Thursday, October 28, 2021


A salute to everyone reading this interview. Grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, got a sweet candy taste from Horror movies when he was just a boy roaming around in the local video store, he wanted to shoot a high-level budgeted indie horror film first, but the stumbings lead him out to his feature film directorial debut and word-worthy film: "CAGED". I am talking about AARON FJELLMAN.

"CAGED" is the story of a man who is wrongly convicted for the murder of his wife, locked in his cell he must fight against his inner demons and a prison guard unchaining delusional passes in his mind. You can check out the note HERE.

We had a well-worthy chat about the in and outs to try to shoot his first feature film, why he decides to shoot it in certain particular  style, the whys, those little bit goldy details about why a filmmaker does what he does on his movie, That information my friends is bread freshly baked, there are filmmakers that are reserved about giving extra details, just the enough, but there are others that draw you the entire landscape, one of them is AARON. Widely he exposed to us why made this movie, with this particular plot, with this particular mood, how he was blessed to have that amazing cast and crew, the handicaps found during all the stages to create a movie, I mean, you have gold at your disposal, is up to you to take it.

I know you will, just scroll down and read it. Please click above in the twitter and facebook button and subscribe.

EFF: Aaron, first off, thank you to let me talk to you and to take the time out and reply this questions. Where are you from and how did you figure out that you wanted to make movies?

AF: I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, no real connection to the movie business other than being a short car ride away from Hollywood. My infatuation with filmmaking began when I was just a boy, hanging out in the horror / action/ cult section of my local video store.  I discovered films based on which titles had the most enticing box art. I watched these films religiously throughout my childhood and developed a taste for dark pop culture cinema, indie-art house flicks, and classic genre films from the 70s and beyond.

EFF: Let's get straight to the matter and by that, I mean your feature film debut, the thriller, horror movie "CAGED". The film was co-written by you and James Mason, tell us about the seed of the story how it came up to you two

AF: The concept for Caged was born out of a simple sentence “I want to make a psychological thriller exploring the haunting effects of solitary confinement." I clearly remember sharing this idea with my business partner / co-founder of Panic House Films, Pete Kirtley.  I explained how we could build upon tried-and-true horror tropes as way to visualize the insanity experienced by prisoners in solitary confinement. By toying with the literal and figurative definitions of haunting, the possibilities of shooting an extremely contained thriller, mostly set in one man’s solitary cell, all of a sudden seemed huge. 
CAGED (2021)
IMDb |  Web | Amazon  |  Amazon Prime | Vudu |  Google Play | Microsoft | iTunes | 

EFF: Aaron, tell us about the script crafting process. How many drafts you two wrote until get the final one? And if you can describe us what is your personal process when it comes to write.

AF: Caged is the first feature film script I have written with a partner.  James Doc Mason is a very talented writer and had experience partnering with other writers on a variety of scripts. He had a lot of useful collaboration tools to help guide the process.  One in particular tool that I found helpful was crafting a logline for the movie from three different perspectives: protagonist, antagonist, and 3rd person.  I also indulged some of my own writing habits and tricks such as making a poster for the movie before writing the script. Seeing a poster helps me imagine a trailer, imagining a trailer helps me imagine a montage of scenes, often these pre-imagined moments are the best scenes in the film.  As far as revisions go, James and I wrote the script in roughly three months (about 7 working drafts). I continued with revisions and rewrites on my own throughout production and post-production process, as they were needed.  

EFF: Wow, pretty interesting crafting approach, very particular tools you two used. Aaron, the movie wants to give a word about the solitary confinement in prisons and how that affect the inmates when get their freedom, but from your own words, what did you two want to express with the movie story?

AF: My intention with Caged was to make a genre film that appealed to a broad group of horror/ thriller fans that simply expressed-- Solitary confinement is torture!  Hopefully the film will allow the audience to see the benefits of expanding the rights of incarcerated individuals and the need to reform the criminal justice system at large.

EFF: OK, you got your story done, tell us how the movie project ground off? I mean, you had to pitch out the movie. How was the funding process?

