Your new movie A
Little Dead - in a few words, what is it about?
is a horror wrapped drama that, at its core, could be a
metaphor for the monster that is dementia. Sometimes advancing more
quickly because of life events, it usually starts with the memories on the
edge of the mind and works its way inward until itís gone altogether.
But then again, it could be about something else entirely. Itís up to
were your sources of inspiration when writing A
Little Dead, and is any of this based on personal experiences,
style of the story, believe it or not, came from watching the classic Rod
Zone seasons. So, when I read your review actually
mentioned the classic Twilight
Zone series in relation to our film I about
fell out of my chair with excitement.
inspiration for A
Little Deadís story in its final iteration actually
came from my family. Several years back my aunt (who is a doctor), and my
mom (who owned and operated an assisted living center at the time) had a
disagreement as to the mental state of my grandpa. My aunt said that she
thought he had the beginnings of dementia while my mom insisted that there
was no sign of it. This argument lasted over a span of several months
until it was found out that he did not have dementia.
thought it would be fun to play with that dynamic, so Eden McGuire who
played Hailey really channeled my momís point of view, and I (Kevin in
the film) took the side of my aunt. We of course took a few liberties from
what really happened in life though.
You've dreamed up the story for A
Little Dead together with the film's producer Mike McDonald - so
what can you tell us about him, what was your collaboration like, who came
up with what, and how closely did the finished movie resemble what you've
initially come up with?
was fantastic to collaborate with on this project! I will say where the
project started when it was pitched to me to what ended up on screen are
vastly different though. Mike originally approached me to direct A
Little Dead when it was completely a monster movie. The bones were
there in that there was a grandpa, two grandkids, a monster of some sort,
and it took place largely in one location. But other than that, it really
was a completely different film in motive and story. From the moment I
agreed to come on board though he really let me take the reins and pour
into it creatively however I saw fit, to create my own vision for the
story and film. That is something I really appreciated. I ended up
rewriting the script from top to bottom, to be cohesive with the story
that I had come up with, and we continued to evolve it until the casting
process was complete and we brought on our DP, Andrew Smith. From there,
it pretty much stayed the same.
What can you tell us about A
Little Dead's approach to horror?
am a huge fan of less is more.
I believe that our imaginations tend to make things that we donít see,
or see only briefly, more frightening than they (sometimes) could
potentially be if our mind were able to see it and process whatever it is.
So, for me, we tried to achieve an almost Alfred Hitchcock-esk approach,
where the suspense is (hopefully) greater with a lack of information given
and the imagination fills in the gaps with that fear or suspense. Our hope
is that the audience is intrigued enough by the story that has unfolded,
and the character development that has occurred to be engaged for the pay-off.
Do talk about
your overall directorial approach to your story at hand!
this film specifically, I really felt like I needed to be very detail
oriented. I really wanted to build a world and story that had an almost Back
to the Future or The Matrix feel to it, in that I wanted to create a
film that you can watch a second, or maybe even third time and pick up on
the hints and nuances that lead to the filmís final outcome. From the
sound design and music, to the title of the book that is read, and even
the significance of the rock that is thrown in the pond, I wanted
everything to connect and have a meaning or reason for it. No wasted
scenes. So, even though it may appear that there may not be a ton of
development happening, itís between the lines if youíre looking for
it. And my hope is that some of the audience will pick up on a few of
those and have conversations with people after they get through seeing it.
Then want to see it again to see the elements that they may have missed
the first time.
also appear in front of the camera in A
Little Dead - so what can you tell us about your character, what
did you draw upon to bring him to life, and have you written him with
yourself in mind from the get-go?
Mike originally approached me about the film, I knew Iíd like to play
the brother, but I really needed to evolve the character into something
that would have meaning for me specifically. I thought it was important
from an audience point of view to have someone that believed in Grandpa,
but then someone that was asking the level-headed and tough questions
that I think at least a percentage of the audience may be asking. So, I
decided to tackle that character and have Hailey (Eden McGuire) play that
opposite, which she does so effortlessly
in short, I did know I was going to play the male role, but I really
didnít know what that role was going to be until I revamped the script
to mold it to experiences I could draw from.
What can you tell us
about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?
rest of this cast is the backbone of our film! Without them, we definitely
wouldnít have had the solid and immersive characters that we ended up
of the things that really piqued my interest about this project was that
I really wanted to direct something that had a senior person as the lead.
Especially with watching all of those classic Twilight
Zone episodes, you
realize pretty quickly that they can be so great in a story. As far as why
Jack C. Hays specifically, when he auditioned for the role he really
brought a take on the character of Grandpa that wasnít afraid to ride
the line of loving but unsettling, which I thought was perfect! And once
on set, it felt like he really just embodied the character, giving us a
ton to work with in the editing room to really craft the narrative.
