Kyra Elise Gardner’s debut documentary, Living With Chucky, has been acquired by Yellow Veil Pictures. The documentary explores the iconic Child’s Play franchise from a personal and social perspective. Gardner is the daughter of Tony Gardner, who was the chief puppeteer for most of the franchise.
“I started the journey of making this film several years ago as a class assignment in film school. One semester we were asked to make documentary short films, which was a genre I despised as someone with ADHD. That was until I watched, Stories We Tell, which is a fascinating film that unravels a family’s secrets all from the perspective of the filmmaker. It showed me how intimate documentaries could feel and inspired me to focus my film on something personal,” said Kyra Gardner.
She originally intended to make a short movie on what it was like growing up with a special effects artist as a dad. She used to think she had a very normal childhood, but as Gardner grew older, she realized that no, not every kid comes home from preschool to find monsters, aliens, or fake dead bodies that their father had taken home from work.
“Most notably Chucky, the killer doll from Child’s Play, was something I would constantly come home to at the ripe age of four, and would give me nightmares for years to come. When I pitched the short in class, a teacher pointed out how often I referred to Chucky as my own brother and encourag
ed me to focus on that subset of my life since it is something that has been ingrained in my family for the past twenty years.”
In creating the short, Gardner said it felt like she was piecing together missing bits from her childhood. She finally met the other families surrounding the films that became a second family to her father while he was working in Romania or Canada. Gardner said they, like her, all referred to Chucky as an existing family member. As they revisited their memories, Gardner said that her seemingly isolated childhood from her father felt less lonely.
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“It was an incredible experience that resulted in feeling more involved with the ‘Chucky family,’ as my film opened for Cult of Chucky‘s premieres in London and Toronto that year. From there, it was ultimately the fans who inspired me to sit down and turn the film into a feature.”
Living with Chucky uses new and archival interview footage to expose the series’ cultural impact over the years with its principal cast and crew members, Don Mancini, Jennifer Tilly, Tony Garder, David Kirshner, and Chucky himself, Brad Dourif. The doc also includes interviews with fans such as Abigail Breslin, Marlon Wayan, and John Waters, who also appeared in a supporting role as a reporter in Seed of Chucky.
“They had so much passion and love for a character they considered to be their icon, yet to me is just my little brother who always gets to ride shotgun (I’m not joking, you have to buckle up Chucky anytime you travel).”
Kyra Gardner said that the doc was her chance to show fans, either new or day one die-hards, a glimpse into her reality. However, little did she know the “behemoth task” she had given herself trying to cover a beloved thirty-year-old franchise in under two hours while fresh out of film school. Besides that, many challenges, such as the editing process, legalities, and a global pandemic, were faced along the way.
“Living With Chucky has truly been a love letter not only to the franchise but to the people who work so tirelessly to continue to bring Chucky into the homes of horror fans everywhere. I hope people are able to feel just how much heart was poured into creating this film and possibly take away a newfound appreciation for their favorite franchise.”
Living With Chucky premiered at Popcorn Frights Film Festival last weekend. It will also screen at Frightfest in the UK, with additional festivals to be announced throughout the fall. It has joined the ranks of other documentaries about ‘80s slasher movie icons, such as Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday The 13th and Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy.