Your movie The
Perfect House - in a few words, what is it about?
is about the dark side of suburban
anonymity, while being loosely inspired by the fact it seems like everywhere you look someone is getting caught with a sex dungeon or torture
chamber in their basement these days. It's about that house in every
neighborhood that just not quite right. Even on a beautiful sunny
day the horrors going on within it's walls are completely unknown to the
people living nearby. There is no specific town or character
names for the very reason that this could be anywhere, anytime, anyone.
Even the house right next door. We set out to make a real horror
film, and for some it's definitely hit a little to close to home.
did you choose the anthology format for The
settled on the anthology format, because going in we knew we wanted to
make the best use of our limited time and resources as possible. This
meant a single, easy to obtain location (my grandfather's house in
Buffalo). But with a single location, we didn't want the visuals and
the setting to get stale over 90 minutes, so we evolved the story to be
told over an extended time period so we could change the environment
inside the house. Once we started down that road everything clicked
into place. We decided that if we told stories about 3 different
generations of homeowners we could set each of our stories in not just its own time period, but its own style and sub genre of horror. The
result is each story, right down to the color temperatures, camera angles,
practical effects and score were all done as an homage to the black and
white Hitchcock era of horror, the 80's slashers, and the modern brutal psychological
What were your inspirations when
writing The Perfect House?
there were very few conscious inspirations with this script.
For me, looking back on it as a film is when I realized it could be a case
study for the subconscious levels of anger inside of me. The third
story in the anthology was written first on a whim, it was just a
scribbled story about a horrible family that I wanted to see culminate in
a weedwacker attack.
the final result taught me more about my inner demons than anything else.
In a way The
was cathartic for me and forced the start of an
awakening. It wasn't written by conscious skill or intent, it was
written with raw talent and instinct. Only after I watched the film a 1000
times did I realize what I am truly capable of, and that is what inspired
me to start consciously seeking out inspirations and mentors.
talk about your movie's look and feel for a bit?
mentioned earlier, because of the limited location, it was very important
for us to keep the look and feel of the film as fresh as possible, so we
experimented whenever we could. The first story is a cold, dark tale
about family secrets set in the Hitchcock era. To achieve that look
and feel we washed out the color tones to just a hint of color, it
suspense driven so all the violence was off camera and the score was
primary done with basic wood instruments.
story was a tribute to the 80's slashers I grew up on. It has plenty
of dark comedy, some over the top practical effects, orangish warm color
tones, a score done with a metal industrial feel and the main character is
a ruthless, seemingly unstoppable, killer that has been at it for a very
third and final story was the modern day story. It's about a morally
corrupt family with little to no integrity who live next door to a cranky,
old timer who is driven by principle above all else and has nothing left
to lose. This story was the more in your face, brutal and violent of
the three. It was done with icy color tones and an elaborate auto-tuned score.
can you tell us about your co-director Randy Kent, what was your
collaboration like, and how did the two of you first meet, actually?
relationship with Mr. Kent was a Jekyll and Hyde type of collaboration. On
set it was great, off set it was completely one-sided. We went into
the project as equals in every single way. We first met when I responded
with my short story to a Craigslist ad he had posted. We both
loved the brutality of the short story, but we each wanted to shoot a
feature. Every effort we made to lengthen the script just watered
down the charm of it. Eventually we settled on the anthology format.
For me, the
partnership seemed ideal, because my primary goal for this project was to
make friends, have fun and gain experience and knowledge. Randy had
made a bit of a name for himself as a co-director for first time writer/directors so it was the perfect match. I could maintain my creative
vision while leaning on him as I learned the technical side of the
production we were very much in sync, but outside of production where it
was less fun and more business and responsibilities our relationship was
completely one-sided. All the "not fun" stuff that comes
with actually making a project come to life, the sacrifices and
kind of stuff was left
to the members of Gratwick Films whether we wanted it or not.
