Exclusive Interview with “The Voices” Director Nathaniel Nuon

Nathaniel Nuon, director and co-writer of this week’s THE VOICES,  explains why fear isn’t necessarily about what you can see but what you can hear!

-PH: The film was shot before the pandemic, was that right? so you weren’t affected?

-Nathaniel: Yea, we lucked up and filmed it before the pandemic. We were aiming for a release last year in 2020, but our release date got pushed to this year.  

-PH: Did you decide to release the film now, while most are still at home, though?

-Nathaniel: The decision wasn’t really my call, it was all up to distribution. I’m just excited that my family and friends are able to finally see it. 

-PH: Are you excited about the release? How close to it are you? Is it like a child you’re sending out into the world?

-Nathaniel: Definitely excited. It feels like I have been on this project for a decade. In a strange way it’s true. I’ve been involved from the original concept to the final cut of the film. It’s been a very long road. It does kind of feel like sending a child out to the world, but I guess I can say that every project a filmmaker releases can feel that way.

-PH: What was it about this particular project that appealed to you?

-Nathaniel: When I was younger, My mom and I were having lunch one day, she told me about this recurring dream she had about a little girl visiting her. The little girl in the dream would ask if she could stay with us. My mom would reply “No” each time. She said had the same dreams for weeks until she finally agreed to the little girl’s request. My mom later told my grandma about the dream. Without hesitation my Grandma said, “Oh you are pregnant, and you will have a girl.” Nine months later my sister was born. I always found that story super intriguing. I did some research and found that it’s a heavily rooted belief in Cambodia and throughout south east Asian culture for a pregnant woman to develop a sense for the supernatural and be a portal for a soul to return. That is the start premise of The Voices. I sat on the idea for years before I even started to work on the film. It was not until my friends and I got together for a brainstorming session, that I threw the idea out there. Mike and Charles, my long-time friends and producers agreed we should do this one. We had so many versions and different drafts. None of them worked, but the core of the story and premise remained the same. It was always about the choice for Lilly and she was always visually impaired. Being blind was important to me because I personally went through it. I had an incident when I was younger that caused me to be blind for a couple weeks. It was the most terrifying experience for me. The idea you had to restructure your life and adapt to this new reality scared the hell out of me. I was super lucky it was only temporary. So those two elements in the screenplay always kept me emotionally close to the project. After tons of rewrites, the story still wasn’t where I wanted it to be. I didn’t know why, but something just didn’t feel right. It was one night when I asked myself, if I’m making a film about a visually impaired woman, how can someone who is visually impaired enjoy this film? That’s when I began to learn more about Audio Description for films. I started to research and listen to AD for movies that had the option available. Some were okay, others were poorly done because the pacing and edit in the film wasn’t designed for Audio Description.  I was thinking it would be hard to enjoy some of those films, but at the time, that’s all the visually impaired community had.  I realize most filmmakers don’t even consider Audio Description when shooting their film. That’s when I knew what was missing in the script. The film was being written for the wrong audience. I went back and discussed it with Mike and Charles. I said we are going about this the wrong way, we need to focus on the people who can’t see the film.  I explained my idea on designing the screenplay around Audio Description. Even the shots and blocking, down to the pacing of the film was for visually impaired viewers in mind. They both agreed. With this new direction, I brought on my long time writing partner Daniel to help me flesh out the screenplay. It wasn’t an easy task by any means, we still had to make a movie that could sell and be watchable for those who can see. Finding that right balance was always a challenge.

-PH: Are horror fans going to dig it? 

-Nathaniel: I wish all horror fans would, but at the end of the day I think some will and some won’t. It’s  not made for everyone. The script was written with the visually impaired in mind. Sometimes the fear isn’t about what you see coming, but what you hear coming.

-PH: Was there a check-list of things you HAD to have in the film?

-Nathaniel: Tons. 1. Money? Lol.  Yeah, for the film I wore a lot of hats and so did my producers with The Voices. We had 2 investors lined up for the production. One backed out at the last minute for personal reasons. It left me with the decision to either shoot this film with what I had or wait to raise more money.  A part of me wanted to wait, another part said do it. So I had a meeting with my executive producer, Brad. He believed in the project as much as I did and we decided to move forward with what we had. I’m very fortunate that everything aligned for me at the time with casting and scheduling. Sometimes you meet people like Brad, and sometimes you don’t, but I do know that you should always be ready in case you do. 

-PH: It is comforting to see people covering the movie, and genuinely getting behind it? 

-Nathaniel: It’s a really amazing feeling. I started to get messages from people all over about how the film made them feel. It’s truly hard to put into words. 

-PH: What do you think – will we all, at some time, be watching films on VOD only?

-Nathaniel: Things seem to be moving that way. I honestly couldn’t say. Maybe we should be asking if we will all one day be watching EVERYTHING in Virtual Reality.

-PH: Do you have a favorite scary movie?

-Nathaniel: Sounds like a quote from Scream lol. I have a few, I really couldn’t tell you what’s my favorite.

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