A Little Big Action: An Interview With ‘Molly’ and ‘Kill Mode’ Director Thijs Meuwese
You may not know how to say his name (and, thanks to an audio glitch in Skype, we don’t either), but keep your eyes fixed on Thijs Meuwese. He’s poised to continue shaking up the world of genre filmmaking. His debut film, Molly, opened to a successful festival run and glowing reviews. It even landed on multiple ‘best of the year’ lists in 2018. With his second feature, Kill Mode, wrapped and searching for a home, Meuwese was kind enough to spend about an hour chatting with me about his creative process, experiences as a filmmaker, favorite action movies, and more.
Although Molly was Meuwese’s first film, it’s not the film he necessarily wanted to make. “I wanted to make a movie called Kill Mode,” he begins. “I pitched that in The Netherlands. I pitched that in Montreal. And I pitched that to several sales agents.” While people were definitely interested, raising the money for an epic sci-fi action flick proved difficult. Meuwese continues, “It was too expensive, and we were too unestablished. At the last moment, sort of out of desperation, I was like ‘What if I pitched you something else which is cheaper, and I can prove to you that I can make a movie?'”
Thus, Molly was born. “Within a couple of weeks, we were ‘green-lit’, if you will. The whole pre-production was two months, maybe. Including writing the script. Suddenly, we had the chance to make a movie and we didn’t want to let it go.” Seizing on the opportunity, Meuwese wanted to stand out from contemporary action films. “With superhero movies… they’re all very good fighting. I wanted to make a movie where [the main character] wasn’t really good at fighting. She wasn’t trained. She’s not a martial artist. She’s just someone who doesn’t give up. I thought that would be a cool hook for a movie.”
Initially, Meuwese envisioned a very small story about two girls living in a hut in the dunes defending their way of life from passing marauders. He credits his co-director, Colinda Bongers, for inspiring the larger, more epic ‘take-the-fortress’ storyline that developed. “She asked the right questions,” Meuwese explained. “The whole thing with the super powers, the zombie-like creatures, and all that weird stuff came out of Colinda questioning why we would make a movie that was just about two girls living in a cabin.”
But what really makes Molly stand out is the final 30 minute ‘one-shot’ climax set piece. “The first hour is more setup than payoff. Really what the movie is about happens in the last thirty minutes,” Meuwese explains. At the one hour mark, in his own words, “the plot is sort of over.” By this point, the character development is complete, and the story’s conflict and resolution are known: Molly will storm the fortress and rescue the girl.
“I wanted it to be one long shot,” said Meuwese. “It keeps the audience in that moment, and you feel like you’re in that final stretch, which is like a marathon.” But after explaining to his action team, Vanguard Action, that he wanted a thirty minute action scene all in one take, “they all had heart attacks.” Meuwese continues, “It was such a complicated thing to figure out. I had drawn maps of the floors. We had to figure out which character escapes the fight and goes back to the other room so we can meet up with the bad guy again…” And then given a framework, “the action guys just went crazy.”
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