Your new movie Dyscrasia
- in a few words, what is it about?
Specifically, itís a about a young woman who survives a ruthless
attack in an alley. It takes a microscopic view of what can happen
when one is faced with extreme adversity. The film explores the macabre
nature of the human heart in opposition to life in its purest sense.
Itís about things out of balance and what it may take to restore that
glimpses into the fight or flight mechanism, focusing on the
sinews that make up the aftermath of a choice. It unpacks the decision
itself, focusing on the Ďwhat comes nextí and the consequences that
come with that, the additional choices required that often arenít
You just have to
talk about your movie's villain, the Plague Doctor, for a bit, and what
inspired you to create a character like him? And what drew you to the
plague doctor appearance in the first place?
I came aboard the project when a different story was present.
There was a Plague Doctor and there was a Woman - an apprentice to his
murder madness spree of sorts. Upon agreeing to climb aboard, I reworked
the script to what we see now. I donít think Iíd have approached the
concept we wound up tackling with a Plague Doctor character in mind.
Thanks go to Mr. Webster, the cinematographer, for planting that image in
the initial draft.
That said, there was a certain element of darkness in those early
pages that led me to the story that Dyscrasia
transformed into. Something
about the innocence of the apprentice, the being misled by her
pseudo-master, the Plague Doctor. I wanted to enhance that darkness and
give it something to grasp onto - something beyond shock and blood. I
found myself asking about the moment before, over and over - wondering how
they met, whatís with this world, etc. All those questions steered me
toward a different realm, which became the one we see in the film now. It
transformed into something more brutal, more personal.
Itís a story that works on the audience in a backward, sneaky
sort of way. Itís one of those that, once you see everything that leads
up to the final image, gains a significant weight, a particular, I hope,
marrow-chilling jolt. I wanted to creep that up on people. The evil that
is the Plague Doctor, what constitutes his ultimate goal so to say, tends
to behave this way. Being shown the kindness of an offered rose, only to
have that trust stripped away, creates something worse than simply never
having been offered the rose in the first place. I think itís a story
any individual can relate to
sources of inspiration when writing Dyscrasia?
Failure. Being caught unawares. Being perceived as purely what
others assume you to be. Life does that to you if you arenít looking out
for it. I think, with Dyscrasia, I wanted to touch on what one person can
do - despite odds. It didnít matter much to me who this person/character
was once I cracked the story I wanted to tell. It just so happened it was
Sia that would be driving the narrative.
Knowing it was Sia, however, aided in creating the specifics to
the story. As wholly unfortunate as her tale would become, it was
incredibly captivating to explore it and, ultimately, to see it realized.
is quite visceral at times - so do talk about the bloody bits in your
movie for a bit? And how important is gore for your style of filmmaking?
This is something Iíve put a great deal of thought into over the
years. For my style, gore was really just a by-product. Gore is just icky
innards, stuff, residue. We all have those bits. We all know what they
look like. Itís not necessarily important to me because itís not the
The advantage of showing those bits and pieces is in
demonstrating a truth to the audience. Itís a ďseeing is believingĒ
moment; a handshake with the audience that says: Yes, this is happening.
Gore typically signifies a moment of no turning back. Itís
especially effective when thereís a character we love and we see them
get all cut up or wounded. Itís their mortality leaking out up on that
screen, the same as if they were bawling their eyes out. And we can
empathize with that.
If gore is in horror (or any genre) itís not really the horror
of the moment to me - but I might just have an odd perspective on blood
and gore. To me, horror is just a day when things go to shit and we
notice. A typical day can easily take a macabre turn, and often does, but
we just donít focus on it. Pass some roadkill and itís just a
part of our day. Nosebleed? Dab it. Relative die? So will you. Tired? Go
to bed because youíve got tomorrow to mess with, and if a monsterís
arm reaches out from under the bed and takes hold of your ankle when
youíre climbing in - tough luck. Go ahead and scream - but know that
it's not the arm thatís actually the scary thing... itís the fact that
it was there all along and could have, at any point, grabbed you.
How many other arms in other places are there? And maybe
more so, what is it gonna do now that it has you?
Movies explore our inner workings, be it romance, drama, western... itís always about who we are at our core. Top onto that the
fact that weíre all just walking sacks of gore, both physically and
emotionally. So... if some spills out along the way, to me, itís just an
expected outcome, as we already knew what was inside. We know
thereís tears from crying the same as we know an ax draws blood. Itís
the how these things spill out, the why, and the what comes after,
as a result, that interests me.
You show it if it enhances the story, if itís truth. Like smiling and
crying, gore happens. Itís not something I seek to insert into story --
but it keeps happening in what I find myself writing. So, it seems, the
truth that gore provides interests me greatly.
talk about Dyscrasia's
overall approach to horror!
For Dyscrasia, the goal was to slow things down. I wanted the audience
to be sucked in, then wonder how they got there. I wanted them to come to
an understanding along with Sia. I felt this would strengthen her
plight, invoke audience empathy.
This is not a usual story, at least not in how we ultimately aimed to
tackle it. Knowing that the content would venture toward horror, but
understanding the value of the story, we took a hard look at how weíd
implement the more gruesome aspects so as to not bury the story behind a
bloody screen. I wanted to slowly introduce the environment and the goings
on and strike a balance between overt and subtle in hopes to keep the
audience engaged and asking questions. In essence, the goal was: show
everything, explain as little as possible so that Siaís every movement
became crucial to understanding the story. That, while dancing the Plague
Doctor about in a somewhat excessive manner. This was to showcase his
cruelty and self-obsessed glorification, as well as his fragility.
It could have been a much more straight forward story, but I didnít
feel that would do much justice to Siaís experience.
Much of Dyscrasia
was filmed in a single room - so how limiting and maybe also liberating
was this for you as a filmmaker, and what did you do to keep things
Liberating. It was very liberating. Iíve always been a fan of minimal
location, if not single room films. Things in the vein of Clue, Arsenic
and Old Lace, Rear Window, Deathtrap, stuff like that. Most of us spend a
great deal of time in the same space, over and over again. Thereís
something to that familiarity that is both comforting and terrifying at
once in that, if something were to invade that familiarity, youíd assume
youíd be fine since you know the lay of the land - but what if youíre
not? What if youíre caught off guard? Your sanctuary suddenly has weak
walls and nobody can ever truly be ready for that.
The location, Thornhaven Manor in New Castle, Indiana, was
perfect. It was beautiful in its decay, so there wasnít too much by way
of keeping things interesting that the camera didnít simply soak in
naturally. That said, hours (and days) of discussion went into the shots
we selected, in how the characters would move about the space. We wanted
to stray from insert shots showing off the location. We wanted to let the
audience explore the space along with Sia, watch as the Plague Doctor
moves about it, and ultimately succumb to the feeling of confinement Sia
What can you tell us about your overall
directorial approach to your story at hand?
A 3-second film is how I described it in the early stages. Not that it
was ever aimed to actually be that short, it was just how I described the
somewhat hair-brained script I came out waving around. While what I wound
up describing is, in essence, just three-act structure talk, that was not
the intention of the 3-second film phrase I kept repeating, almost to the
level of mantra.
Broken down, it went like this: Her initial confrontation was deemed
Second 1 and the reveal at the end was Second 3. The middle, and longest
chunk, was of course Second 2.
Second 2 is all about Sia making discoveries. It is her journey into fight vs.
flight, and the confusion she suffers along the way. Working
with Bridget Murray, the actress, we discussed how her character needed
to, by virtually doing nothing, do everything at the same time. She is to
be seen as uncertain of her surrounding, of taking it all in and realizing
the horror surrounding her, confining her. But it had to be in something
of a slow-mo, as this Second 2 is not actually happening. This is not
reality. We donít really get a look, for the most part, of the Second 2
reality. We relied on implication and Bridgetís performance to drive
this portion of the story.
Ultimately, as Second 2 unfolds, it becomes itís own mini-movie in a
way. We see her change from almost a catatonic state to a person not only
in control, but blurring the line between good vs. evil, in its most
intentionally basic of terms.
Thereís something in that Second 2 that resonates with us all. Fear
of being ignored; used; controlled. Those precise emotions tend to make us
act. Little fires brew within us and scream and scream, until we release
them - or they release themselves. My goal was to stoke those fires as
realistically (in an unrealistic environment) as possible so when Second 3
finally unleashes, what we see from Sia is not only vindicated, but as
closely felt by the audience as possible. Itís a story about what
happens when opposing instincts clash.
about your key cast, and why exactly these people?
