Your new movie A
Stranger Among the Living - in a few words, what is it about?
about a young teacher who has a dream thatís a premonition of sorts, which
helps him avoid a school shooting, but soon after, he begins getting stalked
by these creepy figures who want to finish what death started.
One of the central points of
Stranger Among the Living is survivor guilt - what inspired you to
base your film on that condition, and have you done any research on the
was something that came organically to the story. If someone managed to avoid
a disaster like this, how would they feel? I did do a lot of research. I
watched a lot of interviews with survivors of tragedies such as this. YouTube
is such a wonderful resource on this. I think itís something thatís just
now getting out into the mainstream since we seem to have shootings every week
these days. Itís getting hard to ignore and, hopefully, weíll start doing
something about it.
(Other) sources of inspiration when writing
Stranger Among the Living?
the title itself comes from the tagline of Carnival of
Souls, so I could say
thatís a huge inspiration. That film is one of the greats, and I started
working on this film because I wanted to do something similar to that.
Thereís another great similar film called Sole Survivor from the 80ís that
inspired me a lot along with films like Messiah of
Evil, The Sentinel,
Stepford Wives, The Fog, The Innocents, and Letís Scare Jessica To
They were all so moody and creepy, and that was the kind of mood I wanted to
bring to this movie.
Do talk about
Stranger Among the Living's approach to horror for a bit!
is probably my moodiest horror film. Blessed Are the Children had a little bit
and Triggered was more of a dark comedy, but this is my first bonafide mood
piece. I wanted the whole film to feel really dark and oppressive like
stepping into someoneís nightmare. The only real nightmare sequence is the
first 10 minutes of the movie, but I wanted that mood to last throughout. Sort
of like how, when you first wake up from a really weird dream, it takes a
little while to shake that mood off.
few words about your directorial approach to your story at hand?
definitely my darkest and most dramatic film. There are a lot of raw human
emotions at play and I wanted to take everything as seriously as possible, so
I was fortunate to work with some excellent actors who I could usually just
let loose. For the first time, Iíd start playing some games with my actors
so that I could help them hit just the right notes. Iíd get them to play
some scenes a few different ways so that we could find little nuances that we
might not have found otherwise. Even though itís a dark story, Iím always
looking for the humor in everything, so Iíd sometimes make them play a
really dramatic scene and look for the humor in it and, sure enough, theyíd
usually find a moment or two that they could mine for a little humor instead
of making the entire scene so oppressively dark.
also appear in front of the camera in A
Stranger Among the Living - so what can you tell us about your
character, what did you draw upon to bring him to life, and did you write
Jarvis with yourself in mind from the get-go?
was a lot of fun. Iíd started writing the script years ago after having a
dream that inspired the opening of the film and I kept getting stuck about 30
pages in. I had no idea where to go with it, because it seemed like it was so
dark and so depressing that I didnít really want to keep going. I knew the
film needed a little injection of humor and energy and thatís where Jarvis
came along. He tries so hard, but he really does mean well and it was fun to
play someone like that. He reminded me of a lot of actors Iíd met over the
years, so I used a few pieces from this one person and a few from this other
person and put him together that way. I had no intention of playing Jarvis,
but I couldnít find anyone who quite got what I was going for with the
character, so it got down to the wire and I figured I could give it a go. I
enjoyed it a lot more than Iíd expected and it was nice to have one less
actor to have to worry about. I knew what I wanted, so I didnít have to try
to direct a performance out of anyone. On an indie film set, having one less
thing to worry about can be a lifesaver.
What can you
tell us about the rest of A
Stranger Among the Living's key cast, and why exactly these people?
worked with a lot of the cast before, because I love having a sort of film
family. It makes it easier to communicate what you want, because itís like
we all have our own language now. Keni Bounds, Eric Riggs, Cheryl Abernathy,
George Mayronne, and Claire Mayronne have
been in all my films thus far, and it was nice to work with Meredith Mohler again
after Triggered even though her part was so small in this. We were so lucky to
find Jake Milton, Will Lovorn, Vicky Posey, and Shari Plumlee. They were joys to work with and brought so
much to their roles. I remember Vicky and Shariís auditions being so spot on
that I was taken aback a bit. It was like theyíd gotten into my head and
understood exactly how I pictured every line delivered, every facial
expression - it was unreal. I like having my rep company of sorts, but I
always like adding new people to the mix with each film to spice things up
and, hopefully, theyíll be in other films in the future.
talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere!
was pretty relaxed. The shoot lasted about a month, but since most of the
actors were more local, it was a bit more relaxed, so we didnít shoot every
day and we had a few breaks. Everyone was nice and professional, but we
definitely had our laughs. There wasnít any drama except one day when we
discovered weíd only secured a certain part of a location and we werenít
allowed to shoot the rest of what weíd originally planned. Thankfully, we
moved that stuff to a different location and what we ended up with was
creepier and more atmospheric anyway, so it was a win-win. Indie films are
full of little surprises like that which annoy you at first, but if youíre
able to adjust and roll with the punches, they can be blessings in disguise.
