Your film 7
Nights of Darkness - in a few words, what is it about?
Six reality television show contestants attempt to spend 7 nights in a
haunted asylum. If they don't leave they are awarded a share of one
million dollars that is split amongst any contestants that don't leave.
by 2010 the found footage-approach to filmmaking used in 7
Nights of Darkness had been done to death. What convinced you you
could make it work nevertheless?
Content is king. No matter
what the genre or convention used to bring a story out, content will
always prevail. The most popular found footage movies fall into two
categories for me. The first is the fear of the unknown (Blair
Paranormal Activity), where it's not about what you see but what you
don't see that is frightening. It's what your imagination can do to make
the scare. Then there is Cloverfield. That is more of what you
see. The movie is pure spectacle. Different people react to different
things. Those who aren't struck by Blair
Witch may be struck by Cloverfield.
What I wanted to do was give both audiences something. Fear of the seen
and fear of the unseen.
An obvious inspiration
of 7 Nights of
Darkness was reality TV. Your personal thoughts on the subject?
Absolute hogwash. I worked on a reality show once on crew for a certain
major network. I'll keep the actual show to myself but the premise was
that one girl had to pick between 5 or 6 guys. One guy was eliminated each
round. I'll start by saying that the girl had absolutely no choice in the
matter. In the end, it wasn't about who the girl liked but about what guys
were the most entertaining or obnoxious to keep around. It was all at the
producers' discretion. Secondly, every interview is completely scripted
off camera and the interviewees are asked very leading questions to give a
certain and usually very dramatic response. Reality television may be the
most un-real thing out there. But of course, as I stated earlier, content
is king and the producers manage to make some very dramatic and tense
That all being said, I do occasionally have the guilty
pleasure of watching a few every now and then. I blame my wife, but that
may just be a cover. I think most people do understand now that most
things they see on reality television are scripted to a point. But that
doesn't matter. It's the content and the feeling that it COULD be real. I
found that I had to cut out the original opening to the movie, which I
believe will be available on the DVD. I did this because in the original
opening, it mocks reality television. It begins as a parody. This was a
mistake on my part and luckily one that was fixable. People want to
believe that it could be real. Even if they know it isn't. That would have
been swept away in the first minute had I kept the original opening.
inspirations when writing 7
Nights of Darkness?
Never really wrote it. I do
write. A lot. But with this project being in the genre it was, it would be
unnatural to write a line by line script. I consider myself a decent
writer, but only the likes of David Mamet can write like that. In normal
conversation people routinely cut each other off, talk over each other
which is precisely how someone like Mamet writes. My writing style isn't
there. Instead I wrote an outline of events. Certain visuals I had in my
head that had to be there. I started with the scares and worked the
outline around the scares.
Why a ghost story, and have
you done any actual research on the subject of ghosts as such?
of my research involved watching multiple episodes of various ghost
hunting shows. I watched a ton of them. As to why a ghost story, it's
cheap. I had to think, "Okay, I have X amount of dollars to do this
with. What can I do that is commercially viable?" The answer is a
handheld horror flick with effects I know I can pull off. Is it a movie I WANT
to do? Sure it's fun, but it's not what I want to be doing the rest of my
life. It's what was doable at the time.
play one of the leads in 7
Nights of Darkness. What can you tell us about yourself as an
actor, why did you choose Carter of all characters, and did you write the
character with yourself in mind?
I got into this business
in the first place in order to act. All the directing and writing and
producing was used as a vehicle to get me there. I know getting regular
work as an actor is very difficult. I figure one of the best ways to then
do it is to create the project yourself. Why rely on others to do it for
you? No one is going to come knocking on my door out of the blue and say,
"You! I heard about you! Come be in my movie!" That being said,
I did not write Carter for myself actually. I knew the actors I had to
work with and put people where I thought they would do best. I just landed
A few words about the
rest of your cast and crew?
In a word, amazing. I've worked
with the executive producer, Spencer Jay Kim, a long time now. He really
had my back in every facet of production. When you are shooting low
budget, you need to make every second count because time really is money.
Between Spencer and my 1st AD Jessica Fleming, they really helped keep
track of the shooting schedule and shot list. We finished on time and on
budget thanks to their help. As for the cast, they were better than I had
hoped. Bad acting would have sunk the whole project. There isn't a weak
spot among them. They all got what we were trying to do with this project
and couldn't be more believable in their reactions.
