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Exclusive Interview with Laura Zoe Quist and Daniel Ponickly for ‘Raw Cut’

– by Gig Patta

RawCutPosterCropped Does something bad always happen in a cabin in the remote part of the wilderness?

Indie thriller “Raw Cut” made its world debut earlier this month at the La Femme Film Festival in Los Angeles.

Here’s the synopsis:

When Adam Cohen invites his best college friends, Jack and Amanda, to his  new Wyoming home for a week's getaway to meet his new fiancé, Stephanie, the two couples get much more than the peace and solitude they were hoping for. Stephanie asks for help with her thesis film, a 'found footage' piece. The friends are going to play-act a traditional horror story: two ingénues are stalked and murdered by two crazed hillbillies. But who is stalking whom? How far are we willing to go for our art? How much will people take before they burst? Raw Cut explores the meta world between found footage and reality. What starts as a traditional horror film turns into something far darker, more suspenseful. How well do any of the friends really know each other? And who will survive the cut?

Latino-Review conducted a phone interview with director Laura Zoe Quist and writer Daniel Ponickly on this Alfred Hitchcock-like thriller. The pair is also the main actors in the film.

We’ve discussed a variety of topics including using Wyoming as a setting to the creepy music used throughout the film.

The movie will be available digitally later this year or early next year. Check www.lockandmonkey.com for more info of releases.

Read the full transcript below or listen to our conversation.

Latino-Review: Tell me about this movie and how the idea got originated.

Laura Zoe Quist: The original idea for “Raw Cut” was from Daniel and I traveling across the country. We traveled [through] Wyoming and I said it would be so great to make a film in Wyoming. And Daniel is a prolific writer and so talented to have by my side to bounce ideas off of and have him write these great scripts. So I said, “What about Wyoming?” He pitched me this story that was very familiar to that. And by the end of the trip, he crafted this poignant meta-thriller. So I was like “We have to make this.”

Daniel Ponickly: We looked at the resources we had. We have a friend who owns a little great cabin in Wyoming. We fell in love with the cabin. So we thought to ourselves that we needed to build a story around this cabin. It’s isolated. It’s creepy at night. What do have to do here? So we made a movie about four friends who go hiking in the Wyoming wilderness and only one makes it back.

Latino-Review: Why Wyoming? It seems like it could be in any setting. Could’ve been in Montana? Could’ve been in California? Alaska? It could’ve been anywhere.

Daniel Ponickly: Because the cabin was in Wyoming. [Laughter] We took a look at the resources that we had. Making a movie is no small endeavor. Even if you’re making a low budget movie, you’re spending a lot of money and a lot of time. You’re asking a lot of favors from a lot of different people. The easiest thing you can do for yourself is to find your friends and family. What resources do you have? There’s this really amazing cabin. And from there, we had to make this amazing with the rough wilderness. We thought that here’s this story with this setting right here.

We normally would have to screen a location, but we needed a movie about that location. We crafted this little movie to support this wonderful location. But, you’re right. It could’ve been anywhere.

Our next movie we’ve shot is in Alaska. The reason for that is because Zoe has family in Alaska. We have some really great locations. We have really great benefits.

We will go where we are welcomed. So it can be anymore, Gig.

Latino-Review: I’m not debating about Wyoming. I was thinking while watching the movie that there were a lot of scenic shots. I thought that I was watching “The Hobbit” as you’re walking through the wilderness.

Daniel Ponickly: That’s pretty cool. It’s like a postcard for Wyoming.

Latino-Review: Talk about yourselves being the main stars in your own movie. Was it difficult play in the movie since you also directed and wrote the movie?

Laura Zoe Quist: Yeah. There were challenges for sure. I had great material. I had a great team. I had a great photographer. It just all worked out. I don’t think I wanted to do it again. Right now it shifted gears to being a full-time director. It’s more fun for me to have the extra time behind the camera. But, it worked out. I was being able to show my vision and jump in front of a camera and then jump behind it.

Daniel Ponickly: It’s tricky. It’s a very low budget feature. We were wearing many, many different hats on the production. As the producers, the main concern is making sure by the end of the day you shot all the pages you need to shoot and that you’re not running overtime. It’s tricky and walking a fine line. On one side, being the producers saying that we need to keep this [on schedule]. But the actors is for the art of it. It’s to take your time and craft the performance and not to be rushed. Our job as producers is to create an environment where actors feel free to be the artist.

It’s very difficult. Sometimes you want to have another take. But, you knew inside that we don’t have time for this and we have to rush ahead. It’s very tricky.

Latino-Review: It sounds like being a low budget film out in the wilderness. What was the greatest challenge?

Daniel Ponickly: Not falling off the mountain with gear. It happened with our sound guy. He went to the infirmary for falling off the mountain. And the woman was like “Son, you fell off a mountain. Take these medications.” We hopped up and down mountains like a bunch of Sherpas. You have to pack it in and pack it out since we’re shooting it in a state park. So you can’t leave your stuff there.

