Jim Cummings is very good at playing men in meltdown. One of the funniest set pieces in his new film The Wolf of Snow Hollow is one in which Cummings, playing an overwhelmed police deputy, tries desperately to secure a crime scene that may be the product of a brutal werewolf attack.
The Wolf of Snow Hollow wittily combines horror, mystery and comedy without skimping on any of those categories, in part by leaning into the comical awfulness of the deputy’s situation. He’s determined to seem strong and decisive, but he’s far over his head. Cummings, who wrote, directed and starred in Snow Hollow, broke out with the short film “Thunder Road,” in which he also played a cop — one who delivers a moving eulogy while totally losing it. It was later adapted into a feature of the same name.
“No, I’m not a big blower upper,” he explained. “But I love it when people like Nicolas Cage do it. And I just think it’s so interesting to watch. Watching a public freakout is just so undeniably interesting to me… somebody losing their mind and then also showing how their brain works through what they decide to say out loud. And all of their secret demons that they’ve kept in the closet come out in these moments.”
He adds: “I find those to be some of the most interesting moments in characters’ lives. And that’s a dream as a filmmaker,” he adds.
So what does he do when he’s angry? “I’m much more specific,” he says.
The ability to channel his frustration proved helpful on the set of Snow Hollow, when he wanted an ambitious shot no one else thought was feasible.
“We had this thing planned of the camera moving from the back of the car towards the windshield to reveal a deer,” he says. “I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s gonna be so cool. It’s gonna feel like Zodiac or something and be a really cool reveal. And it’d be a 360 inside of a car. It’s like Children of Men. This is what cinema is to me.'”
The team offered another shot instead.
“So I basically have this peanut gallery around me telling me that a worst shot is actually a better shot,” he says. “And I was quiet and listened the whole time.”
Finally he found the right words.
“I said, ‘Yeah. No, great. It’ll be a B movie. That’s great. Okay, cool. Cool. Cool,'” he recalls.
“And just that one sentence, everybody was like, ‘Oh, my God, oh my God.’ And we ended up getting a really cool version of the shot that was closer to kind of what I was doing.”
Cummings also talks on the podcast about how a fascination with serial killers led to his interest in werewolves, and what it was like to work with the iconic Robert Forster on one of his final productions. If you like it, be sure to keep an eye out for StudioFest’s Demystified video series, which will soon feature a lengthy interview with Cummings about how to make an indie movie (not a B movie) no matter what obstacles you’re facing.
The Wolf of Snow Hollow, by Jim Cummings, is now available on-demand everywhere. Above: Riki Lindhome and Jim Cummings in the film, courtesy of Orion.