Your upcoming film Night aboard the Salem - in a few words,
what is it going to be about?
aboard the Salem’s synopsis is: Six paranormal investigators
are trapped in a bizarre alternate existence inside the U.S.S. Salem.
We see their experience through the footage retrieved from their
cameras... They are not in the U.S.S. Salem,
at least not in our world year in 2012. The group is seeing their own
ghosts; and they're not even dead, yet...
The honest truth is this film hits the ground running so quickly, I
don’t want to give away the twist that you see in the first 5 minutes!
So I’m not going to give you any sort of plot outline.
I’ll tell you this though: Night
aboard the Salem is constant twists.
I wrote it thinking of Sixth
Sense was amazing but ultimately, the whole film was build up to its
one final twist. I wondered: Can we have a twist in the first 5 minutes, and then a twist in the next
10 minutes, and so on, until we reach an ending that explains all the
aboard the Salem is my answer to that riddle.
So what can you tell us
about the actual U.S.S. Salem and its haunted history?
As soon as I got onto the Salem, I went right for
the stories. I asked everyone
about their experiences on the U.S.S. Salem.
I got all kinds of stories: a ghosts who makes regular appearances
Friday night at Midnight, a ghost of a burn victim who appears in the
quarantine, a ghost who can be heard opening the hatch and walking down
the stairs into the belly of the ship every morning at 7am, and my
favorite story: a ghost capable of turning on and off a flashlight when
Most of those asked traced the origins of the hauntings back to the
refugees of the Great Ionian Earthquake of 1953.
The earthquake leveled several islands and killed approximately 500
people. The Salem was
immediately involved in a rescue effort in which many critically
wounded/injured refugees died aboard the Salem.
Despite this I didn’t really find the Salem the
slightest bit scary. Some
people were terrified of it! It
didn’t work for me though. And
until recently, I would have had to admit I’d never seen
anything weird there ... that was until a few months ago. I
was with an actress, walking past the quarantine - we looked in, shined
around with our flashlights and walked off.
Later we walked back. When we looked in again she said: "That
window wasn't there before, was it?" I kind of laughed at her getting
freaked out, but then I got thinking. And I didn't remember seeing it
before. To my knowledge, no one was in the ship; but somehow, she was
right; something had been blocking the window.
Night aboard the Salem deals with a paranormal investigations - is
this something you're also into personally, and how much research did you
do on the subject?
No, I am not a paranormal investigator.
Mostly because I’m too cynical to ever actually believe in
When I started writing this script, I did do a lot of my own research; but
honestly I had a lot of prior knowledge on the subject - I’m a nerd, I
know weird things. Ultimately though, I connected with an actual paranormal investigator who
gave me a lot of personal insight on paranormal investigations as well.
few words about your partners in crime, Alex Zinzopolous and Joel Brook,
how did you all meet up, and what is your collaboration like?
I’ve known Joel Brook my whole
life. We’d worked on
just-for-fun film projects on and off for years!
One of these is the film: Cheers: An Ode to John Woo, which
you find on IMDb or view on our website:
When I was in college I was studying video game design - and honestly, I
realized it was easy. Note: I
graduated with a 4.0 GPA, and never studied.
I don’t want to do something that isn’t hard, it just seems
like a waste of time. So one
day I called Joel, and I said: “We’re making a feature film next
summer.” We made Hitting
the Wall, which won a REMI at
Houston WorldFest International
Film Festival and both “Best New Director” and “Best Director” at Atlantic City Cinefest / Downbeach Film Festival.
From that point on we’ve been making movies.
We met Alex Zinzopoulos during the production of our next feature Isabel.
Alex went from being camera
operator to confidant; and immediately after Isabel,
Joel and I co-produced Alex Zinzopoulos film Death of Love. Both of
these films will be in festivals later this year.
Two other members of the team I don’t want forgotten are:
Joe Charbanic, the director of The
Watcher (James Spader / Keanu Reeves).
Glynn Praesel, producer of
Palo Pinto Gold and costar of Hitting
Both Joe and Glynn have been collaborating with us on the upcoming film Haunted
Ship (which I’ll discuss later).
Joe is one of the executive producers on Night
aboard the Salem, and Glynn is one of the producers.
I’ve known Glynn for several years now; and from the moment I met him,
he’s been helping me out. He’s
genuinely one of the best men I’ve ever met in my life.
He’ll fly across the country to help out a stranger, and I know
that because I was that stranger once.
Glynn actually put me in contact with Joe, who flew in from L.A. to meet
me on board the U.S.S. Salem,
Joe’s another awesome who’s helped us put this film together just
because he believed in the film.
