Exclusive: Michael Thelin talks ‘Emelie,’ Why Not To Trust Uber

Emelie - Michael Thelin - FilmFad

Director Michael Thelin talks his feature debut horror flick ‘Emelie,’ working with child actors, and the dangers that accompany the assumed trust between perfect strangers.

Nothing about kids is easy. Anyone that says differently is full of sh*t. – Michael Thelin

In this FilmFad exclusive interview, Pooya chats with the director of the new babysitter-gone-psycho horror movie ‘Emelie,’ Michael Thelin, to discuss his feature film debut in the key of horror, his past life filming big name band video shorts and documentaries, and what his future as a director holds in store.

Pooya speaks with Michael Thelin the day of ‘Emelie’s’ theatrical and on demand release. While ‘Emelie’ is Thelin’s feature film debut, this veteran filmmaker has an extensive resume of short form works as well as several documentaries he has directed for numerous acclaimed musicians such as Bruno Mars, Ce-Lo Green, Lupe Fiasco, T.I., Twenty-One Pilots, Stone Temple Pilots, and the list prattles on. These projects have steered Thelin to top film festivals, including SXSW and Tribeca, as well as having shorts aired on broadcast and cable television. In this conversation, we explore what exactly inspired Thelin to choose horror for his introduction into features, what prompted his sinister take on Babysitters for ‘Emelie,’ and what comes next – more rockstars or more features?

So without further ado, here is an exclusive peek into the intriguing directorial life and mind of Michael Thelin.

 

 

FilmFad (Pooya):

Hey Michael, I’m going to do my best to keep it short. If I start rambling on, which I sometimes do, just say “Hey man, gotta go.”

[Both Laughing]

Michael Thelin:

That’s normally my problem. Anything goes. Go for it.

FilmFad (Pooya):

I’ll go ahead and jump right into it. As a director, what three words would you use to describe your style.

Michael Thelin:

Oh, no one’s held me down to three words. I think it would be dark, detailed and somewhat methodical. I don’t know, it seems maybe they’re too generic. I’ve never had to put it in words. Man, you put me on the spot damnit!

[Both Laughing]

Michael Thelin:

I always think a lot about how were gonna shoot this stuff. And then I work methodically with these actors to get them to where I need them to be, whether they’re used to going there or not. And I just have a dark sensibility. Not me as a demeanor. If you met me, I definitley don’t seem that way. I gravitate towards the [Roman] Polanskis and the [David] Finchers and certain parts of the Cohen brothers. Not that I feel all life is dark but, for some reason, when it comes to the art form that I tend to gravitate towards, and want to create, it’s always a little bit darker.

Emelie - 2016 - Horror - Michael Thelin - Sarah Boldger - Film - Fad

‘Emelie’ (2016).

FilmFad (Pooya):

That’s a good billing – dark, detailed and methodical. Looking at your past works that makes perfect sense. You have a resume that’s drenched in dealings with platinum recording artists from Bruno Mars, to the Flaming Lips, and so forth. What about ‘Emelie’ made you want to step away from the shorts and documentaries you have been so immersed in and move on to a fictional feature film?

Michael Thelin:

I think I’ve always been drawn to the fictional side of things. I started when I was seven or eight making SNL parody sketches. I started doing fake commercials with my friends and we just cracked the shit out of ourselves. I’m sure they were all horrible but, that feeling though, of being able to play like that, I think really lent itself to something that stuck with me for a while. I did this PSA and then the next thing I know I was doing television shows, tv specials, commercials and all that stuff. So, I think I’ve always wanted to tell a longer story. You know what, it’s kind of like one of those things “be careful what you wish for.” You get so busy at doing stuff that you just forget. “Wait, I wanted to do a feature five years ago.” So then you start to try and develop it, but then you get sidetracked by this project and that project. You are also dealing with good sized budgets for these shorter things, and then you look at what people are trying to spend on these indie films, and you’re like “oh my god, how can they do that.” You just learn. There’s a way, you just have to make it work. So, I’ve had features presented to me in the past, but they were kind of just always either a) totally wrong or b) they didn’t really have the budget that I felt comfortable to pull it off. We were definitely constrained with budget here, but it was enough to pull this off. So, I went for it. At the end of the day it was a story that I really felt compelled to do, especially the first one out of the gate.


Check out Pooya’s review of Michael Thelin’s babysitter-gone-psycho horror flick ‘Emelie‘ by clicking HERE.


