Your upcoming webseries The Mephisto Box - in a few words,
what is it about?
main character is a disgraced psychiatrist who gets a chance to redeem
himself by treating a young mental patient. But his unconventional drug
therapy dredges up demonic trauma. And thatís when the fun begins.
What were your sources of inspiration
when writing The Mephisto Box?
made-for-TV-movies I grew up with in the Ď70s. The Night
Stranger Within starring Barbara Eden. Satanís School For Girls. Stuff
like that. And the title was inspired by the movie The Mephisto Waltz.
itís really occult conspiracies in general. The fear that everyday
people are secretly involved in a Devil cult. Today we have the Illuminati
conspiracy. Where supposedly everyone who works in entertainment/media is
part of a Devil cult that controls the world. But I prefer the
Rosemaryís Baby-era Devil cult. Itís more obsessive. More intimate.
I think the biggest threat today is actually pharmaceutical drugs.
Especially mind-altering drugs. And if there is actually a conspiracy,
itís that the majority of people today seem to be on some sort of
prescription drug. And they are either out of control. Or dulled into
As far as I
know, The Mephisto Box was initially planned as a feature
film - so what made you turn it into a webseries instead - and how does
writing for one format compare to writing for the other?
returning to my roots, Iíd say the main reason I turned this into a TV
series is because I really liked the characters. I couldnít leave them
hanging at the end of a movie. They had more stories to tell. More secrets
harder to create characters from scratch for a movie. But once youíve
developed them for a TV series, itís easier to write new episodes for
them because you already know their voice. Itís easier to think of
situations that will test them.
filmmaking must take you back to your early days with Heart Attack
Theatre again - do you at all see parallels there, and how has
filmmaking as such changed since then?
My roots are in television. And I love the format. But for a while I gave
in to the illusion that feature films were superior to TV. That you only
arrived in the industry if you made a ďrealĒ movie. But
now we live in a new Golden Age of Television. Thereís so much variety.
And so much talent there. And faithful fans. I mean, wouldnít you rather
be associated with shows like True Detective and House of Cards than a
movie that plays in the theater and disappears after a week?
also encouraged by the acceptance of so many shows with supernatural
themes. Thereís certainly a glut of them right now. But so what? I
canít get enough of them. And I think thereís always room for more.
Especially if you can add a new twist. Or something special to your idea.
for parallels with my old TV show Heart Attack TheatreÖ
1. I still do my
own camera work and editing.
2. I still write
strong female characters.
3. I still use
some of the same actors (25 years later!)
for the differencesÖ
1. I take a little
more time writing the scripts. But I still write fast.
2. Iím open to a
little more suggestion from my actors. Iíve tried not to be as rigid as
in the past. So weíll see how that experiment works out. But I still
donít allow improvisation. Everything is scripted.
current camera (a Panasonic Lumix FZ1000) is a higher resolution than the
S-VHS one I used back in the day (a Panasonic AG-450). But I guess Iím
still faithful to Panasonic. And I donít have to edit analog tape
What can you tell
us about your movie's approach to horror (as in suspense vs sudden shocks,
atmosphere vs all-out gore and the like)?
those things are good. And have their place. Iím not a snob. Creating
suspense takes skill. But so does creating gore.
we see a horror movie or horror TV show thereís an expectation that we
get something out of the ordinary. Special effects. Bloody prosthetics and
makeup. Maybe a monster. So I want to provide at least some of that.
Otherwise, why be part of that genre? If you donít throw your viewers a
few of those things, youíre just making a drama. Or a mystery. And I
really enjoy mysteries. And I think you can incorporate mystery into
horror. But if you confuse the two genres, you risk disappointing your
viewers. If they seek out horror, they want to be scared.
personal style of horror is more about creating emotional breaking points.
Pushing characters to the emotional brink. If we get to enjoy some blood
along the way, well, thatís a fun bonus. And
music plays a big part in creating a tense atmosphere. So I always make
that an important element.
say the most horrific part of The Mephisto Box, though, is the frequent
intravenous drug use. If hypodermic needles make you queasy, youíll get
a healthy dose of it here. Especially since people in the story are often
getting injected against their will.
