When a reclusive man is repeatedly woken up over the course of a night by severe headaches, accompanied by musical repetition from an unknown source, his sanity begins to swiftly unravel.
The premise for writer/director Tara Price’s new short film, “Earworm”, is more than just a sinister play on words. It’s an eerily captivating, empathetic look at a man losing grip with his own reality. In mere minutes, Price is able to effectively weave a compelling web of cringe-worthy horror and uncertainty, while taking the viewer on a wild, emotional thrill ride.
The film, which stars veteran actor Ernest L. Thomas (“What’s Happening!!,” “Everybody Hates Chris” and “Malcolm X”) is as infectious as it is unsettling.
In addition to already being an acclaimed actress, Price wrote, produced, and starred in the award-winning, sci-fi short, “The Routine”, which was an “Official Selection” in thirty film festivals worldwide as well as being a nine-time award winner. “Earworm” is her directorial debut.
With endless enthusiasm and a profound knack for uniquely capturing a vision from written page to screen, Price is one to watch in 2018.
I recently spoke with Tara Price about “Earworm” and more in this exclusive new interview.
Where did the idea for “Earworm” originate?
I’ve written and produced several short films in the past, but this was the first one that I wrote with me specially wanting to direct. The whole concept behind it is actually a play on words. I’ve used the word “earworm” many times in my vocabulary. It means when you get a song stuck in your head. But what I’ve discovered over the years is that many people hear the word and relate it to “tapeworm” or “ringworm”. They don’t realize that it’s about music being stuck in your head. I thought it would be great to make a movie about both of those things.
Was the idea always for it to be a short film, or did you have something more feature-length in mind?
All of my other films were under ten minutes, so I always knew that it would be short. I like my material to pack a punch and end on a good beat. I’ve had people suggest that I make “Earworm” into a feature and I’m always flattered, but it was never meant to be one.
How did Ernest Thomas become involved in the film?
Ernie and I had worked together as actors in the past. All of our scenes were together so whenever there was downtime, we would spend it by hanging out and getting to know each other. He’s so kind, funny, generous and down to Earth. He’s also got an iconic smile that you immediately recognize. Ernie’s known primarily as a comedic actor, but he has such a great face for drama. I didn’t write the script with Ernie in mind, and I wasn’t even sure if it was going to be about a man or a woman. Ultimately, I decided it would be interesting to have a seasoned actor in the role, and Ernie was the first one who popped in my head. I shot him an email and was really lucky when he said yes. We had always hoped to work together again, and it was a wonderful thing.
What was the filming process like for “Earworm”?
We shot the entire film in one day. It was exhausting, but tons of credit goes to my team of people and to Ernie, because they never lost their momentum. I also had a wonderful producer, Billy Hanson. I’m so indebted to him for believing in this script and for being a great partner. To have someone that solid in your corner who believes in and trusts in you is so important.
As a first-time director, what was the biggest challenge?
This may sound silly, but sometimes just believing in yourself can be the hardest thing. The idea of directing can be intimidating, but I was fortunate to have many positive influences in my life and a lot of people encouraging me. Directing sounds scary and is a lot of work, but it’s easier when you have a good script, go in with a plan and surround yourself with top-notch people.
How has the reaction been to “Earworm”?
It’s been great. I love going to festivals and sitting in the back and watching he audience. There’s one scene I won’t give away where the audience always shrieks [laughs]. It’s my favorite part.
What’s next for the film?
It’s recently screened in New York and Berlin and will be playing at the Indie Horror Film Festival in Illinois in March. It’s already been in forty-eight film festivals and has won seven awards.
Was a filmmaker something you always aspired to do?
Initially, I wanted to be an actor and moved to L.A. in pursuit of it. I always liked to write, but did it mostly to help me as an actor. Eventually, people started telling me that I should try directing. I was hesitant at first, but once I did everything else paled in comparison. It’s exciting to write something and then bring your vision to life. But it wouldn’t be possible without having a great team of people who bring everything they’ve got to the table.
Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?
I’ve recently directed a music video for the song that’s from “Earworm” – “The Worst Thing”. It’s a completely separate entity that has nothing to do with the movie, but it’s a catchy song that gets stuck in your head [laughs]. It’s funny how you can plan something and then things go a completely different way. Directing was never part of my plan, but my path got rerouted and here I am. It’s very exciting.
What are you most looking forward to about the next phase of your career?
Honestly? It’s wherever the chips fall. I’ve got a bunch of irons in the fire right now, and I’m looking forward to whatever happens first. I’ll just be lucky and happy to have the opportunity. Setting out to do something and then reaching the goal is very satisfying. Finding passion in something new is such a blessing, and I feel so fortunate.
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