Food For Thought - Interview with Patrick Kennelly, Director of 'Excess Flesh'

A huge part of why 'Excess Flesh' caught my attention originally was it's visual style. Frenetic, disorienting and, off-kilter; I knew whatever the film had in store for me thematically, it would be wrapped in a style and aesthetic that would leave its mark after the credits began to roll. Patrick Kennelly is the sick kind of genius that gleefully uses every color of a gruesome palette to paint us a story rife with poignant subtext and social commentary. Our interview with Patrick allows us a peek inside his mind, giving us the chance to gain better understanding of the themes in 'Excess Flesh', as well as the film-making process; hopefully unscathed!


‘Excess Flesh’ is really the first time we’ve had the pleasure of experiencing your work (we’re especially fans of your visual style chosen for the film). What other projects have you been involved with before this one?

I’ve worked across a number of mediums over the past decade, though principally devised theater.

 

The casting for this was critical, as we can imagine. What was it about both Mary Loveless and Bethany Orr during auditions that made you say, “Yes, she is perfect for the part”?

Mary Loveless (Jennifer) I’ve known since my undergrad studies at CalArts. Both my co-writer and myself had her in mind immediately once we finished the script. It was difficult to find the right Jill. Bethany Orr came in towards the end of a long audition process.
My casting director gave me the short film, Agorable, which Bethany she wrote/directed/starred in. After seeing this work, I knew immediately that THIS was the artist who would be willing to GO THERE with me. I subsequently met her and was completely won over by not only her acting chops but also her keen intelligence and passion. It was important that the actor I work with not only be a great performer, but be a collaborator in the truest sense of the word. Bethany went above and beyond on this picture, developing an intensely intimate (and immersive) relationship with the character. She WAS Jill during that shoot, and surprised me every day on set.

 

We’ve spoken with other directors regarding the development of their first major production and the common theme is tough, exhausting, but very much rewarding. Would you say that theme continues here with ‘Excess Flesh’?

I definitely learned a lot in making this movie – both about myself as a person and my work as a director. The process was both exciting and exhausting, as all moviemaking – well artistic creation in general - is. However, being able to do this stuff, no matter what the circumstances, is intrinsically rewarding. I don’t believe it’s going to change the world, but you DO have the potential of getting people to think about things they might not have otherwise and in ways they might not have thought of.  It was always my goal to create a challenging, thought-provoking work – not just an entertainment. Those are the kinds of movies, theater, literature, what have you, that I’ve responded to the most in my life.

 

Talk about the film’s story a bit, and what it’s themes are. What do you hope its viewers gain from it?

I don’t want to get too specific here, There is a lot swirling around in this movie. Its different things to different people – based on what you bring to it, and I’d like to keep it that way! Suffice it to say, the large segment of my work deals with identity and the shaping of it. So, I’d say, watch the movie closely – not everything is as it might appear. I WILL say that the world of EXCESS FLESH is the headspace of Jill. In that way, it can seem preposterous, repetitive, confusing, uneven, extreme, disgusting, etc. If its working, it places the audience in a place of mental duress, as well as depicts the external pressures that feed into this duress, as well as its physical manifestations.

 

What inspired you to tackle this particular subject matter in ‘Excess Flesh’? Was there any worry about handling something as sensitive as this, especially considering the entertainment industry’s history with it?

That was actually the particular appeal of doing it – to take a challenging subject matter and depict it in a way I’ve never seen before. As you mentioned, many of the themes in this movie have been explored before (and perhaps better!), but I’ve often found, particularly recently, these works to be ‘problematic’ to say the least. A big part of my mission with the project was to make a feminist genre piece. Some people believe this was accomplished while others believe its quite the opposite (ie. a work of ‘misogny’ – whatever that means). I relish this opposition – it stirs up discussion.

 

The close-ups of the devouring of food; whatever appetite we had before the film started, those scenes were effective in eliminating. Intentional?

Absolutely. I said during the making of this – particularly when we were doing those shots - that the real source of terror in this story is consumption.


Would you classify ‘Excess Flesh’ as a horror film? If so, what were its most horrific elements?

Depends on how you classify ‘horror.’ Some of my favorite works of ‘horror’ most people wouldn’t necessarily put in that category. I’m partial to works that mash-up genres and fuck with conventions. I was looking to do that here. In that way, I’d say EXCESS FLESH is a satirical psychological horror thriller. Take what you will from that! As I said earlier, the movie is intentionally over-the-top and drawn out in its themes, so it upsets the expectations of each of these genres – satire, psychological horror, thrillers. However, these were all the things that went into best explicating my experience with the themes.


Do you have any horror films you can point to as an inspiration for this film or your involvement in other productions?

Touchstones for this work are non-genre based works, particularly the cinema of Todd Haynes, (and specifically SAFE) and Ingmar Bergman (specifically PERSONA). Also Zulawski in its performance styles and cinematic recklessness and Polanski in its claustrophobia and psychology.


When and where can everyone watch ‘Excess Flesh’? Plans for a DVD and/or Blu-ray release?

EXCESS FLESH is coming out in the U.S. March 8 on VOD/DVD via Midnight Releasing.  Hopefully there will be a special edition BluRay release in the near future.


What’s next for Patrick Kennelly?

I’m at work on 2 more off-genre features. The first one is a coming of age drama wrapped in the cloak of a captivity thriller (again). The other is a thriller based on the true story of a serial-killing couple.


Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions; we wish you continued success in the industry!