Your new short Cluster - in a few words, what is it about?
a visual metaphor; it’s about how it feels to deal with debilitating
Why make a movie about headaches and migraine in the first place, and
what made you choose your very unique approach?
headaches since I was in High School (in Germany, for you European readers
of this site!), and they got worse during and after College. I
was eventually diagnosed as having cluster headaches which are incredibly
horrible. I basically explain it as all the pain of a
six hour migraine crammed into 90 minutes, then it goes away for 30
minutes, then back for 90 minutes, then away… for maybe 12 hours, maybe
2 days. Sometimes longer. They are
nicknamed “suicide headaches” because so many people who have them
kill themselves. Women that have them have described
them as more painful than childbirth… I wouldn’t know about that, but
I do know they are the worst pain I’ve ever had and at one point in my
life I was having migraines a couple of times a week and one or two
clusters every month. People would ask me what it was
like and I would try to explain but it always fell short, so I decided to
make a movie that tries to show both the pain and the helplessness.
This is actually a re-make, I originally made Cluster back
in 2005 as a test run on the equipment my producer and I had procured to
shoot my first feature, Defective Man!, but that version of the
film never was finished.
a masked intruder - you just have to elaborate on that!
you have headaches, they just burst into your life, without warning, and
often without a trigger. Just out of nowhere,
“bam!” here’s a huge damned slice of pain for you. So
I wanted The Pain to be a faceless, hulking monster that bursts into The
Man’s life without warning (well, there is a little tiny bit of warning
if you pay attention to the audio, as some people do get “aura” before
a headache) and torments him for no reason, because that’s how it feels
to have these headaches.
way you put it, Cluster
is also a horror film - a genre especially dear to you, and why (not)?
love horror movies. I don’t love horror movies
exclusively – I’ll be very happy to sit down and watch a silly comedy,
or an intelligent sci-fi, or a good, heavy drama, lots of things (no
romantic comedies please) – but they do have a near a dear place in my
heart. People like being scared. I
think it is especially scary when what is out to get you in a movie is
plausible, and the home invasion is plausible. Not to
say all of what happens to The Man could literally happen to someone and
they’d be ok, but I think it’s a bit extra scary that conceivably one
could fall asleep on their couch watching a late-night movie and wake up
to someone hulking over them with a hammer.
does get quite violent and gory at times, so for the sake of the
gorehounds among my readers, do talk about the gore effects for a bit, and
was there ever a line you refused to cross?
gore was actually what did in the first version of Cluster.
One of the crew on the first version back in 2005 was very
tech-savvy and convinced me that they could do really cool CGI gore and we
could save time by skipping practical gore, and since that version of the
movie was really just “training wheels” if you will, I was ok with
that idea. I actually welcomed it, because I wanted
someone to change my outlook on CGI. Those effects
never got done; people are busy. So this time around
when I met Seth Adam(s), the producer, one of the things I insisted on was
all practical effects all done on set, nothing did not get shot, and he
agreed. He had a friend that had assisted on makeup
effects on one of his earlier shorts, Chirality I believe, and Seth
suggested he was talented enough to take the lead. Roel
and his girlfriend Brenna are both talented makeup artists, and I put the
effects in their hands and I think they delivered, especially within out
budget constraints. There was no specific line I
refused to cross; I wanted to have the gore to have a visual punch when it
needed to but with an 8 minute short that is really truly NOT about the
gore I didn’t want it to be too over the top, and I think we ended up
with a nice balance by making the first assault mostly implied, the second
assault is quick, and only on the third assault to you really have to
stare the gore in the face.
about your two actors Reid McIver and Roger Garcia for a bit, and what
made them perfect for their roles?
showed up. No, seriously, Seth was responsible for the
casting and I think he did a great job. Seth was a
former video store manager and Reid was a regular customer that had
expressed interest in helping with one of his films in the future.