While we lapsed on rent and went days with out eating just to find a
few more dollars to bring to the project, Randy maintained a nice cushy
full time job, all the while using what free time he did have to develop
other projects. I saw this as the man in our third story would have, as a
breach of integrity and trust toward the people putting their money and
trust into all of us.
was that I went into this whole experience with a bit of a naive
blue-collar all for one, one for all mindset. My goal was to collect
a group of like-minded novices and together create the opportunity we were
all looking for. I was willing to do and sacrifice anything (and I
did) for the best interests of our team. Unfortunately, I discovered
after the fact that I was aligned with business partners who took
advantage of that loyalty and work ethic.
As soon as
the film was finished, and everyone had something pretty amazing to put on
their resumes, our "business partners" were nowhere to be
found. Andrea Vahl and I were the only ones left standing. We
were the only ones concerned about finding a way to repay all the friends
and family who had sacrificed their savings to help us create this film
as a producer and head of the second production company credited on the
film, had little to no interest in the business and legal responsibilities
of his position. He abandon the project as soon as he could, while
using it to further his personal career and find another naive first time
writer/director that would tap all his family and friends to finance the
next project Randy chose.
Perfect House does get quite violent at times - so do talk about
that aspect of your movie for a bit, and was there ever a line you refused
When we set out to make the film, we really gave
little consideration to traditional distribution, to be honest we heard so
many horror stories we thought it was a pipe dream. We thought we
were going to be making a small little $5,000 fun film in a basement, the
next step on our learning curve. So we developed the script with the
intention of pushing the envelope as far as we could thinking that it
would be an online self-distributed film. We were planning for it to
have as much chance to go viral as possible.
What can you tell us about your cast, and why
exactly these people?
cast, like our crew, was piecemealed together
through a myriad of unusual ways. Our intention to just make a
little fun $5,000 film snowballed when we were connected to horror legend
Felissa Rose. She graciously agreed to be in our film, and that
immediately raised expectations. Now we had a real actress, so we
needed to step our game up.
We did a
spec trailer 6 months before production to try and use for raising
funding. We found a couple actors on Craiglist for the trailer
and we used a few people who had been in acting classes with Andrea Vahl.
The spec trailer came out great, so we wanted to be as loyal as
possible to the people who donated their time to our spec trailer, so
those that were the right fit were carried over to the feature.
Andrea and I arrived in Buffalo several months before production to get
the ball rolling. We held open auditions for the remaining roles at
a local BBQ joint that was very supportive and encouraging to our
efforts. We found most of the remaining cast that way.
I wrote the
role of the father in the first story specifically for Tim Dugan, a good
man in Buffalo who had been my collections manager for 10 years. He
always had the look of the perfect 60's sitcom dad, but it wasn't until I
moved to Los Angeles that I learned he was an actor doing a lot of work in
the indie film arena.
role we filled was the now iconic role of John Doesy, the killer in the
second story. Someone loosely connected to the project had said they
had a direct connection to Jason Mewes. Being a huge Kevin Smith fan
at the time, I loved the idea of working with Jason and figured if anyone
could handle my verbose Kevin Smith inspired dialogue it was him. He
agreed to the role, but weeks before production he changed managers and
they decided this small little project was a no go for him. We were
a bit screwed. So screwed in fact, that our fall-back plan was for
me to take on the role.
Felissa mentioned that she had a friend named Jonathan Tiersten that we
should talk to, she believed he was perfect for the role. She
couldn't have been more right. It was an instant connection with Jonathan
Finding him became the first of many great examples of how special
things were happening for a reason. He did such an amazing job with
the role, and has been so supportive and passionate about the film, that I
couldn't imagine how it would have ever happened with out him. He
literally became the heart and soul of The
For a film like yours, location is
the key - so what can you tell us about yours, and what was it like
production hurdle we had was finding our location, a simple average
basement. However, in Los Angeles, basements are not exactly common
place. Especially ones with a storm door, which was an essential
part of the location. We ultimately found a historical building out
here, but they wanted $20k for two weeks of shooting.
point, I realized for a fraction of the cost we could fly our team back to
Buffalo and shoot the film in my Grandfather's basement. There we
would have the support of friends, family and the community. But the most
appealing part of it was that when I wrote the script, I wrote it with my
Grandfather's house in mind. That was the house I saw when I wrote
every single scene. As a writer, being able to shoot in the exact
location you wrote the story for is a dream come true.
shooting we basically had our own private compound. We had no
restrictions, permits or time deadlines to worry about, we just had to
make sure we had a relay to my Grandfather so he could watch Jerry
Springer in between takes. Shooting there gave our production a much more
personal and intimate experience. It was an even more personal
experience for the 10 or so of us that came from Los Angeles and stayed
together at my Mother's house during production. It was a lot like
summer camp and turned out to be the experience of a lifetime.
