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An Interview with Scott Butler, Star of Holy Terror

by Mike Haberfelner

March 2017

Films starring Scott Butler on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Holy Terror - in a few words, what is it about, and what can you tell us about your character in it?


It is a story about a couple that have lost their son and believes something is not right in his passing, due to disturbances in the family home. The couple enlists a medium to contact their son but the seance doesn't go well. After the seance, the medium contacts and brings in Jacob, a priest that is tormented from a terrible past experience long ago and has an internal battle with his own faith, to attempt to put things right through an incredibly dangerous exorcism, to save a soul and ultimately find his own redemption.

This is the foundation of my character Jacob who, as a young priest, was strong in his belief and, many years later after the terrible experience, is now a mere shell of the man he once was. He is tormented with the thought of the same experience happening all over again and is reluctant to be involved, knowing that it would destroy him but also feels that this may be his last chance to put things right, should the exorcism be successful and have his faith and purpose restored.


What did you draw upon to bring your character to life, and how much Scott Butler can we find in Jacob?


I spent a lot of time researching exorcisms, watching documentaries about exorcisms and the modern day priests that performed them and understanding the process. I also created a backstory and fleshed out life around Jacob and who he is, in and out of his religious duties. I do this to all of my characters, even down to the music they listen to, their parents, siblings, their childhood, loves and dislikes. I believe this helps fill any unnatural void that can occur while performing a scene and bring life and naturalness to a character. I also provide a connection between scenes that helps to bring truth in the imaginary world, where the character came from before entering the scene, his objectives and the obstacles that stand in his way.

I think there is some of me in Jacob, I have certainly had experiences in my life that have left me with emotional scars and the wonder of how I could have put things right or to live with what has happened and move on. Like Jacob, I am somewhat reclusive and deep in thought most of the time. I find the best path to natural acting is to bring as much of your own self into the character so that you have a solid foundation that is already there to build the character upon.


What got you involved with the movie in the first place, and to what extent could you relate to the movie's horror theme?


Gregory Hatanaka, who is one of the producers, got in touch with me (I'd worked with Greg on the movie Hunter and we kept in touch) and asked if I was interested in working on Holy Terror. He said that he thinks it would be a strong role for me, a real challenge and could be ultimately rewarding. I was sent the script and just could not put it down, which is rare for me, and texted him back right away, very fired up for the role.


I have a deep love for the horror genre, especially the ones that lean more to the psychological thriller type. I'm not a huge fan of jump scare movies, they feel to me like a fun fair ride, that you go through, experience some forced emotions and then ultimately forget about hours later. I prefer movies that take you through an emotional journey, where it makes you feel deeply involved, like you are in the room with them and feel a long lasting connection to the characters (far beyond the actual time the movie runs for) and what they are going through, you feel protective of the characters you care for.

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Shining, this movie doesn't really fit the traditional horror genre, but is a good example of the type of movie that I love that comes somewhat close to the genre. I have watched it many times, and every time I watch it, I feel this same sense of dread, like when you have a re-occurring nightmare (I had this for years as a child) that feels just as dangerous and new/unknown every time. When I watch horror movies, I turn all the lights off and play them on the big screen to get the maximum effect.


Do talk about Holy Terror's director Rich Mallery, and what was your collaboration like?


This was my first project with Rich, I sort of briefly met him via some emails for a role in Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance (that didn't happen due to some scheduling conflicts). I first met Rich in person for a rehearsal at his home for some of the movie's more complex scenes, a few weeks before shooting.

Rich is a wonder to work with, he is this quietly confident genius, extremely creative, knows what he wants and has this intense focus on the monitors while shooting. I sensed his genius the minute we started rehearsals and this only added to the excitement I already had running up to our first day of filming. His script was fantastic, he has this momentum and flow in his writing that just sucks you in. After having read through the script in its entirety a couple of times, I would look at scenes to memorize my lines and find myself getting sucked into reading the whole script again, I had to remind myself to focus on the scene for line memorization, this happened several times.


