Legless Corpse recently got the opportunity to get an interview with Jeff Wedding, the mastermind that brought A Measure of the Sin to life. If you haven’t already, go check out the previously posted review to get a feel for the movie. And if you’ve already done that and aren’t yet excited to check out the film for yourself… well, you should be.
Jeff not only co-wrote the script with Kristy Nielsen (who wrote the short stories the film is based on), he also did just about every behind-the-scenes facet to ensure the picture held strong against the original matter (aside from the production; the film was produced by the leading lady, Katie Groshong).
Through a series of emails, Jeff was kind enough to not only answer my questions, but answer them in a thoughtful and eye-opening manner. I’m telling you: If you still haven’t marked June 17th on your calendar, you mark that down right now and pick up A Measure of the Sin when it’s released.
LEGLESS CORPSE: A Measure of the Sin is based off of two short stories written by Kristy Nielsen. What drew you to her stories?
JEFF WEDDING: When I first read A Measure of the Sin I knew I needed to make it into a film. What many people don’t know is that Kristy’s stories about Meredith were actually derived from a trilogy that were originally prose poems before they were re-written by Kristy in the early nineties as short stories. I have a particular affinity for dark, gritty stories that at the same time have a certain polish to them. The quality of Kristy’s fiction is such. She has the unique ability of telling stories that are grim, but also elicit this oddly beautiful heartache. I am always attracted to strong female characters as well. Over the years my personal desires for films I want to see seems to be leaning more and more in the direction of some kind of “hidden” horror—something that doesn’t necessarily appear to be horrific or maintain the standard approach or style of genre films on the surface, however, by the time the picture is over the viewer realizes they have witnessed something harrowing and cathartic, leaving them thinking. Kristy and I have become great friends over the years and something we’ve realized is that we share a very similar taste in tone-rich narratives and the importance of how it affects the reader or viewer.
LC: Is there a different sort of preparation and approach to bringing an idea from short stories to the film screen?
JW: Not really. It’s about finding the root of the story and following the arc of the character. The process wasn’t too difficult because I worked closely with Kristy on what I did and didn’t feel like I could achieve cinematically. A short story is just that—it’s short. After I had shot the story A Measure of the Sin I turned to the first story, Arms That Hold Me Back to recount Meredith’s childhood. I have a real interest in the genesis of how a person came to be what they are. What secrets they know and how they have developed a certain coldness or warmness, respectively. We all harbor some kind of darkness and it’s almost always by way of our past experiences. The shooting script for the consolidated stories was only fifty-something pages, but I knew the runtime would be stretched out onscreen because of the volume of voiceover and atmospheric imagery. I believe the right shot of a character’s environment can leave just as strong of an impression on the viewer as an expression on an actor’s face, which is why we use them as filmmakers. My initial cut of the film was almost two hours long with lots of unnecessary beats in the story that weren’t moving the situation ahead. The film plays slow enough, so I decided to cut it back to a lean seventy-five minutes.
LC: A Measure of the Sin is a unique sort of horror because it makes the audience question their own morality and beliefs. Is this something that frightens you? I know that, while I was watching it, I had to pause the film in several spots to make notes about whether or not I would have been able to survive an ordeal such as Meredith’s with my sanity still intact.
JW: It absolutely frightens me. Vampires and zombies don’t scare me because they don’t exist. Humanity scares me. There are so many ill-thinking people in the world that have harmful agendas whether it’s being done in the name of religion, profit or pure evil. These are the kind of people that live down the street from many of us and they are waiting for the opportunity to strike—or strike again. Meredith’s survival is contingent (as the brown woman states) upon whether or not she can answer yes to the first most important question, which is does she have what it takes to leave. This question is, in many regards, the demise of any person in an abusive relationship or held in some kind of captivity. “Survival is in the body”, as Meredith says. As humans we have the instinct to survive—that’s not the hard part. The hard part is abandoning everything we’ve ever known and making the decision to split.
LC: The Man stated that Meredith “imagines too much” during one of their more unsettling conversations. It was refreshing to see her imagination as both an antagonist and protagonist throughout the film; it was both the “hope that kept the light behind [her] eyes” and also the “burden of freedom.” Do you think one’s imagination can play both the angel and the devil in one’s life?
JW: Sure. Because of Meredith’s circumstance she has long lost her grip on reality. She uses fragments from her past to create illusions that act as fuel to move her forward and away from the Man. The bear could be used as one example, the snakes another. These are metaphors, of course, but in the text of the story they are devices to aid Meredith (at least in her mind) so that she can manage an escape. The theme here, in A Measure of the Sin, is not new territory as far as storytelling goes. It was my goal to take Kristy’s fiction, which she had presented on paper in a VERY original way, and present it in a way the viewer in unaccustomed to receiving it. The tone is inherent in Kristy’s prose, so much of that was included verbatim in Meredith’s narration, or soliloquy, depending on how you interpret her sanity. She is never sure of herself and full of contradictions right up until the end of the film. One second she has confidence and the next second she is completely and utterly bereft of faith. In that sense we are all Meredith, and that’s what compels me most.
LC: And now for the obligatory: What can we look forward to seeing from you next?
JW: I’ve actually been shooting quite a bit and working on other people’s films, but I have optioned a really great story called American Gothic by the writer Ray Russell, who is famous for Sardonicus. I am writing a script for that right now and will begin looking for funding soon.
We want to wish Jeff all the best on his current and future projects. A Measure of the Sin will be released on Limited Edition DVD and Video on Demand June 17th by BRINKvision Distribution. Do I really need to suggest you pick it up again?