Bill Pullman

Bill Pullman

Writer/Director Jennifer Lynch brings a dark tale of serial killers in the rural Midwest to the screen with “SURVEILLANCE”, opening in select theatres on June 26th. This gritty and often shocking film stars Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond as FBI agents who are following the trail of a pair of serial killers. As the story develops, we learn that no one is truly what they seem and most of the characters portray themselves in ways that may not be truly honest. CFM sat down with the stars and director to gain more insight into this troubling, and often darkly funny, piece.

Director Jennifer Lynch has had a tumultuous decade since the release of her feature debut “BOXING HELENA”. Personal problems and multiple spinal surgeries has kept her out of theatres for an extended period of time. She wanted “SURVEILLANCE” to be her follow up because she loved the characters. Co-writer and star Kent Harper had brought her a script that he wanted her to look at. While that film was not the right project for Lynch, she was interested in many of the ideas and characters he had created. There was a pair of corrupt cops in the original draft, which Lynch found interesting, as well as a very observant little girl that sees things that adults often do not. Lynch and Harper “started talking about what was scary when you are out in the middle of nowhere. I wanted to break down people’s reality of what evil looks like. More often than not, people do really bad things to each other. It all comes down to one question: will telling the truth save your life?”

The thin and smart Jennifer Lynch (ed. note She asked us to say that!)

The thin and smart Jennifer Lynch (ed. note She asked us to say that!)

Casting was an easy process for Lynch. She has been long term friends with many of the cast, including Bill Pullman, and everyone was keen to work with Lynch because of the sense of fun she brings to the set. Julia Ormond, who plays FBI agent Elizabeth Anderson, says that working with Jennifer Lynch was great because “she nurtures everyone on the set to get the best out of them.” Actress Pell James who plays drug addicted Bobbi also raves about working with Lynch. “Jen has been working on this project for years. She was very prepared and very fun to work with on set.” Indeed, Lynch spent 3 1/2 years from beginning to end working on this project. Having been friends with Bill Pullman for years, Jennifer gave him the original script and asked him to play Sam Hallaway. She developed the film for him and knew he was the one to play that role. When he read the first draft, he immediately said “no”. In retrospect, Lynch says that Pullman “was right. I re-worked the script and called him and said “why was it that you said no before exactly?” When Pullman read the new draft, he immediately said “yes”. Pullman clarifies, “when I read the original draft, I couldn’t really see Jennifer’s voice in it. It felt more “genre” than “Jennifer”. The second draft, I felt that it was her own word choices and vision.” FBI agent and Pullman’s partner of Elizabeth Anderson was much easier to cast. “Julia found me.” says Lynch. “She had read the script and called me and was interested in doing it. And I was like “Really?” “THE Julia Ormond?” Lynch says laughingly.

“SURVEILLANCE” has some very dark tones and themes. All of the cast and crew were aware of the heaviness of the subject matter, but the actual shooting was often a very funny experience. Pell James agrees. “There are lots of funny people in the film (Cheri Oteri, French Stewart) and on set, so even the really dark scenes were really funny when we were shooting them.” Young actress Ryan Simpkins plays the pivotal role of Stephanie, a little girl who sees more than the adults in the film, agrees. “It’s gory but fun. I don’t know if my friends will be able to see it though, cause it’s sort of gory and disgusting in places”.

Ryan Simpkins and Pell James

Ryan Simpkins and Pell James

Director Lynch says that she did feel a serious responsibility in protecting Ryan Simpkins from the darker scenes in the film. “There doesn’t seem to be any reason why a child should be tortured to elicit a certain response on film. I was very careful to shoot Ryan’s reaction to scenes that she never actual saw. When you watch the finished product it will look as though she was part of certain scenes but she was never actually on set during those shoots. I didn’t see a point to it.”

“SURVEILLANCE” has been getting good reviews from the film festival circuit and was much appreciated at the Cannes film festival. Pullman thinks this has to do with the main character’s love story. “These are 2 characters who live outside society’s laws. They are so intoxicated with each other that they can’t sleep.” Ormand adds “All of the characters in the film have some secrets, they are all flawed. And that makes them easy to identify with.”

Julia Ormond

Julia Ormond

Check out the dark world of “SURVEILLANCE” when it opens in select theatres on June 26th and is also available on VOD through Amazon and XBOX Live Marketplace as a Pre Theatrical Rental.