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An Interview with Adam R. Steigert, Director of A Grim Becoming

by Mike Haberfelner

September 2013

Films directed by Adam R. Steigert on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your upcoming movie A Grim Becoming - in a few words, what is it about?

 

A Grim Becoming is about one man’s journey into a world of unknowns. Our lead character Raphael, played by Brandyn T Williams [Brandyn T. Williams interview - click here], is a young and bitter executive who is on the verge of losing a multimillion dollar architectural deal with a large distribution company. As Raphael returns to his home town of Metzburgh, he experiences a life changing event: witnessing a Grim Reaper taking a soul. This sighting results in Raphael becoming a Reaper and having to explore his own conscience and the lengths he will go to get his own life back. But Death has other plans for him.

 

A Grim Becoming seems to have very strong mythological undercurrents - now how much research did go into that aspect of the story, and your (other) sources of inspiration when writing A Grim Becoming?

 

This film is very strong in the mythology of death from the question if you are predestined to die at a certain time to Death as an actual physical character. This film I actually had to do homework on. When I was younger I was always told to “write what you know”. One thing I have learned is how to write stories with epic scenes in them. I wanted to merge that and the “death mythology” together to create something maybe not seen before in independent film.

A huge source of inspiration when writing this film was Tim Allen in The Santa Clause. Our story follows the general principals that the film had in them. Although this isn’t about a holiday or someone randomly putting a Santa Claus outfit on after he falls off a roof. I am rather surprised that this concept hasn’t been done before in horror which makes this story that much more exciting to see come to the screen.

 

What can you tell us about the writing process as such, your co-writers and your collaboration with them?

 

Normally I write the treatment for the concept. I then seek out other writers to help further develop the story. Some of these writers I have worked with before in one form or another. I trust the choices they come in with but always make sure they stay true the original concept piece. If there is an idea that comes up that I think doesn’t follow the structure of the story we don’t change it. Ultimately, like in every film I have done, you have to learn to trust people and the different contributions that they bring to the film.

 

With A Grim Becoming being a horror comedy, how do you balance the horror and comedy elements of the movie, and how far do you go to get a laugh and to get a scare?

 

Brandyn T. Williams

This film pushes every element of horror and comedy. At times, we take the comedy to different levels. One time you’ll be seeing slapstick and the next moment we will change it up and do something that really makes you as the viewer think. As far as the horror element I went balls to the wall out of line. The normal body contains approximately 5 to 6 liters of blood. In A Grim Becoming a normal body contains anywhere between 5 to 6 gallons of blood.

 

How would you describe the overall look and feel of your movie?

 

Jessica Cameron

The overall look of this film looks epic. When writing this film I truly didn’t think I could create the “epic” feel of this film that the script was calling for. Over the past couple years I have focused my efforts on my films have an apocalyptic look and feel to them: end of the world-type of stuff. When writing this film I always kept that in the back of my mind. But what I learned with creating scale from my previous films helped contribute to making this film look and feel bigger than life. The universe feels huge but not bigger than needed to tell the story.

 

With Lynn Lowry, Melantha Blackthorne [Melantha Blackthorne interview - click here], Jessica Cameron [Jessica Cameron interview - click here], Devanny Pinn [Devanny Pinn interview - click here] and Bill Oberst jr [Bill Oberst jr interview - click here], your movie features quite a few big names of the indie horror world. So why them, how did you get them, and what was it like working with them?

 

I still remember the first time I worked with Lynn on my previous film Ombis: Alien Invasion. She did only a cameo but, truth be told, I was nervous! I started in film merely because of Dawn of the Dead. Years later here I am on my own set filming with an icon that worked with my personal hero George Romero. It took me aback. What if I didn’t live up to her standards? After working with her for a bit, I believe she trusted me as a director to deliver what was needed and respected my choices. I was determined to work with her more, so I sent her the script for A Grim Becoming and she enjoyed it and we signed her!

 

Lynn Lowry, Adam R. Steigert

Devanny Pinn, Adam R. Steigert

Jessica Cameron actually found me; she reached out to me off a press release for Ombis: Alien Invasion. She truly is amazing. In this film she plays the role of “Life”. She was perfect for the role. When I spoke to my casting director I said I need someone young and beautiful who could pull off the Marilyn Monroe look. If Life was a being it would be a woman and she in my mind would look like Marilyn Monroe. Jessica gives Life a flare which Marilyn in my eyes didn’t have. My wardrobe department was instructed to use earth tones in her outfit which gave her more depth as Life, taking into consideration “life” as a whole. If there is a sequel, Life will return.

