Director BIO: Jennifer Nicole Stang (THE WHISTLER)

Director Biography – Jennifer Nicole Stang

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Director/Writer, JENNIFER NICOLE STANG was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and has lived in England, Canada, the U.S., and Spain. Jennifer founded her film production company, Round Table Pictures (Formerly Heart Anchor Productions), with her brother, Emmett, in 2011. With her company, Jennifer has directed award-winning music videos and short films, and has produced videos for clients such as Sotheby’s International, USC, and Jamie Nichols for Celebrate Dance, which is one of the “top 5 dance shows” in Los Angeles. Her short film, El Lago (The Lake) has received various awards, including Best Fantasy Film at the Mexico International Film Festival, and 1st place at the Honolulu Film Awards. El Lago is also featured on GAIA TV and Cinemakers. Jennifer directed Livvy Stubenrauch (young Anna from Disney’s Oscar-winning film, FROZEN), in her short film Les Nuages (The Clouds), which is part of The Dream Series on YouTube. Jennifer has also produced the web series, Englishman in L.A. starring Ashley Fink (Glee), Eddie Jemison (Ocean’s 11, 12, 13) and Cameron Moir (Non-Stop). The series received rave reviews from In Touch Magazine and Broadway World, and now streams on Amazon Prime. Jennifer is currently co-producing a feature film with Dark Matter Studios.


