Tis the season of rolling fog, seemingly smoke-covered grey skies, and long chilly nights in Croatia…
Though Halloween is behind us, nature continues to set the perfect scene for horror film watching season. Indeed, being scared is fun (science says so!), and it's made even better when the world around us seems to match our favourite hair-raising film plots. Maybe it's easier, too, when we can blame the bumps in the night on a typical November draft.
Then again, horror films can be enjoyed all year long, especially when they're good. The type of good that goes beyond solely visually striking scenes and temporary emotions. The type of good that engages and makes you feel – and keeps you thinking, even weeks after watching.
Such a thrilling (through and through) experience can be found in The Accursed, an independent film by women-led production gang, Almost Normal Productions. If there was ever a trio to "make films for women to channel their inner badass" (the studio's slogan), it's Elizabeta Vidovic, Kathryn Michelle, and Izabela Vidovic. The three women behind Almost Normal Productions are equal parts talented, full of life, intelligent, kind, passionate, and – badass, of course.
Time Out Croatia caught up with Elizabeta, Kathryn, and Izabela to get the lowdown on their upcoming film – one that we're very excited for.
At the Los Angeles-based Almost Normal Productions, we're told, "we all wear all the hats!" Elizabeta, Kathryn, and Izabela each write, produce, and direct, but at times, certain individual strengths are honed in on. Elizabeta is terrific at taking the lead, and Kathryn is an improv artist extraordinaire, while Izabela kills the acting game (pun intended; we're talking about a starring role in The Accursed, after all).
Behind the official titles, the trio is a powerhouse of female energy. Elizabeta and Izabela are mother and daughter, while Kathryn recently had a baby. The strength of each of the 'almost normal ladies,' as they call themselves, is clearly reflected through the on-screen stories they weave. Their The Accursed doesn't just frighten. It also inspires, telling the story of a woman unflaggingly fighting for her family.
But for the exact details, you'll have to tune in yourself.
If you're already excited to watch, we don't blame you. The Accursed, starring exceptional Croatian and Bosnian actors Goran Visnjic, Izabela Vidovic, Miraj Grbic, Mara Omaljev, and Ella Mische, and featuring Eastern European cultural themes, is set to release on Friday, November 12.
Our recommendation is to act fast and pre-order the film for a limited-edition gift, which is available up until the release. The gift includes one exclusive ticket to a 30-minute Zoom Q&A with the main cast, a The Accursed script cover page signed by the 'almost normal ladies' with a personalized message, and a The Accursed limited-edition colouring book, with signatures from the entire main cast on the cover (Yancy Butler, Izabela Vidovic, Goran Visnjic, Maiara Walsh, George Harrison Xanthis, and Jena Carpenter). To receive your gift, simply email a screenshot of your purchase to info@almostnormalproductions.
For exact release details – in which theatres the film will screen and on which platforms it'll stream – keep an eye on the Almost Normal Productions website.
While eagerly awaiting the film, dip into our interview with Elizabeta, Kathryn, and Izabela below. We cover everything from their journey as a trio, across The Accursed filming details, all the way to Elizabeta's and Izabela's best Croatia travel advice!
About Almost Normal Productions and the industry
Could you give our readers an introduction to Almost Normal Productions and your story as a trio?
Elizabeta: Kathryn and I met back in 1999 in an acting class, and we both moved to Los Angeles. The friendship continued, and then she approached me with the idea of a short film in the early 2000s. We produced it together and the rest is kind of history with us. Bela joined in 2017 when we started producing what was at the time Severed Silence and is now The Accursed. And the rest is history, again! As far as the company goes, we produce films and content for women to channel their inner badass, in a nutshell. Our content gives women a voice, not only on screen but behind the camera as well.
What have been some of the challenges on your journey so far?
Izabela: Marketing the project, for me, has been the biggest learning curve. We're going through the process right now, and I think this is currently the largest scale of marketing that any of us have had to do for any of our films. It's been a really cool process learning how to do that, but we've also made mistakes and had trials and errors. It's something that I feel like a lot of artists don't know how to do innately because it's not creative. I mean, it is creative, but it's a different kind of creativity.
Elizabeta: I don't know as far as creativity in marketing. I'm glad that she can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Elizabeta: Us artists, we have to work hard at learning how to market. It's just not something we're born with.
