"This is a movie about trying to discern the fine line of truth between instinct and anxiety - between the accurate knowledge of danger and the false perception of danger - and how sometimes, whether you live or die depends on that distinction." - Director Michael Nader
In your own words, what does this film mean to you?
Michael Nader: The title of the film has a triple meaning: a toll that must be paid; the toll that trauma takes on a person over a lifetime; and the tolling of a bell as a symbol of death. Just like the poetic lyrics "ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee."
The film is about all three ideas: these two characters who are required to give something up of themselves in order to survive; the experience of living with trauma; and the finality of death.
What motivated you to tell this story?
MN: I lived with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder for most of my life. My anxiety taught me the terror of not knowing if there was something truly wrong, or if I was simply experiencing an intrusive thought, a false alarm generated by my brain. This is a movie about trying to discern the fine line of truth between instinct and anxiety - between the accurate knowledge of danger and the false perception of danger - and how sometimes, whether you live or die depends on that distinction.
What do you want the audience to take away?
MN: Most modern horror movies are trying to traumatize the audience. They throw viewers over the edge of the cliff. I want to bring the audience to the edge of the cliff, dangle them over it, and then bring them back with a newfound appreciation for life.
Stephen King said that the reason the horror genre is largely disliked is that horror storytellers are the bearers of bad news. The bad news being,"you’re going to die." But I think only a bad horror filmmaker tells the audience, that. A good horror filmmaker tells the audience: "You’re going to die. But today, you’re alive."
What made you choose SXSW to showcase your film to the world?
MN:I knew SXSW would be the perfect place to premiere because it’s a festival that respects genre filmmakers who stand out on a limb and ask their audience to go with them on a dangerous journey.
Add The Toll to your SXSW Schedule. Stay tuned as we share more interviews with our SXSW 2020 filmmakers!
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The Toll - Photo by Jordan Kennington