‘The Pact 2’ Directors Patrick Horvath & Dallas Hallam On Film’s Visual Style

With Halloween just around the corner, The Pact 2 is a worthy selection to put in this week’s horror rotation. Grey’s Anatomy star Camilla Luddington is June Abbott, a crime scene cleaner who draws vivid and graphic artwork during her spare time. Coupled with her grisly nightmares and a possible link to the Judas Killer (the murderer featured in The Pact), June’s days are not exactly filled with sunshine and rainbows.

Patrick Fischler is Ballard, an eccentric FBI agent who has his doubts about June’s innocence, with Scott Michael Foster co-starring as June’s concerned cop boyfriend. The Pact headliner Caity Lotz reprises her role as Annie.

Camilla Luddington in 'The Pact 2' (IFC Films/IFC Midnight)
Camilla Luddington in ‘The Pact 2’ (IFC Films/IFC Midnight)

Though the film has its requisite “shock you” moments, the project’s main strengths lie in the atmospheric feel and pacing delivered by co-directors Patrick Horvath and Dallas Hallam. Their 2012 film Entrance was initially shot on the cheap, so working with a low budget was definitely in their wheelhouse.

Patrick Horvath & Dallas Hallam, Directors of 'The Pact 2'
Patrick Horvath & Dallas Hallam, Directors of ‘The Pact 2’
The Pact 2 - (IFC Films / IFC Midnight)
The Pact 2 – (IFC Films / IFC Midnight)

During my interview with the filmmakers, Horvath and Hallam discussed the challenge of getting a cinematographer (Carmen Cabana) at the midnight hour of pre-production (the first DP left the project). The movie still ended up with a solid and eye-catching visual style (it’ll be interesting to see what the directors do with a bigger budget), and they also credit Cabana for helping create the film’s visual aesthetic.

The movie’s a great showcase Camilla Luddington, who’s a lifelong horror fan, and co-stars Fischler and Lotz (they are both Mad Men vets) also add an extra luster to the material.

I’ll be posting more from my interview with Horvath and Hallam in the future, as they give great filmmaking advice for first time directors.

In sum, the flick is a supernatural/serial killer hybrid that delivers the goods, especially if moody and atmospheric thrillers (tinged with a bit of blood, of course) is your type of dance.

The Pact 2, which opened in select theaters earlier this month, is also available On Demand as well as on Amazon Instant Video and on iTunes.

Caity Lotz & Camilla Luddington in THE PACT 2 (IFC Midnight, Copyright: Unlocked Door Films, LLC Photography by: Carmen Cabana & Ron Batzdorf)
Caity Lotz & Camilla Luddington in THE PACT 2 (IFC Midnight, Copyright: Unlocked Door Films, LLC
Photography by: Carmen Cabana & Ron Batzdorf)

Camilla Luddington Explores Thriller Realm With ‘The Pact 2’

 

It’s been a creatively productive several years for actress Camilla Luddington, thanks to her work on Grey’s Anatomy as well as playing the indomitable Lara Croft in last year’s acclaimed videogame Tomb Raider (Rise of the Tomb Raider is set for 2015). If you’re into thrillers, her next choice might be up your alley.

With The Pact 2, Luddington is June Abbott, a crime-scene cleaner and emotionally complex artist who may hold a connection to the Judas Killer (the murderer featured in The Pact). There’s a valid reason why June immerses herself in a world of shadows, and though directors Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath aren’t afraid to spill a little blood in The Pact 2 (the picture opens Friday), many of the film’s scares surface from the atmospheric unease that surrounds June’s universe.

During our conversation, Luddington talked about her love of horror films and creating a backstory for her character on The Pact 2. She also elaborates on why she loves getting feedback from Grey’s Anatomy and Tomb Raider fans.

Luddington was gracious and refreshingly gregarious throughout the chat, and when artists are filled with good intentions, one can only hope for their continued success.

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What led you to The Pact 2? Was it the narrative or simply the chance to work with the filmmakers?