He’s got a good, “everyman” type look to him, and
is a great project to cut one’s teeth on acting-wise, as there is no
dialogue in the film! That does not mean there is no
acting, and Reid did a great job of taking my direction and giving me the
different looks and feels that the film needed. I think
he was a bit surprised and how much “hurry up and wait” there is
making a movie, so I hope this experience didn’t sour him from trying it
again some time in the future. Roger is a childhood
friend of Seth and Roel, and he was suggested because he’s a big dude,
and he has very expressive eyes, and with The Pain, that’s all you get
to work with. He was also a newbie to the whole acting
thing, but again took direction really well and I think did an amazing job
in the film.
What can you tell us
about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
back row: Ernest Perez, D. Ryan Mowry,
Roger Garcia, Anthony Goff
front row: Roel Garza, Reid McIver,
Brenna Vives, Seth Adam(s)
initial shoot was two evenings, one day with Reid and one day without, so
we did all the stuff that has The Man in it the first night (which was the
much longer shoot) and then the second night we did all of the shots that
do not include Reid. We had a lot of fun overall; while
I try to make my shoots professional I also try to keep the atmosphere as
light as possible. I’ve worked on films before with
people that feel the need to be the dictator, and all that does is make
people mad and make them less likely to work with you and instead just
work for you. I’d rather be the president – the
boss, but on the people’s side – and that way people want to not only
be in the movie but actually be considered a part of the movie. After
our two days of shooting, we had to go back and do two days of foley as
well. None of our “on-set” audio – with the
exception of the first few seconds outside the apartment – was used in
the film, all of the sound was re-recorded later. We
did this to ensure that there would be good crisp sound (as this is one of
the aspects of Defective Man! I find most cringeworthy) as well as
not having to worry about boom mics on set, as well as the fact that we
on a digital SLR camera that did not have a great
on-camera mic and did not have an XLR input for my boom mic to be
$64-question of course: When and where will Cluster
be released onto the general public?
premieres Sunday, 10/6/13, at the Oshkosh Horror Film Festival in Oshkosh,
Wisconsin. From there I am submitting it to other fests
and we’ll see. I’d love to eventually see it on
some sort of a horror shorts compilation DVD or something like that.
As of now it’s not going to be up on YouTube or any place that
the general public can see it, but you can check out the trailer here:
Any future projects beyond Cluster
you'd like to share?
know. I had another short I had considered making
instead of this one, a ghost story called Mile 173, and then I have
been working in my head (and somewhat on paper) on a giallo that I
want to make that would be the ultimate nod to fans of the genre, but
truthfully I don’t know if that will ever happen. I
made my last feature for very little money, and in order for me to
convince myself to make another one I would need to secure a much more
sizeable budget beforehand. Not that you can’t make a
good movie for little to no money – you can – and not that you need
money to throw at problems, but with my last feature it took over four
years because we had to work on nights and weekends around people’s
ever-changing schedules and watched people drop out left and right.
Myself and the producer either tweaked or re-wrote probably 50% or
more of the film on the day we were shooting that scene because either
someone didn’t show up or we didn’t have the location we needed or
whatever, and I’m not going to put myself through that stress again.
What got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you
receive any formal training on the subject?
Dogs. After I watched Reservoir
Dogs for the first time on VHS way back when, I decided “that’s
what I want to do.” I had always really liked movies,
but once I saw that film I fell head over heels in love with movies.
I don’t have formal training in filmmaking, though I do have my
degree in English and Communications which helps with the writing aspect
(not that you see much of that in this film I’ve made with no dialogue!)