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


Honestly, this was one of the most fun shoots I've been a part of. Although everyone took their roles very seriously, both cast and crew, everyone was enjoying every minute of what we were creating, in fact our sound guy, Arihel, would often shout "let's make some movies!" when the camera would roll, you could feel the excitement from everyone. The other thing I loved, was that each and every person on the set was a joy to work with, humble and down-to-earth, no egos. I wish all shoots could be like that, but sadly that's not always the case, in those situations you just make the best of it.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I have a few more projects coming up with Gregory Hatanaka and Rich Mallery, a follow-up to the fantastic cult classic 80's movie Hundra, starring the incredibly talented Laurene Landon, entitled Hundra 2: Warrior Queen. Also a follow-up to the 70's classic Lady Cocoa which sounds like it will be a lot of fun, and a fun family movie called Christmas Cat. I also have a role in a movie dedicated to the life of James Dean, playing his friend and confidant Bill Bast, coming out later this year.

There are a few more horror movies that are coming up too, Cadaver, Blink and a third one that I am in talks with to play "Jack the Scarecrow" for the horror-western The Devil's Beneath, all produced by Whitley Films Productions. I worked with the owner Jacob Whitley many years ago on my first lead role in a feature and it would be a dream come true to collaborate with him again. From what I'm told the "Jack the Scarecrow" character will involve some incredible makeup that is a central part of his background and why he is the way he is in the movie. This role will be a very challenging character role, which is very exciting as I enjoy the challenge of going deep into a role.


As far as I know you found into acting via video game design - so could you elaborate on that, and what can you tell us about your training as an actor?


I've been working in video games as an artist since 1989 and still continue to work in that field, as I love both creative mediums. In early 2009 I was between jobs and decided to try something new while on my first break in 20 years. I thought back to how I was interested in the idea of acting as a child, but sadly never pursued it, I was very shy back then and I think that's what held me back. Since I've been acting I've found that my work in games has helped me immensely with creating an imaginary world around me, having worked in green screen and voice acting where your surroundings are not the environment you are playing in while in character.


I found my first acting class while living in San Diego called Actor's Workshop Studios and decided to audit the class, knowing absolutely nothing about acting. I thought to myself, "if I'm not good at this, then at least it might help me to improve my public speaking for my video games job." I remember walking down the corridor towards the class and then thinking "what am I doing?" and proceeded to walk back to my car. I then stopped and told myself that I should at least check it out, so then went back and took my first step into acting, this was literally the turning point for what has happened since.

I remember being super nervous and self conscious at first, but became more and more comfortable over the proceeding weeks and started auditioning and booking local short and indie films. Thinking back now, I feel that it was great to start out in a smaller market, as there isn't as much pressure and everyone leads pretty normal lives outside of their filmmaking, so are very approachable. Some time later I won the best actor award at the Canada International Film Festival in 2011, this is where I made the decision to take this new path very seriously and move to LA.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Holy Terror?


After working on a lot of smaller films and some local cable TV, I was lucky enough to land a role in the Warner Bros release 16-Love, directed by Adam Lipsius, working alongside Lindsey Shaw and Chandler Massey, which was just amazing, an experience that I will always cherish. This movie did very well in its initial theatrical release and in its video-on-demand releases.

I was also extremely grateful to land a role in the Lionsgate release Wiener Dog Internationals, directed by Kevan Peterson, playing alongside the character Judge Brown (played by Bryan Batt), I also worked in scenes involving Morgan Fairchild, which was just unforgettable. I have several other movies available on video-on-demand including Conspiracy Theory, Last Day of School and a few others.


Besides films, you have also done your fair share of theatre work - so do talk about that aspect of your career for a bit, and how does performing on stage compare to acting in front of a camera?


Actually, I have only worked on one play, when I first started out acting, it was a comedy of Shakespeare's plays, with a somewhat Monty Python feel to them. I was also offered a role in a play in Las Vegas two years ago, which was very exciting, but had to turn the part down as my focus was more on my work in LA. I remember that I had this sense of incredible excitement and pleasure from playing my roles in that play (I had 4 roles) mixed in with this intense fear of doing my first play live in front of an audience. The play went down very well and I won a best actor award from the theatre group, which was wonderful.