Kathryn: I agree, the marketing has been a big undertaking and a really big challenge. But, I think early on it was the financing. For all independent filmmakers, looking for funding for your film is most often harder than the actual making of the movie. Don't get me wrong – having a good script really is the key to everything, but getting the money was the biggest challenge.
Elizabeta: That's joy to us. Writing together and all the creative stuff. But all the other stuff that's very producing-related we had to do a lot of research on. For me, another challenge is finding time because there's so much to do, and all three of us are busy with other things too.
Izabela: It's a three-person team and it's a lot of work. It's full-time with a giant production company, let alone three people handling all of it. So because we're all wearing all the hats, it can be difficult.
Elizabeta: Having families and having children also presents a challenge. Kathryn just had a baby, too.
Kathryn: Time management got just a little bit harder.
On the other side of the spectrum, could you point out something that's been most rewarding?
Elizabeta: I love seeing our films come to life. I love seeing my creative partners' faces once the project is finished and everybody is there with big eyes going, "Wow we made this movie, this is crazy. We did it ourselves!" One of my personal favorites is also hearing from our fellow supporters when they say that our content has added value to their lives. We love that.
Kathryn: I agree 100%. The thing that I love is also the camaraderie, and I know Beta and Bela will concur with that. It's about building memories and friendships when you do an independent film. That's so rewarding. You walk away from it and you actually miss those people, you miss the work – and that says something.
A piece of advice for someone trying to make it in the movie industry is…
Elizabeta: I think across the board in the entertainment industry, it'd be to not compare yourself to others. Also that tomorrow is a new day if today sucks. Another one is that it doesn't happen overnight. It's a journey that takes a while, and we tend to hear, "So-and-so made it overnight" or that someone all of a sudden has a hit film, and I just don't think it works that way. People tend to work for a very long time before something happens. Every creative journey, in general, is a self-discovery journey and it takes time. So, it's very important to be patient with yourself.
Izabela: For me, it's learning to not let other people's definition of success define mine. I think that everybody has a different idea of what success means. For some it's monetary, for some it's creative. Whatever it might be, it's important to set a goal for yourself and to not falter in trying to reach that goal, versus compromising what you originally wanted this for because of other people.
Kathryn: I'd add not letting people tell you you can't do it. If we listened to the naysayers saying, "You can't do that," we would never have done anything, because they're always out there. If there's something you don't know, you can learn it. Don't ever let someone make you feel inadequate if there's something you don't know. Just don't let the naysayers in, block 'em out.
About the Almost Normal ladies
What are your ties to Croatia and the region?
Elizabeta: I was born in Germany but I was raised in Bosnia. I'm Bosnian-Croatian. My family has had a home in Croatia since the 80s. We have an apartment about 15 miles [24 kilometres] outside of Trogir, in a small town called Poljica. By nationality we're Croatian. Kathryn is an honorary Croatian!
Kathryn: My ties are the Vidovics! After years of writing stories together, I feel like I have a built-in connection and love for Croatia. If it wasn't for COVID, and then having a baby, we were planning a trip to Croatia. It's going to be postponed until little man is just a bit older, but I can't wait! I've seen the pictures, I've heard the stories, and I know it's going to be an incredible journey.
Elizabeta: One more tie Kath, you forgot burek.
Kathryn: [Gasps] That's my favorite thing in the whole wide world!
Kathryn: I am not even lying. She [Elizabeta] makes it special for me for my birthday. That's my gift. It's amazing. Burek was the best discovery ever!
Your favourite movie genre currently is…
Elizabeta: I don't really have a favorite genre, I like just great content. But, The Accursed has been dominating our lives for the past few years and it's a horror film. So, horror thriller has been dominating my screen as a result. We like to watch great content of the same genre that we're producing. But I don't really have a favorite favorite… If I had to choose it would maybe be the crime, psychological thriller, mystery genre. If I had to! I just like good content.
Izabela: It's hard to pick a favorite genre. I think currently mine would be darker stuff because that's what we've been in, so probably horror thriller.
Kathryn: I agree, we had to immerse ourselves – not had to, but we have – in so much horror. We've researched women in horror because women are so underrepresented in the genre, so it's been really neat to explore that. But oddly enough, I can't resist a good shark movie.
