Interview – Craig William Macneill

Perhaps one of the most infamous, mysterious, and compelling murders in America history is the case of Lizzie Borden. A story depicted in films, theatrical productions, literary works, and folk rhymes for centuries now, it still intrigues many. Growing up in the New England area, just outside the town Lizzie Borden resided, ambitious filmmaker Craig William Macneill now takes the story and morphs into his new film Lizzie.

Set for release in select theaters on Friday, September 14th, and starring Chloë Sevigny as Lizzie Borden, along with Kristen Stewart as Bridget Sullivan, the maid at the Borden house the day of the murders, it is a thrilling new film not to be missed. Excited about it all, Macneill took the time to chat about his love for the darker side of cinema, the work behind Lizzie, trying to recreate the feeling of the times, plus more. – Studying film in school, you would go on to produce, write, and direct a list of films over the years. First, tell us, what inspired you to pursue a career as a filmmaker?  

Craig William Macneill – Growing up, one of my closest friends had a VHS camcorder and I’d use it any opportunity that I could. We shoot these little short films and screen them for our friends and family. We would often shot-list everything in advance, and edit everything in-camera. I was hooked. – That is pretty cool and obviously led to something much more than a fun hobby as a kid. A good deal of your work is entrenched in the Horror/Thriller genres. Is it safe to say you have a love for these genres?

Craig William Macneill – Yes, I do.

Chiller Films
Syfy – It certainly shows! In 2016, you directed the debut season of the series Channel Zero. How did that project come about for you, and what was that experience like?   

Craig William Macneill – The show’s creator, Nick Antosca, had seen my film The Boy (2015) and approached me with the project. His concept behind the series was that each season would have a new director and a different visual style and tone as a result. The idea was that we’d go out to Manitoba and film the entire first season as you would a film—a long film. That’s what we did. We shot the season in 46 days. It was challenging to fit all the material in such a short amount of time, particularly with so many kids in the cast, but ultimately it was a very rewarding experience. – It sounds like it was very interesting. Your latest work comes in the form of directing Lizzie. Set for release in theaters September 14th, the film is based on the infamous story of Lizzie Borden. What led to you taking on the directing of this film?

Craig William Macneill – I grew up close to the town where Lizzie Borden lived and was haunted by tales about her throughout my childhood. So when my reps sent me the screenplay, I jumped at the opportunity.

Kristen Stewart and Chloë Sevigny in Lizzie. Photo credit: Eliza Morse. Courtesy of Saban Films and Roadside Attractions. – The story of Lizzie Borden is a very fascinating one and has become an American Gothic tale everyone seems to know. Upon taking on the job as director, did you discover anything new about the story that you did not know before?

Craig William Macneill – Yes, I discovered much more than I had previously known. I went to historical society in Fall River and met with a curator who was a wealth of knowledge on all things Lizzie and Fall River in general. It was interesting to hear his thoughts and theories on the subject matter. I also spent the night in the Borden home and got a feel for how they lived. – That had to be exciting! They offer the public a chance to tour and even stay at the house overnight, like you did. Interestingly enough, while an infamous story, few feature films have really been made about Lizzie Borden through the years. There was the 2015 television series which did a good job, but there has been few others approaching the subject. That in mind, did the challenge of bringing this story to life entice you?   

Craig William Macneill – Her story is one of the great true crime unsolved murder stories in American folklore. There’s been shows, films, books, plays, and poems about Lizzie Borden throughout the years. I was excited to take a grounded approach to her story and look at a possible set of circumstances that could have led to these murders. Also, to question how these kind of menacing impulses might begin to manifest in someone.

Saban Films – It truly is a fascinating piece of history. With Lizzie, you work with a sensational cast of talented actors and actresses including Kristen Stewart and Chloë Sevigny as Lizzie. What was it like working with this cast and crew?

Craig William Macneill – It was a great experience. The cast and crew were phenomenal. Each and every one of them brought so much to the project. – That makes for a good working environment. Period pieces can always be a challenge because you want to capture the right mood. What type of research was conducted to create an authentic feel for Lizzie?                

Craig William Macneill – Chloë, Noah [director of photography, Noah Greenberg], Elizabeth [production designer, Elizabeth Jones], and I took a trip to Fall River and spent an afternoon at the Fall River historical society and the actual Borden home. For financial reasons, we shot in Savannah, GA. 2016 Savannah doesn’t really look much like 1890s New England, so we often had to imply rather than show the outside world. It was challenging, but we tried our best to recreate the look and feel of the period within our budgetary constraints. 

Director Craig William Macneill on the set of Lizzie. Photo credit: Eliza Morse. Courtesy of Saban Films and Roadside Attractions. – You did a great job in doing so. Beyond Lizzie, what are some film or television projects you have on the horizon?  

Craig William Macneill – There’s a few things I am excited about, but I’m too superstitious to talk about them at this point. Hopefully soon! – Excellent, that will be something to look out for. Last question. What are some of your personal favorite Horror and Sci-Fi films? 

Craig William Macneill – It’s always exciting when those two genres are combined. The Thing (1982), Alien (1979), 28 Days Later (2002), and Under the Skin (2013) come to mind. I love the experience of watching these films — they’re world building and filled with dread.

20th Century Fox
Universal Pictures

For more on Craig William Macneill: northlakefilms.comTwitter   | Instagram 

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