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Interview - STRANGE NATURE Director Jim Ojala

STRANGE NATURE Director Jim Ojala
Renowned for his work in make-up and special effects, Jim Ojala applies those skills to his feature-directorial debut Strange Nature – which sees a town take on mutant frogs!


strange nature poster


What a great lot of traction the movie is getting within the online community. Is the film, therefore, already a success in your mind?

Getting a truly independent feature financed is damn near impossible. To get it completed the way you envision it, even harder. Overall this is the movie I set out to make. It's probably the last time in my filmmaking career I won't have to answer to anyone. In my book, that's a success.



It’s a nice mix of genres this film. Was that intentional?

Yes, it was. I love straight horror movies as an audience member but as a writer/director, it's more interesting for me to combine genres. A lot of audiences/festivals/distributors don't like that because they don't know how to box and sell it but that's just what intrigues me.



How much was Stephen King’s Pet Sematary an influence, if you don’t mind me asking?

I love that film and was lucky enough to see it on the big screen as a child (thanks to my aunt sneaking me in) but it wasn't a direct influence. I can definitely see some parallels when it comes to the dangers of messing with laws of nature and how it relates to everything from family pets on up to our children.



How do you make a film like this relatable – which it is, in many ways. Does it come down to writing believable characters in incredible situations?

Yes, that's exactly it. I'm very interested in normal everyday people thrown into extraordinary situations and seeing how they deal with them. You'll probably never see me write a film based around government, military or medical personnel. I like when the audience can go, “Hmm, that could be me. What would I do in that situation?”



Are our main characters different people by the end of the film?

Yes, many of them are, especially Kim (played by Lisa Sheridan) and Brody (played by Jonah Beres). Neither of them really want to be in this town but they both find something there worth fighting for. For Brody, he starts out the film not even wanting to acknowledge the little deformed girl neighbour and by the end of it he's risking his life to save her and her wrongly accused father. For Kim, she has to confront her controversial past and why the town shuns her, then overcome it in order to get the town's attention. She also becomes a great example of becoming proactive in your community rather than just waiting for the government or anyone else to save you.



I imagine  having  Stephen Tobolowsky  and  John Hennigan  in the  film  lends  real credibility  to  the  film, but also helped with financing?

Yes, both Stephen and John are incredible in the film and come with their own extensive fan bases. We were extremely lucky to have both of them on board. Stephen was excited about the role of Mayor Paulson because for once in a genre film, it wasn't the greedy Jaws mayor. Meaning, even though Mayor Paulson makes some wrong moves, he's legitimately trying to do the right thing for the town.



This is a very different role for Hennigan isn’t it?

Sort of. John has usually been a heel (bad guy) in the wrestling world so he was able to bring that slimy charm to his character of Sam and relished in it. Even though Sam is such a harsh character, you know that he's coming from a place where he thinks he's the good guy and absolutely right. I think that's extremely important in making a villain relatable.



I imagine you had to have an interest in science to come up with the film? Can you talk a little about that interest?

Learning about this deformed frog phenomenon in the mid-90s always stuck with me because it was really big news at the time. Can you imagine seeing front pages of your local newspaper splashed with bizarre images of mutant looking frogs?! I've always especially been interested in aspects of science where things become dangerous. Malformations, parasites, you name it. Do you know that to this day, we don't even know what causes most human birth defects? To be able to film some of the real live deformed frogs for the movie was incredible. We even gave all of them names and they are credited in the film! I truly loved those guys. My brother in Minnesota spent years taking wonderful care of them.


Strange Nature opens at Laemmle Glendale September 22nd. A UK release has yet to be announced.





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