believe in the entrepreneurial approach to the business, and life.
2. How did you get the idea for Lifechanger?
I was trying to come up with an idea I could do for whatever tiny budget I could put together, and gradually the concept came to me organically in 2014. It came from both influences I had growing up, and the mind-set I was in at the time, which was not particularly happy. I'd spent a couple years being really introspective and kind of depressed, trying to figure my place in the world. That informed the tone the film has.
3. Were there other titles you came up with before Lifechanger? If so what were they?
No. Lifechanger was the first title. And the only title, in my mind.
4. What research did you do when writing Lifechanger?
I didn't research very much for this project, overall. It's a story very much driven by life experience and existential thought, so was one of those scripts where the first draft kind of just poured out of me. But it isn't a film about medical procedures, or history, or a topic that needs a ton of research. It needed influences, and time for the sub-conscious to construct the narrative, etc.
5. What was your writing schedule when you wrote Lifechanger?
I generally don't keep a writing schedule, exactly. As in I don't force myself to sit and write in a regimented kind of way. I believe you need to write frequently, but I wait until I feel the spark and that I have something meaningful to add to a given work before I sit down to write it. A lot of the writing happens in my own head first. But with anything, I generally write a character breakdown, loose story flow, and then treatment first, before I go on to first draft. Then over the 3 year period it took to get the film financed, it went through numerous rewrites, when I had the time or something hit me that had to be added or subtracted. The script went through a lot of work before camera, an in my mind was in the best shape it could be by the time we started shooting. But hindsight is of course a different thing, so now removed from finishing the film, I'm sure there was more work left to do. But that's true of any film, I think. You have to abandon it at some point, or it never gets done, if you hav an analytical mind.
6. Did you know how Lifechanger would end or did it come to you while writing the story?
It came to me in the second or third draft. It ended at a more abrupt, slightly earlier point in the story in the first draft.
7. What has been the best compliment you heard about Lifechanger?
It's more what I've seen. I've witnessed several people actually cry when the film ended. Considering it's a horror film, that reaction was the last thing I ever expected. But people seem to like it in general. There are definitely those who don't, but that's the beauty of film: everyone has their own opinions, and you can't make a movie that pleases absolutely everybody. So I'm happy with the response we've had so far.
8. What was your favorite scene to direct in Lifechanger and why?
Probably any of the bar conversation stuff, where I got to really work with the actors and find the moments for each segment. It's a joy to work with talented and intelligent people when the combined efforts make something that feels authentic, to me. After that, the FX sequences, because I'm a prosthetic loving kid at heart.
9. Could you give an interesting, fun fact about working with the actors/actresses on this movie?
Jack Foley, who plays Robert, was Fashion Santa in 2017 while we were shooting. He worked for Yorkdale Mall in Toronto, and every year they hire someone to be 'Fashion Santa', which is basically a hipster Santa Clause for teens and others to line up and get their photo taken with. So, the day before his appearance at the mall, we were shooting a scene where he was cutting a body up in a bathtub with a hacksaw.
10. What was your very first short film? What were the challenges you face and how did you overcome them?
My very first film was probably a really rudimentary stop-motion thing shot on an 8mm video camera (at a whopping 4-frames a second), using Ninja Turtles and Beetlejuice toys. I think I built a tower building out of paper and lined the inside with match-heads, to make an explosion. I was probably 12 or 13. My first actual narrative short film was this serial killer thing I did in high school called 'Retribution of the Meek'. And my first feature was also in high school, a karma-loop crime-thriller anthology film called 'Strata'. I learned a ton in my teenage years making what were ultimately complicated home movies: the beginnings of how to shoot, edit, move the camera, make fake blood, you name it…. I learned a lot by doing, and I continue to.
11. Do you write scripts for yourself or you have your viewers in mind?
Depends on the script. But mostly it's a mix of the two.
12. On average, how many draft scripts do you find yourself writing until you are happy and satisfied with your work?
It's hard to give an average, because it depends on the project and how long I've got. But anything between four and ten.
13. What’s your favorite horror movie growing up? What is your favorite now?
I'm not a fan of this question, because I don't have one. Either then or now. I watch too many movies, so we'd be here all day listing stuff I love. But I can say the movie that got me truly interested in making movies: The Monster Squad. As for favorite horror film currently…. there's too many to choose from. I also program for Toronto After Dark, so I watch so much a year as a job that is of high quality and really enjoyable, beyond all the stuff in regular release, that I couldn't narrow it down.
14. Which filmmakers/screenwriters do you admire or inspire your work?
Another one of those way too loaded questions. It's a long list. But in terms of consistently interesting genre-related writing, I really like the ones who think outside the box and make really unique films where the audience finds them, they don't try to find the audience. A few examples of that would be Larry Cohen, Frank Henenlotter, George A. Romero, etc.
15. If a self-published author is seeking a screenwriter, how would one get you or any experience screenwriter to read his or her story to see if it would make a compelling movie?
In 2018, the internet is your gateway to everything. You are likely able to find contact info for anyone online nowadays, or find someone who can get you that contact info. Reach out and ask, it doesn't hurt.
16. What’s the best advice you have ever received about writing?
"Nobody knows anything" - William Goldman. It applies to the business, and it applies to writing. Yes, you can use the style guides, and Save the Cat, and use structure like it's your bible. You can try to think you know everything about writing, that you've done the reading, you know everyone's opinion, that you have it all on lock. You could go into a career in Script Coverage, and get paid for analysis, and grow to believe your opinion matters more than most other people. But the key word there is 'opinion'. The business is full of people saying "that doesn't work" or "that's just bad writing" for films that turn into massive hits, beloved classics, and are remembered decades later as strong examples of quality of a given time. Plenty of people are well educated in film, literature and story structure, but nobody can 100% accurately be right in their judgement of a piece of art 100% of the time. Everything is just opinion, writing is malleable and can be experimented with, and ultimately, "nobody knows anything". Which is part of what makes film, writing and art so damned exciting and alive.
17. Last question, what was your favorite toy when you were a kid?
My Construx. It was a building toy, like lego, but based on connectors, beams and joints. You could make anything you wanted and it would look like this cool mechanical device. With the same pieces you could make a spaceship, a tank, some future-looking car, or a chain-fed machine-gun. Really helped let the imagination soar.
This film is so innovative and the ending of it is quite remarkable. I won't say any more than that. You should check out Lifechanger on Amazon (by clicking the title itself) and tell others about it as well. I would like to express my gratitude to Mr. Justin McConnell for accepting my interview with him. If you want to keep up with what his production company Unstable Ground has in store or their previous movie project just click this link: unstableground.net Last but not least, i hope you enjoy viewing the stills and behind the scenes photos below this. Take care and thank you for visiting. See you again soon.