Laura Zoe Quist: Although we hide some grip behind a tree overnight. Our photographer was so concern is like “You don’t think someone would steal it?” If these people can move this out, then they can have it.

Daniel Ponickly: If they can move a 100 pound mirror down three miles of mountain then God bless them. [Laughter] We’ll pick it up at the bottom.

Latino-Review: Laura, your character throughout the movie was holding a camera while filming her thesis. What type of camera was that? And was it hard act and film at the same time?

Laura Zoe Quist: It was Canon T2i. You’ll see my character’s footage in the film. It wasn’t hard.

Daniel Ponickly: She always was carrying around a camera anyways. It’s pretty natural.

Laura Zoe Quist: [Laughter] It was like I was always carrying the camera, but I just press record and live just like the character by filming the world through the character’s eyes. It’s not a found footage in a sense with a third character stumbles across the footage. It’s about a woman who is so obsessive by the concept of found footage, Hollywood or by taking this whole idea into this entirely new level.

In that sense, it was fun and interesting to being both the director and the actor on screen.

Latino-Review: I was actually impressed and said to myself “Gosh, this is one great camera she has.” It had a lot of batteries and a lot of film memory that camera had.

Laura Zoe Quist: [Laughter] Right. Exactly. You never seen her change the battery or charged it up. Yeah, it was 120 gig card.

Daniel Ponickly: It’s like the six shooters in the action films that shoot off 140 rounds. [Laughter]

Latino-Review: Could you tell me about the other cast members and how you recruited them? And how did they do for your project?

Daniel Ponickly: They are friends. We’re familiar with their work. It was a really organic easy way of saying “Are you interested in being involved with this project?” They read the script. They did a little table read. Very quickly, we just jelled together as a cast. We decided to go off and just shoot this thing.

It’s a smaller feature film. You’re taking a risk. You’re taking a risk in hoping that you can make a movie as good as reading it on the page. It’s easier to take that risk with friends. You know what to expect. You know how you get along. It’s part of the process.

Latino-Review: The idea for this movie is supposed to be like a thriller with one friend basically went crazy towards the end. It was a very much like an Alfred Hitchcock type of ending.

Laura Zoe Quist: Thank you.

Latino-Review: Was that what you guys were going for?

Laura Zoe Quist: Even with the composer’s music was Hitchcockian. Thank you for that.

Daniel Ponickly: That was the pacing and tempo genre of film. It was these types of movies that keep you guessing. How long is the suspense? How long to keep people interested and hopefully to give them a good payoff? That was exactly the sort of genre we were going for. Especially with the music that added a certain level of creepiness.

Latino-Review: I was going to ask about the music since I thought it was the creepiest part of the film. Sometimes I could close my eyes and hear that music. Who developed the music?

Laura Zoe Quist: It is a composer that we worked with on all of our films. His name is Toly Ramirez. He is a…..

Daniel Ponickly: ….a genius!!!

Laura Zoe Quist: A genius. We are so blessed to have him. He is a…..

Daniel Ponickly: …..classically trained musician and composer.

Laura Zoe Quist: Yeah. He writes for big, big bands. He produces for big names. And he jumps on board for our little project. I don’t know how we got so lucky, but we definitely like him. He is part of the team as with the cinematographer or the writer.

When we went to pre-production on film, the conversations started with him. He is important to the output as any of the other players. I can’t say enough about him.

Daniel Ponickly: That was interesting because watching a movie without music is…..[different]. I don’t know if people ever watched it with that experience. You’ve seen films in all stages along the way. You watch a film with no music in it feels weird. Our cinematographer tells us that film is being a visual media. Who cares? When you watch the finished product without the music then you’ll go “There’s something missing.” Music is such an important element to it. And we’re very lucky to work with him.

Latino-Review: Good. Give my regards to your music composer. He did a really good job.

Laura Zoe Quist: We’re looking to have a digital release this early winter or as late as January.

Daniel Ponickly: You can visit our web site at lockandmonkey.com and we’ll have more information on when it’ll be released online.

Latino-Review: After this movie, it sounds like you’re already on to your next project. Is it another thriller?

Laura Zoe Quist: Our next project is in fact a thriller. However, we did have a project in between that we shot this past summer. It’s a romantic drama. We took a 180 as far for the genre.

Daniel Ponickly: From blood to love.

Laura Zoe Quist: Yeah, from blood to love. But, we’re going back to the blood here. In early spring of 2014, we’re going to film that. It’s going to be a dark suspenseful thriller. It’ll be in more of a Stanley Kubrick film. It’ll be in the vein of “The Shining.” It’ll be a good, good creepy ghost story.

Daniel Ponickly: We’re working as much as we can. We’re a small company. We write our own stuff. We find people that we believe in. We get material. The last movie we did was “Mining for Ruby.” That has Jonathan Bennett, Mischa Barton and Billy Zane. We’re working.

Latino-Review: That sounds awesome. Good luck with your movie late. And I couldn’t sleep after that.

Laura Zoe Quist: Thank you and I appreciate that.

Daniel Ponickly: Thank you.

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