Interview: ’30 Miles from Nowhere’ Director Caitlin Koller and Writer/Producer Seana Kofoed!
We got the chance to talk to director Caitlin Koller and writer Seana Kofoed from 30 Miles from Nowhere! Kofoed also produced and acted in the film as well.
30 Miles from Nowhere is a thriller, “where five friends from college return to Wisconsin for their estranged friend’s funeral, and what begins as an uneasy reunion becomes a terrifying fight for survival.”
The film stars Emmy-winner Carrie Preston, Rob Benedict, Cathy Shim, Postell Pringle, Marielle Scott, and William Smillie. It will also feature music from Louden Swain.
We also reported that 30 Miles from Nowhere is a recipient of a ReFrame stamp! With gender-balance and diversity as one of its core missions, 30 Miles from Nowhere had a female director, writer, and producing team, and a diverse and 50% female cast and crew.
A DVD and Digital Release are also planned for March 5, 2019.
Read our interview with Caitlin and Seana below!
Nerds and Beyond: Can you give us a little bit of background on 30 Miles from Nowhere – how the script came about, how you cast the film, were there auditions? What were those like?
SEANA KOFOED, writer/producer: I started writing 30 Miles from Nowhere as an excuse to grab actor friends whose work I love and coax them into going on a 2-week, down and dirty, indie moviemaking adventure with me! I focused on writing roles that actors would have fun playing. Most of the roles are loosely based on a combo of college pals of mine, though not necessarily on the actor playing them. For example, Rob Benedict, with whom my producing partner and I attended Northwestern University, and who is, of course, infinitely talented, might often be cast as the kinder, gentler role in this film…which is why we begged him to play the role that’s the complete opposite. He totally rocked it, of course.
We coaxed Carrie Preston on board because, well, she’s a ridiculously gifted actor who, in spite of her many accolades (she won an Emmy for gawd’s sake), is still willing to get scrappy and do a little indie film now and again. She’s one of those actors who can play literally anything and this particular role was one she hasn’t played before, so…we lucked out, big time.
Cathy Shim, hilarious and wonderful, both on-screen and off. William Smillie, Postell Pringle, Marielle Scott…all were such fabulous fits for their roles, all such talents, and we had no business getting them to drop their lives for two weeks and come scream in the woods with us…but they did.
On top of being hugely talented, each of the actors who joined 30 Miles from Nowhere was the kind of person willing to take a leap of faith in the name of a creative adventure. Two weeks in Wisconsin, in a cabin, with most of the scenes shot at night…a literal army of mosquitos…it’s not for the faint of heart. My producing partner, Kelly Demaret, and I also had a no A-h*les rule to which we strictly adhered while casting, so we knew we had likeminded, kind humans who would respect and support one another on set. They bonded so quickly and naturally, which was exactly what we were hoping for, as they play a close-knit group of college friends who haven’t seen each other in too long. And once on set, our wonderful director, Caitlin Koller, very peacefully and brilliantly wove that dynamic into the film.
We didn’t hold auditions with the exception of one or two roles. Together with our casting director, Miriam Hoffman, we pulled together a cast from either first-hand knowledge of their talent or from watching a compilation of some of their previous film/tv work. While often necessary, the audition process is not always the most joyous experience for an actor — and we respect the enormous talent (and time) of the people we approached about the film. Our way of showing that respect was to make a straight offer whenever possible. For our supporting roles, we tapped into the very large talent pool in Chicago. That city is full of insanely skilled actors with amazing work ethics and zero attitude.
Nerds and Beyond: What was shooting like? How many days did you film? Your website states it was shot outside of Chicago – was the whole film shot there?
SEANA: We shot for 15 days, in Chicago and the surrounding areas. The cabin was in Ingleside, which is just outside of Chicago, but you feel like you’re, well, 30 miles from nowhere! This perfect little A-frame cabin was where we spent most of our filming time. It felt like a summer camp of sorts, minus the cots and the bug juice, which was the vibe we were hoping for, so we were thrilled! We had a good number of very late nights, days that began as nights…with a 5pm call, dinner at midnight, and wrapping at dawn. So it really is a testament to our amazing cast and crew that no one ended up in a trash bin. Were there any fun moments on set, or tidbits you can share?
CAITLIN KOLLER, Director: The entire cast and crew stayed out in the woods of Illinois for the majority of the shoot. Arriving on set every day was like ‘film camp’, we really became one big happy family. Nights spent surviving tornadoes of mosquitoes and acorn torpedoes was a bonding experience like no other!
