The Spool / Fantasia 2019
Fantasia 2019: Adam Stein, Zach Lipovsky, and the Unlikely Origin Story of “Freaks”
The writer/directors of Fantasia fave Freaks, talk about the lo-fi origins of their unconventional superhero story.
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Welcome back to More of a Comment, Really…, a weekly interview podcast hosted by Clint Worthington! Every episode will feature interviews with actors, filmmakers, producers, and more, giving you the skinny on the latest films and TV.

(This podcast is part of our coverage of the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival.)

In an age where superhero movies are a dime a dozen, hundred-million-dollar tentpoles with strict formulas and crowd-pleasing spectacles, it’s refreshing to see something like Freaks come across our radar. Zach Stein and Adam Lipovsky, directors of shorts and visual effects gurus in their own right, raised the funds for this sleepy sci-fi thriller about Chloe, a little girl (a raw, instinctual Lexy Kolker) hidden away in a decrepit neighborhood house with her overbearing, paranoid father (Emile Hirsch), instructed to never go outside. The world has fallen into disarray at the presence of ‘freaks,’ people with superhuman abilities who’ve proved so dangerous that the government has taken to hunting them down.

It’s implied that Chloe may possess some of these abilities, with her father taking great steps to keep her isolated from a world that hates and fears her. But as her powers start to grow in strength (along with her curiosity about the world outside her door), she begins to learn about herself, what she’s capable of, and where she might find her long-lost mother (Amanda Crew).

Alongside the criminally-underseen Fast Color, Freaks trafficks in smart, lo-fi superhero commentary under the lens of generational family dynamics; while its concerns aren’t quite as heady as Julia Hart’s fantastic film, Freaks still manages to entertain and provoke in fascinating ways, mostly through its performances by Kolker, Hirsch and veteran actor Bruce Dern as a mysterious ice-cream man with a deeper connection to the family than it first appears.

For the pod, I sat down with Lipovsky and Stein for a remote interview during their run at Fantasia Fest 2019 to talk about the DIY origins of Freaks, handling new and old actors alike, and the timely political undertones of a film about grouping people as ‘illegal.’ We also discuss the perils and joys of independent filmmaking, of working with what you have, and turning Bruce Dern around on the science fiction genre for the first time since Silent Running.

(More of a Comment, Really… is a proud member of the Chicago Podcast Coop. Thanks to Overcast for sponsoring this episode!)

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