FilmFad (Pooya):

In “Emelie” I see two predominant stories. One of an oldest son resisting his coming of age and the other a shattered mother frantic to find and unattainable return to what was. What story does ‘Emelie’ tell in your eyes?

Michael Thelin:

You know what, that’s a great question. It’s loss of innocence, and it’s actually all the way around. He’s [Jacob] now having to grow up and deal with these mature situations that he would have to a) probably never deal with, or b) definitely not at that age. And the same goes for her [Emelie] though, she’s had her innocence kind of ripped away from her. We had some more flashbacks that we debated on putting in or not, and we didn’t want to, for one reason or another, over use it. You don’t get to that stage where Emelie is at in life, without absolutely all being lost, to do what she did. That’s really what I felt was the theme in this, just the loss of innocence for a bunch of people. The same kind of goes for the parents, in a weird way right? You would never think [a babysitter would do that] in a million years, and now can you imagine them not having a loved one watch their kids?

Emelie - 2016 - Horror - Michael Thelin - Sarah Boldger - Film - Fad

‘Emelie’ (2016).

FilmFad (Pooya):

I like what you brought up. Keeping with that, it’s really interesting how ‘Emelie’ starts a conversation about impressions and trust. How a seemingly loving, responsible family could let someone into their home, who seems so normal on the surface, yet with such sinister intentions that turns out to be really bad for the family. ‘Emelie’ is not a typical horror film, like a mystical horror film, it is a real life potential. Who knows who you’re hiring to be your babysitter, or housekeeper even. How do you know that person doesn’t have this secret dark side, when on the surface they look so clean and pristine?

Michael Thelin:

Well, I think we put our most precious things and lives in the hands of people that we don’t really know everyday. Uber drivers… So it wasn’t just about the babysitter, it was about when you go to eat out and you don’t know who is cooking your food. The way that we barter through life is based on trust, and we should. This film takes advantage of that. I do feel that it’s great that as a society we do trust, because we should. I don’t want to live in a society where nobody trusts anybody. But this an example of when it’s taken advantage of. If you talk to most new parents, and parents in general, you ask them when’s the last time you checked the ID of one of your babysitters? They’d prolly say never, to be honest. Unless, something really bad has happened in the past. So you go on this leap of faith. I mean look at her, I would let Sarah [Bolger] watch my kid any day. There would be no signs of any of that. There’s a whole backstory on how it happened, I really felt to over explain it, it would get too convoluted, and it’s very simple. The one thing too, I want to be clear, that it’s a current day film. I know we don’t use a lot of technology in it. If you’ve been to Buffalo or towns like that, they still have TVs like that, and they still have flip phones. And there’s nothing wrong with that, because I think there’s still an innocence left there that I really wanted to… I don’t really want to say exploit because I didn’t want to do that, but it was the perfect setting to set loss of innocence story. Versus Manhattan, right? Where people would be like… it just wouldn’t happen. I don’t want to get on a soapbox here, but we are saying something about technology too. We feel like a phone, or a computer screen, or whatever is just as important as actually meeting someone, and talking to them, and getting to know them in terms of whether you trust them or not. In this day age, with all these apps that we have, you just assume “oh, we were texting and he texted normal.” You get this weird sense of calmness like “oh, we’ve been in touch.” Well actually, have you even met the person? I mean obviously they’ve done “Catfish” and shit like that, but there’s a bigger point to what we’re telling here. At the same time, a big part of this is kind of like a folk tale too though. Where it’s like “Oh, did you hear about this crazy babysitter from my cousin’s brother in the town over?,” as if someone’s kinda telling the story around the campfire. There’s a lot of that in this, believe it or not. In terms of, did all of this really happen? I’m not trying to question it and I’m not trying to make this feel like it was a dream or any of that. I feel like it was very motivating for me, that kind of sitting around the camp fire telling tall tales, and this is something that came out of it.

FilmFad (Pooya):

Yeah, I can totally see that quality of it. The child actors in the film were really phenomenal. In addition to Sarah, they were a fantastic cohesive unit and I believed every moment of their interaction. On top of the rigors of a new venture into features, did working with Child actors add difficultly to the process or did their quality of work make it that much easier for you?