 

A Grim Becoming is a fun horror comedy but there has to be balance with that. So initially while writing the film, I wrote the beginning of the film to be bloody and very serious. The comedy element is not seen in the opening prior to the credits. I felt firmly that this was needed. I wanted people to be shocked at what happens in this film, something that might be unexpected for a horror comedy. Then add something super over the top which will grab people and make them excited for what they are about to watch! Devanny’s name came up while we were in preproduction. Devanny plays Jamie, a depressed young woman, who feels life [in general not Jessica Cameron] is out to get her after a sudden death of someone she is very close to This death sets the whole film in motion. Devanny plays a woman filled with grief and depression over the loss.

 

Melantha Blackthorne has been on my radar for a while. We met a while back at a gathering. Everyone spoke so highly of her so I went and watched a Melantha Blackthorne classic and was instantly interested in working with her. She was originally in talks for a short film I was set to direct called White Guy on a Rampage, a spin-off to DefTone’s Black Guy on a Rampage. Melantha has the ability as an actress to draw you into what ever she is doing. The role is Meryl Looney and she plays opposite of Bill Oberst Jr., who plays her husband Phil. Melantha and Bill both help give strength to the roles. I am truly grateful for this because without these two talented actors in these roles, the roles themselves could be seen as not important to the story. I can’t say much about them, however I will say this, and the roles are unmatched and could have their own spin-off film.

 

Melantha Blackthorne, Bill Oberst jr

“Who is the hottest horror indie actor out there right now?”. That was my questions to my casting director who instantly mentioned Bill Oberst Jr’s name. So I looked him up and started doing my homework on this truly brilliant actor. We spoke a couple times on the phone about the role and he brought up a different take of the character of Phil Looney which I found interesting to explore. Why not push the bar of this film? So Bill, Melantha and I spoke about how to play these roles in person. Without hesitation I said “let's go with it, but it has to be over the top!” Phil is really in his own world in this film where Meryl has to be more grounded at times. They are truly meant for each other.

 

At the end of the day, it was working with Lynn Lowry on Ombis that set the stage for how I was to act as a director when it came to all the amazing actors we worked with on this film.

 

Adam R. Steigert, Aryn Fitzgerald

Do talk about the rest of your cast for a bit, and why exactly these people?

 

One of my favorite people to work with is Aryn Fitzgerald [Aryn Fitzgerald interview - click here] who I actually wrote the part of October for. October is a brat, and very self opinionated. I love the character and it was well written and beautifully performed.

 

Britt Griffth from SyFy’s Ghost Hunters also stars in the film as Wayne. A character that is out for himself as his goal is to steal Raphael’s job. Wayne goes to great lengths to get himself advanced in the company in order to bypass Raphael. Britt, as Wayne, is kind of like the “bad guy” of the story. But it’s hard to tell sometimes if he is truly “bad” or if he is just that ambitious and it rules everything he does. Britt brought a dynamic element to the role which expands our thoughts on the character of Wayne.

 

Supermodel Melyssa Jade [Melyssa Jade interview - click here] plays Carrie, Raphael’s right hand. Think what Pepper Potts is to Tony Stark. Which is exactly what I based the role on. I actually had to tell Melyssa in pre-production that you had to look “tone down the sexy”. How does one pull that off with a straight face to a supermodel? Rest assured Melyssa still looks sexy in the film! I wanted her so badly to play Carrie from the moment I wrote the film. She has done a lot of supporting roles and I feel she has so much more to offer as an actor. So when this role came up I jumped to ask her!

 

Melyssa Jade

There are very few actors I’ve worked with that are able to take character roles to new heights. Patrick Mallet and Michael Sciabarrasi [Michael Sciabarrasi interview - click here] are those two. Pat plays the role of Father along with a cameo role as Black Suit 1. Anyone that follows my films will know exactly who Black Suit 1 is [Ombis: Alien Invasion]. Patrick and Michael are two of the few actors that were in makeup on set for more than eight hours. Pat plays a much older man who has his trophy wife named Mother played by Lynn Lowry. His role in the film is the guy who is in the wrong place at the wrong time every time. When Patrick goes into makeup it takes him about 3-4 hours to get all the pieces together to play Father. When he’s on set he doesn’t break character unless he is really confused on something and needs clarification. One of my crew members didn’t know Father was Patrick Mallet and Pat approached him saying “now I am as old as you” and the crew member almost punched him in the face. Later the crew member found who it was and they had a laugh. Pat’s dedication to be in the makeup was almost unmatched while making this film except when it came to Aryn Fitzgerald. [Spoiler] There are very few people that I would always want to make movies with continually and Pat is one of those guys.

