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Friday, October 2, 2020

How ‘The Craft: Legacy’ Invokes the Spirit of Legacy and Utilizes Authentic Witchcraft [Set Visit]

On the Toronto-based set of Blumhouse production The Craft: Legacy, writer/director Zoe Lister-Jones oversees the setup of a scene that’ll look very familiar to fans of the beloved 1996 film. Mirroring the opening credits of The Craft, the camera captures an altar from overhead, rotating in a circle as it looks down upon mysterious hands moving in and out of frame, touching the various candles, feathers, and spiritual items gathered around the pentagram in the center.

Once satisfied, Lister-Jones moves on to the next scene in this sequence, introducing the three teens sitting at the altar. They chant and summon their respective corners, the North, the East, and the South. After flubs, slight bickering, and failed results, the trio debates the need of a West to complete their circle. It’s a setup that matches the original film’s in nearly every way. Still, as the day on set progresses, it becomes clear that Lister-Jones has some very different ideas in her approach to modernizing this teen witch classic.

The most apparent departure begins with the witches.

The Coven

Tabby (Lovie Simone) – Fire

“My character’s Tabby, her element is fire. She’s the South. What else? She’s very chill. She’s very into video games, and she’s very into her craft. She’s got it from her mom, and she’s been into it all her life. That’s when she met Lourdes and Frankie, and then they just bonded because they all grew up with witchcraft,” Simone shares of her character. Simone has her own history with witchcraft and crystals, which made it easy for the actress to assume the role. A fan of the original, Simone had extra incentive to portray Tabby: “Because I’m doing what I normally do, and it’s a way to empower other women too.”

Frankie (Gideon Adlon) – Air

“Frankie is air, that’s her element,” Adlon describes her character, “Ok, this is going to sound stupid, but she’s a mix of DJ Khaled energy, badass feminist energy. She’s worldly. Frankie’s kind of always the goofball, but when it’s time to get serious, she can flip that switch. Her style and her personality look like a kindergartner like she threw it all together. She’s loud, and I love her.” Frankie’s the spirited witch of the bunch, the one that likes to crack jokes or play a little prank. When things get too serious, also call upon the air sign. 

Lourdes (Zoey Luna) – Earth

“The character is just so insanely close to me because not only is she trans, Latina, and a witch -I’m all three- she also gets kicked out by her mom. That happened to me when I was 17, a couple of months ago. Life imitates art or art imitates life; I don’t fucking know. But yeah, it’s crazy,” Luna marvels on the uncanny similarities with her character. 

Much like Rachel True‘s Rochelle faced racism in The Craft, expect this trans witch to face discrimination in her storyline. It’s a role that Luna feels honored to portray, “It was extremely important for me to be in this movie because, I mean obviously, I’m trans and there are not that many trans people who are in film that aren’t just a sex worker who gets killed at the end. I’m doing this for the little girls that grew up and didn’t have someone to look up to. And my character, she’s fucking fabulous.”

Both Luna and Lourdes are full of personality, something the character likely has in common with Abuela, the Brujeria that raised her. Per production designer Hillary Gurtler, Luna and Abuela’s distinct traditions of witchcraft played a role in her production design: “I was excited about Abuela and Lordis, just because they’re really colorful and layered. There’s a lot of personality and a hidden identity in each of them. I love the adjacent influence of Abuela’s beliefs in practice. And then Lourdes has her interpretation of it, and how she’s coming into her own.”

Lily (Cailee Spaeny) – Water

Lily marks the new witch in town. Spaeny explains her character’s background: “She’s a young girl that’s been a loner. Her best friend is her mother. She hasn’t had friends her own age at all. And she’s being uprooted from her life with her mom and moving into a whole new life with brand new people. She’s starting a new school, and then when she meets these girls, everything changes.” 

While Lily’s storyline seems closest to Robin Tunney‘s good witch Sarah, there are overt hints that Lily’s story arc is far more dramatic. The first tease comes from costume designer Avery Plewes. Plewes drew from each character’s elements in designing their wardrobe, and revealed, “So Tabby, Frankie, and Lourdes are fairly consistent throughout the movie because they’re practicing. But Lily has three arcs.” That little tidbit gives insight to both the costuming and the trajectory of Lily’s induction into the world of witchcraft. 

Plewes gives further insight into the characters through their costumes. “Lily’s element is water, and so we’ve incorporated a lot of pearls into her look. If you keep an eye out in the movie, there’s a lot of them. As the movie progresses, there are more water elements. You see the little droplets in here.”

