Your new movie Friends Don't Let Friends
- in a few words, what is it about?
Friends Don't Let Friends is a psychological horror story
about one of the most base fears. That fear that your friends aren't
really your friends. It follows a group of friends who come together to
cover up a murder. That cover up being the catalyst for each person
turning on the other.
Which of the
characters of Friends Don't Let Friends did
you identify with the most, actually, and why?
sound pretty twisted, but I identify with all of the characters. I've been
the doting guy in the friend zone. The aggressive hot head who pushes
things too far. The couple who are just there because of obligation, and most importantly, the guy trying to get out of a bad relationship.
Each of the characters represents different parts of my growth in some
ways. The things you let people get away with when you're 18 is different
from what you'll put up with at 28 and each of these characters represents
that in some way. For me, bringing them all together and having them
battle it out was really important for me as a storyteller.
Don't Let Friends in any ways based on personal experiences with
exes and "friends" (apart from murdering your partner I hope)?
some ways the characters were a cathartic release. The things each of them
represented in my own psyche were things I saw as weaknesses in my younger
years. I'm still bonded to the friends I've had since high school and some
of them actually became producers on the film because they saw just how
crazy this film could be and many of the situations in the film were
things we all joked about for years. (We never murdered anyone though, I
sources of inspiration when writing Friends Don't Let
When I was fresh out of high school I took
a job working for a residential facility that helped people with mental
disabilities. I spent 6 years there working as a behavioral coordinator
and building behavioral programs to help the clients normalize into daily
life. Things like creating program rituals to help autistic adults do
things like brush their teeth each day or take out the trash, things we
take for granted but actually give these individuals more control over
their daily lives. Working in that community and focusing on programming I
learned a lot about motivations. About trying to find ways of letting
things progress naturally in the direction that was right for each
individual. I feel like I approached directing some of the scenes this way
Do talk about your movie's approach to
horror for a bit!
I feel like no matter what I say here
I'll think it's pretentious later. I knew my first film was going to be low
budget and had to be done with the equipment I had in my possession but I
also wanted it to feel like the movies I loved from my childhood. The
movie that stuck with me when we were starting the process was Lamberto
Bava's Demons. Maybe not so much the actual movie but the movie within the
movie. Even in the beginning I had colored each of the cameras to be more
heavily blue to reflect this style but ended up bringing it back to a more
neutral look in color correction.
What can you tell us about your
overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
beginning I had this wacky idea that we were going to shoot the entire
film in one night. I created case studies and story beats for the actors
to follow and relied heavily on the improv skills of the actors. We
rehearsed through the story about four times before we went out into the
desert for the actual shoot but in the end maybe 25-30 mins of that night
made it into the final film. After that Lyndee and I studied the footage
we had and I went to work building out the scenes and script that would
eventually become the final film. As much as I wanted a feature in a night
to be what I'd be known for I'm so glad my actors and crew saw what I saw
and were willing to stay with us till the end.
Don't Let Friends is mostly an outdoors movie - so do talk about
your location, and what were the challenges filming there?
Filming outdoors always comes with a long list of issues. We were
insanely lucky that we had a film friendly family who rented us a house
on 5 acres of land. In many of the scenes the house is as close as 20
feet away. One of the major challenges was weather. My first trip to
Joshua Tree I was working on OMG:
We're In A Horror Movie, a horror
comedy by Ajala Bandele [Ajala
Bandele interview - click here], which is where I met Brittany and many of our
crew. On that shoot is was 105 during the day and 89 at night. When we
decided to shoot it was 75 during the day and 32 at night. A huge
difference which caused us some serious issues on set. There's a scene in
the film where Jeb is covered in Carrie's blood that had to be cut
because it was so cold the blood had frozen to his hand like a glove.
Drips caramelized as they fell from his fingers. Then on the next shoot
we were now in spring but in the same wardrobe we had during the winter.
Low budget filmmaking is all about making things work and to the credit
of our entire team, we managed to make it happen.
On that spring shoot we got entirely shut down for one of the nights
because a mixture of high winds and rain decimated the location for the
entire night. There's a scene in the film where the group are back to
back, being stalked from the bushes and everyone's hair is flying around
like their trapped in a wind tunnel. It added to the scene in a way that
only the outside element can.
talk about Friends Don't Let Friends' cast,
and why exactly these people?
Casting was a great
experience on Friends Don't Let Friends. Brittany and I had talked over
the characters and she ran with putting together a casting place and time.
We worked with a company in Hollywood called Cazt.com who were incredible.
