Your new movie Within
the Darkness - in a few words, what is it about?
is about a group of
opportunistic would-be ghosthunters who set out to shoot a pilot by faking everything and
the house turns out to be actually haunted.
did the project fall together in the first place? And what can you tell us
about your co-writer Cheryl Compton, who I understand also came up with
the story this is based on, and your collaboration with her?
So Cheryl wrote the first draft over a weekend
after seeing a classified in which someone was looking for ghosthunting gear. She
thought “who does he think he is that he can just buy some gear and hunt ghosts?
I’ll show him” I’m a bit more cynical and believe that guy would be just as qualified as a
“real” ghosthunter, so how do we give the genre its comeuppance as well. So in
addition to eliminating most of the locations in Cheryl’s script (as too many locations can
kill an indie feature!), I came up with the third act you see in the film.
were your sources of inspiration when writing Within
I guess we were both inspired by would be ghost
hunters, just slightly differently inspired!
the Darkness being about a paranormal investigation - did you do
much research on the subject, and your personal thoughts about
Cheryl knows the territory much better than I do
but perhaps I know a bit more about confidence schemes…
Do talk about your film's
approach to horror for a bit!
Well, we approached the “horror” in a number
of ways. There are some straight “boo” scares, but some more specific ones as well
including ulterior motives, phobias, etc. When I found out that Tonya Kay was afraid of
the water, I wrote a scene involving her in the water. The fear is REAL my friends!
the Darkness also has a comedic edge to it - was that intended
from the get-go, or did that just transpire during writing or during the
Definitely intended from the get-go. I think
comedy, specifically dark comedy, is my favorite genre so I weave it into just about
everything I do. I kind of like messing with the fourth wall sometimes as well. Here’s a
horror short we did: http://www.jonathanzuck.com/dt_portfolio/implement-of-death/
What can you tell us about your overall
directorial approach to your story at hand?
I’m pretty sure with all this character
development I might just have created the first horror film for the Lifetime
the Darkness's key cast, and why exactly these people?
Well, I took a workshop with Dov SS Simons and
he says for your first feature throw a bunch of people in a house and kill them so we
did just that. We also had everyone living in the house for 10 days so cast
selection had as much to do with whether I thought people would get along as anything else.
I was determined to only cast people I had a chance to meet. THAT didn’t work out.
The locals just weren’t getting the job done and I got video interviews from Erin, Tonya
and Shanna [Shanna Forrestall
interview - click here] and they were AMAZING actors so I took a chance and hired them and
crossed my fingers they wouldn’t end up burning down the house. We all came away
friends. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life shooting this movie.
also have to talk about your location for a bit, and what was it like
I had access to a friend’s lake house on Deep
Creek Lake in Maryland. The biggest challenge was making this place look spooky.
It’s such a beautiful contemporary home that we really struggled, covering the furniture
in sheets, putting up cob webs, etc. but the beauty of the place is hard to hide. That
said, I couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend a couple weeks in August. I got to swim
in the lake every morning!
A few words about the shoot as such, and
the on-set atmosphere?
The atmosphere was more collaborative than I
ever could have hoped for. We had a great chef staying in the house with us and
everyone got along so well. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to replicate that. The cast
and crew of this film are friends for life.
The $64-question of course, where
can your movie be seen?
The movie comes out on DVD and VOD on April 3rd. It’s already on Redbox streaming if
you really can’t wait for Amazon and others,
but it should be everywhere. Check it out!
You won’t be disappointed.
Anything you can tell us about
audience and critical reception of Within
the Darkness yet?
We did a focus group screening to see where the
lulls and laughs fell and went back in and tightened it up. The audience reaction was
entirely positive. After you’ve seen your film a hundred times you really start to wonder
if you have created anything worthwhile so watching an audience watch your movie is
invaluable. Critics have all been positive, for the most part, criticizing an effect here or
there but, in the end, being glad they went the distance.
Any future projects you'd like
Just shot a feature called Meant to be Broken (www.MeantToBeBroken.com)
which involved doing a road trip down the East Coast, breaking the rule about
locations. This should come out in the fall.
What got you into filmmaking in the first
place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
Went to film school in Maine in 2001 and
ironically, my first film in film school was a ghost story as well… about a deceased interior
decorator who haunted people who messed up his designs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9tpLjG8H9Q
- so, as you can see, always with the jokes.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Within
We have made dozens of short films and a few
music videos, some of which can be seen here: http://www.jonathanzuck.com/film/. Several have had good festival
reception including one which went to Cannes.
How would you describe yourself as
The cast of Within
the Darkness came to refer to
me as coach and that’s probably how I would describe myself. I’m working with a
bunch of talented artist in both the cast and crew and they don’t need to be micromanaged
but instead coaxed, nurtured and allowed to do their best work.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
Ironically, my favorite filmmaker is Hitchcock,
who was quite a bit ore domineering than me but I appreciate his unique ability to
combine entertainment with social commentary and that is certainly something I
endeavor to emulate.
I think Rear Window might be the best film ever
made but I love so many movies and my favorite is based on my mood. Lots of Hitchcock,
Kubrick and now Fincher I like a lot.
... and of course, films you really
I hate most of these action sequels. There’s
an expression I coined for Muppet Movie 2: It’s the hundred frogs on bicycles-problem. In
the first Muppet movie they showed Kermit riding a bike and the audience went wild,
so in the sequel they had a hundred frogs on bikes and the audience didn’t care.
Think agents in the Matrix sequels, robots in the Transformers sequels and gone is the
humanity that made the first worth watching.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
- but we’re probably more active on the Facebooks: www.facebook.com/WithinTheDarkness/
My personal site is
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
Support indie films! They’re the only thing
left that might surprise you.
Thanks for the interview!