Q: This is the third horror movie you've directed, after SPLATTER UNIVERSITY and HEAD GAMES. What is it about horror that appeals to you, as both a writer and director.
I'm not sure "Head Games" fits into the horror category and "Space Avenger" was a sci fi/horror combo. What I like about horror is the psychological aspect. I enjoy it when directors explore people's primal fears. I'm not a fan of "Slasher" type movies even though I made one as my first picture. I prefer character driven thrillers like "Psycho", "Carrie" "Jaws" and "Night of the Living Dad". I don't object to gore and I utilize it in my movies but in my opinion it's most effective when you link it to characterization. Unless you identify or empathize with a person on screen, you'll watch the film objectively rather than subjectively. Just to see a stranger get slaughtered doesn't scare or impress me...especially since I know how the gore effects are done. But when you get involved with a character and they're put in danger or attacked, you feel like you're in danger too. That's when blood and gore can be really effective.
Q: How did the idea for WHAT REALLY FRIGHTENS YOU come about?
"What Really Frightens You" is actually part of a trilogy that utilizes my 'art imitates life' theme. The previous pictures were "Space Avenger" (1989)and "Unsavory Characters" (2001). In each story I chronicle the adventures of a writer whose fictional work was either influenced by real life ormerged with real life. In "Space Avenger" a comic book artist creates fictional alien terrorists who turn out to be real and target him. He uses his real life battles with them in his comic book. In "Unsavory Characters" a pulp fiction writer picks up a real 'femme fatale' in a bar and gets involved with murder and intrigue. He uses those ordeals to finish his novel. In "What Really Frightens You" a fanzine writer asks the title question to a group of New Yorkers. After publication their phobias and fears become real.
All three stories are based on what I used to read as a teenager. I liked to read Mickey Spillane pulp novels, Marvel comic books and fanzines like "Castle of Frankenstein" and "Famous Monsters of Filmland". The fictional "Ghastly Horror" magazine in "What Really Frightens You" was influenced by them.
Q: How did you go about casting the movie? I thought the lead, Postell Pringle, was quite good. And Ian Tomaschik was appropriately creepy as THE GHOST WRITER.
I used a number of actors from my previous film, "Soft Money", which included Postell Pringle, Jennifer Sorika and Patrick Flynne. All three were excellent actors and able to work in my style. I like to shoot very fast with a limited number of takes and keep the energy level high on set. The rest of the performers were found during my auditions. I put an ad in Back Stage and they send me their resumes. Then I rent rehearsal space and have them prepare a monologue which I videotape to see what their range is. After that I bring back those who might fit one of the roles and have them read from the script. That's how we found Ian who was quite good in the role.
Q: You also had good use of locations, from NYC to that weird stone house at the end. Where the heck did you find that place?
The way I write my scripts is to secure interesting locations in advance and then work them into the screenplay. Associate Producer, Michael Kondor, suggested Wing's Castle which was located near his house. The owner, Peter Wing, was a friend of his and that's how we secured the Gothic Castle for the climax. The castle is on the cover art of "Ghastly Horror" magazine so the idea is that our protagonist actually goes inside the image although I'm not sure audiences pick up on that. I probably should've shot more close ups of the cover and put in some dialogue to establish that.
Q: You also shot it in 35mm, not HD. What is your reason for this?
I'm an archivist and film historian as well as a filmmaker. To preserve a movie it's best to have a 'hard copy' of the image on some reliable medium for storage. Digital imagery is contained on magnetic tape or on a hard drive, neither of which is archival. Contemporary low fade tri-acetate safety film and estar base film for intermediates is a far more reliable medium to preserve a movie on than on digital data which can degrade in the long run. In addition, digital technology is like a moving target. No system lasts long and I would not want to shoot a movie in a format that will eventually become obsolete. 35mm film can be transferred to any future system that is invented which is another attribute. I also like the grain structure of film which is unique to that medium and can be adapted and transferred successfully to digital formats afterwards.
Q: How can people see the movie?
We recently premiered the film at the Lafayette movie palace in Suffern, New York which looked spectacular. It will have it's New York City premiere at the Anthology Film Archive on December 7th. It's available on DVD from Celebrity Video Distribution which contains a superior transfer of the movie made directly from the 35mm negative. In other words I transferred the negative to HD tape and reversed the colors to make it a positive. It's not 'first generation' but the actual generation of what was exposed in the camera which is as good as you can get. We did some interesting things with the 5.1 sound mix. I kept it in the front channels for normal scenes but for the horror scenes I expanded it into the surround channels giving viewers an audio cue that something scary is going to occur. I also rounded up some of the cast and crew for the commentary. I cover the issues of film vs. digital in my part of it. We also have a slide show of production stills and the campy trailer. It can be purchased at Target and other retail stores or on line.
Q: Are you working on another horror film?
I'm currently preparing the sequel to the movie, "What Really Frightens You II".
Q: What are your new projects?
Aside from the next feature I wrote a novel entitled, "Production Value", which is a crime thriller with a movie theme. I'm currently submitting it to agents and publishers for consideration.