Interview - Sound of Violence : Let's talk with Alex Noyer

By Mulder, Los Angeles, 13 may 2021

Sound of Violence is a 2021 Finnish-American slasher film written and directed by Alex Noyer in his directorial debut, inspired by his short film Conductor. The film stars Jasmin Savoy Brown as a formerly deaf girl who goes on a killing spree after witnessing the murder of her family. The film is set to be released on May 21, 2021 by Gravitas Ventures after its world premiere on March 19, 2021 at the SXSW Film Festival.

Q :  Hello Alex, Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background ?

Alex Noyer : of course I’m Alex Noyer.  I'm the writer and director of Sound of Violence. I've been a producer for 17 years and after eight years of documentary filmmaking I delved into the horror genre with a short film called conductor and now the feature film sound of violence

Q :  After the short movie Conductor, Sound Of Violence is not only your first movie but also can be seen as the adaptation of this one in a feature film ? Can you tell us which were the main difficulties to transform a short movie in a long feature ?

Alex Noyer :  it's a great question . When you make a short film it's you know sometimes you make them with the intent of making a feature. In the case of conductor i made it as a sort of way to transit between my documentary 808 which was all about a drum machine and my transition into a horror, so I decided to do a film that would be killing somebody with a drum machine, and I did it purely for experimental reason, to prove myself that i could also direct but also to have a bit of fun and to experiment with something that was just a light bulb in my head, and it really works as a six minute short we toured it we had a lot of fun in festivals we got we won awards and we got great feedback and it was like i was really happy but then when it came to writing the feature i had to think differently and so this is where first I tried to include the short, but then i wrote the backstory and  then I realized that the short film didn't fit into a narrative uh feature structure so i took it out and i revisited the whole story as a character piece, as a character thriller with  strong experimental sides like it like with the short but with something different so i kind of almost took it apart and then took a step back and then rebuilt it from scratch. So the feature in a way is inspired by the short more than it is just a longer version of it.

Q :  What were your main sources of inspiration for Sound of Violence—some movies, some books?

Alex Noyer : a bit of this. There's a lot. obviously as i said my documentary about the 808 drum machine was a big driving force in my head, but at the same time in more directly and visual i would say movies like American psycho, Assassination Nation but you know my whole life has been about watching crazy horror movies from the first you know when i was nine and i saw Night of the living dead and then I watched Evil dead and then you know i went on into all sorts of movies and i just wanted to pay homage to a few films throughout the film you know there's a there's homage to Battle Royal there's homage to Scanners there's homage to Misery. i had a lot of fun with the idea of really creating something unique as far as the music and horror dynamic that i switch but also pay homage to some of my great influences. Now the story itself is i believe is quite unique because it's not been done before but the horror fan in me was having a lot of fun.

Q :  What Can you tell us about your filming locations ?

Alex Noyer : So we were filming in Los Angeles in October and November 2019 so just before the pandemic and it was it was great because you know we—i i've been living now in LA for seven years or soon seven years and we have a whole bunch of people here who we know and who love working with us and we felt that for this we needed to rely on them and so we went around to find locations around Los Angeles that could talk to us and we know from the warehouse that was where we ended up shooting so much of it to even finding the motor home and all the all those little moments. It's funny because i don't think that it's necessarily the most recognizable parts of Los Angeles but those who live in LA will feel they recognize Los Angeles in it, in its in its real range of location um and it's just amazing to be in a place with so many locations available.

Q :  What should be for you a good acting direction? What can you tell us about you work with Jasmin Savoy Brown, Lili Simmons, James Jagger and Tessa Munro please?

Alex Noyer : So, directing actors is a fun process of—especially when you've written the material—to kind of bounce it's like you bounce it against the wall and if you see if it comes back to you, so we spent a lot of time going back and forth; especially because you know I’m born in France. My  first language is not English so when I’m writing in English i wanted to test the dialogue with them so that they could then we could tweak it to make it sound more natural so that was amazing to work with people like that to be able to fine-tune the characters to make them sound better to make them sound like they exist almost and then our casting director Amey René suggested uh Jasmine Savoy Brown who I knew from the Leftovers and i was very excited about that and we met and it was like i had met Alexis. it was crazy she cared so much about the role being right not being cliched and being really. i had written it with kind of open questions so that she could meet me there and we could really uh bring the character to life together and it was that first meeting she we always joke who was more nervous and i can tell you i was more nervous and it was after that we were it was a partnership and it was really I’m very lucky and similarly Lili as an actress i've followed for a while i've seen her work and you know Banshee and Ray Donovan i see her in Westworld and you know she Bone Tomahawk loved that movie and so i wanted to work with her for some time and  it worked out so it was great and the connection she had with jasmine immediately the first time they met showed me that that was again lucky for me to see two actors who are supposed to be so close in the story immediately having this connection,  and similarly James Jagger who i had seen in Vinyl, i was really interested in because you know i knew he was in bands and i knew he was he had a connection to create a character that was really about himself you know Duke is, really draws on the characteristics of James you know very laid back and amicable and it was it was all a lot of fun and then you know and then we met Tessa later on to play Detective Fuentes, and it was it was it was fun because she really wanted to make her detective story work

