You are currently working on a horror anthology - so do talk about
the overall concept of your anthology for a bit?
concept was to deliver a series of disturbing stories that explore very
different characters from very different walks of life. We wanted them to
exist within a familiar yet macabre reality. A place where you can feel
very grounded in the situation and simultaneously suspend all disbelief at
any given moment. We wanted stories with substance to draw the audience
into our world as deeply as possible until there was no turning back. Then
we turn that world on its head.
anthology in the first place, what do you find so interesting about the
format? And have you been influenced by any anthology films or series when
dreaming up this one?
my partner Russell Hackett and I began discussing a new project for
Theatre of Terror we briefly considered doing another feature (Faces
being the first). My problem was that I wasn’t sure I wanted to get
locked into one film with one story, revolving around one set of
characters for 90 minutes or more. There are so many different subgenres
that I love and I honestly couldn’t decide which one I wanted to pursue.
Eventually I proposed an anthology instead. Growing up in the 70’s and
80’s I got to experience some of the best. The Monster
Club, The Trilogy
of Terror, Cat’s Eye, Creepshow. The idea really got us excited because
of the potential to do something just as influential as those films were
You have already finished three of
the four segments of your anthology, The
Gift, The Bookworm
and Abducted - so what
is each segment about?
Gift is a story that highlights the potential for tragedy in even the
happiest of lives. It centers around a professional, hard-working wife and
mother who’s faced with the heavy pressure that comes with those
responsibilities. A series of bad decisions leads her to a place where she
must reflect on everything she had and everything she’s lost.
Ultimately, she’s presented with a choice that could offer redemption.
But that offer comes from a questionable source.
The Bookworm offers up that place so many of us search for. When a young
man inherits a good portion of his late father’s wealth, he uses it to
escape the grip of his pretentious family. For some, family can be the
worst reminder of everything we don’t want to become. For him it is the
driving force behind his desire for solitude. And once you get a chance
to meet them, you can sympathize. But sometimes detachment from society
can lead a man further from the world than he intended to travel.
Abducted takes us into the backwoods of America where we get a glimpse of the
simple life. A place where routine and familiarity are a comfort. There is
no simpler story than that of a man and his dog. Now imagine that man and
his dog experiencing a life-changing event of epic proportions. Witnessing
a UFO landing! Knowing extraterrestrials exist can haunt a practical mind.
But it could also seduce a curious one. Making first contact becomes our
main character’s obsession. And that obsession comes with consequences.
Gift, The Bookworm
and Abducted are
pretty diverse when it comes to their approach to horror - so do talk
about each movie's take on the genre for a bit?
these shorts were inspired by television shows like The Twilight
Outer Limits, The Night Gallery, and Tales From The Dark
programs delivered various levels of terror with some more psychological,
some more otherworldly, and others more gruesome. We wanted that same
diversity in our films but we also wanted a crescendo of sorts in the
progression from film to film.
Gift begins the anthology as a very dramatic episode that leaves
you with a cryptic unease. The Bookworm
takes you through the
process of an eerie build with a classic nightmare-style payoff. Finally, with
Abducted, we tap into that psychedelic
horror science fiction feeling from the 70’s.
you tell us about the look and feel of each movie?
we talked about launching this project we agreed that we wanted to work
with different cinematographers for each short. Mainly because there were
so many talented guys we wanted to work with and we knew this would be our
opportunity to do it.
Working with John Iwasz from Small Basket Studios on The
Gift was an
absolute pleasure. John has a very good eye and after only a few
discussions he quickly developed a vision for how to best deliver the most
important scenes in the film. Something that turned out to be the backdrop
for the film was the pouring rain we experienced during most of the shoot.
We used that obstacle to our advantage and felt it draped the story in a
sort of sadness that’s the perfect companion to Heather’s excellent,
while tragic “Donna”.
In The Bookworm we had Mark Boutros on the camera. Mark and I had
previously worked together on another short film called Rapt. We
wanted to utilize the full potential of our main location, a library, in
every possible way. Our lead character actually lives in this library so
there was an element of comfort and warmth we wanted it to express in the
film. It had to feel like home. Then we contrast that with his actual home
which is a beautiful large mansion. Despite the comfort his family’s
enormous wealth provides it still feels like a strange place where he does
not fit in nor feel welcome. It pushes the viewer to want to return to
solitude of the library.
Abducted was shot almost entirely outdoors in the thick woods of Monroe Township,
NJ. The seclusion of such a location was so important to the shoot because
we wanted it to look like a place where forgotten memories go to die. The
first time he was on set, Louis Libitz our DP immediately started getting
b-roll of the entire area. A lot of which we use in the opening scene to
set the tone for where you’ll be living during this film. To expand on
that Lou spent a lot of time using the lens to explore the vastness of the
forest. We see some key scenes from a distance and through the trees as if
we’re watching from afar, too afraid to venture any closer. The trees
become a bumper between us and the unknown. It was very effective
especially considering the subject matter.
talk about the segments' respective casts for a bit?
