7 min read

Interview With Director Kevin Stevenson | The Party

Anubhav Chakraborty

January 02, 2023 7 min read

Movie: The  Party

Director: Kevin Stevenson


The idea of a story behind the story is very fascinating. Sir, please tell us how the story came into being. Did you always have the story somewhere stored in your mind or was it the writer?


My movie The Party is based off a the novel “Party” by Tom Leveen.  So, the genesis was the world that Tom created revolving around the 10 central characters.  And Ryan Mccoy and myself took that story and ran with it to create our full-length feature film.  We made several adaptations. Firstly, adapting the screenplay from the book to the 1st draft of the 100 page script. Second, we adapted the 1st draft to fit our filming locations in Oxnard, California.  Third, we revised the script to fit the actors we casted for each role. 


How easy or how difficult is it for a writer to accommodate a myriad of events in a script? Is it necessary for one to keep in mind the structure within which one is writing? 


It is challenging to fit a story of this size in a 90-minute film.  Considering the large ensemble cast, we knew from the beginning it would be difficult, but we wanted to keep the integrity of the story, even with all its parallel storylines.  It was especially difficult given that a critical character, A-Train, isn’t introduced until the 50 minute mark.  His story is essential, and in retrospect, I wish I had introduced him earlier.  

Sir, why do you think Cliffhangers have never stopped amusing the audience? Genres have evolved over the years. However a good old thriller is still a preponderant guilty pleasure for many. What do you think might be the reason behind this?


That’s a good question. It’s probably because it leaves the audience thinking about the cliffhanger. Discussing it with other people, etc.  I personally love ambiguous cliffhangers for that exact reason.  The movie has a lingering effect, most likely staying with the viewer long after.  

And thrillers have been popular since the 40’s Film Noir era because it’s grounded in reality. We can place ourselves in the protagonist’s situation and relate to the choices he or she makes.  The thriller gives us a look into a life of danger for a brief moment. Other genres, such as horror, can do that too, but the experience is not as genuine.  So in my opinion, thrillers are timeless experiences that transcend cultures and generations. 


What role do you think is played by the setting of a movie in the narrative? How important is it for someone to set up a decent premise that somehow ties the narrative together? 


I believe placing the film in a beach setting is important, because it allows the characters to wander about. Which is more common in beach towns than in suburban, mountain, desert, and even urban cities.  So, we wanted the characters to move throughout the city, by walking and skateboarding.  We didn’t want the characters to drive everywhere, which can be a little boring, and a little more costly with car rigs.  

A premise with a good payoff is satisfying.  Using foreshadowing and misdirection can help keep the audience engaged and it rewards them for paying attention.  So, setting up a good premise in the first 5 minutes is advantageous to keeping the viewer’s attention.  The first scene and shot should prop that premise up, sucking in the viewer from the very beginning. 

Sir, tell us something about the Characters. What were the specifics that you had to keep in mind while creating a diverse pool of characters with of course varied traits and obviously a modern temperament ? 


The central characters have a complex relationship with each other. There was a “push and pull” dynamic with the friends.  Each group has a dynamic where one would be pushing the other to do something they weren’t comfortable with, and would not normally do without the persistence of the friend. There’s a French term for this called, Folie a Deux. 


What were your favourite movies while growing up? Do you have a favourite director? Someone you believe to have inspired you. 


I loved paranormal horror films as a teenager. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Poltergeist, and Stigmata. I’m a huge fan of neo-noir films as well. As I extinguished all the American cinema I could discover, I gravitated towards French New Wave films like Breathless, Alphaville, Daybreak, and my personal favourite, Le Samourai, by Jean Pierre Melville. These films ignited my undying love for neo-noir films such as Terribly Unhappy, Chinatown, Witness, No Country for Old Men, Brick, and Fargo. 

Directors such Ti West, Tarantino, and David Fincher have inspired me because of their love and passion for the craft.  You can tell they relish their time on set, and I share that enthusiasm as well.  


In the course of the movie, one event leads to another almost suggesting a butterfly effect. Is that the reason the movie ‘s alternative title is ‘Butterflies’?


Yes, that is one reason why the alternative title is Butterflies… The story bounces around from story to story, similar to the fluttering of a butterfly.  Also, the butterflies one feels when nervous and/or excited.  


What role do you think is played by technical aspects in modern cinema? How potent are they? Do you believe they possess the ability to significantly drive a narrative forward? 


The technology available today can assist the narrative tremendously.  For example, we can stabilize shots, color correct footage, and place small cameras in tighter spaces for more  coverage.  These help tailor each shot to convey an exact feeling the Director is striving for.  But technology has also hindered a lot of beginning filmmakers. Too many people believe they need a large budget to afford expensive gear. But, what the French New Wave has taught me, is that all you need to make an interesting movie, is a camera, a girl, and a gun. 

Do you think the definition of thriller has changed over the years? How challenging do you think it has become for the filmmakers to keep up to the expectations? 


Ya, thrillers have a broad description nowadays.  Psycho-thrillers, crime thrillers, political thrillers and such help narrow it down for potential viewers.  I think it has developed into a feeling the movie provides, rather than the typical devices like red herrings, villains, and murder mysteries.  In my opinion, thrillers are exhilarating and ramp up the action, putting the protagonist in danger, which eventually culminates to a riveting climax. And my film The Party, hopefully, satisfies this criteria in all the right areas. 


Don’t you think in contemporary cinema the story is the king? It was important before but it seems a significant amount of attention has shifted to the script as people do not often evaluate movies on the basis of ‘Stars’ in them.


Hmm, I can’t really say.  Star value has a big impact in terms of getting films made.  For instance, a bad script with a name attached has a better chance at getting made than a good script with no names attached.  

But the old adage “story is king” is popular for a reason.  A good story can overcome inferior music, editing, camera work, and a poor director. But it can’t overcome poor acting.  So acting is paramount, but it doesn’t come in the form of a named talent. It comes through talent, rehearsals, editing, lighting, and directing.  Poor acting isn’t always the fault of the actor, moreover bad editing can create a lackluster performance.  Many contributing factors can play a part.  So, obviously it’s best to begin with a good story and even better script.  


Related Post