The primary cast was in place by the time I arrived to the project.
In a grand sense, Bridget Murray (Sia) carried a positive energy with
her to set that really helped the crew feel a bit better about all the
torment we would have to put her through. There are at least two moments
where she found herself covered head to toe in blood and, whatís best
summed up as, lamp liquid. She seemed rather excited about both. But maybe
she was just acting. I think she also drove home once covered in that
Working with her on creating Siaís character was in many ways a
breeze. She was quick to ask questions and deliver immediately on any
direction given. She was also extraordinarily confident in some choices
she wanted to make. Those were by far some of my favorite moments working
with her as I was able to somewhat act more as an audience member on set.
Taylor Watkins and I spent a great amount of time rehearsing the
physicality of the Plague Doctor. We actually did this in the nearby
basement of a friend - a location that somewhat rivaled the Thornhaven
place by means of eeriness.
Specifically, concerning what Taylor had to endure on the project
is difficult to quantify. There were hours behind that mask, one that fit
almost just right, and eventually caused some headaches. He had to,
essentially, live most of each shoot in a costume that was half blood,
half cloth. He stuck to things and himself. Itís kinda similar to what
Iíve read happened to Bruce Campbell during portions of the
Like Bridget, Taylor was a driving force behind the entire
project. Cast and crew morale was nearly always boosted by his presence.
He was also our production designer, which was truly fascinating since
this allowed him to help create the environment his monster existed
Both were tremendous to work with. And for one of them, it was a good
thing the mask was the type it was, otherwise it may not have been able to
fit around his nose.
Of the voice actors, Sean Orlosky, Beau Thompson, and Barry McMullen
all performed something unique with their individual humors
(humoral medicine) over the course of several long hours in the booth.
What Matt Cutshaw (sound designer and producer) asked from them was far
from simple - but each managed to provide us with a great deal of
directions to choose from.
words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
All and all, it was about seven shooting days. Maybe eight. It was a
good kinda pressure throughout.
The cinematographer, Webster, was extraordinarily sick the first few
days. I think he had a trash bag worth of prescription pills to keep him
going, and it was someoneís job to remind him every now and then to take
those pills. His voice was cracking, and he had a terrible fever, but he
never once let this slow him down. Iíd say he actually used it in a
positive light, somewhat making fun of how horrible he was feeling, as
well as how ridiculous his voice was beginning to sound. It made our long
hours easier to endure knowing what he must be going through. I remember
how impressive he was in front of the crew. They responded very well to
his leadership throughout his sickness. Thereís one thing in particular
about working with Webster, and thatís his ability to steer through
adversity. There were times, like any set, when it seemed the deck was
stacked against us, but he found a way to power through.
Nicole Lehrman (1st AC) was instrumental in the projectís success.
There was a moment when a massive rearrangement of the dayís schedule
became paramount. Working against the clock, and during a time when we
should have been sleeping to prepare for the next day, she and I found a
path forward. It will be a scenario Iíll never forget, and forever be
I really canít speak highly enough for the crew. There was a massive
set piece that needed to be built, two of these actually, and the amount
of labor involved was simply nuts. Crew members (of particular note:
Garrett Finn, Emily Fischer, Ryan Dietrich, and Shawn Weyerbacher)
offered their time between shoots to help construct these and maintained a
level of excitement throughout. There was a pervasive feeling that we were
all on something that was gonna work - and that kinda magic is rare.
And Iíd better point out Abigail Urbik (producer) as well. Her
dedication, patience, hard work, and threats (at me) were responsible for
keeping us all going. There wouldnít be a film without her efforts.
$64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?
At least not for most of the rest of this year (2018). Itís in festivals
still. However, if you were to follow Pale
Moonlight Cinemaís Facebook
and Instagram, youíll hear about the release. Vimeo, YouTube, and maybe
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Dyscrasia
Itís been positively received in festivals that
select it. In some viewings, we get to hear gasps and awws, and even some
well-placed shouts from audience members encouraging characters to act in
certain self-preservation ways. That part, is very cool.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
Several actually. Pale
Moonlight Cinema has another film currently
running around the festival circuit. This one, Hinterland, is written and
directed by Nicole Lehrman.
