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An Interview with Tony Severio, Director of Heinous

by Mike Haberfelner

March 2013

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Your upcoming movie Heinous - in a few words, what's it going to be about?


Footage seized by authorities is used to recreate the horrific events of a young couple and their blind daughter after moving into a Southern country home occupied by a vile entity. That’s it in a nutshell without the details of course… you have to see it for the details. (evil grin)


What were your inspirations when writing Heinous?


Childhood experiences.

I had the most active imagination as a child. Many of them created by watching a show back then called Night Gallery. It came on late nights on the weekend if I remember correctly. We were not allowed to watch it but we would sneak and do it. That show scared me to death so nightmares and imagination ensued! However, I have never experienced any paranormal events - I have scared myself a few times though. So blend a life of imagination, the past spooky television shows with current horror filmmaking and you get Heinous.


From what I've heard, Heinous is going to be a movie of the found footage-variety. Why, and what do you find appealing about this sort of filmmaking?


It has a certain element of realism… like a documentary. For example, Mel Gibson’s film Signs did not scare me, but when the creature appeared in the news footage at the child daycare center and just walked across the screen, THAT sent a chill down my spine. So the intent was achieved by what seemed real. Today we are a culture of reality television. I am not a big fan of that but I do like the use of “reality” to affect the audience. You also have to look at your target audience in today’s market.


What can you tell us about your directorial approach to your subject matter, and the intended look and feel of your movie?


Even with this kind of film (found footage), I still believe in sticking with structure. So that is the challenge, character arc in three acts. I also like to drive the story with the characters and allow the audience to experience the horror through them and not necessarily the entity. I want to bring the element of realism to the project by using everyday elements and locations - places and things that the average person lives in and interacts with. We will play with lighting techniques at times to create mood and the feel of something dark but really surprising the audience with horror in what seems like a natural comfortable environment. There will not be buckets of blood but the element of implied doom and terror.


The plot of Heinous alone suggests quite a bit of violence - so how far do you intend to go in that department, and is there a line you refuse to cross?


Not the level of gore and blood bath shock but what I would call bloody scary (grin). Implied death scenes coupled with after the fact images. I think it has a greater effect on the audience to leave some things to mystery and imagination. We do not want to spoil the audience with gore as I think it takes away from the scare factor and gets boring. This film has children in it and I refuse to show a death scene with a child or imply it. In a horror film it takes away from the entertainment value in my opinion. If I were making a WW11 film I would imply it but never show it happening. That’s my line.


Anything you can tell us about your intended cast yet?


Sure. I chose a cast that is not well known. Again the idea is to have an element of realism or reality. To seem like average people living a routine lives. However not well known I believe we have a solid cast that will bring it to the level needed for this project. We do have Randall Oliver signed, who does have an impressive resume spanning almost 30 years in the industry. He was the lead in my last film Rugaru and he carried the film as good as any A list actor. We have a mixture of young and older actors and as mentioned, some children. All have unique qualities that I think will carry this film.


In my opinion, for a film like Heinous the right location is of paramount importance. Anything you can tell us about Heinous location-wise yet?


Heinous is set in South Louisiana. We will be shooting in an Acadian style home and South Louisiana locations that include moss laden trees, live oaks rural landscapes. Most of the exteriors will be establishing shots with the majority of the film shot indoors. However there are a couple scenes that take place in the forest. But again not straying too far away from what seems like everyday places and locations.


With Heinous still being in pre-production: What's the schedule, and any idea when and where the film might be released yet?


Production will begin in late April, early June. We are hoping to turn this film around pretty quickly and have it released by the end of the year 2013.


Currently, another film of yours, Rugaru, is in post-production - so what can you tell us about that one?


Rugaru is a horror film but more of a story about a man who’s world has fallen apart around him. He has to conquer his own demons and in so doing comes face to face with a legend and folklore of three cultures, Native American, Cajun French and Voodoo. The Rugaru is a myth or legend with ties to all of these cultures. It means different things depending on which culture. The word implies that it is a man with a wolf's head since the word can be spelled many ways, such as Loup Garou the French word for werewolf. However in the Native American culture it means The Man Beast. So I took the liberty of blending all three cultures. I can also assure you that Rugaru is not a werewolf movie. 

This is the official synopsis and plot:

Voodoo is unleashed in a small backwoods bayou town in the form of a large hairy beast which comes face to face with an unlikely hero with his own curse.

A thug from the bayou releases horror in the deep backwoods after soliciting the services of a nefarious voodoo witch for protection - giving rise to a terrifying creature of Cajun folklore.

