Unafraid of the dark: interview with Lucky’s Julia Swain

Lucky. Image courtesy Shudder
Lucky. Image courtesy Shudder /
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Shudder Original film Lucky will premier on the streaming platform March 4, and 1428 Elm chatted with the Director of Photography, Julia Swain about filming the tense, surreal horror feature.

Julia earned her MFA in Cinematography at UCLA, where she was awarded the Women in Film Cinematography Fellowship. She was also the cinematographer for the feature Speed of Life, which starred Ann Dowd (the foreboding Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale).

Before we delve into the interview, here is a brief synopsis of Lucky: May is a writer of self-help books, and has been very successful. She suddenly finds herself trapped in a nightmare, as a man with murderous intentions comes after her every night. She is, of course, terrified, but everyone else around her fails to even notice what’s going on. With no help from her friends and family, May must find a way to survive the evil stranger.

1428 Elm:  I’m a subscriber and a huge fan of Shudder, and I was really excited to hear that Lucky had been picked up by them, I heard some buzz on it early on. Are you a fan of horror, or was this your first time venturing off into that world?

Julia: I am a fan of horror. I’m not an encyclopedia of horror films per se, but I enjoy watching it and have enjoyed shooting a lot of it. I’m a big advocate of horror, and I think it’s a lot of fun to do.

Behind the scenes of Shudder’s original film Lucky. Image courtesy of Julia Swain and Shudder /

1428 Elm: Yeah, I think a lot of people downplay horror, and I think they’re missing something pretty big there. So, tell our readers what your job is as DP for a film, what do you do?

Julia: As a DP, or Director of Photography, our job is to basically interpret a written script into visual storytelling, and to work closely alongside the director of the film to bring the story to life onscreen. And we decide how that story and its specific elements dictate our photographic choices. So, we decide where to put the camera, which is the focal point of the audience, and how to move it or not move it, when to reveal or conceal information, and how to light a space or character. We break down every scene and dig into what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it.

1428 Elm: Can you give us a brief synopsis of Lucky?

Julia: Lucky is about a self-help author named May who basically finds herself being stalked by an unknown killer every night, and then when she realizes this sort of striking lack of help from anyone around her, she has to take on this killer herself.

1428 Elm: Did Lucky make the film festival circuit?

Julia: It did. It was selected for a SXSW premiere in 2020. It went to premiere Internationally at Fantasia, and a lot of great horror festivals including SITGES. We actually had a really great festival run.

1428 Elm: That’s probably how I heard about it, I was familiar with it before it was picked up by Shudder, and I’ve been looking forward to seeing it.