My co-director, Justin Meeks and I graduated from a small film program at Texas A&M - Corpus Christi in 1999. In 2000, I produced a feature-length documentary titled "Up Syndrome," which was a portrait of my childhood friend Rene Moreno, who was born with Down's Syndrome. That movie went on to garner international press and did the festival circuit, eventually finding its way into the Slamdance Film Festival in 2001. The success of that film brought more opportunities, which we eventually turned into a trilogy of black and white horror short films: "Headcheese," "The Hypostatic Union," and "Voltagen." EI Cinema (now POPCinema) picked up the shorts and released them as bonus films on 3 separate DVD releases from 2003-2005. That brought us to gather funding for our first feature-length narrative attempt, "The Wild Man of the Navidad," which finished production in July, 2006.
Q: How is the film community in Austin, TX?
Thriving. In the 8 years I've been here, I've seen more and more filmmakers moving here to work. There is a huge film society here run by Richard Linklater, and Texas has a massive film commission that aids moviemakers. UT Austin pumps a huge pool of talent out each and every year - actors, filmmakers, musicians, producers, you name it. They all come out of that massive school and many of them stay right here. Also Austin offers one of the largest film festivals in the country, South By Southwest. This all makes this town very attractive to not only indy filmmakers, but Hollywood as well. Many studio productions were shot here in the last decade or so: "The Alamo," "Office Space," "Dazed and Confused," "A Perfect World," "Sin City," "Grindhouse" just to name a few. It's getting to the point where, if you're driving down some random road in town, seeing a crew in action is nothing out of the ordinary.
Q: Is the story really based on a real life character, Dale S. Rogers, who kept a journal about this creature?
Yes, Dale is very real. When Mr. Meeks and myself were in pre-production, we visited the tiny town of Sublime, Texas, a number of times to research the original legend of the wild man. While talking to the locals, we were put in touch with Mr. Rogers who, after spending time with him, offered his stories to us. We were surprised to learn that there was much more that occurred after the original legend that was never printed in the history books. His writings were mostly in the form of random journal entries and illustrations, so we used those to base our screenplay and production design. Justin Meeks actually stayed with him several days to aid him in accurately portraying Dale's character in the movie.
Q: What impressed me most about the movie is that it really looks and feels like a 70's drive-in type movie. Why decide to go in this direction?
Well the main reason for this is probably because Mr. Meeks and myself grew up in the 70's, and those old horror films scared the hell out of us. That was the initial fascination with the period. The horror flicks back then were just different. They were much more about atmosphere and fluid storytelling than this flashy, kinetic headache-inducing contemporary crap. They were linear stories that were less about gore and more about psychology. We knew that we wanted to make a movie that actually looked and felt like it could be RELEASED in that period. Not some fake, polished homage with a modern soundtrack and pretty people like they make in the studios these days. I'm talking about a movie that could be placed on the shelf with those old films and could almost pass as one that slipped through the cracks for thirty years. That was always our goal.
Q: How did Kim Henkel, producer of the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, become involved with the project?
Kim was our screenwriting and film production professor at Texas A&M - Corpus Christi. I had a few choices when it came to film schools, and I picked the smaller program with Kim because I knew who he was and what he had made in the 70's. Our appreciation of his work led both of us there, and it was a great decision because it was a much smaller, more intimate program that allowed us much more one on one time than say, a huge school like UT Austin. Kim pretty much shaped us as directors, and we took many pages from his book. He's a man of few words, and he would never bullshit you. If he thinks it's crap, he'll tell you it's crap and smile afterward. That's the beauty of Henkel - he was never tarnished by his success.
Q: How did you go about casting?
We held a casting call here in Austin to audition people for the larger roles in the film. A majority of the main players live and work in Austin. Most of the supporting cast, extras and lesser roles were comprised of locals in the community we shot the picture. That was mainly because we wanted the film to never lose its authentic feel, and the locals were instrumental to that texture. We shot the film in and around Whitsett, Texas, and there were many natural actors that were eager to give it a shot. Edmond Geyer, who plays the Sheriff in our film, had never acted before in his life. Yet, many people think he is a trained actor. That's the beauty of naturals - they're all around you, you just have to find them.
Q: What was the most difficult aspect of making the movie?
Well if there's one thing we learned in this process, it's that making a period picture on a low budget is extremely difficult. We were very lucky that the community came together and helped us find all the vintage props and vehicles needed to complete the film. We also utilized a lot of the retro shops in Austin and eBay to helps us build the movie's world as convincingly as possible. I'd have to say the hardest part of the production was the length of time it took to produce. We all work day jobs during the week, so we shot in three- day weekend blocks for a period of 6 months. That makes continuity tricky because you have to make sure actors' appearances are unchanged, seasons don't change, props aren't lost or broken, etc. Usually movies are shot in a couple months, so that was the hardest part. That and just coordinating the entire production around the actors' ongoing lives, shifting scenes around and figuring out ways to shoot around sudden changes, etc. It's very hard to keep the whole train on the track when you're working with pennies compared to actual studio productions. But we'd have it no other way. The heart that shows up in movies that endure these type of challenges is unique and will never be reproduced by Hollywood. Even if the director goes on to Hollywood. Like "El Mariachi," Robert Rodriguez will never match the heart that's in his first movie when it was just him and a friend making it together. That is, unless, he goes back to Mexico and does it that way again with literally nobody but himself and a string of good luck.
Q: What are your upcoming projects?
We have a couple ideas on the back burner, but for now we take a much- needed break from the process. "Wild Man" took literally two solid years to develop, shoot and edit. Likely we will do a comedy next, or possibly a western. It's really up in the air at this point.
Q: How can people get the movie/contact you?
Our main website is www.greeksproductions.com You can check out trailers for all our films there, or just read about the projects we've produced over the years. Also, almost everything we've made to date is on YouTube. Check out our channel at www.youtube.com/dignan00