Kelly: I understand this is the first feature film that you guys have directed as a team. If you were to give any advice to new or up-and-coming filmmakers that want to collaborate, what advice would you give them on that new collaboration process?
Adam: That’s a really good question.
Zach: The key – to begin with – is to pick someone you can collaborate with without ego. The collaboration needs to be completely candid, so you need to be able to tell each other your worst ideas, and tell each other that that is the worst idea. And be honest when you don’t like something, and be honest when you think something is really important and your partner doesn’t.
Try and basically just have the strength in your relationship – as with any partnership – where you can just be completely candid. Because out of that comes new ideas that neither of your would have ever come up with on their own. And that’s really why we chose to start co-directing and co-writing. We just finished our second film as co-directors. It’s harder work. It’s a lot easier when you’re by yourself and you can just say “this is best!”, and you end up convincing yourself that things – that you know deep in your heart probably aren’t good – you won’t notice that. But your partner always does.
Adam: And that’s why, sometimes, the product can be better because you’re calling each other on it. Stuff that might have skated by if it was just you, doesn’t get by. And problems that crop up – because there’s always problems during shooting – get quick solutions together that were better than what we would have done separately.
Kelly: You catch things that might have been dropped by the other person, and vice versa.
Adam: Yeah. So for advice, I would say choose your partner carefully and make sure you’re always honest and open with each other. And try to – like [Zach] said – go without ego.
Zach: And we did a lot of small stuff together first. So we did little short films and commercials, and YouTube series and stuff. So each time we did it, you learn more tools to help it be successful. It takes a lot of work.
Kelly: Zach, I know that you have a background in visual effects – did you get to stretch that muscle a little bit with the special effects in Freaks?
Zach: Yeah, this film really starts to grow in scope and scale near the end, which often takes people by surprise. And it is a science fiction film, so it has a spectacle to its visuals. But we really wanted this film to feel grounded, so we didn’t want the visual effects to feel like they took you out of the movie or were too artificial. So at the writing stage, we only thought of things that visually we knew we could do very much in a way that almost felt like you were just capturing them authentically, rather than a lot of CG creatures or anything like that. We really wanted to come up with visual effects and visuals that almost looked like they were in a documentary. So that was kind of our approach and it really works.
Kelly: When you were writing and making Freaks, what were your influences or inspirations when coming up with this idea? Obviously, new parenthood was a big part of it.
Adam: That was kind of the initial nugget. As we got into the story and figured out who the characters were and what they were facing, we also started weaving in a lot of thematic inspiration from current events and from terrible things going on in the world related to Xenophobia, discrimination, and police brutality, those sorts of things found their way into the movie.
Zach: Those are the biggest takeaways people get from the film. They go in expecting just a straight thriller maybe about family – and that’s very much what it is – but other than Lexi’s performance, the other big takeaway is a new perspective on a lot of the issues.
We started writing the movie during Trump’s initial campaign thinking a lot of those issues were going to go away as soon as he wasn’t elected. And some of the things we wrote as science fiction have actually started coming true in the last few months – with the imprisonment of children and stuff like that.
At the time we thought, will people really care about these issues a few years from now, by the time this movie’s at some awesome film festival? And it’s only become more and more relevant. And a lot of the interviews we’ve done have focused on that messaging that we put into the DNA of the script, but we hope it also just stands on its legs as a movie and a thriller and a good science fiction film.
Kelly: What’s the next project that you’re working on?
Zach: We just wrapped shooting Kim Possible for Disney, which is very different from Freaks but still has its similarities —
Adam: It’s still a kickass female lead!
Zach: It was such a privilege to take on that source material. The cartoon is so strong and so much fun, and we had so much fun directing it. And in the same way, that movie also has an incredible discovery in Sadie Stanley who plays Kim Possible. This was her first audition ever, and she played the title role of this great franchise, so we’re excited for people to see that.