Director Cameron Van Hoy makes his directorial feature debut with the crime noir “Flinch.”
The thriller stars actor Daniel Zovatto ( “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels”) as Joe Doyle, a young hitman who inherited the same life of crime as his father. In the film, Joe falls in love with Mia, a witness, to his latest kill. At first glance, she’s a woman who doesn’t flinch at the sight of murder, which ignites Joe’s interest.
The stakes of having someone witness his latest kill are even higher when Joe decides to take Mia hostage and drops her in the home he shares with his mother. Despite her son’s allegiance, Gloria (Academy Award nominee Cathy Moriarity) worries the trappings of his new love will put them both in danger, creating tenuous ground. As Joe falls deeper for his latest hostage, he discovers the truth isn’t necessarily black and white.
Set in a gritty Los Angeles, Van Hoy showcases a tapestry filled with glittering neon signs, inspired by his love of crime films of the 80s.
Director-writer Cameron Van Hoy and actor Daniel Zovatto discussed their modern twist with The Knockturnal.
The Knockturnal: Flinch is a specific genre, but it’s a story about Joe wanting to connect to something deeper than a life of crime. Cameron, what inspired you to tell this story?
Cameron Van Hoy: I think most people long for more out of life, and I suspect a lot of people relate to the primal instinct of needing to kill to eat, fighting to survive, and take care of the ones we love, our family. A big inspiration for me was growing up with a single mother. This is where the dynamic for Doyle and his mother came from. I’m also a big fan of crime films from the ’40s and the ’90s.
The Knockturnal: How was the process of writing Flinch? Did you always have it in mind to direct?
Cameron Van Hoy: I knew this would be the first feature film I’d direct. I started on a draft a few years ago that I set aside when I started producing the film “Tragedy Girls,” then I picked it up again after that film was completed. I wrote this film at night, and I shot it at night. I was listening to lots of synthwave music while writing. All of this inspired the vibe.
The Knockturnal: Does being an actor have any influence on how you write characters?
Cameron Van Hoy: Yes, I try to write characters that give actors a lot to do. Good characters have a lot of meat on the bone, they are well defined, bold, human. When I’m writing I feel like I’m improvising as the character, like I’m acting out the scenes in my head, by myself and writing it all down.
The Knockturnal: How was it shooting on location?
Cameron Van Hoy: Shooting in LA is nice because you get to go home after. We all over LA and mostly at night. It was fun, because we used so many locations I knew and loved, being able to photograph these places was special.
The Knockturnal: Daniel, there’s a dynamic always shifting between Joe and the witness. Can you discuss how you built that with Tilda Cobham-Hervey?
Daniel Zovatto: There was a lot of conversation prior to starting the project. We were also able to become friends before filming and had time to build a trust. We worked out beats and important scenes throughout the film prior to day 1 on set, which is rare, but I appreciate when production thinks about the actors. Tilda is a very smart, intuitive, and open person. She is extremely in touch with her emotions when she’s acting and it allows for you to react and play around. These two characters are hiding a lot and fighting against what they’re living, feeling, experiencing day by day in a situation they both don’t want to be in. Working with Tilda was incredible and I would love to do it again!
The Knockturnal: Working with Academy Award nominee Cathy Moriarty must have been an experience. What was it like working with her?
Daniel Zovatto: She’s the absolute best. A great woman. An absolute legend. Working with her was easy from day 1. She brings you in with a huge hug and a kiss and you can’t not fall for her immediately. Joe is a mama’s boy and that came very easily since it’s so easy to fall for Cathy. I feel like working with actors there’s not “one way to do it” – it’s different with everyone. And with Cathy, there was improv and a lot of playfulness. Because that’s what mom and Joe have- they have their own little world where they both fantasize about the future—especially mom. So working with Cathy is fun every time we got to play! I hear Cam wants to do a part 2 and 3 so hopefully in those we get a lot of scenes with mom!
The Knockturnal: Your bond is so authentic. How did you create that on set?
Daniel Zovatto: We both love each other so that helps! But I just think it’s Cathy … she just brings so much life and I just gotta keep up with it!
The Knockturnal: Your scenes with Cathy called for intense emotions because everything was high stakes for your character. What was it like running those scenes, particularly the scene where Joe brings the witness to his mother’s house?
Daniel Zovatto: Those were fun, and hectic, and very sweaty cause it was summer in LA and it was hot! We enjoyed doing those scenes! Even Tilda who had to be thrown around carried and tossed around everywhere. But yeah—whenever we worked on scenes up on that house we loved it. Those were fun days and nights!
The Knockturnal: Joe is a man who has a neon cross in his room but he takes lives — it’s an interesting dichotomy. Can either of you tell us how religion played a part in the telling of this story?
Cameron Van Hoy: The dichotomy of religion and sin plays into the whole shades of grey thing that’s talked about in the film. The idea that morality and ethics are not black and white. I think we live in a world where more and more society is insisting morality is always black and white, but it’s not. That’s not how humans operate. Religion, especially Catholicism is a great symbol of this dichotomy because it’s a place of god, but also so flawed.
The Knockturnal: Joe’s story isn’t neatly wrapped up. Cameron, can you see Joe’s story continuing?
Cameron Van Hoy: Yes, I’d love to continue his story, I’ve got a lot of it mapped out already.
“Flinch” is currently available on TVOD.
Photo Credit: Ardor Pictures