AF: Before I made Caged, my partner and I had tried for several years to fund a different, more expensive independent film, unsuccessfully. Needing to raise a sum of money that was on the high side of low budget as a first-time feature filmmaker was nearly impossible. Once I conceived Caged and we determined its budget would be well under seven figures, we incorporated Panic House Films in the UK and were approved for the EIS tax program (a tax scheme in the UK that allows start-ups to incentivize investments by offering tax relief to investors).  By offering an accountant in the UK an executive producer credit, we were able present our film as an investment opportunity to a large pool of clients in need of tax relief. After which, funding started flowing in. Thankfully, we were able to raise money multiple times throughout the production to help expand my vision and continually enhance the film. 

EFF: The movie was a short list in terms of number of actors but high-level in terms of names, Edi Gathegi was astonishing, would you explain us the casting stage? Maybe any advice based on this experience?

AF: Once we raised a small amount of seed money we hired a casting director and compiled a short wishlist of actors to play each part.  My casting director suggested Edi Gathegi for the part of Harlow.  Edi and I discussed the part over a lengthy video conference.  We got along great and I offered him the part.  After which, Edi introduced us to Melora Hardin and James Jagger (same management company as Edi). Once the lead roles were filled, I had Karina beg Angela Sarafyan and Tony Amendola to come in for an audition.  They graciously accepted our invitation and knocked it out of the park.  The rest is history.  I believe there is a lot of luck and timing involved when it comes to casting a film, but I cannot stress enough the importance of having a connected casting director who believes in your project.  When financing and casting start to happen simultaneously amazing things can happen. Conversely, when those same elements don’t magically align your project can just as easily fall apart.  I feel extremely grateful to have secured our incredible cast. 
Aaron Fjellman

EFF: Let's talk about the shooting stage. LEt's commence with the date. When it started the shooting and how many days took you to film it?

AF: We shot for 16 (12hr) days in November of 2016.  
--10 days on a small sound stage in Los Angeles.  
--2 days shooting interiors at non-opertional women’s prison.  
--1 day shooting exteriors at a Prison in the desert outside of LA County. 
--2 days on a sailboat docked at Shoreline Village in Long Beach, California. 
--1 day shooting underwater in a submersion tank in Orange County.

EFF: Speaking about the visual style, could you tell us what did you want to express out? For example, why you used that aspect ratio? What did you want to communicate to spectator with the movie visual style?

AF: During prep I began developing the film’s visual style with my Director of Photography, Jessica Young. We knew we wanted to create a feeling of claustrophobia in the cell. The imagery also needed to feel more oppressive as the film went on. This demanded a progressive visual plan that evolved in synch with our main character’s diminishing mental state. To achieve this I generated a document, entitled: The Seven Visual Layers of Insanity. I broke the script down into seven sections and assigned each section a number between 1 and 7. The 1st look was intentionally conventional employing wider lens with less compression and more depth of field. The 7th look could be something as wild as an upside-down camera with a swing a tilt lens covered in Vaseline. During production this visual blueprint was extremely useful. It served as an emotional template to help myself and Edi track the main character’s mental state from set up to set up as we were constantly shooting out of order to accommodate tight talent schedules and location availability. 

EFF: The intro shot is a dolly in while Dr Harlow is talking on the phone and is getting closer when is told to him that he has not lawyer anymore, a tension moment. I bring this because I want to ask you about, what scene was the hardest to shoot for you and why? And if you have a favorite camera angle or move.

AF: The opening shot was challenging because we had to make sure that key dialogue moments were occurring when the camera was in just the right position.  Also, pulling focus on a five-minute dolly shot was critically important and quite difficult.  Opening the movie with one interrupted take was important as I really feel liked it help visually forecast the way in which Harlow’s world would slowly envelop him over the course of the movie.  I took ten takes and some ADR to get this scene just right. 

EFF: What setbacks you had during the shooting and how did you overcome them out.

AF: If I could change one thing about the shoot, I would have fought to have more time with each department during prep and a larger production budget overall.  Having another week of shooting would have allowed me to spend more time on each scene and not have to film as many pages per day.  

EFF: Any anecdote from the shooting?

AF: One of the best moments on set was the day we shot the sailboat scene in the fog.  We couldn’t have asked for better natural fog.  According to the Harbor Master fog that thick was really rare.  We had to completely flip our schedule to capitalize on this but I’m glad we did because on the following morning there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. 

EFF: What camera did you use in the film and why?

AF: We shot Caged on an Arri Amira which is basically an Alexa (same sensor), but specially configured for a DP operator.  Jessica Young, my DP owns this camera because she shoots a lot of run and gun style footage, coming from the documentary world. 

