Christina Raia is an aspiring writer, director and producer. She is currently trying to raise the funds to get her first feature film, “Summit” into production. When I spoke to her she was concerned that her answers would be long-winded and would need to be edited. I assured her that her passion for her craft shines with every word and that nothing would be changed.
What was the moment of clarity in your life when you woke up and said “Hey, I want to make movies for a living.”?
It‘s really hard for me to say what that defining moment was that made me decide to be a filmmaker. I started writing stories when I was 5 and actually wrote my first screenplay (or what I thought was a screenplay) at 9 years old. I got my first video camera at 13. I know that when I was 15 I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to pursue anything else in my life other than filmmaking because writing and directing was my passion and I didn’t care if it was impractical or a gamble as some family members and teachers told me. But my mom tells me that I would say that I was going to make movies when I grew up when I was 6 years old. So, that desire was there very early on. When I was around that age, I would become infatuated with specific films and just watch one every single day for weeks and pick up on new little things every time. Then I’d move on to another after a while and repeat the process. I would watch so many movies but I was always drawn to very dark and fantastical ones. Tim Burton played a huge part in why I wanted to make movies and why I was inspired to use my imagination. I saw “The Nightmare before Christmas” when I was 4 (the year it came out) and I was in awe, not just of the story but of the visuals and I suppose the entire cinematic achievement of it, everything. I doubt I decided I was going to make movies at 4 years old and I doubt I could have even articulated why I enjoyed the movie so much, but I’m sure that was a very influential moment. Also, growing up, I wasn’t a huge Spielberg fan, as kids tended to be. I like more obscure things. I watched an array of different films. My mom monitored what I watched but she was also really lenient. I discovered various genres, including horror films; it made me see the completely open fountain of stories that could be told, not just the ones for kids. Of course, there are films/directors that have inspired me as I’ve gotten older (the classic ones that people always say) but whenever I’m asked about why I wanted to be a filmmaker, I always go back to when I was a kid because that’s when it really started for me. Anything I’ve discovered since then and have become a fan of has simply reinforced my love for movies and my belief that it’s what I’m meant to do.
You’re a filmmaker, therefore you have influences. Name one. No, name three.
Well, as I said, Tim Burton would be one; although I have to admit that I’ve been rather disappointed with his recent work. I have always been and am still a huge fan of John Carpenter. I absolutely love how John Carpenter would take a basic premise and make it much deeper than what was on the surface of the story. He would explore social issues in a purely entertaining manner, like his body horror films of the 80’s. One of my favorite movies of all time is “The Thing”. My film, “Summit”, is actually, in some ways, homage to “The Thing”. It has nothing to do with shape-shifting aliens but there’s definitely this theme of survival in a dire situation and not knowing who to trust. I absolutely thought of “The Thing” while writing “Summit”, especially because I set it in the snow, and trying to survive the conditions is also a factor in my movie. His use of music in The Thing is great too. It will definitely inspire the music in “Summit”. And of course his other films are inspirations as well, “Halloween” is huge. “Halloween” is the first slasher film I ever saw and it made me want to make slasher films. I once wrote a paper for class on the evolution of the final girl from “Halloween” to “Scream” (because I’m nerdy like that) and “Summit” definitely works with the final girl trope. There are just so many inspirations; I could go on forever. But I’ll stop here. I do think that you’ll see a little of who inspired me in the final product of “Summit” but I definitely will be bringing my own style to the genre; and there will be something new and original about how I execute this very common plot set-up.
Why horror movies?
Why horror movies? Well, the short answer is one that I say when asked why I like the horror genre so much compared to other genres: Within the horror genre, social issues can be addressed and allegories can be utilized. It’s such an intriguing and exciting genre that can be fun and grotesque, as well as insightful and profound. It’s that drastic contrast that makes me love the horror genre so much. I’ve always loved how audience members have such a visceral experience with it. I guess I aim to really affect people on multiple levels of interaction in the way that the horror genre is capable of doing.
The long answer to that question is that it’s a desire that I’ve always had. It’s simply a genre I have always really wanted to be a part of. It makes perfect sense that my first feature film would be a horror film. My love for horror movies also goes back to my childhood. I discovered a love for horror movies at an absurdly young age. I first saw “Pet Sematary” when I was 5 and for some reason just loved it. It freaked me out; I had nightmares that the mom’s sister was creeping up my stairs to come and get me; for some reason she was the most frightening part of the movie to me. But I kept watching it over and over because I just loved how it scared me, how it lingered even after watching it. That screenplay I mentioned at 9 years old, it was a slasher film. It was about 11 pages and I, of course being 9, thought that would translate to a 2 hour movie. I actually still have the pages I typed up somewhere in a box. I had just seen “Scream” and felt like writing something similar. The story was pretty much “Scream” but with 10 year old characters and the boyfriend died in the first scene, came back as the killer for a twist ending, but then it turned out that he was just being used by his best friend and was really not the killer. I thought it was brilliant and that I was going to be a famous horror film director because of this script. I would make my friends rehearse their lines even though I didn’t even have a video camera at the time. I just naively believed that I would be able to make this movie; I honestly don’t know where I thought I would get a camera from. But, anyway, I tell you this story because it really shows that for some reason I was always just drawn to horror movies. I was always watching them and writing horror stories. I did it again when I was 13. I wrote a script about a group of teenagers making a slasher film and then the cast and crew members started getting picked off one by one. It was called “Cut”. I never made it but I tried so hard to; I just didn’t have the resources then. I finally made a short film almost 3 years ago called “Do Over”; it wasn’t a slasher, more like a psychological thriller. I’m proud of it but it’s very flawed. It was my first independent short and my first real step into the genre. But that’s not the film that I would want to define as my horror film. I feel like I really need to make “Summit” because I’ve always been trying to make my mark on the horror genre and the timing was just never right until now. I have this great script that pays homage to the genre while also bringing something completely different to it; and I have these awesome people committed to the film and working to help make it happen. It’s just the right time for me to finally make my horror film, my directorial contribution to the genre. Then who knows from there? I can definitely see myself staying in the genre but I don’t know for sure. I just know that “Summit” is really a passion project that I have to make happen. I suppose it’s the film that all my little childhood ideas were building up to.