Q :  In this specific time, how is difficult actually to create a movie and find some funds to do it ?

Alex Noyer : We were lucky to shoot the film before but before COVID, so that was one thing that you know um we were extremely lucky—even when we did  an extra day of shoot in February 2020, it was before the world shut down, so we got lucky. but having said that COVID did affect our production and you know we had to we had to work remotely and we had to create all new systems to make it work we also had moments where members of our crew that we were that were on sometimes in other parts of the world also contracted COVID so we had interruptions like that um it's also difficult when you're when you're organizing distribution and finance and such because everything is remote and it's hard to have the human contact so it just demanded more effort, and it demanded that we try harder and not let anything stop us and you know even though it took a little longer than we expected, it worked out beautifully because we ended up at South by Southwest and Brussels and Fantaspoa, and even though it's virtual which is obviously sad because I wish i could be with audiences I’m still incredibly i feel lucky i feel very lucky.

Q :  Which are for you the good ingredients to create a good horror movie ?

Alex Noyer : Characters, characters, characters. I feel that sometimes there's this almost difference between thriller and horror that is how disposable the character is you know you have horror movies where they give you a little bit of backstory and a bit of sense but they don't want you to care too much because they're going to take them away from you, and in thrillers we obviously there's a lot of focus. now sound of violence is kind of both it's a horror thriller so i wanted it but i wanted it to be a character story with strong  characters and i wanted to be with the villain if you will and that's just because i care so much about understanding the villains in horror movies that I wanted to create something that tapped into that um i think that obviously horror is also about timing; it's about cinematography and again Daphne Qin our cinematographer did a fantastic job and also it matters to have very good effects practical effects are very important i love practical effects I’m extremely obsessed about the way blood looks on screen and Robert Bravo who i call my blood wizard knows very well that i care a lot, and so i think you know the great thing about horror movies is that they are experimental platforms that other genres do or do not dare to do and i think the main ingredients uh as well for horror movies is visions that are not necessarily uh do not have the handbrake on they just go for what they go for and it's a risk it's and it's worth taking risks to make good horror movies

Q :  Can you tell use which part of your inspiration in this movie comes from your love for Music, the music is very important in this movie.?

Alex Noyer : absolutely all of it i mean you know it's a it's first of all you know the movie is the story of an artist and I’m the son of an artist; my father is a painter, my grandfather's a painter. i grew up surrounded by artists and I met many artists my first film is a conversation with Julian Schnabel my first few films were all about art artists so the artist part of it was important. now here in this in this case the musicians the artists are musicians and you know for five years when we made 808 and we went into studios with people like the Beastie Boys and Pharrell Williams and all those amazing artists Phil Collins and such it was just i could see the passion they put in producing music ,and i felt that this journey needed to really tap into that and i was a DJ once—not a very good one—but i knew music i knew not how to make music but i knew you know all sorts of music the reason why i kept being DJ’ing in in in clubs and parties was because of the music i played not because of the way i played it again i was not very good but i knew my tracks,  and so I’m very obsessed with beats so the idea of starting from there and building upon them to create this whole story was very important.  and similarly for the music around the film we had to be very ambitious and love music enough to try to do music with non-musical elements and to use musical instruments as contraptions and weapons and so this is where as well my collaboration with our lead composer Jaakko Manninen or our senior sound designer Jussi Tegelman and mixer as well uh you know was really important and then we know we brought on Alexander Burke, Omar El-Deeb to really create something—the experiment, a big bold ambitious experiment that needed to work and that's out of all of that is out of love for music

Q :  What was the most difficult scene for you to shoot and why ?