Eden McGuire! Goodness, from the second I saw her audition I knew she
was our Hailey. She was seriously the epitome of the character. From her
carefree and bubbly persona, to when she had to be serious and concerned,
she literally nailed everything I
threw at her, every time, and with an amount of
ease I havenít seen from a lot of actors. She was an absolute joy to
work with, and honestly knew her character inside outómaybe even better
than I did, and I wrote it! Thatís when you know youíve really cast
the perfect person for the role.
few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
shoot really went smooth for the most part, except for a couple of
hiccups, because of the massive amount of talent that we had behind the
camera. Our cinematographer, Andrew Smith, and his brother Adam who was
our 1st assistant camera really made it easy
to get exactly what I wanted, even if they were tough shots. And
Andrewís expertise really shined through with some of the shot
selections that he chose. They just set the tone for the whole shoot in an
amazing way. Them and a really strong 1st assistant director in Jordan Wilson, to make sure that we were staying on
while getting what we wanted. We had a snow storm that was moving into the
area, so we really had to make sure that we got everything we needed right
when we were shooting it, because pickups werenít going to be a thing
for a while. But between all of that leadership on set, the talent really
bringing what they did, and hopefully me really having a vision that
everyone was on the same page about, lent itself to a good atmosphere on
set. And one that I think people look back on as a fond one.
$64-question of course, where can A
Little Dead be seen?
have two screenings coming up actually. First, it is in the Academy
Award-qualifying deadCenter Film Festival (in
Oklahoma City), where weíll screen on both June 10th and
June 12th. Then that next week we are screening at
another Academy Award-qualifying for our West Coast premiere at the Dances
With Films: Los Angeles Film Festival! There
we will screen at the iconic TCL Chinese Theatres in Hollywood on June 16th.
So, we are very excited about both of those for sure.
Anything you can tell us
about audience and critical reception of A
far, the audience reaction has been absolutely amazing! Iíve been
fortunate enough to hear so many people come up and tell me what they
liked about the film, what they felt like it was trying to say, and really
have just been very curious about itówhich I love! The best part is, I
think only one person to this point has actually told me they got the
meaning that I had originally intended with the film, but to me, thatís
the beauty of art, is that itís all subjective, and that you can get
something completely different out of what I made than had thought. And as
long as itís beautiful to you, I am very happy and fulfilled in what I
hoped to achieve.
even though we have only been to two festivals, we have already taken home
the award for ďBest Thriller ShortĒ at Worldfest Houston last month,
and to me getting into these festivals that have sometimes 4,000-5,000
submissions is really enough to know weíre hopefully doing something
right. We are just so humbled to even be a part and have audiences see our
film. Itís been really awesome to see.
Any future projects you'd like to
recently completed writing a feature film script titled Jeff and
Zoe that Iíd really like to get off the ground
about an impromptu road trip between an ex-husband and wife that is slightly
like Little Miss Sunshine meets Silver Linings Playbook.
Itís really about family, dysfunction, and at its heart the sacrifice
true love gives. It just placed as a quarterfinalist in both the Austin
Film Festival and the ScreenCraft Feature Film script competitions, so I
have really high hopes for that project moving forward.
also just co-wrote a new horror feature film with Mike McDonald actually,
titled Cry Baby Bridge. Itís
about a bridge thatís haunted with a mother that refuses to cross to the
ďother sideĒ before finding out what happened to her baby, and
generally just causes all sorts of trouble for our protagonists. Mike came
up with the story and brought me on board to play one of the leads as well
as produceóin addition to co-writing the script of course. So, weíre
now looking for funding on that one as well.
have a few more ideas cooking, but those are ready to be filmed now should
the opportunity arise.
What got you into acting in the first place, and
did you receive any formal training on the subject?
I started acting when I was a wee little lad because I was just a ham, and
wanted the attentionÖ But as I grew up I really did find that I enjoyed
diving into characters and taking on and bringing these stories to life
within the character that I could play. So, in my early twenties I started
with stage acting. I didnít have any formal training at that point, just
knew I loved it and wanted to give it a try. I found some success in that
for a few years, but really felt drawn to film because I felt like the
performances really lasted forever. For me, that was a real draw. I wanted
people to really be able to enjoy the work I had done over and over again
should they want to, so I switched from theatre to film. Thatís when I
started getting formal training. Iíve now trained with folks from both
coasts in America, as well as the Midwest. That has all led me to who I am
and the actor/director that I am today. And I hope to continue to keep
being able to tell stories that cause emotion, provoke thought, and break
down walls that we arenít able to in regular life. To me thatís
special, and I very much hope the universe affords me being able to keep
eventually also picked up more and more jobs behind the camera - so why is
that, and what are some of the jobs you enjoy the most, which could you do
without ... and which side of the camera do you enjoy more, even?
think that in this day and age, itís getting harder and harder to only
wear one "hat." I feel like you almost have to wear multiple
hats to get traction in the film industry today. So, some of the positions
Iíve held in film and on productions have been out of necessity, while
others have been a genuine joy to get to do. I also feel like itís been
important to work in these other departments, so I can gain experience in
them to make me the best director I can be. The more knowledge I have
about these other areas, the better I feel like I can plan and help create
a vision for them. But really, if itís any other position beside
directing, writing, or producing (behind the camera), Iíd rather leave
it to the wonderfully creative people that excel in those areas.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to A
Little Dead, in whatever position?
