A 9-year-old, blood-loving metalhead, a dedicated director and a professional horror movie actor: This is the recipe for Pale Moonlight Cinema’s (PMC) upcoming short film, “Popsy.”
“Popsy” is a macabre Stephen King short story about a gambler who picks up the “worst kid he can pick up” to sell into child trafficking to pay off his debt, said Ball State alumnus and director Jac Kessler.
Nadia Fancher, a Prairie Trace Elementary School student in Carmel, Indiana, has never acted before, not even in a school play, but Kessler said she was good for the role of the child.
“Once I found out she could take direction, that seals the deal as long as everything else is there,” Kessler said.
Kessler said he also cast her because they both share a love for Alice Cooper, a theatrical heavy metal performer who ends his concerts by having his head cut off.
Several years ago Kessler was struggling with the difficulties of making a short film, when he attended a Cooper concert in New Orleans, Louisiana, and was inspired, he said.
“It was my birthday and something just kind of dawned on me,” Kessler said. “If Alice Cooper –– who came from Detroit –– can break through a lot of different things, then there is hope for us.”
Nadia’s mother, Esther Fancher, said Nadia was at the same concert.
Kessler posed a test to Nadia, asking her what she thought when Cooper was beheaded, and her response backed up his casting choice.
“More than any point in the audition, more than any other time talking to her, she lit up, she was very excited,” he said. “She was like, ‘That was awesome,’ and I think shook her fists a little in the air. It was clear that she would’ve been a friend of mine, had I been a kid.”
Nadia’s love for the horror aspects of the Cooper concert bleeds over into her scenes from “Popsy.”
“I like all the bloody scenes, you could say,” she said. “I think that the makeup is really cool and that’s it. It is really sticky and it kind of tastes like plain candy. The makeup actually looks pretty similar to how it looks in real life.”
In fact, casting the child as a girl was one of the only original aspects of the “Popsy” story Kessler changed from King’s version. The other change he made moved the flashbacks of the print story into introductory scenes for the film.
“I set out to be true to Stephen King in the adaptation, and take what I call ‘King to screen’ to the best of my ability,” Kessler said. “I took all the subtext — the best I could — out of the short story and basically tried to make scenes out of them.”
Another notable actor from PMC’s “Popsy” is “The Evil Dead” actor Ted Raimi.
PMC’s director of photography Henry Tegeler said Raimi’s presence as a “professional actor” is one of the aspects that make “Popsy” different than the previous PMC films he has worked on.
“Working with someone we haven’t worked with before and is on a professional level, that was a kind of whole different field to the shoot and it definitely brought a little bit of a different stake to it,” Tegeler said.
Tegeler said another aspect that made this film different than previous ones is that PMC had a much larger budget to work with.
Kessler said the funding for “Popsy” comes from the pockets of PMC members and donations at more than $17,000 and said the film is no different from PMC’s other work, which is mostly macabre, dark humor.
PMC is filming “Popsy” as one of King’s Dollar Babies.
Dollar Babies are King’s stories available for short film adaptation. Kessler said the way it works is PMC paid Dollar Babies $1 to sign a contract allowing them the rights to make “Popsy” into a short film.
The contract requires PMC to release the film at a film festival.
Kessler said King will watch all the short films, and if he likes PMC’s film, he may be open to negotiating a “limited release.”
“Hopefully, he likes it and hopefully we are able to negotiate some form of limited release, which is probably just an online, private password, something like that,” Kessler said. “It’s vague in the contract.”
“Popsy” is PMC’s fourth short film. In addition to short films that run 20-30 minutes long, PMC also produces what Kessler calls “Short Shapes,” which are typically 3-5 minutes long. Kessler said on average, the production of a short film takes around 3 months, even though the actual filming only takes 5-15 days.
Kessler said PMC hopes to tackle a full-length feature film by 2020. So far, Kessler is working on three ideas, which he plans to present to PMC for the staff to choose to make into a full-length film.
Contact Hannah Gunnell with comments firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @hagunnellNEWS.