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Slamdance 2022: An Interview With Rising Indie Director Avalon Fast

One of the best parts of writing about movies is speaking with the talented individuals that make them. For someone like myself, who can talk about movies all day, it’s always thrilling and surreal to talk with creators about the ‘whys’ and the ‘hows’ surrounding individual scenes, actor motivations, or behind-the-scenes moments. I’m a huge fan of emerging talent because that’s where a director’s most innovative filmmaking comes from. These artists are passionate about their craft and are able to translate that emotion from behind a camera lens in vivid and stunning detail with the added challenge of a limited budget. When asked last week if I’d like to interview budding young director Avalon Fast, I jumped at the chance. Her debut feature, Honeycomb, is taking on the Slamdance Film Festival this weekend, and this is only the beginning of what looks to be an auspicious career for the twenty-one-year-old filmmaker.

Fast’s debut feature evokes everything from Lord of the Flies to The Virgin Suicides, while the fantastic dialogue written for the script by Fast and cowriter Emmett Roiko dives into Gretta Gerwig territory. The film is an impressive low-fi debut for the director, who spoke with me about her influences, the film’s characters, and her next project that presents itself in parallel to the world Honeycomb is based in. You can watch the entire interview below or read transcribed excerpts from the conversation.

When I first asked Avalon Fast about Honeycomb’s world premiere at the Slamdance festival, her charismatic answer of, “I’m so excited! It’s been probably the most exciting thing that’s happened to me in my film career,” immediately put me at ease. Fast has had some short films in competitions before, an official selection of the 2019 Magic of Horror festival with Night Trouble, but a full-length feature is a different animal. Her quick wit relaying the obvious with the feeling of confidence behind it proved to me she was sharp as a tack, and it was going to be a fun interview.

Fast’s earlier work focuses on close female friendships, as does Honeycomb. I wanted to know two things: why she decided to continue with these themes and what caused the shift in her work from Violets Bloom in April to Night Trouble. “It definitely feels like a continuation of that world in a way, you know? And that wasn’t necessarily purposeful. They’re like very different stories in my head, but I totally see the connection, and we’ve talked about it. We’re like this just feels like a crossover. Like they’re in a different dimension, but it’s the same characters. I love that stuff. I mean, just the culty girl stuff is something I’m super fascinated by.

“When I made Violets Bloom in April, it was kind of my first thing that I’d done—like, seriously, in high school. I had a friend come up to me and kind of be like, ‘We should make a student film,’ and I was super excited because I hadn’t had anybody who wanted to do that with me yet. And so we created that story together, and it was just so early on that I had, like, no idea what I wanted to do. I had that story in my head, and that was super fun to make, but it’s—I really like it. It’s a cute story. But it’s just so not my style, and something switched really fast once I made Violets Bloom in April, and I was like, ‘Oh, I can do this, and we can make movies […] now I wanna make something that I really care about.’ Like, something that just inspired me to be able to make something that is more my style after that—after I got a bit of recognition from my first one.”

five girls sit in the grass in an array of different red clothing in Honeycomb.
Image courtesy of Exile PR/Avalon Fast

Next, I wanted to discuss Avalon Fast’s influences. Honeycomb has a lot of obvious resonance with Lord of the Flies. That much is apparent, but there are so many fascinating moments that seem to reference other works, both noticeable and undertoned, that I wanted to examine them. “Mandy, for sure.” Fast starts, “Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy. Just the female influence, and the lighting, and everything that was a huge inspiration. And Midsommar, just with the setting […] I started writing the story in 2018. It’s so long ago now that I don’t know exactly what would have inspired me. I mean, filmmakers that have inspired me forever are like Sofia Coppola and Greta Gerwig, but those aren’t horror directors. So I don’t know where exactly that came from, but those are definitely some of my horror inspirations later on.”  

We dove into Honeycomb at this point. The film’s characters are set up distinctly with no way to mistake them based on their personalities, providing each with a powerful uniqueness. I asked about Willow (Sophie Bawks-Smith) and why she feels such a strong pull to leave everything behind and live in nature while insisting that her friends join her. Fast answered that the cult angle isn’t malicious in Willow’s vision, saying, “She just wanted her friends all in one place without any distractions, I think. She was the dreamer of the group, you know? And I don’t think that it was necessarily done with ill intention.”

