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An Interview with David R. Williams, Director of Manifestation

by Mike Haberfelner

March 2013

Films directed by David R. Williams on (re)Search my Trash


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Your upcoming film Manifestation - in a few words, what is it about?


Manifestation is a dark drama with a number of very disturbing moments of horror. It is about a couple whose son dies and that event tears their relationship apart. We come into the story about a year and half on, the husband, Bob, played by Robert Bozek, has located his wife Anna, played by Melantha Blackthorne  [Melantha Blackthorne interview - click here], who does not wish to see him. He wants them to get back together but it becomes very clear very quickly that these people are never going to get back together and probably should have never been together in the first place. Think George and Martha from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, but much more vicious. Bob soon learns that his wife has a lover, played my Michael Berryman… but she also has something even more disturbing in her garage loft… something not human.


So how did the project first come into being, and what can you tell us about your screenwriter Robert X Willis and your collaboration with him?


Robert and I came up with the basic story and he wrote the screenplay. It comes out of a question that was asked one night after a few beers… maybe more than a few. But the question was, if everything is energy and if energy cannot be destroyed, it can only be changed, then what happens to emotions? Where does all the hate in the world go? All the fear and sorrow? Where do these powerful emotions, once released, go to… and what could they become under the right circumstances?


How would you describe Manifestation's approach to horror (as in atmosphere vs all-out-gore, suspense vs sudden shocks and the like)?


early creature concept by Pat Tantalo

I’m known for shouting “more blood” on the set. I like extremes, whether gore or sexuality or emotional outbursts. In Manifestation however, we are adapting a more classic less-is-more aesthetic. There will be some shocking moments. There will be some over the top gore. But there are also many moments of quiet horror, where you are not quite sure what you have just seen. I think these are the moments that stick with you long after the more immediate reaction to the over the top stuff has passed.


Since you have hired a couple of quite prominent special effects artists for your movie, you just have to talk about the intended effects for Manifestation for a bit?


The creature is still in development so I really can’t say much about it. But think Lovecraftian Old One meets Cenobite meets Japanese squid porn and that might give you a bit of an idea.


Your leads will be played by three rather well-known horror actors, Michael Berryman, Melantha Blackthorne [Melantha Blackthorne interview - click here] and Debra Lamb [Debra Lamb interview - click here]. Why them, and how did you get them?


Melantha Blackthorne

Debra Lamb

Michael Berryman

I’ve know Melantha for a number of years. She appeared in my films Prison of the Psychotic Damned and Fable. I wrote and produced both of those, and so am really looking forward to working with her in a director-actress relationship. She is a wonderful human being, smart and sexy and a great actress. I think this role is going to be her Oscar. This is a seriously intense role and she is going to knock it out.


I met Debra through Melantha, who I had asked to recommend a couple actresses for the part of Mia who meets a rather nasty end. We spoke a few times on the phone and she instantly understood what I was going after. She seems a real sweet-heart and by all accounts is. Again, this is a role that is intense and I believe she can knock it out as well.


Regards Michael Berryman, I was talking to Melantha about the script and she asked if I had any one in mind for the part of her lover. I said I did not. And she suggested Michael Berryman. And I went…huh? That really blew my mind. But the more I thought about it the more brilliant I thought the idea. It is so unexpected, so totally out of the realm of the kinds of roles Michael usually plays. He is always the mutant, the monster, the henchman. Here is suave and cultured and just a little bit deadly. So I reached out to his agent Judith Fox and told her what we were all about and… here we are. Great person Judy by the way.


For the look of your film, you'll work together closely with DoP Wolfgang Meyer [Wolfgang Meyer interview - click here] - so what can you tell us about the intended look and feel of Manifestation, and your collaboration with Mr Meyer as such?


We’re shooting on film rather than digital. We had an opportunity to shoot on the RED, which I love, but for the look we want, film is a much better medium. Years and years ago I shot a film on 16mm using only natural sunlight and that looked fantastic, it gave the actors a sort of ethereal glow, a dream-like aesthetic. Wolfgang and I are both huge fans of art cinema, especially the European films of the 70s. We want that look.


As far as I know, Manifestation will partly be shot in the Buffalo Central Terminal, where you also shot your last movie Scarlet Samurai: Incarnation (formerly Terminal Descent) - so what do you find so appealing about this location?