What can you
tell us about your filmwork prior to Cluster
and your growth as a director?
film was called knuckleheads. and it was a short film about the
stupid things you do to keep yourself entertained while waiting, and it
was shot guerilla style on the streets of Kaiserslautern, Germany, back in
1999. Since then I’ve done some public access TV, a
few shorts, two features (one that was finished, and one that was not),
and then Cluster. For other people I’ve done
some work as an Assistant Director, an Actor, a PA, etc. I
got to work with Scott Phillips twice, and working on his movie Gimme
Skelter really convinced me I could get the people together and make Defective
Man!. The movie that The Man is watching in Cluster,
El Super Bobo y El Perro Dos Mil conra los Monstruos de Lexington,
is an old short film Scott made with a buddy of his, John Howard.
You can look me up on IMDb, that has the majority of my filmmaking
credits listed: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2038084/
How would you describe yourself as a director?
like making movies. I try to make them interesting,
intelligent, and a bit off the beaten path. I try to
surround myself with people more talented than myself, and when that
happens I make better movies that make me look good!
who inspire you?
a ton. Initially of course it was Tarantino with Reservoir Dogs,
but at about the same time I saw Clerks and found out you could
make a real movie for next to nothing, so I cite Kevin Smith as an
influence as well. I also have to give a lot of credit
to Lloyd Kaufman for really fostering an independent spirit into my
filmmaking. I’ve never really wanted to make a big,
Hollywood film (not to say I wouldn’t given the chance, that’s just
never been a goal) and a lot of that comes from Kaufman and Troma’s
independent spirit, which I caught the bug from them when I got to talk
with him a few times at the TromaDance New Mexico Film Festivals.
As far as directors I really like, well it’s a long list but here
we go: PT Anderson, Wes Anderson, Dario Argento, Darren Aronofsky, Tim
Burton, John Carpenter, the Coen Brothers, Guillermo Del Toro, Atom
Egoyan, David Fincher, Lucio Fulci [Lucio
Fulci bio - click here], Christophe Gans, Terry Gilliam, Michel
Gondry, Stuart Gordon, Frank Henenlotter, Tobe Hooper, Toshiharu Ikeda,
Peter Jackson, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Bong Joon-Ho, Richard Kelly, Takeshi
Kitano, Stanley Kubrick, John Lassater, Spike Lee, Umberto Lenzi [Umberto
Lenzi bio - click here], Michael
Mann, Takashi Miike, Vincenzo Natali, Neveldine / Taylor, Christopher
Nolan, Trey Parker, Doug Pray, Sam Raimi, Robert Rodriguez, Martin
Scorsese, Michele Soavi, Steven Soderbergh, Paul Verhoeven, John Waters,
Ti West, Edgar Wright (and a WHOLE LOT MORE).
Your favourite movies?
Do you want me to write a book??? How about my
favorite movies that I’ve watched this year (I watch usually somewhere
between 175-250 movies a year). I really enjoyed
Jennifer Lynch’s Surveillance, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise
Kingdom, Tarantino’s Django Unchained, David C. Snyder’s Dark
of Winter, Ti West’s The Inkeepers, Zack Parker’s Scalene,
Darren Lyn Bousman’s Mother’s Day (didn’t think I would but I
did), Ari Gold’s Adventures of Power, Eli Craig’s Tucker and
Dale vs. Evil, Lucky McKee’s The Woman, Pixar’s Monster’s
University, James Wan’s The Conjuring, Craig Mazur’s The
Specials, Paul Bunnell’s The Ghastly Love of Johnny X, and
Edgar Wright’s The World’s End. That’s
what I’ve really liked THIS YEAR. Favorites ever
would be too hard to narrow down into something not longer than the rest
of this interview.
and of course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
hard to say I really “deplore” many films. Most
films have some redeeming aspects. If you read my
reviews site, Ryan’s Reviews
you’ll see I always try to find something good about every film I watch.
That being said there are a few horrible ones on there, but
personally I just don’t like to bad-mouth other people’s movies.
There’s an audience for every movie, even if I think that
audience is pretty stupid for liking that piece of crap!
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
and in association with http://www.sublimationsinema.com.
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
hands hurt. I think this is enough. Thanks
for the interview!