INHERIT THE VIPER casts a lens on the opioid crisis through the eyes of a European, Swiss Director Anthony Jerjen. The film delivers a dark drama set in small-town Ohio (actually filmed in Alabama) which is made all the more poignant by the fact that situations depicted in the film are all-too pervasive in certain parts of The United States.
INHERIT THE VIPER stars Josh Hartnett as Kip, the oldest of three Conley siblings who inherit their drug dealing father’s business. Sister Josie (Margarita Leviev) is a steely, all business opportunist, and when her callous disregard for the people she’s dealing with results in the death of an addict as well as her younger brother Boots (Owen Teague) things take a turn for the worse. Bruce Dern plays the bar owner who tries to dial back Josie, and Josie’s “friendship” with the local Sheriff emulates real-life complications and relationships between town folk on both sides of the law.
Interview with Director Anthony Jerjen
AMFM: What is he difference between filmmaking in Switzerland and filmmaking in America for independent filmmakers?
Anthony Jerjen: Switzerland doesn’t really consider filmmaking as an industry. There are very few films made every year. We don’t live and breathe projects for film like Americans do. That’s a bad thing for us, for young filmmakers trying to get started.
AMFM: This is your first feature length film? What was the process?
Anthony Jerjen: Correct. I started in 2015. At the time I was reading quite a bit of scripts, looking for a story to tell, something that resonates with me. I found the script and it was already in really good shape. The writer Andrew Crabtree was in Paris at the time so I jumped on a train and I met him. I told him how much I liked the script but that I didn’t know anything about the opioid crisis in America at the time. I tried to read as much as I could and research it. He agreed to develop the story together with me. We got the movie funded and then through the casting process we got really exciting actors attached. The rest of the movie was a fairly traditional process. To be picked up by Lionsgate was very exciting for us, it meant that more people would be able to see the movie.
AMFM: But this is about the opioid crisis in America, I don’t know if there Is a crisis in Switzerland or other countries. Through the eyes of someone from a different country, was it shocking to find it was so pervasive here?
Anthony Jerjen: We don’t really have that here, it’s so highly regulated, in Switzerland you have to ask the pharmacy, and they don’t really push that hard for the painkillers. What was amazing was how little they knew about it in Europe. So I had to educate myself on the history of the crisis and how it came to be. It seems like it was a complex set of factors, starting from the recession and job loss. When you look at it closer, it doesn’t surprise me that it happened. it’s very unfortunate but I’m surprised more people didn’t get addicted. Everything was so lined up for it to happen.
AMFM: You think it was sort of inevitable then. The cinematography style that you chose to tell the story was dark. I’ve been to that area of the country and it’s actually very beautiful, but through the lens of your camera it was dreary, and there was a sense of foreboding. It could almost be a horror movie, the way it was filmed. The close shots of the alleyways and the boarded up windows…I’m sure that was a conscious choice, correct?
Anthony Jerjen: Yes, there are two elements to this aspect of the movie. The first was when I visited Worth County in Alabama, all of those small towns have this timeless feel to them. I felt like it would be quite an interesting approach that instead of going with a very modern approach to filmmaking with handheld and quite “poppy” colors, we would go with a more contained and steady approach with the color palette and the camera work. Kind of like what was popular in the ‘70s. It was a way to show grittiness and the danger in the surroundings. The second element is because of the genre of the movie, which was a thriller, to go with more contrast and an anamorphic aspect, a wider ratio.
AMFM: Yes, INHERIT THE VIPER almost has a western feel because of your choices.
INHERIT THE VIPER IS OUT NOW ON DEMAND AND IN SELECT THEATERS