A melange of horror, film noir, and thriller elements, Every Time I Die is an ambitious narrative directed and co-penned by Robi Michael. I’m only going give the barebones description of the plot elements below to avoid spoilers, and Michael gave a pretty insightful look into his indie budgeted (but elaborately constructed) feature.
Sam (Drew Fonteiro) is a paramedic whose only form of solace is Mia (Melissa Macedo), a married woman whose live wire husband (Tyler Dash White) is already suspecting something is amiss. Marc Menchaca plays Sam’s best friend and co-worker Jay, and he’s married to Mia’s sister Poppy (Michelle Macedo). Ultimately the four congregate at Jay and Poppy’s lake house, leading to disastrous results. The Macedos, by the way, are twins, so that adds an even deeper layer to the narrative!
There is a bit of supernatural elements and a surprising turn of events that I never saw coming, and Every Time I Die absolutely surprised me with its overall storyline. Director/co-writer Robi Michael spent years hammering out the inner workings of his movie, and I wouldn’t be surprised if his attention to detail and overall execution lands him another movie with a bigger budget.
This is a very complex film, so I’m assuming it must have taken quite a while to pen the screenplay.
We took six years to finish the script. It went through a lot of different versions. I think the biggest challenge was to bring this idea forward with this script. I think we solved a lot of issues that we had in the script. It was very hard to explain to people how it’s going to . . . because we used cinematic tools (like) the POV shots to follow the specific consciousness (in the story) even though it’s jumping from different bodies.
It was very important for us to make it feel realistic in a way. You see in other films that in this genre of switching bodies, a lot of the times you see the character looking in the mirror and seeing something the audience shouldn’t see (which is) the consciousness that is hidden in that body. It was important for us not to show that. It was important for the viewer to have the same experience as the character and we only know what the character knows.
We used the cinematic tools in different ways – editing techniques and it is a complex film and it is open to interpretation on what actually is going on. I’m really glad with how it came out and hopefully when they see it – you’re supposed to keep guessing what is going on and what is happening. Hopefully at the end it comes together.
Do you feel your film demands a second viewing because there is so much to explore in your universe?
I think that is a great compliment. That was the intent and my hope is that after you watch it the first time you will say ‘Wait, what just happened and then you will need to deconstruct what you just saw. Deconstruct the narrative and put it back together in the right, chronological sequence. If you put it back together, knowing what you know from watching the end, I think everything will fall into place.
I think on a second viewing knowing what the real truth is, it will be very interesting for people to see it a second time. And see all the hints and clues we left. Some of them are in plain sight and some you need to dig a little deeper. But it’s all there.
Can you talk the challenge of having your lead character to be a bit unlikable?
I think you almost expect that. Having a super clean character with no issues, it’s very hard to relate to. We all have issues. If he didn’t have issues, it would not be believable.
The reason he is going through his journey is because of these issues. So if the starting point would be someone who has no inner conflicts and has no problems in his life, there is nothing to go from. There is nothing for him to achieve. I actually think it’s important and you can relate to him more knowing that he is not a super nice guy. He has a dark secret that affects his life and personality. It didn’t feel like a bold choice at all. It felt like a necessary choice.
I was surprised at how emotionally resonant your film was. Did that emotional element to your story always exist or did you grow into that story?
I definitely think we grew into this part. Originally in the earliest versions of the draft it was leaning into more genre films like straight horror and it used more tropes that you would expect from this genre. But it never felt right. If felt too on the nose. It was important to use to ground everything in more reality. I think that is what it makes it more compelling and you can start to wrap your head around this specifically. In general, I am more interested in something that is not just on the surface, but deeper and something that has more meaning.
To get to that, you need to have more dramatic elements and not just superficial jump scares or intense moments. So yes, the dramatic part was important but it wasn’t there from the beginning. It was something we found on the different drafts we made for the script. We slowly cultivated that idea, and a lot of that came from the actors.
For this kind of budget, you usually don’t have enough time to shoot it which we did have enough time. We shot it for many more days than what this budget allows. And we had enough time for rehearsals with the actor. We used that time for them to get to know each other and start having a relationship between them be more real. I think that helped a lot.
I’m assuming you grew up a movie lover. Can you name one of your favorite movies and what do you find unique about this film?
It is very hard to choose one. I love film, and that’s why I got into it. The one movie that comes to mind is Memento, in reference to this film. I think for obvious reasons. It’s a film that deconstructs the narrative completely and it tells a story backwards. It just doesn’t do it to be cool. It’s part of the story.
It would be a very different film if it was done in a linear narrative. Deconstructing the structure helps viewers be in the main character’s shoes. This is what I really like about cinema and using every element of filmmaking to tell the story and to express the mood and the feel you want to express. All of that comes from the acting, the editing, the directing, and cinematography. But it also comes from the basic structure. Any time you manage to do that, it’s amazing.
There are many more films that obviously inspired, but let’s stick with that one.
Every Time I Die is now playing in theaters and is available On Demand.