Last week, we got to talk to Ruckus and Lane Skye about their new movie The Devil To Pay. Also we got to talk a little bit about their recent success with writing the excellent Becky starring Kevin James and Joel McHale.
AJ:So how did this movie come about?
Ruckus Skye, Lane Skye:We had met Danielle Deadwyler, the lead actress, through the arts community in Atlanta, and had been wanting to work together. The three of us go on to work together for a while. And they were like, why don’t we just write something for her to star in? And we are huge fans of Southern Gothic. We wanted to make a Southern Gothic thriller starring her. So that was basically the premise. So we were like, what do we want to see her do? And so we wrote it, but we didn’t tell her we were doing it. We just wrote it and then handed it to her and she agreed to do it. And that was basically it.:We have a movie!
AJ:Right. And what I appreciated about this movie, I think I had seen it at a festival last year and it was under a different name than it is now. And it was like a Southern Gothic film starring a black family. And I thought that was really unique and really cool and interesting. So how did you guys handle that, because that is something you don’t really see a lot?
Ruckus Skye and Lane Skye:You see a lot of Southern Gothic stuff and it kind of forgets. A lot of it eliminates the black experience in the South, but that’s not the South I grew up in. The South I grew up in was very diverse. And so we tend to tell stories that are inclusive in that way. And Danielle was a huge resource in that she read the script and kind of embodied this character.We wrote it for her and she happens to be black. The script was never going to be about that. To us, it was about this community where you’re judged on how long you’ve lived on the mountain. That’s the hierarchy of your power is who’s lived there the longest. And that was what was important to us. And then people get another layer out of that. Then that’s cool, too.What festival did you see it at? I’m just curious.
AJ:I can’t remember for the life of me. I think it was at a smaller festival. And I think it was called “Reckoning” at the time that I’d seen it.:And it just blew me away last year, because last year I’d almost seeing 500 films and this one really stood out to me as one of my favorite festival films.
Ruckus Skye and Lane Skye:That’s really nice.
AJ:That’s really saying a lot if I almost screened 480 films, close to 500. This one really stuck out as one of my favorite festivals films last year. And one thing I loved was just the atmosphere of this film. So how was it on writing the atmosphere’s tone in this film?
Ruckus Skye and Lane Skye: Oh man, that’s always the tough balancing act of getting the tone right and consistent. Because when you’re shooting it over a period of weeks.I think a lot of it came from the location. Ruckus And I have a very kind of specific aesthetic that we like to work in. So the tone that this movie is our jam. But the locations definitely added a lot to the tone of the way that the film ended up coming out, because a lot of those are real historic homes in Appalachia that we were able to film in. And so I think just having those locations be so authentic.It’s the texture and it’s sometimes hard to put a finger on it. It’s just when you see it and even in trying to get the right vehicles. What is the right “beat the hell” truck?
Ruckus Skye and Lane Skye:We looked at four or five different “beat of hell” trucks and they all were cool in different ways. Okay?And everybody was like, “We’ve got this beautiful truck here” and we were like, “No, we want your “beat the hell” truck.” We’re like, “No, we want your “beat the hell” truck.Right. But we’re definitely inspired by Southern Gothic literature. And it’s the visuals you see when you’re reading those books and that’s just kind of in our brain of what does that look like to us?And that’s what came out the other end.
AJ:And I’m glad you guys brought up the “beat the hell” up kind of details in the truck because my dad and I just watched “The Devil All the Time” on Netflix this past weekend. And that’s another Southern Gothic flick. And the first thing my dad said was, “Yeah, those don’t look like 1958 tires on those trucks.”
Ruckus Skye and Lane Skye:Yeah, it’s tough doing a period film. We tried to make this modern day. People ask sometimes what time period? And it’s definitely modern day, but we love that timeless feel. And that’s why there’s no iPhones in the movie and it’s really hard to do it. So that’s why we kind of tried to make it this off the grid thing where it’s a little easier to say there they’re off the grid on purpose. So they don’t have the most modern technology. And, and we just love that feel where things are a little harder to place when they’re happening. Which it becomes way more difficult nowadays because of technology.
AJ:Right. And I mentioned this early in the interview that this was a different name when it was playing at film festivals last year. So how do you guys deal with the new title change that you guys got? Was that like something you agreed with on the studio? Or how did that come about?
Ruckus Skye and Lane Skye:We shot this three years ago, so it’s taken a while come out and between now and then that name has just been used so many times. There’s a TV show out. There’s three or four or five films called “Reckoning” or “The Reckoning”. And it was just going to be too saturated. It was going to be too hard to differentiate it from other films. So we made the decision at the last minute with a distributor, they would’ve gone with it, but we changed it just because it was too many similar titles.
AJ:And you guys also had a break-out and hit “Becky” this year. So how does that kind of help you guys promoting your older film this year? You kind of not necessarily piggyback off “Becky”, but just kind of help get your name out there for a sec?
Ruckus Skye and Lane Skye:Yeah. It was fortuitous in an unseen. Like I said we shot this film two years before “Becky” got shot. So there was no way we were planning it to work out this way, but it did end up being nice timing that “Becky” ended up getting some attention and then now our film’s coming out. It definitely was never part of our plan, but it did end up working out. We’re very happy with how well “Becky” is doing. And did. Cause you never know.
AJ:Right. And what some of your influences growing up, like screenplays or whatever, helped you influence your writing?
Ruckus Skye and Lane Skye:Because there’s two of us, we have different things that I think Probably my favorite movie of all time, my favorite screenplay of all time, is “A Few Good Men”, the feature. And it’s probably difficult to see any of that in “The Devil to Pay”. But if I was just to pick any movie that I could watch anytime any day of the year, that would be my favorite movie. But we are southerners. We’re born and raised in the South and that aesthetic always been in there.And like we said before, Southern Gothic literature has been really influential, especially to me. Growing up reading Flannery O’Connor and Carson McCullers. Just seeing, especially female Southern Gothic writers, was inspiring and their works did not feel feminine in the way that some other female writers do it. It felt just like true. And-And it’s the mixture of things that are borderline horror. But also dark comedy mixed in there. And the balance of that, which is very important to us. So that there’s a dynamic to it.And then we love Outsider Art. Especially Southern Outsider Art cause this film has that feel, it’s hand held. And it just feels kind of handmade in a way is what we wanted. That was part of the texture and the tone we wanted. And music. Some Appalachian Music and Bluegrass to Southern Music. We just try to draw inspiration from things outside of film that inspires us in ways that might not imagine in making a film. In fact, the composer, Brad Carter, also plays character in the movie. Dixon.
AJ:Oh wow. That’s cool.
Ruckus Skye and Lane Skye: Yeah. So his character in the movie plays a Banjo on the porch. Plays a scene, which is our sort of “Deliverance” homage. But did he actually scored the film. And that was set from the start. So what was really cool about that is we sent him the script and then he just was inspired when he read it and just recorded some music and just sent it to us and said, “Hey, I don’t know where this goes or what it is, but here’s some music.” And we were so blown away, that inspired the way we shot certain scenes. It was kind of like it feeding on itself. It was really fun and we didn’t expect that to happen, but it really influenced the movie in a certain way.
AJ:Well guys, thank you so much for joining us today at “Infamous Horrors”. It’s been really fun and I hope the movie does really good.