Your new movie Afraid of
Nothing - in a few words, what is it about?
is an experimental documentary about life and the
afterlife. It is a mash up of the paranormal, consciousness and quantum
mechanics viewed through different human lenses: actor/seeker, astronomer,
author, paranormal curio shop owner, EVP expert, ghost researcher, medium,
past life regressionist, shaman, thanalogist and witch. I have seen
several “paranormal” films on Netflix and Amazon Prime, but nothing
quite like this. You can watch the trailer here:
The movie's title is a bold statement, so let me ask you this if you don't
mind: What are you personally afraid of?
Death would be front and center: The Last Gasp. Stage Right. Fade to
Black. The End. Oy!
Sometimes I catch myself thinking of the world before I was here and
after – and it literally freaks me out. I have to stop thinking about
“nothingness” or I start slipping into a chasm of craziness. I am not
sure if other people ever have those thoughts and fears.
But then again you try to think logically that in the tremendous clock
of time – of all the time that ever existed and will be – we are all
here. In the Now. What are the odds of that? Statistically it doesn’t
make sense. And quantum is a science of probability so it makes you think
that maybe consciousness never goes away; only our material shell fades
and reappears. That gives me some comfort.
The title is also a double entendre. Half the world thinks there is
nothing when we die and the other half think there is nothing to fear. It
is a personal search for relevance inspired by my mother’s death.
From what I know, Afraid
of Nothing is your first directorial effort - so what made you
choose exactly this topic for your movie?
My mother passed when I was in post-production on my first feature back
in 2013 – an independent drama called Blessid
(that you reviewed –
thank you!) – and it was the first time an immediate member of my family
had died. And I am not a super young guy, I am 56 now. Anyway, the whole
experience left me … cold. My mother suffered from Alzheimer’s (and
other maladies), had stopped eating, and was dying as her mind and body
were breaking down on her. Yet she fought, literally with every breath,
for seven days. She was at her weakest, most vulnerable state (other than
birth, which was more healthy) – and she battled to cling to life.
Probably because she was late stage Alzheimer’s she didn’t communicate
about seeing dead relatives in her dreams or any of that. She just had a
vacant look staring up at the ceiling.
Needless to say, it was heart-breaking and life altering. And mortality
clicked in like a piano dropping on my head. Fast forward two years and my
wife brings a shaman over to meet our autistic daughter. I was skeptical
but he had this great presence – a big, burly baritone guy that was
gentle, calm and kind. He had worked in rock merchandise for most of his
life, played the electric guitar, looked more like a biker than a healer
and then – WHAM! – had an amazing awakening in mid-life. Ironically,
this was after his mother passed and left him questioning existence and
I thought, “Whoa, I could do a documentary on this dude.” And that
was how it began. I directed the film because it was cheaper, I knew what
I wanted and who I would like to talk to and, well … things fell into
shaman Brad Hudson in the Lizzie Borden house
Before making Afraid
of Nothing, you have written quite a few narrative shorts and
features - so how does writing a narrative movie compare to compiling a
Documentaries are like research studies – you
don’t know the outcome until you get the data. Whereas
narrative films are pre-determined – you know the outcome going in
because you wrote it. But both require execution – getting the right
talent, crew and post-crew to stitch it all together.
I enjoy making documentaries more because they can be done at a slower
pace, at less cost and with a smaller team. I get to put my own imprint on
the final product. Plus I didn’t have to deal with all the SAG paperwork
that I went through for Blessid.
Weirdly, I had good timing on both films – Blessid
was about a
suicidal woman who meets a man who has lived forever. This was right
before 13 Reasons Why and all the suicide-related films on Netflix,
Amazon Prime, etc. Unfortunately I picked a lousy distributor for the film
(that’s a whole other article).
of Nothing I also find myself releasing it at a good time
– i.e., when documentaries are in their hay day. I am still mulling over
whether I go with a distribution company (an “aggregator” who gets me
onto various streaming platforms) or if I should self-distribute with DIY
aggregating platforms like Quiver or Distribber. Feedback and connections
from film festivals should help me sort all that out.
ghost researcher Jeff Belanger
How much research did you put into the topic of Afraid
of Nothing prior to filming, and how did you get some of the
People ask me that
– “How did you meet all these people?”
Well, I had an advantage going in – I knew a shaman (Brad “Little
Frog” Hudson) and the director of my first film owned a curio shop in
Salem, so he had connections in the most paranormal city in the country.
From there it just grew, although for budgetary reasons I tried to keep
it local to Massachusetts.
Do talk about your interviewees for a bit, and how did you find
all these people? And were there some people you wish you could have
interviewed but couldn't get?
There were a few people (best-selling authors, scientists) I reached
out to that politely passed. But my credo is to focus on the people the
universe brought to me, so here it goes:
- Brad “Little Frog” Hudson – he came to me, literally. Brad was
the first person I reached out to that said, “Hell yeah!” He
appears in the film at various locations – walking haunted venues
such as the Lizzie Borden House (Fall River) and SK Pierce Haunted
Victorian Mansion (Gardner); and depossessing an Ouija board at The
Magic Parlor in Salem.
- Jeff Belanger – Jeff is a well-known and highly regarded ghost
researcher, author, lecturer and podcast host of New England
Jeff was kind enough to invite me to his home for an interview and
appears many places in the film.
- Bob Berman – Bob is one of the country’s most respected
astronomers and co-authored two books that changed the paradigm of quantum and
consciousness – Biocentrism and Beyond
Biocentrism. He is amazing at taking complex subjects and
explaining them clearly.
