Kevin Sluder is a director, screenwriter and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. He is known for the slick, Hitchcockian neo-noir short he wrote, titled Play Violet for Me (2016) -- profiled in #405Shorts and embedded below -- and his production company Sunshine Boy Productions, which has a few other films in their pipeline. The 405 is proud to pick his brain on Violet, on film in general, and on his directorial debut; a short film retelling of Poe's Tell-Tale Heart, titled Heartless which is currently in post-production.

Hello Kevin and welcome to The 405!

A: Thank you so much for having me, Wess! And for featuring Play Violet for Me on The 405. It's truly an honour.

Could you start by telling our readers a bit about your background?

Sure thing. I've been a screenwriter for a number of years. I studied film in college, wrote my first script my sophomore year and I've pretty much had the bug since then. I've written in many different genres over the years but I mainly focus on horror, sci-fi and noir-styled pieces these days. One of which was Play Violet for Me, which got us introduced. That was the first film I ever produced and the first time my writing was featured on screen. If you would've asked me three years ago if I thought I would ever produce a film I would've said, "no way". But, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention (or reinvention in this case). I really wanted to see Violet on screen. My friend Matt Mercer wanted to direct it. So we put it together. After that, I formed a production company with my wife, Jennifer -- Sunshine Boy Productions -- and we've hopped on board various projects in various capacities since then. One of which is the short film Heartless, which is the first film I ever directed. And, if you would've asked me a year ago, "would you ever direct something?", I would've probably said, "no way". I'm seeing a pattern developing here. Haha.

Which directors and what films are your principal influences?

Wow. There are so many writers/directors that I admire tremendously -- Soderbergh, Fincher, Lynch and Nolan would top the list. I think my style influences change from project to project. For Play Violet for Me, the writing was definitely an homage to the classic noir films of the 40's and the neo-noir of Elmore Leonard. The combination of that and the David Lynch aesthetic was created by director Matt Mercer and cinematographer Patrick McGinley based off of conversations we had in pre-production. For Heartless, it's odd. I watched a bunch of films prior to shooting thinking I could see how the masters do it -- Scorsese's Cape Fear (1991), Aronovsky's Black Swan (2010), etc -- and I even thought of using some of their famous angles in the shoot. Then we got on set and I didn't do any of it. The film ended up taking on a bit of a DePalma era Carrie (1976) flair mixed with American Psycho (2000), which makes me very happy. I think I've just watched so many movies over my life, little pieces of all of them get in there and show up on the page or screen in some way. The sci-fi scripts I've written favor everyone from Chris Nolan to Philip Dick. The feature script I'm writing now has shades of the John Dahl neo-noir thrillers of the 90's (The Last Seduction, Kill Me Again), the Coens' early work Blood Simple (1984), and Lynch's Mulholland Drive (2001). So it varies a bit each time. I keep going back to Lynch, though. What can I say? He's a visual master.

Heartless still.

One thing that really struck me about Violet is the Hitchcockian nature of the story (the Hitchcock twist if you will), and also the allusions to Lynch's work. What planted the seed of Violet in your brain?

I've always loved film noir. Loved the dialogue, the black and white photography, the classy style, the femme fatales, the twists, all of it! So that's what planted the seed for the film. Oddly, Violet didn't start out as a full-on noir piece. It was more of a neo-noir like Body Heat (1981) or Dahl's Last Seduction (1994). As the story continued to take shape, it just became more and more old school noir. I still wanted a modern take on it so we decided to have a mix of scenes shot in black and white and others shot in color. The story explored themes of identity, obsession and reality vs fantasy and those are prevalent in Lynch's work, so us going in that direction with the color photography was a natural thing. I think I remember you comparing Violet fondly to Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) which was a first for me and an awesome compliment. Truly flattering. I'll take it! But, believe it or not -- and this is an embarrassing admission -- I've never seen the film. I'll remedy that soon.

Heartless is a retelling of the Tell-Tale Heart in a modern corporate atmosphere. What was the spark of inspiration for the project?

I was helping out a couple friends on a short film shoot and in-between scenes the lead actress was chatting with the sound guy about Poe. Driving home that night, I got this image in my head of this innocent-looking rising corporate exec staring at her reflection before a big presentation, having done some really shady stuff the night before. I had Stacy Snyder in mind for the part from the get go because she's so damn likeable on screen. We had worked together on a horror short earlier that year and I knew she was terrific. I read Poe's story as soon as I got home and I had forgotten just how dark and compelling it was. Then I rushed to Google whether or not anyone had done a take like mine. Luckily, no one had. I was convinced at that point I could make a really fun, really bloody modern take on the story. Hopefully, I do it justice.

Behind the Scenes of Heartless.

Favorite Poe tale?

The discussion the actress and the sound guy were having was "which Poe story is the best". I piped in, "There's The Tell-Tale Heart, then there's everything else". Not to be dismissive of his other work -- I love The Pit and the Pendulum but, to me, TTH is his masterpiece. It's such a macabre story but so utterly human at the same time. The frailty of our nature. Guilt being a curse, pride going before the fall, insanity occupying a mind as you're reading... There's just so much great stuff in there.

Heartless still.

Where and when can our readers expect to see Heartless?

Heartless is in post-production now and we're aiming to premiere it on the film festival trail the early part of next year. If your readers are interested in learning more or keeping up with news about showings they can follow its social media accounts on Facebook and on Twitter.

What other projects does Sunshine Boy Productions have in the pipeline?

We're really excited about what's coming up for us! We have a horror short we produced, written/directed by Violet's Matt Mercer called Feeding Time (2016). It's ending its festival run in grand style, being featured in five terrific fests coming up. Two additional shorts we produced -- a contained time travel piece called Mainline (2017) and a suburban apocalyptic horror/drama called Family -- are set to begin their festival runs next month. Heartless, of course, is in post and I can't wait for everyone to see that one! Then, on the writing front, I'm finishing the rewrites on a horror script and starting up the aforementioned neo-noir thriller. We're aiming to turn both of those into features in the near futures so hopefully you'll be hearing a lot more from us.

Thank you Kevin for taking the time to talk film with us! We're psyched to give Heartless a look when it's ready!

Thank you so much for having me, Wess! This has been a blast! Thank you and the 405 so much for your support of Play Violet for Me and my future work. Cheers!