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An Interview with Michael Leo Centi, Director of My Deadly Playmate

by Mike Haberfelner

April 2017

Films directed by Michael Leo Centi on (re)Search my Trash


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Your upcoming movie My Deadly Playmate - in a few words, what is it about?


The basic concept of the film entails the murder of a young boy who is murdered and through a supernatural means, comes to inhabit the body of his doll. A number of years later, a little girl with autism finds the doll. Her family assumes that the girls claims of the doll being alive are simply due to her imagination, and diagnosis of autism. A series of murders occur and everyone begins to suspect that there is something more to the little girl's story. There are many twists and turns within the story, and the motivation of the doll may or may not be malicious. 


What were your sources of inspiration when dreaming up My Deadly Playmate?


I grew up watching and loving 80's horror, so many of the films that have inspired me have been from that time period. Child's Play is obviously an influence, as the character of Chucky is so iconic, especially within the world of "killer-doll-movies". I would also say that the original Puppet Master is a major source of inspiration. And believe it or not, the classic soap Dark Shadows has stimulated my imagination as of late. 


What can you tell us about your movie's approach to horror?


My overall approach to this particular film will be to explore many of the expected scenarios of the scenes and take them into totally unexpected directions. I always want to keep the audience guessing. I also want to infuse a mixture of horror and comedy together in this film, and a sense of offbeat drama. The characters for the most part will be very eccentric, but their responses to the events around them will be realistic. I believe it's important for the characters to believe what is happening no matter how crazy it might be; because if they can't believe it, how can the audience?


Most of My Deadly Playmate will be shot in a single location - so do talk about your location for a bit, and where do you see the advantages and challenges filming there?


The main story location will take place at an inn being reopened and restored by a family. A series of "interesting" guests will arrive to stay and they may or may not meet their end. I think that the advantage of primarily filming in one location will be a smoother filming schedule with less travel and transportation of equipment, props, and costumes. The only foreseeable challenge of filming at the location that I have in mind may be scheduling to film on days and times that will not conflict with the day to day operations of the building. The intended location serves as a theatre and studio. But I can usually work around anything.


What can you tell us about the intended overall look and feel of My Deadly Playmate?


My Deadly Playmate will definitely have an overall gothic feel to it. The lighting will be very dark, and the wardrobe will also be gothic and a little retro too. The film will have its own sense of time, so current styles of clothing will not matter. Although, the clothing will all be of a certain color scheme to reflect the gothic vibe set in the story.


You'll also play not one but two characters in My Deadly Playmate - so do talk about those for a bit, and how do you prepare for playing them? And since one character's female, what kind of a challenge is that?


Firstly, I love the challenge of playing more than one character in a film, and also playing characters that are vastly different from myself and each other. With that being said, I tend to break the traditional cinematic rules by portraying characters that are not only male but female, different ages, and ethnic backgrounds. Nothing is off limits in my productions. I suppose I have a very Shakespearian approach to casting. Ha ha. In this upcoming film, I will be portraying two characters that are complete opposite to one another. One is male and the other is female. The character of Dr. Hall is that of a parapsychologist and the other character is Alexandra Malloy, a young woman with a devastating past. The challenges associated with playing these characters, will be perhaps the technical aspects of filming them in scenes together, where I will have to utilize both stand-ins and green screen. So there will be a good deal of planning involved for sure. In regards to preparation, I really just think about who each character is before the camera turns on, and try to portray their motivations as best I can. I shut out the other character and simply focus on bringing him or her to life. I will say that playing a female or someone of a different ethnic background is always fun, because I get a chance to express myself in a way that I might not otherwise ever get a chance to. There is something freeing about being able to be somebody completely different from yourself, even if it is for a few minutes.


Do talk about the rest of your projected cast, and why exactly these people?


I tend to work with a select group of the same actors, as they are talented, dedicated and share the same passion for independent horror as I do. There is a sort of chemistry that has developed among us, in which we can play off of each other and offer creativity in an open and supportive environment. Some of the best moments have been created by improvisation or suggested ideas while on set. And I always welcome ideas. And on the other hand, the actors trust me and bring their best effort forward knowing that I will make it all work when the scene is cut together. there is a lot of trust within the group. I do however, always try to welcome new talent into the mix as well. But I think I will always have a core group that I will work with. As of right now, actress Lisa Vaccaro (All Hallows' Eve Horror, The Murderous Revenge of Lizzie Stillborn and The Lost Campfire Tales) is set to play a lead role and Joshua "Beefy" Anderson (All Hallows' Eve and The Lost Campfire Tales) is also set to return in a role. Both roles will be very bizarre to say the least.


