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An Interview with James Di Martino, Director of The Faceless Man

by Mike Haberfelner

August 2019

Films directed by James Di Martino on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie The Faceless Man - in a few words, what is it about?

 

How people can be like a cancer or worse than monsters.

 

The Faceless Man is a pretty wild genre mix, taking cues from slasher, backwood horror, haunted house and gangster cinema among others - so what was the idea behind this wild genre mix?

 

The genre mix was something I wanted to play around with and experiment with. I wanted people to be on a journey and try and forget they are in a horror film. Almost like being on a rollercoaster of emotions I wanted something to constantly happen and not make something that has been done before.

Originally I had two script ideas that became one. The gangster crime elements were in a separate script but then I got the idea to combine them. Which worked in favour of this crazy film. This was a film I wanted to make because I was drawn to my theory that it would work once put together.

 

(Other) sources of inspiration when writing The Faceless Man?

 

Heaps, the film has many references to other films. The Evil Dead was a core inspiration, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction (there is a scene in the film the blends those films into one), Get Out, Mad Max and Wolf Creek were  big inspirations on how the film was paced. Many more references to other films as well but I'll see if people can pick up on them when they watch it.

 

What can you tell us about the "Faceless Man" as such, and to what extent were you involved with designing him?

 

I was very hands on with the whole production, not just the Faceless Man but costume and design. I had a specific look I wanted to get and I feel I know what works when cameras roll. I met Austen Mengler at Supernova in 2017 and contacted him in early 2018 to help me create the Faceless Man. Austen has a wide range of work that looks amazing. One look at his website and you will see he has a very different art style that really suits horror. We had a few chats and Austen designed 30 concepts, and from there we wanted to make the monster look more man than beast. It took a few months before the final design but it worked out great. From there Emma Rose created it for screen based off Austenís design. She did a very admirable job considering the restraints she had budget-wise and really drove the vision home.

 

The Faceless Man is also a film that's not exactly gore-free - so do talk about the bloody bits in your movie, and how were they achieved?

 

We had a very talented effects team. As I stated before Emma created the Faceless Man and did all the prosthetics and even some of the molds, hands etc. Shonal Kumar did all the blood effects. She created so much blood and ran out so many times. I was very specific about lots of blood. There were times I had to get the bottle and pour it over the actors to ensure there was enough and it looked actually scary for the camera (haha). We needed to show stuff, I donít like not showing too much in films. It works well when done properly but you need to show a bit of gore to really sell the horror.

 

Do talk about The Faceless Man's approach to horror for a bit!

 

Sound was one of the biggest elements to the Faceless Man monster appearing. The sounds me and Benni (sound designer) and Bart (composer) created really add to the layer of fear. We wanted the Faceless Man to progress and show more and more as the film went on. That alone is a metaphor for cancer. It evolves and gets bigger and bigger as time goes on.

Playing on people's fear. Being in a country town with extreme right wing behaviour, crime lords out of control, what is real and what is fake and a deadly monster to top it off.

 

At least for me, The Faceless Man also has a darkly comedic edge to it - do you at all agree, and if so, what can you tell us about your movie's brand of humour?

 

YES! I appreciate people that can pick up on the dark humor and I was very happy at a test screening when the humor got a lot of reactions. It's very dark humor that gets people off guard for the horror moments that come after. People that left the screening thought it was hilarious where it was meant to be funny and scary in the right places. The humor is dark and these characters are in situations that are not meant to be funny to them but to an outsider watching the film it's really off-beat and so out there crazy we cant help but laugh. I think it's needed in a horror like this especially how the film starts on such a dark note. The humor helps to break that up and lower people guards for what comes next.

 

A few words about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

I wrote the story so I wanted it to have a style and really wanted to push long takes into the film. The Faceless Man starts with a 9 minute long take which sets the stage for the style of camera work I wanted in it. Color and blood was also a big factor, each death needed to look unique or right for the budget we had.

The story was really challenging as there was so much going on. I made a lot of changes through the scripting stage to filming (even while we filmed the movie), I feel what we shot, what people will see is the best version of the film.

 

Do talk about The Faceless Man's key cast, and why exactly these people?

 

I was fortunate to work with Sophie Thurling who was really new to acting. She had done small parts before I put her in my film. When talented actors are given good material they can do really well and I feel Sophie was pushed to give a good performance as the lead.

