Your new movie Silent
Retreat - in a few words, what is it about?
is a psychological horror
film that throws several horror sub-genres into a blender and makes one
How did the project fall together in the first place, and how did
you happen upon the film's story by Heather Smith and Taryn Stenberg - and
what was your collaboration with them like?
I met Taryn at a time where I was
shopping a teen slasher script. I had just begun doing professional
production work assisting a local cinematographer and I really wanted to
make my own feature films. My screenwriting advisor, who ironically had
the same name as the serial killer in my slasher script, advised me to
develop a niche so that they could better sell me as a writer. He
said I should stick with horror. I knew that my slasher script was
probably a bit too expensive for a first film and I knew I needed to come
up with something that had a small cast and only one or two locations.
Around this time I met Taryn and asked her to have dinner with me at the
Olive Garden. Big Spender. She told me that she wrote an unproduced short
screenplay called ďShatteredĒ with her best friend from high school,
Heather. The timing was perfect, it had all the raw ingredients I needed.
The only problem was the script only had about 30 pages so Taryn and I
discussed some ideas and she began working on a longer version that was 50
plus pages. From there, I took those 50 pages and expanded it to a
100 page screenplay that went through many drafts. It was a semi-finalist
at Screamfest LA. Once I secured the beautiful lakeside cabin in Big Bear,
I re-wrote the script again to specifically fit that location. I then
asked Heather to review the script who had some notes, some of which were
incorporated into the final draft of the screenplay. It was a long
your sources of inspiration when scripting Silent
Retreat - and any personal workplace "bonding" experiences
you can relate your movie to?
Iíve never really been
on one of these ďbondingĒ retreats but I did once have a friendly boss
like Dale and some of the dialogue is taken directly from things people
have said at various jobs. Thereís a directorís commentary on
the DVD where I discuss my inspiration for making the film in greater
Retreat has both its terrifying and funny bits, do talk about your
movie's approach to both horror and comedy for a bit!
Someone once told me that
horror and comedy are basically the same. In comedy, you set up the joke.
In horror, you set up the scare. Itís difficult for me to differentiate
the two. I try to keep the mood very playful on set because I believe it
stimulates creativity. Making a movie is very, very hard work so I try to
make it as fun as possible. With the comedy scenes, we tried our best to
carry over the mood on set and capture it on camera. Thereís a making of
documentary that will be released soon if youíd like to know more about
this process. With the horror scenes, thatís on the actors to make
that believable. Itís not easy. Theyíre doing all the
work, I just try to guide them in the right direction.
can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at
professionally as an editor for quite some time. My approach is to get as
much coverage as I possibly can and then make it come to life through the
magic of editing. As a director, I work intuitively and some of my crew
probably feel this a pain in the ass because I like to be able to move the
camera as quickly as shot ideas pop into my head. Beautiful shots
usually take some time to set up but much like Veruca Salt, I donít care
how I want it now! My approach with actors is not to try to capture
the script but to make something come alive thatís even better than the
script. I feel that each scene has a life to itself and sometimes itís
healthy and sometimes itís sick. I just try to make every scene as
vivacious as possible. Itís got to entertain me because if it
doesnít entertain me then how is it going to entertain anyone else?
Please talk about the cast for a bit, and why
exactly these people?
noticed that the actors who ended up getting cast had a very innate
understanding of the character they were reading for. My casting director
Pam Gilles held auditions in Los Angeles while I was in London. I had no
interaction with the actors and only watched them on video. Their
auditions were recorded and uploaded online so I could watch them. I like
to see them how the audience sees them. I didnít give them any notes,
their notes were in the script. The actors brought the characters to life
on their own. Thatís how I knew they would work.
Retreat uses only limited locations - so do talk about them, and what
were the advantages and challenges filming there?
From a production standpoint, having one
or few locations is a huge advantage. There are a lot of people and heavy
equipment to move so not having to move it often means more time filming.
About 10 of us actually lived in the lakeside cabin while filming, so we
basically were making a movie in our (temporary) home. This kept the
production cost down and helped make things more efficient on set. From a
story standpoint, you are limited by having fewer locations so it forces you
to be more creative.
you tell us about the shoot as such and the on-set atmosphere?
movies is hard work and some of us didnít get along but that happens on
every movie and the truth is it could have been a lot worse. Overall, the
production went smoothly and there was a very close, fun, friendly vibe on
set. It was almost like a family.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of your movie yet?
find it interesting how the reception to the film has been so all over the
map. I think thatís the sign of a good movie because audiences and
critics find so many different things they like or dislike about it. The
most common complaint is that the pacing is too slow. I just donít
agree, especially since I cut about 10 minutes out of the film to make
sure the film moved along somewhat quickly. The pacing is relative to how
much you like the characters. If you enjoy the characters, you
wonít find the film slow because you get to experience what it is like
being on vacation (well, a retreat) with these people. This period
of time is very important to their character development. Without
the time to get to know them, why would anyone care what happens to them?
I also suggest watching the film again, I doubt you will notice the pacing
the second time around. There is so much hidden throughout the movie that
it really requires a second viewing to take it all in.
future projects you'd like to share?
donít want to jinx any of them. Iíll just say that Iím working
on bringing the teen slasher that I mentioned to life and a prequel to Silent
What got you into
filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal education on
just always been compelled to tell stories and film is my preferred
medium. I took some film courses in high school and at a community college
but most of my education comes from making my own short films and doing
various crew jobs on movies and commercials.
What can you tell us about your filmwork
prior to Silent
I made a short horror
film called Kill Devil Hill. Itís on IndieFlix and there is
probably a copy floating around on YouTube. I hope to turn into a TV
mini-series one day. Itís kind of cross between True Detective and
The X-Files. Iíve edited countless commercial, industrial and
educational videos. You may have seen some of my work on TV from
time to time.
How would you describe yourself as a director?
Zemeckis described himself as a storyteller when asked if he preferred
writing to directing. I guess I feel the same way. Itís all the same to
me. Iím intricately involved in my films and itís very hard for
me to separate the various roles. No offense to the makeup team who
did a fantastic job but I remember several occasions where I took a spray
bottle full of fake blood and sprayed it on an actorís face. We were
rushed for time and Iím very particular about the wounds. So, for
that short stretch, I was the makeup FX guy. At times, I also helped
moved lighting equipment. I think Rick, the producer, yelled at me
(kindly) for doing that once. Heís like, ďPut that down, weíll
get someone to take care of it.Ē Iím passionate about making movies
and when I see something that needs to be done, I just do it. We are all
part of a team. We all have the same job, which is to make a great
who inspire you?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Spielberg. Scorsese. Right now, Iím really into Edgar Wright even though
our style is so different. I like Wes Anderson too.
Your favourite movies?
of the Lambs, Amadeus, A Clockwork Orange.
and of course, films you really deplore?
try never to bash another filmmakerís work. I understand how difficult
it is to make a movie. I wrote several reviews for a website in the past
and I gave my honest opinion, I was probably even mean but I felt it was
my job to be both honest and entertaining. Iím pretty cautious with what
I watch. I know what I like. If I see something I donít like, I just
turn it off or never watch it again. It is better to promote what
you love than to trash what you hate.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Links to my personal sites here: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2031243/externalsites
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for the interview!
you for having me!