Your new movie Mold!
- in a few words, what is it about?
is about a group of people
associated with a secret gov't project who are exposed to and endangered
by the very weapon they are a part of creating - which is a particularly virulent
strain of mold used as a weapon in the War on Drugs. The supposedly
intended use is to destroy Colombian coca fields.
Not only for me, Mold!
looks and feels like an hommage to low budget sci-fi horror from the
1980's. Was that at all intended, and if so, what do you find so appealing
about these films? And some of your favourites (even if for all the wrong
wasn't originally written as
an homage to the 80's splatter films. That came out of a combination of
rewrites and necessity. The original script was more straight-forward in
its approach and I was stumped as how to create a modern gov't science lab
on such a small budget. I knew it would end up looking cheap and
unbelievable. So it dawned on me that if I set it back in the 80's I could
essentially find all I needed at thrift stores, ebay or just old junk
laying around my grandmother's house. Coming up with that angle opened up
a slew of comedic opportunities as well as a new way to approach the film
from script to set design. I grew up in the 80's and was obsessed with
sci-fi and horror films as a kid. I was obviously
more exposed to Hollywood films but I got a chance to see my fair share of
indies as well since my best friend's mom worked at the local video store.
We got free rentals and would come in and go directly to the horror shelf.
I got to see all the classics; the Evil Dead
trilogy, Child's Play, A
Nightmare on Elm Street, Alien,
The Thing, The Fly, etc. Those films really left an impression on
me and I think that free VHS rental opportunity is directly to blame/thank
for my current career path. Otherwise a 10
year old with only coins in his pocket would be buying candy not renting
VHS horror tapes.
Other sources of inspiration when writing Mold!?
And connected to that: The subtext about the "war on drugs", to what extent
does that mirror your own personal views (which might be a stupid
question, but still)?
I wouldn't say I had any particular
inspiration when working on the script. It came more
from my cumulative experiences. In particular the War on Drugs angle. I
grew up in a very marijuana-friendly home/neighborhood/world. I remember
the Just Say No ads Nancy Reagan would televise. The DARE program we had
to go through in school where they vilified drug use. Those weird
commercials with the egg and the frying pan. "This is your brain (the
egg) this is your brain on drugs (the egg frying in the pan)." Just silly.
It has always baffled me that marijuana is illegal and has led me to not
trust the police or any authority for that matter. Now I know the War on
Drugs is mostly in response to the crack epidemic and heavier drugs which
I can completely understand being illegal and dangerous. But the War on
Drugs was begun by Nixon, not Reagan, and he did it to crack down on the
counterculture that was threatening his presidency. And no
"drug" defined the counterculture as much as marijuana. But I
digress, aside from marijuana, the War on Drugs has been an expensive
failure and I wanted to do everything I could within the confines of this
script to mock it and expose the people behind it for the hypocrites they
are. Here we are 30 years later with no end in sight. It needs to stop.
What can you tell us about your
co-writer Dave Fogerson, and what was your collaboration like?
it or not, I have never actually met Dave Fogerson though I feel like I
have since we've had so much communication over the last few years. Many
people don't know this but Mold!
was actually my student thesis at film
school. I decided to do a feature length film and I didn't feel
comfortable writing my own script at the time so I put out an ad for a
script on Mandy.com, and there found Mold!
- I had received well over 100
scripts in response to my ad and Mold!
was the 1st one I read. I just
kinda knew from the title (it had no exclamation point at that time) that
it was gonna be right up my alley. It stuck out like a sore thumb amongst
a sea of mediocre sounding titles and synopsis' (how do you pluralize
synopsis?!). I read the script and loved it but knew
it needed a lot of work to make it filmable on a low budget. I optioned
the rights to the script and gave Dave a pile of notes to get started on
rewrites. I think he got as far as the 3rd draft before I took over and
did the rewrites myself. I couldn't just keep asking him to rewrite it
over and over again when I wasn't paying him so I got to work on it
myself. Dave had provided the skeleton for me to put the muscle on. The
plot, characters and story arc are all his. I set it in the 80's, gave the
title an exclamation point and tweaked the dialog to match it. I added the
snipers to keep them in the building in a more believable manner. In the
end, the final draft is very different from the original draft but I never
could've gotten there without Dave Fogerson, and I hope we get to work
together again in the future.
would you describe your directorial approach to your story at hand?
although I made Mold!
to appeal to the horror fans, I wanted it to have a
So quite often my approach was of the hands-off variety. You can't force
comedy. It needs to arise
organically from the situation you put your actors in. We'd have a
scenario for them and I would
allow them to improvise much of the dialog and action. Of course there
were lines from the script
that they had but I treated that more as a rough outline. I'm rarely
married to any dialog.
