I actually started out as a bit of an actor. I attended the Professional Performing Arts Middle School and later graduated from Talent Unlimited High School, both in New York. I also did some regional open-air theater in Upstate New York with the theater group Horton By The Stream, who perform the plays of Texan playwright Horton Foote. However, by the time I had graduated I had completely lost interest in acting. I had always done it more as a whim than an actual career. When I was growing up going to the movies was a special occasion for my family. If my brother and I were good my parents would take us out to see a movie at the end of the week. As I got older I started to notice technically how films were put together and how I would have made different choices than the director. That was really the spark for putting my focus into filmmaking. I got lucky and almost immediately after high school started working for Picture This Television, an independent television production company in New York. The company was in its infancy at the time and since I was just an intern and paid almost nothing they took full advantage of my availability. This meant that I was involved in most every element of television production at one time or another. I doubted as a PA or grip on shoots, I was even used as a DV shooter a couple times, though my camera work was so bad none of it was ever used, I researched show pitches, edited the pitches, built props, you name it I did it and eventually they hired me on as production assistant. This also gave me experience on a wide variety of show types. I worked on an adult education show (TV411 on PBS), a biography show (The Intimate Portrait of Jenni Garth on the Lifetime Network), a news show (In The Life on PBS) and a game show (Celebrity Poker Showdown on Bravo). To show their appreciation the executive producers helped me out where they could. They actually got two show pitches I had written into the hands of executives at the Sci-fi network. Ironically, one of them was actually turned down because they were already gearing up to do a hardcore space science-fiction show, Battlestar Galatica. Guess they made the right choice on that one. I've also worked with a low budget production company called DC Productions, which is where I got most of my film experience. They're a really incredible outfit. They produce a 90-minute movie in 8 days. One room can become three different sets in the hands of their director. It's impressive and they do it on tiny budgets. Ironically, this association has come back to bite me in the ass however. All of the work that I did for them was in the lighting department and now most of the jobs that I get are either as a lighting grip or gaffer but I hate lighting. Currently, I am attending college and getting a Bachelor of Science in film production. Really it's just a way of putting myself in touch with a talent pool and equipment that I normally wouldn't have access to.
Q: How did the idea for LOVE STORY come about?
Actually I was thinking about this recently and honestly can't remember clearly. I think the earliest kernel of it came from another film that I was working on. Brian Troy, who plays the lead character Daniel Thompson, is a friend of mine and a writer/director along side being an actor. I was gaffing on one of the first films he had ever directed and he was worried that he was coming off too hard on the crew and actors. Brian is naturally such a nice guy that I was instantly inspired to try to create a horror movie roll for him that used his natural niceness to it's advantage. The rest of the story was really more of a case of what I thought I could realistically pull off. Though there are elements in it that I recycled from other scripts or stories I wrote. A lot of it was me just writing things that disturbed the hell out of me. I've actually gotten a lot of flack from women who have seen this movie. My mother thought it might actually be sublimation of my anger towards her and my fiancée thought for a while that I might hate women. They didn't understand that I was writing about things that just horrified me.
Q: How did you get your actors?
Well, as I said, I knew Brian Troy before ever committing a word of the script to page. This script was always written with him in mind for the lead role and he just jumped at the chance to do it. He had been in a horror movie the previous year but as a victim and was itching to play a villain this time around. He actually got so into the role that he started to disturb himself. Becky T. Bordo, the actress that plays the other lead, was another story entirely. I knew from the start that casting Amanda's role was going to be difficult. For one I had no idea how to write the casting call without making the movie sound like bondage porn. How do you tell an actress that the role she's auditioning for has no lines and she has to spend most of the movie gagged and bound? So, I put out a very vague casting call and didn't get a single response. Luckily, my producer was working on another film at the time. Becky came to the audition for that film and though she didn't get the part he thought she'd be perfect for Love Story. He sent her a copy of the script and she jumped at the chance to play Amanda. So, Brian and I drove out to meet her and get a feel for one another. She really impressed me with how into the role and the movie she was. Casting her was probably the best thing we could have done because she was really into the physicality of the role and kept pushing us to be more aggressive in the handling of her on camera. When Brian is trying to tie her down she's really fighting him.
Q: How long did the production take, from beginning to final edit?