“Then Hillary Gurtler and I picked a crystal for each girl and the color story for each girl. Lily’s water and her crystal is aquamarine, but I also have the motif of pearls in her closet. You’ll see a lot and then tie-dye. Tabby is fire, so she wears a ton of orange, and there are some scenes where she has flame print socks. On the first day of school, she has flames up her sleeve. Lourdes, for me, was more about texture. She’s earth, so she wears a ton of velvet, a ton of green. Green is her color and then also plaids to represent the Highlands. Frankie is air, and her closet is very all over the place, which represents air. She’s amethyst, so purple is her color, but she doesn’t wear a ton of purple.”  

The Witchcraft

In the second scene observed, all four girls are gathered together in a bedroom, getting ready for a party. As they’re prepping their makeup, they recount an incident earlier in class involving a boy they usually have unpleasant interactions with. Frankie laughs as she tells the girls of his strange behavior, while another quickly dismisses its relation to their magic spells. Meanwhile, Tabby listens on while using glamour to create flames on her newly painted fingernails, while Lourdes glamours makeup on Lily. The multiple uses of magic in this scene indicate the girls’ success with witchcraft as a foursome, and Lister-Jones sought to cover all bases. “In terms of witchcraft and the history of witchcraft, it’s so easy to see it as this one lane of Wicca. Our coven has to focus on their own particular brand of witchcraft, which is exciting about witchcraft, this sort of DIY. But I wanted them to come from traditions that were representative of various communities that practice witchcraft. I’ve always been interested in that tradition, and even things that are more voodoo, hoodoo related, without naming them specifically. I just wanted to make sure they were in the ether to show that witchcraft means so many things to so many different communities. Also, that it’s still stigmatized in so many communities,” says Lister-Jones.

To ensure the film’s portrayal of witchcraft was authentic, Lister-Jones enlisted help. Starting with Waking the Witch author and “The Witch Wave” podcaster Pam Grossman. “Pam Grossman has been my consultant throughout the screenwriting process because I wanted to make sure that I was getting everything right. And that witchcraft practitioners watching the film wouldn’t say that it doesn’t feel authentic to my experience or the practice. To make sure that I was honoring all traditions. She’s been incredibly helpful. I’ve been working with Bri Luna, more commonly known as the Hoodwitch, and comes from the brujeria and hoodoo/voodoo traditions in her lineage. Then Erin Fogel is our local Canadian witch. She’s been amazing to have on set to make sure in scenes where we’re practicing rituals that we’re practicing them authentically. She’s been helpful in opening and closing circles because magic is real, and it makes everyone feel safe even though we are just making a movie. Those women have been incredible in helping me navigate this world.”

Fogel proved especially helpful as the on-set witch consultant. She explains what precisely that means, “My role here with the film is to make sure that anything that pertains to something that might be occult, that it’s accurate. So, any of the spaces where the girls are practicing magic, or where they’re experimenting with ritual and starting to open up their power a little bit. Those are all things that I’ve been consulting on to make sure that they’re accurate to the way that someone who practices ritual, who has an interest in the occult, who works in the esoteric realm, that it’s authentic to the way that we would practice in our day to day lives. As well as making sure that things are cared for energetically with the film as well. Because if we’re doing spells and rituals and all kinds of practices that are part of the film, magic doesn’t know you’re acting. I’ve also been doing some work with some of the cast and crew to make sure they feel supported; that any energetic spaces opened through the practice in the film are also closed at the end of it.

“I think that there’s a pretty huge misconception of witchcraft that still exists predominantly in western culture. I don’t think that’s the case in some other places in the world, although, in other places in the world, I think sometimes there’s even more prejudice than there is in North America. I also think that a lot of that mentality is like a hangover from colonial culture, which has often failed to respect older, more indigenous practices connected with the earth and with nature and with the natural rhythms and cycles around us. Ultimately, being in a relationship with the natural world and with the rhythms and cycles of life is at the heart of witchcraft.”

Lister-Jones takes great care in the authenticity of both the women’s struggles and the witchcraft they dabble in, but she also pays her respects to the original film. Gurtler, perhaps an even bigger fan of the 1996 film, dove even deeper into the homages. “There’s visual Easter eggs and different types of set design that reflect the circumstances of characters and foreshadowing things to come.” Of those Easter eggs, Gurtler teases some of them will be deep cuts for the die-hard fans, “It’s some stuff that I’m thinking no one’s ever going to find. But we’re all of that generation, so we’ve all seen the movie dozens of times. Some things are just for fun.” 

Perhaps most interesting of all is that The Craft: Legacy is considered a continuation of the first film, rather than the reboot it appears to be. It makes sense, though, as the concept of legacy is apparent in this film already. 

The Craft: Legacy will be available widely on PVOD on October 28.


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