What can you tell us about
the house 7
Nights of Darkness is set in, and what made you choose that exact
The original location for this was actually going
to take place in a large house. As I was working on an outline a friend of
mine and our set photographer, Coleen Moskowitz, showed me a story in a
local paper about tours of a haunted building that wasn't far away from
us. I called the owners and booked a tour. It was perfect. The location
really helps the movie a long way. It is an actual haunted asylum dating
back to the civil war. It did make shooting a little uneasy as everyone
was constantly weary of seeing something they didn't want to see or
hearing something they didn't want to hear, which happened quite often
actually. I suppose that helped a long way with the acting. It's not very
hard to act scared when you are in fact scared.
The owners were more than
accommodating and I can't thank them enough. They do have a website: http://www.madisonseminary.com/madison_seminary/Welcome.html
and they do tours nightly I believe. As far as I know they are booked
through the end of the year so why not make a Christmas present out of it.
Very cool place that people from all over travel to.
Let's go back to the film's found footage-approach
- isn't the concept of having the actors carry little videocameras and
shoot the film themselves also the source for an awful number of aesthetic
In a way. I remember being on set one of the
last days of shooting and Spencer said to me, "We'll have to shoot
the sequel like a real movie."
I get it. I prefer to shoot like that
as well, but in this instance
1) I don't believe it would have turned out
as good shooting the conventional way
and 2) I go back to content is king.
I had certain visuals in my head of the scares themselves. I got the
scares almost exactly how I wanted them so in the end, how much of a
compromise was it really? We had to shoot at 60i instead of 24p for a
couple of reasons:
1) Reality shows are not shot at 24p. Reality shows do
not look like movies. This is not supposed to look like a movie. It is
supposed to look like reality show footage.
and 2) With a lower frame
rate, every turn of the camera will make people sick.
Let's go back to the beginning of your
career: What got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you ever
receive any formal training on the subject?
I'll save you
the list of plays I was in during my community theatre and high school
career and say that my training started at Ohio University where I
concentrated on acting and playwriting. While attending OU I drove to
Cleveland every weekend to take improvisation and writing classes with The
Second City. When I got fed up with a 4 hour drive every weekend, I
transferred to Cleveland State University where I majored in
Communications with emphasis in film. It was there that I found myself in
an internship with the film Welcome To Collinwood starring George
Clooney, Jennifer Esposito, William H. Macy, Sam Rockwell and others. When
the semester ended my internship ended and they hired me on as a Locations
Assistant. From there I just began working on crews of films that would
come into town. Some as a Production Assistant others as a Stand In.
Whatever I could do.
filmwork prior to 7
Nights of Darkness?
I worked as a 1st AD on Spencer
Jay Kim's Dreaming on Christmas starring Spencer, Liz DuChez,
Danny Trejo and Nick Mancuso. I also co-wrote, produced and was the 1st AD
on My Soul to Take and My Soul to Take 2 starring Nick
Mancuso and John Savage. I also played the part of Dexter in the Soul To
Take-series. They are now being marketed for distribution and I expect
will be on the shelf soon. We did have that title before Wes Craven by the
way, though I think he beat us to the punch in releasing it.
Any future projects you'd
like to talk about?
There's a ton going on and none of
which I am at liberty to talk about. But you'll be seeing us again soon.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
no particular order: Coen Brothers, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and of
Again, in no particular order: Jaws,
The Big Lebowski.
... and of course, films you really
I take heat for these all the time but:
1) Titanic. Why? Because by the end I found myself rooting for
the iceberg, that's why. Because they had a chance to tell a real story of
real people that really died on that ship. Apparently a ship sinking in
the midst of class warfare isn't enough drama for an audience and they
threw some poo-poo love story in it. That being said, watching the ship
sink was fun. Sorry if I ruined the ending for anyone, yes, the ship
2) Peter Jackson movies: Until he learns how to tell a story in under 3
1/2 hours, I refuse to watch. No battle scene needs to be 45 minutes long,
cool as it may be, and I refuse to sit there for 4 hours just to watch a
giant gorilla fall to his death. Again, sorry if I ruined the ending for
anyone, yes, King Kong dies. Jackson did give us Dead Alive
though, for which I thank him.
Your website, Facebook, whatever else?
Nights of Darkness will have a facebook up shortly.
for the interview!
Thanks for the opportunity, Mike.