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An Interview with Peter Dukes, Writer of Portal

by Mike Haberfelner

November 2019

Films written by Peter Dukes on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Portal - in a few words, what is it about?


The film is about an ambitious ghost hunting team that gets in way over their heads when they open up a portal to the ďother sideĒ, bringing them into contact with an ancient demonic entity hell bent on taking not only their lives, but their very souls.


Now how did the project come into being in the first place?


The idea of Portal was based on the growing trend of amateur ghost hunting teams I saw entering the paranormal field in order to be just like the brash, well equipped, world traveling ghost hunting teams one sees on television. Their aspirations are opportunistic in nature, which I found to be a problem. The paranormal isnít something to be trifled with, so this oft misguided approach can be irresponsible, reckless, even dangerous. Portal was crafted as a cautionary tale in response to this.


With Portal being about a team of paranormal investigators - is that a topic that especially interests you, and did you do any research on the subject? And your personal thoughts about paranormal investigations and the paranormal to begin with?


Some of this I answered in the last question, but I think paranormal investigations are fine if one gets into it for the right reasons, and treats it with the reverence it demands. As for my personal thoughts on the paranormal, itís hard to encapsulate what I feel about it. The afterlife, other dimensions, alternate realities, ETs, what does it all mean? Is it all real? All interconnected? The stories and personal experiences I hear get pretty wild, if not downright bizarre at times. I donít know what it all amounts to, but I believe thereís a lot of things out there we donít understand and this might be for good reason. It could be that we arenít meant to understand it. Not until weíre ready, and perhaps weíre just not there yet.


Other sources of inspiration when writing Portal?


In addition to the cautionary tale approach of writing Portal, I really wanted to include a Native American angle to our demonic antagonist. Some of the scariest spirits and entities Iíve ever come across in my research could be traced back to that origin. Ancient, nameless, powerful beings, as well as cursed lands. Places on Earth man is simply not meant to be. That kind of spooky stuff. Itís mysterious and frightening in a way that can boggle  the mind if you look into the history of it all, and I wanted that to be a part of this film.


Do talk about Portal's approach to horror for a bit!


The approach for my original spec was dark and menacing. It was deadly serious, doused in atmosphere and surreal brutality. Chris Sergi, one of the filmís producers, and Dean Alioto, the director, ultimately changed this a bit, cutting certain elements for budgetary reasons, and lightening the tone by adding a lot of humor to the material. Although it was a different vision than mine, it certainly made the film more entertaining than my original script likely would have been.  I give them a lot of credit for the work they did.


I think one of Portal's key factors is its location - so did you have the house in the film in mind from the get-go or was it only scouted afterwards to fit your script?


It was scouted afterwards. Finding the right location for a script like Portal is hard, particularly in Los Angeles, and I think the team did a great job of securing a house that did the script justice.


What can you tell us about Portal's overall narrative structure?


I wanted Portal to be a slow build up where once the dam breaks, the audience has to hang on until the end. In this sense, I kept the structure clean and simple. I also broke it down into about half a dozen key turning points, as opposed to the traditional three act structure, which Iíll do from time to time depending on what the story needs. 


A few words about your co-writer and director Dean Alioto, and what was your collaboration like?


Deanís a talented guy. Friendly and passionate about the material, which was important to me. You always want your material to get into the hands of someone who really cares about it. There wasnít much of a collaboration to speak of, as I just sold them my script. Dean kind of had his own ideas in mind for the material, and decided to make the necessary changes without any assistance from me, which I was fine with.  I got to sit back and watch it upon its release just like I was a regular member of the audience, which I was in a manner of speaking. Not knowing what changes they may have made to my original script, I really had no idea what was going to happen. That was a strange experience, but a lot of fun too.


As someone used to direct his own movies, how easy or hard was it for you to give up directorial control on this one?


It wasnít all that difficult. There are various scripts that I write that mean different things to me, and Portal was one of those that I would have enjoyed directing, but I had no problem whatsoever letting Dean take the reins. In a way, actually, it was refreshing to sit back and let someone else sit in the big chair. Itís a hard job ha! I was in the middle of developing several other features at the time anyhow, so it worked out for the best, in terms of my schedule.


Were you in any way involved in the actual shooting of the movie, and if so, what can you tell us about the shoot as such?


I was not involved. I understood pretty quickly that Chris and Dean had their own plan in store for the material, so I kind of backed off and let them do their thing.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of your movie?


People seem to be really digging it. Itís not meant to be a game changer in the horror genre. Itís just a fun, scary ride. It knows what it is and it embraces this, and audiences tend to appreciate that sort of thing.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Iíve got nine feature projects currently in development, five of which are specs of mine, the other three I was brought in to write and/or direct. Iím also putting together concepts for potential new spec screenplays. All in all, just staying proactive. Always gotta keep pushing in this business!


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


I just want to give a special shout out to the producer, Chris Sergi. He really worked some magic on this film. I donít know many producers who could have pulled off a project like this with the budget he had to work with. It was pretty remarkable.  I look forward to seeing what he produces in the future.


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