Dan Reader and Andy Mcphee's characters were created with them in mind before shooting even began. I can't imagine anyone pulling off Barry or Eddie but these two, and they did very well.

Roger Ward was someone I always wanted to work with and was over the moon when he loved the script and wanted to play the town's crazy boss (which was very fitting to his ozploitation days)

I have worked with Albert Goikhman on my last short and saw that Albert was a true actor. He loves acting and brings everything to his role. I think many people will love his character Viktor Nov.

Brendan Bacon is a very good actor and I was very lucky to get him to in this. He expressed a lot of enthusiasm to play the monster and brought a lot to the role.

Daniel Facciolo is my business partner and one of my good friends. He was the lead in my last short (like Albert) and he really wanted to play Brad. I found that he brought a lot to the role and always enjoy working with him.

Martin Astifo is a great person and I feel he also did a lot with little with his character of Dave. Not many people can come to set and stay out of the bullshit but Martin always focused on his job at hand.

I also enjoyed working with first time actress Lorin Kauffeld who gave it her all, and while it was a challenging experience for her, she did a good job in the end.

 

What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

There was a lot of tension on set. We didnít have money or time on our side so we had to be very creative to achieve a completed film. Everyone was also going through a lot at the time and I guess that on-set stress bleeded through to get some good stuff out there. I had to get the film done on the budget I had with no money for re-shoots or if the story didnít line up. Each day was like going to war, the scale of the film was a lot bigger than I thought and I had to make a lot of tough decisions each day.

 

The $64 question of course, where can The Faceless Man be seen?

 

We are in the process of a limited theatrical run over Halloween. The first screening is selling fast on the 31st of October at Classic Cinemas in Elsternwick, Melbourne.

Keep an eye on the website www.thefacelessman.net for more details and cool merchandise

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of The Faceless Man yet?

 

Reception has been very positive so far. Reviews have given it scores of 7 and above and audience reactions have been great. People are laughing in the right places, closing their eyes in others and itís a fun film and thatís what people are saying. They are entertained which was what I wanted to achieve with this film.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

The Faceless Man is part of a franchise. If I ever get the chance I have The Faceless Family followed by The Faceless Army but they are high concept films in need of a big budget.

Taking the town plot to a whole new level is The Bastards of Old Town, a film I have played around with as it elevates the craziness of The Faceless Man to a much bigger scale. Again a high budget is needed.

I am developing a sci- fi that is set 50 years into the future and very George Orwell in its execution but I want to take my time with it and really hone the script.

For my next project I am thinking dark comedy/high drama that will be shot in secret and released when it's done (it may be my third feature that would be released after my second). Can't say too much of this one haha.

 

What got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?

 

I went to films (as a great filmmaker once said). I did do 7 years of business school and became an academic so I have a sound knowledge of business and marketing. I created 6 shorts and that was my film school.

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The Faceless Man?

 

I created The Lazy Barber as my first short. A comedy about the bearded god. Looking back I made a lot of bad decisions but it did ok in some festivals and always gets some good response.

Next was The Painted World, and I faced every technical problem under the sun and it was a great learning experience on what not to do and what to aim to get right.

Congratulations was the third and I was happy overall but still made a few mistakes in terms of locations and cinematography choices.

Five OíClock Is the short that I liked the most. As the director and writer I wish to come back to this short and expand it into a TV show.

 

How would you describe yourself as a director?

 

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Someone that wants to make something different and entertain people.

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

Quentin Tarantino, David Lynch, John Carpenter, Sam Raimi, Robert Rodrigues, Stanley Kubrick, Jennifer Kent.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds, Good Fellas, Once Upon a Time in America, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Apocalypse Now, Clockwork Orange.

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

Itís a hard thing to say because every film has a shit load of effort put into it. I feel the Marvel films are soulless, but they make heaps of money and can be fun - but itís the same formulas and takes away from other films or new IPs that could be very interesting.

 

Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

www.thefacelessman.net

Facebook: @chapter5studios

Instagram: @chapter5

Twitter: @Chapter5s

 

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

Go watch The Faceless Man in a cinema (watch it how it was intended to be watched) this Halloween! Tell your friends and keep up to date where you can see it next.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
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... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD