Your new movie The Jones
- in a few words, what is it about?
a zombie film about a zombie family who find out one morning their
daughter has suddenly fallen ill and "turned" human. The
story revolves around their struggle with the realities of that revelation
on many levels.
Jones being a zombie movie - is that a genre at all dear to you,
and how did you come up with your rather original approach to the undead?
wouldn't go as far as to say the zombie genre is necessarily dear to me,
but I've had an issue with zombie films being very one dimensional and
having very little in terms of dealing with human issues. So often
they are just scare fests, gore fests, surviving apocalypse type stories
that don't strive to go past the surface of things. With this film and
The Zombie Effect, I wanted to take things in directions nobody's done
before, telling stories about human issues using the conventions of the
zombie genre as the backdrop because that is the story that interests me.
sources of inspiration when writing The
I used a combination of sources when writing
Jones. The history of the zombie genre as well as family drama
conventions were employed in the construction. I guess you could say
I used the zombie genre and its conventions to tell a human story.
Lance Eakright, Gracie Whitton, Sheri Davis
What can you tell us about your
directorial approach to your story at hand?
My approach as
a director comes primarily from my screen writing/story training.
Understanding story construction and the use of imagery, subtext and the
ability to communicate exposition in a visual way are the primary tasks.
So my goal is to coach my actors to teach them what the scene
they're shooting is really about, the subtext, and give them the
opportunity to flex their skills to bring it into the scene.
about your cast, and why exactly these people?
Our goal at
the start of the anthology was to bring the best cast to the project based
on the parameters of the anthology setting (using the same cast for all
the films). Sheri Davis was the catalyst in bringing the cast
together, and she did a fantastic job! Each person brings their
strengths. Gracie Whitton is hands down one of the best young actresses I've
ever seen. I was convinced when I told Sheri to offer her the role
that she'd turn it down. I was shocked when she accepted. Her
experience on bigger budget projects including Scary Movie 5 sold me she
had the skills, but watching her audition, I was blown away. Lance
Eakright brought his extensive background in drama and action to the project, and
his audition was also very impressive. Sheri's resume speaks for
itself. April Dawn Hartman was actually cast sight unseen at Sheri's
recommendation, and she was spot on. Blew us all away! And
Robert Johnson was cast the same way, and again exceeded our expectations. So
I would have to credit Sheri with bringing this cast together. She
did a great job!
Johnson, April Dawn Hartman
you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
atmosphere for The
Jones shoot was very laid back and yet serious. It
was the second film this cast shot together, and they were getting much
more comfortable with the surroundings and each other. But the
subject matter was rather serious, in spite of the reverse approach to the
genre. We weren't without our challenges, but the team banded together and
got it done. An amazingly professional crew and they were on top of
few words about audience and critical reception so far?
far the response has been very positive. Some view the speaking
family oriented zombies should be more humorous, which I gather comes from
the stereotype films which have come before us. We took the more
serious tone, and everyone thus far has supported the choice as working
based on the direction the story takes. The film actually touches on
some rather sensitive human issues.
Jones is part of the Forces of Horror Anthology Series,
right? So what can you tell us about the series as such, the idea behind
it, past episodes, and what the future might hold in store?
The anthology was born out of an idea to put together a series of shorts
from different horror genres to provide visual resume material for us to
prove what we were capable of as filmmakers. Making it an
anthology was primarily based on the blessing of having the same
location to shoot the films and later to only use the same cast in all 4
films. We have two films left in the series. Rawhead is our
monster in the closet tale and The Origin of Species is our vampire
tale. Given that we wanted experience in various genres, the
genres we chose were just random stories that popped in my head, I
didn't give too much thought into which genres to go with. But I
think the stories we came out with work very well within the confines of
our short film cast and location. The other aspect that was
crucial was having the right crew. The first cog in that wheel
would have to be my good friend and DP, Aaron Sparks. He brings
such an artistic touch to the camera and his vision through the lens
makes these amazing images possible. Then we were so blessed to
have Kristal White, our effects creator and makeup artist, who is an
absolute special effects goddess! She has literally been a Godsend
for us and I'm so thankful for her. I am equally blessed to have
master sound mixer and effects editor Michael Head and our production manager Jeremy Mitchell, who both help me keep my head screwed on
straight. Could not do this without them. Our production designer, Trena Sparks, has also been such a joy to work with. Her
vision on set design has made all of our jobs easier by her creative
touch. Our wardrobe supervisor, Sheril Rodgers, is absolutely
amazing and makes my job so much easier by brainstorming looks long
before they get to me. And our films would not have half the impact they
do if it weren't for our composer Ryo Utasato, who is simply another
blessing we don't deserve. I cannot say enough amazing things
about the team we have on this project!!
(other) future projects you'd like to share?
is actually a pre-cursor to our first feature project, called The
Zombie Effect, which will also be a zombie feature, but unlike The
Jones will be more a thriller that turns into a zombie film rather than
starting with an apocalypse and forcing a group of people to survive.
We're going to plot out a scientific road map (with some science
fiction thrown in of course) to explain where these zombies come from, and
what's going to be scary is how plausible it actually is. We also have in
development a thriller about a submerged bullet train from New York to
London called The Abyssal Plain among other projects. So we have a
very busy slate upcoming.
you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal training
on the subject?
I started out as an actor 18 years ago and
studied acting both in Dallas and then in Los Angeles. While in LA,
acting opportunities were very few and far between at times, so I started
studying screen writing. I had actually written a romantic comedy
but after my manager at the time said to me "Roger, everyone is a
writer. If you really want to be a good writer, you have to study,
just like any other discipline." At first, I was dejected at
the notion, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense. Plus
I had plenty of time on my hands. So I started studying and kept on
studying for 10 years. I trained through the story screen writing
training of Robert McKee. Then I met a producer in LA who was working
on a project, and after several talks came on board to rewrite it, and
that comedy got pitched to Comedy Central with Glenn Morshower attached.
Later we wrote a web series that had James Kyson seek us out to
attach. So it was very positive. I also wrote a feature that
is currently under option in Florida, another horror film called The
Ritual. Once I left the production company in LA and moved back to
Texas, starting writing for myself and the anthology is my narrative
What can you tell us about your filmwork
prior to The Jones?
Jones, we made the first film in the anthology called Revelations.
We also produced a short weight loss documentary called The Hunger Stat as
our first film under Force of Nature Films.
few words about your company
Force of Nature Films,
and the philosophy behind it?
started it because we wanted to start producing original documentary and
narrative content, especially stories I've written. We have a
lengthy slate of material to produce, and at the moment are in the phase
to gain experience and material as film makers to attract investors and
distributor interest in our projects. The anthology has turned out
so much better than I anticipated, and our plan has a real shot of
accomplishing our goals. Time will tell.
would you describe yourself as a director?
I am a focused
and somewhat demanding director. But at the same time its important
that the actors on the project understand what we're trying to accomplish
so they are able to give us what we need. I've been very blessed
thus far with having some remarkable talent.
who inspire you?
There are many filmmakers who inspire me. In no particular order,
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are masters of the craft. I've
also been inspired by Steven Soderbergh and Clint Eastwood. In
horror of course masters like John Carpenter and George Romero have
paved the way for the next generation of great horror storytellers of
Your favourite movies?
There are so many.
Not sure I can label favorites. There are tons of movies I've
seen dozens of times. I tend to gravitate to all kinds of films.
Everything from Notting Hill to World War Z. Others
include Saving Private Ryan, The Matrix, The Breakfast
Club, A Walk in the
Clouds and films from so many genres. I'm all over the map. The
Lord of the Rings trilogy was awesome. Star Wars, Aliens and
Horizon are among the list. Just so many amazing ones to choose
and of course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
This list is
pretty long too, and strangely from some of the same franchises as my
favorites like Alien 3, The Matrix 3, and a lot of badly done horror
movie's/your series' website, Facebook, whatever else?
Our Facebook pages for Force of Nature Films,
the anthology, The Zombie
Effect and The Abyssal Plain:
Our Twitter page:
else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
I think you about covered everything. You can watch both
Revelations and The
Jones on YouTube. We shoot Rawhead in June, and
we're not sure at the moment when The Origin of Species
will be up and
running. But watch out for Rawhead. Kristal is literally
outdoing herself on that film and you will never be able to tell its a
micro budget project!
That's about all I can say about that for now.
But you've been warned! LOL!
Thanks for the interview!