Interview: Michael Walker "The Maid's Room"
Director Michael Walker has been doing films for quite awhile now and he is really starting to master his craft. His new film “The Maid’s Room" recently came to VOD and has been gaining attention on the festival circuit over the last year. Michael recently sat down with us here at The Movie Network to tell us all about his new film.
Nick Leyland from TMN: Are you excited about the release of “The Maid’s Room”?
Michael Walker: Yeah definitely.
TMN: Now, let's talk about what style the film this is because it's a thriller, but it's not paranormal type of thriller, right?
Michael Walker: No, although the early drafts of it, it was more of a paranormal thriller. It was more of a ghost story. And I think a lot of those elements are still in there. It started off as a ghost story where you would see more of an actual ghost, or things moving, or things like that. And I took them out slowly through the script because I always thought that a ghost story is more interesting when you don't see them, but you sort of feel the effects of them.
And without giving too much away, the fact that main character is murdered halfway through the film, the aftermath of that is... It plays on your expectations too, of what time... Like you expect her to come back I think. And because of that, expectation helps too. So, it is a ghost story in a lot of ways.
TMN: Now, what inspired you to write the film? Because you wrote and directed the film which is a double challenge.
Michael Walker: Right. I wrote this a long time ago and I don't remember the exact inspiration for it, but it started off as a short and it was probably more about the relationship between the maid and the son, back then. And about 2003 I wrote the first draft and like I said it was more of a ghost story. It became more about the family and the maid. And it was the same plot, but it's just more of a ghost story. Like a traditional ghost story. And then over the years, like I said, it was a hard film to get made. And it just kept getting optioned and then not getting financed or getting close and then falling apart. And then eventually we finally got to make it. But it took so long, I worked a lot on the script. It was fun trying to figure out those ways of making it that sort of ghost story, without it being a ghost story.
TMN: Alright, now the scariest part about it is that it's like really realistic. You know? 'Cause this could happen to anybody at anytime. Now, were you more interested in showing the fear between Drina and the family? Or the fear of that the family has to go through with what their son did?
Michael Walker: Well you know it switches perspective. So, I think you start with, it's not even the fear that she has, it's that they just slowly find themselves in a worse and worse situation that starts off as sort of uncomfortable and becomes deadly. And then when it switches perspectives I was more interested in the fact that first of all you would find these, the family, kind of hateful for what they did. And then realized that they had reasons that they're doing this, that they're behaving the way they are and that might humanize them. So, while the maid get's dehumanized in the first half of the film, that hopefully the family gets a little bit humanized by the end of it.
TMN: One thing that I like that you did is the imagery with the ants the whole movie. What do you think the significance of the ants were?
Michael Walker: Well the ants is anyone who's ever had a summer house has ants. So, it started with that. I think when I was writing it there were ants. I lived out in Bellport which is sort of a... It's not in the Hamptons, but it's a beach town. There were ants in the office where I was writing it. So, that's how they made their way in, but there was also that theme in the film between, for the nature on the outside and how inside there was no nature. Inside the house if you look there's no plants, there's no life, it's sort of a dead atmosphere inside. And the ants get in anyway, they don't know about that rule. So, they sort of work their way in. And also you know the ants is sort of a fatalistic feeling, you know we're all gonna be eaten by ants at the end.
TMN: What I liked about it was that it was just one house. I mean the whole film was basically inside the house and outside the house. Paula thought it was kind of like a Hitchcock style of film, what do you think?
Michael Walker: Yeah, there's definitely, we've made some references. With the music or the way Annabella dresses, there's definitely a few things we took from Hitchcock. And also, I think I was thinking of Vertigo a little bit. But also there's a French director Clouzot, who was sort of the French Hitchcock, who I thought of a lot. And Claude Chabrol, who was New Wave. New wave got it's first shot Hitchcock-ian style films, but in a different way. So, I follow him a lot. I think when you're doing any sort of thriller that you have Hitchcock over your head.
Michael Walker: It's in a good way, even the fact that Drina gets killed halfway through, not everyone would think the initial thing is that it's from Psycho and it's copying Psycho, but that's not really true. But he did give you the permission to do that, because he's done it before. And that stuff is saying a lot.
TMN: Where there any scenes that you were particularly proud of?
Michael Walker: Well, I love the scene where they try to buy her off.
TMN: Yeah, that's a pretty good scene. How have the audiences reacted so far, 'cause it's been on the circuit, right?
Michael Walker: It's been to festivals, yeah, it depends on the audience, really, I have to say. I don't think it played that well in the Hamptons, where it started, but in Austin it played really well, and in some other festivals it's played well, so it depends on the audience, I think.
Audiences seem to like it, but people have different reactions to it. There's always somebody who walks out once they get to the show, there's always at least two people that walk out. I don't think that's a bad thing.
TMN: I thought it was surprising and it was almost like a nice change of pace to not see the person escape.
Michael Walker: Right.
TMN: I really enjoyed the music in the film.
Michael Walker: Yeah, Arturo Rodriguez, he did a great job. We found him sort of at the last minute, because my original idea was to use sort of old classical music and we thought, "Why bother getting somebody to do some music when there's all this great music you can just use." But in the end, I don't know enough about classical music, we couldn't afford it anyway so within a few weeks, we found Arturo. Basically, I don't even remember how we found him. I think, it was searching through Internet sites. But he was perfect choice, he understood the film immediately, and he did a great job. It has a little bit of Bernard Herrmann, like I said, the Hitchcock, but it's not too much. We wanted a big, exciting score, and I think it's big for an independent film. It's also something he couldn't have done even a few years ago. I don't think so, 'cause there's hardly any real instruments in the score, and it sounds pretty much like the real orchestra.
TMN: Yeah, it sounds real legit, you fooled me on that, or he fooled me, I should say.
Michael Walker: Yeah, he did a great job, and he had some engineers work on it, but I don't think even a few years ago it wouldn't have been as believable.
TMN: Alright. One thing I wanna ask you, too, was, this film was shot, I'm guessing within a couple weeks, can you even have fun while making a movie like this or is it all serious and fast paced all the time.
Michael Walker: I don't know, so it was an 18-day shoot, and generally on this budget that's about what you get. Price Check, the last film I did, was 18 days, and I had a great time on that, that was a lot of fun. But that had a big cast, and a lot of locations, and it was a different kind of film. This film, because of the way it's shot, is a much harder film to do in 18 days, because it's more about the shots as opposed to just filming the actress. So it was really hard and probably not as much fun to actually shoot. But what was nice about it was that we shot it near where I live, so my kids could come to the set. And it was a nice atmosphere on the set even if it wasn't that much fun to shoot. It's fun working with the camera and doing things, you always wish you had a little more time.
TMN: What can we expect from you in the future now?
Michael Walker: I have a short film that I just shot, and I'm editing that now, I don't know how I'll release it, 'cause it's a short film, but I'll put that out somehow, and then I just finished a fun slasher film that I'm gonna probably do next, but I just finished the script to that a few weeks ago, I just started sending that out, so that's probably next year.
Takes a while to get these things made, hopefully not another 10 years.
TMN: [chuckle] Well, congratulations on your film, and I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today.
Michael Walker: Alright, thank you.