iHorror Exclusive: Interview With ‘Proxy’ Director Zack Parker

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Richmond, Indiana’s Zack Parker made a big mark in 2014 with the excellent and unpredictable Proxy. I had the film (which is currently available to stream on Netflix) at number 4 on my best of the year list, and to tell you the truth, I could easily move it to any spot above that on any given day. Out of all of the great movies of last year, few stuck with me as much as Proxy. If you haven’t seen it yet, I really can’t recommend it enough.

Proxy is also the kind of film that’s hard to discuss without giving too much away, so beware of that. You may find some spoilerish language below, so if that’s a concern, go watch the movie first. Besides, it’s one of those that’s almost certainly best when you go into it knowing as little about it as possible.

We had the chance to catch up with Parker, and discuss the film (among other things). So without further ado:

iHorror: From what did your interest in the mental condition that Proxy is based on stem? 

Zack Parker: It’s always difficult to pinpoint where an idea comes from. I will say that I’m always trying to tackle a subject matter I haven’t seen before when starting a new film. It really just evolved out of several conversations Kevin Donner (my writing partner on the film) and I were having. Subject matter that was relevant to both of our lives at the time.

iH: Some have complained about the film being too long. This seems ridiculous to me as it’s only two hours, and every minute is used excellently to either advance the story or develop the characters, which are both major keys to what make Proxy so good. Do you think the film could have worked if it were any shorter?

ZP: If there is anything I’ve learned over the course of making four features (and many shorts), it’s that you’re never going to please everyone. There is no sense in even trying. The only thing you can do is trust your own instincts as a storyteller and try to make the film that you would want to see. To me, every piece of the film that exists now, for the story I’m trying to tell, needs to be there.

iH: You have said in the past that you had to cut more from this film than any other project you’ve worked on. Was it a struggle to get it down to two hours to begin with? Is this two-hour film the version you really wanted, or is there really a longer version you had envisioned? 

ZP: This is the only version of the film that exists, and it is my cut. I’m never really conscious or concerned with running time when cutting a film. I’m trying to let the film dictate to me what it wants to be. When I get into the editing room (my favorite stage of filmmaking, btw), I try to forget about everything prior to that: the script, the shoot, etc.. They are now irrelevant. All that matters is the pieces you’ve accumulated. The film exists somewhere in those pieces, and it is now my job to find it.

iH: Proxy deals with some difficult subject matter. As a family man, did you find it difficult to work on at times, on an emotional level? 

ZP: There are always going to be some parallels to your own life when writing something, and the fact that my own son is in the film gives me a connection to it that I haven’t experienced in previous work. But I try to stay objective to those connections, to avoid unnecessary influences that may water the film down.

iH: I’m originally from Indiana and still have a lot of family there, but had no idea there was such an interesting film community until recently. Two of the ten movies on my Best or 2014 list were filmed in Indiana – yours and Scott Schirmer’s Found. Can you just talk a little bit about the Indiana film scene? The pros and cons to making a movie in the state? 

ZP: It’s a relatively small community, but there are certainly some talented people here. I think most struggle with getting their work to break the boundaries of the State, but that’s difficult for any indie film. Having no production tax incentives in Indiana doesn’t help lure or keep productions here as well.

iH: Music is so integral to a film’s effectiveness, particularly in horror and otherwise dark content, yet it seems like an afterthought in so many genre films. Can you discuss your approach to the use of music in Proxy and maybe give a few examples of your favorite uses of music in other films? 

ZP: Well, The Newton Brothers have scored all of my films so far, and those guys are just brilliant. I honestly can’t imagine making a film without them. I like the music in my films to have real structure, not just be a source of atmosphere. Rarely do I have a scene with music and dialogue together, because I feel music should be used as a form of dialogue, almost another character in the film. In my opinion, guys like Kubrick, Hitchcock, and more recently von Trier are true masters of how to elevate film through music.

iH: Based on other interviews, I get the sense that you are a horror fan, but don’t necessarily consider yourself a horror filmmaker. As a fan, beyond the classics, what are some modern horror flicks you’ve been particularly fond of? 

ZP: I am, of course, a fan of cinema in general. But I do tend to gravitate toward films that are a bit darker, take risks, and show me something I haven’t seen before, or perhaps present it in a way I haven’t seen.

I don’t really think about genre when making a film, I’m just making the story the only way I know how, filtered through whatever sensibilities I may possess. I understand why people may label PROXY as horror, as it certainly deals with pretty horrific circumstances, and there are much worse things than having your work embraced by one of the most passionate and loyal cinema communities that exist. Like any filmmaker, I just want people to see my work.

iH: I understand your next film is to be shot in Chicago. What can you tell us about that? Any timeframe on when we might see it? 

ZP: Not too much I can say about it except it is something I’ve been working on for awhile, and is definitely the largest film in terms of scope that I’ve ever attempted. Currently, we are scheduled to begin in Chicago late spring/early summer. If things go according to plan, we’d be looking to premiere in early 2016.
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There you have it. We’ll certainly be on the look-out for Parker’s next project, as he has established himself as one of the most interesting filmmakers to keep an eye on, if you ask me.