SyFy’s Creepypasta-inspired anthology series, Channel Zero, returns this evening pushing the boundaries with a new season of terror Butcher’s Block. I do promise this season will deliver disturbing content by introducing a supernatural element mixed with mental illness as well the fear of helplessness bringing everything together for an unforgettable season.
Inspired by Kerry Hammond’s Search and Rescue Woods, this new installment tells the story of a young woman named Alice (Olivia Luccardi) who moves to a new city and learns about a series of disappearances that have the possibility of connection to a rumor of a mysterious staircase just outside the cities worst neighbourhood in a forest. Alice and her sister Zoe (Holland Roden) discover something sinister is preying on the city’s residents. Created by Nick Antosca, this seasons director Arkasha Stevenson, a newbie to the block has proven she can handle herself quite well and has done one hell of a job with this season’s Channel Zero.
iHorror had the opportunity to speak to Arkasha briefly about her experience working on this series and her plans for the future.
Interview With Director Arkasha Stevenson
Ryan T. Cusick: Hi. How are you?
Arkasha Stevenson: Good, how are you?
RTC: Thank you so much for taking my call today.
AS: Yeah, sure thing.
RTC: So far I have made it through the first two and a half episodes. [Butcher’s Block]
RTC: And congratulations, I am enjoying every minute of it.
AS: That’s good, I am glad.
RTC: How did you get involved with Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block?
AS: That’s a really good question because I had no idea originally. Nick Antosca, the showrunner, saw the short I did called Pineapple and that is all I had really done, so it was really lucky that it had got to him. After that we had lunch, and we talked about me doing a third season, but it was really lucky. I had to go home and Google my name to see how many Arkasha Stevenson’s that are out there to make sure that he hadn’t made a mistake, it was very lucky.
RTC: Speaking of Pineapple, I haven’t seen it, but I have heard of it. Can you tell me a little bit on what Pineapple is about? It’s a short film, correct?
AS: It was thirty minutes, and it was originally supposed to be three ten minute episodes or web series, and it just wounded up functioning really well as a 30 minute, I don’t know what to call it, a piece. [Laughs]. I’ve been calling it a piece, and my mom told me that I sound mechanical [Laughs], so I guess I’m just going to say that it’s a 30 minute short. Pineapple is about a small coal-mining town, and the coal goes dry, and so they have to start thinking about transitioning into becoming a present economy. Meanwhile, there’s a crime that occurred within the mine, and it’s being investigated. So it’s Kinda like a neo-noir, flash nature, documentaries somebody said so I’m going with that.
RTC: That works. Where can we watch it? Is it available right now?
AS: Yeah, it’s on Blackpills which is a French streaming platform. So, that’s where that will be for about a year.
RTC: Perfect and when you went into Butcher’s Block had you seen the previous two seasons?
AS: Yeah and I was a big fan of the tone and the pace and it was something I hadn’t ever really known Sci-Fi to do horror. I guess I had never really associated the Sci-Fi channel with horror, so it was kind of this revelation to watch Channel Zero. I grew up being a Twilight Zone fan and, Butcher’s Block really reminded me of the pace and the social commentary that’s stuffed in with it and the horror genre, I loved it.
RTC: I’m glad you brought that up. The pace because of the third season, I mean it just kind of shares the same pacing in the same kind of mood, the same feel as the other two seasons.
AS: Yeah. I love the pilot so much because it feels almost like you are watching it felt almost like social realism at first. And then some surrealist element pops its head up at you and totally catches you off guard and you’re like, “oh wait, this isn’t what I thought it was.” And it’s a really fun take on horror because you have certain expectations. I fell in love with the pilot because you find these two girls that are dealing with some very real problems.
RTC: Yeah it was, and that pilot was good. When that thing was in the wall, and then it licked the wall, that really got me. The tone, there is just something frightful about a forest, a run-down town, and the scene in the hospital, those environments are just scary. The flashbacks to the 1950s [the commercials], just eerie. You did a wonderful job exploring those places, creeped me out.
AS: That’s good to hear, we shot in Winnipeg, Canada and I don’t know what I was expecting. I think I was just expecting like snow everywhere and we found this forest that just had these almost Jurassic ferns and just had this wild nature to it, just perfect for hiding people in it.