Izabela: I was hoping she'd say that!
Elizabeta: It's an inside joke.
Kathryn: But it's true! [Laughing]
Elizabeta: She's seen every Sharknado.
Izabela: I've probably seen every rom-com that exists on the planet.
Kathryn: We all have our little oddities!
A few of your favourite films…
Elizabeta: Oh, my least favorite question because I can't choose! For a favorite film, Pan's Labyrinth always pops into my head. It really affected me. Million Dollar Baby also really affected me. Then, everything from the Hitchcock Collection, or most of it. Seven is probably a perfect thriller crime.
Izabela: Or anything that [David] Fincher does.
Elizabeta: Exactly! I'm a huge Kathryn Bigelow fan. Point Break hits a personal spot with me, it may not be a perfect film but I absolutely love it. Strange Days. I'm a huge Emir Kusturica fan, he's a Bosnian director. I just love the way he portrays Bosnian culture and how colorful the characters are. Time of the Gypsies is probably one of my favorite films of all time. The Last of the Mohicans. I'm just thinking what really left an imprint and what made me run to the bathroom and cry in shame, because I didn't want my family to see me. I could go on, I'm just going to stop [laughing].
Izabela: There are a few films I often rewatch. I watch Good Will Hunting all the time, it's one of my favorites. I watch When Harry Met Sally… like a religion. I watch it way too much [laughing]. Other than that, I love anything by Tarantino. I love Titanic, it's the perfect romance. I love John Carney as a director, he's done films like Once and Sing Street. I love music films. I love the Johnny Cash biopic, Walk the Line. I just love anything with music. Then I also really love Dead Poets Society, that's one of my favorite films for screenplay. And Monsters, Inc. and Ratatouille are two personal favorites [laughing] in the animated area.
Kathryn: It's interesting because I think the three of us have very similar tastes, and I think that's why we work really well together. We kind of have that hive mind in a way. So, everything that they mentioned, I love. But my favorite film of all time is The Fisher King, it's an older 90s film with Robin Williams. There was something about it that just struck a cord when I first watched it, and every time I see it come on I'm glued to the screen. Mercedes Ruehl and Jeff Bridges are in it. It's a [Terry] Gilliam film. Most recently, it would be Saint Maud. It's a 2019 psychological horror written and directed by Rose Glass. I respected what she did. It's an A24 film and really goes along their themes. They take risks with their films, and it's just really odd and unnerving. It was really beautifully shot. So that's one of my new favorites, my little obsession now. I'll leave it at that because we really could go on and on. We talk movies all the time!
Elizabeta: We quote lines from films all the time too!
A few people in the industry who have inspired you…
Elizabeta: Well, I'm looking at 'em. Kathryn and Bela. Kathryn has always been an inspiration, and that's one of the reasons we've been working together for two decades now. We're moving through one of the most challenging phases of an independent filmmaker's life, marketing, and she's doing it with a baby on her hip. I have two kids and I understand how challenging that is. Every time it gets hard, I go, "She's doing all this, but with a baby on her hip, so stop." [Laughing] It's like, what's that line from Date Night when Steve Carell and Tina Fey – there's the movie quoting – when they're running together and she says, "Just remember I'm doing all this in heels!" Then, Bela is 20 and she wants to go out and experience life. But she shows up every day. She has aspirations and things she wants to do outside of ANP, because it is tedious work sometimes. As much as we love it, it's repetitive, but those are things you must do to succeed. And Bela always shows up.
Izabela: Kath and I are both blushing! [Laughing]
Kathryn: I'm not going to say anything other than I love you guys and that they are my inspiration as well.
Izabela: Kathryn and Elizabeta and myself are like the perfect trio in the sense that we all have such different personalities and we all contribute such different things to the team. We have different ways of working that complement one another. [To Elizabeta] Yours is that you assume very much a leadership type of position. You always keep us organized.
Kathryn: She's like our project manager.
Izabela: Yeah! She's always there to keep us motivated, and without her, I feel like we may float a little bit. I think that there's always that one person who grounds everybody.
Elizabeta: That's sweet, thank you. I just think that's a code for difficult but…
Izabela: No! I just think Kathryn and I are similar in the sense that we're both more task-oriented people, but sometimes organizing those tasks gets a little overwhelming.
