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Demian Rugna
Horror Interview by The Gravedigger

Q: Your recent movie, THE LAST GATEWAY, is an extremely ambitious project-and a really weird idea. How did the film come about?

Everyone who read the script probably thought I wouldn't be able to do half the things I came up with. Many people don't have the faith in a twenty-six year old director who, with his first movie, made a film of a type that's never done in Argentina.

Many times I felt underestimated in making this film. It was a struggle with each member of the team for them to believe in me and this project. And that they understand it was my vision. I think that for this being my debut as a director I couldn't ask for much more. It was an extremely little budget for so ambitious a project but I knew that many production problems could be solved with a of creativity.

I achieved my dreams with this film. There are five or six scenes that I can't watch because I get really embarrassed, mostly a result of the low budget (only U.S. $50,000) and less time to shoot. It makes me happy to have made this horror film in my country that is unlike any other, and it will make me happier if the public has the opportunity to see THE LAST GATEWAY and meet me.

Q: I noticed the EVIL DEAD and FROM BEYOND (Lovecraft) influences, so I assume you're a big fan of the genre?

Absolutely, these are movies that marked me as a child, like RE-ANIMATOR and FRIDAY THE 13th. H.P. Lovecraft is one of my favorite writers, along with Clive barker.

About the genre fan, look... When I was nine Freddy Krueger was my superhero. Back in those days I was drawing comic strips by copying what I saw in films such as Alien, Predator, Critters, V... and when I play with action figures I bought red painting for making them bloody. At the age of twelve I wrote the biography of Jason and then I tattoed his mask on my arm. I think that qualifies me as a big fan of genre. Even though I am a fan, I am also very demanding and critical. Nowadays, I'm not seeing the types of movies I saw as a kid. The predictable stories of the new horror movies make me angry because I am convinced that end up hurting the genre.

So I identify with directors like del Toro, Clive Barker or Cronenberg who are trying to re-invent the stereotypes of the genre to which we must all care.

Q: The special effects are great and you show just enough of the creatures to keep the viewer hooked. Did you do this because "less is more" or because of budget considerations?

It's both. The low budget conditioned to me as far as amount of takes I could do as well as the quality of shots. Time is money and we did really well. In the movie, no shot of a monster in the movie is longer than four seconds. But I would have liked to have had more options when it came to show every effect. For example, the monster at the end of the movie was the most important creature but I only had it on the set for thirty minutes, because we had to destroy the latex suit to save the actors life inside. He had an toxic reaction to the solvents that were pasted on his skin. So less money was less time. I couldn't go back and shoot the monster again because I had no time to reconstruct it, so I had to deal with less shots than I had in mind.

Q: The movie seems to take place in the American Southwest, as some of the characters have Southern USA accents, the actors all speak English and the signs are all in English. Why did you decide to do this rather than have it take place in Argentina?

We made every effort to achieve the impossible-that an American viewer will think he's watching an American movie. It may be idiocy on our part but a bold attempt nonetheless. In Argentina the horror cinema is shifted to a marginal place, so I thought to sell this outside my country and language (English) is a big marketing tool for that. No producers are encouraged to make such films here, for the local market, and much less on the history that I raised, which isrife with monsters and imagination.

Down here there hasn't been a national premier of a commercial horror film in the last twenty five years! Argentina's films are always promoting social content or idiotic stories for a public mediocre and vulgar. Based on this trend, I decided to make the movie for another market and American has a lot of potential. At the last minute I had to adapt the script for it taking place in the US and made sure that our production is was able to carry out. Today I am sorry of it to have done in English because the American market is not interested in my film at the moment. With regard to the language there is a mixture of accents which it was almost impossible to control under the conditions that I had to make this movie.

Q: How did you cast your actors?

It was my first casting as a director. At times I felt that everything was going to go to hell, because I only had four castings of three hours each for finding players who speak perfect English... and that English needed to be American, and the actors had to act good! But I had a lot of lucky with the casting. I might not have been entirely happy with them at first in the role but then I saw I wasn't wrong to cast them. I am very proud of the casting and I must admit that really lucky because none of the roles had a second choice.

Q: The entire movie was shot in 25 days... what was the most difficult thing about the production?

We didn't have a "Plan B". If it rained one day the film was really threatened. I did 30 scenes a day and at least three of them had special effects. Any special effects problems were solved while we were shooting them and I improvised a lot with them because it was the only way to get this film forward.

The film could be completed in a timely manner because it was an excellent relationship between the production crew; maybe because for 60% of the team this was their first movie. I was lucky to have generated an excellent working atmosphere, which enabled us to finish this film in just twenty-five days. And nobody fought... or died!

Anyway, I must confess that I finished every day with a bit of frustration because I couldn't get exactly what I wanted because of the less time to shoot and on more than one occasion I ended up crying by myself about this.

Q: How do you think the independent filmmaking in Argentina differs from the United States?

I guess the biggest difference is the economic situation from all angles. For example, none of those who work in my film can pay their taxes making movies. If you make an independent film down here you know that you're involved in an adventure in which you have to relegate your real work, money and part of your personal life. Many here are pursuing the dream of making horror movies but it affects our lives-- and that makes us very strong.

Q: What is happening with the movie now?

I honestly don't know. I am trying to sell it to distribution companies but it seems that few understand what the film's about. The market decides for pre-fabricated boxes that mimic themselves and distributors aren't interested in a South American horror product that would be interesting to the viewer. No distributor has the balls or intelligence to bet on a new idea. Distributors even told me that they did not understand my film. Then I'd show it to twelve year old kids, who understood it perfectly!

I'm convinced that the DVD market is looking for horror films that do not make you think... and that distributors are idiots. THE LAST GATEWAY may not be a jewel but for a fucking $50,000 it's carrying a material completely original, innovative and bold. An intelligent distributor can make a big business of THE LAST GATEWAY. But most of them are office idiots who don't know damn about horror films. It's very difficult for me because I have no money to promote TLG and the local press is not interested in that this is a unique type of film in my country. So, I really just do what I can from my house with my computer and send it to festivals that don't have an entry fee because I don't have money for that. It is sad, but I am still fighting because I'm sure that THE LAST GATEWAY is a good movie... or at least that it is original and this is a lot for a horror movie nowadays.

Q: How can people contact you?

My website is at www.demianrugna.com.ar and email at demianrugna@hotmail.com

find information about Demian Rugna at imdb.com find horror stuff by Demian Rugna

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