Alex Noyer :  the most difficult scene i would say the finale. now without getting into spoilers as obviously we're in a big open space on a beach and um and it's there's a lot of extras there were a lot of things there were a lot of noise we had planes flying over we had all sorts of things. so it was we had to wrangle this whole thing,  but funnily enough i would say maybe the trickiest was the art gallery; the art gallery was very tricky because it's also we had extras and we had a whole it was very specific what we were trying to do and that made it extremely because this is where my demands of practical effects were really high and so we had to be so i was really pushing everybody to be on top of their games to do it and I’m very lucky because everybody pushed it as far as they could.

Q :  Can we hope to have as a lot of horror movie a sequel to this film ?

Alex Noyer : maybe later maybe i will not say yes or no.  there's uh there's a you know this is the thing it's a universe that i started with Alexis i think  it's something that raises a lot of questions and if the audiences demand it there are more ideas they are part of the script that I wrote that i had to take out that may possibly open new doors so the answer is maybe.

Q :  In watching your movie, I think a lot about the masters of Horror as John Carpenter and Wes Craven. Can you tell us which movies director has the most important impact in your work ?

Alex Noyer : i will say that George Romero is the reason i love horror okay but i would say maybe Sam Raimi and Stanley Kubrick are the reason i feel allowed to push the stories the way I push them

Q :  What can you tell us about the really great special effects in this movie ?

Alex Noyer : so the special effects, you know, and the practical effects again are sort of a whole you know buildup of um of challenges that we had to take on because I’m again very obsessed with the way everything looks but not just on the blood and the gruesome part but also creating the synesthesia the colorful environment that we created for Alexis that started from the cinematography was with the lighting team working with daphne to bring the lights from all the way from behind to as well projecting onto jasmine and then we could add digital effects to create the real full environment with the lights kind of breaking all around. um the film is i would say is all is like on the on the gruesome part it's about 80 practical 20 uh digital.  on the on the lighting it's uh it's a kind of a half, but um but the work was similarly like with the music we are it was a big bold experiment and we needed to really push every part and this is where i surrounded myself with a crew of people who are extremely good at what they do, I’m frankly the least qualified person on set, but i got to work with them and they you know they brought it and they brought this amazing result

Q :  Can you tell us about your company You know Films ?

Alex Noyer : sure so it's born out of the UK it was just called you know we started off in 2004 we started off as a as a creative production company working for brands, and the one of our first gig was filming fashion week and then we were shooting music videos and doing videos for like Loreal and Durex and all sorts of things so we were a commercial company nice um and then in 2008 we did our first original documentary which is a conversation with Julian Schnabel and from there we i kind of got the bug of making original content we kept going with it with a lot of commercials but then in 2014 where we were really in the later stages of making 808  i felt that it was time for me to let go of the marketing side and to really fully focus on films and this is where we moved to the us and it became you know films

Q :  Which are your currents projects ?

Alex Noyer : so I’m working right now on a horror movie based on Nordic folklore and origins. I’m very excited about that I’m writing it right now. I’m also in talks to direct a film a bit more of a drama actually although it has a horror twist to it it's actually more of a drama um so that's very early days and then and then i have about three four projects um in the works including maybe a tv show

Synopsis : 
Alexis recovered her hearing during the brutal murder of her family when she was ten. The visceral experience awakened synesthetic abilities in her and started her on an orphaned path of self-discovery through the healing music of brutal violence. She goes on to pursue a career teaching and experimenting to find new sounds. She is supported and loved by her roommate Marie who is unaware of the dark secrets behind Alexis’ unique music and the part she unknowingly plays. Faced with the likelihood of losing her hearing again, Alexis escalates her pursuit of her masterpiece through gruesome sound experiments and devastating designs. She won’t let anything stop her not even love.

Sound Of Violence
Written and directed by Alex Noyer
Based on Conductor by Alex Noyer
Produced by Hannu Aukia, Alex Noyer
Production Designer: Gillian Chance
Executive Producer: Mike Macari
Starring Jasmin Savoy Brown, Lili Simmons, James Jagger, Tessa Munro
Music by Jaakko Manninen, Alexander Burke, Omar El-Deeb
Sound: Jussi Tegelman
Cinematography: Daphne Qin Wu
Special Effects: Robert Bravo
Edited by Hannu Aukia, Vertti Verkajärvi
Production companies: You Know Films, No-Office
Distributed by Gravitas Ventures (USA)
Running time : 94 minutes

We would like to thank Alex Noyer and Emily Sharp for this fascinating interview