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Horror Interview by The Gravedigger
Q: HEADING HOME is an adaptation of a Ramsey Campbell short story. How did you get Ramsey permission to adapt it?
I had some previous experience looking for permission to adapt a story when I made my Lovecraft short "The Statement of Randolph Carter," but the main difference between that situation and the one with Ramsey Campbell is that Mr. Campbell is alive and Lovecraft is dead. With "Carter" I tried going through the official channels, contacting a certain publishing house that claims to have the rights to Lovecraft's work, only to later discover via some of my fellow Lovecraftian filmmakers that Lovecraft's stories are basically public domain. Something about his estate being a mess when he died. Go figure.
But back to your original question: with "Heading Home" I decided to contact the very much alive Mr. Campbell directly. Ramsey is very nice and approachable and supportive of young filmmakers. He did forward my query to his lawyers who I had some correspondence with, and when I got an answer that basically sounded like yes I went ahead and made the movie. Then I checked back again with R.C. before it screened at a festival, just to make sure everything was a-ok. I was given permission to make the movie and show it at fests, but not to commercially distribute it. That's ok though; it's still early in my filmmaking career and I just really wanted to make it.
Q: The guy who portrays the crazy scientist is great. How did you get your actors?
You're right about that! Ean Sheehy is great. Ean had acted in a couple of films that my boyfriend/collaborator Ben Jurin made. In "Carter," I went with the older, wizened through years of experimentation mad science type. For "Heading Home" I wanted someone with more youthful presumption about his work and a little bit of the crazy. Ben was like, "boy have I got someone for you!" When Ean came over to rehearse I knew he would be great; I was describing to him the way that I thought his head should crawl across the floor and up the stairs, and he threw himself down and started biting the edge of my coffee table and said "like this?"
Jenny Mundy-Castle is my best friend. She hadn't acted in anything since high school, I think, but she's good at a lot of things, has a great imagination and she really wanted to do it. It's nice working with people who you already know and like too, and since we lived together at the time we could rehearse whenever.
Chuck Bunting had acted in a movie made by the AC on "Heading Home," Kevin Freeman as well one made by "Carter" star and "Heading Home" best boy Jeff Velazquez. We seem to have type cast him as heavies, tough guys, dumb but menacing people... I'd love to cast him completely opposite to that one day.
Q: What was the intention of making a short, as opposed to a feature?
The intention?!? Look, I know some people jump right into making a feature right away, and occasionally it even doesn't turn out half bad. But I know of plenty of first features that have turned out poorly, if they even got finished in the first place. I would like to make a feature but I think I still have a couple of shorts left to do before I'm ready to subject myself and my cast and crew to that. I didn't go to film school so I consider making these shorts to be like school for me. So the intention was to gain some more experience and knowledge before I put the time and money into a full-length project.
Q: What is your background as a filmmaker, what got you interested in all of this?
When I was in school I took a semester long filmmaking course, done mostly on Super 8, though I didn't end up majoring in film. At that point I was already interested in making movies in the horror vein and made a probably really bad adaptation of an Edward Gorey poem.
But the bulk of my education came from working with Brooklyn-based filmmaking collective Reel Sweet Betty. When I first started working with them Betty was advertising on lamp posts and outside coffee shops, and I heard about the group from a flier. Reel Sweet Betty was created by Joe Renz (who did the digital effects on "Heading Home") as a way to help really interested people make movies on a budget, but also as a reaction against some bad experiences he'd had on other people's sets. The group was designed for people who had a lot of passion for movie making but not a lot of money and very likely a day job to work around. We had a list of rules to follow, like 6 hour shoot days (so as not to waste people's valuable free time. We learned to work fast). New members had to work on three projects for other members before they could do one of their own. Also, one of my favorite rules was "no couple breakup movies allowed" because they suck and we don't want to hear about your ex-girlfriend. Unless you somehow managed to write a good one which you could then submit to Joe for approval.
The group has since dispersed a bit through people moving out of town or going off in different directions, but I still have a lot of lasting connections and good friends who I want to continue to work with.
My high school obsession with Tim Burton was largely responsible for my desire to make movies. As far as subject matter, I've always been a big fan of ghost stories and good scares.
Q: I don't come across very many horror directors who are women. Why do you think this is?
That is such a plaguing question. Well first, there aren't that many female film directors, at least not on a Hollywood level, but even within that group horror directors are really under-represented. I was at the New York City Horror Film Festival and Mick Garris was a guest. He was talking about the Masters of Horror series and my friend/fellow horror filmmaker Paula Haifley asked why none of the episodes are directed by women. He said that there was no one to ask except Katherine Bigelow (who was unable to do it) and Mary Harron (who didn't want to do it). So I think on the level that he's talking about there isn't anyone, but on a lower budget, more under-the-radar level there are more and hopefully we will break through before long.
As to the why, I can only speak for myself when I say that I was never very interested in a lot of what people think of when "horror movies" are mentioned. I was always really bored by slasher movies with weak female characters. Not that every girl in a horror movie has to be a Lara Croft-style ass-kicker, but it would just be nice if they were interesting. Then again a lot of guys end up as meat in slashers. On the other hand, a lot of women have been fed lines about how all horror movies are "sexist" or "violent" and might not even give the genre a chance having prematurely written it off. Overall, though, it just feels like a lot of horror movies weren't made with anything but adolescent guys in mind. I'd like to see a lot more smart, different, interesting horror movies, like Lucky McKee's movies, and I think that there is a potential for women to bring something new to the genre.
Q: Are you working on another horror film?
I've been taking a brief hiatus while helping friends out on their movies (also a valuable learning experience) while I work on ideas and scripts. There will be more horror films for sure, and you'll be one of the first to hear about it when they're in production.