Well first off, I’m a huge horror movie fan. My family members are all huge horror movie fans. We grew up watching Halloween and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and even kind of odd movies like the French film Martyrs.

I had an interest in doing a horror movie and I was approached about (The Pact 2) during the summer of my hiatus off of Grey’s Anatomy and I was asked to meet the directors. The first thing I did was watch (The Pact) which I really loved and I loved Caity Lotz’s performance.

(The Pact 2 directors Hallam and Horvath) were super passionate and they had a clear idea of what they wanted to do with the movie. I’m always attracted to characters are in no way bimbos or kind of perfect – a little bit tortured, which is what June is. That conversation led to a chemistry reading with Scott Michael Foster (he plays June’s police officer boyfriend) and it kind of went from there.

The Pact 2 - Camilla Luddington & Caity Lotz (IFC Films/IFC Midnight)
The Pact 2 – Camilla Luddington & Caity Lotz (IFC Films/IFC Midnight)

What was the key to creating June? Much of her world is an interior one, as she often internalizes her feelings and works them out through her drawings.

It was very fortunate for me. I went home to England for a couple of weeks and I got to sit with the script. When I came back, I had maybe four or five days with the directors before shooting, which doesn’t always happen. It was really nice. I spent that time in England just asking a million questions about her backstory.

So a lot of her backstory and the choices I made for the character came out of those meetings – and it really helped inform me. June isn’t very emotional necessarily.  She channels a lot of her inner conflicts through her comics and her drawings. That was really fun to play, but again I had a lot of questions about her backstory and it kind of all got answered in those five days.

Sometimes the (directors) didn’t have the answer and we would discuss what would make sense for her, or where I thought she was coming from. It was definitely fun to have that and it informed (the character) while filming.

The Pact 2 - (IFC Films / IFC Midnight)
The Pact 2 – (IFC Films / IFC Midnight)

As a film geek and actress, do you see more opportunities thanks to VOD and streaming? Is there more interesting material out there to explore?

I think so, and especially with the found footage films which started really with The Blair Witch Project, from what I remember. It’s encouraging people to pick up a camera and go and write their own material. There are lots of horror movies that are taking the opportunity to do their own stuff. For example, V/H/S – some of the stuff that comes out are really incredible and they’re done for no money and are very entertaining. (Just) being to get your hands on incredible technology for a very cheap price.

It’s really interesting for an actress and a horror movie fan to sit back and watch all the films that are coming out and see what people create. Even things like Slender Man, which was created over the internet, that’s interesting to me that something can go viral like that and sort of become part of pop culture and then urban legend. That’s just someone creating with exposure and the light. So yeah, there’s just a lot of great stuff out there.

Camilla Luddington in 'The Pact 2' (IFC Films/IFC Midnight)
Camilla Luddington in ‘The Pact 2’ (IFC Films/IFC Midnight)

Whether it’s being gutsy in taking on Lara Croft, your recurring work on Californication, or pushing the envelope with The Pact 2, it seems you love taking on new challenges as an actress.

I assume that every actor wants to do that. I’ve definitely done fantasy – I played a faerie on True Blood. I played Kate Middleton (William & Kate). Then I played this ridiculous, wonderful character on Californication and Lara Croft and now a doctor (on Grey’s Anatomy).

Part of it is me seeking out these projects and part of it is luck, to be honest. Because you go out for a lot of things that you like and you kind of just pray that you fit.

There are things that I turn down that I think won’t help in the longevity of my career. It’s always important to change it up as an actress. So yeah, a lot of thought goes into what I’ll audition for and meetings that I will take with directors. I hope that continues, because I feel very lucky so far.

I was a huge Grey’s Anatomy fan but I checked out when Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh) left the show…

 Oh no! I know…

On that note, you’re obviously working with a great writing staff and ensemble with Grey’s Anatomy, but what has it been like to also be in contact with the show’s loyal fans?

First off, it’s incredible. It’s in its 11th season. It blows my mind. The only experience I’ve had with fans this passionate are probably the Tomb Raider fans. They are absolutely exceptional – I have to say.