$64-question of course, where can A
Stranger Among the Living be seen?
now, itís touring film festivals around the world, but hopefully, we can get
it widely distributed by the end of this year or early next year. Be sure to
follow our social media pages to see where itíll be playing near you.
Anything you can tell us about audience and critical
reception of A
Stranger Among the Living?
far, itís been wonderful. People really seem to be responding to it like
Iíd hoped and that makes me so happy. I hope audiences and critics keep
Any future projects you'd like to share?
just completed a play that was based on a one act I workshopped last year
thatís a full-on comedy, and Iím really excited about that, but Iím not
sure what its future is at the moment. Maybe Iíll try to stage it myself or
maybe Iíll turn it into a film script. Iíve been outlining like crazy and
have quite a few ideas for the next film, but, right now, itís about trying
to figure out which one to pick. After a while, one usually calls out to me a
little louder than the others and thatís the one I end up focusing all my
got you into the filmworld to begin with, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
play with my action figures in my room and tell stories even as a kid. I
always loved any form of storytelling. Iíd make really awful movies with my
friends over the weekends starting in 5th grade by using my familyís
camcorder and improvising everything. They werenít very good, but we sure
had fun making them. I ended up attending UNCSA in Winston-Salem, North
Carolina to study filmmaking and spent 4 years there, meeting some great
people and learning the more technical side of filmmaking.
What can you tell us about your
filmwork prior to A
Stranger Among the Living?
are a lot of things I would have done differently. The first movie I really
claim is Blessed Are the Children, and that has some great scenes and
performances, but I donít think it works 100% as a movie. It has a lot of
flaws, but I think I got better with Triggered. To me, that had a stronger
script and I knew what I was doing a little more. Plus, it was fun to really
play with the comedy and try to create a different mood. With A
Stranger Among the Living, I feel
like Iíve finally made something that really looks and feels like a movie.
Itís definitely my most mature film. At least Iíve been hearing that Iím
growing and getting better. Thatís all one can really ever hope for as both
a storyteller and a human being. If youíre not constantly getting better,
whatís the point?
How would you describe yourself as a director, and how as
a director, Iím usually pretty hands off with the actors. I like for them to
come up with their characters by themselves unless they just go off in some
bizarre direction I donít think is right. I direct them the way Iíd want
to be directed as an actor.
I wish I could say I have some big process as an
actor, but I just read the script and try to put myself in the characterís
shoes. Iím not big on research and all that stuff. If you start
overanalyzing everything, it stops being fun and it feels like every choice
has been determined beforehand. A lot changes when you meet your scene
partners, too, so you have to adapt to them and actually listen them and feed
off their energy. I just try to connect on an empathic, human level. Itís
the same if Iím doing a drama or comedy.
Filmmakers, actors, writers, whoever else who
boy! There are so many. Iíve been mostly inspired by those auteurs like Wes
Craven, George Romero, John Carpenter, Brian De Palma, Dario Argento, and even
John Cassavettes (though heís not a horror guy). Growing up, I knew I wanted
to be like them. Every moment of their films has their stamp and personality
all over it and I love that about them. Each film felt personal and Iíve
discovered thatís what makes a watchable movie a lot of times. There has to
be a personal reason that youíre telling the story. It canít just be ďI
want to make a movie about a killer on the loose or a movie about a drug
addict.Ē There has to be something in the story that you relate to that
makes it personal.
Actor-wise, Iíve always admired Phillip Seymour Hoffman. That man never struck a
false note in his entire career. Allison Janney, Ellen Burstyn, Sandy Dennis,
Jessica Lange, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Toni Collette, Gena Rowlands, Sissy
SpacekÖ there are so many.
Your favourite movies?
is probably my favorite. I know every word, inflection, and music cue. Halloween,
Death Becomes Her, Heathers, Suspiria,
Deep Red, Demons,
Dressed to Kill, Carnival of
Souls, Mulholland Drive, The Sound of Music, Alice Sweet
Alice, Terms of Endearment, 9 to 5, Singiní in the
Rain, Meet Me in St. Louis, and Friday the 13th among others.
and of course, films you really deplore?
I donít know. I donít really ask for much. Just give me one interesting
character or one semi-creative set piece and Iíll feel like I didnít
completely waste my time. Even a lot of really bad movies are still
entertaining in some ways. I think the only truly awful movies are the ones
that have no heart or passion whatsoever. Theyíre the ones that are the
cold, cynical cash grabs where you can tell no one involved in the films has
any care for the final product. Everyoneís just doing it for the paycheck.
These are usually incredibly forgettable and, to me, thatís the worst sin a
film can commit. At least a really awful movie can be memorable and make us
feel something. When you walk out to the parking lot afterwards and canít
remember a thing about what you just watched - thatís a bad movie.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
have a Facebook page which is
and an Instagram which is @astrangeramongthelivingmovie and a Twitter which is
@StrangerAmong. Give us a follow or like on those to keep up with whatís
going on with the movie. Weíre always posting where itíll be playing each
month and fun stuff like that.
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
think that about covers it. Thank you so much for this opportunity. I hope
everyone checks out the movie and enjoys it.
for the interview!