Your upcoming movie The Perfect Letter - in a few words, what
is it about?
It’s about Jason Chauncey, a down
on his luck mystery writer who's suddenly offered not only representation
by a well-known literary agent, but a whole story. All he has to do is
flesh it out and write it using his agent’s outline and several strange
letters as his guide. But after receiving an unexpected package in the
mail, he starts to suspect the work of fiction may be closer to a very
How did the project come into being in the
working on a project with JR2 Films and we were actually in Memphis when a
snowstorm hit. We had a 24 hour delay and all roads were closed until
morning. In our downtime we shot a short John Rogers had been cooking up.
It was finished, but never released save for the old trailer we uploaded
months ago. Later we met someone who wanted to do it as a feature length
and said they could get funding. John wrote a full length version and I
added in few details then we went into preproduction, but as happens many
times in this industry the funding simply didn’t pan out.
What can you tell us about your (original)
screenwriter J.H. Rogers III, and your collaboration with him on this
project as well as on past projects - and how did you meet up in the first
John is a very talented writer and
director who, along with his partner Jon Ross, produced the award
winning documentary Mound Bayou. After the original The Perfect Letter
through, John really wanted to move on to new things because he wanted
to start fresh with new projects, even shooting his own stuff. John and
I met in high school and both went to Columbia here in Chicago. He has
been a producer or co-producer on most of my projects, so I asked him
could I do The Perfect Letter. He gave me the go ahead, but it would be my own version
of the film because JR2 Films still wanted to keep the project in it’s
Now there were other short films John
had shot with producing partner Jon Ross who, aside from a producer also
happens to be a trained actor. My original idea was to make it an
editing exercise to try to merge these films into one creepy horror
movie by adding new footage since both had a creepy vibe and Jon Ross’
character was nameless in both, he’d be the glue that held it all
together. But John said no to that one because of issues with the movies
themselves and he didn’t want to go digging up old projects. So I used
his script as the jump-off point to work from.
A few months ago I shot some driving
footage with my Flip Camcorder (just because I could). I had one of
those small suction cups for pocket cameras and popped it on to the hood
of my car and did some night driving. I watched it on my computer and
loved it. I cleaned it up and put the scene together and right then
decided it needed to be the opening scene for The Perfect Letter. You can actually see
that on the movie’s fan page and on the Indiegogo. So shooting had
can you tell us about the intended look and feel of your movie?
experimental and dark, with an escape horror video game feel toward the
middle. In fact the town Jason ends up going to was supposed to take
place in Raccoon Hill, Illinois, a nod to both Resident Evil and Silent
I changed it to New Springwood, IL, because I thought Kelsey Zukowski [Kelsey
Zukowski interview - click here] and other
Nightmare on Elm Street fans would get a kick out of it. Not to mention it
sounds much better.
With The Perfect Letter
being a horror movie, how would you describe your
approach to the genre (as in atmosphere vs all-out gore, sudden shocks vs
subtle suspense)? And is horror a genre at all dear to you, and why (not)?
The Perfect Letter
is more of a
creepy mystery thriller, so it’s definitely subtle with a few sudden
shocks. There’s little gore, maybe some blood, but like my character
in the movie, that’s not what I go for. And I do like horror, but
I’m a writer at heart, everything I do involves writing so it’s
about the story.
I do enjoy horror films like the
original Evil Dead and
Nightmare on Elm Street. Was never a
Jason or Michael
fan really, the concept didn’t do it for me. I also
like campy teen horror too, loved Stay Alive, which had the
silliest premise ever, but was a lot of fun and it introduced me to Lady
Bathory, who is now a villain in my comic book universe (Kaylee Williams
portrayed her in Epitaph: Bread and Salt, but you have to watch all
the way to the credits to find her [Kaylee
Williams interview - click here]). I also enjoyed both old and new
Fright Night-movies, Frighteners, 13 Ghost, Dead
Silence and the Scream-series, but I’m mainly a fan of mixed
genre movies, so most of the films I really like are action films with
horror characters or concepts like Underworld or
play the lead in The Perfect Letter
- so what will you draw upon to
bring your character to life, and how much of Nathyn Masters can we find
in your character?
