What made you decide to make an independent horror movie?
It was really just a matter of time. I have always wanted to make a complete independent film, all by myself, especially since a lot of the work I do is behind-the-scenes storytelling anyway. Technology as of late has really made everything so easily available.
The fact that it's a horror, or more specifically a "supernatural thriller," really just stems from my own interest in the genre. Most of my own personal projects have dealt with ghosts, or extreme conflict with pain and suffering.
One of key things that really got me on the path to doing my own feature was meeting Kevin Lindenmuth. I had the opportunity to have a cameo in BERSERKERS, in which I got to see first-hand the wonderful freedoms of making your own movie. I also read two of his books, which had amazing insight into the minds of many independent filmmakers, so Kevin is to blame for lighting the fire under my ass.
Tell us the premise of CONJURE and how the idea came about.
I actually play myself, so it's a fictional story set with real-life characters. The premise is that I'm an illustrator seeking the ultimate rewarding, inspirational project- something that I can sink my teeth into and create larger than life. I stumble upon an old photograph of a South-American castle, and I'm mesmerized by its mystery.
I take the photo home to try and paint it in full vibrant color. At the same time, I begin to draw a sketchbook full of the tortured souls I imagine who live there. Meanwhile, my girlfriend, Sarah, experiences many supernatural disturbances in the home while I'm creating in the basement studio.
Things begin to twist and transform, and eventually Sarah and I find ourselves surrounded by a jungle- right in front of the castle I was manifesting! With nowhere else to go, Sarah and I must enter the castle and face the terrible nightmares I had created back home…
You wrote, directed, produced, storyboarded and also star in the movie. What didn't you do?
I've pretty much done everything. I'm also doing a lot of the music. I'm editing. I shot every shot that I'm not in, and even some that I was! I also went of my way to learn how to build websites to make the CONJURE site because I really wanted to do it all myself and be in control.
A lot of credit has to be given to Sarah, because she has been there every step of the way. She did a lot of the camera work. She created the ghost costumes and did the ghost makeup, too.
Shawn Sheehan of Shnickerdoodle Studios is doing the higher-end digital effects. Frank Lombardo was the set photographer. Scott Condne is helping me master some of the voice-overs, and my brother, Ian Busch, will be handling the ADR.
Where was the movie shot? How long did it take to complete the film, from pre-production to final edit?
Half of the movie was shot in North Hollywood, California, and the other half was shot at my real-life home/studio in Macomb, Michigan.
The movie idea was really put together almost instantly, on the spot, last December (2003), and the script evolved throughout shooting in the Spring of 2004. The editing has been the most enjoyable part for me, but it's also taken the longest. I'm noodling this thing to death to really get the pacing where I want it. Also, there are a ton of special effects shots that really take finesse with editing to get them to look just right.
I'm hoping to have the movie completed by the end of the year. (2004)
What was the best and worst things that happened on the shoot?
The shoot went fantastic. DV really makes it easy to just keep shooting until you get it right.
I think the best and worst really comes to life when you're editing. When it all comes together in the intended sequence, you start to see things you couldn't when they were out of context.
Much of it ends up being good. Some things ended up looking even better than I could have imagined. On the other hand, you start seeing flaws, such as how you could have had better lighting for certain scenes, etc…
Any strange anecdotes?
It's really been a learning experience for me. Not to toot my own horn, but I've had the advantage of learning from a lot of folks in the industry before I set out to do my own, so I feel like my first effort is pretty damn good.
That being said, I can really see a lot of things that I will be aware of next time, so I can do even better. But I'm focusing on the now, and doing the best job I can.
How can people see the movie?
At the very least, the CONJURE DVD will be available through the website. I'm hoping to get it screened at some festivals, as well as having a limited engagement here in Detroit. On top of that, I will be sending it out to potential distributors in hopes of getting it on some shelves and possibly even cable. That might be thinking big, but it's never stopped me before!