Michael Thelin:

Nothing about kids is easy. Anyone that says differently is full of shit.
Emelie - 2016 - Horror - Michael Thelin - Sarah Boldger - Film - Fad

Michael Thelin:

I’ve worked with kids in the past and even the good ones are difficult. I don’t mean difficult meaning as a personality; logistically. You only get them for a certain amount of time then you have to lose them, it’s a law. That was a learning curve for me. Honestly, we lost the kids that we initially had cast 48 hours before filming, so what you’re seeing is my rehearsals with them. So it was bonkers. I would have loved to have stepped back and just screamed, but you just have no time for that; in terms of the fact of having to start over with that. I knew what I need from them, which was naturalism. If a line didn’t sound right, it’s gone. There’s no room for me to let them get that line right, because I could just tell it’s not coming. They did most of their lines though, it was definitely great. As director, I’m definitely thinking of the edits. I needed rapport right away, so they would actually feel comfortable and do what I wanted – which was for them to be themselves in a way. As soon as they tried to act like someone else, you could just tell. So I had to take different versions of themselves and put it together, you know. It feels very natural. I was a very interesting experience for sure.

FilmFad (Pooya):

A learning experience it sounds like, definitely.

Michael Thelin:

Oh yeah, without a doubt.

FilmFad (Pooya):

I know we’re getting short on time, so I’ll finish with this one. Where to next? Are you going to jump back into doing a little bit of the music documentaries and shorts, do you see yourself staying in features and going into another genre or potentially a prequel or sequel to ‘Emelie?’

Michael Thelin:

It’s definitely going to be more feature driven or long form. Long form meaning like Netflix, YouTube Red, Amazon… So I think it’s a mixture of those two. I still have a lot of jobs that I’ve done since and continue to do, because at the end of the day I’m still an entrepreneur. I run a production company and we do a lot of really big things throughout the year. So I’ll never turn my back on that, but everyone knows this is where I’m headed, to features. And the right kind of features. Right now I’m writing a script for a UK playwright about a serial killer with some Oscar nominated producers, so it’s been a whirlwind. We don’t have a title for that yet. And I think we have three or four other things in development. It’s just a matter of finding the right fit and timing for what my next story is going to be.

FilmFad (Pooya):

Well, I look forward to it. I enjoyed watched the film. I watched it last night. I like to watch it right before I do an interview someone so it’s fresh in my mind. I enjoy how it started off so benign and then somewhere towards the middle, closer to the 3rd act, things kinda hit the gas and they go awry really fast. I enjoyed how something so benign could turn into something so serious and so dangerous so fast.

Michael Thelin:

Thank you dude. To be honest, when things go bad babysitting, they go bad fast. Even if it’s not this sinister. To think that it would just go bad and then kinda back to normal, it just doesn’t work like that. As soon as that other babysitter shows up shit hits the fan. I’m glad you liked it though man. You had great questions, so I really appreciate that.

FilmFad (Pooya):

Well I appreciate it Michael. Thank yoy so much. We definitely got to get together again, I’d love to hear more and chat more about future projects. In the meantime, good luck with the rest of your interview.

Michael Thelin:

Thank you, have a good day.

 

Michael Thelin’s ‘Emelie‘ is currently in theaters and on-demand. Check out Michael Thelin’s other projects by visiting his personal website HERE or MTP production page HERE.

Pooya

Author: Pooya

Since his wee lad-dom, Pooya has been a sommelier of cinema. It was likely some acting bug, fallen from the dust riddled ruby curtains of an enchanted old stage that did it. Those cinematic scarabs must have burrowed deep into his brain, irreversibly altering his mind, turning the poor boy down a dismal path.From his earliest years the strange boy would aimlessly wander the aisles of countless video rental stores, amassing his trivial knowledge with vigor. These actions befuddled the boy’s parents, who still would lovingly oblige his unusual attraction to the motion picture. Often seeking refuge in the cushioned seating of his local movie theater, the odd adolescent would immerse himself in the scripted and effects riddled realities unfolding on the screen before him. During his collegiate years, he was twice spotted on stage performing bizarre theatrical rituals before awe-struck audiences. When he departed from academia, he left behind his youth in exchange for a labor routine, but the strange young man never lost his long-cultivated love of film.Recently, Pooya was approached by FilmFad.com to join their budding team of entertainment bloggers. After hours of coaxing and an undisclosed number of honey jars, he accepted their offer. Finally he had come full circle. Finally, at FilmFad.com, he was home.

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