Q: How did the idea for THE DROWNED come about? I know you're a big Lovecraft fan....
The film was a very long time in gestating. Way back when I was ten or eleven years old, I got this idea for a story about underwater vampires. Many years later, I heard a story about a place in upstate New York called the Shokan Reservoir. Supposedly, the reservoir had been constructed over an old village that had once been there but was long deserted. Rumor had it that you could sometimes see the buildings beneath the water. This inspired me to update my old idea of underwater vampires, turning it into a ghost story that eventually became THE DROWNED. I always found the idea of a "ghost" town underwater to be very eerie. There isn't as much Lovecraft in the film as there is Arthur Machen, an English author who was one of Lovecraft's many inspirations. He wrote very powerful stories of "pagan horror" such as THE GREAT GOD PAN. So I included a lot of Celtic mythology. And, by the way, the long speech that Edgar has in the middle of the film about seeing a "little man" digging in his back yard was based on an incident that actually happened to my grandmother and me many years ago. Exactly as it's described in the film, we saw this strange little man digging, called to him and he just ignored us. Later, we looked for the spot where he had been digging and the soil wasn't even disturbed.
Q: The location was definitely a character unto itself...in those scenes where it's raining was that a video effect or was it actually raining?
In most scenes in which it's raining, it 's for real. But in some cases, such as when Kate first enters the cottage, we added some digital rain to get across the motif of water or dampness that's central to the film. We also mixed real fog from a fog machine with digital fog for some of the apparition scenes.
Q: How did you come up with the "look" of the creatures in the lake?
The make-up was done by my wife Rosa under one of her many pseudonyms. The look of the apparitions was fairly explicit in the script; they were supposed to be ghoulish and gray, as though they'd been underwater for a very, very long time.
And they had to have something of the pagan mythology about them, as that was inherent in the story. I especially like the character played by Lynn Powell, who is based on the old legend of Peg Prowler, a water spirit that devours children. Rosa made her up with an appliance that made it look as though she had shark teeth. I think it's quite effective.
Q: How did you go about casting the actors? Were most of them local?
I cast many of the actors out of a local theater company called The Ghent Playhouse. Three of them were in a play based on Stoker's "Dracula." Stephanie Tanaka (Kate) had impressed me in the role of Lucy in that production, in which Nick Miscusi (Edgar) had played Jonathan Harker and Paul Murphy (Colleen's husband) was Renfield. The other actors were mostly from the Albany, NY area and they auditioned for me on camera. One special note: Faity Tuttle, who plays Kate's grandmother in the flashback scene, is an actress in her nineties who appeared on Broadway in THE PETRIFIED FOREST with Humphrey Bogart back in the 1930's. She lives in a supposedly haunted house, which is the exterior of Kate's cottage in the film.
Q: How long did the movie take to make, from shoot to final edit?
This was one of Pagan Productions' smoother shoots; we filmed from August '04 through October '04, with a few pick-up shots in '05. The final edit was completed in October '06, at which point we had a very successful premiere at the State Museum Theater in Albany.
Q: Is there anything else you're working on now?
At the moment, I'm writing two books. The first, COMEDY-HORROR FILMS: A CHRONOLOGICAL HISTORY will be out from McFarland in May. The second, THE HAMMER VAMPIRE, is being published by a British company called Hemlock Press this coming fall. Film wise, I'll probably be acting in a horror film called DIE LAUGHING that's a collaboration between my filmmaking colleagues Jeff Kirkendall and Joe Bagnardi later this year.