Citizen Jane showcases Texas drama “Hellion”

MOVE chats with Kat Candler, director of the festival’s opening film.

“Hellion” is a dark drama that follows the struggling father-son relationships within a southeast Texas family.

Once a short film, “Hellion” has been adapted into a feature film and has been chosen as the Opening Night Film for this year’s Citizen Jane Film Festival. Written and directed by Kat Candler and starring Aaron Paul, Juliette Lewis and Josh Wiggins, “Hellion” is a must-see.

“It’s about how all of these characters, specifically the father and the son, take responsibility for their lives,” Candler says. “They’re good people who, under the circumstances, are making really poor choices. The whole film is about them learning and growing and taking ownership of their actions. ’Responsibility’ is the word that I tried to hang everything on and tried to create each character through.”

Casting for the roles of Hollis Wilson (Paul) and Pam Noonan (Lewis) was a fairly simple task.

“Aaron (Paul) had been in a movie called ‘Smashed,’ which I really loved and I thought his performance was stellar,” Candler says. “I knew the director of that film and he helped with going through the agencies and getting the script to Aaron. Aaron just … fell in love with the story and character. He came on board and then Juliette (Lewis) came on board.”

On the other hand, casting for the roles of Hollis’ sons wasn’t nearly as simple. With casting running from spring through summer 2013, Candler looked for boys all across Texas who would be a perfect fit for the film.

“We would go to small towns in Texas and, with permission, we would sit in cafeterias and watch all these kids and pick out who I thought was interesting,” Candler says.

Eventually, two Texas-born boys were found to play the roles of Wes and Lance Wilson. Once Candler found first-time actor Wiggins to play the role of Jacob Wilson, it was all smooth sailing.

“Josh (Wiggins), our lead, had done a bunch of YouTube videos with Tommy from the short of Hellion,” Candler says. “We saw his YouTube videos and saw something really special about him in (them).”

One of the most important aspects of the film was location. Shooting in southeast Texas, Candler was determined to keep the film honest and accurate.

“We want to portray the community and the people … We needed to be there and shooting them, essentially,” she says. “It was so special to us to see that and for everyone to be able to be a part of it. When we were able to bring the film back to them before we officially released it early in the summer, (the locals) being able to see themselves on screen was really cool.”

If there’s anything Candler wants viewers to take from “Hellion,” it’s that being a kid isn’t always easy.

“There are a lot of kids in the world right now who’re dealing with a lot of shit,” she says. “They need to be heard and sometimes they’re not able to use their voices.

“Hellion” will be shown at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 7 at the Missouri Theatre with a special Q&A with Candler afterward.

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