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Partners in Horror

The Creative Crowd
Partners in Horror
By Greenlit • Issue #11 • View online
Everyone has a relationship horror story. But not everyone makes horror films with their life partner, like married directing team Alix Austin and Keir Siewert. Right now, they’re preparing for their horror feature KILL YOUR LOVER. Today, Alix and Keir are sharing the secrets to their success together—both on set and at home.
At Greenlit, we’re delighted to be the crowdfunding home for KILL YOUR LOVER, and we’re very proud of the ongoing success of the horror projects in our community. If you want to hear more about horror filmmaking—and listen to Alix and Keir’s wisdom IRL—then be sure to RSVP for next week’s Scary Success Horror Filmmaking Panel. More details after the interview!

An interview with married filmmaking team Alix Austin and Keir Siewert
Alix & Keir met 10 years ago and have been making films together ever since. They are currently campaigning to raise funds for their horror feature, KILL YOUR LOVER.
You’ve been filmmaking and life partners for nearly a decade now. How did it all begin?
ALIX: This is one of my favourite stories to tell! TL;DR is Keir and I met on a music video shoot and he asked me out afterwards.
The more fun version: we met via a casting call that Keir put together. I was mostly an actor at the time and got the part. Apparently everyone on the set, apart from me, could tell that Keir and I were going to end up together. But Keir was the epitome of professional, so it came as a complete surprise when he asked me out after the shoot!
Afterwards, we soon decided it would be a good idea to make 48hr film projects together. That should have broken us, given the pressure that comes from them. But happy to say it made us! And we’ve been making films together ever since.
KEIR: What can I say, I loved working with her and I just didn’t want the adventure to end.
How have you made it all work so well — both on set and at home?
ALIX: Keir’s family comes from a psychology background, and we’ve always made it a priority to communicate as honestly and fairly with each other as possible. People on set have even commented that we talk to each other like we’ve been to therapy.
KEIR: I think we also recognise each other’s strengths and we know how to play to them. We balance each other out. I think working together takes a lot of intense empathy but also extreme and compassionate honesty.
On the flip side, what’s the hardest part of sharing both your life and career together? Any tips?
KEIR: Switching off. It’s hard sometimes to draw the line between discussing work and personal things, especially when your work is your passion. It’s far too easy to allow the two to bleed together and find yourself discussing prep or production when we should just be spending time with each other.
ALIX: We are pretty good at keeping Saturdays work free. That’s our ‘us’ day.
In theory we have a rule that we aim to put down tools at 6pm, in a bid to reflect ‘working hours’, as we often work from home. This is a loose rule though, and I’m the most guilty party of bending it (oops!).
Best advice I can give? Individual duvets! So comfy — and I’ve since found out, typically Scandinavian!
Being on set brings a whole new level of stress. How do you two divide co-directing responsibilities?
ALIX: We make sure we’re aligned long before we get onto set — everything from storyboarding, to special effects and overall direction of the film.
Once on set, our agreement for the KILL YOUR LOVER project in particular, is that Keir will be the lead voice when it comes to liaising with our cinematographer Oscar Garth, whereas I will be the point person for the actors to talk to, and for the all-important practical make-up effects. We see this as a huge plus, as we think it allows us both to give that extra attention to detail where it really matters.
KEIR: When it comes to editing as an example, I do the heavy lifting, and then Alix comes in and refines. Best way I can describe it is I hammer away at a big chunk of marble till it resembles something, and then Alix comes in with a chisel and rock polisher and shapes it into the finished statue.
ALIX: This usually also happens in the scripting phase, but for KILL YOUR LOVER it was a true marriage of the minds.
As dark as it sounds to ask this, did you draw any inspiration from your marriage for KILL YOUR LOVER?
ALIX: It draws from our relationship as a whole: the good, the bad and the ugly. I’d be lying if there weren’t some very powerful deep cuts of ours buried in the film.
There are also sweet moments woven in that are either ours or borrowed from friends and family. Part of the horror is that these elements make the film both devastating and relatable, beyond the gore. The true monster in the film is the relationship itself.
