Elle Callahan directs and Elizabeth Mitchell also stars in this modern America-set film where witches are real and witchcraft is illegal.
Head Count was one of my favorite films of 2019 so going into SXSW 2020, you can imagine my excitement when I saw a new Elle Callahan feature on the line-up. On top of that? The ensemble included Elizabeth Mitchell and rising stars Abigail Cowen and Gideon Adlon. Suffice it to say, Witch Hunt immediately became my most anticipated title of the festival. Sadly SXSW 2020 never happened in full due to the pandemic, but this year SXSW is going virtual and Witch Hunt is back on the roster!
The movie is set in a modern America where witches are real and the use of witchcraft is outlawed. Adlon steps in as Claire, a high school student who witnesses prejudices against suspected witches at school while, in secret, her mother (Mitchell) is helping a young witch (Cowen) hide from law enforcement at home.
Cowen and Adlon are both in the process of building impressive filmographies and, it just so happens, both already gained a good deal of notoriety with projects about witches. For Cowen it was with her run on the Netflix series, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Here’s what she said when discussing lessons learned on CAOS that came in handy while making Witch Hunt:
“I feel like this film is so different. Yes, it is witchcraft, but they’re very different characters. But just the magical element, I guess using my imagination in certain scenarios, you could say I was kind of used to. But it definitely was a completely different character, completely different type of project to tackle for me, which is fun and it was a challenge.”
Adlon had the reverse experience. She made Witch Hunt before filming the 2020 release, The Craft: Legacy. It turns out, something Callahan suggested while making her movie came in handy big time for Adlon when she moved over to The Craft. Adlon explained:
“Elle told me to listen to The Witch Wave podcast, which is Pamela Grossman’s podcast. She’s a witch, she’s awesome and I actually got to work with her hand-in-hand on The Craft. And she taught me a lot more about witchcraft and everyday witchcraft and covens in Toronto because she flew to Toronto to teach us about casting spells and all of that. It was really intense. I almost don’t know how to talk about it because it was incredible. We did ceremonies together and I definitely took a lot of what I learned from her podcast. Then when I met her I was like, ‘Oh my god, I just did this movie called Witch Hunt. I love your podcast and I read your book!’ Because of Elle I did that! But yeah, definitely working on these two movies has taught me so much more about the art of witchcraft and what it can do for you in your everyday life.”
As for Mitchell, she’s no stranger to tackling sci-fi and high concept projects that dig into real world flaws and in the case of Witch Hunt, it was the idea of telling a fantasy story that didn’t feel fantastical that appealed to her. Here’s how she put it:
“I liked the truth of it. I like the idea that people are afraid of women’s wisdom, women’s strength, women’s courage, women’s empathy, all of those things. And that absolutely drew me in. I liked that it was something extraordinary, but told realistically and I think that’s what set it apart a little bit. I like telling the truth in fantastical situations, but this just felt so true, the way that it was done, the way that Elle organized it, the way that everyone played these roles. Nothing about it felt fantastical. It felt once again that there were a group of people being pushed down for being extraordinary.”
If you’d like to hear more about Witch Hunt, check out our full conversation with Mitchell, Adlon, Cowen and Callahan in the video interview at the top of this article. While we wait for more information on the film’s release plans, be sure to catch Callahan’s feature directorial debut Head Count, which is now streaming on Amazon.
Elle Callahan, Gideon Adlon, Abigail Cowen and Elizabeth Mitchell
- 00:26 – What is Witch Hunt about?
- 01:02 – Callahan details the experience making the move from her feature directorial debut, Head Count, to getting Witch Hunt off the ground.
- 02:07 – How Callahan strove to push herself as a director on Witch Hunt.
- 03:10 – Did Cowen find her Sabrina experience coming in handy while making Witch Hunt?
- 04:22 – Adlon details going from making Witch Hunt to The Craft: Legacy; learning more about the art of witchcraft.
- 05:56 – Adlon addressees the misconceptions of real life witchcraft.
- 07:35 – Mitchell on what draws her to tackling real world flaws through sci-fi stories.
- 08:57 – Mitchell and Adlon discuss establishing the mother-daughter vibe between their characters.
- 10:07 – Cowen on working with Echo Campbell who plays her little sister in the film.
- 12:28 – The cast highlights what makes Callahan a standout director and leader on set.
- 15:31 – Callahan revisits her experience working as an editorial assistant on Wonder Woman.
- 17:05 – You might recognize their filming location from other popular shows and movies.
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