Moving to another character, Leader (Destini Stewart), I wanted to know more about her particular penchant for violence and if subtextual attributes were assigned to Honeycomb‘s characters.

“I already had who was gonna play who, like, in my head […] when I was writing the script, and I would say that these characters are my friends’ personalities, but, like, exaggerated. Destini, who plays Leader, is not a total b*tch, you know? [She has] those tendencies to be direct and blunt, and she took that and just went with it. Honestly, the script wasn’t as angry as she took that character, but we had so much fun doing that, you know…we would take a shot, and then she’d be like, ‘Can I like get more angry?’ And I’d be like, ‘Yeah, let’s try that,’ and then it turned out so good. I love—loved her parts!”

A young girl covered in blood screams in an empty field in Honeycomb
Destini Stewart as Leader | Image courtesy of Exile PR/Avalon Fast

The last character I wanted to know more about was Henri Gillespi’s P.J. Avalon Fast’s film paints him as the most grounded character amidst the chaos of runaway girls and oblivious boys. I initially believed there might be a coup to take the cabin from the girls. “I wanted all of the male characters except for P.J. to be more kind of like, ‘Whatever, […] they’re doing what they’re doing. We get to go there, we get to party, we don’t care,’ you know? Which, I feel like, in a real setting, would be what happens. It’s not like the boys would rise up, you know? I mean, I haven’t seen it anyways, and be like, ‘Screw this!’ You know? But, their character was different. I think that they were jealous of the closeness and what was going on there. And yeah, I wanted them to be so skeptical and that kind of like envy to be involved in a group like that, or to be special […] and that’s just like a personality thing that I’ve noticed in people […] That was the whole theme with the film, is that females are kind of in the shadows, but that’s not necessarily true at all times. I’ve noticed a lot of times when my male friends will get jealous, you know? Like we’re having a girl’s night, and there’s a guy that’s like, ‘What? Why can’t I be there?’ You know, like that—it’s like a gender thing. And there’s a lot of stuff going on there, but I wanted P.J.’s character to be really in tune with that and not OK with just hanging out and partying. He wanted to be more involved.”

I continued to speak with the director about the animation effects in her movie, two sequences that were artfully done entirely by her and Jillian Frank (Honeycomb‘s Jules). We talked about her challenges as a first-time director and bossing her friends around for a summer. You can see it all in the video above. From all of it, I learned how calmingly humble Avalon Fast is. She stays surrounded by much of the cast, living in the same house as some, and considers how important making Honeycomb was to her. She seems genuinely thankful for those who helped her turn the film into a reality.

The girls sit cliffside over calm waters in Honeycomb
Image courtesy of Exile PR/Avalon Fast

My final question—something I ask everyone—was, what’s next? “I wrote a script before Christmas for a new kind of girl-culty-horror. It’s called Camp, and I’m really, really excited about that. It’s similar, but it’s also like totally new, and I’m just like, ‘I just wanna make something again.’ It’s been a long time actually since I’ve like shot anything, so I’m really excited about that.”

Avalon Fast thanked me at the end of our time together, but, honestly, the honor was all mine. This director is going places, and I have the highest hopes that she’ll find a way to get there if she continues to do what she loves. I can’t imagine she makes these low-fi films for very long. They’re a treat showing us the potential for her and her friends. And I can’t wait to see how they incorporate their new experiences into new efforts. Fast is undeniably talented at twenty-one, and we will be watching the silver screen as her star rises.

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Written by Sean Parker

Living just outside of Boston, Sean has always been facinated by what horror can tell us about contemporary society. He started writing music reviews for a local newspaper in his twenties and found a love for the art of thematic and symbolic analysis. Sean joined Horror Obsessive at it's inception, and is currently the site's Creative Director. He produces and edits the weekly Horror Obsessive podcast for the site as well as his interviews with guests. He has recently started his foray into feature film production as well, his credits include Alice Maio Mackay's Bad Girl Boogey, Michelle Iannantuono's Livescreamers, and Ricky Glore's upcoming Troma picture, Sweet Meats.

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