It’s very interesting with Grey’s Anatomy and having access (to the fans) with Twitter and Instagram because I feel very old, actually (laughs). They informed me of what “shipping” is, which I never knew. I don’t know if you know the term . . .

No I don’t.

Shipping is  when you support two people getting into a relationship. I remember first getting on the show and people saying ‘Oh I ship Alex and Jo.’ I thought ‘ship them where?’ I was so confused (laughs), So I feel like the fans are keeping me young a little bit because they are so passionate.

What’s happening now are girls on the street who are 16 or 17 – they’re huge fans of Grey’s Anatomy and they would have been 6 or 7 when the show started. People are catching up and binge watching on Netflix. It’s incredible interacting with everybody and especially this younger generation that have newfound passion for the show. It’s pretty incredible.

Has working on Tomb Raider made you a better actress? Plus, playing one of videogames’ most iconic and beloved characters must be such a gratifying experience.

First of all, I didn’t know I was specifically auditioning for Tomb Raider. It had a codename of Krypted, and her name was Sarah. So when I got the role, I was blown away that I was getting to play Lara Croft. And yeah, she is iconic so it’s an honor to be part of the reboot.

Physically and emotionally, Tomb Raider pushed me more than any other project. She is often in the depths of despair and very interesting things happen when you’re at that point. The directors for Tomb Raider are constantly pushing me in that role because it’s very difficult. I’ve been able to explore a lot as an actress playing Lara Croft.

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I recently interviewed Patrick Fischler (The Pact 2 co-star) and he was talking about the ability to snap in and out of a role – as long as it’s not a big emotional scene. Do you have that same facility?

I have to say I work a little bit different. I adore Patrick – he’s amazing. I got to work with him on Californication and The Pact 2. When scenes are a little bit heavy, or if I’m doing something where I’m having a fight with my boyfriend in a scene, I find it difficult to be laughing or joking with them beforehand. I do like to separate myself.

But that’s not for everything. Sometimes you are playing really lighthearted stuff and that’s great. I can joke around with people and then jump into the scene. Sometimes when things are really dark, I enjoy that ride home in my car just to kind of shake that emotion off. I do think you can carry that with you. At least I can.

When people ask you for acting advice, what do you say? Is perseverance an important part of what you do?

Yeah, I think you get told that all the time. We hear that as something that’s common – of course everyone says that. But one thing that was a practical piece of advice I’d give actors is that oftentimes, especially when you’re starting out, you feel in an audition that you . . . I always felt like if I did a scene once and I knew I could do better and the casting director says ‘Okay thanks, goodbye’ – I never wanted to ask if I could do it again. (It would look like) I didn’t know what I was doing.

Now I realize it was the most ridiculous thing to think. It’s so important to make that time in the audition room your own. If you want to go again, ask to go again. Even if you’re halfway through your scene but you’re feeling that if you start over, you’ll get it. It’s so important to feel empowered in the audition room. That’s my advice to actors.

You’ve played your share of emotionally resilient characters. Where do you get sense of strength and confidence from? Is that a quality gained from experience, or was that already ingrained from your family?

I think of course experience always helps. You become a stronger actor the more you have that on set experience. And then there are elements of myself that I bring to all of my characters. Anything that is perceived as strong is probably the result of my family. They always instilled a lot of confidence in me, and that’s why I felt I could persevere in acting because I had the attitude of not letting things get to me. So maybe that’s it. But I do think it’s a mix of both.

The Pact 2 opens in New York and select cities Friday, October 10 and expands to Los Angeles on October 31. For more release info, check out IFC Films.

Camilla Luddington - Photo Credit: Troy Jensen
Camilla Luddington – Photo Credit: Troy Jensen

 

‘The Pact 2’ Q&A With Actor Patrick Fischler

 

Patrick Fischler is a virtual scene stealer in everything he’s in, and whether it’s on television (Mad Men, Lost) or films (The Black Dahlia, Mulholland Drive), there’s a good chance his work has come across your doorstep.

