Tereza Nvotová & Natalia Germani On Working With Live Animals And Slovakian Horror


Summary Nightsiren follows a young woman who returns to her remote village, uncovering the truth behind her sister’s disappearance and facing suspicion from the locals.
The film features stunning landscapes and scenery, adding to the mystical atmosphere created by the story.
Working with live animals on set posed challenges, but the filmmakers took precautions to ensure the safety and well-being of the animals involved.
Now available to stream on VOD, Nightsiren follows a young woman who returns to the remote village she fled after a tragic accident took her sister’s life. Sarlota begins digging into her past, holding out hope that her younger sibling may have survived the fatal injury she blames herself for. However, the locals begin to grow suspicious of her presence, and she quickly becomes a target. Accused of practicing witchcraft, Sarlota realizes that she may never be able to escape her former home.
Tereza Nvotová is a Slovakian film director who also serves as Nightsiren’s co-writer alongside Barbora Namerova. Nvotová has several acting, writing, and directing credits and has worked on projects such as Meciar and Trash on Mars. Natalia Germani plays the lead role of Sarlota and is known for titles such as The Devil Conspiracy and Vítaz. The film also stars Eva Mores, Juliana Olhová, Iva Bittová, Jana Olhová, Marek Geisberg, Zuzana Konecná, and Noel Czuczor. It has a runtime of 1 hour and 49 minutes.
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Screen Rant interviewed Tereza Nvotová and Natalia Germani about working with live animals, the complications of outdoor filming, and creating a sense of familiarity between Sarlota and Mira.
Tereza Nvotová & Natalia Germani Talk Night Siren
Screen Rant: How did the idea for Nightsiren originate?
Tereza Nvotová: It started with Barbora. It was two inspirations that we had. She came up with a story that is set in our cabin in the woods that our parents bought when they were young. It’s basically above the village where we shot. The village that is in the movie is the village that I know very well. Barbora came up with having this character of Otyla there, and Otyla was actually a real person. She was the last person that lived in that cabin, and she has all these myths around her. I was trying to ask the villagers about who she was and why she was there. The only information that I know about her was that she was walking barefoot everywhere, and she was living in nature by herself. She didn’t want to be down there with the villagers. I think it was also because they were scared of her. I know from other villagers that when she was walking down the village, they were hiding in their homes from her. She was living in harmony with nature. She had snakes and she met bears. We have a lot of wild animals in Slavic nature. The first inspiration was this real character. The second was the anthropological study that one anthropologist did in Slovak modern villages. She found out that most of the people there still believe in witches, which was quite surprising because we come from the city. We didn’t think that these ancient beliefs were still there and that adult people still believe in that. So we started to research it by ourselves, but also wrapped this story around this setting and these beliefs. It’s not only that people believe in witches, but the question is why. That is very connected with misogyny and social systems that we still have in Slovakia and many places around the world.
The landscape and scenery were breathtaking. Natalia, had you been to this location beforehand?
Natalia Germani: The city was brand new for me, but before we started shooting it, Tereza took us to her father’s cabin. So we got to feel the atmosphere there. I know the location, but I’ve never been to the city before. It’s kind of a village. It’s a very small city. Am I right? Tereza Nvotová: Yes. It’s like a small town village. We didn’t shoot the movie in my cabin because I didn’t want to burn it. We found a location very close by, so we were still in the same kind of forest and same kind of area because I really wanted to have the feel of these wild high mountain forests that we have in Slovakia.
When you’re filming in nature, you’re obviously subjected to the elements. How often did you run into problems on that front, especially during the night shoots?
Tereza Nvotová: Oh my god. It was hard to do because everything is outside. You don’t know what the weather is going to be like, but we also had a limited budget. The movie cost around 1.5 million euros, so it’s not like you can just prolong your shoot or shift the day. We were really lucky with the weather most of the time. We were supposed to burn the cabin one day, and we came on set and there was snow everywhere. Of course, it was hard for Natalia when she had scenes where she was naked, and it was very, very cold. Everybody needed to be 100% in to make this movie. Natalia Germani: The biggest problem was the cold because the high during the day was 40 degrees Celsius sometimes. During the night, it was 3 degrees Celsius. All the scenes when I was naked was during the night, so it was very hard for me to do those scenes for three or four hours. I was running in the forest, and it was really cold. They put all the stuff on me they had, but it was hard. Night shoots are also hard because you have to focus on yourself, and you just want to go to bed. We made it somehow, and I’m so happy we did.
There are a lot of animals featured in the film. How much were you actually working with live animals on set?
Tereza Nvotová: They usually say not to put animals and kids in your movie because you can really control them. So that’s what I did. [Laughs] I had a group of snake people who were helping out. You can’t really direct the snake. The only way you can change the snake’s action is to make him cold or make him warm. If you make him warmer, he will move faster. If you make him colder, he will move slower. So he would put the snake on his chest to make him warmer when I needed the snake to go fast. It was fun. I knew Tamara was going to have some scenes with snakes, and I knew that I needed a kid who could work with them. I had a snake in the audition room, and I was meeting all these little girls and asking what they thought about it. They want to tell you they’re fine, but you need to see their reaction to see whether they really are fine with snakes. The one that I cast really loved the snakes and any animals. She was this crazy kid. She would jump off the cliff and put the snakes all over her. She was super happy about it, so I was really lucky with that. In terms of other animals, you can’t really train wolves. That’s impossible. So there are dog wolves that look like wolves that are trained. You can tell them what to do, basically. Everybody’s been asking me about the scene with the goose. That’s a special trick. We had a knife with blood on there. It looks good, but we didn’t kill the goose on the camera. I’m a vegetarian, and I never want to harm any animals. The shooting process is not the friendliest thing for animals to go through, but you’re trying your best and you’re trying to treat the animals the right way. The people that we worked with, who had the animals, we knew that they cared about them. We were making sure the animals were safe in the situation. We had the guy with the goat say, “Can I bring her friend so she can hang out with her goat friend while she’s waiting?” So it was fun.
