What happens to child actors when they grow up? They create. A child actor, and creator myself, it truly inspiring to see what the wonderfully talented Emmy winner Jennifer Houlton has accomplished. Playwright, actress, and now most recently hired to remake the edgy drama Chunmeng for an American audience. We got to sit down and chat with her about adapting material, being a female creator, and just you know how cool she is.
Can you tell us a bit about Chunmeng?
Chunmeng was a Chinese Horror/Drama that came out in 2013. The story revolved around a woman whose stable life and marriage is threatened when a demon sexually assaults her at night. Our Film–RAPTURE–will stay very close to the world of the Chinese film, but will also exist as a supernatural drama– in that it will work as both a drama and horror film. RAPTURE will tunnel deeper and be scarier!
What drew you to the project?
Rapture’s producer, Adam Davenport and I are both members of the Playwright and Directors Unit at the famous Actors Studio. I think when we met, we kind of immediately sussed each other out as talented people that we each wanted to work with in the future.
The Studio was reading my new play, TEETH & LUNGS. Adam saw it and asked me to call the director, Andrew Douglas to talk about writing the remake of Chunmeng. It’s a real testament to the future success of this film, that these two amazingly cool, handsome and masculine men, realized that they needed a woman to write about the intellectual and sexual complexities of our main character, CAROL.
The material is dark and haunting, is that something you have to change or adapt for and American audience?
The American audience is certainly used to hearing about dark things, but Chinese traditions are filled with ghosts, spirits and demons in an everyday way that Western traditions just aren’t. The trick of making the story organic will be to find the things that encapsulate for us the fear and power of Demons. Like what are the really deepest things that can topple us? Destroy our families, and our sense of self, or personal security? As they say, “We all have our own Demons”.
What do you think are the pros of tackling previously made material, and conversely what do you think are the cons?
The pros are–that if the movie is great, ike Chunmeng is—then the story is basically laid out. Of course, we’re making changes, but the psychic stream of both movies; the primary character, the common respect for Nature and the Underworld…those things will hopefully feel the same. And hmmm, Cons? I can’t actually think of any negatives. The universe of Chunmeng feels huge and generous. Exciting.
Is there something you hope doesn’t get lost in the translation?
I hope that the Quietness of the original movie, doesn’t get lost.
Can you address more specifically what you bring to the material as a female, also as a New York playwright ?
As a third generation “Manhattanite”, and a New York City Playwright , I’ve grown up seeing extravagant shows on Broadway–and equally extravagant shows that were staged in Subway Tunnels UNDER Broadway. And that really sums up theatre in New York!
People go to plays because there’s often more time to mine for the emotional and intellectual depth of a character. And it’s that backbone and scaffolding of character, plus a limitless idea of what can be done–that makes it so exciting when a playwright and a filmmaker get together to work on a project!
If your main character is a woman, then you should hire a woman writer.
I don’t think that female writers are any better than male writers, but female writers do have an advantage in the ability to psychologically embody both sexes. I know what it’s like to be a woman AND I have sons or brothers or lovers or a father that I love and can empathize with deeply. I don’t think that men can do that as successfully with women. In general, women are still quite mysterious creatures!
As a writer and an actor, is there something you haven’t tackled yet that you want to?
As an actor, I’d love to do comedy. (Ask my husband how funny I think I am!) But at this point in my life, I’m thrilled to be writing. I’m still learning so much and feel that I’m actually getting better and better all the time. I’d like to dramatize stories from the Old Testament and bring them to the screen. Like that movie, NOAH that Darren Aronofsky did? Those are such fantastic and frightening stories chocked full of archetypes and Evil Spirits.
What’s next for you besides this epic film?
I have a television series—also about America– that I’m looking to place.
Where can people keep up to date with you and your projects?
I’m terrible about facebook and all that. I want to spend my extra time writing, not “writing about writing”. Do you know what I mean? But who knows, maybe I’ll get with the groove. In the meantime, people should look forward to seeing RAPTURE!