What's Revenge is an experimental documentary about, well, getting revenge. The idea — to avenge past heartbreaks while capturing it on film — was initially proposed as a lark between friends during a transnational Skype session, but quickly grew into something quite real. And while filmmaker Kat Hunt is not entirely sure what she wants her finished production to say, she's game to figure it out as she goes. In fact, that's kind of the point. Having had our own hearts broken on one (or five) occasions, we were curious to know more about this social experiment cum art project. You can read on for Kat's thoughts on love, vengeance, and filmmaking, but don't ask her about heartbreak. She's keeping mum on the subject...for now.
Would love to know more about the genesis of this idea. How did it evolve?
I started to become interested in the idea of revenge while living in Hong Kong, specifically in what compels people to actually go through with it. That compulsion, and the outcome that I imagined, felt so foreign to me. The genesis of making a "docu-vengeance" though, happened in an instant. I was Skyping with my friend Erica [the subject of the film] from Hong Kong, while she was in Brooklyn, and as she recounted the details of her love life and pursuits, and I remember the words "docu-vengeance" just rolling off my tongue — before I even knew what I was saying. I was totally shocked when she agreed to the idea of getting revenge on these guys she was telling me about, especially given that her personality shies away from confrontation or conflict. I realized then how much the trauma of these crazy relationships had affected her.
Some time after this conversation, I left Hong Kong and visited a friend in Mongolia, which is where I began to think about how the film would actually work, and wrote the script. The idea was to merge the stories of Erica’s heartbreaks with vengeances that would relate to their “crime,” and to build in narrative scenes that reveal aspects of the two characters. I kept emailing Erica throughout the process to say, "ARE YOU SURE YOU’RE REALLY DOWN FOR THIS?" and she kept saying yes.
The film has evolved quite a bit since bringing our wonderful producer, Camila de Onís, on board. With her, and some other mentors we are fortunate to have, I’ve been able to hone the film’s structure, and my idea further. Autumn Eakin, our director of photography, is also an awesome talent who I am thrilled to have on board.
Describe some of the mixed reactions you've received thus far. Any crazy confessions of actual revenge committed? Or particularly angry people?
Since we’ve launched the Kickstarter campaign, the reactions are less mixed and more absolute: they either love it or hate it. A lot of people, including some of my closest friends, are very turned off by the idea and haven't watched our teaser or engaged with our project's overall premise. Many people have an instant, visceral reaction to the word "revenge," which is understandable, but they also write us off without learning about our conflicted relationship to it as well. I love that people have negative reactions though; it's definitely part of what the project is about.
We haven't gotten a lot of confessions from strangers (yet!), but friends and acquaintances have definitely confessed some stories that I wouldn't have expected. I think people often seek justice for themselves in small ways, in order to "right" the balance of their intense thoughts and emotions; but they don't always realize that’s what they’re doing. Or want to admit it. We have also been hearing from the fantasizers: the people who are really upset about things that have happened to them but have yet to do anything about it.
Our favorite response though, by far, is from guys worried that they might be among the film's “victims.” We've had a lot of them and it makes us laugh every time. Guilt stokes the fire of our imaginations.
Was having a nearly all-female cast and crew a purposeful move or one that evolved naturally? What has the experience of working been like so far?
Our executive crew is all-female and I love it. When I first started looking, I thought it might be fun to make it a girl thing, but decided not to limit who I was talking to because of their gender. It just ended up that the best director of photography and producer for the job happen to be women. Although I do think this film has a different appeal to women in general, and that their response to it has more depth and enthusiasm for investigating its premise.
The experience overall has been great. I think there is a sense of camaraderie between us women that comes from having similar experiences with men and this produces a particular kind of energy. It feels natural to work with them, and totally exciting.
Also, an important aside: we will have plenty of guys on set when we shoot in August — one of our Backer Rewards is casting a "cute boy" for the film, after all...
Do you already have an "ultimate lesson" in mind for this doc, or do you hope that will emerge with its creation?
Definitely not. We view this film as a social experiment. We are getting revenge to find out what it feels like. We have some hypotheses that guide us, but we can't make a conclusion until we find out for ourselves.
Overall, what we are addressing is the need to be heard and the importance of speaking about your feelings when you feel wronged by something.
Can you share a story of heartbreak and revenge?
Do you have any notable anecdotes from the set? I have a feeling your type of production would put on a crash-course with some pretty unusual experiences!
Not yet! Our most unusual scenes — the vengeances — will not be shot until to August; and we are using this Kickstarter project to raise funds for it to happen! So I’m sure there will be plenty of anecdotes to share then.
As far as pre-production goes, we’ve been furtively checking in on the heartbreakers that we plan to get revenge on in the film. So far, they haven’t noticed.