As crazy as it sounds for a film this short, it took about a year to get the film completely locked into place. The biggest problem was the soundtrack. The script and its various drafts was finished in about a month, we shot for three days and then I had an online cut about two weeks after that. Unfortunately, while I was editing I used placeholder music, in this case 1950's rock and roll, and by the time I was done cutting I was completely attached to the music. So I tried to get permission to use it. Sadly, the price tag was ridiculously high, more than every dollar spent on the film combined at that point. I had to then find composers and that took a while as I have no musical talent and don't really know many composers. The biggest problem was finding someone who would do it for free. Luckily, Drexel University actually has a composing class, whose sole purpose is to teach students to compose for film and television. I was able to submit the film as a final project for two students and they composed the soundtrack that you hear on the film now. Unfortunately, since it was a class project I had wait until the class was over to get my hands on it, which is why it took so long.
Q: That extra you included on the DVD about the neighbor is hilarious-- I think every filmmaker goes through that experience one time or another. What was the most difficult aspect of making the short?
Sadly, the DP never pointed the camera at the neighbors, because the added visual of them would have only made it funnier. The wife had about three teeth in her mouth and the husband came to the door in his underwear. It was an insane experience that only got stranger the more I talked to them. I honestly thought I was going to have to get into a fight with the husband and nothing looks worse than the director getting hauled off the first day of shooting for stabbing someone. But actually that wasn't the hardest part of the shoot by a long shot. The hard part was that the three days that we shot for were the hottest of the entire summer. Add to that the apartment we were shooting in, my own, has almost no air condition or any air circulation. Add thirteen bodies and film lights to the equation and you're talking about an additional 10 to 15 degrees. All the sweat you see on screen is real. Tom MaCoy, our DP and steadicam operator, was sweating so much that he had to wear a bandana so his sweat wouldn't drip onto the steadicam monitor and we had to keep him constantly hydrated. The only room that did have air conditioning was the bedroom so anytime we weren't using that room anyone who wasn't needed locked themselves in there. Sadly, we forgot to tell them to turn it off a couple of time and you can actually hear the air condition running in the background in some shots.
Q: What are your plans with LOVE STORY?
Well, currently, I'm trying to take it on the festival circuit. It's already screened once, at the Rebelplanet Hollywood Short Film Festival. Sadly, it didn't win anything and I couldn't even make it to the festival because I was in New Orleans working on another season of Celebrity Poker. Currently, I'm waiting to hear if it was accepted to the World Horror Convention Film Festival and the Eerie Horror Film Festival. I've put together a database of horror oriented film festivals and there are over thirty so I'll have plenty of more opportunities to show this film to the horror community. I've also submitted it to ei Cinema to see if they're interested including it as a Shocking Short extra feature on one of their full-length film's DVDs. I'm also interested in submitting it to the 3rd Blooddrive competition if Fangoria ever gets around to running it.
Q: What is your next project?
I actually have a whole slew of projects coming up this year. I'm currently talking to the death metal band Invidia about doing a music video for them. I also have four new horror shorts that I intend to do over the next year, one every three months basically. First up is a script I wrote based on a dream. Tom MaCoy, Love Story's DP, and I wrote the script together and plan to shoot it in June. It's called The Captive and we pitched it as Invasion of Bodysnatchers contained to a single room. Tom has a great love and skill for scripts that play with your perception of reality and took my rough first draft and turned it something really creepy. Then after that we're shooting a currently untitled zombie short. If the script doesn't change massively in next six months it will be the most complex special effects shoot I've ever done. Then in the fall I'll be doing another serial killer movie, odd for me since I don't really like serial killer movies all that much, and Brian Troy is returning to play the lead. I'm not sure if Becky will be returning as well for the female lead but it may end up being a Love Story reunion. Finally after that, is a film I may actually shoot on HD, if I can get the equipment. I pitched it as Death Takes a Holiday meets High Fidelity. The lead character is the grim reaper and he talks directly to the audience. It's actually become a rather personal project because most of the things he says are my thoughts about death. In fact, when my fiancée read one of the drafts she turned to me and said, "You've said these exact words to me." I'm also currently working on a feature length horror script with another writer, which we plan to enter into competitions and perhaps sells since it's intended as a low budget studio film.
Q: How can people get a copy?
If anyone is interested in buying a DVD of Love Story they can contact me directly through my email (Roryabel@hotmail.com). It's $5 plus shipping and handling. The DVD includes the film, a director's commentary, an alternative ending and the footage of me getting yelled at by my neighbors as we try to film. It's professionally authored and looks pretty damn good if I do say so myself.