Published Aug 07, 2020Sometimes, rather than trying to explain something, it's better to do it yourself. That's the mentality behind She Dies Tomorrow, the evocative and abstract new psychological thriller from writer, director and producer Amy Seimetz. In a literal sense, the film works exactly as its title suggests: main character Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) has a premonition that she's going to die tomorrow, and when she tells Jane (Jane Adams), the paranoia spreads. Still, the film is far more impressionistic than its premise suggests, and that's because the act of making it was really an act of self-discovery.
"Early on, I tried not to describe it," Seimetz says. "I try to not talk about anything that I'm writing to people. Mostly because you're expressing something and there's so many different forms of expressing ideas. And one of them is communication to other people. So when you're communicating it to somebody it sort of feels like old territory to sit down and write it because you've already expressed it in a conversation."
The film was written via prose and direct emails to the actors (who include Chris Messina, Katie Aselton, Tunde Adebimpe and Michelle Rodriguez among many others) as well as private prose. It was a unique experience that didn't lend itself to easy explanation. "I didn't want to trap myself in the exploration of these feelings and the ideas I was trying to express," Seimetz says. "I was trying to explain to myself throughout the movie or throughout the writing process something that I don't understand. So if I don't understand it myself, how can I explain it?"
While discussing the film with a potential financier, she had an epiphany: she'd rather finance the whole project herself rather than have to explain what it was. "I had one phone call about maybe somebody else financing the movie, which is where mid-phone call I realized I'm just going to self-finance this movie. I'm not faulting them, because obviously when you're spending money you're like, 'What are you making?' They're just doing their job. But I was like, 'I don't want to answer to you.' And the only way that I don't have to answer to anyone or over-explain myself is if I do this myself. The only person I have to answer to is myself. Obviously I'm communicating these ideas to my crew and the heads of my departments, but at the same time, at the end of the day, I just wanted to truly remove the other things of explaining myself."
Fortunately, Seimetz had the means to sidestep the need for producers. In addition to her work as an independent filmmaker, she's also the brains behind shows like The Girlfriend Experience as well as an accomplished actor. As such, she set aside the money from her role in the recent horror reboot Pet Sematary to fund the film. "I'm much more of a live-to-work kind of person, which I have to keep in check a little bit," she says with a laugh. "But I treated like that paycheque like it didn't exist and put it towards making this movie…. I'm not a big spender. I don't shop a lot. Strangely I just want to spend all my money on making films."
Others may have panicked about the prospect of eating up a big payday with an experimental film, but Seimetz says the experience instantly relieved her of any pressure and instead allowed her to grow as a creator. "As a filmmaker, it's so rare that you get to do your craft. And you're constantly needing permission to do it when you put it in somebody else's hands. So the freedom to be able to fund it yourself, to be like, 'This is my artform,' is amazing," she admits. "Whether or not it was a disaster, since I was funding it myself, there was no fear. Because I was treating that paycheque like it doesn't exist and I wasn't going to spend it on anything other than developing my craft. So even if it sucked, I just wouldn't put it out. I would be like, 'This sucks, I'm never letting anyone see this.' Just for me, as a personal human being, it's like investing in myself."
This pure DIY path to filmmaking harkens back to a day when the mainstream and the underground were more separated, although She Dies Tomorrow will most certainly find an audience despite its experimental approach. That's in part thanks to its quality as a film and also thanks to new ways we access media. "We have so much access to so many things that we would have called obscure," Seimetz says. "But this idea of mainstream is sort of fictional at this point. It's continually evolving and changing, but there is no mainstream anymore, in a way. There is just access to ideas and art and all of these things, so that it sort of becomes overwhelming."
She Dies Tomorrow is out today (August 8) on VOD via Elevation Pictures.