RTC: Yeah it was a perfect fit that is for sure. The original Creepypasta was based on “Search and Rescue Woods.” How close did you guys come to the original piece to this vision?
AS: From what I know the main element was just finding a staircase in the woods. I think that the writers held that as an anchor and created their own world around that. So really I think just the staircase in the woods.
RTC: And that staircase was like really mesmerizing like it just called to the actors – their characters to enter. Did that staircase go through any revisions or was that like the original concept?
AS: What Nick and I talked about was trying to make it feel like the monolith from 2001. The material you weren’t quite sure what it was and it having physics and gravity to it, there was something extremely aesthetically simple but appealing at the same time. So we almost wanted it to feel like this giant magnet in the middle of the woods.
RTC: Yeah, I think you pulled it off because, it just kind of drew you, even the characters. And they didn’t want to go up the stairs, but then again, they were just drawn to it. Real good job on that.
AS: Thank you. Yeah, the production designer did an amazing job. Every time we would see it in the woods, and we would just want to start off using it because it was a lot of fun.
RTC: What was the most challenging part for you as a director during filming?
AS: This was the biggest project that I had ever done. It just felt like fire by baptism; this was a 45-day shoot. The longest shoot I had done before this, was six days.
RTC: Oh, wow!
AS: Yeah. So it was like Apocalypse Now for me, and there are so many moving parts, and you get to play with all these new toys that you never played with before. And so really it was just like throwing a very hungry child into the biggest candy store in the world. I was surrounded by such a great support system that I was able just to relax and play and focus on the actors and shooting. You know, maintaining yourself for forty-five days and then maintaining that enthusiasm and the momentum, all of that was actually very easy because we had such a great crew and Nick is such a generous collaborator and really supportive, and he was on set every day. I felt very good vibes with that. Things that I thought were going to be really difficult ended up not being that bad.
RTC: That’s great. Hopefully, this opens up more doors, and we see more work from you in this genre because the first couple of episodes that I saw were just amazing.
AS: Oh, thank you that means a lot.
RTC: No problem. The town that you guys shot in was that also in Canada?
AS: Yeah, it was all Winnipeg and a lot of the actors were Canadian as well.
RTC: Do you have anything else in the works right now or are you just kind of taking a break?
AS: Oh No. I’m actually working on developing a show with Shudder. Ever since we got back from Canada, I have been doing post. I have a writing partner who is actually my creative producer on Channel Zero, and we have been writing a series right now.
RTC: That’s great, I love Shudder.
AS: Me too, I am really excited for their original content d for their original content, excited to be part of it.
RTC: Definitely that is the new fad right now is original content. Netflix, Shudder, Hulu, Amazon all of this original content has really taken off, so I am sure that it will do well.
AS: I’ve been so excited about all these platforms where we can make original content there is so much opportunity for, for new directors and young directors. I was told going into film school, you’re not going to get a job for like five, or ten years you just have to stick with it and that’s not really the case anymore because of these new opportunities.
RTC: How many years ago did you get into film?
AS: So I started as a photojournalist, and I applied to ASI at the Daily Times working as a contractor -photojournalist and then in 2013 went to AFI
RTC: Yeah, like you said, it’s only been a few years. That’s awesome.
AS: Yeah, I guess still like an ugly duckling
RTC: Well Channel Zero is very popular, so I am sure that will change for you.
AS: Well thank you.
RTC: Are there any plans for you to be involved in the fourth season, is that already complete?
AS: No, I think they are just finishing up the scripts for the fourth season. Nick picks the director to direct the whole season. I do not know who the director is for the fourth season yet, but I’m really excited because I’ve heard little tidbits of what the season is about and I am very excited.
RTC: Are the seasons six or eight episodes?
RTC: Do you feel that six does its justice in telling the entire story? Was there anything in your season that was left out because of time?
AS: You know six ended up being really perfect for the season because this season, in my opinion, gets very wild and I do not believe it is good to go into it with any expectations because it functions on its own logic. I am sure that if we needed to go film eight episodes, we could’ve gone on. But it feels like it came to its natural ending in the sixth episode. If you think about it, every two episodes is like a feature film, and so six is a trilogy, it’s a good feel.
RTC: I never thought of it that way, that’s great, thank you so much for speaking with me today.
AS: Thank You.
RTC: Congratulations on the season and have a wonderful day.
AS: You as well, thank you.