Interview with Filmmakers Nasir Simmons, Lillianna Johnson (TENTACLE HEAD)

TENTACLE HEAD was the winner of BEST PERFORMANCES at the December 2021 EXPERIMENTAL Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Nasir Simmons (Writer, Co-Director, Producer): A conversation that sparked this concept was with a man in a doctor’s office who used to be homeless, but hid it for two and a half years. He told me how he used to wash himself at hotels and gas stations, go to dumps to find clothes and then wash them at a laundromat to appear as though he wasn’t homeless because he didn’t want to be treated “like a bum”.

That story broke my heart and I didn’t feel comfortable appropriating/profiting from his story for my own artistic gain, so I wanted to find a concept that touched on those very human feelings of needing to hide in order to receive basic respect. This led me to Tentacle Head.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

Nasir: The first draft of the script was finished around February 18th, with 7 re-drafts. But after shooting and editing, we truly finished the whole film in early-mid September.

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Nasir: You can’t.

No, I’ll stop being difficult.

Human, emotional, I feel are two pretty accurate words.

Lillianna Johnson (Co-Director, Makeup + Practical Effects): Oddly Wholesome.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Lilli: The biggest obstacle for me was realizing we could not place real tentacles on top of the actors head and then having to figure out a process of making the tentacle headpiece.

Nasir: The lack of budget was definitely a large obstacle in terms of trying to build as much of a world as possible, but through this process of independent filmmaking: I found it rewards those that are willing to put in the mental work, find every little detail that can be used for story-telling and forces you to find ways to do so: lest you fall flat. So personally, trying to keep all of those little details in mind as a producer, writer and co-director (all separate, but interconnected roles) was definitely a large and stressful challenge for me.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Nasir: I was overcome with joy! To hear people talk so effusively about the film that our entire cast and crew put so much love, dedication and time into was very gratifying to say the least. There was a bit of doubt coming from many directions when I had proposed such a fantastical idea, given the limitations of a graduate film’s budget: so to hear people still connected with the idea despite its humble budget and scale, really feels amazing.

Lilli: Oh great, this is fun.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

Nasir: I have always known I wanted to be a writer, somehow, someway. But growing up in Bermuda, which has an almost non-existent arts industry, I never saw using my writing for artistic means as anything more than just a passionate hobby. But when I moved to India at 16, I began to study theatre and drama more seriously; through traveling with my class and teacher (Canadian actor, Chu-Lynne Ng) I was able to see theatre companies and people who had lived 5,10, 20 years professionally doing nothing but their art. This invigorated me and made me look back on one of my favourite films as a child, Clerks dir. Kevin Smith, as well as the work of Spike Lee. Those two directors made me truly see that I, too, could be a filmmaker. You don’t have to be outrageously rich or already famous.

Lilli: I wanted to be a makeup artist for a long while, but realizing I could not put my makeup design’s into anything without an idea made me focus my attention on script writing and have since realized it is film making that is truly what I want to do.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Nasir: It would probably be either Clerks or Purple Rain.

Lilli: Phantom of the Paradise.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

Nasir: More interviews are always a good thing to me! Any opportunity to discuss intentions, visuals, or ourselves at length is always great for getting a true window into the artist(s) behind everything. Would also love it if I could get more contacts of the people organizing and/or providing feedback, as it would be great to talk in depth, follow up on feedback, etc.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

Nasir: It really makes it easy to submit to festivals, as well as keep track of them, so definitely cannot complain.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Nasir: I’ll say two because I can never just answer a question straight. Either spicy tuna maki sushi, or brown stew fish with rice and peas. So basically, anything with rice and fish.

Lilli: Vegan spaghetti bolognese.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

Nasir: Well, as of now, we have a Fantasy short in post-production! We are also looking to expand creatively into music, with an industrial bend, hopefully releasing projects relatively soon. We will also continue to each do our own respective artwork, my photography and digital art can be found on my personal social media: @nasir_allah on Instagram, where you can also find the official Tentacle Head page (@tentacleheadfilm), and Lilli’s paintings, photography and other artwork can be found on @lillimunr0 on Instagram. Follow our accounts to keep abreast of our art, as well as get updates on the films’ festival runs + get exclusive content surrounding our films.

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival www.wildsound.ca

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