With The Pact 2, Fischler is FBI Agent Ballard, a laser focused tough guy who’s bent on catching a serial killer, even if it means alienating his colleagues as well as June Abbott (Grey’s Anatomy star Camilla Luddington), a woman who has a tragic connection to the killer. Though the narrative’s main focus centers on June’s journey (Caity Lotz, who played Annie in the first film, also returns), Ballard is a key player in the equation.

During our phone interview, Mr. Fischler covered a variety of topics, including working with talented The Pact 2 directors (Dallas Richard Hallam, Patrick Horvath), his previous collaborations with Brian De Palma and David Lynch, and the creative opportunities that have opened up thanks to Video On Demand (VOD).

Sidenote: If you’re a huge Brian De Palma fan, Fischler offers up interesting insight about working on The Black Dahlia (since De Palma’s my favorite filmmaker, I’m very biased toward his work, and it’s great that Fischler has an even eyed look when discussing his De Palma experience).

The Pact 2 is currently available on VOD and opens in theaters October 10.

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Agent Ballard is a no-nonsense guy who doesn’t suffer any fools.

I think not suffering any fools is exactly a perfect way to describe it. I don’t think this guy can deal with anyone who’s not excellent at what they want to do. I didn’t want to play him as offbeat or weird – that wasn’t my intention. I think he is socially awkward and he is someone who is incredibly good at what he does and when something slips by he doesn’t tolerate it. If someone’s not doing their job at their utmost best, he’s not someone who hides it.

That can come off as sort of weird and different or intense and all that is accurate and fine, but none of that was in my mind. That’s how it came to me.

There’s a sequence in the middle of the film where Ballard has an intense sequence with June (Camilla Luddington).

You mean the scene when she’s coming out of the bathroom?

Yes.

All of that is accurate – that’s actually great. I think he sees a kinship in her. He sees her as incredibly smart, but she’s doing dumb things. I think that’s driving him crazy. He’s trying to get through to her – and the way he does it, like I said, comes across as intense, for lack of a better word.

In that moment, she’s broken into a crime scene, so for him that’s intolerable. Once he gets past that this was done, he really wants to find everything he can about her and this is their first like real moment fully alone. Every other time either her boyfriend or another cop’s been there. So this is his chance to get really underneath what is really going on with her.

The Pact 2  - IFC Films
The Pact 2 – IFC Films

The Pact 2 directors have a really unique visual and narrative aesthetic – is that how you felt about working on this project?

Yeah, I think Dallas and Patrick are incredibly talented. What really sold me was when I saw their first movie Entrance which they made for like $9,000. It just had a different quality about it and (the film) drove me to meet them.

When I met with them, I thought they were fantastic and I’d work with them anytime. I really do feel that way. We’ve become friends. They are not cookie cutter (filmmakers).

They love movies. I love movies. I think if you have a passion for film – that’s a drive right there. That just makes you want to do something interesting and not just do what everybody else does.

Who were some of your acting influences during your youth?

I think earlier for me it was Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Those were the guys that drove me the most. As an adult – the movies they make now, I rarely see. But when I was young, their stuff pushed me to no end. Meryl Streep was always one of my biggest influences. I love how she disappears and what she does completely and wholeheartedly.

When I get a part, I just have to find the part of me that’s in that guy. Even if it’s a tiny little bit, and then just go from there. That’s how I start.

Scott Michael Foster and Patrick Fischler in 'The Pact 2' - (IFC Midnight - Credit: Carmen Cabana & Ron Batzdorf, Copyright: Unlocked Door Films, LLC)
Scott Michael Foster and Patrick Fischler in ‘The Pact 2’ – (IFC Midnight – Credit: Carmen Cabana & Ron Batzdorf, Copyright: Unlocked Door Films, LLC)

My favorite director is Brian De Palma, and you had the chance to work with him on The Black Dahlia. What was it like working with such a visualist?

I grew up a ginormous Brian De Palma fan. Carrie, Dressed to Kill, and Blow Out – I can’t even describe what . . . I probably shouldn’t have seen them the age I saw them. I was quite young when I saw all those movies.