We saw some amazing talent, many of them would have been great with a
script but when we needed actors to improv a little more we saw that not
everyone has the chops for improv. I certainly don't. What cracked me up
about our final decisions were that most of them knew each other from CalArts. Brittany, Jenny and Brendan had all gone to
CalArts and had not
only been friends but had acted together on stage projects. That was a
huge bonus for us when it came to having actors push each other's buttons
What can you tell us about
the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
I think the
best way to judge the on-set atmosphere is to see how closely it resembles
a summer camp. For some reason it's the best way to gauge the process. We
worked crazy hard and everyone brought their A game. So when we finally
got to cut loose we all had a good time.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Friends
Don't Let Friends?
The reviews have been better
than we expected. When knew the same audience who loved mainstream movies
probably wouldn't be able to handle our run-n-gun style of psychological
horror but one of the things that I've always loved about the horror
genre, for years of arguing with other fanatics is, there is no wrong
answers. We all have niche sub-genres we love. There are plenty of movies
I couldn't sit through that everyone loved. And there are movies I love
that most people find cringeworthy. My hope is that the people who like
fast-paced indie movies with twisted characters are able to find our
Any future projects you'd
like to share?
Over the last year as we awaited the release
I began turning some of my feature scripts into novels and ebooks, which
has been an amazing way to see the story from another perspective.
Currently I have a collection of transformation/werewolf short stories
called We Are But Human, A collection of behind the scenes production
horror stories called Hollywood 666 and finally, the one I hope to make
next, Omnivore, a cannibal horror film set in the near future. Omnivore
has some of the similar psychological tones as Friends
Don't Let Friends but instead of turning on one another they embrace their tragic flaws. It
was also the first time I decided to change perspectives in a story to
give the reader and the viewer two very different stories. The script is
mainly from the female protagonists perspective whereas the book is rooted
in her boyfriend's voice and gives much more insight into the reasons why
he does what he does throughout the story.
What got you into making movies in the
first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
grew up in a small village in Scotland until I was 15, so filmmaking wasn't
even on my radar. At that time even mentioning you wanted to be a
filmmaker would be reviled and you'd be told to "grow the fuck
up." It wasn't until I moved to Virginia and met my friends that the
idea was not only entertained but encouraged. I'm very thankful for the
people in my life because they saw my level of crazy and told me to write
it down :) After that I went to James Madison University to their
College of Media Art and Design, which was a catch-all for everything media
related. Mostly news and documentary training but I always knew I wanted
to be making horror films. In college it wasn't as encouraged as you'd
expect. Personally, I expected college to be the classroom scene from
Scream 2, where everyone had seen the movies I had but sadly, that wasn't
the case. There was a lot more censorship than I expected at an academic
level. After college I moved to LA where I've been ever since.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Friends
Don't Let Friends?
My regular day job for the last
few years has been working in reality TV. For most of that time I worked
on the Travel Channel series The Dead Files which was one of the most fun
and rewarding experiences in the industry. We traveled 3 weeks a month
which can be crazy hard, especially when you're trying to finish a film,
but the entire cast and crew were so supportive of my film and kept the
pressure on to make sure I finished it. Rob Toth and Adam Eurich from that
show both worked on Friends Don't Let Friends.
How would you describe
yourself as a director?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
I would like to... I think of being
a director as exercising a muscle. Every time you direct you get better at
what you are trying to say. I love the writing process, I love a wall
filled with note cards and manically laughing as things start to work
themselves out in my head. But there's a high you get from seeing someone
elevate the words you've written into an emotional form. From my first
short film, to my last music video, there's so much excitement on a set
that I couldn't ever give that up.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
wouldn't be the filmmaker I am without Rebel Without a Crew. Robert
Rodriguez's production diary was influential to everything I've done. I've
been a fan of Jessica Cameron [Jessica
Cameron interview - click here] for a while and watching her work is on an
entirely different level.
There's so many. Jessica Cameron's Truth
or Dare was twisted and incredibly well done. It was a character study on
the most truly awful and I loved it. I love movies that take chances, from
True Romance to Spring Breakers, Dead Alive to Tucker and Dale Vs Evil. I
just want to be entertained for the duration. I'm not someone who can sit
through the typical "slow burn" horror.
... and of course, films you really
I hate to bash someone else's films but I do hate
when a movie is marketed wrong. I would have loved It Comes At Night if it
hadn't been labeled a horror movie. It was a post apocalyptic thriller in
the realm of These Final Hours or Right At Your Door but it wasn't a
horror movie. But the trailers touted it as a horror film which left me
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
Come find me on Instagram at
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
I honestly don't know. But if you
have any other questions fire away.
Thanks for the interview!