It serves a purpose to get from point A to point B but it's just words on
paper and quite often a
better approach is found while shooting. I allow my actors the freedom to
try things their own way.
When they are allowed more creative freedom with their characters, they
assume more personal
responsibility to the outcome. Everyone becomes engaged at a higher level.
Of course I give them guidance within their improvisation and sometimes
have to put my foot down
when I think they're ideas are off track but overall it benefits the movie
to get everyone involved on
such a creative level. And it's more fun for everyone.
is a film that's pretty much restricted to only a handful of locations -
what kind of a challenge was that and in what way do you think it might
actually have helped the movie?
taking place in what
is essentially a single location had its benefits and drawbacks.
I rented a warehouse in Long Island and built all the sets myself. The
benefit is we had total control
over lighting and didn't have to fit our shoot around the location
availability. We were able to get the
set lit and keep it that way without breaking down the gear and setting it
back up on a daily basis.
The drawback is that you're entire movie takes place essentially in one
room. And it's a challenge to
maintain a dynamic film within such a constraint. And the only way to
overcome that is to have a
good script and strong actors to provide the missing dynamic.
What can you tell us
about your key cast, and why exactly these people?
the cast are people I had worked with before. Larry George (Dr. Roger
James Murphy (Congressman Blankenship) were both in a short film I
had shot a couple years
beforehand. I knew Ardis Campbell (Dr. Julia Young) from a job we both
worked together when
I was still in the restaurant industry. At the time she was an acting
student and I was in film school.
The rest of the cast came from a casting call I had put out. I held
auditions and the remaining roles
were filled out from the actors who won out in the auditions.
people, me included, loved the low-fi practical special effects you used
in Mold! - so you just have
to talk about those for a bit, obviously!
I'm very happy
that people appreciate the special effects in Mold!
- I'm adamant about not
any CGI in my films. It's a tool that, at some point in my career, I may
employ but I feel it's entirely
overused. It should be a last resort when there is no way to possibly do
something with practical FX.
And I've never come across an effect yet that I couldn't do in camera.
Jeremy Selenfriend of Monster
in my Closet FX was tasked with bringing the moldy putrescence to life and
he excelled with honors.
Creating collapsible heads and melting eyes. Putrid corpses. A mold
monster. He brought
everything to life in all its green, gooey glory. And to set the record
straight on one little tid-bit that
reviewers constantly assume. There was NO CGI in this movie. The mold
spores were done in
camera. Obviously they didn't exist in the same space as the actors on
set. But the spores
themselves were not digital creations. It was a composite effect. And stop
motion effects were used to
create the effect of growing, spreading mold. So just to reiterate :),
there was not one bit of CGI
used anywhere in this film.
A few words
about the actual shoot, and the on-set atmosphere?
shoot was a blast. Of course the days were LONG and the days off were few
and far between,
leading us to be out of our minds with exhaustion most of the time - but
that aside, this was one of
the best experiences of my life and it was a pleasure to be with this
group and create this film.
We truly became a family as we made this movie. There was little or no
drama to speak of. We all had a great
time making it. Everyone was really into what we were trying to
create. There was no laziness because it didn't
feel like work. We all shared a common goal in creating what we all knew
was going to be a special movie.
The living conditions during the shoot were pretty bad. As I said I rented
a warehouse for
this shoot, which was basically a former mechanics shop surrounded by
current mechanics shops.
We would shoot at night mostly because during the day all the mechanic's
were at work making TONS of
noise. I built a loft into the back of the warehouse which had beds lined
up. We would wrap around 4 or 5am,
watch our dailies for an hour or two and laugh our asses off with that.
Then just as we were getting to sleep,
the neighboring mechanics would all be starting their work day and power
up their machinery.
We would sleep there 2-3 nights at a time and come home to our beds once
or twice a week.
There was no shower and just a tiny bathroom with a 2 gallon hot water
tank. It was also shot during a
REALLY brutal winter and it was FREEZING outside, and while the warehouse
did have a barely working heater,
it made a lot of noise and had to be off while we were filming so it was
rarely above 60 degrees at any time.
But all that discomfort didn't deter our spirit. In fact, it may have
can you tell us about critical and audience reception of your film so far?
reception for Mold! has been beyond what I could have expected going in.
