(Exclusive Interview) Director Jay Ness – Silent Hill Anniversary

Very few video games give off a truly frightening experience. Survival horror has turned into nothing more than survival action with a few jump scares tossed into the mix.

Konami’s Silent Hill happens to be one of the pioneers for the genre with Team Silent leaving players captured into the main characters life, their guilt as they make their way through Silent Hill. The series doesn’t rely on jump scares; instead the game throws you on what will ultimately be a psychologically terrifying thrill ride.

I could expand my thoughts on the series endlessly but that’s not what this article is about.I had the privilege of sitting down with Director Jay Ness who brought you the film Silent Hill Anniversary. We talked about how he first got into filming, the film Silent Hill Anniversary and his recent announcement of directing another film in the Silent Hill Universe. Also, at the end we’ve provided photos of the production and premier of Silent Hill Anniversary.

PSG: Jay Ness, thanks so much for taking time out of your day to join us at PlayStationGang.com!

Jay: Absolutely.

So there’s no better place to start than the beginning. Tell us about little Jay Ness, was there always that desire to become a film director?

In a sense, all signs pointed this way. It goes back to being one of my first few passions beyond drawing, comics or video games themselves. We had a VHS camera that allowed me to start telling short animated stories with my action figures which later evolved into using my friends to act and so forth. That had to have started when I was about…8 or 9.

Wow so this has been an ongoing process. Most of the published works you’ve filmed are music videos. Was Silent Hill Anniversary your first project that broke you into filming and directing in that caliber?

I’d have to consider Anniversary my leap into this caliber of filmmaking, without a doubt. The Silent Hill Experience comes with me into all of my other projects which has consistently motivated and challenged me to strive with my creations. “Go up. If we’re doing this again, we’ve got to go up because there isn’t enough time to poke around the same place.” That’s my mentality.

So obviously you must have a rather strong fondness to the Silent Hill series for you to take on what was years of work correct?

The franchise uses a really amazing concept and that is why I love it as a filmmaker. The idea that one’s journey to Silent Hill differs from another alone is bizarre. Your worst nightmares are brought to life in Silent Hill. Your fears, demons, guilt, oppression, It’s a prison you’ve created. Therefore, it’s a psychologically terrifying experience for every character since we all have different brains. As far as the length of production goes, I simply like to start what I finish. The production took a long time due to pattern of events in my personal life. Not to make this about something it isn’t but within months of each other I was in and out of the hospital due to an auto-immune diagnosis followed closely by a concussion caused by cold assault. That stopped production for uncountable months.

That’s horrible to hear, was there also any pressure from Konami? We’ve seen several films get canned because of legal issues. Was there any comments from Konami themselves or any members of development teams throughout the Silent Hill series?

That’s a really good question; no one has asked me that before. In short, yes. I once coincidentally sat at a table with someone from Konami while visiting L.A. and that of course opened up lots of conversation. Interestingly, THE Silent Hill feature film’s special FX guy, Paul Jones, is a fan of our film’s special FX artist. I know they’ve had some conversations about our picture and both feature films. How could I forget – Akira Yamaoka gave his approval and I couldn’t help but notice some of the video games production team were “liking” our Facebook page on their profiles. Maybe that doesn’t count? Or does it? We tried to crossover our short in conjunction with Silent Hill: Revelation via the Machinima Network marketing team but nothing came of that.

Silent Hill Anniversary is based on the events in Silent Hill 2. Was there a particular reason you went with that installment? I’m not sure when you first wrote out the draft for Silent Hill Anniversary.

Our film had come out after Downpour. September of 2012 was the official release. Development was beginning around Silent Homecoming, Origins and Shattered Memories. I guess that explains why a couple of the films shots are over 2 years older than the rest. At the beginning, the film was plugged as a Silent Hill 2 fan film because of the protagonist. The film’s concept is a lot more like the original game with Harry and Cheryl dynamic. Not to mention a car accident and chase through the fog. Except, instead of Harry searching for Cheryl, we have James willingly going to Silent Hill seeking his wife, Mary. Considering limited resources, such as a lack of child actors and a skeleton production team – it took characters like Cheryl/Heather out of the equation.

