Your new movie Altar
- in a few words, what is it about?
On the surface,
Altar is about a group of people who get lost in the woods and stumble
upon something terrifying, disturb it, and then have to survive. At its
core though, it is a movie about a sister and brother's relationship and
how real people would react in scary
What were your
sources of inspiration when writing Altar?
I wanted to make a found footage film that stayed true to its namesake and
brought back the reasons for the genre's popularity in the first place. My
inspiration was The Blair Witch, and Willow
did you choose the found footage approach for Altar,
and what are the main challenges making a movie that way?
Foundfootage has always interested me and has been a genre I wanted to
explore. I wanted a platform where amazing actors had freedom to exist as
the characters for days on end and organically create real moments while
filming. This was my first time filming or directing in the found footage
style and it is not easy. The main challenge for me was that each moment
the camera was on, where it was pointing, etc, had to be motivated by Bo's
emotions and reasoning. I could not have a helicopter shot or the like.
The movie had to be told through the individual lens of somebody's
perspective. That was challenging and one of my favorite parts of filming.
talk about Altar's
approach to horror for a bit!
is not your typical
horror film. This gets high praise or open hostility from people depending
on what type of scary movies they love. It is not a mindless slasher or
ghost film where you don't care about the characters. It is not a gorefest
focusing on the most crazy death scenes. It is actually ALL about the
characters and what they would realistically do in this situation. Altar
starts out with a bang and then spends a lot of time getting to know the
people in the movie (with a few jump scares and creepiness along the way),
culminating in a crazy ending.
What can you tell us about
Altar's cast, and why
exactly these people?
The actors were my favorite thing
about Altar. In the audition process we had over 1000 submissions for the
lead roles in the movie. We invited 50 of them to audition in person and
threw intense improvisational scenes their way. We looked for people who
could realistically create moments without breaking character. Each actor
we cast brought something unique to the role and I believe we not only
found some of the best actors in the world for this movie but also some of
the best human beings. I would work with them again in a heartbeat.
You of course also have to talk
about your locations, and how did you find them and what was it like
Our main location was 7000 feet high in
the Sierra Nevada mountains in Beasore Meadows, away from civilization,
cell phone reception, and bathrooms. We were on a large piece of private
property that was not usually filled with humans. We realized this when we
were stalked by a mountain lion, paced by a bear, had a pack of coyotes
run through our camp, and had a bobcat try to cut its way into our tent to
eat our little Pekingese dog. It was absolutely beautiful there and
absolutely wild. The first day we were there, we were hit by a surprise
thunder storm (You can see scenes in the movie we filmed during it).
Filming there in the deep snow was another adventure as well.
other amazing locations, we also filmed in a beautiful hotel called the
Tenaya Lodge near Yosemite National Park's South Gate. I highly recommend
visiting it if you are in the area.
A few words about the shoot as such, and
the on-set atmosphere?
The shoot was a whirlwind of intensity and I could not have done it
without my producers James Schumacher, Tina Johnson, Nicole Spate, Nicole
Osborne and Gabriel Francisco. We were the entire crew and, along with my
rockstar cast, we shot the movie in 7 days.
The atmosphere on set was professional and focused. We shot linearly
(in order of events in the movie as they occurred). The actors stayed in
character as much as possible and, long after the shoot, still had trouble
not calling each other by their character names.
Anything you can tell us about
audience and critical reception of Altar?
The most common thing I hear after people watch Altar
they loved the movie and the characters. We have won 22 awards across the
film festival circuit. Some of these awards are very unusual for a horror
film. We have won many best actor/actress/ensemble awards, many best film
awards, an audience choice award, and two best director awards. I think
this is because we focused on the characters in the movie and tried to
tell an organic story.
Some things my team and I have been told by critics is that Altar
some of the best acting they have ever seen, the best found footage
cinematography and sound, and could be the found footage film of the
year. They also add that, even if they were not fans of horror movies,
they would still enjoy it. One of my favorite quotes recently was that Altar
brought back some of the magic from the original Blair Witch and the
early movement of the genre.
future projects you'd like to share?
I have several
irons in the fire for the future but currently am focusing on promoting Altar
and getting it out there for people to enjoy.
What got you into
filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on
in 2004, my wife Heather and I won a
national American Idol music video contest. We won a car, were in a music
video with the idols, and were flown to the finale of the show and at the
after party with the judges and idols. That was my first attempt at
seriously making some sort of movie. After that, I shot short films for
contests on the website DVXuser, receiving feedback as I honed my craft.
The process of creating, learning from my mistakes, and growing through
those early years was my film school. 11 short films later, I shot my
first feature, Stricken, in 2010. I have produced 7 feature films since
then and directed 3. I also just published my first novel, Stormbreaker. I
love telling stories in any medium but making movies is my favorite way to
would you describe yourself as a director?
I love and respect my actors as the words on the pages of the story
I am trying to tell. I try to empower them and give them freedom. I am
always focused on the edit and not wasting time getting footage that won't
be used. I know what I want and build teams of very efficient and kind people who share that vision. We shoot quickly
and have an amazing time doing it.
who inspire you?
I am inspired by filmmakers in the
indie trenches who are fighting to not only get their stories heard but
(with their film festivals) give others the platform to do the same. James
Christopher interview - click here], Fernando A Mico, Del Weston, Marisa Ferrell and Damon Blalack
are some of them. Some indie filmmakers who inspire me are Troy Ruff,
Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing, George Ohan, Alan Autry, Stan Harrington,
Mark Maness, Marcus Spencer, Orlando Gomez, Drew Hall, Hoyt Richards, and
the entire cast and crew of the amazing indie film Bad Frank.
Your favourite movies?
Guardians of the
Galaxy, James Gunn made the movie Super.
I absolutely loved it. Favorite super hero movie ever. I loved Gravity,
The Matrix, Wonder Woman, The Shawshank Redemption, Oblivion,
Unbreakable, Signs, The Sixth Sense, Equilibrium,
Get Out, Don't Breathe, Ip Man,
August Rush, The Book Thief, The Karate Kid, Braveheart,
Despicable Me 2,
Star Wars (all of them), Lord of the Rings trilogy,
Harry Potter (all of them), Room,
John Wick, The Equalizer, my list could go on and on.
and of course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
I despise The Mist. I do not like The Happening or The Last Airbender either. I also
despise movies where people are just imprisoned and tortured the whole
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
you for the interview!
for the interview!