Your new movie Black Wake
- in a few words, what is it about?
essentially an HP Lovecraft inspired story told in a found footage
epistolary style. Elder Gods, parasites, sea zombies, conspiracy,
detective work, horror and science fiction converge in a bizarre story
centered on a scientist (played by Nana Gouvea) investigating a series of
How did the project fall together in the first place?
Jerry Janda [Jerry Janda interview -
click here], who I worked with previously on the body horror movie
Painkiller, heard me answer an interview question about the type of genre
film I would NEVER want to do. I said found footage. In his impish
perversity, Jerry immediately wrote a found footage movie but one that was
completely off the wall and bizarre.
was reminded that HP Lovecraft stories and Bram Stoker's Dracula
essentially "found footage" fiction comprised of diary entries
and newspaper articles. I was sufficiently intrigued. So once we hooked up
with producer Carlos Keyes, off we ran.
You're right! Thematically, Black Wake has
a bit of a Lovecraftean tinge to it - so how much of that was intended?
I frequently bent the rules of found footage movies but
was emboldened by Lovecraft who would end stories with characters writing
their own deaths in a completely non-naturalistic way: "The creature
is at the door... it is breaking through... it is here... I can see its 1000
eyes... NOOOOOOO!" We are asked to believe the guy wrote that,
but we embrace it because of the gleefully fun narrative storytelling at
the end of the day.
(Other) sources of inspiration when writing
Wake? And how did you come up with such a delicious (sub-)genre
I watched a lot of Errol Morris documentaries. The
Thin Blue Line is a classic talking head documentary that weaves in a
lot of Hitchcock-style staged scenes recreating a murder in a Rashomon
Wake is pulp entertainment more like Robert Bloch or
Theodore Sturgeon than Errol Morris, but if I stole from any documentary
style it was definitely from him. I stole the idea of punching in on
shots from the Errol Morris doc The Fog of War. But again, he is a
genius and I'm just being a B-movie thief.
What can you tell us about your writing partners
Jerry Janda [Jerry Janda interview -
click here] and Carlos Keyes, and what was your collaboration
were frequent rewrites and it was a very long shoot. The script took
on a slightly loopy and bizarre "what is my actual reality"
vibe, which makes it appropriate for our NYC premiere at the Philip K.
Dick Science Fiction Festival. Carlos's revisions make the movie a
bit of a mind-fuck for the viewers, but thus far critics seem to enjoy
those weird twists and turns.
Do talk about Black
Wake's approach to the horror genre!
terror is losing your sense of self. When the parasites overtake their
victims, they become a part of a great hive mind. I can't think of
anything scarier than losing my sense of personal self or realizing my
entire life was some kind of cosmic lie. Philip K. Dick and HP
Lovecraft delved into those kinds of terrors, where the balance of our
everyday life is fragile and can get ripped apart any second.
few words about the effects work in your movie, and how were they
had practical effects with the blood and black goo of our particular
zombies. Beatrice Sniper created the special effects in New York (she also
made a practical woodland creature in my monster movie Slapface) and Phil
"Skippy" Adams finished our shoot in Connecticut. They're both
terrific artists, creative and fast and unafraid of making bold choices
with the gore and grue.
there, we had visual effects in post. HP Lovecraft style monsters
burrowing up from out of the ground were made by StratoStorm, an amazing
company run by Helena Hilario and artist Mario Pece. The parasites
that infect people were a combination of practical gore and post effects,
pretty seamlessly done from one team to another.
What can you tell us about your overall
directorial approach to your story at hand?
was to keep it simple and naturalistic, since the story is so bonkers and
off the wall and crazy. We used a few different shooting formats and
cameras, which seemed appropriate for found footage.
about your key cast, and why exactly these people?
an ensemble film with a big cast for a low budget indie, but at the center
of it all was Nana Gouvea [Nana
Gouvea interview - click here] as Luiza. She has an almost feral
intensity, very method in her approach. Drawing from incredibly personal
resources, she fearlessly delved right into extreme rage or madness. She
was with us the entire time, and most everybody else parachuted in to play
their part of the story and disappear back into the ether.
I guess I
identified closest with Jonny Beauchamp who plays the homeless man Tommy,
a sort of nomadic character who takes rides an arc from weakest to
is such an incredible professional and lovely person, very different from
this seemingly mad character who is a little like a cat, a little like a
wraith, vulnerable until pushed into being lethal. He had zero tolerance
when other actors were unprepared or hadn't learned their lines.
"Difficult" actors are usually actors who care and I always felt
protected working with him.
had the opportunity to direct Jeremy Fernandez (Lucas) and Kelly Rae
LeGault (The Specimen) [Kelly
Rae LeGault interview - click here] a few times. They're like thoroughbred horses
at the gate who unleash in frightening ways when you call action. I
know Jeremy impressed Tom Sizemore in their interrogation scene, when Tom
realized this kid was not going to give him the scene. He made Tom work
for it, which Tom immediately used as fuel.
were the name actors like to work with?
Sizemore showed up not knowing anyone and very protective of his space.
But we gradually earned his trust and what I especially admired about him
was his sheer generosity and professional courtesy to all the day players.
I was reminded that Tom was not an instant star and paid his dues for
years before Natural Born Killers and his amazing run with a series of
great directors. He still has that pride in his craft; he loves acting,
his fellow actors, and understands how to navigate a scene and a set. I
know he can be tough, but the Tom I worked with was resourceful,
dedicated, and cared. I had a great experience with him and hope we
can collaborate again sometime. He has a gift, and he has his
demons. I love that he just did superb work on Twin Peaks and feel
like Hollywood can be a forgiving place. Like Dennis Hopper, I think
Tom will have a career revitalizing role someday soon that puts him back
on the map in a big way. He's too talented not to.
Pastore is a very experienced actor but we didn't get along. He
didn't care for me and I didn't care for him. But we're both
professionals and did our jobs. When he wrapped, we shook hands and
went our separate ways. Look, at the end of the day its show
business not show friends. But it could also simply be bad
chemistry. My frequent director of photography and dear friend
Dominick Sivilli (who wasn't on Black
Wake) shot Vincent in another movie
and they got on very well, so who knows?
words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
you can guess it was a pretty colorful environment. Found footage is
a pain to do, with a lot of very limiting rules. I'll never do it
again, if I can help it! I'm grateful for all the resourcefulness of our
directors of photography, Kenneth Kotowski in New York and Christopher Bye
$64-question of course, where can Black
Wake be seen?
We premiere next month at the Philip
K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival in New York and then will have a
festival run while we field distribution offers.
Anything you can tell us about
audience and critical reception of Black
So far critics have enjoyed this bizarre
story structure, which spirals deeper and deeper into madness. I'm
curious to see how audiences go along for the wild ride. The movie belongs
to them now.
Any future projects you'd like to
We're in the middle of our festival run for the
monster movie short Slapface, which was truly a labor of love.
There's a feature length version I'd love to kick into high gear. In
the meantime, I'm shooting an absurd comedy called Fizzle starring one of
my favorite actors, Peter Friedman, who was just terrifying opposite
Julianne Moore as the lethal self help guru Peter Dunning in the classic
1990s Todd Haynes movie Safe.
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Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
Thanks as always for being so
Thanks for the interview!