Both Joe and Glynn’s contact with distribution and have been invaluable
to the Night aboard the Salem
(more on that later though.)
were your initial inspirations when writing Night aboard the Salem;
what can you tell us about your narrative approach and the writing process
had the idea for the script of Night
aboard the Salem when I had been prepping for the filming of Infested Ship, I'd had to stay on the Salem over night so that
I could get up and watch the sun rise on the Salem; I had to see what it
would look like for a shot we were planning.
The funny thing is: after shutting myself into the Salem for the
night, it started to get creepy. The
huge ship would constantly groan like a monster purring, and sometimes you
could hear metal slamming into metal - probably just the ship bumping up
against the wharf; but it was unnerving.
I realized if it is haunted, and I didn’t make it out: I was kind
of asking for it, I mean I just sealed myself into a haunted ship to study
it for a haunted film, if I didn’t make it out, I certainly had fair
warning! But I made it out,
saw a beautiful sunrise, and I had the idea for a new feature film: Night
aboard the Salem!
far as I know, Night aboard the Salem is based on a recent short of
yours, Infested Ship. So what can you tell us about that one, also
in relation to Night aboard the Salem?
aboard the Salem grew out of Infested Ship.
It has the same location: the U.S.S.
Salem, and it has a lot of the same cast & crew: Anna Shields [Anna
Shields interview - click here],
Jerry Dwyer Jr. [Jerry Dwyer interview
- click here], Vanessa Gall, Jeremy Blaiklock, Maya Landi, Lee Simonds,
David Benedetti, and Christopher Nolan (not Chris Nolan director of Dark
Knight but just as cool). But Night
aboard the Salem is not based on Infested Ship. Infested Ship
is a vampire horror/thriller while Night
aboard the Salem is ghost-horror.
speak, Night aboard the Salem is still in fundraising stages,
right? So what can you tell us about your fundraising campaign?
We’re currently raising financing for the film
KickStarter is a crowd funding website that allows anyone to contribute
any amount from $1.00 on up. In
return for the contributions, contributors get: DVDs, signed scripts,
their name in the credits / on IMDb! We
are even giving out appearances as ghosts in the film!
Beyond that, we even have ways to get people into the film even if
they can’t make it to the filming location!
As I’m writing this we have slightly more than $3,000 of our $9,000
goal. That’s slightly more
than 1/3 of our goal at slightly less than a 1/3 of the way through our
KickStarter campaign! So
raising money for this film has been an up-hill battle, but we’re making
it - mostly because we’re not looking for a lot of money.
Everybody making sacrifices; a lot of us are putting in our own
money! (I’m putting in over
$5,000 of my own money!) And
we just need a little bit more money from KickStarter so we can cover
essentials like food and special effects!
revelations you can make about your projected cast yet?
not a complete list yet.
will you tackle your subject on a directorial level?
Wow, that’s a broad question…
As a producer/director I believe it is my job to put together a team that
will make this film.
I’ll be on set for every moment of the film; I’ll be laying on the
floor, hanging from beams, and dangling from ropes to make sure we get
this right. But when I do my job in preparing the right team, I don’t need to be
there. I’m just a failsafe
because the team can make this film and make it right without my
Night aboard the Salem being a horror film, is this a genre you're
also fond of personally, and why (not)?
There are a lot of
horror films I love, but a
whole lot more that are completely flat and underdeveloped.
As an example, horror villains are rarely anything more than devices to
get from one scare to another. They
are clearly thought out as devices to move the story along; but they are
not people or entities thinking out their own actions as characters who
have a goal and a method to achieve that goal.
Most horror villains’ powers or abilities vary throughout the
film just to increase the intensity of the film, and again they function
as plot devices not as real people or entities.
It might be
waaaay too early to ask, but any idea yet when and where the film will be
released onto the general public?
aboard the Salem is expected to release late this year or early
next year. Actually Night aboard the Salem has already received offers of distribution
from 3 different distributors, but on the advice of our producers, we are
not signing with a distributor until we have a finished product; so that
then we have the leverage, and we are able to ensure maximum exposure for Night
aboard the Salem, bottom line.
Any future projects
beyond Night aboard the Salem?
Yes, 3, but unfortunately 2 of them we are not
publically announcing yet; I can only say I will be a producer on both of
them. One is a crime
thriller/drama and the other an auto-biographical drama based on a
Haunted Ship I can discuss.
I am the writer/producer of Haunted
Ship, which is also set on the U.S.S.
Salem and will be filming early 2013. Haunted
Ship has attached the director Joe Charbanic
of The Watcher (James Spader /
Keanu Reeves). Glynn Praesel,
who co-starred Hitting the Wall,
put me in touch with Joe Charbanic immediately on hearing that we had
secured the filming location the U.S.S.