A few words about the shoot as such, and
the on-set atmosphere?
Again thanks to the intimacy of the
location and the small size of the cast and crew the atmosphere was very
relaxed and personal. I saw us all as equals working toward a common
goal of creating an opportunity for each one of us to have our dream
career. Ideas and suggestions during production were welcomed and
encouraged. Even though there were a lot of dark days before
and after, along with losing quite a few people who I thought would be
around forever it was an experience I will never forget and will cherish
forever. I truly
believed every member of this team was a part of my family and would be
for a very long time.
What can you tell us about
critical and audience reception of your movie so far?
reaction has been really great for the most part. I am fascinated by
reviews (good or bad) because it always amazes me, first and foremost that
someone took the time to write about something I had a part in making.
Secondly, some of the things people see or pick up on are fascinating
things that would have never occurred to me. A lot of them have
really opened my eyes to the level of effect you can have on people
personally enjoy reading the ones with a bit more constructive criticism
in them, because I feel they are more sincere and honest. Anyone can
pat you on the back and not really mean it, but when someone offers some
critical comments, yet still likes the film for what it is, that means
something to me. I am by no means disillusioned by
the ego of completing a film, I see all its flaws, and they burn at me
every single day. I hate it when a review is critical on certain
aspects of the acting, because I know it was the writer that hung them out
to dry with some novice dialogue that looks great on paper, but is
impractical in execution. Or when they had a co-director that wasn't as
hands on with the actors as he wanted to be due to sheer inexperience and
concern for the balance of egos in the co-director relationship. They
were let down and take heat for it in reviews, things like that wear on
flaws or mistakes are what drive the need to make another film, to show
how I've grown and what I learned from the entire process.
one particular review that
completely missed the boat. Sadly it came from the most
notable of all the reviewers so far. There were things in his review that
never happened, for example he accused me of depicting rape worse than any
filmmaker before me. First of all the sheer audacity of that comment
alone is enough to destroy a man's credibility, but when you consider
there is NO rape in the film, a clear agenda starts to emerge.
was just a ridiculous review written from his own personal issues with the
horror genre he's deemed himself guardian of. He had no clue about
the background of us the filmmakers, but because of the above
average production quality he made absurd assumptions about our financial
motives and then condemned us for them. He assumed we were some well
established producers with financial backing and our agenda was simply to
rape his precious horror genre for every Dollar we could, so he took it
upon himself to personally punish us for being "greedy genre raping
producers". Ironically, we were homeless when that review came
out, not that he would bother to know anything about the filmmakers he was
As for the
audience reaction, we took the film on a grass roots tour around the
country in a 1972 RV painted up like the movie poster. We borrowed a
projector from one of our fans and we did free pop-up screenings in
backyards, fields, hilltops, bars, strip clubs, theaters and anywhere else
that would have us. We made it 12,000 miles around the country on nothing
but gas money donations given after each show.
documented the entire trip along with video confessions of fans following
each screening, we turned the whole thing into an interactive documentary
on YouTube. Needless to say, the audience reactions have been
overwhelming and beyond my wildest expectations. The passionate and
inspiring reactions have helped me to stay strong and stand up to quite a
few dark forces that have come calling since all this began. I can't
wait to share what I ever learned from all of this with them in my future
read somewhere that The Perfect House 2 is in its planning stages -
is that at all true, and any other future projects you'd like to share?
the rest of the trilogy and a spin-off script for the Doesy character are
all written and ready to go. The Doesy story is an origin story
about how he came to be and why he picked that specific house, it also
ties in and serves as a pseudo prequel that ultimately answers The
Perfect House's biggest question - why is this house innately evil.
two trilogy scripts were written in very unique ways. With the
sequel script, I didn't want to disassociate fans of the anthology format,
but I also wanted to work toward a singular story line for the 3rd script.