I definitely know about being broke and consuming caffeine so I got that
down. The character is a guy who feels increasingly squeezed out of modern
day society in a way. He’s no prude, but still believes in and respects
morality, and though he understands gray areas he believes in a definitive
good and evil. One thing new for me is this character is an
ex-junkie. All my other main heroes have been generally clean-cut and if
there was drug use it was done by the bad guys. But in both the short film
and the full length script the main characters had issues with drugs,
either doing them or trying to stay clean so I kept that in there.
talk about the rest of your key cast and crew for a bit, and why exactly these people?
Oh wow, okay...
I met Kaylee Williams [Kaylee
Williams interview - click here] a few years ago
when I was doing preproduction on the original Divinity film,
which I later rewrote, then stopped working on to shoot Epitaph.
Aside from rabid cuteness she knew martial arts and was good at it, so I
was hooked right there. And she would go from sweet to this kind of
tough chick attitude and I liked that. Since I didn’t do Divinity, I promised her I’d put her in something so she’s the
aforementioned Bathory Easter Egg in Epitaph and she plays my
character’s ex-girlfriend in The Perfect Letter. But I cast her in this because of
one of her gothy/punkish photos on Facebook. When I read the description
of the character I immediately thought of her.
Anita Nicole Brown
Anita Nicole Brown [Anita
Nicole Brown interview - click here] is a favorite of mine. She’s an award winning actress and model
who auditioned for my Nightevil character for the Epitaph movie.
She brought that character to life and it’s an amazing feeling seeing
one of your comic book characters standing right in front of you. She
understood the character without a lot of explaining and she took
direction well. She’s simply an amazing and beautiful actress. Very
few times does a person act for me and I go, “Yep, she’s the one!”
right off the bat. And she’s on time and ready to go on every
occasion. And if she’s not busy and you call her up and say, “Hey
you wanna act in something?” it’s good chance she’ll be there. I
cast her because she wanted to play a good girl and the role of Gabriela
was perfect for her.
Kelsey Zukowski [Kelsey
Zukowski interview - click here] was introduced to me by
Heather Dorff of Filming ‘Round Midtown-fame [Filming
'Round Midtown interview - click here]. I chose Kelsey for
this because, aside from her love of horror, our mutual love of bacon
and caffeinated drinks, her talent and beauty, I knew she’d be crazy
enough to participate in this insanity with me. I gave her some really
loose directions on what to do for this film. She shot and acted in her
own footage, which is how we got that cool new teaser. Kelsey is also a
writer as well, and what I like about Kels is she doesn’t just wait for
someone to give her a role, she’ll act in her own project. That’s
how I got started and I relate to that.
Andrew Jacob DeHart
Andrew Jacob DeHart. He’s new. He can do the
dark brooding thing. He looks like a guy girls would like and when I put
his photo up on the fan page the ladies approved, so you gotta have a
good looking guy for the ladies. So that worked out. His character
bridges the gap between my character and another which helps solve the
Michael Schmid is an
awesome dude I met at a Heather Dorff Rock Band party, (because Heather
Dorff rules the acting world and controls time but no one knows it) [Heather
Dorff interview - click here]. He
has his own production company, 4Lizard Productions, loves to make
movies and can sing “White Wedding” better than anyone aside from
Billy Idol. So he’s in. But I sing “Supersonic” better.
Rebecca VanSickle is a newcomer. She's
fun, vivacious, was my convention model at Wizard World 2012 and is
literally just too cute not to put in a film.
Elena Chernyakova is an
actress, professional model and ex-professional tennis player who I
met on the set of Dhoom 3, when it was shooting here in
Chicago. We talked for a long time during our downtime. I liked her
accent and personality and she listened to the directors. I liked that
attentiveness. She mentioned she wanted acting to be her main focus
now. I told her we’d probably work together in the future. The
future is now.
Tiffany Christine is just a
lot of fun to work with. We met on Andy Schatner’s film Happenstance
[Andy Schatner interview -
click here]. I liked her and told her I’d put in a movie, so I did.
She played Igora in Epitaph: Bread and Salt
and now she’s in
Meiling Jin is a gorgeous young
actress and model. I loved her look and wanted her to be in the Silvergun Samurai remake as the
Taki-character, but since
I didn’t know when that would be done and I needed another wraith
for this film I chose Meiling because of her size and long hair. Was I
thinking The Ring when I made this choice? Yes.
Karla Monay Shaw is an actress
I met at an acting function here in Chicago. She had that business
woman vibe, looked and moved like a model and I liked her voice too.
She said she was looking for more acting roles so I told her if
something came up I would get in touch with her. I had a scene in an old
Church and I kept thinking about her in the role so I contacted her
and she immediately said yes.
