INTERVIEW: Director Jon Knautz on Psychological Thriller ‘The Cleaning Lady’


The Cleaning Lady will be playing at Frightfest London 2018.

The screening will take place on Friday 24rd August at 11.30am on the Arrow Video Screen and at 12.00pm on the Horror Channel Screen. Both screens can be found at Leicester Square Cineworld.

Tickets are available here!


Jon Knautz‘s latest film, The Cleaning Lady, is set to premiere at London FrightFest 2018. In the film, a lovelorn woman (Alexis Kendra) befriends a cleaning lady (Rachel Alig) with severe burn scars, to distract herself from an affair. She soon learns these scars run much deeper than the surface.

We spoke to Jon to find out more about this tale of envy and obsession.


Naomi: The Cleaning Lady was originally a ten minute short. What made you want to adapt it into a feature film? Were there any elements of the short you most wanted to expand upon?

Jon: It was the other way around actually – we made the short as a proof of concept for the feature script we had written, in hopes of using it to help raise financing. The short was a couple of scenes from the feature script. It was a great way to test things out like tone, pacing, special FX, etc. It definitely helped with our approach on the feature.

Naomi: As someone who’s made both short and feature length films in the past, how prepared were you for expanding the material of the film?

Jon: As I mentioned before, we already had a feature script written, so in that regard we were very prepared. But tackling a feature film is always a great challenge. Holding people’s attention for a 5 or 10 min short is one thing, but keeping them entertained for 1.5 hours is a whole other ball game, especially nowadays. We spent a lot of time combing over the script to make sure there was no extra fat. I hate the idea of cutting scenes in post; I would much prefer to do it in the script phase.

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Naomi: I understand that the title for the feature was originally going to be Something Fierce. What led to it being changed?

Jon: Titles are hard. Sometimes you gotta sign off on one for a while to see if it sticks, and sometimes it just doesn’t. I like the simplicity of The Cleaning Lady – it doesn’t feel pretentious, it just is what it is. When we tried that one out it just seemed to fit. And now I can’t imagine it being called anything else.

Naomi: You’re known for thrillers and horrors, and you’ve said that this would be your darkest tale yet. What draws you to such dark subject matter?

Jon: It’s entertaining, plain and simple. And if you’re gonna make a horror film, might as well go dark. I’ve always been drawn to horror films that leave a mark. Something that scars you somehow. That way it’s a real experience watching it, instead of just some passage of time.

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Naomi: In the film, Rachel Alig plays the antagonist with severe scars, both physical and mental. Can you tell us a little about the creation of this character?

Jon: Rachel plays the character of Shelly. Everything about Shelly is one big tragedy. You can’t help but feel for her but she’s definitely not someone you want to get close to. In terms of the creation of her character, it’s hard to say exactly where she came from. She’s kind of been developing in my head for many years. I’ve done some research on burn victim survivors and it had a profound effect on me – I just can’t imagine how difficult and painful the experience must have been for them. Shelly is one of those survivors, but, she’s also evil. I liked the idea of the audience sympathising with Shelly but then she really turns on you. As sweet as Shelly can be, she’s better off left alone.

Naomi: This isn’t the first time you’ve worked with Alexis Kendra, and she’s had acting, writing and producing roles in you films. How would you describe your working relationship?

Jon: I see our relationship kind of like a band – we each play different instruments to create one piece of music. I’m really lucky to have found her because we’re very much on the same page but with different skill sets that don’t interfere with each other, so we complement rather than compete. There’s nothing more important than how your team gels. I’ve worked on projects where the core team didn’t gel and it was a nightmare. My advice for anyone getting into film is to search hard for the right team of people, and that’s who you surround yourself with. It will pay off in the end.

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Naomi: Your film features some pretty extensive facial prosthetics. Were there any scenes that these made particularly challenging to shoot?

Jon: Anytime you’re dealing with prosthetic make-up, it’s a challenge for a number of reasons. We had a very talented FX guy named Kelton Ching. He did a fantastic job with the make-up. I think the hardest part was for Rachel to have to wear it for so long on certain days. Apparently it gets pretty irritating after awhile, but to take it off and reapply it would take hours so she would be stuck in it the whole day. In fact, most of the cast and crew didn’t really know what she looked like without the make-up since she would have it on first thing in the morning and it wouldn’t come off until the end of the day when most people had already left. But hey, that’s the job.

Naomi: Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?

Jon: I’m deep into a true crime documentary right now, revolving around the murder of a family and the trial of the accused murderer. It’s a fascinating and mysterious story that any crime doc fanatic will definitely dig. Alexis and I also have a couple more horror scripts cooking right now that I can’t say much about yet but hopefully soon.


We’d like to say a big thank you to Jon Knautz for taking the time to talk to us! We’d also like to congratulate him on the success of The Cleaning Lady and wish him all the best with his future projects. You can keep up with Jon and his work on Twitter.

Check out the trailer for The Cleaning Lady below:

 


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