Jessica Silvetti and Ethan Kogan
“I’d like them to be unnerved a little bit… but in a fun and exciting way.”
There is a complex order to all things in the universe that we accept as normal. But, what happens if suddenly that normal order no longer exists?
The genre jumping episodes explores the eerie side of humanity through dark folk tales set in the near future. It’s described as showcasing characters: confronted with the absence of both the material and the intangible as a couple’s romantic escapade turns dark, two strangers make a cerebral connection, and a lone woman experiences a world-changing event.
The real-life married creative team hit the festival circuit with the series earlier this year, earning a Remi Award at WorldFest Houston. Up next, it goes international, already earning a Jury Prize nomination for ‘Best Writing’ at the upcoming Raindance Film Festival in London; and then on to Spain for the Bilbao International Digital Festival, where it’s picked up three nominations.
In-between festivals, Jessica Silvetti and Ethan Kogan found time for an interview:
Tell us about In Absentia.
Jessica: It’s an anthology series that evolved from an interest in exploring strange dreams, fears and our own imaginations. The tales are contemporary and macabre. We also developed a structure where the episodes connect into one another visually, so a viewer can start the series in any order and the episodes cycle through seamlessly. We each wrote different episodes, and produced and directed as a team.
What inspired this anthology project?
Ethan: I loved the thought of bringing back the nostalgia of shows like The Twilight Zone, Amazing Stories and The Outer Limits. Each week taking you to another world, another mysterious place. The idea of transporting an audience into another reality and into another realm; it’s dark, pensive and in some cases a bit sinister.
Can you explain the meaning behind the title?
Ethan: The loss, the absence of something both physical and/or intangible. Maybe someone goes missing, the sun disappears, or it’s simply the loss of innocence.
How did the use of color factor into your visual approach to this project?
Jessica: We had limited funds so location was very important to give it the feeling of a higher level of production design. The color palette was something that began to reveal itself during our development and pre-production.
Ethan: The color became extremely important in conveying the mood and emotion of each piece. Bringing forth the individuality of each episode.
The casting was also important; tell us about that process.
Ethan: Most of the time the actors have a strong theatrical background, as we both came up in the theater, so it gives us a common language to use. On top of that, we tried to extend our stories to have an international feel because the themes and ideas we conveyed were not restricted to an American audience and therefore wanted to cast actors who would be able to speak in their native tongues like Hindi or Spanish.
Jessica: Coming from a background in acting, we’ve formed many relationships with an amazing group of talented actors along the way. We typically contact people we know and have worked with or reach out to that same base for referrals.
What do you hope audiences take away from the series?
Ethan: I hope audiences think about the perception of a story from one person’s point of view to another. I’d like them to be unnerved a little bit… but in a fun and exciting way.
Jessica: A sense of wonder. That the audience experiences a journey that takes unexpected turns, gets their hearts racing a little, their minds guessing here and there, and an overall enjoyment for what they see and hear on the screen.
Were you married before you started creating together or did that come after?
Jessica: We’ve been together and have worked as creative partners for over a decade, but we got married two years ago.
Ethan: We started collaborating before we were married. Jessica wrote and produced a short film that we both acted in. We spend a lot of time talking about our thoughts on society, politics, religion, movies, art – and stories always come from that.
Are there specific filmmakers that have influenced your work either together or individually?
Jessica: We love Tim Burton, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Darren Aronofsky, Julie Taymor. Lately we’ve been hearing that our work has a David Lynch feel to it – so I guess he’s been a bigger influence than we had realized.
Ethan: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, PT Anderson, Andrei Tarkovsky, Masaki Kobayashi
Overall, what’s been the biggest surprise for you as filmmakers?
Jessica: There’s always more to learn. There are ups and downs, but the more I do it the more I fall in love with the entire process. Being able to bring to life a concept you have in your mind, bringing on a team to create that concept and then having an audience see the finished product… it’s an amazing journey.
Ethan: The fact that once I started doing it, I really didn’t think about acting anymore (we both started out as actors and studied theatre in school). Also, how fulfilling it is to see a project from concept to distribution, that’s immensely gratifying.
What’s up next for you and In Absentia?
Jessica: We’re working towards developing In Absentia into a full series. We have a full season in mind of 8 to 13 episodes… it’s the type of storytelling that can go on for many, many seasons. We also have another project we’re developing that’s in the dark fairy tale territory… it’s disturbing and fun – and still manages to have a lot of heart.
Keep up with Jessica Silvetti and Ethan Kogan at: www.lightandshadow.pictures