So what I did is I used the Godfather 2 story structure as a
guideline. The result is two intertwined stories that serve as both
prequels and sequels to not just the three stories, but the bookend and
epilogue stories as well.
that, both sequels were written from the mindset that I knew most people
would discover The
through its sequels, so the overall
trilogy was specifically designed to be watched in any given order without
undermining the linear story of the life and death of this single house.
Regardless of the order you watch the films you still have a linear
story, just from different perspectives. As far as I know, I do not
think something like that has ever been accomplished before in a
there is one caveat to the rest of the franchise. I will not do
Perfect Housefilm unless Chris Raab is on board. I had no idea where
I wanted to go with the sequels until we were on set and I saw Raab flash
this evil smile for the first time. His smile was so perfect that
his characters entire story snapped into my head in an instant. Without
him, there is no more The
got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
answer is fate, and the only training I've had is hands on. I've
intentionally done things and written my scripts in an order that allows
me to groom myself. I had always considered myself a natural
born storyteller, but in Buffalo that really doesn't mean a thing other
than the fact you suck at your 9-5 job. I had been a zombie through
10 years in the collections industry going through life with zero purpose.
Then one day
I snapped and just couldn't make another call. I couldn't pick up the
phone and call one more person who was just as miserable as I, just to
fight and argue with them. It had rotted my entire perspective of society.
So I took my
tax return and ran away. I ran away from the snow and the mindless
cycle and came to Los Angeles where my long time friend had moved two
years earlier. I spent the first three years on the ratty couch in his
tiny 1 bedroom apartment. I survived as a professional poker
player. From there I just started writing scripts, starting with the
story of how I ended up in LA (a script I've never shown anyone).
clicked and I finally found my passion, my purpose. I spent every
moment since then inhaling any piece of knowledge I could to be a better
writer and storyteller.
What can you tell us about your
filmwork prior to The
writing a couple scripts, I did what most new writers do, I thought a
rough draft was a polished finished draft. I burned a few
opportunities by passing along garbage that wasn't ready. Then I got
jaded and thought that it didn't matter how great my stories were if no
one was willing to read them. That is when I decided to try making
one myself, I figured if I started small and just made each thing a little
bigger than the one before it, I would eventually get where I wanted to
So I wrote a
script about the thing that was closest to me. What would happen if
me an my friend were suddenly evicted and had to either learn how to
survive as homeless guys or go crawling back to Buffalo as failures.
It was a weekend warrior, guerilla shot comedy in the streets of LA.
We bought a $300 camcorder and we were the main characters. To
make it happen I had to make the worst deal with an "actor" that
I will ever have to make in this business.
characters were based on me and my friend, because I didn't want to waste
any real actors' time when we had no clue what we were doing. So the
deal was, I had to supply all the alcohol and there would be no multiple
camera angles and no retakes. I basically had to set up a tripod,
hit record and then manipulate and goad my drunk best friend into saying
the lines and giving the reactions I needed.
result was a crude 73 minute homage to Kevin Smith that wasn't going to
turn any heads, but it lit the fire inside of me. It proved to me
that I could not just do this, but that I was meant to do this. The
"film" is called First Timers and it's currently
free on YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3LQhNNfNWbY
How would you describe yourself
as a director?
I would describe myself as a talented, but
very raw aspiring director. Until my rent and bills are paid from
being a director/creator I am nothing more than aspiring. Too many
people in this town want to carry the title without the resume, the work
ethic, the talent or the reputation and because of that it devalues what
it means to be a "director" when people can't recognize your
work right off hand. Until I have proven myself on the biggest
stage, I consider it a slight to those who came before me to call myself a
writer or director. But I have no problems calling myself a producer, because
I've produced the hell out of the last 6 years.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
the early stages it was Kevin Smith, because he did it his way on his own
terms. But to me he's lost his edge and rebellious nature the last
few years, he's lost his connection to the filmmakers he inspired and gave
proof that we can do it. Beyond that, I find more
inspiration in entrepreneurs and music than I do in a particular
filmmaker. I've always had a knack for collecting subconscious
inspirations, I take bits and pieces of meaning out of everything and more
often than not, I don't even realize the effect it has had on me till
after the fact when I am looking back on something.