Director Statement


The Whistler is a tale about purity and sin, good versus evil, growing up and changing, purification, losing a loved one, and fear of mortality. This story is about an evil entity that leads children away from their homes to prevent them from becoming sinners. The story begins with a teenage girl, Lindsey, who wants to evade growing up and the responsibilities that come with it, namely, babysitting her younger sister, Becky. While taking care of her sister, Lindsey innocently falls asleep on the couch, thinking that her sister has gone to bed. However, when Lindsey wakes up she discovers her sister is gone! Soon after she discovers that someone may have taken her sister and may be after her as well… The Whistler was originally inspired by the original tale of The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning, which is about a stranger that arrives in the town of Hamelin who, after not receiving payment from leading the rats away from the town, decides to get back at the townspeople by taking their children away and leading them over a cliff to their death. “The Whistler” character is an evil entity, who, some hundred years ago, stole the children of the town of Blackwood Falls to “save their souls”. Like the Pied Piper, the Whistler leads the children away from their town by whistling to them, as the piper had led the children with his instrument. The Whistler, unlike the Pied Piper, however, has different motivations. The Whistler wishes to rid the children of their sins and so they can be eternally baptized. Those that are pure are spared death, and those who have sinned are cast to the bottom of the falls where they die a horrible death.The culture of the United States, in particular, largely springs from puritanical beliefs that have seeped into every day routines, government system, and societal behaviour. The behavioural aspects include a long list of what to do and what not to do, what to believe and what not to believe, and how to be a “good Christian” to one’s neighbour. We all know about the Salem witch hunts, and although it is a dramatic representation of this society, it is historically accurate and explains the extent as to how far these people went to follow their own rules, abiding by the religious doctrine of the age. Although times have changed, you see the effect in today’s culture. Americans, nowadays, seem to want to break away from these puritanical roots. What has the young generation been taught, what do they want to hold onto, and what are they looking towards? Indoctrination within a society truly creates the world around us. Our character, Lindsey, meets face to face with fears strongly presented by society: what it means to be a grown up, and what it means to be good. Lindsey’s mother tells her she is a grown up now. Is that true? What does that mean? Is the mother’s definition of Lindsey representative of the truth? When do we reach this expected level of maturity? And what is it, specifically, that defines maturity? In some societies growing up is an age factor. In some cultures it is 13 years old, in other cultures 18, sometimes 21. Does being the “right age” make Lindsey competent enough to take care of her sister? This is also a decision made not by Lindsey, but by her parents. Although they are confident that she is capable, Lindsey is not convinced. Afraid of the next step, afraid of failure, are thoughts that teenagers have all the time: Will I get into college? Will I know what to do with my life? Am I capable of making money? The idea of becoming an adult, whatever that signifies to an individual, can be daunting. The intention of The Whistler is to discuss the theme of childhood vs. adulthood. Society is changing and ideologies are changing as well. What once was the norm now seems barbaric (i.e., Medieval public hangings, chopping off heads), and ideologies continue to change throughout the centuries, even decades. The idea of “waiting for marriage” is not as popular as in the 1950’s, for example. The sexual revolution in the 1960’s gave way for other ideas of thought on the matter. And those individuals taught their own children a different perspective from what they themselves were taught. Although parents are still not encouraging their children to engage in sexual activity, it is not as taboo as it used to be, and yet the current still runs strong in today’s society. The fears of STD’s and teenage pregnancies are very strong. Lindsey’s fears of doing the right thing are very present in her mind. One part of her desires to stay pure and virginal, as is taught in her house and in her Sunday school, the other part of her wishes to experience what everyone seems to always be talking about: sex. If there are two threatening ideologies, constantly fighting against each other, which route should she take? Red pill or blue pill? In this story, we know that Lindsey is a virgin. We understand that through the texts with her boyfriend and her conversation about virgins with her younger sister, Becky. Lindsey says she is not a virgin, that she is an adult. Does this mean that not being a virgin indicates she’s an adult? Does she suddenly become an adult if she experiences this societal “ritual”? Not only does the idea of sex play a role in Lindsey’s life, but she has to consider the other factors that come along with growing up: responsibilities. Lindsey sees babysitting her younger sister as a burden for which she is not willing to be responsible. Her reluctance comes from a fear of trusting herself and the changes that happen on the way to becoming an adult. Dr. Robert Firestone, PHD states there are five major aspects to growing up: symbolic separation from parents, fantasy as defence mechanisms, threat of one’s loneliness, responsibilities, and death anxiety. We explore these five aspects in this film. Lindsey becomes separated from her parents and her sister half-way through the film, when fear overcomes her.I have made the lead character in the script female for a purpose. Throughout history there has always been an element of vulnerability when it comes to female characters. In the world, a woman is perceived as the “weaker” sex, and although that may sound archaic to some cultures, the fact remains that men are typically physically stronger than women. And by this statement, I refer to everyday civilians (not female bodybuilders or athletes!) Does a male presence still represent the age old archetype of strength and stability? It is an interesting dynamic to explore. And adding that layer to the story, helps for a more frightening horror. The more vulnerable an audience feels, the more frightened they will be, if they live vicarious through the characters on the screen. They say if you give the same script to five different directors, you’ll end up with five completely different films. There are many ways to interpret story, represent themes, and inject a unique style into any film. And since there is no way to