Your new movie Planchette
- in a few words, what is it about?
is a short horror film that was created for the Wicked Film
Challenge and it’s about a Halloween party circa 1986 that takes a
dark turn while the guests are playing with an Ouija board. It’s
got a great “Creep Show” vibe about it that I think makes it really
accessible to people who are just starting to explore the horror genre.
you elaborate on what the Wicked Film Challenge is and what challenges
this meant for the film?
The Wicked Film Challenge is similar to a 48 Hour Film Challenge, though
there’s a regional restriction that the team leader has to live within
50 miles of Boston and it’s a little more leisurely in comparison as
teams have approximately 2 months to write, shoot and edit their film,
although there are benchmarks which need to be met by certain dates to
avoid a penalty points.
My decision to sign-up only days
before registration ended meant I didn’t have the same luxury as other
teams to secure cast, crew and location before the kick-off event.
Teams randomly drew a genre and were assigned the same required
prop, character and line of dialogue.
One of the biggest
challenges I faced was trying to write a script in 2 weeks (the first
deadline of the competition) while
trying to secure a location, crew, props and everything else that goes
into production. Once I hit
the deadline of the script, we had 30 days to shoot and edit a one min
rough cut scene and have that uploaded to the judges to show progress
which might sound easy enough, but because this was so last min the
scheduling was a nightmare. My
first location fell through before the shoot date and there was only a
single day in which the entire cast and crew was available which was only
5 days away from the rough cut deadline.
All things considered, I think we did pretty
alright in the end thanks to an amazing team of people, both cast and
being about a Halloween party gone horribly wrong - any of this based on
actual horrible Halloween party experiences you had (apart from the killings I hope)?
Definitely not - I’ve seen plenty of Halloween parties go wrong, but
definitely not to this extreme! This
is purely a work of fiction and any similarities between any events or
people featured in the film dead or alive (especially dead!) are purely
Ouija board - your personal thoughts about/experiences with it?
I’ve always had a fascination
with the occult and prior to acquiring this Ouija board for the film, I
haven’t owned or touched one in over 20 years. When I was filming the
title sequence (at 3am no less), I had set the camera down on the board
for a moment to turn off the lights; I had barely made it to the other
side of the room when the camera low-battery sound chimed and shut itself
off. The battery was fully
charged and I had just turned the camera on. I wish I could say this was a
marketing ploy, but I was genuinely creeped out; I even posted a photo of
my goose bumps when it happened.
The next time it came out of the box was on set
and after filming it went right back in and that’s where it’s been
ever since. I was thinking about having the cast sign it, but I’m not
sure I want to touch it again. I’m
pretty sure Tiffany’s reaction (in the film) to the board is genuine as
were your (other) sources of inspiration when writing Planchette?
really; after I did a Google search for Mata Hari, it occurred to me the
easiest way to incorporate her as a character would be as someone’s
Halloween costume. I had
originally written the script that a dark spirit was released when Julia
took her hands off the Planchette before saying goodbye, but we ended up
having to improvise due to a costume not making it to set.
picks up a few slasher clichés, however tongue in cheek - is that a genre
you're at all into?
not at all, and I found it especially challenging to write a straight genre
film and I tend to skew towards comedic when I write.
I really just tried to write what I thought a stereo-typical
slasher film would be.
What can you tell us about your
directorial approach to your story at hand?
My directorial approach to Planchette
was very laissez-faire considering the challenges we faced.
I had only 2 weeks in which to write and revise my script before
submitting it for the first milestone deadline, so my focus was on making
sure the requirements for the dialogue, prop and character were met.
In the scene where Julia and Melissa are
discussing Julia’s date, Tiffany Howcroft ad-libbed the whole story with
the exception of the required line about Mark Wahlberg.
Similarly, the dialogue Stephen Wu delivers in the final scene was
talk about your cast, and why exactly these people?
There were a number of people who
signed up to participate in the Wicked Film Challenge, which included
writers, directors, actors, etc, but not as a team lead.
I found Stephen Wu (Killer/Late Party Guest) and Tiffany Howcroft
(Julia) on the participants list of actors, though I cast Sophia Cacciola
Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein interview - click here]
after I wrote the script. Michael
Oberther was a very last-minute addition to the cast, when the original
person I had cast (who was a first timer) was too nervous to do it.
Tiffany has experience as a
belly-dancer, so that worked really well for the Mata Hari character
(though we ended up cutting her dance number from the film) and Stephen is
super tall, especially in comparison to the women and I thought would
really add to the menacing nature of the character.
I had previously met Sophia once before and I was somewhat familiar
with her work, so she was the first one that popped into my head when I
created Melissa and luckily she agreed!
Michael Oberther and I actually went to high
school together and we had just recently reconnected through Facebook. We
were chatting over email when I asked him if he’d be interested in
filling the part of David, assuming he was still in Massachusetts.
We hadn’t seen each other in 20 years and come to find out he now
lives in Connecticut, yet he drove 2.5 hours on a Sunday to help me out.
How’s that for a good friend?!
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
Depending on the scene or time of
day, it was pretty laid back with people socializing and joking around
earlier in the day and we had a nice family style dinner in the evening
while waiting for the sun to go down in order to shoot the exterior
Shooting the scenes with the Ouija
board was genuinely creepy. When
Stephen was in full costume with the red ambient light behind him, he
completely disappeared and was replaced by this menacing figure that
towered over the actors who were sitting on the floor.
By the end of the night, we were all fighting
exhaustion but everyone really brought their game. I couldn’t have asked
for more dedication than these folks gave!
When will Planchette be released and where can
people see it?
Planchette just premiered at the
Wicked Film Challenge on June 26, 2015 and I’ve
submitted it to a select few genre festivals, so it may be coming to a
city near you! Barring any
premiere restrictions, I’ll be making it available online no later than
Any future projects
you'd like to share?
I think I may have mentioned a
horror-comedy I had been working on last time we spoke; I haven’t given
up on that, it’s just taken a backseat for now. I’m actually resuming
preproduction on another script I had written interim; the working title
is Staring into Oblivion.
The best way I can describe it is
sort of a psychological thriller/occult horror – think Rod Serling or
Ray Bradbury writing a story set in the H.P. Lovecraft universe; it’s
weird, dark and very atmospheric set in historic New England during the
Your/your movie's website,
Facebook, whatever else?
- Website: http://www.evilstew.com/planchette/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/planchettefilm/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/planchettemovie/
- IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4644642/
- Website: http://www.evilstew.com/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/evilstewfilm/
Anything else you are dying to
mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
worth mentioning Planchette
won two awards at the Wicked Film Challenge
– “Outstanding Sound Design” and “Outstanding Original Song”
thanks to the multi-talented Michael J. Epstein [Sophia
Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein interview - click here] who I now consider my
servant go-to guy for future projects!