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Interview: Lou Simon Discusses Making “73 MINUTES” During the Pandemic

Wednesday, March 22, 2023 | Interviews

By JOSHUA “Prometheus” SCAFIDI

Lou Simon (Hazmat, Agoraphobia) is a triple threat in the horror genre, being a writer, director, and also producer. Needless to say, Lou knows her way around a movie set. In 2020, though, we were thrown a monkey wrench when the entire industry was shaken by the pandemic. Production was mostly shut down, and movies just weren’t being made. At least, not conventionally.

True creatives, they always find a way, and that’s exactly what Lou Simon did with her new film, 73 MINUTES. Shot during the height of the pandemic, Lou managed to tell a cohesive, and tense story – without ever having the actors in the same room. Technology sure is something, isn’t it?

Want to know how she did it? Well, we did too! So, recently, we had a nice little chat with Lou, all about it! She was kind enough to spill some of the beans, and give us a peek into the making of the film.

Hey, Lou! How are you?

Good! Long time, no talk!

So, 73 MINUTES comes out soon!

Yeah, we’re doing sort of a hybrid release because we’re doing Blu-ray distribution with HorrorPack, and they’re releasing it as a HorrorPack Original, which they’ve never done before. We discussed how that would be a cool thing for them to do with indie films from now on. It will be streaming, as well. The streaming won’t happen right away though, probably in June.

What can you tell us about the film, without spoiling too much?

Well, the film is about an attorney who is on her way home from having this tryst with her co-worker, and she gets a phone call telling her that there’s a man outside her house with a gun pointed at her daughter, and unless she delivers a certain file to a location 73 minutes away, they’re going to shoot her daughter.

So, the film takes place during that long drive and she’s trying to figure out who these people are, and why they’re threatening her daughter’s life. What is it about the file that they want, because it seems like a routine case? She enlists the help of her lover, and during her drive, she has various conversations with people, including the man who’s threatening her family.

So, how did this all come about?

What happened was, we were in the middle of COVID, and the lockdowns, this was in May of 2020, and films had stopped completely. Life had stopped completely. I had the idea for the story, wrote the screenplay in basically three days, and I thought, this can actually be made – even under these weird circumstances that we’re living in. It’s mostly her in her car, driving and we can do it in a safe way, so that no two actors are in the same space, at the same time.

The world was shut down, and nobody had the money for anything, so I called Aniela McGuinness (Monica), and a couple of other friends and said that I wanted to make this movie, and asked what they thought. We would all do it together and whatever happens, happens, and if nothing else, we stay creative in this horrible time. Everybody jumped on board and was excited to make it!

That’s awesome. Aniela did a great job as the lead, I know you’ve worked with her a few times in the past, but what about Christopher Milan, who plays Keith, the love interest?

He was the only one I hadn’t worked with before. He had been in a lot of Spanish soap operas in Miami, so he has a very nice following. I had seen him perform in some other stuff, so I wanted to work with him, but never had the opportunity. I thought about him for this role, and sent it to him, told him the situation, and he agreed.

How did the cast adapt to not being with the person they’re acting off of?

Everybody was in different states, so we did a lot of rehearsals leading up to filming. We did it all through Skype. So, we got to kind of know each other, and form a bond before we filmed. Christopher and Aniela, by coincidence, had taken an acting class together. So, that made it easier. From the first day, I felt like they already had great chemistry. It worked out, really well. Usually, you want to test for that, but in this situation… (Laughing.) When you cast talented people, they make it work.

They did have good chemistry together. Izzy Herbert, who plays Taylor, the young daughter did a good job, too.

I posted a picture of Aniela on social media saying I needed a girl who looked like she could be her daughter. I got the submission and she was perfect. We did one rehearsal with her and Aniela alone and she was lovely, just so cute. I wouldn’t be surprised if she becomes a huge star one day.

Okay, so you’re sitting around, it’s the height of the pandemic, and you have nothing to do… what gave you the idea for this story?

You know, up to that point, I had been spending the pandemic by myself. I lived by myself, and my brain was turning to mush, having no human interaction. So, I was watching a lot of TV, and movies, and I saw a movie with Chris Hemsworth, called Extraction, and it was this huge action movie, and I was just bored. After half an hour, I didn’t care about what was happening. Right after that, I started watching the film Lock, with Tom Hardy.

It’s a drama, and it’s just him getting in a car and driving, and he’s having all these conversations with people, and drama with work, and he has to get to the hospital because a girl he got pregnant is about to give birth. Being a guy, of course, he waits until the last minute to tell his wife about it. (Laughing.) It’s just him on the phone the entire time, a very simple storyline, and I was riveted. I was so involved, and I thought to myself, this is what good storytelling is.

You can have a guy, in a car, on the phone, and be so invested, and then you can have this big movie with bullets flying, and car chases, and I could care less because I just don’t care about the characters. So, I thought, what if he had to solve some kind of a mystery while he was driving? Then it just grew from there.

Good writing and good characters will keep people invested, absolutely! The film takes place mostly in the car but by halfway through, I needed to know what happens. It does a very good job of building tension, with very minimal. That’s not easy to do, so well done.

Thank you! I definitely was thinking, what can possibly take place in a car that can keep the audience vested in what’s happening, and not be bored? That was the thing, how to keep raising the tension and keep twists happening. That was the biggest challenge.

It’s very well-paced.

Thanks. I’m very proud of what we were able to make under such limited circumstances. Part of it is having great acting that sells it. So, you feel that it’s real. You really care what happens to them because you like the characters. Even though they’re very flawed.

How long did everything take you, from start to finish?

I wrote the script in mid-May, and we shot it at the beginning of June. I had to do the hotel scenes with Christopher in August. I think it may have been July when I went up to Tennessee to shoot Mike’s (Stanley) scene at the end. Then editing, which I did all myself. I finished that in August or September.

Not bad!

Eh, we had nothing to do. (Laughing.)

Fair enough. What do you have coming up next?

Nine Windows, we shot last year. Hopefully, that will get released later this year or beginning of next.

Awesome, make sure to keep us updated! Thanks for your time, Lou!

Thank you!

Be sure to check out 73 MINUTES, when it releases. You can order a physical copy at HorrorPack.com until April 15th.

Joshua "Prometheus" Scafidi