First, tell us a bit about yourself and your career in filmmaking.
I'm a 23-year-old filmmaker living and working in New York City. I've always had a fascination with monsters, creatures and horror storytelling and have found film to be the perfect medium for all three. I'm surrounded by a roster of talented actors and crew here in New York who love bringing these scary stories to life with me, and we hope to keep doing so for a long time.
Many of modern horror makers, like James Wan or Mike Flanagan, started they career with short movies too. Do you want to create full-length movie based on your ideas someday or short form fits them better?
James Wan and Mike Flanagan are both heroes of mine. My goal will always be to eventually direct feature horror films. Whether those features stem from the short films I make remains to be seen. The shorts I've made thus far were intended to be quick, one-off shorts that I treat as an exercise in developing my craft as a filmmaker. I'm proud of them, but unsure if those stories have the legs to sustain a full length feature. But I have plenty of other, bigger stories that are ready for the full-length feature treatment that I'm excited to share with the world. And I certainly wouldn't say no if someone offered up a budget to adapt FROM BELOW or OCTOPUS MAN into feature films...
As we can see, your shorts usually focus on remarkable monsters. Which one is your favorite?
I love each and every one of these monsters as if they were my own terrifying children. But if I had to choose, I have to go with the biggest, baddest one of them all: THE KRAKEN. For sheer size and destruction, none of my other monsters can touch that dude. And if they did, he'd crush them with his giant tentacles. KRAKEN is king in my book.
Do you create the designs for the monsters yourself?
Sometimes! The ghosts in my upcoming short FREDERIK REMEMBERS are all original designs. I like sketching and storyboarding and a lot of the monster design comes from those. In the case of FROM BELOW and IMMORTAL MASKS we used hyper detailed masks designed by Composite Effects and Immortal Masks respectively, two great companies employing some incredible artists.
One of your shorts presents scary creature called Mordeo. What is Mordeo? Have you come up with idea of this monster yourself or does it have its own mythology?
Mordeo is our take on the classic Native American legend of The Wendigo aka The Skinwalker. I love mythological creatures and wanted to tackle this well-known legend which hasn't been seen a proper movie treatment yet. The word Mordeo is latin for 'bite' or 'devour' which fits in with the themes of cannibalism in the film and hints at the history and influence of early European settlers behind these strange creatures.
At least two of your movies are connected to sea monsters (“SHIPWRECKED” and “OCTOPUS MAN”). Obviously, they are inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s stories. What attracts you to this subject?
I'm thrilled that you noticed the H.P. Lovecraft influence in my work! Lovecraftian horror terrifies and fascinates me. Lovecraft's writing deals with the fear of the unknown, and there's nothing more unknown on this planet than the ocean. The ocean is an untapped frontier for bizarre, inexplainable and alien monsters. A gigantic unidentified creature washed up on the shores of Indonesia last week and nobody has any idea what it is. Some of the most bizarre and alien looking creatures live at the bottom of the sea which makes it a prime candidate for horror stories. I experienced this first hand, growing up in the Caribbean as a kid. I've scuba dived with all sorts of cephalopods, had jellyfish wrap themselves around my arms and swam alongside sharks and barracudas. Spending my formative years surrounded by real life sea monsters has had a huge influence on my work. There's something both frightening and familiar about the sea to me and I'll never stop setting stories there. And it will always be a dream of mine to do a big budget adaptation of an actual Lovecraft story. CALL OF CTHULHU and AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS are at the top of my dream project list!
In Twitter, you outlined that your career was inspired by Sam Raimi’s “EVIL DEAD II”. What and who are the other sources of your inspiration?
Sam "The Man" Raimi is a huge inspiration to me. There are a handful of other filmmakers whose work inspires me every day including: Ti West, Eli Roth, Karyn Kusama, John Carpenter and Jeremy Saulnier. All masters of genre cinema. Outside of filmmakers, I take a lot of influence from Horror Authors. As mentioned, H.P. Lovecraft's writing has had a huge impact on my work. Stephen King will always be my favorite author, the way he infuses supernatural horror with real life, complex human characters is remarkable. And more recently, I've been hugely impressed with and inspired by the writing of Nick Cutter, an author who's work falls somewhere in between Lovecraft and King. There's no shortage of incredible artists whose work never ceases to inspire, shape and inform my own.
From your point of view, what is the future direction of horror genre?
Horror is experiencing a pretty amazing renaissance at the moment. Masterpieces like GET OUT, THE WITCH and IT FOLLOWS becoming financial and critical successes proves that there's a market for big ideas, incredible craft and unique storytelling in horror. The genre has always had outliers and filmmakers who's work subverted expectations and managed to have something to say. But the success of the aforementioned films proves that those no longer have to be exception to the rule. You can make a subversive masterpiece like GET OUT and it will resonate with audiences and critics alike. It's an exciting time for the genre, both as a fan and a filmmaker.
See Ben work's on his website: www.bensottak.com/
His Director's reel: vimeo.com/217322488
Mordeo on youtube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1W0fRWA3aw
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