Your new movie Scream
Park - in a few words, what is it about?
is the story of an amusement park closing down for the last time... and its owner's desperate (and bloody) ploy to sell tickets. By
murdering off his young employees in the most gruesome of ways, he hopes
to create a new attraction to the park.
Park being essentially a throwback to slasher movies from the
1980's - what do you find so appealing about them, and some of your genre
My wife and I are big fans. I think there's a draw because they're so
primal: it's fear of the unknown and fear of death. The fear of being
chased by a mad man (or man-thing) and not being able to get away; it's
very much like the common nightmare. The slasher movie takes this all
in, all while being fun and essentially a ride. I think in the early
days of the slasher it was about invoking those emotions and the thrill
of it. To draw an appropriate parallel, it's like riding an old roller
coaster. There's a rush of adrenaline, fueled by the fear the thing
could come apart or go off the rails at any point. By the time the
slasher became cliche, watching them became a different sort of
entertainment: it became about watching obnoxious characters act stupid
and get killed gruesomely.
As far as favorites go, Halloween is the king. It's perfect. By
comparison, I really enjoy Friday the 13th 3D, which is broken
film in terms of plot, pacing, and various thematic elements but is
still a blast to watch. So I enjoy the well-constructed classics as well
as Slumber Party Massacre II... which has started to grow on me as
What were your inspirations when writing Scream
Park - and since so much of your film depends on the location,
what came first, finding the right location or writing the right script?
actually formed as a script first. Doing a slasher film in an
amusement park became a mission once I realized it hadn't been done. It
seemed too good of a set up -- familiar or cliche yet original. I loved
the idea of having a motive for the murders (greed) in an attempt to
create something similar to the Sharon Tate house. So I had a script I
liked that I thought I could produce... but no amusement park.
to that, what can you tell us about your location, how did you find it,
and what were the advantages and challenges of filming at an amusement
park at night?
The bulk of the film was shot at Conneaut Lake Amusement Park in
northwestern Pennsylvania. It sits right along a lake shore and the lake
dictates the weather on and around it. Through the course of late April
and early May we experienced everything from snow to downpour to sticky
heat - all in a few weeks. Night was a huge challenge, first and
foremost because you have to reverse your waking schedule. Easier said
than done, particularly on a film, and I was up for 20 hours the first
few days. There's also the technical side of it - you're working in the
dark and every scene needs to be lit meticulously because you need to capture
just enough detail to see what's going on but not to lose the illusion
of night all while being consistent from scene to scene. So, all of
that, plus stumbling around an amusement park full of rusty nails and
broken glass in pitch black.
Conneaut Lake Park was the location of another film recently - The
Road with Viggo Mortenson. I approached the park with a proposal and
was initially turned down. The park's board was reluctant to bring
another film in because of some misgivings had by a Hollywood film. I
assured them we were much smaller - and local - and we would take care
of the park while we were there. So, we negotiated. The deal turned out
well: we got to use the park for several weeks and they got publicity
and free night security for having this group of people with bright
lights in the park from dusk until dawn. Both the board and the folks
renovating the park were extremely helpful and shooting there was a
How would you describe your directorial
approach to your subject at hand?
Going in, I knew how I
wanted the movie to feel. It wasn't designed to take place in the
80s and it's not self-referential, but I wanted a subconscious
"whiff" of 80s slasher films. The only way I saw of doing this
was to concentrate on the mood of the film. The film builds slowly in the
first act. We get the park, we meet the kids, we see how they interact
with each other. At the same time, we drop in POV shots and get shadows or
body parts of the killers in the shot à la Halloween. So while we
set up the environment, there's always the feeling like something bad is
going on here. So my approach was almost like building the film. Film is
very visceral and emotion-driven, yet I found on this project it was put
together logically and methodical. From there, I worked with the actors
and gave them guidance - and then let them fill that emotional part on
No good slasher
without a decent amount of violence and gore. So what can you tell us
about the gore effects in Scream
Park, and was there ever a line you refused to cross regarding
violence (for other than budgetary reasons)?
F/X are tough. We had a number of set backs on set so you're constantly
finding ways to improvise, work around, or imply them. This, of course,
does not even include budgetary constraints. The whole crew was willing
to jump in and help with F/X. Some of the insert shots were actually
done in my editor Scott Lewis's basement and inserted in
Personally, in making a horror film, think you should be prepared to
pretty much cross any line. But if you look at the 80s slasher films -
any Friday the 13th or Slumber Party Massacre, they're
actually not that gory. Usually it's just a lot of blood. So I didn't
want to go too far into gore because you'd lose that 80s-ness to it.
That being said, there was a great, gory death in the script we had to
change because Conneaut Lake Park did not have the particular ride
required to do it. We'll save that for the sequel...
Park features Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy and genre icon
Doug Bradley in prominent roles - so how did you get them in the first
place, and what was it like working with them?
Doug I met at a horror convention in Dallas, Texas called Texas
Frightmare. I had been tipped off he was moving to Pittsburgh (where
I live and the film was going to be based out of) so I mentioned this
casually and asked if he'd be interested in a day's work. He read the
script, jumped on board and we got the pleasure of working together. He
was great to work with and I hope to reunite in the future - he is
professional while informal and it's a style I prefer to work with.
Ogre was the result of a shot in the dark - I sent the script to his
agent with a very professional cover letter and then promptly moved on.
I had my doubts but a week later I got an email back from the agent that
said he was in. "Ogre wants to make this happen" was the
response. So I was excited, but had no budget yet a solution created
another problem. We exchanged emails for about six months and having him
on board led to having a successful Kickstarter campaign where we raised
enough funds to finish the film. In the end, it worked out and it was
wonderful having him on set. You're not sure what an (industrial) rock
star slash actor will bring to the table, but within minutes we were
cracking jokes and he was so eager to be part of this that there were no
egos or narcism to be had. It really was a great experience. We try to
stay in touch!
you tell us about the rest of your cast?
Going into the project, I knew most of the cast would be local. I knew I
would have a large response to the casting call posted with the
Pittsburgh Film Office (and I did), but I also knew it would be tough to
find the particular actors I was looking for. Once I locked in Wendy and
Steve, I knew I was on the right track to putting my cast together. Tom
Savini was originally in talks to play Henry the security guard but we
lost him to Django Unchained, but it turned out to be serendipity
-- Brian McDaniels as our park security guard worked out so perfectly.
As it turns out, he was one of the more revered characters in the film
and his death (spoiler!) always gets a response from somebody who is sad
to see him leave the film. Alicia Marie Marcucci let us put her through
hell and smiled the whole way through. Kyle Riordan did a fantastic job
for his first time on a movie set and I hear he's getting approached for
commercials now. Tyler Kale, Kailey Harris and Dean Jacobs were just as
great being their archetypal characters and the whole group bonded
really well. Ian Lemmon was made for the role as the silent killer and
used his physicality perfectly, stalking about and being menacing.
I gambled on using local actors, novices, and friends and I couldn't
have gotten a better result, I think.
A few words
about critical and audience reception of your movie, and when and where
will the film be released onto the general public?
Reception has been great. It's nerve-wracking to put your first feature
film, with a very low budget, out into the world to let people see. I
think my fears subsided when we screened the film on Halloween near the
park where we filmed -- members of the audience asked to have the film
run again! The first batch of reviews have the movie well-recieved and
from reading them I believe we met our goal of capturing that feel of
We're currently working with a couple of distributors out of Los Angeles
to have the film put out in commercial channels. If picked up, it will
hopefully be widely available. For now, we're booking theaters in the
western Pennsylvania area and submitting to film festivals. We'll be
showing at the Dead in Dixon in September and the Eerie Horror Film
Festival in October with updates on others coming soon. I've also
submitted to Tugg.com,
which would allow us to screen the film on a per demand basis in
go back to the beginnings of your career: What got you into filmmaking in
the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
a very Joseph Campbell sort of way, it's one of those callings. There is a
love of cinema, including the actual mechanics of motion pictures, that
runs very deep. It's a form of escapism, of modern myth making, and very
cultural. I've always felt a draw to it and from early movie watching
began to dissect how these things were being made. By junior high, friends
and I were making our own movies in the backyard. It wasn't until college
that I realized it was possible to pursue this academically and changed
from writing to film. From there I took as many classes as I could fit
into my schedule while interning at local production companies and
Hollywood films that came to town (there weren't many in the early 2000s).
One of the fondest memories I have from college was spending the night in
an editing bay with super 8 footage actually splicing footage.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Scream
I did some various commercial work,
promotional videos, and most recently a series of music videos for a
Seattle-based band called Attack With Care. I've shot, edited, and
produced work for others and been involved in numerous shorts and local
Park is the largest project yet.
Any future projects you'd like to talk
I'm currently contributing a short for a creature feature anthology
currently titled Cryptid. It can be best described as a Creepshow-type film of interconnected stories. It's pretty exciting and it's a
collaborative effort among a group of Pittsburgh-area filmmakers.
I'm also back in the writing chair working on a sci-fi script.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
Filmmakers that are always able to buck the system or build their own
career -- guys like John Sayles or Stanley Kubrick. Auteurs that could
push boundaries -- both visually and production-wise -- without losing
their autonomy. I also appreciate John Carpenter and his love of b-movies
and Francois Truffaut. Day For Night is an amazing film.
Such a hard question. I feel like my list
of favorites is always changing but there's a few that are always on the
top. In no specific order: Aliens, Dr. Strangelove, The
The Prestige and The Battle of
Algiers. I realize this is quite a smattering of film genres...
... and of course, films you really
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
I don't know if I hate any films -- I feel like I
can always take away something from watching a film (even if it's
what NOT to do). I'll give you two I've actually turned off and never
wanted to go back to: Gummo and Bloodsucking Freaks.
Troopers is a pretty awful film - but that may be because I love the
book so much.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
Those are the big three. You can find everything Scream
Anything else you are dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
Just a big thank you for the
interview and thanks for helping to spread the word! The second toughest
thing for indie films (aside from budget) is getting them shown.
Thanks for the interview!