Dragan Nikolic was a martial
artist from the final fight in Eptiaph: Bread and Salt, but we
didn’t really get to have much of a fight because of time
constraints. So he’s back and we get to go mano-a-mano. Dragan
can deliver a great roundhouse.
Yvonne Nieves is a lovely actress
that was suggested to me by scream queen Claire
"Fluff" Llewellyn to play one of the Estrie vampires in Epitaph. Yvonne is skilled in Wing Chun and Kung Fu. Her
character is human in this one, but we’ll still get to battle it
out. Probably won’t be a hardcore martial arts fight, but definitely
some kicks and punches.
Deann Baker and Heather Dorff
in Filming 'Round Midtown
Deann Baker is simply Deann Baker [Deann
Baker interview - click here], she’s highly energetic and one half of the dynamic duo of the
show Filming ‘Round Midtown with the other half being Heather
Dorff (see I told you about Heather) [Filming
'Round Midtown interview - click here]. She was in Epitaph: Bread and
Salt as the Frank Stein Industries spokes woman Amanda and I brought
her to this because I needed a blonde. All the girls are dark haired
and I wanted to vary it up. Seriously, I had a lot of fun
working with her on Epitaph so I grabbed her for this role too. I
actually did need a blonde though.
we speak, your film is still in its fundraising stages - so what can you
tell us about your fundraising efforts?
Basically I stick to Facebook and my
social media. We started with IndieGoGo and now we’ve added a
Kickstarter campaign. I’m really pushing the IndieGoGo, because you
get to keep the money you do raise on IndieGoGo. I’m going after $3000 on
IndieGoGo and $1000 on
Kickstarter. But whatever we get we’ll use it!
The Perfect Letter
The Perfect Letter
This is the first film I’m shooting
the bulk of. Meaning I’m acting, directing and shooting. (That’s part of the
experiment.) So that’s why the budget is so low.
In fact, as I mentioned before, Kelsey also shot her own scenes and I
shot the driving scenes and just finished shooting the first exploration
scene in a basement location that will act as the basement of one of the
Once the funds
are raised, how do you plan to proceed, and any idea when and where the
film might be released yet (and I realize it might be waaaay too early to
We’re already shooting so we’ll
just keep doing that. There is a hotel scene I want to shoot and we’ll
need to rent that and a nice house for the Eleanor and Ashely’s
characters because they come from money.
As for distribution, I’m a YouTube
partner so I release my films to YouTube and do my own DVD distribution.
Unless someone is going to offer money upfront, we probably won’t do
outside distribution. I am looking into Netflix and iTunes, but I do
like the web distribution model. I want to get enough stuff out that I
can make a living at it. But I also want to hit some festivals with this
one, with it being experimental.
Any future projects beyond The Perfect Letter?
I hope to do Victor Locke: Demon Hunter, a follow up to Epitaph:
Bread and Salt, in which I hope to see Anita, Kelsey, Deann, Heather
and Kaylee again for that one, a Facebook friend is pushing me to go back
to an old project called Silvergun Samurai, but I need to rewrite
that one for cost if I do it (ninjas ain’t cheap) and I still want to do
a sequel to Wages of Sin.
What got you into acting and filmmaking in
the first place, and did you receive any formal training on either
I wanted to be American Ninja. I was
big into martial arts movies and comic books. What Marvel and
doing today, I had in mind in high school back in the day, but in a very
different manner. I wanted to create comicbooks and movies that
weren’t adaptations of the books, but actually part of the storyline.
Like Epitaph: Bread and Salt isn’t an adaption, it’s the
beginning of the Epitaph comicbook series. The Victor Locke-movie
will be just another story in the series, but not a book. And I always
wanted to be in martial arts action films so I just started making
martial arts action films.
I got into filmmaking because I saw
Spike Lee’s School Daze. It wasn’t really his films as much
seeing a black filmmaker going out and doing it himself. Back then my
dream was to attend the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art
after high school, but one day colleges came to Hales Franciscan.
Columbia College and The Art Institute both caught my eye. So I knew
then I was going to one of them. The choice was an art school that was
just starting it’s film program (Art Institute of Chicago) or go to a
school with a dedicated, well known Film and TV program that also had
art classes (Columbia College Chicago). I decided to go to the film
I started as a film major then went
undeclared. I took
Film Tech 1 and 2 (back before you edited movies on computers), acting
in the Theater Department, Screenwriting 1 and 2, Video Production, TV
Production, fiction writing and storytelling. Should’ve added radio,
but did computers instead.