Little Dead is my fourth official release. I wrote/directed my first
film back in 2017, titled Repercussion. That was a sort of
ďwho-dun-itĒ mystery/suspense. It was good for what it was, and had a
very good festival run. I think it really laid the groundwork for me not
only getting my feet wet but deciding to dive into directing and writing
more prevalently. So, thatís what Iím truly grateful to the film for
doing. The following year (2018), I came out with a micro-short, titled
Preservation that dealt with a ďwhat-ifĒ scenario for if someone
broke into your house, what would you do to protect your family? After
that, I was fortunate to collaborate with Mexican filmmaker, and Cannes
alum Adrian Contreras on a short film that we co-wrote and co-directed
called The Fisherman. It was made at a time when the American
President wanted to build a wall between the two countries, so
tensions between America and Mexico were a little high. Subsequently, we
really just wanted to make a film that promoted both cultures without
tearing the other one down. Thus, we made a film that was shot partly in
Mexico, and partly in America.
directing, I have produced several films, some shorts, some features, and
been in over 35 films and television series as an actor.
How would you
describe yourself as an actor, and how as a director?
a really good question. As an actor, I feel like I am still evolving. I
largely donít think Iíve hit my stride yet. Iím still perfecting my
craft and how I approach the characters that I take on. Maybe itíll
always be that way, Iím not sure. But maybe itís that approach that
keeps me really seeking the best way to portray it, and thatís what will
bring an honest and authentic performance. I hope so. I can only just do
the best I can and hope itís enough for the audience to not see the
actor but the character.
a director, I would describe myself as ready. I really feel like the last
several years have been a training ground for me. Iíve been learning
what to do and what not to do as a storyteller. And with A
Little Dead, for the first time, I feel ready-- really ready to take any
project and really bring it to life in the most poignant and meaningful
way possible. Thatís not to say that I donít have more to learn,
because I think Iíll keep learning until the day I die, but I am finally
feeling good about where I'm at as a filmmaker.
filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?
many brilliant actors and directors have inspired and mold who I am and
what I strive to achieve. On the acting side though, Tom Hanks probably
tops the list. The fact that he has portrayed some of the most iconic
characters of all time and still remains down to earth and humble is
something I seriously strive to achieve in my own life. Other actors that
I really have studied lately are Christian Bale, Joaquin Phoenix, Sean
Penn, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.
the directing side, I have great admiration and respect for classic Robert
Zemeckis, Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, Jason Reitman, Rod Sterling,
Alfred Hitchcock, and though Iím not sure Iíve pull a lot of my style
from his (at this point anyway), I simply love watching Taika Waititiís
definitely might just have to make this a Top 10, and even then, itís
going to be very toughÖ
Thing You Do, Thank
You for Smoking, Hunt
for the Wilderpeople, Back
to the Future, Lord
of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, Stranger
Than Fiction, The
Truman Show, Forrest
from the Past, The
... and of course, films you really deplore?
is such a strong word, but there are a few that I really didnít care for
at all ...
Ė Enough said.
Ė For me, the changes from the real events and the (in my
opinion) flat directing left me feeling that the film could have been so
much better. Great acting by Rami Malek, but thatís where this ends for
Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri Ė This film started out so well,
but for me lost the plot in trying to make Francis McDermottís character
seem tough, rather than focusing on an ending that was better than a hill
Ė I know a lot of people that like this film. I did not. I found the
camera movement to be stiff and a bit film student-esk for me. And though
I know what the filmmaker was going for, I feel like the story really
missed the mark. And what story there was, was painfully slow in my
movie's website, social media, whatever else?
filmís social channels, are:
personal handles are:
else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
know Iíve mentioned some of the on-set team that made this come to life,
but I would be remiss if I didnít brag on the amazing post
team we had! It all started with our editor/sound designer Paul Myzia, who
really crafted an incredible edit, both with video and sound, that in my
opinion helps the entire film be cohesive and enthralling. At the same
time, I firmly believe that the film would not be near as good without
Brandon Blanchardís haunting original score. It is so poignant and
immersive, while remaining intimate. And finally, I really need to give a
shout out to our unbelievable colorist Arianna Shining Star, who turned
our footage into some of the most beautiful-looking scenes ever. She was
simply incredible, and I hope she is on board for coloring everything I
ever make from here on out!
for the interview!
you again!! We are so appreciative of your time and consideration of