Exclusive Interview with “Hollow in the Land” writer/director Scooter Corkle

Blog post by Ross Munro for Wholly Cinema.
Photos by Maria Munro.

Fresh off wowing audiences at the recent Vancouver International Film Festival with his tense small-town thriller and debut feature “Hollow in the Land”, the Castlegar, BC native Corkle was able to take some time while prepping the film’s release to chat with the ink-stained wretches here at Wholly Cinema at a local Vancouver coffee shop (my original request to meet up at a Michelin star restaurant was unfairly nixed by those meanies at our accounting department…)

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Made in the true Canadian indie spirit, “Hollow in the Land  is a slow-burn, atmospheric thriller with Fincher-esque touches dealing with a couple of siblings who, with their father in prison, are forced to fight to clear their names when a string of killings plagues their town.

Wholly Cinema: What was your inspiration for “Hollow in the Land”?

Scooter Corkle: The film centers around one main topic which is growing up in a small insular town and having the wrong last name in that sort of town. A year prior to when the story takes place, the character of Keith Miller- who’s the father figure- went to prison and gave the Miller family a bad rap. It’s basically what happens when the sins of the parents are thrust upon them. So that’s where the story started. I’ve also always been interested in thrillers.

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WC: Were there any specific films/filmmakers you took inspiration from?

SC: There was a movie called “Blue Ruin” that came out- Jeremy Saulnier’s film- a really engaging small town “fish out of water” thriller. And obviously David Fincher is a master of thrillers and I’m trying to steal a little bit of his work from “The Game” and “The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo”. Also, Denis Villeneuve is a big influence with his film “Prisoners”.

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WC: With this being your first feature, how did you put together your cast?

SC: A lot of the cast came through our Executive Producers Brian Kavanaugh-Jones and Chris Ferguson. Brian used to work as an agent at CAA so he had really good connections there and after he got the script in his hands he put it to the agency and they jumped on board and offered a lot of cast. That’s how we got actress Dianna Agron. I always wanted to take the cheerleader-type woman and then change her into a small town, noir-ish badass character. From there CAA also threw us actor Shawn Ashmore who I’m a huge fan of and who’s like the nicest Canadian kid, you know? And then Rachel Lefevre as well and Michael Rogers who’s a good bud- I kind of wrote it for him. Jared Abrahamson (from Netflix’ “Travelers”) is a good friend as well and I’ve worked with him before- he’s always been a notable actor around town here in Vancouver. He’s a small town guy as well and so I think that’s why we instantly got along.

WC: How was it working with acclaimed Canadian cinematographer Norm Li?

SC: Norm is a sweetheart- he’s very methodical with his thinking and his style. We’ve worked with each other for probably around ten years when he was a camera operator when I was working on a music video- that’s when we first met. And then we slowly built up a bond and now he’s one of my best friends. So when I told Norm about “Hollow in the Land” he was really happy to do it and I’m really proud of his work.

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WC: What’s your background in film?

SC: I grew up in film over the last fourteen years. I started in camera and moved to grip and electrics- I also did days as a set decorator and drove transport and mainly on the technical side.

WC: What was your biggest challenge as a filmmaker on “Hollow in the Land”?

SC: Probably the development into pre-production- that was difficult- I wasn’t totally emotionally prepared for that. As the screenwriter you get notes from literally everybody- they’re constant and they keep coming and you have to keep changing and adjusting things and you have to keep protecting yourself as much as possible. And, at the same time, choosing your battles so you can make the film. There were some defining moments where we almost walked away until we were able to find a clever way to work the changes in until we could tell the story we wanted to tell.

The other major thing that I don’t think anyone ever talks about that much was that after you finish the movie you, without fail, go into a massive depression- you always think ‘Have I done a good job?’, ‘Am I a fraud?’- you just hit this huge downward spiral which I eventually came out of and learned from. That to me was probably the hardest thing of the whole process.

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WC: What was the most rewarding aspect of making your film?

SC: I think it was the support. While making the film, it had a real family feel to it. We all stayed in the same hotel together, we all had drinks together- we were really bonding in a huge way. This movie was one of the best experiences of my life- and one of the hardest- but the family that we had and all the people who came out from my hometown of Castlegar that helped out- that support in itself was tear-inducing.

WC: What advice would you give a first time feature filmmaker?

SC: The first element is to protect yourself and protect the movie because you’re going to get notes from everybody. And, at the same time, realize that you will be wrong at some time and know that you’ll need to adapt and take feedback from other people. It’s a double-edged sword because you need to protect the movie according to your instincts but also have to be open enough to realize when an idea is a good idea. It’s a tough balance to weave.

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Viva La Cinema!