Exclusive Interview with ’30 Miles from Nowhere’ Writer/Producer/Star Seana Kofoed
Seana Kofoed is a triple threat, as showcased in her latest movie, 30 Miles from Nowhere. Not only did she star in the movie, she also wrote it and produced it. I got the chance to talk with Seana about where the idea for 30 Miles from Nowhere came from, whether or not she always intended to star in the film, why it’s important to her the movie received the ReFrame Stamp and so much more! Keep reading to see what she had to say.
Tell me a little bit about how you got into acting originally.
I remember doing theatre in junior high school but never playing the leads. I was usually a pirate or a gatekeeper of some sort. Because I had a raspier voice, I was occasionally cast as a grandmother. At 12 years old, I’m pretty sure I nailed it.
Was there a specific person or experience that you would credit with helping you decide acting is what you wanted to do for a living?
I was already sort of headed down that path, but seeing Marcia Gay Harden in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America — the original production on Broadway — sealed it for me. The play is, of course, ridiculously beautiful, and she was exquisite in it.
Was writing and producing for projects always something you wanted to try one day? Or was it something you had no interest in until you had a specific experience on a specific project?
I’ve always loved writing, and having read so many plays over the years I spent in the theatre, I love good dialogue. I think I write actor-friendly roles fairly well because I know the sort of roles I love playing. Producing was new to me on 30 Miles from Nowhere and came out of necessity. My producing partner, Kelly Demaret, and I decided the fastest way to get something done was to do it ourselves. It is way more work than I ever imagined, but I love it. I definitely see the value in being a producer on your own films whenever possible because of the amount of control you have over the final product.
Let’s talk about 30 Miles from Nowhere. Where did the idea for the film come from? What specifically made you want to do a horror film?
I love worn-in friendships, and how they expand or implode over time. I love how many nooks a long term one can inhabit. A group of old college pals coming together in a fraught situation — with a ton of baggage already in place — was totally appealing. 30 Miles from Nowhere is horror for me, because I’m, well, easily terrified, but it’s definitely not severed limbs and gore. I’d say it appeals to horror fans game for a less bloody go and people who don’t THINK they like horror but do like suspense.
Shooting a horror/thriller was appealing because it’s one of the few genres that gives you some flexibility in the look of the film. As a smaller budget movie, we couldn’t exactly do a period piece, we needed limited locations. And what better way to limit your locations than shoot in an isolated cabin in the woods?
What was your writing process like for this script? How long did it take to come together?
I’m a big re-writer, and I’m usually not precious with dialogue because I tend to write too much of it! I write dialogue to be spoken quickly, however, so my page is not a typical one-minute page but more like a 30-45 second one. I’d probably been working on the script for 3 or 4 years, but Kelly and I decided to make a movie in March and were shooting in September. I’m a big fan of just jumping in and doing it, if at all humanly possible. Several years of development sounds pretty torturous to me.
How did you get connected with director, Caitlin Koller? What did she bring to the project?
We were intent on hiring a female horror director for this film and had initially approached another talented director, Elizabeth E. Schuch, who was busy with a film at the time but recommended Caitlin, who’d done a very funny, award-winning horror-comedy short, Blood Sisters. The humor she drew out in Blood Sisters was a great fit for 30 Miles, and so we offered her the job. In this business, it’s so wonderfully refreshing to find someone who jumps in with both feet, and Caitlin was that for us. Always lovely on set, super smart, kind and calm. And talented, of course.
What was the casting process like for the film? Did you always intend to star in it or was that the result of not finding anyone else you liked for the role?
I did have one ACTUAL college pal actor, Rob Benedict, who I coaxed into playing the role of Larry. He was the first one cast. Since I knew his range as an actor, I let him choose between two of the roles. He wisely chose the one he rarely plays. For the rest of the roles, I wanted the group of friends to be reflective of the world in which we live. I wanted diversity, character, and people who didn’t look like one another. And we wanted great, funny actors who could handle fast, casual dialogue. We got it all with the help of our fabulous casting director, Miriam Hoffman.
As for playing Elaine, I didn’t write the role for myself necessarily, but I knew it would be the easiest fit. I did always plan to be in the film, so I guess in a way I did… but I didn’t go through the script and steal other people’s jokes for myself or anything!
Not only did you write the script and star in the movie, you also produced the project. What were some of the challenges of wearing three hats all at once?
Well, the nice thing about knowing the script so well is that the actor hat was one I didn’t really have to think about. It’s also an ensemble film, so there are a good number of scenes I’m not in. I’m not sure I could have done this without a producing partner, or without one as good as Kelly. During the 14-day shoot itself, when I was on set in a scene, Kelly would assume on-set producer role, so I could answer any writer questions the cast or Caitlin had.
You received the ReFrame Stamp, which recognizes the film’s commitment to gender equality in the industry. Why is that so important for you
Oh, where to begin! As an actor for many years, I’ve of course seen first hand the disparity in representation on screen. And I’ve come to a place where, as a viewer, I’m not interested in stories about ten guys. Unless you’re doing some amazing 12 Angry Men re-boot… I don’t need to see it. I tune out. Six guys sitting around a table arguing about some legal brief, or political kerfuffle, and it’s all men, because, ya know, men argue and whatnot — my brain flat-lines; I’m so bored. So it’s important, not for me — because yes, of course, I like to work — but for people watching at home or in the theatres who want to see themselves reflected on screen, people waiting to be included in the conversation on life. This goes for diversity too. We are not all one color, shape, age, or gender, and our exploration of human nature needs to reflect that. The more diverse the voices we bring to the storytelling table, the more engaging and exciting those stories will be.
I know you also recently booked a recurring role on TNT’s Claws. Anything you can tease about that role? Have you started filming for it yet?
I have started. It’s been ridiculously fun! I play Gretchen, who at first glance is shy and mousy, definitely, the kind of person you’d under-estimate… until she shows you her other side. Anyway, it’s been super fun thus far. The writing is great. The set is super lovely, kind, and well-run. And, of course, the actors, led by Niecy Nash, are uber-talented. So it’s been a total joy.
Lastly, we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner-nerd so what is something you’re currently nerding out about?
Because of a script I’m working on, that’s a young adult wilderness thriller, I’m newly obsessed with all things teenaged-mind escapist — like high-intensity scavenger hunts, treasure maps, caves, trap doors, chutes that propel you from the attic to the kitchen. I wish I could have a second home filled only with tunnels, secret panels, and zip lines. Like Clue come to life, minus the murders.
Make sure you follow Seana on Twitter and Instagram.
Featured Photo Credit: Kelly Balch