Continuing our bumper preview of Arrow Video Frightfest 2022, we caught up with director Elise Finnerty to talk about the nightmarish The Ones You Didn’t Burn.
What can you tell us about the conception of The Ones You Didn’t Burn?
The entire film was conceptualized fairly quickly. Since our budget was extremely low, I looked at what resources I had access to and created a story around that. The first piece of the puzzle was my childhood friend’s farm, once he gave me the green-light to shoot something on his family’s land I started coming up with ideas and running them by my producing partner, Estelle.
As you are focusing on siblings, how important was casting the right actors for the roles?
I wrote these roles for the actors who played them. Nathan (who plays Nathan) and Jenna (who plays Mirra) are both friends of mine whose work I admire. As an actor I hate the casting process and never feel like I do my best work in an audition, so I’ll keep trying to write roles for actors whose work I follow for as long as I can. First step was asking them if they’d be willing to be part of this feature I was developing and planning to shoot in a few months. Luckily there wasn’t a lot going on in the industry due to all of the extreme lockdowns so they jumped on board. I’m honored they trusted me enough to pull this whole thing together, they’re so freaking talented, I couldn’t be happier with what they brought to these characters.
Can we expect some folk horror twist in the film?
My favourite part about this film is that the analysis can really fall in the eye of the beholder. A lot is up for interpretation, including a folk horror twist (wink).
What can you tell us about constructing the nightmare sequences for the film?
A lot of discussion with my DP, Brett Phillips, in reference to the mood board, and a hefty dose of luck from Mother Nature when it came to the beach. Not to mention Estelle’s (who plays Scarlett) willingness to get in the freezing ocean in October.
When dealing with land with ancient secrets, is it a balancing act between how much you spoonfeed the audience and how much you hint at?
As an audience member, I hate being spoon-fed the plot, my favourite part of watching a film is finding all the clues and putting the pieces together. My second favourite part is wondering if what I decided on is what the director intended. My third favourite part is arguing with the person I just watched the film with to prove my point.
Are you excited to be screening at Frightfest?
Heck yeah! I almost can’t believe it. I’ve been looking at all the other films programmed and am absolutely humbled to be shown alongside them. Also I’ve never been to London and I recently made a bunch of friends there in the film industry, I hope it’s the reunion I’ve been building up in my head.
How did it feel to make the transition from directing shorts to features?
I’ve only directed a few shorts before jumping into this feature. There’s something to be said about getting your footing as a shorts director before making a feature, however, I learned so much from just diving into making a longer-form story. Not only from a writing and endurance perspective but from the business and industry side. Also, it’s SO much work to make a short, might as well just push a little harder and make a feature if you can find the resources and the right people to support you.
The Ones You Didn’t Burn screens at Arrow Video Frightfest 2022.