Your film The
Midnight Disease - in a few words, what is it about?
the surface, it is about this writer, Jack Jones, who’s had one
successful book published and now he’s plagued by horrible writer’s
block. It isn’t until someone mysteriously leaves a jar of
blood on his doorstep—inviting the presence of a blood-guzzling nymph
into his life—that he finds help writing his book, though things begin
to spiral out of control for poor Jack rather quickly. On a
deeper level, the film is about an artist’s drive to create, and the
obstacles artists face in trying to do so.
a writer first and foremost, how much of yourself can be found in your
lead character, and how do you deal with the titular "midnight
disease" aka writer's block?
Griffin, the actor who plays Jack, asked several questions
throughout the shoot about Jack’s personality and character traits.
Often, I realized I was describing myself to Lawrence in explaining
Jack’s character. So, to answer the question, I think a lot
of me can be seen in Jack. Even some of the clothes Jack
wears came straight out of my closet. Of course,
Lawrence—who is a fantastic character actor—brought a lot of himself
to the role as well.
In my eyes, The
Midnight Disease has all the ingredients of a traditional macabre
short story, including the twist ending. A literary genre you can at all
certainly. I love reading horror literature, novels and short
stories, and I have penned the screenplays to several other films in the
genre, including Sv Bell’s Crawler and
Rise of the Ghosts [Sv
Bell interview - click here]. It’s my favorite genre. Though, of course, there
are also comedic elements in The Midnight
Disease, which I thought were important to include. I don’t think the film would have
worked as well if it was played dead straight.
(Other) sources of inspiration when writing The
you’ve wisely noted in your review of the film, The Midnight
from the same well as movies such as Little Shop of
of a giant plant, our film has an alluring young woman feeding off the
blood of the living and helping to assist our protagonist’s career.
I think I’d take an alluring young woman over a man-eating plant
As mentioned above, you have
so far been known mainly as a writer. What inspired you to usurp the
director's chair for The
Midnight Disease, and how did the project get off the ground in
the first place?
had always wanted to direct a film. After a career writing
screenplays for other filmmakers, I knew it would only be a matter of time
before I succumb to my desire and actually moved forward with directing my
own movie. Producer Ryan Fowler also co-directed the film
with me. We started Magothy Entertainment together back in
2007 and have worked together on myriad other projects, so I knew we would
complement each other’s styles. Though we have different
approaches to filmmaking, my weaknesses were his strengths, and vice
versa. Ryan is very mechanically inclined, very gear oriented
and familiar with the equipment, what it can and cannot do, while I was
better attuned to working with the actors and fleshing out details of the
would you describe your directorial approach to your story?
I’ve mentioned, I didn’t think the film would work as a straight and
serious horror film. It’s too out there, too hokey. So
from the beginning, Ryan and I knew we wanted to infuse it with some
comedic elements, yet still keep an overall dark atmosphere to the film.
While on set, Ryan would typically watch the monitor while I stood
off-camera watching the scenes. The schedule for shooting was
very rushed—although we ultimately went way over schedule—which left
almost no time for preproduction rehearsals with the actors. Each
actor came to set with the utmost professionalism, knew their lines, and
they were wonderful. I would make minor changes to dialogue
or blocking after watching them work through a scene a few times, but
I’m also not a stickler for having actors recite lines verbatim. I
was happy to let them exercise their talents and make the roles their own.
few words about your lead Lawrence R.Griffin, how did you find him, and
what made him perfect for the role?
came to us on the tail end of a two-day audition. We held
open auditions and had quite a few people show up and read for the role.
When Lawrence came in, we all kind of just looked around at each
other—it was myself, Ryan, our DP Darin Malfi, and costume designer
Marsha Fowler in the room at the time, I believe. He had the
look, and we all recognized it instantly. This was only
reinforced when he read for the part. He was perfect. Lawrence
has a brilliantly off-kilter appeal, and we all knew right away that he
would bring the perfect mixture of comedic timing to an otherwise
What can you tell us
about the rest of your cast and crew?
Chiarella plays Michelle, Jack’s love interest and neighbor. She
had a great audition, but this was also the hardest role to cast, because
we had two very talent actresses vying for the part. Katie
Foster also auditioned and was wonderful, so we knew we wanted them both,
but we were on the fence as to which actress would play Michelle, and
which actress would play Jack’s blood-guzzling Muse. Ultimately,
we decided that Mia looked like she belonged better with Jack. I
think Katie was too tall to play Michelle, and she had great skin tone for
our makeup people to work with, as she slowly gets healthier-looking
throughout the film.
Pratten, who plays Detective Penny Lane, was wonderful in a role that
really pushed boundaries for her, I think. She was taught how
to hold a gun, search a house, and had some rather official police-type
lines to deliver, which she did wonderfully. She added a
cool, unassuming femininity to the role.
was really impressed with Carleen R. Troy when she came to audition.
