Your new movie Stomping
Ground - in a few words, what is it about?
tells the story of a young couple on a weekend trip in
the American South who end up on an impromptu "Bigfoot hunt"
that threatens both their relationship and their lives. It's a hybrid
dramatic comedy / creature feature. It's my first feature film.
Is he a monster you're particularly fond of, and did you do any research
on the subject?
It didn't initially start out as a Bigfoot
film. I was aiming to make a small, character-driven film while also
injecting a creature feature horror element. I planned to shoot in my home
state of North Carolina and once I started researching folk tales and
stories from the region, I stumbled upon a surprising Bigfoot
history in a
forest really close to where I grew up. The film took off from there.
Other sources of inspiration when
writing Stomping Ground?
And is any of this (other than the Bigfoot-part
I hope) based on personal experience?
home" aspect definitely has a personal element -- I grew up in North
Carolina and am very fond of it, and always hoped to showcase the things I
love about it on film (the people, the food, etc). I live and work in Los
Angeles now, so "coming home" to my family is always very
important to me.
Ground, you focus on the human drama most of the movie and only
bring your monster in rather late in the narrative - what inspired that
rather unusual move?
I didn't want to make a standard
horror film. I wanted it to focus mostly on the character/relationship
element, with the scary elements only coming into play really late in the
game, creeping up slowly and bursting out right at the bitter end. I'm a
fan of the sort of horror films that re-imagine the genre -- films like
Gareth Evans' Monsters and the Duplass Brothers' Baghead were two pretty big influences for me in regards to
the films pacing & tone. Part of the reason for this was purely
financial (the film was basically self-financed for very little money) but
it was also something I'd been wanting to try for a long time.
What can you tell us about your
directorial approach to your story at hand?
We didn't have
much time or money, and it was my first time directing a feature, so I'm
not sure how to describe my directorial approach. I was wearing so many
hats and having to push to keep everything moving, so it was kind of a
whirlwind. I had an amazing cast & crew who I could lean pretty
heavily on, which definitely helped keep things running smoothly. Credit
for the great acting goes to my fantastic cast. Credit for the images goes
to my DP Alex Sablow and his camera crew. Credit for the creature work
goes to my makeup FX artist Dan Russo & the suit performer Kurt
Carley. Credit for the music goes to my brother -- an awesome banjo player
-- and my composer Ted Speaker. A filmmaker friend gave me a bit of advice
once: "Surround yourself with people more talented than you"...
so that's what I did.
about your movie's key cast for a bit, any why exactly these people?
Bobek ("Ben") is a friend of mine and a really talented LA-based
actor -- he's been in a few of my shorts and he was in my head while
writing the film. Tarah DeSpain ("Annie") is another friend and
amazing actress. Justin Giddings ("Jed") came through LA Casting
and was a real blessing... He definitely steals a lot of scenes in the
film. And Jeramy Blackford ("Paul") is a North Carolina based
actor who auditioned for us through, of all things, a YouTube video. I
never met him in person until the 1st day he showed up to shoot. Luckily,
that gamble paid off big time. He's amazing in the film and has become a
good friend as well.
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
shoot went surprisingly well. I was feeling pretty overwhelmed going into
it, but we lucked out in a lot of ways. The weather was perfect pretty
much the full 3 weeks we shot... It only rained once and we didn't lose
any time because of it. For 2 weeks the entire cast & crew lived
together in a cabin in the woods, giving the whole experience sort of a
"summer camp" feel. Everyone seemed to get along and after a
long day of working hard, we'd hang out on the back porch of the cabin
drinking beers and having fun. I think I got extremely lucky all across
the board. Most "first features" don't run as smoothly.
few words on critical and audience reception of your movie so far?
far it's been pretty good. I think the people who've seen it have
appreciated the slow burn, not-quite-horror approach to it. I think it
surprised people who may have thought they were in for a straight-forward
horror film but got something else. I think the more militant horror
community may not appreciate the film since it doesn't pile on the blood,
gore & nudity, but overall I think folks have dug it.
and where will Stomping
Ground be released onto the general public, actually?
film is being sold & distributed by California Pictures. It's
currently on VOD in Canada through January 31st 2015. We've sold the film
to a few foreign territories so far and more are coming soon. We don't
have a US release scheduled yet, but hopefully everyone will be able to
see the film come spring of 2015.
future projects you'd like to share?
I've got a bunch of
potential projects I would love to make, but currently no
financiers/backers. We're working on it though. I've written a "body
swap dark comedy" that I really love and a writing partner of mine is
polishing up a PG-13 kid friendly monster movie that would be pretty
amazing if we ever get to make it.
What got you into
filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal education on
Dan, John Bobeck, Tarah DeSpain, Jusdin
Giddings, Jeramy Blackford
Filmmaking has always interested me, but I
didn't get serious about it until college. I didn't go to a
"real" film school, it was more of a communications / television
program. I did spend a semester at FAMU in Prague, Czech Republic,
getting a more formal film education.
What can you tell us about your filmwork
prior to Stomping Ground?
made a few short films and worked on countless other films, videos, etc.
By day I'm a TV producer with E! Entertainment's The Soup. My
2010 short film Night of the Punks did pretty well on the
festival circuit and with critics. I'm really proud of that one. Folks can
watch it at
would you describe yourself as a director?
I have no clue.
Just a guy who likes funny & scary movies and wants to make more of
who inspire you?
Sam Raimi, John Carpenter, Edgar Wright,
Ti West, the Duplass Brothers, Danny Boyle.
Your favourite movies?
of the Living Dead, Evil
The Goonies, The Dirties.
and of course, films you really deplore?
Being an indie
filmmaker who's trying to break into bigger things, I don't want to
publicly slag any film or filmmaker. But I will say that I'm really bored
by big budget action / superhero flicks. Anything that's just a bunch of
CGI comic book characters destroying buildings is a real snooze in my
opinion. So yeah, I guess the Transformers movies.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
you are dying to mention and I have forgotten to ask?
a fun fact for horror fans -- Stomping
features a cameo appearance
from Theresa Tilly, who's best known as one of the original "Ladies
of the Evil Dead" from Sam Raimi's Evil
Dead. We were really lucky to
land her and she was a real pleasure to work with.
for the interview!