 

Lynn Lowry, Patrick Mallet

Michael Sciabarrasi

Now, Michael Sciabarrasi [Michael Sciabarrasi interview - click here] on the other hand plays Magoo aka Death [he’s very sensitive to people calling him Death], which was the anthesis of Pat’s role. The role was originally written for only one person in mind which is Michael Sciabarrasi. He got my attention from the role of Luke he did in Black Guy on a Rampage: Homicidal Vengeance. Luke was a smart-ass know-it-all crimelord and Mike played him with no holds barred abandon. His abilities in the film changing his voice and acting outside of the box made me want to explore his abilities that much more. If the film gets the right type of distribution, I feel Michael Sciabarrasi’s role as Magoo could be the next Freddy Krueger!

 

What can you tell us about the actual shoot, the on-set atmosphere - and any good on-set anecdotes?

 

The atmosphere on this film was much different and organized this time around. Not to say we weren’t organized on previous sets. But when you’re an indie filmmaker, you take on a lot of roles. In this case every time I showed up on set, my crew was ready for me to step in and direct. On every film there are issues that I have to iron out but we got through them with no huge melt downs.

 

One of the things that come to mind is when one of my actors went through a wall by accident. Thankful the landowners weren’t too upset since they had to remodel the room anyways. [At least they didn’t show they were upset if they truly, in fact, were]

 

Any idea when and where the film will be released onto the general public yet?

 

At this point there will be a limited theatrical run in which my company hand-picks a few theaters and screens the film. There will be film fests next year with a distribution of the film in stores to follow.

 

Any future projects beyond A Grim Becoming you'd like to share?

 

For the next film we are in negotiations with Fred Williamson to play a lead in Punished, which is the tentative title of the film. I also have another concept I want to explore which is called The Horrific Evil Monsters.

 

What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?

 

I started off wanting to go to school for film but like every story about someone who is in love they risk everything to stay in love. I gave up going to school for a chick. Turns out she left me anyways so I screwed myself twice. Add to it my grandma was always like “there is no money in it (filmmaking).” Fast forward seven years and I own and run one of the biggest independent studios in Western New York. Maybe she had to say the right things to get me motivated. I then went to school for business and learned the ins and outs of filmmaking from reading up on the subject and trial and error.

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to A Grim Becoming, and your growth as a director?

 

A Grim Becoming dramatically changed me as a director. Because I had such a big crew on this one, I could focus on the task which was need for me which was directing. The quality is a huge improvement in the film because I could give the dedication which was needed on this one. I am looking forward to the next film!

 

How would you describe yourself as a director?

 

I am very much an actor’s director. It is up to an actor to make the role their own. Yes, I do have input. I don’t just say “here, take this role and do what you want.” But I really want the actors to bring something to the roles, to make it unique and memorable. You have to have faith in the talent you seek out to do the job that’s needed. They all know what’s at risk and what this film means to them in their own separate ways. I try to keep the atmosphere as a bunch of friends making a film and try not to be too much of a hard-ass unless absolutely needed.

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

George A Romero.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Dawn of the Dead (1979), which inspired me to finally say: “I want to do that!”

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

I don’t really dislike many films purely because the directors are trying to tell a story in one form or another. I might say “maybe I don’t want to see that because not what I am interested in”, but I think the films that I really don’t appreciate are films with too much CGI. In my films, I try to do the gags and stunts practically whenever possible. A Grim Becoming has a lot of puppetry in it which was a fun task in itself.

 

Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

www.agrimbecomingmovie.com

www.deftonepicturesstudios.com

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2441174/?ref_=nm_flmg_dr_2

 

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Check out some video diaries from the production:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CYswZuilsk –Diary 1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gE0RtnLHNrc –Diary 2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEfAPai1WTY –Diary 3

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pE6Sx4jJhk –Diary 4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tb27OyxfDbE –Diary 5

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaW14Dnxqpw –Diary 6

 

Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

Film is an amazing artform which shows people the true creativity that one can produce. Independent film is special because there is a different appreciation that the audience should always take into consideration before judging a film: what people are able to create on a small budget. Some of the best movies of all time were created on ridiculously small budgets. Example is look at Blair Witch. Scared the piss out of me and was made on approximately $50,000.00. The company I founded embraces all talents so if you’re ever interested in becoming part of film, look us up! There is always information on our site to become part of DefTone Pictures Studios.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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