Salem for our next film. Joe
Charbanic flew in from L.A. and stayed aboard the U.S.S.
Salem for about a half a week, and immediately committed himself to
the film, declaring it a “no brainer”. Haunted Ship
has also attracted
multiple named talent, a few of whom we are still in negotiation with, and
again taking the fun out of it, I can’t discuss them yet.
Let's go back to
the beginnings of your career: What got you into filmmaking in the first
How I got into filmmaking is actually a great
story. First year of high
school, my neighbor Seth Donald and John Fluger were bored and playing
around with a DV camera, and they made a 2 minute short movie that was
eventually played at a birthday party. The
movie was really funny, and
Duane Weed, my best friend said: “We could make an hour long movie and
make it way better.” Back
then I was always writing something, so he asked me to write.
I wrote a script, we got everybody involved even Seth and John,
then it was decided since I’d written the script, I should probably
The film was Apocalypse: A Medieval Comedy, an epic albeit comedic quest to find the ancient
scrolls and save the country of Full-a-Bolognia from destruction by the
Mongolians. It was very much a
Monty Python and the Holy Grail with special effects.
The issue was none of us had ever used a camera, edited a video, or
even really thought of making a film.
But we spent a whole summer prepping, and we were too far in to
quit, so we learned. We had
some epic fight scenes, some really slap-stick humor, and some scenes that
totally fell apart; but we had a magician who could throw lighting and a
digital castle we destroyed. And
I am very proud of it: it was a great first work: even if it was just
great in terms of the experience.
It’s interesting to note that 3 of the 5 of
creators of Apocalypse are now
working full-time in film; that includes myself, Joel Brook, and Seth
Donald. And 1 of the remaining
2, Duane Weed, works part-time as a composer and has done more soundtracks than I can count including the soundtrack for my film
Did you receive any formal education in
Well to be honest, I went to one of the most
prestigious film schools, it started both James Cameron and Steve
Spielberg in their film careers.
few words about your production company Dear Skyyler?
I find in the indie film community there are two
schools of thought:
(1) make a movie just good enough to pay the bill and then do another one.
(2) create art.
Dear Skyyler Productions is not
interested in turning out films like a puppy mill. For us, what we do is a matter of pride and honor.
We’ve had humble beginnings, and we’re proud of that.
We’ve worked our way up from a DV cam and a forest, and we’re
proud of that. But at every
step our agenda is to create something we can be proud of, and to achieve
that we need to make each film better than the last.
who inspire you?
Ridley Scott has been a favorite director of mine
for the longest time. Since
we're filming on the battleship the U.S.S. Salem we've often referred to
the film Alien for inspiration
on general cinematography as I love Alien.
The thing about Ridley Scoot which I respect is he's always making
something new. He has a range
as a director. Alien (Monster Horror/Thriller),
Stick Men (Drama/Comedy), A Good
Year (Romance Comedy), Gladiator
(Epic Dramatic Action)... and
his list just keeps going. He's
an artist not a machine.
Brian Helgeland, unfortunately hasn't directed in a while, but his two
strongest films were: Payback
(Mel Gibson) and A Knight's Tale
(Heath Ledger). Brian
Helgeland is a director who understands the group/social dynamic of
filmmaking. I remember in the
behind-the-scenes for A Knight's
Tale he was missing a tooth because Heath Ledger knocked it out while
they were jousting with broom sticks.
The filmmaking process has to have that energy where you need to
get right down in it and get a tooth knocked out or you're not going to
see that energy on screen.
Edward Burns, and in particular the film Brothers
McMulen, made me take the leap from thinking: film is fun, to film
could be my occupation. When I
saw Brothers McMulen, I realized
you don’t need to blow anything up or have any a-list actors to make a
major motion picture. With
that in mind, I came to the belief that I could get noticed without a
Your favourite movies?
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,
Star Wars: A New Hope, Empire
Strikes Back, & Revenge of
and of course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
there’s a question that could get me in trouble.
But I think staying out of trouble is for cry-babies.
So I’ll tell you:
I can’t see Scream is
horror; it’s a horror parody. It’s
a different genre but it’s still just an Epic
Movie or Date Movie.
I can’t see it as being any different from Scary
So a safe answer now, everybody hates them: Star
Wars: Phantom Menace & Attack
of the Clones.
Honestly, I could go on all day with movies I hate.
When you’ve written yourself into such a hole that only the
rapture can save you, you’ve gone too far!
Perfume: The Story of a Murder:
That passes for a believable motivation?
Romeo + Juliet:
You can’t use “thee”s and “thou”s while pumping gas.
Facebook, Kickstarter, whatever else?
aboard the Salem
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/NightAboardTheSalem/
Jack Skyyler IMDb:
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/JackSkyyler/
for the interview!