After a convict disappears, parole officer Claude Bruneaux investigates - only to discover the curse plaguing the tiny swamp community. An unlikely hero with his own demons, he races to unlock the mystery which has summoned the beast. With nothing to lose, Bruneaux struggles between his own trial of finding peace within... and getting out alive beyond what waits for him in the murky bayou.


Again, any idea when and where it will be released onto the general public?


I am optimistic that we will have it ready by the end of the year for world wide release. It depends on our distribution deal as to theater options.


With Heinous and Rugaru both being a horror films, is that a genre at all dear to you, and why (not)?


I love a scary movie but my true love is the Western genre. I am a huge fan of director Sergio Leone. His films still tower in my opinion above all other westerns simply because of the great storytelling, music, locations, excellent talent and the most realistic look and feel. From the costumes, props, locations and makeup, his films achieve it for me. My goal is to someday make a Western that will achieve the same.


So what got you into filmmaking in the first place, and how did you learn your trade?


The magic of film inspired me at a very young age. I was brought up poor and didn’t have much so it was just a dream for many years. I started working very young on farms. I would save money to one day get that 8mm camera I would see in resale and pawn shops. I finally acquired it and first started making clay and animated figure shorts. I would build miniature sets and spend hours animating. Eventually I started writing narrative pieces and did several 8mm shorts with family and friends. Always the dream but I could never afford film school. I learned by doing. Back then we did not have internet so I read everything I could get my hands on. Today there is no excuse. With the technology and information at our fingertips anyone can make films. They may not win Oscars but they are easily achievable today. Funding is a major challenge but that comes with success. I concur with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, film school is not necessary - don’t waste your money or your parents money. You want to be a filmmaker, then start making movies!


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Heinous and Rugaru?


Rugaru was my first feature length film. Prior to that I did many shorts. I spent many years producing various forms of media especially commercials for local clients. That is not as much fun as filmmaking but it pays the bills! I have also done some film-producing and I continue to do that as well. Currently I am co-producing The Mob for Gilt Entertainment. This is a heavy budget film that will include at least 3 A list actors. I am also co-producing a couple micro budget films as well. So a combination of producing and directing. I would rather direct because of the creative freedom and accomplishment.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I do have another horror film in the works as well as my lifelong dream, a Western feature...or Eastern I should say because of the location. The Western is based on a true story that happened in Louisiana at the end of the civil war. I have acquired rights to the story but I can’t divulge the details right now.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


Very easy going. I don’t get excited on set. It can cause un-needed stress on the crew and talent. I like to work fast and get shots in two takes because as you continue you sometime loose that real true expression from the talent. But if the talent has suggestions, I am open to that as well. I will always say ok let’s try it your way and my way and see what works. It promotes team spirit and a feeling of contribution. Patience is key and you have to deal with all kinds of personalities. Joe Estevez told me that he learned something from me on set and that was patience. I felt very humbled for him to say that, it means a lot.


Besides directing, you've also done quite a bit of acting over the years, right? So please talk about Tony Severio the actor for a bit, what are some of the techniques you use to bring your characters to life, and do talk about some of the movies you acted in?


I enjoy acting. I find it easier to direct an actor than to act though! Acting is a true art form and takes years to master. Many people find this out the hard way. I enjoy characters myself. I feel I can express myself easier that way. I draw upon life experiences to dive into a role. Be it comedy or drama there is something I can pull out of my past. My most favorite role is a comedy character I created called Bubba Survivorman. He’s all over YouTube. I done a reality sports show as a guest playing this character. It was totally unscripted. I played off of the host and adlibbed the dialogue. Out of all the acting I have done, that one is my favorite. We are currently developing a TV show based on the character.


Filmmakers, actors, whatever else who inspire you?


Clint Eastwood takes the cake for me. As a director and actor he is untouchable. I inspire to have the opportunity to work on a set with him. I hear nothing but great things about his directing technique and what a joy it is to work with him. In front of the camera, he is an acting icon.


Your favourite movies?


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Last of the Mohicans. Actor Wes Studi stole the show. He’s amazing. The scenery, great cast and the music is jaw dropping. I have the pleasure of calling Wes my friend. I’ve worked many years to promote his work as well as manage fan relations for him. Look for him on a project that I am producing to be announced soon.

There are many others, the Sergio Leone Trilogy with Clint Eastwood, Outlaw Josey Wales, Ben Hur, Meet Joe Black, the Alien franchise, Predator, The Village, Signs… just a few!


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


Not a fan of slasher and gore films.


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


Find Heinous on Facebook for now at

You can also find out more about Rugaru at and


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


Yes I want to give credit to my great team including my producer Rhonda Aguillard and my lovely wife who wears many coats. Without them, I couldn’t do it! I also want to thank you for this interview.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... 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



Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...


Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!


Bauliche Angelegenheiten
ein Roman von
Michael Haberfelner


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