I may just be the best casting director in the indie scene! I’m kidding
of course but I will say that things really fell into place for us on
these projects. Pre-production started very early on and we cast these
films long before shooting. On two of these projects we lost our leads
before shooting. Now, their replacements turned out to be the only people
I can ever imagine in those roles.
Heather O’Scanlon who plays the lead “Donna” in The
really an amazing actress. She is beautiful, versatile and prepared. She
and co-star Adam Ginsberg saved us from disaster on the second day of
shooting because of their command of the characters and knowledge of the
script. Also, having the incredibly talented John Zion and Danielle
Najarian in the supporting roles sold the story from top to bottom. The
bonus was having Edward X Young reprise the role of Henry Benson (from Faces). I love working with Ed. It was just a great cast all around.
On The Bookworm our lead is Scott Gorbach. A truly gifted young actor I
found through a referral after I put out a casting call. He embodied
“Mark Jaeger” in every possible way, his look, his mannerisms, he was
perfect. Combine that with a natural like Sarah Schoofs and you have
yourself true chemistry. As soon as I saw them together I knew we’d hit
a homerun. I’d be remiss not to mention Cienna Rizza stealing the show
as his pretentious sister “Susan” and Patrick Devaney’s eerie
portrayal of “Mr Simmons” as highlights in this film. There is no
doubt in my mind that this cast was meant to play those characters.
Abducted had an incredibly small cast and is very limited in dialogue. But if you
think that changes the demand on the actors you’d be wrong. Russ Hackett
plays “Ned” to a tee. He worked incredibly hard to find the voice I
wanted for his character. This is only his second starring role (I also
directed him in Rapt) but I feel he really understands the
importance of living in the scene and giving himself over to the part. His
passion for this short is evident in his performance. For me there was no
other choice for our alien than Patrick Boyer. I wanted Pat in this part
because I know him as a professional monster. He’s done a ton of work in
indie horror and elsewhere playing every kind of creature. The icing on
the cake is that he is a real great guy and a consummate professional.
can you tell us about each shoot, and how did they compare to one another?
Gift was challenging on several levels. The pouring rain we
experienced all weekend meant losing valuable time cautiously traveling
between locations. Regarding the shoot itself, getting important exterior
shots was hellacious. Despite those obstacles we persevered and had a
wonderful weekend of shooting a film together. And we managed to pull off
one of the most amazing crunch time shoots ever. We had to film the entire
antique store sequence in one hour due to the storm. Thanks to our cast
and killer crew, it came off without a hitch.
Glen Ridge Public Library and The Oakeside Mansion (Bloomfield, NJ) were
extremely generous in letting us shoot The Bookworm
there. They were
top quality locations and really made us feel at home. To save on budget
we shot at the library during the normal hours of operation. That meant
there would be patrons all around us while we shot a lot of these scenes. It
works because most of that would be layered with some beautiful piano work
by my good friend Robert Frankenberg. Another advantage of being in a
library setting meant I didn’t have to call for quiet on the set as
Abducted was not an easy shoot. On Day 1 we hauled all our lighting equipment and
camera gear about 300 feet into the woods to shoot our UFO scenes. We
wanted to be completely isolated from the road and any light pollution.
After trekking back and forth through thick woods, chilling cold, and pure
darkness we decided on Day 2 to only shoot about 100 feet in. The woods
can be brutal at night but everyone put 150% into getting the film done.
Special kudos to Kenneth Wills our lighting tech and his crew for breaking
their backs on that terrain to help us make movie magic. It was also my
first time directing a dog. 100 takes later and I still love dogs. I just
feel very strongly that they should just stay out of acting.
what does the fourth segment of your anthology have in store?
Endangered you can expect pure horror. Chilling and dreadful. The
bloodiest of the bunch for sure with a much larger cast than the rest.
More great special F/X, great locations and great characters are abound in
this one. It will definitely be the crowning jewel on the anthology. I’m
really looking forward to starting this one.
the schedule for the final segment of your movie, and will you take it on
a festival run as a short in its own right or go ahead and finish your
anthology right away to get it released?
plan on shooting sometime in May if possible. We’re launching an IndieGoGo campaign in the next few weeks to raise funds for the budget.
Our first campaign netted 56% of our goal so we figure after successfully
making 3 quality films in 7 months with only half of what we asked for,
people will believe in us and help us get to 100%. Once it’s done it
will be submitted to fests individually the same as the other shorts. The
real bonus for our donors will be the Anthology DVD perk. It will be the
only place where you can see all 4 stories combined with a connecting wrap
around story. We also plan on shooting that this summer.
projects beyond finishing your anthology?
has been my obsession for close to two years now. Once it’s done I’ll
be in full promotion mode for a while. Beyond the festivals and
conventions and vending tables there are probably more films waiting for
me to write them. I guess we’ll just have to see.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
just want to mention my producers Todd Staruch and Diane Hackett, sound
engineer James ‘Dave’ Redding III, F/X gurus Nelson Vilela, Mike
Scardillo, and Beatrice Sniper and of course my wife Melanie. All have
been a huge part of making these films.
for the interview!