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An Interview with David James Gustafson, Director of Beyond the Shadows

by Mike Haberfelner

April 2020

Films directed by David James Gustafson on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Beyond the Shadows - in a few words, what is it about?

 

Beyond the Shadows is a horror dramedy that touches on Native American genocide. The movie follows a team of ghost hunters that film for a fake TV show. They decide to do a live show in a haunted lodge with an invite to a team of scientific debunkers, super fans, and a medium. Chaos ensues when the ghost hunters become the hunted.

 

With Beyond the Shadows revolving about a paranormal TV show, what are your personal views on such shows, and on the paranormal as such?

 

Oh, I'm a believer. And love paranormal shows and movies.

 

Other sources of inspiration when writing Beyond the Shadows?

 

I definitely wanted to have a Clue-meets-slasher feel to the movie.

 

Of all the colourful characters in Beyond the Shadows, who could you actually identify the most with, and why?

 

I think I identify a tiny bit with every character. Some roles I wrote specifically for certain actors and actresses. If I had to choose which I identify most with is Bryan. I'm pretty laid back and don't want to be in front of the camera.

 

What can you tell us about Beyond the Shadows' approach to horror?

 

I wanted to do something a little different, maybe because of inexperience with the genre. I wanted to get some Native American genocide info into the movie. And then have their spirits start picking people off. But all the while I wanted to have that great chaotic, nonsense that somehow comes together feel of Clue throughout.

 

You of course also have to talk about Beyond the Shadows' brand of humour!

 

It's easy to be this funny when I have so many really talented actors and actresses on our team. What I find amazing is that they can just seamlessly transition from a dramatic scene right into a comedy scene.

 

What can you tell us about the house Beyond the Shadows was filmed at, and what was it like shooting there?

 

My sister and producer/editor at Great Gus Productions spent a lot of time researching a big house out in the middle of nowhere that we could use not only for shooting, but also to house most of the actors and actresses. And I think she found a great location. It was big, spooky, secluded, and some great views.

 

A few words about your directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

With one movie under my belt, I really felt more confidence with the second. And it helps to be working with some of the same cast as High Note. They have great questions to get to know their characters and even some great ideas with subtle changes. It seems, in both movies I've directed, that the actors and actresses become so involved in their characters and the backstory. And it really helps that these actors and actresses trusted me and the script to bring out the best in the movie.

 

Do talk about Beyond the Shadows' cast, and why exactly these people?

 

Let's start with our lead, Tyler Roy Roberts. He was in High Note. I wrote this role for him. This guy is just pure talent. Funny, prepared. He also writes and directs his own stuff. It seemed like the rest of the cast just fed off his energy and professionalism. It was pretty easy working with Tyler in both movies and I hope I can snag him for another one or two in the future.

 

Then we have Sam Olive and Weston Hedin and Derrick Woodrin rounding out the ghost crew. They just nailed the roles. They never wanted any short cuts. Always looking for perfection. And I think you see it in the movie, they all were given moments to shine and just excelled. I worked with Sam and Weston on High Note and wrote these roles for them. Derrick was awesome. That early monologue was one of my favorite scenes. These 3 are just getting started.

 

Our groupies were the center love story of the movie. Ella was great and had some good ideas for her character. She found the lead sound technician, Alexzandyr Biernat, who was very good and thorough. And the always delightful and delicious Lindsay Gustafson, my wonderful wife, was just amazing as Eve. She was also in High Note and I wrote this role just for her. And if you watch both movies I think you can see her range and how diverse she is as an actress. Just delicious.

 

The debunkers were also just really damn good. Cameron Lee Price came on late and just did so good. He really got the character and the delivery and is doing a lot of acting. Also very diverse. And might I add, he just killed it in that powder blue suit. Stevie Mae is the best. I worked with her on High Note and wrote the role for her. She is so funny and can deliver a line whether dramatic or comedic. And Alex McIntire, the camera man, is my oldest son. He's been acting most of his life and it's always seemed very effortless. Plus he's a good looking kid with a great smile. I think he was super excited to use bad language on camera. He was also in High Note and I wrote this role for him.

 

The super fans are great. Tyler Ryan is absolutely hilarious. I wrote this role for him after working together on High Note. And I joke that I'm always giving him the eccentric redneck roles. Not on purpose. It just works out that way. Apostolos Gliarmis and Brianna Paige Dague were also excellent. Paul is another cast member that is very versatile and has acting and behind the scenes work on his resume. He really did so good moving from the comedic intro to the drama and gentle performance in the spirit talking scene. Bri is another actress that did really well and she was committed to her clingy stalker girl role. For that outside scene in the rain, there was zero hesitation, and in that cold, I don't think I could have done it.

 

Monty, Monty, Monty. Ty Boice. I worked with Ty on High Note. He is a stage actor, film actor, comedian, etc, etc. Very talented. Very committed to the character. The character and the performance help make the movie what it is. I wanted a Tim-Curry-from-Clue-meets-Igor feel to the role. And wow, since the first rehearsal. He really gets my writing and it makes it so easy when it's time to shoot.

 

Gabrielle Malate was a last minute addition. We hadn't quite found the right Phantasma yet. All the actresses that auditioned had strengths and what we were looking for for certain things and were a little off in others. But Gabrielle really just nailed her audition and kept that same creepy, loner vibe thru the whole shoot.

 

Thanks to both my sisters, Amy and Jenny for helping with the casting. Amy was also co-editor.

And thanks to my brother Jake, who was the producer and co-editor and camera man.

And thank you to our make up lead, Hannah Krutsinger, who did an amazing job with the death scenes and make up. Very talented and the cast loved her.

 

What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

Thankfully, most of the cast knew each other. And with every one staying in the same house, it kind of had a slumber party feel while shooting. Plus, if it wasn't their scene, cast would sometimes come around and check out the others performances. Lots of fun. Chaos. But fun.

 

The $64-question of course, where can Beyond the Shadows be seen?

 

YouTube: https://youtu.be/HXZwlom_PFI

We also have it submitted to some festivals.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Beyond the Shadows yet?

 

Well, as you know, I like to write weird movies. So they aren't for everyone. But those who have liked it, have really liked it.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

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We have 2 low budget scripts ready to go. The most likely next is based on the Highway of Tears murders in Canada. Hopefully sooner than later, but with all the craziness in the world we'll see how easy it is to get funding.

 

Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

https://www.greatgusproductions.com/blog - come check us out. We make weird movies.

https://www.facebook.com/greatgusproductions/

https://www.instagram.com/greatgusproductions/

 

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

 

Thank you to our wonderful, talented cast and crew. Thank you to my family. And thank you to my amazing wife and kids. I hope you enjoy the movie. Also, High Note is available on TubiTv.com. Thanks, Mike.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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