Why would I as a horror film fan want to see your movie?
Well, it’s like I said; it stays true to the typical formula in some ways but definitely brings something very new to the table. Its five friends going on a ski trip that end up at the wrong location, and things take a gory twist from there. That’s a plot set-up that you, as a horror film fan, already know and love. But it’s not just going to be more of the same. It’s very unlike slasher films of the past decade that just regurgitate the same formula from start to finish. The way the story plays out is fresh and original. It explores survival in a different way. It has the death and bloody gore that you’re used to and want to see but it also is very character-based and thrusts you into the story and leaves you immersed in this survival experience with the characters in a way that isn’t typical to slashers. If you’re a fan of the genre, I believe that it will not disappoint you or your standards for the genre; but it will definitely surprise you in unexpected and enjoyable ways.
Every great slasher film has had an iconic villain. “Texas Chainsaw” had Leatherface, “Halloween” had Michael, and “Friday the 13th” had Jason. Who is your horror icon going to be?
That’s a tough one because, unlike those films where the killer is known from the beginning, this one is left ambiguous for a good portion of the film. You know someone is taunting and killing these individuals but you don’t know who or why. That’s part of the original aspect of the film. It’s a slasher film that also has a mystery component to it. The killings are done in a slightly (the 1st) “Friday the 13th” POV kind of way; but not exactly like that either. You’ll really just have to wait and watch the film once it comes out to see who the horror icon for “Summit” will be.
Christina, your answers have been passionate and honest. But now, here comes the Big Kahuna question. You’re trying to raise $12,000 to get your movie, “Summit”, off the ground and into production. Now, we all know that right now there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of filmmakers out there with that same goal in mind. So, tell me Christina why should we as horror fans want to contribute to the making of “Summit”?
Summit is a film that you should want to be a part of. We’re not just asking for funding and then wiping our hands of everyone that contributed. We intend to maintain a certain level of interactivity with our backers. You’re our future audience, we know that. If everything I’ve said about the film thus far intrigues you then helping make this film happen will benefit you. By backing the film, you’re essentially signing up to watch it in the near future. It’s not just a donation, it’s an investment. We intend to share exclusive behind the scene photos and videos with our backers. You want to see how we manage to axe a character in the chest? We’ll upload a video and show you exactly how we did it. Through our facebook page we intend to share videos from the set where you’ll bear witness to our trials and tribulations during production, as well as all the poignant and magical moments when a scene works out perfectly. I don’t just want money; I want a relationship with the people that have an interest in the film. I think that by backing Summit, you’ll not only feel like you’re contributing to the funding of the film, but also that you’ve become a part of the team that’s making it.
And speaking of the team, I think that’s also a big part of why people would want to contribute to the film. You wouldn’t just be supporting me and my movie; you’d be supporting an entire team of creative and talented people that have committed so much time and effort to this project. And I don’t just mean the crew. It’s not so common that you’ll see a film on kickstarter.com almost a year before production that already has the cast; and definitely not a cast that is eager to be a part of the fundraising campaign like ours is. They are truly proud to be a part of the film. I have “Meet the Cast” videos planned as updates over the next couple of weeks and it’s the cast, in their own words, discussing Summit and why they’re excited about the film. This campaign is truly a collaborative project with a community of people that are passionate about this fresh and original Horror film. We want you to be a part of that community. We want to make this film and share it with you. We just need $12,000 to do that.
Christina, it has been great talking to you and I wish you the best of luck with “Summit“.
Thank you. I appreciate this opportunity. I’ve really enjoyed answering these questions. I hope your readers will enjoy getting to know a little about me and my passion for horror movies and filmmaking, this project in particular. And I do hope that this interview has sparked some interest in “Summit”. If anyone is interested in supporting the film, please check out our kickstarter.com campaign; even just telling a few people about it is a huge help! And if anyone would like to get in contact with me to discuss “Summit” further they can send me a message through the “Summit” facebook page or through the kickstarter.com campaign page as well. Thanks again!
For those of you interested in more information on Christina Raia and “Summit” all you have to do is click on the link below. Thank you.
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