completely visualize the end product of this film, I will describe as best I can, how I see this film come to life, how I intend to shoot it, and how the post work will be approached as well. And being that this is a horror, I will be considering details, creatively and technically, with the intent to create the most frightening film possible. Appropriate camera composition is imperative in order to accentuate essential details to the story in the film, and will inform the audience where to look, making them wonder if there is something sinister lurking in the corners. Careful composition will create a realistic environment that has the audience live vicariously through the characters. Movement will also be essential in building the tension the characters are experiencing. Using tracking shots and Steadicam movements to amplify the anticipation before a scare will create a world that is frightening to both the characters and the audience. The audience must share in these moments of anticipation. Depending on the scene, Steadicam or hand-held will be necessary to create the fear in Lindsey. Hand-held will possibly be used while Lindsey runs through the woods to express the chaos and distress of the moment. Most of the shots will be from Lindsey’s point of view, as the story is told solely through her. On my previous projects I have worked with digital cameras, and find the work flow to be consistently fast and fluid. If working with a digital camera, anamorphic lenses would be ideal. They increase the depth of field, which is preferable for a horror, revealing shadows in the background, therefore setting up scares more effectively. Although reduced light enters the film plane, the depth of field is essential to the story as well as the wide-screen big picture image. Some zoom lenses may be used to create occasional push-pull effects to accentuate either a moment of realization, dizziness, or heightened fear. Editing ultimately creates the proper tension used to give the audience an effective scare. If there is too little anticipation before a scare, the effect is unsuccessful. Elongating the anticipation before a scare is key, and the editing creates a musicality and flow to the story. The editing must let the story breathe without adding superfluous moments that may take away from building tension. Lighting is also important in creating mood and proper feel. It is the balance of light and dark that creates tension in a frame. Focusing on what to light and what to keep in shadows is important. Continually having the audience guess as to what lies in the shadows is crucial. What they cannot see leads to a heightened sense of fear. The film will start with up-key lighting to show the normalcy of Lindsey’s world and the very normal and common situation she is in, and then progress to low-key lighting to accentuate the darkness and insecurity that Lindsey begins to discover within herself. The colours of the film will help to enhance the environment and emotional state of the characters. Cool colours will create a sense of isolation and uncertainty, which I would like to establish especially in the scene in the woods. The colour of light will delineate the mood as well. This will add to the desired emotional effect from the audience. Since the film is about purity and sin, the colour scheme will be very specific. The clothes that the Whistler lays down for the children is white, signifying purity. In the beginning of the film Lindsey wears a red shirt, signifying puritanical sin. The colours in the home can reflect this as well. The production design will be most essential to this story. Lindsey’s house represents the house of original sin, and sin in general. The Whistler tries to get Lindsey to leave the “house of sin” to remain pure, leading her into the woods, towards the falls to be eternally baptized. Visually, we can play with images of purification. The falls, for one. Water is a symbol of Christian purification. The themes of original sin, good vs. evil, and purity can be alluded to in the subtle images within the house and possibly in the woods as well. Original sin can be suggested via paintings, in objects in the house, representing serpents, and apples, “magical” items such as tarot cards, subtle images that the audience may not even be aware of while watching the film. These images will subconsciously infuse the audience with a sense of religion, strong archaic images that stand the test of time, and that also give the audience a sense that this house isn’t a “normal”, every-day house. Sound design is what creates the actual scares in horror films, and the mix is critical in achieving them. For example, in The Woman in Black (2012), the mix is kept low and loud sounds are kept high in the mix, placed seconds before a visual scare to give the audience a jolt before the frightening image hits them, which is done to escalate the degree of the visual shock. The sound design is what will help create the atmosphere of each location as well, such as the crickets at night in the backyard, and the eerie whistle of the evil entity. The sound will also be mixed to explain the characters’ perspective as to where a noise may come from. Many types of sounds add to creating paranormal entities. This is partly what makes them real to the character as well as to the audience. Creaking floors, wind blowing outside, and unusual sounds will create the idea that something lurks in the corners, enhancing the frightening environment, and enhancing the fact that “The Whistler” is very real indeed. The score will have a traditional feel, as the film is about themes as old as time (purity, sin). The style of the soundtrack will be similar to that of Woman in Black and to John Corigliano’s Pied Piper Fantasy. I would like to give the soundtrack a hint of a fairytale vibe, but a fairytale gone wrong. I have worked in the industry as a performer, cinematographer, and as a director, focusing mainly on music videos and short films, most of which are award-winning. My short film, The Lake, garnered a number of awards including Best Fantasy Film at the Mexico International Film Festival and 1st place at the Honolulu Film Awards. The Lake is also featured on GAIA TV and Cinemakers. My short film, The Devil’s Snare, also received a number of nominations from various festivals. The Devil’s Snare is an existential horror film about a man who has a conversation with the Devil one night about the notion of soul existence. It was inspired by old Vincent Price films and told in a way that was inspired by the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe. Horror films have always fascinated me and The Whistler, in particular, is an exciting story filled with captivating themes. The Whistler also has a lot of visual elements to play with and explore to make the most visually terrifying film possible. And this is only a taste of what the feature will be…

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