Completely professional, and the sweetest gal you’d ever want to
meet. She auditioned and was subsequently cast as one of the
prostitutes Jack murders. She played the role expertly,
though I regret not having a big enough part for her.
scene with Rico, played by Greg Williams, was written following Greg’s
audition. Greg read for the role of Jack, but he wasn’t a
good fit for the part; however, I was blown away by his energy and comedic
timing, so I cast him then wrote the part for him. It’s a
small scene, but probably my favorite in the whole film.
crew was great—Darin Malfi, our DP; J. Mooy, who plays Jack’s friend
Billy and who is also co-producer on the film; Matthew T. Smith, our
script supervisor, who was a tremendous help on set; everyone was great.
Midnight Disease about to be released - will you ever direct
another movie, and any other future projects of yours?
would love to, and am currently hunting around for the next project.
I’d like to try my hand at directing someone else’s screenplay
this time around, so I’m keeping my eye open for projects that appeal to
go back to the beginnings of your career: What got you into writing movies
in the first place?
always wanted to be a filmmaker, but back then I had no contacts and very
little understanding of how films were made. The whole
process seemed overwhelming to me. So instead, I opted to pen
scripts for other filmmakers, such as Sv Bell [Sv
Bell interview - click here], Jason Stephenson [Jason
Stephenson interview - click here], and
Melantha Blackthorne, and had some success at it. When it
came time to make my own film, I leaned on those folks for advice.
You have (co-)scripted most
of Canadian genre director Sv Bell's movies. What can you tell us about Mr Bell,
how did you two hook up in the first place, and could you talk about the
individual films you wrote for him for a bit?
is a wonderful guy, and I’ve enjoyed working with him for all these
years. When I first started writing screenplays, I scoured
the internet for filmmakers I could contact, and Bell was one of them.
I believe he had shot a few shorts and music videos at the time.
I introduced myself, but since I had no credits to my name, I
figured the only way I could impress this guy would be to show him exactly
what I could do. I told him I’d write a script for him
based on his own storyline completely for free. He agreed,
and that movie was our first collaboration, Purple
a while, Bell was shooting a film a year, and he knew I was reliable,
fast, and produced the type of work that he liked, so he hired me to pen a
few more scripts for him—She-Demons of the Black
Sun, Rise of the
Ghosts, and Crawler followed.
really enjoyed Crawler. I had fun writing it, a sort
of mash-up of Stephen King’s Christine, Theodore Sturgeon’s Killdozer,
and John Carpenter’s The Thing. I also love how
people gape at the absurd-sounding plot: a bulldozer that’s really an
alien that turns people into zombies while laying eggs! How
can you beat that?
I think the scene that gets the most reaction is in She-Demons of the Black
the female protagonist summons demons to help her enact revenge on her
rapists. She ties one of the rapists up and, utilizing
demonic powers, transforms her arm into an enormous phallus. A
vertical slit opens up on the rapist’s chest and… well, let’s just
say it takes “an eye for an eye” to a whole new level.
also co-scripted Jason Stephenson's Doomed to Consume [Jason
Stephenson interview - click here] - what can you tell us about
I can’t remember exactly, I believe I met Jason in much the same way I
met Bell. I had written a script for a short film called The Locksmith that Jason eventually shot. After that,
he wanted to tackle a full-length project and had an idea for a zombie
film. I believe he sent me a few pages of what he’d
written, which at the time was titled Infected. I
fleshed out the characters and wrote the screenplay based on what Jason
wanted. It became Doomed to Consume, a rather
enjoyable zombie picture.
Of late, you have contributed to quite a few horror anthology movies. Want to talk about any of those?
I’ve contributed to so many that I can’t remember them all, it seems! The
ones that stick out are Terror Overload, where I wrote the wraparound
segment with the truck driver and the girl. It’s the storyline
that acts as the backbone for the anthology. I also wrote the Inbred and Undead segment for Melantha Blackthorne’s
Picture Show. I’ve recently seen my standalone segment,
though not the whole movie. In fact, I was never sure if the whole
movie had ever officially been released.
all of your films are of the horror variety in some way or another. A
favourite genre of yours?
it is, although I love good dramas and comedies, too. I’m
not adverse to writing and shooting in those other genres, though it seems
lower budgeted horror films are more accepted by audiences than low budget
comedies. Woody Allen is one of my favorite filmmakers, as
are the Coen Brothers, and I would love to tackle projects similar to
those styles of films someday.
Writers and directors who
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
At the top of my list would be Woody Allen,
Joel and Ethan Coen, and Steven Spielberg.
Your favourite movies?
of the Lost Ark, Back to the Future, Gremlins, Star
Wars, The Silence of
and of course, films you really deplore?
film that carries all its merit on gore for gore’s sake. I
like conflicted, well-developed characters and storylines that don’t
necessarily have to be brilliant as long as they’re creative and
Facebook, whatever else?
Magothy Entertainment and The Midnight Disease have their own
Facebook page, so I’ll invite any and all to join. Our
website is www.magothyent.com
and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
for anyone who would like to get in touch with me, or perhaps submit a
Anything else you are dying to
mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
to reiterate that The Midnight Disease
will be available on DVD
from Midnight Releasing/Brain Damage Films on April 3.
pleasure! Thank you!