Kathryn: I agree 100% with everything Bela said. When Beta and I started working together, we did a fundraiser to raise money for a film, and when we got to the location, it was… A. Wreck. There were trees that hadn't even been planted! So, we both got out there with zero sleep, and started digging holes to put the trees in. I remember looking over going, "I love her so much!" She's willing to get down and get dirty, and she's got this amazing strength. I thought "That's my girl, that's my kinda girl." From then on out I knew we were going to work together forever!
What or who did you grow up watching as a kid?
Elizabeta: I had two channels, and one didn't work. But we had films on Sunday afternoons that were American classics. I grew up with Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe, Yul Brynner, Gary Cooper, and all the classic Western films. That's what I remember and that's what made me fall in love with moviemaking.
Izabela: Very different era here. But I think that, compared to people my age, I started watching mature content at a younger age. Not necessarily explicit content, but mature in that I was watching films that dealt with heavier subjects that other 10-11-year-olds might not have seen, because I was acting already. Good Will Hunting was a film that I saw really young and that stuck with me. Aside from that, I definitely idolized Hannah Montana, not going to lie. And Kathryn can attest that I am absolutely obsessed with Friends.
Izabela: There are 10 seasons, and I've seen every episode at least three times, so…
Kathryn: It makes gift-giving easy! [Laughing] She's gotten Friends games, Friends shirts, Friends magnets…
Kathryn: Mine was a very standard American TV. We didn't have a lot of channels either, we had about three total. If the Cardinals game wasn't on TV, because I'm from St. Louis, Missouri, it would usually be me sneaking in and watching the Jackson 5ive cartoons and stuff like that. Also, the Dolly Parton show was one of ma favorites… [in a southern accent]
Kathryn: She ended every episode with I Will Always Love You and I would sing it at the top of my lungs with her. I'm a big Dolly fan.
Elizabeta: Everybody loves Dolly.
Kathryn: Dolly is awesome. And she's such a huge philanthropist. She's an inspiration in that realm too.
Where in the world do you feel most creative?
Kathryn: In nature. I'm a walker, I walk everywhere. It's what I do to clear my head. Nature is where I go to feel inspired. Outside, in the sunshine, breathing the fresh air, hearing the birds, seeing the flowers.
Elizabeta: I agree Kath, nature is very healing. But for me, because I've been on the road for so long, I've had to adapt to many places. I made peace with the fact that sometimes a chair, a working computer, and some music that was appropriate for the content I was making, were all I needed. Izabela just the other day said to me, "It's so crazy, you wrote or edited every one of the screenplays on our couch." [Laughing] Life taught me to adapt.
Izabela: I love being in nature but it's never served as creative inspiration for me. It's almost as if when I go into nature I want to block all of my thoughts out and be away from it. I think inspiration is more just a headspace for me. My location doesn't really matter, it's where I'm at mentally. If anything, I go on drives. Really long drives at night because when you're driving you can just focus on that without other distractions. In those moments I can think clearly.
When you're having a creative block, what's your go-to fix?
Elizabeta: Personally, and I don't necessarily give this advice, but I don't really fix creative blocks. I just let them pass. Like kidney stones.
Elizabeta: And they're just as painful.
Kathryn: Honestly, I just step away. I take myself out of the situation and put my focus on something else like my kids. I get out of my head and then go back to later. If I start dwelling on that creative block and making it bigger than it is, then it becomes a problem. But if I don't give it it attention, I'm usually fine.
Izabela: I don't know what I do…
Elizabeta: You sing! She sings.
Izabela: I sing all the time. My family is annoyed by it. I listen to music when I have a creative block. I find there are a lot of answers in lyrics, because lyrics are universal and people sing about the same stuff.
About "The Accursed"
What motivated you to create a horror movie with Croatian talent, set against an Eastern European background?
Elizabeta: It's the richness of the culture and folklore and music. When we worked with Goran [Visnjic], we used two Bosnian songs called sevdalinke. When Goran heard them, his eyes lit up and he said "Wow!" The two actors that sang the songs did an amazing job. They are George [Harrison Xanthis] and Maiara [Walsh]. Goran was so impressed and he said, "I heard these songs growing up, my father would play them in the garage." And I guess it's kind of like that. It's about leaving that imprint in all of my content, those threads and ties to my culture. That's very important to me. Taking a piece of my soul, without sounding corny or cheesy, and putting it into my work.
