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5 Questions with Matt Watts and Vivieno Caldellini of Portal to Hell!!!

For director Vivieno Caldellini and writer Matt Watts of Short Film Portal to Hell!!!, it is important that the film’s title is correct. That means three exclamation points exactly. Also, no number one, (as in Portal to Hell!!!1), because though the idea was to have it written like the author would have, there is a concern about search engine optimization.

But the film, which premièred in the Short Cuts program at TIFF, will now be playing before Tales of Halloween at Toronto After Dark, where an entirely new audience will devour the sweet and sad film, in which, which else, a portal to hell is opened up. Though its short, it is a wonderful, meaningful film. It takes on extra resonance when star “Rowdy” Roddy Piper passed. We spoke with Watts and Caldellini on the first day of TIFF, and they enlightened us about what makes the Portal to Hell!!!

Scene Creek: What was the genesis of the film?

Matt Watts: I had this idea for a feature, which was basically Overboard meets John Carpenter. I was sitting on it for a long time, and I was talking to Viv one day on the phone, and I told him about the idea, and he basically said “let’s do it as a short, because it wouldn’t get the money for a feature. So we carved out the idea for a short, worked on it for a while, and that’s where it came from.

It was one of those weird shower ideas, “I love Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, what if they did another movie together after Overboard”.

Viviendo Caldenelli: A Kurt Russell and John Carpenter movie, but with Goldie Hawn.

Scene Creek: Who was Goldie Hawn?

Matt Watts: In our movie? Laura Robinson is the Goldie Hawn part. I mean, in the feature, it would make more sense. Because it would be through her eyes, where for the short it was easier to switch it so that it would be through the perspective of the super because then you could tell a much shorter story.

Scene Creek: And of course, the super is played by “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. 

Viviendo Caldenelli: Incredible honour to be a part of his legacy.

Matt Watts: Guy would have probably had a good laugh about (the film focusing on a portal to hell). The guy had a pretty wicked sense of humour and a dark one too. He was born in Canada and then he wrestled a bear…he was across the border fairly quickly. There’s a story about him. He played the bagpipes for money on the street, that was it, Roddy the Piper. So that stuck and he became “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.

Viviendo Caldenelli: He was an absolutely joy to work with. The level of commitment: day one, he had his hands in the toilet, and the scene didn’t even call for it. That was him every day, every take of the shoot.

Scene Creek: So wrestling leads into acting?

Viviendo Caldenelli: Absolutely. There is a transferable skill in terms of being a performer. When we first met Roddy the day before the shoot we told him that we didn’t want Roddy Piper theatrics.

Matt Watts: We were a little nervous to tell him that we didn’t want “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, that we wanted Roderick Toombs.

Viviendo Caldenelli: All he said was “I got it”. He brought Jack to the screen.

Matt Watts: He was a total professional.

Scene Creek: How will this play to the people that don’t know your work?

Viviendo Caldenelli: Its going to be interesting. I don’t know. I don’t fuckin’ know how they are going to react.

Matt Watts: I think that they’ll be surprised. The title kind of alludes to a more schlocky thing, and I am hoping that they’ll watch it and be like “oh, it’s actually a story. It’s good”.

Portal to Hell!!! plays before on the opening night film this Thursday at the Toronto After Dark festival.