Filmage-A-Trois: Kevin Chenault – By P.J. Starks and Jakob Bilinski

Welcome to Filmage-A-Trois, our own little sexy slice of indie film heaven. We’re indie filmmaker’s P.J. Starks (HALLOWS EVE, A MIND BESIDE ITSELF) and Jakob Bilinski (SHADE OF GREY, THREE TEARS ON BLOODSTAINED FLESH) your tour guides through an unorthodox way of picking the brains of independent filmmakers from all over. What exactly is a filmage-a-trois you’re probably wondering? No, it’s not our attempt at three ways with other artists. It’s not as easy as you might think. So rather than suckering them into the sack, we’ve asked them to have a sit down. We’ve tasked ourselves with bringing you the best and in some cases obscure filmmakers we’ve been privileged to call friends. To get right to the point of what makes their clocks tick and to see what kinds of film topics that get their gears turning. So put on a brain condom, cause we’re about to blow your sensory overload!

This month we have a talk with a filmmaker out of Evansville, Indiana by the name of Kevin Chenault. He has been dabbling in film for quite some time not and got serious in 2009 with his first feature film Young Islands that premiered to a packed house. Most recently Kevin shot and directed his next feature, the road trip flick Different Drum. Let’s get right into the nitty gritty to find out what makes this guy tick…

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JB: When the 3-D craze dies down, what’s the next gimmick should be widely embraced in cinema?

KC: Buzzers in the seats. Everything seems to run in circles. Well damn that is what needs to be re-made, The Tingler by William Castle. I think you or PJ could do a killer version!

PJ: Most filmmakers create projects that are within their comfort zone, however, you seem to try various types of subject matter as well as genre bending films. Why do you think its important for filmmakers to think outside the box?

KC: That is a fine question and I’m not sure if it is important for filmmakers to think outside the box. I kind of think that the only important thing is to stay true to your idea. 

JB: I love and respect that you have this drive to go out and make the films that you want to make, despite the odds, regardless of budgetary constraints and other limiting factors. Do you find it more of a blessing or a curse, playing in this sandbox of true independent filmmaking?

KC: Both. It is a curse when things aren’t exactly going well and a blessing when things work out. That being said, when your a kid playing in a sandbox … getting out of the sand doesn’t even cross your mind.

PJ: Kurt Russell calls and says, "I want you to write me a starring role in a mumblecore film." What role would he play, what would be the synopsis and tag line?

KC: First, I would be amazed that Kurt Russell knew the term "mumblecore". Then I would be kind of disappointed that he used the term "mumblecore", but I think I know what type of film your describing and I think Kurt Russell would kill it in a small independent film with a lot of dialogue. I’d pay to see it.

JB: With Young Islands I feel like you’ve managed to tap into an old school 90s aesthetic along the lines of Richard Linklater and Harmony Korine, sort of blended with a mumblecore vibe. What is it about this narrative structure that appeals to you so much?

KC: Thanks for saying there is a 90s aesthetic in Young Islands. I tried to keep current technology and music out of the film. Most of the music featured in the film is recorded by bands in the 70s, 80s, & 90s with maybe a few exceptions. I grew up in the 90s and there is definitely something about that time period for me. Most of my childhood memories take place in the 90s and there are a few autobiographical elements in Young Islands so it just seemed to make sense. I’m glad you picked up on that because the date isn’t mentioned in the film.

PJ: The Big Lebowski or The Royal Tenanbaums? Why? 

KC: Both. 

"That is the last time you put a knife in me!" – Royal 
"Obviously your not a golfer" – The Dude

JB: What’s your take on the current state of independent film?

KC: … Well that is a really hard question, because it is hard to tell what "independent film" really means. I would say there are a lot of really great films out there like Safety Not Guaranteed that I would consider to be an "independent film". So, Yeah that is a good movie. Really, I’m definitely not the first or last to say it, but its the Golden Age of TV. That is where exciting things are happening, on tv.

PJ: If you could do away with a certain genre or sub-genre, what would it be and why?

KC: Oh no definitely not. There are films that belong to every genre and sub genre that I love and enjoy very much. I sometimes dislike the over use of sub-genres to classify films, but that is inevitable. It happens with all things; music, film, art, people, clothing, architecture. Nothing is safe from classification, but I do get a little annoyed by it’s over use. Wouldn’t it be great if you went into a video store and the dvds were all organized by their title and not by genre. Well come to think of it Family Video does a pretty good job of that.

JB: Do you have any idea what project might be next?

KC: I’m actually working on a young adult / children’s novel or it might be a film… Honestly I’m not sure what it is yet, but I’m real excited about it.

PJ: What film have you seen in the last 5 years where you thought, "damn, I wish I’d made that."

KC: I’m not sure if I ever think "I wish I made that", but I definitely get really inspired by films of every genre. I just saw Star Trek: Into Darkness twice this past weekend and walking out of the theater I definitely started day dreaming about making a more science fiction oriented film. The same thing happened when I watched the recent version of Les Miserables (2012). I went home and immediately started to re-work a dark film idea that I had laying around my desk, into a dark musical idea.

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We cannot thank Kevin enough for taking the time to talk with us about film, life and his love for weird genres that I (P.J.) don’t understand. Jake gets it though! But Jake’s weird too, so. If you want to find out more about Kevin Chenault you won’t find him on facebook because oddly enough he has yet to conform to the masses, but you can check out his work at www.blackstrappictures.com.