Ken Watson, Memie Watson, Marion Luoma – three of my favorite new
people! Ken and Memie are spearheading the renovation of the SK Pierce
Haunted Victorian Mansion. Marion is a nanager at SK Pierce with
tremendous knowledge and history on the backstory of this amazing
venue that is one of the most haunted spots in the country.
astronomer Bob Berman
- Culye Carvin [Cuyle Carvin
interview - click here] – Cuyle is professional film and television actor,
but he is genuine and humble (to a degree). He took a day out of his
vacation to traipse through Salem with me and even helped carry
equipment. Cuyle had been told through several readings that he was
executed during the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts. Even before
discovering this, Cuyle had always been drawn to Salem even though he
was born in New York and lives in Atlanta. I am a fan of this guy.
- Ruthie Larkin – AKA “The Beantown Medium”, it was Ruthie who
introduced me to Cuyle. Ruthie also appears in the film, sharing her
experiences and awakening to mediumship. She is one of
the most sought after mediums you may not have heard of – she is
booked ahead for months on end and, even more impressive, is often
dead on in her intuitive readings.
- Tim Maguire – Tim is a Salem historian, medium, shop owner and
also runs ghost tours. He provides historical perspective on the witch
trials and his personal experiences/beliefs as a medium.
- Susan DameGreene – Susan is past life regressonist in Salem. She
spent time with Cuyle regarding his belief in reincarnation and past
life in Salem.
- Lori Bruno – Lori is a witch in Salem at her Magika shop. Never
having met Cuyle, Lori did a reading and confirmed what other mediums
had felt … and a few new things as well. She is a high priestess and
direct descendant of Giordano Bruno, an Italian philosopher,
mathematician, poet, cosmological theorist and hermetic occultist who
was unjustly convicted of heresy by the Roman Inquisition for theories
ahead of his time that conflicted with core Catholic doctrines.
Michael Markowicz – Mike is an EVP specialist and author who shared
some of his recordings and conducted a live spirit box session for the
film. We captured some surprising EVPs live!
EVP specialist Michael Markowicz
- Rob Fitz – Rob is the director of my first film who also owns The
Magic Parlor in Salem. Rob had an Ouija board brought in that was donated
to the Talking Board Historical Society. The board was in a display case
and stopped a medium in his tracks one day. “Do you know that board has
7 demons inside?” Rob promptly sold the board to me and I brought in
Brad (shaman) to do a depossession during a live filming. Our audio cut
out right as Brad started to clear the board and we had to use a boom mic
for the rest of the day.
There are others who contributed too, but you’ll just have to watch
the film to meet them J
Do talk about the shoot(s)
I shot the film over 5-6 days over the course of about 18 months. My
process was to film one location, then work with an editor to whittle it
down to the “best of” footage. Then, once the process was completed I
did a transcript of these separate days and literally went through each of
them with a yellow highlighter to pick out the best parts and flow. Then I
watched and cut and cut again to keep the pacing as tight as I could.
As for the shoot locations, they ranged from haunted houses like the
Lizzie Borden B&B and the SK Pierce Haunted Victorian Mansion in
Gardner. The people at both locations were beyond cool to work with. I
also visited the Peter Oliver House in Middleborough but after bringing a
small crew and taping – they never signed the release. That is a lesson
to filmmakers – get the release signed right away … or leave. Other
venues were in Salem as we taped Cuyle Carvin on a witch tour with Dr.
Mike Vitka from Spellbound Tours, visited with Susan Damegreene (a past
life regressionist) and had a reading and chat with a real-life Salem
witch (Lori Bruno, proprietor of Magika). We also taped in Bridgewater,
Newton, Westford, Shrewsbury and went to upstate New York (Woodstock) to
film Bob Berman and check out his observatory. During our New York
overnight trip we stayed at the haunted Shanley Hotel where I recorded
some EVPs in my room.
Some other weird paranormal stuff happened to me outside of the shoots.
For one, I started getting EVPs on my car radio (“They’re hiding …
me!”) which I worked with Mike Markowicz to clean up and include in the
film. Other strange stuff happened, but I don’t want to get into that
actor/seeker Cuyle Carvin, witch Lori Bruno
The $64-question of course, where can Afraid
of Nothing be seen?
Right now it is being submitted to festivals. It had its world premiere
on February 12th (during a snow storm) at the 44th Boston Sci Fi Festival
in the venerable (and haunted) Somerville Theater. A few additional
screenings are scheduled – the next one is on March 30th with a live Q&A
following and some other cool post film activities. Here is the link:
Later this year it will be on digital streaming platforms. I am also
thinking of doing screenings at local libraries.
Anything you can tell us
about audience and critical reception of Afraid
of Nothing yet?
As I mentioned, the film had its
world premiere in February and, despite the snow, still had a very
respectable turnout. The audience loved it. Plus, the festival’s program
events manager (and renowned paranormal author Sam Baltrusis) liked the
film so much he organized a follow-up screening at the theater. The link,
once again, is here:
Any future projects you'd like
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Filmmaking is a passion but it also takes a ton
of time and money, as my films are largely self-funded. As for now I plan
to hone my craft and practice some filming and editing and perhaps release
a short documentary in the next 18 months or so. In the interim, I will
probably go back to the keyboard – where I began as a screenwriter –
and polish existing scripts or write new stories. That is what keeps me up
at night. ;-)
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
personal IMDb page:
Feel free to visit the links and like the Facebook and IMDb pages.
Thanks for the interview!