I love so
many movies it would be impossible to list a few without leaving out
others that are just as loved. Movies have been such a part of my life,
that for the longest time it never even occurred to me that real people
made them or that it was possible. I naturally looked
for the nuances, the hidden meanings and the emotions in everything. Then
one day it hit me, Hollywood raised me to see life
specifically any movie with great, memorable dialogue would make my list.
I'm obsessed with creative, unique dialogue and because of that, my
entire vocabulary and manner of speaking is inspired by lines from
If there is
one movie that has had a larger effect on my life than any other it would
probably be Snatch. For an entire, very dark, summer I spent every
night falling asleep to Snatch, so it is now just in my blood.
... and of course, films you really
Paranormal Activity. Everything about that film and the carbon copy sequels
disgusts me at the deepest levels. It's an absolute parasite on the
masses. It only became successful because of a brilliant marketing
campaign that was pure manipulation on the most basic levels. Hell
the first 1 minute trailer was 45 seconds of audience reactions. The
studio system took a hack project and made 100 million off it by selling
the audience back to themselves. PA is the pinnacle example of what
cronyism can do. They convinced everyone that everyone else saw the
movie so you were the oddball if you didn't. Then as if to
prove their power over our collective consciousness they remade the same
garbage year in and year out and groomed people to show up. They
basically shouted from the roof tops that we can take any two bit film we
want and if we spend enough money on P&A you will watch it. So
fitting that films initials are P&A cause that's all it is.
Look at some
of the viral comments leading up to the latest edition. Everyone knows it
sucks, everyone knows it's the same thing repackaged over and over again,
but they don't care they still go, because they've been groomed to do it
out of habit. It depresses me because I want to believe we as a
society are better and smarter than this, that we cannot be herded into
everything about that franchise shows the dark side of the entertainment
and marketing industry. It's also a prime example of why there are so many
established professionals who just go through the motions, counting on a
huge P&A budgets to make their nut, opposed to focusing on telling a
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
Perfect House is on Facebook as is our next film we are currently in
pre-production for, a contained thriller titled Just Drive.
Anything else you are dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
reading this, I
know some of my answers may be a bit more 'real' than you are accustomed to
reading, but that is done intentionally. Gratwick Films
on one core belief, total transparency. We believe that people are tired
of the manufactured images and absurdly positive cardboard responses
designed solely to mislead you. It's just
believe that if we share the whole story, good or bad, in it's truest
form, that you will not just be a fan of our work, but be personally
invested in our journey. Gratwick Films
is committed to being real,
honest and sincere above all else. We believe enough people are sick
and tired of the false perfect image, that they would gladly support
passionate creators who are not afraid to share their true story with you.
If we do not become famous or successful because we did not 'play
the game' by lying or misleading you, I can live with that far more easily
than I could with any other alternative. We believe the journey is
the greatest story we can tell and that's what we are committed to
sharing, warts and all.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
As for our
next project, we are preparing to hopefully shoot our next film this fall
or early winter. The film will be a contained thriller about the
dark side of human ambition. The film is titled Just Drive. It will be set entirely inside a limo.We are taking
advantage of all the lessons learned from our first film to provide you
with some unique entertainment experiences from the beginning of
production through release.
We will be
documenting and sharing the entire experience of making the film with real
time, reality style content. We want to build and maintain a
direct, interactive relationship with you. We are also
committed to supporting charity organizations with every project we make.
It's a model
we call 'Social Filmmaking' and we encourage other filmmakers to take our
ideas and build upon them. We hope to usher in a new era of entertainment
where audiences can join in the journey and be an active part of the
Thank you so
much for sharing our little film.
Thanks for the interview!