KEIR: I see Dakota and Axel, the main characters, as versions of us that were less emphatic and conscientious to each other. I recognise the ways we’ve strived to always work on our relationship and we’ve actively changed with each other over the years. But if we didn’t put that work in, we could’ve ended up like Dakota and Axel.
What draws you both to horror, compared to other genres? Why is it an important genre?
ALIX: I’ve really come to appreciate the spectrum that lives within horror. It can be as serious or fun as you want it to be. As an audience member, it’s exciting to see what you’re going to get. 
Horror is a fun proving ground for filmmakers as to whether someone really understands timing, from the building of tension to the payoff and the eventual catharsis. 
KEIR: I love the idea of a ghost train — horror as a fun thrill ride that takes you on a trip. Getting a reaction out of the viewer that’s either emotional or visceral. 
It’s something I always see us striving for as filmmakers. If you can get that kind of audience connection and proceed to build into something that makes them think? That to me is perfect cinema.
Why did you look to crowdfunding to help get KILL YOUR LOVER to production?
ALIX: We’ve made several successful shorts, but there are certain doors that remain shut unless you’ve already made a feature. But we also don’t want to make a feature for the sake of making a feature.
We knew that if we were going to make a feature it would have to be quintessentially us, in order to prove that we have confidence in our vision — and that we know what we’re talking about. 
A good example is our hit horror short RETCH. No one understood the appeal of RETCH on paper, so we went ahead and made it anyway. It ended up touring festivals globally, winning Best Horror Short at Cinefantasy before premiering on Horror Platform ALTER.
KEIR: We see this as a real opportunity to make something outside the norm and that sort of freedom requires a certain amount of independence. Any time bigger financing comes in, you have people you have to answer to. Ultimately, we want to prove this film can survive with all its unique qualities.
Lastly, what types of films do you want to see more of?
ALIX: I would love to see more grounded action films, where the action is there in support of the narrative and relationships within the story. EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE is a great example – I’m obsessed.
KEIR: I miss mid-budget movies for grown ups, thrillers, dramas, comedies that were given the production and resources to tell engaging stories for adults and didn’t have to solely rely on intellectual property. I think so much of that stuff has now gone to TV, and I do find myself thinking, ‘I wish this was just a two hour movie. It doesn’t need to be 10 hours long and set up another season.’
A huge thank you to both Alix and Keir for their time and wisdom. You can learn more about KILL YOUR LOVER on the film’s Greenlit page.
News & Events from Greenlit
In our second Greenlit U session with Festival Formula, Katie McCullough will cut through the swell and give simple advice to make sure all your boats are in order. Covering topics from submission platforms to materials to rejection, their pearls of wisdom will make sure your circuit journey is plane sailing.
Tomorrow, 16th June at 18:00 BST, Online. RSVP Now!
Scary Success Horror Filmmaking Panel – Hosted by Greenlit, Kino London & The Filmmakers Podcast
Want to hear more from Alix and Keir, along with key figures in the UK filmmaking scene? As a reader of the Creative Crowd, you’re invited to this one-night-only gathering of the horror tribe. Our panel will also include FrightFest Founder & Director Paul McEvoy and Producer, Director and Podcaster Giles Alderson, with more very special guests from the UK horror scene to soon be revealed.
Tuesday 21st June, 19:00 BST at the Hen & Chickens Theatre Bar, London N1 2nA.
Now Funding on Greenlit
BONNY & REED is a musical play telling the real-life story of two remarkable cross-dressing women pirates and their fateful encounter with Calico Jack.
The Stage calls the Grenfell Tragedy docu-drama DICTATING TO THE ESTATE ‘harrowing’ and ‘hard-hitting’ in their four-star review.
With music inspired by old-school garage, HAND OF GOD follows the passionate footballing wonder-kid Kieron who, devoted on winning, winds up captaining the local drug dealers 5-aside team.
Heading to Edinburgh Fringe, award-winning actor Susanna Hamnett joins forces with her son and daughter to bring her unique vision to another of Shakespeare’s masterpieces in HOTEL ELSINORE.
That’s all for now! We’ll be back soon with more exciting events to add to your summer calendar.
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