Your new movie Survival
Knife - in a few words, what is it about?
begins at the end of your
conventional slasher film with the perennial lone beautiful female
survivor delivering the lethal blow to the guy who’s killed all her
friends. From there it becomes a story about what that kind of experience
does to a person. How does a normal person cope with witnessing the brutal
murder of all her friends, and also the trauma of being forced to take a
life herself? As she struggles with this, people she knows start being
killed the same way as her friends were, and she begins to worry that
something about her was radically changed by what she endured, and what
she had to do.
started shooting Survival Knife
back in 2012 way before this current ‘Final Girl’
zeitgeist thing happened, so maybe we were a bit prescient. That said,
we’re happy to be here at the party and I think Survival Knife
is an interesting addition to this sub-genre that’s proving to be very
popular right now.
were your sources of inspiration when writing
Mike McKown [Mike McKown
interview - click here] and I released our dark drama STIFF
in 2010 we wanted to do something that was more straight-up horror fare,
but not as derivative as most of the films coming out. I’d been wanting
to take a crack at a post-modern take on the slasher subgenre for a while,
so it seemed like a good fit.
course, every film slasher worth his salt has a weapon-of-choice that
identifies them - Leatherface has his chainsaw,
Jason has his machete,
Axeman has his - you get it. I fought to find something unique for our
guy. I used to have post-it notes with film ideas all over my wall, and
one day I saw one with SURVIVAL KNIFE written on it. I don’t even
remember writing it. But that was the key that led to this idea of a
killer called ‘the Survivalist’.
known Danielle Donahue (Penny) for a while and had been hoping for a
chance to work with her, and this turned out to be the perfect fit.
She’s an incredibly intense and dedicated actress, and she gave this
role everything she had - I think it’s easily her best work to date. So
it was a lot of random ideas and elements that happened to come together
at the right time.
What can you tell us about your director
Mike McKown [Mike McKown interview -
click here], and what was your collaboration like? And why did you decite
to not direct the movie yourself, actually?
and I go back decades, all the way to grade school in Pittsburgh. We shot
our first home movies together as teens and later on we co-directed two
features: Prometheus Triumphant (2009) and STIFF (2010). Those were great experiences, but now we’re both at
a point where we each need to be running our own show. When we were
prepping Survival Knife
I was deep in post
on my first solo feature House of
Bad, so it made sense for me to just be the writer and for Mike direct
the film in Pittsburgh, while I did what I could from California to help
produce. Mike’s a super-talented director who can operate every bit of
equipment on set and in post, so it was easy to trust him to take this one
all the way.
shot the film over a prolonged period - a little bit at a time. He’d send
me dailies and we’d talk, and I’d sometimes make little adjustments to
the script based on which way things had gone. But that was most of my
involvement during the shoot.
the main challenges when producing Survival
Bruce Lentz, Danielle Donahue
anything on a limited budget is always a gigantic challenge. You’re not
able to pay a competitive rate for cast, crew or locations, so you’re
basically pulling in favors from everyone, which slows everything way the
hell down. It took Mike over two years to shoot the film - working around
everyone’s (including his own) availability and availability of
locations, weather, what have you. Partway through filming, our leading
lady Danielle Donahue [Danielle
Donahue interview - click here] suffered a serious hip injury from a fall (not connected to the shoot) and
we had to delay for a long time while she healed, but she was a trooper
and as soon as she was able she was right back at it, fighting and
it was a big challenge to be trying to help steer a production from three
thousand miles away, having never even personally met much of the cast.
Luckily the technology is there now to make that possible, if not easy.
Did you have any say in the casting of
Knife, and why exactly these people?
Danielle [Danielle Donahue
interview - click here]
was the first one cast, of course - she was always Penny to me and I wrote
the part with her in mind the whole time. I was 100% set on her, and if
she’s said no or had been unable to be involved, we probably wouldn’t
have made the film.
Mike and I had known Bruce (Dr. Lentz) for years, and he’s made other
appearances in our films, so when we needed someone to play a
slightly-creepy psychiatrist he was the first one we both thought of.
can probably tell you more about the rest of the casting… casting in a
small town like Pittsburgh always has its challenges, as very few people
there are actually working actors - but you occasionally find gems in the
mix that really stand out.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of your movie yet?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
far so good - I think film fans (and especially horror fans) tend to
appreciate a film that offers a fresh take on tropes that have become
pretty tired and commonplace, and that’s what Survival Knife
offers. We’re really happy to have landed with Wild Eye
Releasing as a distributor - Rob really knows the business of indie horror
and he’s great to work with. Hopefully we can continue releasing films
future projects you'd like to share?
has been shooting a follow-up feature in Pittsburgh called Boxed
over the last year, based on my screenplay. It’s much more comedic, but
also a helluva lot more grisly. There’s been some re-casting on that one
but hopefully it will be coming out next year (2017). Right now I’m
finishing up a zombie film called State
of Desolation, starring Jamie Bernadette (I
Spit on Your Grave: Déjà vu) [Jamie
Bernadette interview - click here] and Craig Stark (Hateful
8). That should be coming out towards the end of this year. Next up
for me is a werewolf series called Wolf/Man
starring Sadie Katz (Wrong Turn 6)
and Kaiwi Lyman (Lost in the Pacific).
and I both directed segments for the upcoming Grindsploitation
anthologies as well. That should be coming out soon.
website, Facebook, whatever else?
Anything else you're
dying to tell us and I have merely forgotten to ask?
think that covers it, Michael - thanks for the questions and looking
forward to talking with you again about the next film!
for the interview!