Getting a “Head Count”: An Interview with Elle Callahan

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Elle Callahan is an up-and-coming film director who got her start at the USC School of Cinematic Arts in 2011. After graduating in 2014, she would head to the FAMU International in Prague. Callahan started as a sound editor for various short films and series. However, Elle lives her dream as she makes her directorial debut with the thriller Head Count, which will be released in select theaters, VOD, and Digital on June 14 from Samuel Goldwyn Films.

World Film Geek had the opportunity to talk with Callahan about her feature film debut.

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Elle, thanks so much for talking about Head Count. I was quite surprised because the tension just slowly moves until it hits the viewer in the throat. This was quite an impressive debut.
Thank you so much! I’m really glad to hear that.

What inspired you to make this film as your directorial debut?
Well, I’ve always wanted to a film based on mythology. For the location, I was inspired by the Joshua Tree. I’ve always loved the horror genre as well, having watched so many films. So, I wanted to come up with a movie that would take all three of these together and that’s how the film came about.

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The eclectic cast of Head Count (Samuel Goldwyn Films)

One thing that struck me in the film is that the cast of characters involved all have different personalities, something you rarely see these days in films. What was it like working with this young cast?
They were great to work with, but it was difficult because there were so many characters to work with. I mean, having ten characters in this setting altogether, sounded a little ambitious (laughs). We tried to make the characters all stereotypical from like high schoolers or early college, pulling in the many qualities that make up these friends. We had a very young crew so it was easier to gel together as well.

It did give me of perhaps a John Hughes vibe, sort of like The Breakfast Club on vacation.
Exactly. I wanted to create a group that kind of emulated that.

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Elle Callahan on the set of Head Count

Is the creature depicted in the film, the Hisji, a character you created? If so, what inspired you to create such a very devious monster? And it was a smart move
Yeah, it is an original creator. I drew a lot of inspiration from creatures such as skinwalkers and wendigos, and a little bit of witchcraft. It has its own motivations and personalities. I created this 20-page history of the creature because I wanted to bring a rhyme and reason for it rather than just bring it for the film. It was important to me and I think it’s important to the viewer because then they will see that it is a scary creature. It is actually my favorite character in the film (laughs).

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Elle Callahan, surrounded by crew, on the set of Head Count

What difficulties did you endure during the making of the film?
I guess what really made it difficult was that it was an ambitious project and the budget. But we were lucky to have a passionate cast and crew. And when you are directing your first film, you never know what’s going to pop up. There are things you can’t really plan for. I’m the type of director that likes to have all my ducks in a row before we go, and you know, there are things that will happen, but you have to go with the flow. I did enjoy that a lot. It was nice to let go of that total control and just let the film go as it is.

Finally, are there any new projects on the horizon that you can talk about? Because I would love to see you do another one.
I am actually. I’m actually working on my next feature film in six days (Ed. Note: Callahan is now shooting her next film.)

Head Count comes to theaters, VOD, and Digital on June 14. This is quite an impressive feature film debut for Elle Callahan with its eclectic cast and building tension that gets better and better. And it did mess with me, but in a good way (laughs) Thank you so much Elle for talking about the film.
Thank you so much for letting me mess with you then! (laughs). Thanks again!

A Special Thank You goes to Katrina Wan PR and Elle Callahan for making this interview possible. For more on Elle, check out her official website.

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