Another one is in post and should hop into festivals come Spring.
This one is Tryst, written and directed by myself, and starring Mia
Dietrich, Sean Orlosky, and Nate Shumate, along with Erin Oechsel and
Beyond that, we are finding time to create several micro-shorts.
These will be up on YouTube in the coming months. Expect some particularly
offbeat dark comedy and horror!
got you into making movies in the first place, and did you receive any
formal training on the subject?
Iíve had a handful of solid teachers in my life. Iíd say that
Michael Daehn, an acting instructor at Ball State University, was
instrumental in my understanding of working with actors. He possesses an
acute awareness to the human soul as well as a kindness with his time that
is rare to find.
Additionally, thereís Wes Gehring, an instructor of Film
History and author of well over thirty books. I actually wrote a piece on
horror in his class years ago and he remarked very positively on it. This
came at a time when some encouragement was almost more than required for
me. I may not have continued on this path, had it not been for him. He
remains extraordinary and typically always has an eye on my work at some
stage or another.
But, what got me into movies in the first place is likely some
odd combination of my mother and her father. With my mom, it was her
relentless showing of horror movies and the way she laughed and squirmed
while watching them - my step-dad, Brent (or B) is perhaps just as guilty
because he scared the hell out of me with Carpenterís The Thing and his
affinity for dressing up as Freddy Krueger and telling me heíd Ďsee me
With my motherís father, Papaw, it was maybe a little more direct.
Heís a massive movie aficionado with well over... maybe ten-thousand
films? His house, growing up, was better than the rental places (as much
as I miss them). There were walls of movies to choose from, towering over
me. Staggering. It remains to this day one of my fondest memories.
My father, Iíd like to add, had an interesting affect. The
movies he showed me, namely The Terminator, had a very realistic
grittiness to them. I think I was very lucky for my childhoodís
unintentional film-school for providing me with a uniquely well-rounded
knowledge and exposure to films. That and all the G.I. Joes I had that I
used to recreate and ultimately play out my own little stories. Someone
always fell into a vat of something and came out all wrong.
What can you tell us
about your filmwork prior to Dyscrasia?
primarily. I had been on various projects, but writing was the everyday. I
think I spent a handful of years as a madman with the craft. By drowning
in it nearly every single day, something clicked. For anyone looking to
write I canít recommend highly enough the madman approach. Spend every
moment of every day writing and after a while youíll come out the other
side surprised by what your hands can scribble out. Just donít forget
sunlight, friends, and family.
would you describe yourself as a director?
Specifically, I wouldnít. I donít think I can do that. But I can
talk about my approach to the stories I want to tell.
I stray from anything Iíve seen. Or at least try to re-invent if
Iím encroaching on familiar territory. I hear, quite often,
Ďartistsí are to steal. Iíve never agreed with that sentiment, as
itís inherently lazy, but I get it. Itís not exactly easy to show
audiences something theyíve not seen already. But thatís not
discouraging. Itís a good challenge that lends itself toward
increasingly creative stories.
I guess, the spin on the whole Ďstealí thing to me is better
summarized by, I think itís Bruce Lee to have said this, ďAdapt what
is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your
own.Ē I think this is a much more reasonable and respectful approach.
who inspire you?
Stallone, Shane Black, John Carpenter, Mel
Gibson, Sami Raimi. And Iíll think of more later and shake my fists for
leaving them out.
Your favourite movies?
Edge of Darkness (2010), Ghostbusters (1984), Raimiís
Dead films, Indiana Jones movies, Jaws, Clue,
Carpenterís The Thing, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Halloween
(1978), Robocop (1987), The Terminator (1984), Arsenic
and Old Lace, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Dr. Strangelove or:
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb - and maybe about 100
and of course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
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The links below
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commercial. Popcorn movies are fun and always will be and always should
be. Cinema is not responsible for generating or providing art/culture type
films. However, I donít want those to go away and I donít want
attention spans to overlook what authentic focus can provide and
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Our website for Pale
Moonlight Cinema is under construction, but should be up and
running come Spring sometime.
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
a sincere thanks to you for noticing our film, taking the time to write
your review of it, and going so far as to offer this interview.
for the interview!
bts-photos by Sadie Lebo