EFF: What words could you tell us about the post process? Maybe anything curious about that? How many days took it?

AF: In post-production, I decided I wanted the film to feel like a true simulation of solitary confinement. This was a breakthrough moment in the edit. The original script was told almost completely from Edi’s perspective, but not entirely. Wrapping my head around this new simulation idea gave me the confidence to stay with Harlow throughout the entire film - a real testament to the authenticity of Edi’s performance. 
Aaron Fjellman

EFF: As an indie filmmaker and having in consideration the low budget usually an indie horror movie can get, what is the most important thing an indie director needs to have in mind when filming a horror movie?

AF: I think the two most important things an indie filmmaker needs when making a horror film, or any film for that matter is… 1) gifted actors who truly understand the material and can authentically live it without exposing their technique 2) a distinct and simple viewpoint that’s present and guiding every creative decision in the film. 

EFF: How do you set up your day-to-day shooting day? I mean, Do you make storyboards, you talk with the crew, the cast? Things like that.

AF: I storyboarded the most difficult set-ups: the flooding cell, the underwater scenes, the stunts, any scene that had a practical effect or a visual effect done in post-production. With more time and resources, I would have storyboarded the entire film. In prep, I went over every page of the script with every department of the film seated at a roundtable, fielding questions and concerns, problem solving in real time. 

EFF: When the film was out and people can watch it?

AF: The film was released Digitally and On Demand in North America by Shout Studios in January of 2021.
Bts stills from "Caged"

EFF: A big barrier for indie filmmakers who are out at festivals trying to sell his or her movie is have the luck to get a good distribution deal. Please, tell us anything about distribution. How was your experience with this film and what can you recommend us to do?

AF: I finished post-production on Caged in December of 2019.  The pandemic hit in March of 2020.  Our film festival run was massively impacted by the pandemic.  I can’t help but feel slightly cheated by this as I was truly looking forward to touring the country, playing our movie on the big screen, and meeting tons of my filmmaking peers along the way.  That said, when Premiere Entertainment, a really great indie sales company approached us and envisioned the movie’s release in exactly the same way we did, I couldn’t have felt luckier.  In a matter of weeks, we had a great distribution deal and were slated to be released domestically and internationally throughout 2021.  With the whole world being sentenced to solitary confinement for most of 2020, I can’t help but feel like the pandemic made our movie and our cause slightly more relatable.  Strangely, the pandemic ended up helping us, I know a lot of filmmakers and films really suffered during this time, so I feel very lucky.   

EFF: What are your inspiration; directors or films?

AF: Classic filmmakers who inspire me are Kubrick, Scorsese, Polansky, Friedkin, Terry Gilliam, Spike Lee, Darron Aronofsky, John Carpenter, Ridley Scott, Dario Argento, & Quentin Tarrantino.

EFF: What advice would you give to those newbie filmmakers? Based on this experience you had. Key aspects to consider out when filming in order to do things faster but right.

AF: If I were going to offer advice to a young filmmaker I would suggest to try and greenlight yourself.  Don’t wait for an opportunity to find you, create your own opportunity and make it happen by any means necessary.  I would also say keep your as budget low as possible and shoot to land the best cast you can if your goal is to make a commercial film that gets distribution and is profitable. 

EFF: Are you a horror fan? What film do you like most?

AF: One of my favorite horror films of recent years is Hereditary. 

EFF: If a producer gives you a chance to direct a horror film remake, what would it be and why? 

AF: I always wanted to do a remake of Running Man which Stephen King wrote under his Bachman alias, but I hear Edgar Wright is currently developing it, so that probably won’t happen. With that off the table, I always felt that Dreamscape could be a cool lesser-known title to take on and remake. 

EFF:  What new projects are you working on now? Anything you can anticipate us now? 

AF: I have a secret project that’s currently in development in the Crime / Horror genre.  Unfortunately, I cannot talk about just yet, but it could come to fruition as early as Winter 2022 if the movies gods smile on me once again. Thanks so much.

**AARON FJELLMAN'S | IMDb Twitter Facebook | **

CAGED (2021)
IMDb |  Web | Amazon  |  Amazon Prime | Vudu |  Google Play | Microsoft | iTunes |


Post a Comment