Izabela: I think that what was cool is that George and Maiara sang the songs. Maiara is Brazilian and George is Australian and Greek, and because they both come from families with ethnic backgrounds, they even without knowing the songs or the language said it felt kind of like being at home. There was something about it that felt very familiar to them too and that was cool to see.
Kathryn: Growing up with American cinema, it can be a little narrow on the cultural aspect of things. So adding Eastern European elements into our film, the stories, and the things that Beta shared with me while we were writing, just really brought an old-world experience, for me, into the work. It really enriched the work, made it so colorful and deep and beautiful. A beautiful quilt. I think it'll expand everybody's world a little bit, understanding that there are other cultures out there, and how they operate.
[Check out the official "The Accursed" trailer below.]
Who is The Accursed intended for?
Kathryn: Anyone who loves the unexpected and the unique. This film definitely doesn't follow the status quo. Anybody who loves horror, anybody who loves a good mystery, anybody who loves the supernatural. Anybody that is interested in learning about wonderful culture. Everyone can find something to enjoy in this film.
Elizabeta: Anybody who loves a story of a strong woman who is fighting for her family relentlessly. That's such a central theme of the story.
Izabela: Anybody who likes horror with a mix of other genres, too. I know it's kind of an overused term, but this is high-concept horror, in the sense that it's not a straightforward gory slasher. It's got more depth. Not to put down slashers, because I love a good slasher. But The Accursed's complexities make it a little more than just horror, which I find unique.
Elizabeta: It's for people that like to really dive into the story. Somebody that likes to figure things out, who the killer is, where the puzzle pieces fit, what things mean.
What were each of your roles in terms of making the movie?
Elizabeta: It's hard to pin down. We all do everything. We write, produce, and direct all of our content.
Izabela: All three of us have done a mix of that, and acting. Writing, producing, directing, and acting, all three of us have done one or all of those roles and some point.
Elizabeta: With The Accursed in particular, Kathryn and I directed, wrote, and produced, and Bela starred and produced. Those would be probably the most prominent roles. But for example, Kathryn is a very talented artist and graphic designer. On our very first project, Find Me, she did all of the artwork. We were missing some pictures, and she just whipped out, I don't even know what she found in the house. She drew a bunch of things, and there it was, we had art that we could hang up.
Kathryn: [Laughing] They were HVAC filters that I found in the downstairs closet. I flipped them over and did paintings on those.
Elizabeta: Only her. And then she does all of our graphic designs which is usually a job for a totally separate person. People hire graphic designers to do just that, but on top of everything else, she has done literally every piece of graphic design work for the company as well as for The Accursed.
Did the pandemic change your timeline at all?
Izabela: So in 2017, it was still Severed Silence. We did an Indiegogo campaign under that name, and then it got retitled to The Accursed, but it's the same project. Then we got the rest of the funding and filmed it in 2019. The pandemic actually didn't halt things for us. We got lucky because the pandemic hit right after we filmed it, and then we were able to finish the film in post-production during the pandemic.
Kathryn: I think the only thing that was a challenge was that a lot of the post facilities were closed down. So we had to do a lot of workarounds. It did take a little bit longer. We even set up a coloring station in the Vidovics' living room. But we were determined to get things done and make it work. So, yes, a little bit – but we pushed through. We wore masks, we social distanced, and we built little stations for post.
Izabela: I think it was the best phase that we could've gotten caught in during the pandemic, the post phase.
How often do you visit Croatia?
Izabela: Every couple years.
Elizabeta: The goal is every year but for now it's every couple.
Do you have a favourite place in Croatia?
Izabela: It's all so beautiful, it's hard to pick one specific place. I think my favorite place in Croatia is on the balcony of our apartment. Since we're right near Trogir and our apartment is on the top floor, when you go on the patio you can see everything. You see the sea, you see all the little towns, all the architecture of the coastal towns that are one after another, and it's such a beautiful view. But that's kind of biased. My favorite part of Croatia that I've been to may be between Šibenik and Makarska, right on the water. When you're eating food and you're right on the water, that's my favorite thing.
Elizabeta: I visited Dubrovnik two years ago for the first time. I can't believe that was the first time. I mean, I grew up in Bosnia and we visited Croatia and we never went. Trogir was quite far and my dad was not a fan of driving, so, I told my husband, "Next time we go, we're going to Dubrovnik!" Now I know what all the fuss is about. It's not exaggerated, it really is one of the most beautiful cities. But Trogir is in my heart because I kind of grew up there. I went to Trogir almost every year since I was 14-15 years old, until I moved. I would go to Trogir with my friends, and we would stay there the entire summer in our house. It's what I know in Dalmacija [Dalmatia]. I think it's a hidden jewel of Dalmatia, Trogir. People know Dubrovnik and Split, but you say Trogir and they're like "What?" [Laughing] But it's become more touristy in the past 10 years.
What are the best meal and drink you've had in Croatia?
[Kathryn whispers "Burek!"]
Elizabeta: It's hard because when I go home I eat my mom's food, which is literally the best food in the world. My mom is the best cook. I've learned everything from her. So I don't usually go to restaurants in Bosnia, it's just not a thing in Bosnia. Women in Bosnia – I mean, Kathryn knows I do the same thing here – they cook and everybody eats at home together.
Izabela: Yeah, but when we go to Croatia we do go out more. I'm trying to think of some of the best places that we've been to…
Elizabeta: Goran actually recommended Zlatna Ribica, which is in Brodarica, Šibenik. We also had really good food in Dubrovnik, it was Konoba Jezuite. Then, the restaurant Barba in Trogir is fantastic. I also have to mention Miloš Winery on the Pelješac Peninsula. That's just to name a few. When you're on the riva [riviera] in Trogir, they're one next to another, from great coffee shops to restaurants. In Makarska, the last time we were there, we had fantastic food on the riva as well. I remember a boat rolled in with all these people partying on it – and I'm talking partying – and I was like, "I want to be there!"
Kathryn: I think you guys sent me a video of that.
Elizabeta: I think so, being like, "This is how we party in Croatia!"
Kathryn: I was like, I'm so jealous!
Elizabeta: But the seafood in Croatia is just some of the best I've ever had. And the wine is just… Dingač is probably my favorite wine in the whole wide world.
Croatia is a place for…
Elizabeta: Wine. Rakija. Šljivovica – Kathryn loves šljivovica. The best seafood. Relaxing. Enjoying nature.
Izabela: Swimming! I much prefer swimming in the sea than I do in the ocean. It's also probably the most beautiful drive I've been on, the coast. So for a scenic road trip. And then for bonding over food.
Elizabeta: Yup, it's like, "Have a seat, eat some, drink some," and everybody is happy.
A tip for anyone thinking about or planning on visiting Croatia…
Elizabeta: Take the time to do the coastal drive in Dalmatia. Much like when people ask what they should do when they come to California, every time I say, "Take the time and drive from LA all the way to San Francisco. Take the Pacific Coast, take the 10-hour drive." The PCH is beautiful and so is the Dalmatian coast, it's stunning.
Izabela: I would say take the time to stop in all the little cities and walk them. Stop in the little coffee shops. I think it's good to itinerize, but it's also good to be spontaneous with it.
Elizabeta: Yes, take your time. It's smaller. Everything in the US is large, and there it's a little more compact so the drive is not that far.
Croatia or California?
Izabela: That's not fair! [Laughing] I mean, probably California. I think Croatia is in my heart in the sense that it's my culture and my family. However, I love California because it's my home. But I think it would be unfair for me to say that I could pick one over the other because I just love them both for different reasons.
Elizabeta: It's really hard to say. If you ask me where my home is, I would definitely say Croatia. But, then my home is where my family is, so… It's hard. I just love both. But Croatia is in my heart, much like Bosnia is in my heart.
Do you apply any Croatian wisdom to your work now? Something your grandparents taught you, for example?
Elizabeta: I'm just going to say one, because there are so many. Život je dug kad ne voliš ono što radiš. That means "Life is very long, and not in a good way, when you don't love what you do."
Find the Almost Normal Productions website with all project information here, follow the ladies' work on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube), sign up for an Almost Normal Productions newsletter (for weekly notes of empowerment from the ladies, updates on projects, and their personal stories to inspire you) here – and don't forget to pre-order The Accursed on iTunes!