Scott Haze in The Seeding
Sometimes the wild, the feral and the otherworldly dwell frighteningly close to the ordinary world in which we live. In Barnaby Clay’s Tribeca hit The Seeding, a lost hiker out in the desert at night follows the sound of singing, descending a rope ladder only to find, when daylight comes, that it has been removed and he is trapped in a crater with unscalable walls and no way out. Taunted by a pack of feral youths, he is offered food and shelter by a woman in the same predicament, but unknown to him, he is part of something much bigger, and his every action risks digging him in deeper.
Scott Haze plays the hiker. I caught up with him early in the festival and, as we got talking, mentioned that the film reminded me of the science fiction epics of the Seventies.
“That's exactly it,” he says. “You nailed it. It’s that it reminded me of the films that I loved growing up, watching as a young boy. And it was a far departure from what is getting dumped on the streamers now, it really was a throwback to my favourite type of films. And a lot of movies like that don't get made anymore, with this interesting journey that you go on. It spoke to me deeply.”
Although it has that epic scope, a lot of it feels quite theatrical. Many scenes take place in or around the small wooden house in the crater, with just him and co-star Kate Lyn Sheil.
“You know, I grew up with theatre,” he says. “I own a theatre out here and it reminded me of that, it reminded me of being on a on stage. It's a whole world but you only have, what, 50 feet, 100 feet, I think a theatre is, if you’re lucky. And the fact that Kate's such an amazing scene partner and co-pilot in this thing is just amazing. I felt like I was in this long play with Kate. And that’s why I got into acting, is to tell stories where that kind of experience can happen, that kind of collaboration. I enjoyed the confinements of the set.
“Dave Bridson, our production designer, he built that house with the crew out in Utah. And like I said, I enjoy coming to the same set every day, because it reminded me of theatre. There's a familiarity to it. And the fact that I am trapped in there the whole time, feels like you're going back to the same place. You're kind of trapped in this situation every day. And I do well, with things that remind me of the theatre, probably because I have fun doing that. We enjoy it when we're having fun doing it, more than we hate the process. So I loved the process and it was good.
“What's interesting about this role is I look like Scott. I have all my teeth, I have hair, I didn't have to lose tons of weight for this role, but it doesn't change where I ended up in this film. And I think that that journey from coming from more or less who I am, and what I look like, into where I ended up, it's always exciting and fun to do. It's always a challenge. But this shoot had its challenges because of how cold it was. I'm in a T shirt and shorts. It's played for summer. So as the film went on, it rained out there, and it was like almost like life was mirroring the film. It got harder and harder and harder and every day you go to the same location, so it was its own little descent into madness, as we were battling the elements in Utah, and that was a severe challenge at times.
“It was actually horrendous to access there. That was actually the hardest part. It's in this canyon in Kanab, Utah, and when it rains, your transport vehicles can’t get in there and the only way you can get in there is basically to go super fast and slide, and it was wild. So getting to the set was actually insanely hard.
There’s quite a lot of physically challenging work involved in the performance, too, especially early on when the hiker still believes he might be able to escape. I ask Scott if he did his own stunts.
“Oh, yeah, yeah,” he says. “There's only one they wouldn't let me do for insurance reasons, but I did most of my stunts and we had an amazing stuntman on that film, he was just so great. But yeah, I do most of my own stunts – and I'm scared of heights, so a couple of those stunts were very hard for me.”
Does he have any kind of experience in that kind of thing?
“Just in films, you know? I mean, I think in Venom, I don't know how it how it looks when you watch Venom but when Venom first picks me up and licks me, I remember being suspended in the air. And that was that was high, but this makes Venom look easy! This was like ten storeys I had to descend down a rope ladder in the rain. I'm actually really proud of myself for doing that because I was really scared to do that, because it's freezing and you're swinging on the rope ladder and it's just wild.
“There is an element of you jump in the deep end. I go in the cold plunge a lot and there is this moment before you do it when you accept that this is going to be horrendous and awful. And that kind of stuff gets you into the trust and faith that the safety is there, you're going to be fine, it is a movie.”
He also has to go to some dark places with his character, especially towards the end, but he says that wasn’t really a challenge.
“You know, the situation I find myself in the end is infuriating itself, where I'm trapped, so it wasn't really hard to access the anger and emotion in that in those scenes, because I was really upset being in that situation. There's no special effects. I'm really in there, you know?”
We talk about his next project and how it relates to this one.
“You know, I'm a big fan of space. I'm really obsessed with a lot of things that are going on in our universe, and I'm developing a project right now on John Mack. He was a private psychiatrist who studied UFO abductions, and I'm doing that with my buddy James Mole. In the opening of the film when I'm going out and looking at the eclipse, that's something I really do. I love wilderness and looking at the stars, and sometimes you see other things in the sky. Just stars. And it's a really fun, fun thing to do. So that was actually really a great thing to do, and it drew me to it. I said ‘Maybe I'm supposed to do this role,’ because that could easily happen to me, that exact story. I am the person who would help out a little boy, I am the person who would be out there alone, and I'm the person who would probably not bring a jacket when it's cold at night and have to seek shelter somewhere.”
He’s full of praise for his director.
“My collaboration with Barney was amazing. He really trusted me. We got to work on the script before we shot. We changed some things and I had some ideas on that, and he was collaborative. I think he's got such a point of view. He reminds me of these classic filmmakers. You know, this is his first film, and it's a specific point of view. It's Barnaby all the way, it comes from his mind. So I'm curious and excited to see what Barnaby is going to create next. The sky's the limits for the madness he might unleash on the world.
“Barney was amazing to work with and Kate, my co-star in the film, was one of the best humans I've ever met at a personal level, and also as an actress, she was giving and talented. She goes through a lot in this film and she was courageous. And she battled the elements just like I did. She was the perfect partner to be doing this, and I felt so grateful that I got to do this film.
“There's a lot of things I saw as the character on this journey, that were wild, and I was shocked and I was scared, and it was just really truthful stuff happening, because that was really happening to me. So it was really fascinating for me as a human. I go home some nights and just say, the wildest things that I've seen, it's been this movie, you know? It's a testament to Barney being unique. He's a very unique voice, and I just admire him for how bold he was being.
“I think the opening shot of the film was, well, when he said he was going to go shoot that I said ‘Wow, you’re really going to be punching them in the face with the opening image!’ But that's him. And he's got such a good family. He's married to a really talented artist, she's got her band, she did music for it, and he seems like such a good dad. I just love Barney. I'm so grateful he chose me to do this.”
Coming up: Barnaby Clay shares his thoughts on making The Seeding.