I didn’t do great in Film Tech 2
when it came to testing. My teacher told me it was obvious I knew the
fundamentals, I had to stop worrying about the test and go make a movie,
so a eventually, I did.
DV cameras and computer editing were
all the rage by the time I started doing this, but my mix of both video
and film production along with my knowledge of computers all came into
play, like God had set the whole thing up because I certainly didn’t
see it coming. It’s been a crazy trip for me and now days shooting
with DSLRs is much more like shooting with the old Bolex cameras because
you have to know your lens, how to operate them and you’re doing sync
sound, but digitally.
What can you tell us about your filmwork prior
to The Perfect Letter?
done three films, The 4th Beast: Mask of the Antichrist, it was my
first and was shot on an $800 budget. It was one of the first features
shot on the DVX100 and was distributed by Tanya York and her crew at York
Distribution. My second film was Wages of Sin
(not the horror film
attributed to me, but the action film), which was the first I starred in
and directed and my third was Epitaph: Bread and Salt, which came out
this year. My last two are both on YouTube. I think Epitaph: Bread and Salt
is the best one, but people seem to gravitate more toward Wages of Sin. Also there is an audio commentary for Epitaph: Bread and Salt
How would you describe yourself
as an actor, and how as a director?
an actor, I’m a B-grade genre actor that specializes in martial arts
action films. Keep the dialogue short and I can remember it, I’ll emote,
say something cool, then punch, kick and shoot the bad guy as many times as
needed. So don’t be a bad guy.
As a director, I don’t know, I don’t
want to compare myself to anyone because I don’t think I’m on the
level of anyone of the people I like. Maybe I’m like Ed Wood [Ed
Wood bio - click here] meets
Robert Rodriguez with some Sam Raimi thrown in. If I ever get to blow up
something and do a slo-mo 360 dolly shot around someone I can add Michael
Bay in there.
whatever else who inspire you?
Oh wow, whole bunch, Spike Lee, John
Woo, Michael Bay, Michael Mann, (the night shots in Collateral were off
the hook and inspires a lot of my night scenes. Again, check out the
opening scene for The Perfect Letter). Then there’s Sam Raimi, Quentin Tarantino and
definitely Robert Rodriguez, whose movies really got me to get up off my
butt and go do it.
As for actors, it guess all the
martial art guys, Bruce, Jackie, Jet, Yen, Snipes, Michelle Yeoh, JCVD,
Seagal, Statham, Scott Adkins, even the old B-movie cats like Dudikoff
(the American Ninja himself), Billy Blanks and Cynthia Rothrock who, in
another reality, is my wife.
As for others I’d be remiss not to
add Will Smith, and of course Arnold. And you know what, I’m going to
go ahead and add Tom Cruise. Mission Impossible just does it for
me and I love his willingness to do your his own stunts.
As for my general inspirations:
Religion, mythology, daily events, politics, conspiracy theories, comic
books and classical literature are all heavy influences. All my work is
crafted in one way or another around these things, especially the Epitaph franchise.
El Mariachi, Pulp Fiction, Batman (the Keaton version),
The Dark Knight, American Ninja 1 and
2, Blade 1
and 2, Evil Dead (the original),
Fright Night (old and new), Dracula 2000, Sin City,
The Matrix Trilogy, Rules of the Game, Basic
Fatal Attraction, The Stunt People’s straight to video movie
Contour, Transporter 1 - 2, Mission Impossible 1 -
4, Ip Man and Ghostbusters. I’m sure there’s more, but those are the ones that
come to mind right now.
... and of course, films you really
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Seriously. So not pleased with what they did there. They could’ve done
much better, but seems like they didn’t want to. The Batman films under
Schumacher’s direction go without say. And there's Daredevil, which just
needed to be redone, poorly directed and choreographed for a big budget
superhero film. I did like the way they played to the fans, but it wasn't
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, IndieGoGo,
The Perfect Letter
The Perfect Letter
The Perfect Letter
Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/ThePerfectLetterExperiment
Epitaph: Bread and Salt
DVD on ebay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/161088329000
Anything else you are dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
just saved money on my car insurance… No, heard that one before?
Thanks for the interview!
And thank you, God bless. And take
care. It’s been fun.