So when I got to meet him when I went for The Black Dahlia – it was a win-win. His style unlike anybody’s. I think what’s held him back recently – he had such a great peak in the 1970s and 80s and I feel like he hasn’t (had) scripts that he’s connected with in the same way. Not that the films haven’t been good – The Black Dahlia had a lot of good stuff in it.

Working with him was great. We were in Bulgaria and we had a great time. The movie wasn’t exactly what I wanted it to be. His visual style was there, but it didn’t kind of connect like I said. Maybe that’s a problem he’s faced recently with his movies, but he is so immensely talented.

Talent doesn’t disappear. With actors, directors, and writers – it just doesn’t go away – we all have projects that doesn’t end up being exactly what we want them to be.

One of your acting highlights must have been working with David Lynch on Mulholland Drive and with Twin Peaks coming back on Showtime….

Oh it’s the best news day for me – I love Twin Peaks.

Two part question. How great was it to be a part of David Lynch’s universe and also – with more streaming and cable network options, is it a great time to be an actor as well as a viewer?

David Lynch is a master and like De Palma – The Elephant Man and Blue Velvet were groundbreaking for me when I was young. Both those movies meant a lot to me. Getting to work with him – and Twin Peaks was my favorite show. When it was on, I was obsessed with it.

Working with Lynch was – we have those moments in our life that we’re always going to sort of cherish. That will be one I’ll always have in my back pocket.

I just remembered as if it was yesterday. He’s a fantastic director with actors not only with what he does visually. What he said to me that day, I’ll never forget. It was great. Working with him was really, really special and I can only hope I get to do it again. So that was amazing.

As for VOD, I will never stop going to a movie theater. There are a lot of people who’ve stopped going to movie theaters because it’s just so easy to watch it at home and that’s fantastic. What VOD and streaming has given us is the ability to watch anything anywhere.

What VOD has done (for actors) is incredible. It’s opening doors to people who wouldn’t get to work if it was just the way it used to be. It’s opening doors for writers and directors. More movies are being made and are being thrown on VOD.

Most people now at home are asking ‘Honey what do you want to watch tonight, let’s see what’s streaming.’ And they just go and look as opposed to, ‘Honey what do you want to watch tonight in the theater, tonight?’ It’s really changed the business, and it’s going to continue to change.

Can you talk about your upcoming projects? Are you working on Shameless and an untitled Warren Beatty film?

With Shameless, I’m going to be in the new season. It was a complete blast. It’s a totally different part that I normally play. It’s very emotional, funny, weird and warped. So I loved doing that.

The Warren Beatty film – it was a phone call. Basically, for lack of a better word, it’s a cameo. If you blink you’ll miss it. But I got to work with him, so my answer was an immediate ‘yes’ when they called.

And the same producers of The Pact 2 did a movie called The Diabolical, which is starring Ali Larter that I’m in and it’s going to be a total rollercoaster ride. So all has been good, I have to say. Things are doing great.

What is your key of staying in the moment?

I don’t get lost in . . . I’m not a method actor. I talk to everybody. I hang out. I can snap pretty quickly into (the scene) unless it’s a very emotional thing. If it’s some kind of emotion, I really need to kind of stand on my own, listen to music, and just be peaceful. But if it’s any other type of job I’m doing, it’s very easy to be Patrick and then be the character. It’s the way I work.

Patrick – thank you for the talk and I hope to interview you for the next one.

Thank you so much, man. It’s a pleasure. Take care.

Caity Lotz & Camilla Luddington in THE PACT 2 (IFC Midnight, Copyright: Unlocked Door Films, LLC  Photography by: Carmen Cabana & Ron Batzdorf)
Caity Lotz & Camilla Luddington in THE PACT 2 (IFC Midnight, Copyright: Unlocked Door Films, LLC, Photography by: Carmen Cabana & Ron Batzdorf)

Co-starring Caity Lotz (Mad Men) and Amy Pietz (Caroline in the City), The Pact 2 is currently available on VOD and opens in theaters October 10.