How would you describe yourself as an actor, and some of your techniques to bring your characters to life?


I try not to think of myself as an actor when I am working, in the sense of "ok, I'm on set, now it's time to do my job and act", this would add a falseness as to why I am there for me. Instead I prefer to let myself just naturally transform into my character, with my prepared choices intact.

When I am in mid performance, I actually feel completely that I am that character in that situation, the cameras, crew and lights all dissolve away and all that is left are the other characters that I interact with, the scenery and the imaginary scenery to fill in the fourth wall. When I hear "cut!" I snap out of it, like when a hypnotist clicks their fingers and you come out from under their spell. When given direction, I mould those changes into my own sense of what I am doing in the scene, like layering clay onto a sculpture, letting it evolve with the creative input from the director, for whom I put my full trust into.


Actors (and indeed actresses) who inspire you?


There are many that I love, including Robert De Niro, Michael Caine, Meryl Streep, Dustin Hoffman, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt and many more. I also love the work of Al Pacino, he has this intenseness, this richness that is undeniable. I am also a big fan of Lance Henriksen, who I had the pleasure of meeting at an after party for one of his movies, Lake Eerie, we talked for about an hour about ghost stories whilst drinking wine, was a surreal and amazing night. As he left he turned around and said "I hope to work with you someday", my heart nearly stopped, that would be a dream come true. I also have enjoyed pretty much every character Harrison Ford has ever played, I love his work.


Your favourite movies?


I have many movies that I adore, I was an 80's kid (still am, if I'm being honest), it was a decade of such intense creativity and a sense that anything was possible. I loved Labyrinth, Neverending Story, The Lost Boys, Blade Runner, the original Star Wars trilogy, I could go on and on.

Recently I have been really enjoying the retro comeback, with Stranger Things and a lot of 80's style modern music. But there's this one movie that I just fell in love with called Turbo Kid, I was a BMX kid growing up, spent a lot of time doing tricks and racing around on the local track. Anyway this movie just has such a big heart, it was so passionately created by people who really cared about what they were making and put everything that they love about that wonderful era into that movie. I'd love to give a big shout-out to the creators, Anouk, Yoann-Karl and Francois, I have had the pleasure of chatting with them a little on Facebook (they are the nicest people) and really hope to meet them in person someday. Go check it out, it's on Netflix and Amazon!

Outside of the 80's, I love The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Schindler's List, Pan's Labyrinth (I love the work of Guillermo Del Toro), and several foreign movies, Run Lola Run and everything by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Amelie, Delicatessen, The City of the Lost Children. Oh and I love Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki... ok, I need to stop now, I could go on all night!


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


You know, I try not to hate any art, I just love that people create things and put them out there for us to experience. I've only ever walked out of one movie in my life, I didn't hate it, I just didn't feel that I needed to stay any longer, like when you feel you've had your experience at an art gallery and decide to leave. I always find something to like about anything I've watched or listened to, certainly there are things I have more of a connection with, but I try not to have negative thoughts on other people's creativity.


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


If you have a dream, pursue it! Anything is possible, I started acting at the age of 36, everyone told me I didn't stand a chance, I started way too late. Well, I feel like I've had an amazing past 8 years in this industry, I've worked on over 70 projects, won two awards, met some amazing people and had some incredible experiences, I am excited for the future. Just believe in yourself and listen to what your heart is telling you, not what others want you to believe.

And lastly, Holy Terror debuts on Amazon Prime on April 1 and the on other cable and digital platforms in May.


Thanks for the interview!


photos courtesy of Guillermo Proano/PR Photos and David Levin/DJL Photos


© by Mike Haberfelner

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and shall not be held responsible for
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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
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Your Bones to

is all of that.


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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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On the same day
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and your Ex wants
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... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

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

out now on DVD