What can you
tell us about the series' overall look and feel?
visuals alternate between lush and minimal. Much of it is indoors. But I
like shooting outside. So you also get to experience a good amount of
Pacific Northwest greenery. But
much of the look and feel is cold and bare. Symbolizing the psyche of the
main characters. We shot much of it in an empty house. In the story, the
mental patient returns to her abandoned childhood home in the hope that it
will trigger memories. It has a sad and lonely feel. Most
of the color and warmth come from the flashback scenes. Because we have a
tendency to idealize the past. But in this story, horrible things happened
in the past. And isnít it funny how in Christian depictions of Heaven
and Hell that Heaven is a drab blue and white minimalistic cloud planet.
While Hell is a red hot Technicolor nightclub. Heaven is Sweden. Hell is
about your cast, and why exactly these people?
I value most in my actors is loyalty. So if they work hard, and throw
themselves into a project without inhibitions, I will cast them over and
over, year after year. But
for this project, I did more extensive auditioning. And am working with a
lot of new people. Iím very fortunate because I have some well-trained
actors. And I love seeing how they bring the script to life. I
still add amateurs to the mix, though. My lead actor Jason Lockhart is a
horror fan I met at Crypticon. He had no acting experience. And all he
really wanted to do was get killed on camera in a fun and gory way. Play a
glorified extra. But
instead I cast him in several shorts. And he had sort of a stoic Steve
McQueen presence. So heís the eye of the storm in Mephisto Box. He keeps
his cool while the people around him are emoting and flipping out. He
canít remember lines worth shit. Which puts a strain on the rest of the
cast. But heís getting better at it. And Iím now writing shorter lines
for him. Not making him do these huge monologues anymore. So his character
is basically turning into Clint Eastwood.
most popular actress is Betty Marshall. She was our resident scream queen
on Heart Attack Theatre. And for the past 25 years, sheís been in almost
all my projects. Not just film. But sheís also had major roles in some
of my full-length stage plays. And people always get excited when they
hear sheís in one of my projects. In Mephisto Box she plays Nanny. The
eerie and intimidating groundskeeper. And she gets to be part of some of
the more shocking scenes (which I wonít spoil for you).
So is the
series already shot in full, or are you still adding new episodes? And
what can you tell us about the shoot(s) as such?
One is in the can. And Iím currently editing all the episodes into
bite-size YouTube chunks. We
shot Season One in January and February on the weekends. The first day of
shooting was below freezing. And at first we didnít have heat in the
house. Or running water.
rented a large church for one day of filming. And by using the basement,
the hallways, the chapel, the sanctuary, and the courtyard, we were able
to make it look like multiple locations. And that added some nice
production value. Although Iím sure weíre all going to Hell for a few
specific things we shot there. (When you watch the series youíll
I especially love shooting outdoors. And we had one rural location where
we were able to build some fires. And add a few pyrotechnic touches. Which
was especially nice during a demonic resurrection scene. And we also shot
at a cabin on a lake. And constructed a special pyramid raft for our guru
character to float on.
also did what I considered a tasteful lovemaking scene on the grass
outside of the cabin. But while we were doing it, a neighbor came out of
his cabin and yelled, ďHey! What are you guys doing? Making a porno?Ē
We all got a chuckle out of it. And fortunately, the neighbor had a sense
of humor. And I told him weíd invite him to the premiere.
and where will The Mephisto Box be released onto the general
will debut on YouTube on Friday, April 29. Which is the 25th
anniversary of when Heart Attack Theatre first aired. I will post at least
the first five episodes for a binge watching experience. Then will release
a new episode every Friday till the end of the first season.
Will there ever be a season 2 of
Mephisto Box - and (other) future projects you'd like to share?
Iím already planning Season Two. And have booked a celebrity cameo for
it. Actor and comedian Jason Stuart. And heíll be playing something
diabolical. Something much more sinister than audiences are used to seeing
Arngrim (the actress who played Nellie Oleson on Little House on the
Prairie) will also appear in Season Two. Sheís been on-board since I
wrote the original screenplay (which was called "Lazy Susan", before
morphing into The Mephisto Box). And I consider her our Alexis. You know,
when they added Joan Collins to the cast of Dynasty in Season Two? And her
presence took over the show? So Iím creating a special character for
Alison. And her first scenes will be with our lead character. And she will
be part of a crucial plot twist.
also editing and will be releasing a reality web series called Spanky Goes
to Hell. Itís about a drummer from a horror-rock band. And his massive
horror memorabilia collection. And his animal rights/vegan activism.
series' website, Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
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My personal website:
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
is the era I dreamed about 25 years ago. Higher resolution cameras and
digital editing available to the common man. And an outlet like YouTube to
share my work with the world. No excuses anymore. The future is now.
for the interview!