We knew pretty early on
during the shoot that we really had something here but for most of us it
was our first feature and we didn't
know what was waiting for us on the other side. It took a long time to get
through post production and get the
movie out there, mostly because I had to everything on my own. But we
finally hit the festival circuit and instantly
starting winning awards and getting distribution offers. I attended a
number of horror conventions and did really
well there, selling a lot of DVDs and merchandise and getting wonderful
feedback from all the crazy horror nerds.
Horror fans really are the most loyal, avid fans out there. And the
support for low budget movies is extraordinary.
Good luck getting this kind of attention and following with a low-budget
I've been likened to an early Frank Henenlotter. What bigger praise can
their be?! Mold! has been called a future
cult classic and a splatter masterpiece. It's all extremely flattering. I
only hope I get the opportunity to continue
doing what I love to do and make a name for myself in what is a very
future projects you'd like to share?
Up next for me is a
A university science major leads an expedition into the mountains to
search for evidence of pollution from a
nearby fracking site. They find all the evidence they can handle when they
are attacked by a horde of overgrown, man-eating mutant maggots. Its a fight for survival as they must destroy
these maggots before they can become
flies and take over the world.
Its similar to Mold! in that its science gone wrong, but instead of the
government being the bad guys here, its the
greedy corporations (is there really any separation between the gov't and
corporations anymore?) that run the
fracking site, and of course the hungry maggots they've unwittingly
We're going over the top with the creature effects in this one. All
practical FX with rod and cable controlled maggots.
Not a lick of CGI will be used. It's gonna be an insanely gory
rollercoaster ride with TONS of FX and I can't wait to
Let's go back to
the beginnings of your career: What got you into filmmaking in the first
place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
My love for horror films goes back to my childhood growing up in the
80's and watching the great horror films
of that era. I initially wanted to be a comic book artist and went to
school at FIT for illustration. I quickly realized there
was not much of a future in illustration and needed to find a new
direction. At the time there was this VHS liquidator
across the street from FIT that sold VHS tapes for $1. I would pour
through thousands of dusty boxes everyday and
come with a handful of movies everyday and just became obsessed with
horror movies. When I realized illustration
was not my path it was an easy decision and transition to decide
filmmaking was the way to go. I finished up my
degree at FIT then enrolled at SVA (school of visual arts) on the other
side of town. I made nothing but horror shorts
my first few years there and ended up making Mold!
for my thesis film.
would you describe yourself as a director?
This may be an oversimplification but I find the key to being a good
1-Being PREPARED enough to know what you want,
2-Being AWARE enough to know when you're not getting it,
3-Being RESOURCEFUL enough to find a way to get what you need.
Am I on PAR?
I try to be. 1 and 2 come the easiest to me. 3 is a bit tougher as each
situation creates its own unique challenges.
And in the end the only measuring stick is the movies you've made and the
opinion of your fans.
who inspire you?
For me its easier to name films that
inspire me than filmmakers that inspire me.
The films that have the most lasting effect and influence on me are
Evil Dead 2,
Night of the Creeps,
A Nightmare on Elm
Street, Street Trash, Alien,
The Thing, The Fly,
Monster Squad -
oh boy I can go on and on, so many great movies that came out in the 80s.
Let's just say I'm inspired by 80's horror - and Cronenberg.
and of course, films you really deplore?
Oh boy. Well to
keep this list manageable I'll stick with horror movies - with very few exceptions, any modern remake of a horror classic. The most
egregious film being the Nightmare on Elm Street remake. Ugh,
what an atrocious piece of uninspired trash that was. But how can I forget
The Thing-prequel? How can you do a "prequel" to a movie
that had the greatest examples of practical FX genius and make it with CG?
That's just criminal. And to think the FX team
actually created great practical FX pieces that weren't even used in the
movie! Wow, just wow. I watched that movie and
came away disgusted. Then I watched a video that showed the FX they didn't
use and my anger at the empty headed
suits who made the decision to use CGI only grew.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
When I have these debates on modern remakes people like to say "hey, The Thing and
The Fly were both remakes and
they're great!" And while that's true, there's one glaring
difference. The films they were remaking were terribly outdated.
They were black and white B-movies from the 50's and 60's that were silly
in comparison to modern movies. They were
able to improve upon the originals. The movies they are remaking today are
FAR superior to their updates and never
needed to be updated in the first place. Can anyone honestly say The Thing
is no longer relevant?
Anything else you are dying to
mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
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