Therefore, I thought it’d be best suited to focus on James and the relationship he has with his psyche. It’s very much homage to the Team Silent era from my perspective. Though, you can see the influence of the feature film through Paul Galazka’s visual effects. I think it was an intelligent choice for anyone who sees the film that hasn’t played all the Silent Hill games. It’s a transition to the “otherworld” and it’s vivid. In short, I don’t see it as a Silent Hill 2 fan film. The film acts as its own entity considering the influence spanning the first few games.

You mention that there was a lack of child actors. Was the case and crew prominently made up of friends?

With the exception of Izabela Zelmanska (VFX Dead Island: Riptide), Paul Galazka and Jeremy Frye – Everyone else involved came somewhere from my neighborhood within my circle of contacts.  We were lucky enough to have the first three names mentioned. Paul and Izabela are from Poland, I’ve never met with them in person, only via Skype audio. Paul had seen a teaser I’d cut in late 2011 followed by sending over an email that read “Hi, I’m Paul. This is no joke. Let’s have fun and make something sweet. Count me in!” The crew had posted ads online across the world to find 3D VFX and motion graphics artists. Izabela and Jeremy were the ones that got back to us. It was wild, there reels are incredible.

As a fan of the Silent Hill series myself, I watched your film and absolutely loved it. I think you and the crew did an incredible job. Looking back at the film yourself, is there anything you wished you could have added in or redone differently?

Thanks Dennis. It was a lot of time and energy. It’s cool to know we didn’t completely “scratch” the ball for you. It’s impossible to please all. Looking back on the film, I can tell you the things I hate and things I like or love absolutely. But nothing says I better than the fact that I am interested in going back into the universe and doing something completely different than what we saw in Anniversary. I have a formula in mind that just makes me wish it was there before making Anniversary because it’s wicked.

Speaking of going back into the Silent Hill universe, you’ve mentioned that you’re doing another film. Though what that film contains or based on is a complete mystery. (SPOILER ALERT) You do however see a hole in the very end of Silent Hill Anniversary and it’s now posted on the Facebook page which would lead us to believe Silent Hill 4: The Room. Can we break any news?

“The Room” is strongly being considered and I always thought it could make some wonderful cinema on the screen. That is where I initially thought we’d take it. The Room brings up some obstacles that challenge this vision in my head. More specifically, the game could EASILY not be a Silent Hill game. It’s my understanding that it wasn’t originally a game within the Silent Hill series. Silent Hill 4 is incredibly scary, much more like a typical nightmare than what the other games offer. It’s a less personal experience than the other stories. The character Henry is sort of in the wrong place at the wrong time which his story crosses over into events related to Silent Hill, because of the room. It’s the psychological status of Henry that is challenging. My idea works better with a character like James who is lost, delusional, alone suppressed etc. Where Henry has his head on his shoulders, more so and wants to know why things are happening and ultimately figure out how to get the fuck out of his apartment!

It’s coming down the pipeline and I’ll have news to break soon. Some pivotal decisions need to be made. If you want me to make up some rumors, I can do that…”Gosling is interested in supporting role. Josh Hartnett lives here in Minneapolis with me and mentioned an interest in actually playing the town, Silent Hill, itself. We’re currently in talks with Jennifer Lawrence too……”

I’m more intrigued than ever! Moving away slightly from Silent Hill, you’ve announced that you’re not working on the film until another video game related production is complete. Any word on what this production is about?

I’ll bet you are! All this film needs is a heart throb like J.G.L. to make ends meet. Hell, I’d let Gordon-Levitt direct it and I’ll put my hands up…yes. Back to the real world and off of Silent Hill. I’ve dropped lots of hints on the social network Instagram and Twitter using photos as to which game this new project is based on. If you play games and know a little about this or that…you’ll probably have a good idea of which game it’s based on. But I can’t say.  The creative team has put way too much into this for me to just spoil it and I respect their talents and time. I’m sorry! I can promise you it’s straight up my alley and you’ll know exactly what it happening of it as soon as I do. Follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. The good news is that we are expecting news very soon, as in really soon. Did I just say the same thing twice? Oh well, you know what I’m implying.

[ Watch Silent Hill: Anniversary]

Jay Ness – Official Website

[doptg id=”14″]