There’s no getting round it: if you were at school with Nathan Ambrosioni you’d hate him. Not because he’s a bad guy at all – on the contrary, he’s a very affable chap, and good chat, both in person and online. Rather it’s because his work ethic and achievements would put your own wasted weekends to shame. Heck, at the tender age of 16 he’s already released his second feature film, on top of 4 shorts, and had his movies shown at festivals with world over. I first came across Nathan at the premier of his 2014 demonic film Hostile Fright Fest: a screening he wasn’t legally able to stay in the room for. And though it wasn’t among the cream of the festival, it clearly showed a technical grasp and eye for the screen that hinted at great things to come. Now his new full length horror Therapy, which looks a promising follow up, is about to hit Shudder UK. Combining traditional and found footage narratives, it sounds an intriguing prospect. The action focuses on Jane and Simon, two young police officers leading what seems like a routine investigation into some videos of tourists found by a night watchman. However, they seem to go way beyond a simple holiday movie. If they’re going to save the people in it then they’ll need to move quickly.
To celebrate, Horror Cult Films got in touch with Ambrosioni to discuss movie making, work-life balance and the genre in general. Please note that questions regarding the budget were asked before this information was available. The only footage released was more polished than his last outing, and thus gave the impression of a significant increase. Whether this reflects better equipment on his part, or a lack of technical knowledge on mine, I don’t know, though I’d lean towards the latter.
Hello Nathan – I saw the premier of Hostile at Fright Fest (and got a free DVD for asking a question). Glad to see you already back with another film and look forward to seeing it.
Thanks David !
Where did the idea for Therapy come from?
The idea of Therapy came to me one day when I went to a derelict house and wondered just how I would get out of there if I was trapped by a serial killer.
Much of this film’s success seems to come from its location. What about it grabbed you?
I often used to pass by these derelict buildings and always found them creepy even during the day. That got me thinking just how scary it would be to film there at night time! There is a maze of corridors and hundreds of rooms. At times during the shoot we were as scared in real life as the characters in the film. The buildings were officially out of bounds to the public so we had to negotiate a whole month to get permission to film there.
With so many found footages out how do you bring something fresh to the narrative-style?
I don’t know if I brought something fresh to the found-footage genre but when I made this film, I wanted the scenes to alternate between the investigation with Jane and Simon and the found footage. This creates a continuous contrast in atmosphere that slowly intertwines as the tension and anxiety mount.
With your second feature upping both the budget and the scale, was it a difficult jump so early in your career?
We didn’t have any budget to shoot Therapy, the filming conditions were the same as with my first feature. I hope I will have some kind of budget for my next film! Ha ha!
With Hostile you found the cast among your local community and extended network. With Therapy was it a similar process?
Yes and no. Some of Hostile’s team is cast in Therapy: Luna Miti (Olivia), Julie Venturelli (Amanda), Julien Croquet (Sreven), Vanessa Azzopardi (Stephanie) and Shelley Ward (Abigail Parker). The cast process was quite similar, but for the police investigation part, we posted casting notices on a French website dedicated to Cinema to find actors like Nathalie Couturier (Jane) and Cedrick Spinassou (Anthony). Remy Jobert (Simon) was playing in my second short “The Lake”.
Having appeared briefly in Hostile, do you have a bigger role this time around?
Yes. I was Jake in Hostile, so I was only in the film for 5 minutes. In Therapy I play Sebastien, Olivia’s best friend. He is a student at a cinematic school and he is shooting a video during the film.
How do you find acting in your own film?
I enjoyed having a part in the film because it meant I could carry the camera and I knew what I wanted to see and film. I tried to put myself in the shoes of the character by asking myself, “How will he handle the camera?” as a film student, especially when he is faced with horrific situations that nobody would want to film……
Although you are now making a name for yourself, given your young age is it difficult to attract money?
For the moment I don’t really know because as I said, I didn’t have any budget for my films. I don’t know if my young age will scare off or attract producers. We’ll see.
Similarly, were you immediately confident with directing actors?
From time to time it was difficult with the adult actors, because I am a teenager and sometimes it was hard to get my ideas across…. but fortunately, all the actors were helpful and good-natured. We all really hit it off and the atmosphere on set was fantastic.
As a writer, are there particular themes you are interested in?
There are a good number of themes that interest me! I love horror and drama in films. I would like to explore different areas, for sure.
Did you need to do much research to make the film authentic?
Not so much. I watched “slasher” films but I didn’t do a lot of research to write the script.
What horror films inspired you to get involved in the genre?
The Orphan was the first horror I watched. I was completely terrified when I watched it but I really wanted to see more horror films. Those that inspired me are: Sinister, The Conjuring, The Strangers, The Blair Witch Project… There are so many, I can’t even choose my favourites! Ha ha!
Having done 4 shorts and 2 features, in the last few years, how do you find time to make these films during school?
I’m working essentially during the weekends, vacations or just after school. Sometimes it’s difficult and tiring but I’m passionate about it…it’s what I love to do…
How have your friends and family responded to your knack for making scary films?
Most of my friends love horror films too. My mother finds them scary but she really encourages me and my father helps me a lot. He is the producer of my film, not financially obviously… when I started to make films, he said to me: “If you want my help I’m here and I would love to help you, but just one thing, we mustn’t spend any money!”
What’s next from you?
I have written another horror script and I hope that the pre-production will start soon. I have also written a dramatic script. This kind of film also appeals to me and I am keen to try different things.
Thanks, and good luck with getting the film out there
Thank you and a big hi from France!
Therapy is coming soon to Shudder