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10 Questions with Award-Winning Director Jennifer Nicole Stang

Jennifer Nicole Stang

Jennifer Nicole Stang is an award-winning short film and music video director, cinematographer, producer, writer, actress and composer, dancer and singer/songwriter. As IMDb notes, her recent horror short, “The Whistler,” has itself won Best Thriller at Amsterdam International Film Festival, Best Film at Horror Movie Freaks Film Festival, and Best Int. Short Film at Women in Horror Film Festival and Hemoglozine.” “The Whistler” will appear on the Shudder streaming service starting on February 3rd, 2020. “The Whistler” is largely inspired by the “Pied Piper of Hamelin,” so that seemed like a natural introductory question…

1. What drew you to “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” legend?

 Jennifer Nicole Stang: I’m drawn to folktales and mythology in general. I like to explore the secret or mystery that lies within them. I remember the Pied Piper story growing up, but I only knew the “nice” version where the children are alive and happy at the end of the story, but later on, I learned that the original story by Robert Browning told a tale where the children were led by the Pied Piper over the cliff to their death. I think there’s always something frightening about involving children in horror films, and the images of the children in The Whistler were fun to explore, in particular. Some of those images came to me before I even realized I was writing a Pied Piper inspired story.

2. As someone who’s made short films, what are the benefits of using a shorter time span?

 Jennifer Nicole Stang: With short films, as opposed to features, you can explore an idea and see if you want to pursue that idea or concept in a feature-length film. For me, with The Whistler, I changed the concept during pre-production and even re-worked a few ideas during the shoot, which made me change many aspects of the feature-length script that I had previously written. It really helps to flesh out ideas, to see if a story works visually.

3. What horror films are you influenced by?

 Jennifer Nicole Stang: I’m influenced by paranormal horrors or horrors that are psychological, ones that make you think, or horrors where you have to figure out a mystery. Some of my favorites are The Shining, The Sixth Sense, The Ring, Dark Water (directed by Hideo Nakata), and Kwaidan. I enjoy thrillers that have horror elements to them as well; I grew up on Hitchcock movies and old silent films like The Man Who Laughs (1928). I also love Vincent Price films.

4. What do you think the future of horror will look like?

 Jennifer Nicole Stang: I think the genre of horror is certainly developing and changing. It’s fun to see horror mix with other genres like thrillers or fantasies. It’s great to see more filmmakers explore folklore as well. When people think of horror, it’s not necessarily the “B” horror movies anymore. Horror movies are becoming more and more sophisticated. I think filmmakers will make more horrors that cross genres. It’s a very exciting time for horror.

The Whistler
Karis Cameron and Baya Ipatowicz, stars of “The Whistler”

5. “The Whistler” has a theme of revenge, sort of like “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” Why do you think “boogeyman” stories persist?

Jennifer Nicole Stang: There’s always something about the unknown that scares us, and putting a face to that fear helps us, as the audience, face that fear.

6. “The Whistler” contains forest and nature imagery. Do you have any interesting anecdotes about the outdoors?

Jennifer Nicole Stang: I love shooting outdoors, capturing the beauty of nature is wonderful. I’ve also found the woods to be a place of mystery. But nature can be unforgiving! Karis Cameron, who plays Lindsey, had to go into a freezing river and lie on a rock in the middle of that river without looking like she was freezing on camera, which she was. We shot in September, keeping in mind that October would be even colder, but it was still really cold up in Whistler. As for shooting the woods scenes, our DP, Naim Sutherland, and I really wanted to shoot during twilight to capture that glow, as opposed to shooting at night and bringing a ton of lighting gear. So, we had a very short window to shoot all the scenes. We spread it out over a couple days, but we really had to hustle, as we only had our child actors for one of those days.

7. “The Whistler” will be on Shudder. Where can we find your other material?

Jennifer Nicole Stang: Yes! We are thrilled to have The Whistler stream on Shudder. I have a short film called El Lago (The Lake) that streams on GAIA TV and Amazon Prime, and my other shorts and music videos can be found on YouTube.

8. Are there any story clichés you’re sick to death of?

Jennifer Nicole Stang: Haha. I think a cliché isn’t a cliché if told in an interesting way. So, no, not really.

9. How do you know when a story is finished?

Jennifer Nicole Stang: You don’t, really. Sometimes I feel like a script is finished, and then a month later I come back and feel completely different about it. I may change the dialogue, add in more details, or change the story entirely. But, I think once you come to a place where you think, “yes, this is exactly how I imagine it,” and the story flows, the characters are full, and it makes sense, then I’d say you’re pretty close. Of course, the story does change during production, and then once more during post. You’re always reworking and editing along the way, which is part of the fun.

10. What are some misconceptions of filmmaking and the entertainment industry?

Jennifer Nicole Stang: It’s something that I often forget, but most people that aren’t in the film industry immediately assume you make a lot of money, which is not necessarily the case for indie filmmakers! Also, those who aren’t in the industry don’t always understand how much time and effort go into making a film, even a short. It can be all-consuming. And thinking about what you’re saying with the film, how it’s marketed, and what your goals are with it, is not a simple feat! You have to think creatively, technically, and practically. But that’s just what I love about it!

For more information on Jennifer Nicole Stang and her ever-expanding arsenal of projects, click here!

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