There is something about the terminal that calls me. If you ever come face to face with this imposing structure, you’ll feel it too. I’ve lived in western New York all my life but didn’t even know the terminal existed till the late 80s. I was visiting a friend who had moved near there and I got out of the car and saw this tower looming over the room of her house and I was like… wtf is that? She said, “The Buffalo Central Terminal” and I was like, what? So she took me over there and I’ve been returning to the scene of that crime ever since. I’ve probably walked from one end of the building to the other and from top to bottom. There really is something about it. At that time the place was in terrible shape. It’s still not in the best of shape but the restoration people have been working hard to stabilize it and not let it fall to ruin like so many other Buffalo landmarks have been allowed to. When I die I plan on haunting it.


You're presently still raising funds for your movie, right? So what can you tell us about your fundraising efforts?


We launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the $50,000 we need to shoot the film. There are other efforts going on, but if we can raise the money through Kickstarter, that is the best possible scenario. Of course if any deep pocketed individuals who’d like to see their names on a movie starring Michael Berryman want to give me a check directly, that works too.


So once the funds are raised, how are you planning to proceed, and though I know it might be waaay too early to ask, any idea when the movie's going to be released onto the general public yet?


Assuming this happens and, we all realize there is at best a 50/50 chance this will happen, but nothing ventured nothing gained right? We would probably be ready for market in October. I am considering self distribution, as that will give me the most control over the project, but we’re open.


As far as I know, two of your films this site has covered a bit are going to be released this year (tentatively), Cleric and above mentioned Scarlet Samurai: Incarnation - so please say a few words about those two?


Scarlet Samurai: Incarnation, originally Terminal Descent is in the last stages of post production. Tara Cardinal [Tara Cardinal interview - click here] and Sean Wyn [Sean Wyn interview - click here] have worked very very hard to rescue this film from the shelf and get it finished and ready for market. All kudos must go to them. 


Cleric is nearing completion, and the game plan for that is to release it as a web series first and then possibly all episodes with some bonus material on DVD. That’s pretty tentative right now however.


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


I’ve been making movies since I was like 14 years old and discovered an old 8mm camera my friend’s uncle had. I caught the bug early and have been at it ever since. I have a BA in Media Study from the University of New York at Buffalo, but that was more theory than practice. Most of the practice is hands-on self taught.


Do talk about your filmwork so far for a bit?


I abhor cookie cutter filmmaking. I’m not interested in the same old same old. I’m not interested in template characters and paint by numbers plots. I hate having to explain anything to the audience. The audience has seen enough films and should be smart enough to figure out this shit for themselves. Nothing pisses me off more than hearing some filmmaker talk about how their serial killer zombie werewolf whatever movie is different with real people and unique plottwists and you go see it, and it's like, the same old tried shit with stereotypical characters and “plottwists” you can see a mile away. My work goes against that grain time and time again. If I can see a plotpoint coming, I make a sharp turn to avoid it. And I want to challenge the audience. I want to test their limits when it comes to gore and sexuality. I want to make them think and will drag them kicking and screaming to the end if I have to.


Any future projects beyond Manifestation?


Not at this moment.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


I love the collaborative nature of film. I see my scripts as templates, not rigid instruction manuals. When we shoot a scene I work with my actors and the crew to explore the space. How far can we push it? I’m not afraid to take chances. They may not always work but at least it keeps things interesting.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


Michelangelo Antonioni is a huge influence. Also Fellini. Godard to an extent. Bergman. Tarkovsky. David Lynch and early Cronenberg.


Your favourite movies?


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I’m a huge fan of classic Universal horror films, so Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman. Also the Hammer remakes with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. The films of Roger Corman [Roger Corman bio - click here]. But also art-cinema so films like The Silence by Bergman. L’Avventura, Eclipse and Red Desert by Antonioni. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is on my top 5. Also Last Year at Marienbad and pretty much anything else by Alain Resnais. And American underground cinema, so Maya Deren, Jack Smith, the Kuchar Brothers.


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


As said prior, any film that is nothing more than a step by step retread of everything that has come before. Mainstream Hollywood and those who seek to imitate that model of filmmaking.


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






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


I think you covered it =)


Thanks for the interview!


Thank you!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD