Your new movie Portal -
in a few words, what is it about?
film is about an ambitious ghost hunting team that gets in way over their
heads when they open up a portal to the ďother sideĒ, bringing them
into contact with an ancient demonic entity hell bent on taking not only
their lives, but their very souls.
how did the project come into being in the first place?
was based on the growing trend of amateur ghost hunting
teams I saw entering the paranormal field in order to be just like the
brash, well equipped, world traveling ghost hunting teams one sees on
television. Their aspirations are opportunistic in nature, which I found
to be a problem. The paranormal isnít something to be trifled with, so
this oft misguided approach can be irresponsible, reckless, even
was crafted as a cautionary tale in response to this.
being about a team of paranormal investigators - is that a topic that
especially interests you, and did you do any research on the subject? And
your personal thoughts about paranormal investigations and the paranormal
to begin with?
of this I answered in the last question, but I think paranormal
investigations are fine if one gets into it for the right reasons, and
treats it with the reverence it demands. As for my personal thoughts on
the paranormal, itís hard to encapsulate what I feel about it. The
afterlife, other dimensions, alternate realities, ETs, what does it all
mean? Is it all real? All interconnected? The stories and personal
experiences I hear get pretty wild, if not downright bizarre at times. I
donít know what it all amounts to, but I believe thereís a lot of
things out there we donít understand and this might be for good reason.
It could be that we arenít meant to understand it. Not until weíre
ready, and perhaps weíre just not there yet.
Other sources of inspiration when writing
addition to the cautionary tale approach of writing
Portal, I really
wanted to include a Native American angle to our demonic antagonist. Some
of the scariest spirits and entities Iíve ever come across in my
research could be traced back to that origin. Ancient, nameless, powerful
beings, as well as cursed lands. Places on Earth man is simply not meant
to be. That kind of spooky stuff. Itís mysterious and frightening in a
way that can boggle the mind if you look into the history of it all,
and I wanted that to be a part of this film.
talk about Portal's
approach to horror for a bit!
approach for my original spec was dark and menacing. It was deadly
serious, doused in atmosphere and surreal brutality. Chris Sergi, one of
the filmís producers, and Dean Alioto, the director, ultimately changed
this a bit, cutting certain elements for budgetary reasons, and lightening
the tone by adding a lot of humor to the material. Although it was a
different vision than mine, it certainly made the film more entertaining
than my original script likely would have been. I give them a lot of
credit for the work they did.
I think one of Portal's
key factors is its location - so did you have the house in the film in
mind from the get-go or was it only scouted afterwards to fit your script?
was scouted afterwards. Finding the right location for a script like
is hard, particularly in Los Angeles, and I think the team did a
great job of securing a house that did the script justice.
can you tell us about Portal's
overall narrative structure?
to be a slow build up where once the dam breaks, the
audience has to hang on until the end. In this sense, I kept the structure
clean and simple. I also broke it down into about half a dozen key turning
points, as opposed to the traditional three act structure, which Iíll do
from time to time depending on what the story needs.
A few words about your
co-writer and director Dean Alioto, and what was your collaboration like?
a talented guy. Friendly and passionate about the material, which was
important to me. You always want your material to get into the hands of
someone who really cares about it. There wasnít much of a collaboration
to speak of, as I just sold them my script. Dean kind of had his own ideas
in mind for the material, and decided to make the necessary changes
without any assistance from me, which I was fine with. I got to sit
back and watch it upon its release just like I was a regular member of the
audience, which I was in a manner of speaking. Not knowing what changes
they may have made to my original script, I really had no idea what was
going to happen. That was a strange experience, but a lot of fun too.
someone used to direct his own movies, how easy or hard was it for you to
give up directorial control on this one?
wasnít all that difficult. There are various scripts that I write that
mean different things to me, and
was one of those that I would have
enjoyed directing, but I had no problem whatsoever letting Dean take the
reins. In a way, actually, it was refreshing to sit back and let someone
else sit in the big chair. Itís a hard job ha! I was in the middle of
developing several other features at the time anyhow, so it worked out for
the best, in terms of my schedule.
Were you in any
way involved in the actual shooting of the movie, and if so, what can you
tell us about the shoot as such?
was not involved. I understood pretty quickly that Chris and Dean had
their own plan in store for the material, so I kind of backed off and let
them do their thing.
Anything you can tell
us about audience and critical reception of your movie?
seem to be really digging it. Itís not meant to be a game changer in the
horror genre. Itís just a fun, scary ride. It knows what it is and it
embraces this, and audiences tend to appreciate that sort of thing.
future projects you'd like to share?
got nine feature projects currently in development, five of which are
specs of mine, the other three I was brought in to write and/or direct.
Iím also putting together concepts for potential new spec screenplays.
All in all, just staying proactive. Always gotta keep pushing in this
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Anything else you're
dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
just want to give a special shout out to the producer, Chris Sergi. He
really worked some magic on this film. I donít know many producers who
could have pulled off a project like this with the budget he had to work
with. It was pretty remarkable. I look forward to seeing what he
produces in the future.
for the interview!