I have a great memory of the scene that includes live Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, which were fun to work with, although maybe not so much fun for Marielle Scott and Seana Kofoed, who had up close and personal dealings with them. In this scene, the roaches are supposed to be moving over and around a bed, but the ones we had were either very sleepy or just very lazy and had to be enthused or encouraged not to just rest or nap while we were shooting. We found out later that the cure for lazy cockroaches is to use straws to blow little streams of air over them, it seems they hate a draft – lesson learned.
Nerds and Beyond: You received the ReFrame Stamp, as well as made a commitment to have a racially-diverse and gender-balanced cast and crew. What made this so important for you?
SEANA: Yes! Gender balance and Diversity! It’s a big driver for me, and for my producing partner, Kelly, as well. I began as an actor, still am, and have seen how challenging it is for women, and even more so for women of color, in the male-dominated landscape that we see both in front of and behind the camera. Women, and young girls, deserve to see themselves reflected on screen, to be told that their stories matter. And the way I, and other writers, can address that is by balancing our casts, expanding our stories, both in terms of racial diversity and gender balance, to reflect the world around us. If it’s not a film set in a men’s prison, I don’t want to see 14 guys and 2 women up there on that screen. That’s not a story I want to see, I’m not interested in that. And of course an enormous part of making progress is hiring more women directors. As a small production company we have the power to make that change because, well, we’re in charge. We’re not being told who we can and cannot hire. We are making the choices and the change ourselves. Because we’re small, we’re nimble, and those of us in this position should be doing everything we can to support one another and create the change we wish to see around us.
Nerds and Beyond: What’s one of your favorite scenes (that you can share)?
SEANA: Oh goodness…Okay I think my top two are when Sylvia (Carrie Preston) comes in with an armful of tarps, in the midst of a massive rainstorm, and asks Paul (William Smillie) to take them beneath the house to..you know…stop the leaking. And I also love the scene between Paul and Elaine…because it’s a quiet moment of platonic friendship in an otherwise fast-paced, intense story.
CAITLIN: Filming the scenes that include stunts, guns, animals or fake blood are always fun and challenging. I loved working with our amazing Stunt Coordinator Aaron Crippen, who made sure everything not only looked great but was also perfectly safe for the actors. There’s a scene when Postell Pringle who plays Jack, gets dragged at speed across the ground by a rope, which was exhilarating to see live and to come off without any injury. There’s also a sink explosion scene where Elaine and Bess (played by Seana Kofoed and Cathy Shim) are covered in blood, which works so well thanks to our art department and make-up teams! They’re definitely two of my favorites.
Nerds and Beyond: You mentioned there was a Louden Swain song in the film. Any chance you’d be able to tell us which one?
SEANA: I can. It’s “Bandaged Hand”! Now it’s up to you to find it!
Nerds and Beyond: Is horror one of your favorite genres? What made you want to do a horror film?
CAITLIN: Horror is my favourite genre to watch and work in, a passion I discovered while studying film at Swinburne University. My fourth year film was a horror-comedy called Maid of Horror, about a maid of honour who kills off the wedding party so that she can marry the groom. I fell in love with horror because it had a consistently higher level of female protagonists than most other genres and gave them a character arc that didn’t center on falling in or out of love. Horror films gave women characters a chance to fight, to stand up for themselves and to overcome violent obstacles and become confident in who they were. They were characters I enjoyed identifying with and was inspired by. Seana’s script had so many wonderfully written relationships and characters, especially for a horror film, and I really connected to the way a lot of dialogue overlapped and flowed naturally, which gave it the kind of dynamic I love. The story is fast-paced, populated by diverse characters and it had a sly undertone of comedy that really piqued my interest.
Nerds and Beyond: Lastly, is there anything that you “nerd” or “geek” out about?
CAITLIN: I am a complete horror nerd. I love reading horror novels, listening to horror film soundtracks or podcasts and watching horror films and TV, especially horror comedies. Some of my favourite horror comedies are Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Housebound, The Loved Ones, Evil Dead 2 and Sightseers. I usually seek out horror written or directed by women. Some of my favourite writers/directors are Jen and Sylvia Soska (American Mary), Alice Lowe (Prevenge), Anna Biller (The Love Witch), Mattie Do (Dearest Sister), Julia Ducornau (Raw), Mary Harron (American Psycho) and Jennifer Kent (The Babadook).
SEANA: I’m a big Game of Thrones fan. I’m in utter, bow-low awe of Julia Davis’ writing on Sally4Ever (HBO), and…I could watch Goonies 3x a week. Also, since shooting American Princess (an upcoming series for Lifetime), set at a present day Renaissance Faire…I’m a little obsessed with the world-within-a-world-ness of that. And I’m ever a sucker for a good young adult adventure film, probably because I’ll always feel emotionally frozen at fourteen!