The format was something I found really intriguing as well. Tereza, what did you feel the benefit of breaking the film up into separate chapters was?
Tereza Nvotová: To be honest, I’ve never liked movies with chapters. They’ve never been my thing, and I never thought I would put chapters in my movie. The editing process was quite long, and for me, it was difficult to figure out how I’m working with the genre and how I’m not. What is the perfect sweet spot for the movie? I like to be on the border. I like to use elements from different genres, but I don’t have to fit this movie into one box. Chapters came very late in the process. In the last rounds of editing, I came up with the idea. Maybe we should put chapters in, so it’s easier for the audience to read the movie. Since we’re also working with archetypes and mythology, it tells you that this story is not just about the plot. This story has multiple themes to talk about and grasp.
Natalia, your character is carrying a lot of guilt and feelings of inadequacy coming into the film. How was getting into the headspace of someone with a past like this?
Natalia Germani: I think what helped me so much was reading all the time. When something wasn’t working, we changed it a bit. We also had a very good collaboration with Eva, who plays Mira in the movie. There was a lot of preparation and I asked questions about her past. Everything needed to make sense to me. I didn’t have any special approach of how to get into Sarlota. I just came to set, and they put the wig on me, and it started somehow. Sometimes, Tereza would come to me and say, “That was Natalia. You have to be Sarlota.” When we were shooting the first take, Natalia came to me because I wasn’t so focused on what was going on around me. Sometimes she needed to come to me and say, “You have to be more focused on what you’re saying right now.” Tereza Nvotová: My approach is to find the character before we start to shoot. There’s such a limited time in shooting, so you don’t really have the space there to talk about psychological history or whatever. This is something that has to happen before the shoot. Once we grab the character, and we have her, and we both feel like this is Sarlota, it was easy on set. I could just tell Natalia like, “Hey, you have to go to Sarlota,” and she knew what it meant.
What about working with the actress who plays Mira? There’s a bond that forms between them almost immediately, and I imagine you both put in a lot of effort to create that sense of familiarity.
Natalia Germani: Eva, who plays Mira, was my schoolmate from theater school. It was actually very easy because we had also done performances in school together. We played a mother and daughter relationship. We knew what we could expect from each other, and we could talk very honestly about things, and if we liked it or not, or how we could do it a different way if it was not working. That helped us in the process of filming—that we knew each other five or six years before shooting. Tereza Nvotová: For me, the chemistry is very important. It’s how I do casting. I had Natalia when I cast the character of Mira, so I could see them together, and I could see how they worked together. One thing is being a good actress, but the other is that the central relationship of the movie needs to work between them. It’s almost like when you’re casting for a love story. It was super important that it works between them and that they are not the same and don’t have the same energy, but you can feel that they are close. They’re not completely different people. This was Eva’s first movie and first shoot ever. She was very eager to be great. She would go through crazy scenes where she had stunts, and she would do all this crazy physical stuff. She would come to me, and I think it’s perfect, and she’d be like, “Let’s do it again! I’m not sure if it was the best,” and I’m like, “It was the best.”
I am super curious about how the glow-in-the-dark scene was achieved. Did the makeup artist use body paint? Were special effects added in post-production? How did that turn out the way it did?
Tereza Nvotová: That scene was something that I really loved. In the early stages, producers were telling me, “Let’s cut this. This doesn’t move the story anywhere. It’s just some crazy sh*t.” I was like, “No, this is so essential to the movie, because the characters are talking about the witches and crazy stuff and superstitious things. If you never get to see it as an audience and never get to feel it, then it’s going to lack in the movie.” That’s why I really advocated for this scene. When we were putting it together, we were trying to find a new visual approach. The main inspiration for us was this Hieronymus Bosch painting called the Garden of Earthly Delights where you have this crazy mixture of naked bodies in very weird positions. I love that painting. I have it at home on my wall. Not the original, of course, it’s like millions of dollars. This was just the first inspiration, but it doesn’t look like our scene. I had a choreographer for the movie, and we discussed what we were going to do with the bodies and how we could create some living objects made up of bodies. I didn’t want to make it just sexual. We all have daydreams and hallucinations where things are a mixture of fear and desire. The cinematographer, Federico Cesca, had this idea about UV lights. We found this body paint where if we put enough UV lights, they can glow in the dark. I wanted to be as practical as possible in the movie because I don’t like CGI. I wanted to be as organic as possible. We put this paint on the bodies of the dancers and extras. In post-production, we made it so that the paint could breathe. It’s even more organic. It looks like something that is on your skin and is breathing. That was our process. It was crazy. That night was crazy to shoot because we had to do a lot there, but I think everybody loved it, in the end. People really enjoyed themselves.
About Nightsiren
In a remote mountain village, two sisters grow up at the mercy of their abusive mother. A terrible accident happens when the eldest, Šarlota, escapes into the woods, followed by her sister Tamara. Otyla, a Roma woman living on the outskirts of town, is blamed for the girls’ disappearance and accused of witchcraft. Twenty years later, Šarlota unexpectedly shows up in the village. As she digs into her past, the locals grow suspicious. Only a young and eccentric herbalist, Mira, is willing to befriend her. When the animals in the village start to fall ill, the locals accuse Šarlota of conjuring Otyla’s spirit.


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