I started in the film industry around 1994 while attending Chicago State University pursuing my degree in Criminal Justice. I took up several screenwriting classes and this is where I co-produced my first film entitled "GIV ME LUV". I was so involved and motivated with this small production, I found my passion was to Produce and Direct. In 1995, I Wrote, Produced, and Directed my first short film entitled "NOTHING TO FEAR". Being my worst critic, I felt I needed a lot more experience, so I hung out on Hollywood and Independent production sets grasping all the knowledge I could. In 1998, I made my Directorial Debut with a film entitled "TRUST", distributed nationwide through MAVERICK ENTERTAINMENT. In 2001, I Wrote, Produced, and Directed my first feature film under my company HAWKFILMZ entitled "WHEN THUGS CRY", distributed nationwide through ARTISAN ENTERTAINMENT/LIONS GATE, set up through Maverick. After sealing the deal for "WHEN THUGS CRY" Maverick agreed to produce
"THE EVIL ONE", which I Wrote, Co-Produced, and Directed, now scheduled for nationwide release February 15, 2005. After finishing my short "HADES DOOR" in 2004, I'm tentatively scheduled to start on my next film entitled "THE HEART OF A MAN" in April/May 2005.
Q: I hadn't heard of Mudgett before I watched this movie... and then looked him up on the internet just to make sure he was real-and he is. In fact, he graduated from University of Michigan medical school! Although he never used his medical degree professionally he did find a use for those skills in his killing & disposing of bodies, many of which he did at this hotel he owned. At his trial he confessed to 27 killings then later admitted to 200.! Why do you think Mudgett isn't as well known as Jack the Ripper? The Ripper's killings seem like opportunities while many of Mudgett's were very premeditated, which ultimately makes him nastier.
I think Mudgett didn't receive as much fame as Jack because America didn't glorify Mudgett's massacres as much as Europe broadcasted Jack's slayings. Also, Jack left his victims where they could be found with notes attached like he wanted the fame whereas to Mudgett made it a job. Mudgett didn't want the fame, he wanted money; he was greedy; he wanted his work to be kept secret. In fact, Herman Mudgett premeditated his killings especially during the World's Fair in 1894; during the Columbian Exposition. I do think Mudgett was nastier as he would disintegrate your entire flesh in his acid tanks, than sculptured the bones eventually selling the skeletons to local colleges throughout Illinois. Mudgett was sinister, creepy, and admits to "THE EVIL ONE" as his sponsor. With Mudgett, you never knew what hit you, you just wake up dead, but with ripper, you had a fighting chance. Personally, I would've taken my chances with Jack. Also, there is a tale that when Mudgett was hanged in 1896, before the loose snapped his neck; Mudgett shouted "I am Jack…!" He was dead before he could finish the sentence. Mudgett's last request was that no one interfered with his body for scientific testing and wished that he be cemented in his casket. Mudgett's wish was granted, but as his casket lowered into the ground, it was so heavy, it fell over falling face down and that's the way they left him; facing hell. Even his grave was cemented about 6 feet thick.
Q: Why choose a historical figure/serial killer in THE EVIL ONE rather than just make up your own serial killer?
Actually, I did have my own serial killer, "THE ENGLEWOOD KILLER". I live in the neighborhood of Englewood in Chicago Illinois, a high crime area, and we actually have several men who killed stray women, labeling them as "The Englewood Killers", so I wanted to create a story around them, I started to research their history and while researching them, Herman Webster Mudgett alias Henry H. Holmes kept appearing on my computer screen instead of the men I was looking for, so I started reading Mudgett's articles. At first, it spooked me because here was a white man from my neighborhood, who killed all these people over 100 years ago and built a castle down the street from where I grew up as an adolescent near 63rd Lowe. I thought it would be intriguing to associate a true story a long time ago to a current true story making this story possibly true, by reason of demonic possession. Initially, I wanted to create a Freddy Krueger or Candyman type character, but my "Englewood Killer" has his own sort of creepy image.
Q: I thought it kind of funny that the entire cast is African American except for the white people who ultimately turn out to be killers…was this incidental or intentional?
Where I'm from, my people (African Americans) blame hideous crimes like cannibalism or victims who have been chopped up by a meat cleaver on Caucasian people. It's a common stereotype that Whites commit more heinous crimes than Blacks. Although not true in my opinion regardless of statistics, I think it's just another inferior characteristic most possess; nevertheless, I attempted to play on that trait. The casting was intentional, which manifest's the trait, making it a pseudo-truth. I want most African Americans to say "See, I told you white people are crazy", although this is not true, to me, a good filmmaker should want to bring out all the emotional epithets from people of all colors, but at the same token, not putting anything past Black folks. My intentions were not to signify or justify a black or white thing, just a noticeable cliché.
Q: How long did the movie take to complete once you started production? What format did you use and why? Was it a benefit or a hindrance?
From Pre-production to wrap, this film took about three months to create, excluding sound design from www.studio11chicago.com. The film was shot on Super 16mm Kodak film, transferred at Cinevision, edited at Hollywood video, and sound was done downtown Chicago at Studio11. I felt in more as a hindrance because of films processing. I had to wait to see material whereas I wanted to see it right than. Plus, many of these new HD and mini-DV cameras can deliver the texture and quality a film camera can without a lot of waiting. I will probably go digital with my next piece. I'm not anti-film yet because I still want to experiment with 35mm, but until I'm blessed, Independent Filmmakers must deal with the basics.
Q: Talk a bit about your actors and why you cast them?
We had a cattle call that casted most of the supporting roles, but the main characters were hand picked for roles such as Candace Carey form "DRUMLINE" and Eric Lane of "One Week, Barbershop I, Soul Food, and The Parkers", Cameron "Bigg" Gipp of the Goodie Mob, Shawnna of Ludacris "DTP", and a known comedian "Deon" from BET comic View. Our production line wanted to get many familiar faces in the film.
Q: For you, what was the most important aspect of making this movie? What was the most difficult part?
The most important aspect of making this film was, making this film. There were a lot of changes made to the original script that I subjected too and would've made this film similar to a Candyman type film. The most difficult part was finishing off this film the way I intended it to be.
Q: The movie was an official selection at the World Showcase American Black Film Festival 2004. Was it one of the only horror movies there? Usually horror films have a stigma at film festivals…did you find this to be at all true?
I believe "THE EVIL ONE" was the only horror picture showcased at the infamous American Black Film Festival as it was truly a wonderful experience, thanks to www.MaverickEntertainment.cc, now concerning the stigma, I think there might have been a stigma because the film was not properly accepted, received, or promoted like a many of them were, but this is not the fought of Maverick or the festival, just the stigma.
Q: THE EVIL ONE is being released through Maverick Entertainment on February 15, 2005 at most video stores. Are you already planning your next production?
I always have a plan to do bigger and better things, gotta be better than your last thing, because I plan to grow in this battlefield (film industry), so I gotta be ready! My next film is tentatively entitled "THE HEART OF A MAN", and with the Lord's guidance, EVERYONE will want to see and feel this film, that's all I'm going to say!