Recently, Nevermore Horror got ahold of a handful of outstanding horror shorts that are making their way around the festival circuit. Surreal films with common themes are always going to catch my attention, so when I saw Something Round, a short film by up and coming director Nikhail Asnani, I knew that we at Nevermore should try to shine a spotlight in his direction. Asnani was gracious enough to send us four films that will be featured this season: The Foal, Something Round, My Boyfriend the Boogeyman, and Playback.
Asnani’s films seem to have a few common threads, themes, and topics. The first and most obvious is his thought experiments with the human emotion of obsession. In the few short minutes that his films are allowed to develop, he is able to create an environment primed for minor curiosities and infatuations to spiral into states of compulsion or neurosis. Ansani’s world is one where the minuscule details or objects that others would otherwise overlook or take for granted, become major manifestations of mania. He effectively creates a hypnagogic sandbox for his themes with creative use of light, cinematography, editing, and sound.
To drive his thesis home, Asnani points his camera at small, inconsequential totems, zooms in on them, and ascribes very large importance to these mundane emblems. It is not clear to the audience why these tokens are given such great importance, but he takes this idea to the extreme by even naming titles of his films after them, as in the case of The Foal and Something Round. This is, after all, the nature of obsession: blowing things way out of proportion.
There is another element of obsession that comes through in Asnani’s films like Playback and Something Round. It is the idea that things which everyone else recognizes as a big deal, become trivial. We forsake the essential parts of our lives and relationships in order to become totally preoccupied with something that we stubbornly refuse to give closure.
I had the opportunity to reach out and ask Nikhail Asnani a couple of questions about his background, life, and inspiration:
BH: First, if you could tell me a bit about you and your background, I saw from your website that you grew up in Hong Kong. How did growing up in Hong Kong influence your filmmaking?
NA: So, I was born and raised in Hong Kong, although I attended the States for college. Growing up in Hong Kong probably influenced the type of characters I have in my films more than anything. That being said, for me it was a very isolating experience growing up gay in Hong Kong. A lot of my protagonists tend to experience loneliness to a certain degree. I was always angry at the Hong Kong experience. So, I always tried to not show it as much with my films, keeping the world insular, either set to one apartment or a very contained story amongst a small group of people. Perhaps, it was also the lack of space, in such a crowded small city, that with filmmaking, I was forced to develop stories with very limited locations.
BH: Could you talk about your influences in filmmaking? Who or what has had the greatest impact on your work? How do you try to depart from their influences in order to make a new and fresh story?
NA: So, I have two filmmakers who I can not be more inspired from, sometimes too much so. These two are Ana Lily Amirpour and Xavier Dolan. Any film I make always has strong influences from these two’s work. Ana’s creepy characterization is lovely and Xavier’s raw beauty he can capture is also genius. When I say “I’m influenced”, it’s more by the style of filmmaking rather than the story. So, I think my stories are usually very fresh. However, it is the style in which it is told which is where you can see my influences. When you’re filming on set, nothing follows exactly as the examples you try to follow, so the space, and the people you work with. Just the energy of the moment of filmmaking is what keeps the work fresh and different, even though it can be heavily inspired. In general, with making stories fresh, I try to combine my ideas when possible and I rewrite an idea a lot too. So, there is a constant evolution going on.
BH: What is it about making horror movies that appeal to you the most?
NA: I believe good art makes the comfortable uncomfortable and uncomfortable comfortable. I find horror does that and I love art that is disturbing and scary in nature. While I don’t make films with huge jump scares and killer clowns, my films are more drama horrors, I love the very nature of horror as something being able to expose injustice by imposing injustice onto unsuspecting people, where it’s deserved or not. Scaring my mom with my films is another bonus, I was always a child that enjoyed bringing stress into the household. Also, I feel like being a horror filmmaker is very empowering, it’s almost as if we become the creatures of the night we paint and that is always fun.
BH: Having limited resources might be one of the greatest challenges of being independent. What kinds of tricks do you use to complete your vision in the face of scarcity?
NA: Well, my go-to trick is to only film in one location, usually a house. I’ve been sticking with that for a while, though recently I did venture off into a forest with my film Playback and my recent film still in post(-production) we did shoot at a tattoo parlour. Really, I try to keep the films limited to one location and keep the character count low. In Hong Kong, resources were even more scarce because of being an English speaking filmmaker in a non-English speaking industry, so there it was all about hustling friends together. Here, I managed to form a network because of film school, and the skill level of everyone in Los Angeles is much higher. So, there is a vast difference in the quality of my work now from before in Hong Kong.
Another trick has also been using a good producer that knows where to get good and cheap set lunches. Sometimes, being creative, we tend to downplay the producers a little but a crafty and resourceful producer can make all the difference in accomplishing your goal on your budget.
BH: Lastly, what’s on the horizon for you? What projects are you working on now, where and when can people go and see your work?
NA: Right now, I have a short in post(-production) called Flu. I have a bunch of shorts which are on the circuit right now. The Foal will be playing next at Vampcon in Chicago, Something Round played in the Seattle Transmedia Independent Film Festival and in Mexico in the fall (can’t announce where yet). Also, a web pilot titled My Boyfriend the Boogeyman will be playing in the Los Angeles Underground Film Forum (on) August 10th, and also Sicily Web Fest. You can also watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/
We want to say thank you very much to Nikhail Asnani for the interview and we wish him the best of luck! If you get the opportunity, be sure to check out his films where you can catch them. It will be great to see the story for Something Round be developed further into a feature-length film!
Born and raised in San Diego California, I grew up loving the action horror and sci-fi genres. The first R rated film I saw was Predator back when I was 8 years old. Aliens blew me away as a youngster and I made a M41-A pulse rifle out of paper towel rolls and rubber bands. I ran around for hours avoiding face huggers and blasting xenomorphs in my back yard and I am bringing that big imagination to Nevermore Horror.