As far as I know, the film's still in pre-production - so at what stage exactly are you, and what's the schedule? And any idea when and where My Deadly Playmate might be released yet, however tentatively?


I am still in the early preproduction stages of this project. The basic storyline has been carved out and the script is coming together. I hope to begin filming this coming fall and have the completed film ready to be shown at film festivals by fall of 2018. After that, the film will be released on my VHX site for rental, and DVD copies will be available as well.


Any future projects beyond My Deadly Playmate?


I always have at least one or two ideas for future films rolling around in my head. It's really too early to say too much about these future films other than one will have to do with the horrors of Easter, and another one will have to do with zombies. I know that is all a little vague, but I never like to give too much away ;)


What got you into the filmworld to begin with, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


I grew up acting in both plays and musicals and always dreamt of being in films. Once I began college, I took a class on basic film editing, but that was a long time ago and the process that I learned involved VHS tapes and large editing machines. It was a great way to learn the concept of working with footage and putting it together. However, when I established my own production company, I taught myself how to edit using a laptop and editing software. There was a lot of trial and error, but I have learned a lot over the years. So really, I have not received much in the way of formal training. I have always believed that if you want to know how to do something, you just have to learn it and not be afraid of making mistakes in the process.


You've worked in various functions on movies, both in front of and behind the camera - so what do you enjoy the most, what could you do without?


I have enjoyed every aspect of creating my films, just in different ways. I never intended to write, direct, edit, produce and act in my projects, but it came to be that way out of necessity and for budget reasons. So in order to get the films created, sometimes I have had to wear many "hats". I would say that I enjoy acting in front of the camera the most, but it is not always easy for me to play a large role because I have to juggle directing the cast at the same time, and set up the camera for the shots needed. I think I actually dislike directing the most, because I never want to come across as too demanding, although everyone says I am not when they work with me.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to My Deadly Playmate - in whatever position?


I have a total of five previous feature length movies, and four short films, all of which have been released through my company Glamboy Productions. I have also acted in a couple of other films from other production companies, which is always interesting as I enjoy seeing how others work. There is always something that I can learn while being on the set of someone else's production. So in productions from other companies, I have only acted. In my own, as I mentioned earlier, I have filled almost every production role right down to crew and makeup. I just do whatever it takes to get my films made.


Filmmakers, actors, whoever else you inspire you?


I was inspired by Wes Craven, as A Nightmare on Elm Street was one of the first horror films I had ever seen. That movie has definitely influenced some of my creative style. I remember Wes talking in an interview once, and he said something along the lines that he thought it was important to make the audience laugh in order to set them up for the next scare. I never forgot that, and it has influenced my storytelling style, as I like to mix horror and comedy together. The American Horror Story series has also inspired me in many ways as well. As a result, I discovered the work of Jessica Lange, and I have come to admire her greatly. She is always able to make her crazy characters believable no matter what the story calls for. And as for an actor that has inspired me, I would have to say Robert Englund [Robert Englund bio - click here], the original Freddy Krueger himself. After playing the character for eight films, he was somehow always able to play Freddy in a different manner and deliver an excellent performance. I really admire that.


Your favourite movies?


A few come to mind. The original Fright Night, House of 1000 Corpses and Return of the Living Dead. There are more but those are truly on the top of my list. Some movies over the years don't have the same effect on me or no longer find enjoyable. But these three films have always been entertaining to me, even though I have seen them more times than I can count.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


I don't care for horror films that have a lot of torture or realistic murder in them. I avoid the Hostel films for this reason. I also do not care most remakes. The remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street is a prime example as I feel it pales in comparison. I feel that remakes are just not creative and that it is usually a way to just cash in on old ideas.


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Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


Don't forget to check out the indiegogo campaign for My Deadly Playmate - Other than that, I think you covered everything. Thank you again for interviewing me. It's been a pleasure! 


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD