Your latest short is called Mr.
Mullen - in a few words, what is it about?
is a 12 minute short film about a man, Chris Mitchell who loses everything
due to the corruption of a politician who causes him to lose his home and life
What were your inspirations for the film?
inspirations for Mr.
were from the political and societal crippling that we face in our country
today. The lies of the politicians saying one thing and doing another as
well as the dumbing down of society through media and the mainstream way of thinking was something that irked myself and
others so we felt the need to comment on it throughout the film.
made you decide to use a serialkiller story as a framework for your
The first day of shooting was on a dark
and rainy afternoon and we were waiting for an actress to show up and
actor Chris Margaritis and I were discussing the scene that we were
getting ready to film and he suggested that his character was out for the
politicians daughter due to money laundering that caused his character to
lose his life savings and home so that's where the film started from -
that one sequence. The message of the film unraveled as the storyline
became more in depth with ideas that ultimately shaped the film to be what
it is today, a commentary on the political and societal landscape so it
was being made with current events in mind for sure.
Mullen was intended as a PSA about something completely else,
right? How come it eventually evolved into the film it is today, at which
point did you notice you had to ditch the original idea of the film, and
how much of the footage of the originally intended PSA did eventually end
up in Mr. Mullen?
the scene I had just described was the scene that was shot for the PSA.
Actually we did two Public Service Announcement type segments - the main
one that we did was never finished due to not enough daylight left because
of how long the other PSA took - it was a segment where Chris talked on
camera about the election of Barack Obama and where he questioned who he
was and if him or any of those in the 2008 election were worthy of being
the President of the United States of America. The Public Service
Announcement which we shot prior to that was a Rape Awareness PSA to get
people aware of being careful when going out for a jog in a secluded
place, such as the woods. For me, it was to shoot something new and get it
up online on the website with the new equipment we had which was a 35mm
adapter. From there it expanded over the course of about a year and a half.
There are about four clips from the shoot that we used in the film which
was one of the Mullen sisters driving, Chris stabbing her and then a
connecting shot of him pulling her into a swamp.
on this, how does the creative process usually work when you write and
direct a film?
It's honestly different for each film. When
I first attempted my first feature film at the age of seventeen, I
purchased a book on directing. I believe it was called Directing for
Dummies. Soon after that I learned that there is no right way to direct and that the book wasn't going to teach me
how to find myself as a filmmaker. I had to find out for myself through my
own path. What I've learned over the years is that directing is heavily
about communication and being able to make the crew and talent understand
your vision for the film. If the communication is lacking your product
will lack in many aspects.
How has the response been from people who
have viewed the film online so far?
The response to the film has mostly been
positive. We had an online radio interview with a site and it's rival site
bashed the film saying that it was political porn. From the
positive end, people have really enjoyed it and told me that it connected
with them on a personal level due to the honest reality of it. It's a dark
and serious film which was what our intentions were so I'm happy that that
type of feeling carried throughout the film with many who have viewed it.
At least in my opinion, Mr.
Mullen at times feels like a trailer for a feature film rather
than a film itself. Were you ever tempted to turn Mr.
Mullen into a feature length movie?
It would be nice on a bigger budget for sure.
If someone had the money and wanted to produce it, surely I'd be
interested as long as the freedom to express the concept in a dark and
serious tone. I feel with the short I said what I needed to say about the
political landscape in America. I was very angry while making that film
because I would hear all of these talking heads on various
news stations and radio shows spouting their mainstream ideas and agenda
and I felt that I needed to express things in a different light.
It's interesting because making movies is in
some ways a therapy for conquering real life fears that one may have. I
used to fear government but now I just see it as something you shouldn't
fear because life is short and one needs to focus on their own lives
rather than worrying or trying to change the system through protests and
minor means. Yes, in certain instances things can change like laws and such,
but with corruption and greed running rampant, you need to find a leveled
way of thinking - if you're fearing things all the time, you're going to
be very paranoid. I think some of that paranoia and anger shows in the
film, but I'm actually glad it does because it was the type of person I
was at the time - you need to have some type of emotion in a film,
otherwise a film just won't have the certain amount of fire or venom -
especially when it's a film that has the dark themes that Mr.
A few words
about your lead actor, Chris Margaritis?
Chris is not at
all like his character in Mr.
Mullen in the sense of him being on the edge but
during the filming of Mr.
Mullen, he was going through some financial issues
which I think helped develop the character, naturally. He was a trouper
when it came to shooting the film. He would always coming out even when it
was ten degrees outside and we'd shoot scenes in the dead of winter. Chris
is a really nice person and fun to be around. We always get a lot done and
it's because he's extremely easy to work with.
The film you
have made before Mr. Mullen
was Loss of Hope, a
quite fascinating portrait of a man who has lost all hope. What can you
tell us about that one, and what were your inspirations?
Mullen, this film was also based off my fears at the time. This one
being about war in general. Just like Mr.
Mullen, it was a therapy for me because at the time of making the
film, there was a lot of nuclear arms talk about North Korea and Iran and
a lot of the fear mongering through the mainstream media concerning
nuclear armament and various other things that can be scary for many. So
those topics were something I wanted to comment on through the art we
What are some of the events at the time
that was happening in the world that shaped Loss of Hope?
September 11th for sure - even though the film
wasn't made in 2001, the date of September 11th surely had an impact on
the film. In the beginning of Loss of Hope, we hear a voice through CB
transmission saying that planes were being used as weapons with nuclear
bombs on board and that nuclear explosions were going off in all major
cities. In the film, Paul Sanders' (Paul Kratka) wife had taken a plane on
her way to work in New York (which we hear on the answering machine in a
scene during the film) and that was one of the planes that was hijacked
and detonated while crashing into New York. The low budget nor time to
explain this further gave us not much time to explain that but some people
did catch the two connections, while others had a hard time putting two
and two together. These are the things you learn in independent filmmaking
- and just like Mr.
Mullen, Loss of Hope
started from one scene which was
Paul's character in the basement reflecting on his life prior to the end
of the world. There is also a line where Paul says "We used to live
so happy and free, totally aware of the corrupt policies that would take
all of this away from us…" That line comments on the ignorance and
unawareness from most people on governmental policies that are corroding
our world today.
The events prior to the finishing of the film
was also the whole Election 2008 race. The illusion of
Democrats versus Republicans. Prior to starting the film, which we started
in early 2008 I was part of a few organizations that spoke out about
corruption in government, lies of the media and the concern for our
country. I was actually making a documentary at the time about these
topics and I learned a few new things both about myself as well as the
political structure in this country.
lead in Loss of Hope
is played by Paul Kratka, whom you have brought back to the movies an
few years ago after he went into film retirement after Friday the 13th
Part 3 in 1982, and you have since cast him in several movies. Why did
you bring him, of all people, back, how did you initially get in touch,
and what did it take to bring him back?
I had contacted a
few people actually. This was back in 2004. I contacted four actors that I
looked up to in the horror genre and asked them if they'd be interested in
being in a film we were gearing up to make. None of them replied except
for Paul. He showed some interest and when the time came to prepping the
dates of the shoot I filled him in with more information on the movie and
he agreed to take on the role of Detective Jason Ronner. We accommodated
his schedule and flew him out to New York in April of 2005 and I remember
being very nervous during the directing process. This was my first film
out of college so I felt really ashamed of the non-budget aspect of the
film. We shot in a cabin where we rigged up lighting and shot for about an
hour. Since then we've worked on many films and he's just like any other
friend. I don't see him as Paul Kratka the lead of Friday the 13th Part 3
like I used to on the first shoot I did with him - I just see him as Paul,
you know? Paul is the type who loves to act and since working on The Day
They Came Back he has worked with a few other independent filmmakers on
their films so I'm glad to see that Paul is doing what he loves to do.
A few words
about Jennifer Baltusis, who wrote the original story for Loss
of Hope and was also in it as well as in Mr.
I had an idea to have a man in his basement
with another man as they both expressed their fears and concern during the
end of the world due to a nuclear war. For some reason I had the vision of
a Steve Buscemi type playing the lead role in the short. When I had told
her about the concept she wanted to write the story. She came up with a
solid foundation that was more subtle and after reading it a few times I
had added some dialogue about nuclear war and some political aspects to
the monologue. That's all it really was honestly. It was a monologue piece
at first for Paul to showcase his acting talents He actually added some
small changes to the final dialogue to make it best fit his type of speech
patterns. After we had shot the monologue piece, I flew Paul back two more
times to shoot some flashback scenes of him with his family and the life
he lived prior to nuclear war.
John Amplas in The Three
You have worked recently with actor John
Amplas who played the lead role in the 1977 horror film Martin, which is
what many refer to as a classic horror film. What was it like working with
I first saw John's talents in Day of the
one of my favorite horror films of all time. He plays the role of a scientist named Ted Fisher. A year or so ago was the first time I saw
Martin. My friend Chris Garetano and I were having conversations about
horror films and he asked me if I've ever seen Martin
and at the time I
had not and he told me it was a must see. So I checked it out and loved
it. This was Romero's film just before Dawn of the Dead and you can see
him starting to become an solid filmmaker.
John and I had conversed online for a good few
months prior to getting together to shoot his scenes for The Three.
I wanted him to act in two other productions but the traveling expenses
and time was a big issue. When the time came to shooting in the Wampum
mines (where Day of the Dead was shot) I had noticed that John didn't live
that far from there. So I contacted him and told him that I am doing a
short teaser concept film that we're making to try to find funding for the
feature length version. He took interest and we shot his scenes on two
separate occasions - one at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and one at the Day of
the Dead mine in Wampum, Pennsylvania.
Tell us more about The Three. What is it
The Three is honestly a hope that myself and a
lot of others have about ending all wars and bringing the troops home from
the harmful conditions they now face and are in. That is what is at the
core of both the feature length screenplay and the short film concept. The
hope of withdrawing the troops from all over the world and finding peace
through alternative means is something that is appealing to many because
we all more than likely know someone who has a brother or sister, mother
or father whom are stationed over in Iraq and Afghanistan and want them to
come home safely and for good. Myself and others believe the government
has a hard time staying out of other nations affairs and rather than
trying to fix things overseas they should worry about the
United States and making things better for people here in the United
States of America. So the idea in the film is to have that as a core
message but to make it realistic in the sense of new technology which
would make it easier to withdraw troops was important to us. So you have
scientists working on a solution to try to end the wars through building
soldiers that are meant to be on the battlefield. You somewhat see this happening already within the beginning stages of new technology.
The film is more of a dark and psychologically
driven concept that we're looking to showcase in the short teaser concept
You are shooting at the same mines where
George A. Romero's film Day of the Dead was shot,
Yes, well the mines are deep and vast. I
believe they shot mostly around where the main office area was located.
When you go deeper in the mines, there are many different warehouses and
sections to the mine. There is a maid road with white limestone walls
which are brightly lit and then sections branch off. We shot in a
warehouse around that area, If you continue down the main road you come to
a dark mine area where there is nothing but rocks, gravel and dark
limestone walls and columns. It really is an amazing atmosphere, very
claustrophobic. When I watch the footage we shot I get this sense of smell
from the place which was a musty and damp type of smell - it's interesting
how certain smells come back when you see certain visuals of footage
Was there anyone from the time of Day of the Dead
that still works there?
Yes, one person actually. Skip, a man who
worked with Romero on Day of the Dead
actually had showed us a tour the
first time we came to the mine so it was awesome to see the missile silo,
the area where Captain Rhodes holds the meetings as well as the place
where the Ritz and the zombie corral was built. As a fan of Day of the Dead
it was awesome to see all of that. He showed us the closed up
warehouse area where a lot of the sets were built by Cletus Anderson.
There was this back room behind the offices where we saw the complex where
the office area was shot. The offices are now broken down and certain
areas and walls were built but when Skip and I were going over the scenes
on my laptop while in the office area he showed us all the actual sections
where the walls were torn down as well as the limestone columns where Lori
Cardille and John Amplas would converse in certain scenes. When we toured
the facility with John, Lori and my crew it was interesting hearing and
seeing Lori point out where all the rooms were for those scenes, like the
water fountain, Logan's lab and so on. It was surreal for me, especially
since I'm a huge fan of Day of the Dead.
Lori Cordille and John Amplas leaning over
their creation in The Three
Lori Cardille you just mentioned. What was
it like working with her?
Working with Lori on The Three was great
because I knew the type of talent I was going to be able to work with. I
am a big fan of her acting in Day of the Dead
and have always thought she
was a great actress. I have seen the film countless times so working with
her, being able to direct her and have her play a role that was close to
both our hearts was a great opportunity and I'm happy that she took on the
What role did Lori take on for the film?
Well Lori plays a Scientist who lost her son
in the Iraq War and wanted to bring an end to the fighting so she joined
her husband James L. Fisher to get this project finished to where no more
troops had to die overseas. The idea was that their son had died in the
Iraq War and she wanted to pay homage to him by create a prototype soldier
that was a replica of her son.
Let's go all the way back to the
beginning of your career: You studied film, right? How does what you learn
in college relate to actual on-set experiences, and what got you
interested in filmmaking in the first place?
I became interested in filmmaking when I was
very young. My mother had a VHS camera and I would edit Friday the 13th-style
films using her camera. I remember vaguely being young, maybe 10 or 11 and
making home movies that were spin offs of Friday the 13th
and other horror
films. The imagination was always there. Even a little further back, when
I was maybe eight years old I shot videos of things that interested me. We
had this couch that I was able to take the cushions off of and make into a
"fort" with a roof and I'd shoot video of me falling through it.
I was surely influenced by Friday the 13th films and the stunts in those
films. There was something about capturing things like that on video.
At age seventeen I tried to make a feature
film with a few friends of mine at that time - that fell through due to
loss of interest. And that was one of my first valuable lessons of movie
making, to never cast your friends because not everyone can stay as
excited as you are nor see the end product in the vision you hold in your
mind. As for learning in a place like the classroom, I suppose it really
depends on the college or type of film school you go to. Some people learn
more than others. No one is the same when it comes to being artistic.
Textbooks are one thing - they help you understand certain words, aspects,
etc while working on a film gives you hands on experience that you can't
get in a textbook.
You also made quite a
few shorts during your college time, right? A few words about those?
they were projects that made a few small film festivals in 2003 and 2004.
My Valentine was a project I shot while at film school which was
unfortunately a cliché horror film. The film was a cross between Scream
and A Nightmare on Elm
Street. Just thinking about that makes me cringe
and think, "What the hell was I thinking?" because nowadays I
have no interest in those type of films. With the new possibilities in
commenting on world issues, society, politics and different genres that
can be refreshed, I believe that cinema deserves better than the old cliché shorelines, especially in the horror realm. Horror films just are
not scary anymore because of the same concept which lacks creativity or
realism, and I think each filmmaker goes through struggles trying to find
can you tell us about The Day They Came Back, your first
out-of-college short (if my information is correct)?
Day They Came Back was a zombie film that I made after graduating film
school which was inspired by Day of the Dead and
Dawn of the Dead. We used
a DVX100 to shoot the film. I had a concept for the script and had two
friends at the time come in and write the dialogue which looking back on
it now was extremely cliché. At the time I felt that making a zombie film
would be a way of paying homage to George Romero but now I don't believe
that doing a zombie film is paying homage at all because it's copying what
has been done over and over again. Looking back if I had the chance to do
a different horror film I would have. I believe the zombie genre has been
out-done to where it's very boring and stale. Wish I would have understood
that back then when I made the film because it would have been different
and perhaps not even a zombie film. The thing you get out of a project
like that is the experience and memories of some very fun death scenes for
sure. At the time of making the film it was something I personally
remember as a fond memory. It was filmed nearly six years ago and funny
how when you remember the visuals and days of shooting these, senses and
smells come back.
The Day They Came Back, you have made many a short. Want to talk
about those for a bit?
In 2006 and 2007 I had worked on a
few short films which can watched online, All I Want For Christmas,
Nightmare and United We Sleep, shot on literally no budget with a
DVX100. All I Want For Christmas started out like Mr.
Mullen, with one
scene. The scene was of a demented Santa pervert whom had kidnapped a
young girl and brainwashed her into being his little killer. Nightmare is
another short film about a girl who falls asleep and never wakes up, and
United We Sleep was a film we made about the lies of the media concerning
terrorism. United We Sleep was very similar to Mr.
Mullen in the sense of
it being very political and in-your-face.
Having all these shorts under
your belt, doesn't it itch you to once again make a feature film, or is
the short format the format that fits your needs the best?
we currently have a feature length we're planning to shoot as soon as we
get funding. It really depends on money and attaching someone to the
project who has the same views we do with the subjects in the film that we
are deeply passionate about. Currently we're shooting a short film concept
to show investors the film we're looking to make, of course on literally
no budget, but we feel it's something that can really bring the dark
element of horror back rather than the comedic horror that we've seen in
the last few years with remakes and generic horror films.
seem to return to the horror genre on a regular basis. Why is that and is
horror a genre especially dear to you?
Horror films are one
of my favorite genres next to dramatically themed films. I think horror is
a good escape from everyday reality. My favorite type of horror films are
those that are dark, sad, depressing, terrifying and scary. That has been
missing from many independent and mainstream horror films that have come
out in the last fifteen years or so. I don't mind remakes as much as I did
a few years back because remakes have been done over and over in many
different genres. The issue I have with remakes of today is that they lack
in many aspects - if you're going to remake a horror film at least make it
scary and terrifying.
future projects you'd like to talk about?
pretty much everything so we appreciate the interest in the projects. We
hope others enjoy them as well.
On your films
you pretty much do it all, writing, directing, producing, cinematography,
and God knows what else. What do you prefer, what could you do without?
in general is what I live to do. I like being hands on in every aspect.
You have to in order to get it done, especially when directing, producing,
writing and shooting the movie yourself. Every filmmaker has a certain
vision so doing all of the above ensures that vision will come to life as
long as you're good at what you do.
an independent filmmaker who has already survived in the business for
several years, what's your advice to rookie filmmakers?
movies. Do it because you love it, not because you wish to be famous or
make money. Personally I do not care about the personal fame aspect. To me
that's not what filmmaking is about - never has been, never will be. I've
been making independent films for a few years now and am still working at
my craft and I feel one of the best ways to make films is to get a camera,
understand the aspect of cinema and to just make movies. Learning and
educating yourself is important and to never try to be like any other
filmmaker is important. Everyone has their own style and journey. The
things that inspire me are filmmakers and films that understand and get
"it". The ones who make great films that contribute to quality
cinema. That is what I believe everyone should strive for if they want to
or do make movies.
who have inspired you?
George A. Romero for sure. Day of
the Dead is the ultimate horror film in my opinion. It's dark, the music
is fantastic and you feel the depression in the film and score. John
Carpenter is a big inspiration as well. Halloween,
The Thing, They Live -
all great films with an awesome atmosphere. I also enjoy films by Sean
Penn like Into the Wild. I feel that the film Into the Wild is one of the
best films within the last decade. As a person and filmmaker it really
connected with me on both a spiritual and entertaining level. A guilty
pleasure of mine has to be John Hughes films. Planes, Trains and
Automobiles has some really sad and touching moments and the eighties
sounding synths really fit with that film.
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Your favourite films?
the horror genre, my top three would have to be Day of the
and The Shining - all the originals not the remakes. Other horror greats
for me are The Thing, The Texas Chain Saw
Massacre, Dawn of the
Dead, Carrie, Creepshow.
and of course, movies you have really deplored?
Hatchet. A disgusting subtraction to the genre
of horror. I don't even think it can be considered a horror film. A poorly
written comedy at best. I also dislike most modern horror films due to
lack of understanding of what true horror is. Generic concepts really
bother me since they bring nothing new to the genre of horror. They are a
waste of time.
If a horror film is dark, creepy, scary,
terrifying I'd be willing to support it much more than if it's a comedic
horror film with none of those elements.
website, Facebook, whatever else?
Loss of Hope
can be viewed at http://www.lossofhopefilm.com
The trailers and clips for The Militia 15
can be seen at http://www.themilitia15film.com
And the website for our upcoming short film
concept (featuring John Amplas and Lori Cardille) The Three can be
seen at http://www.thethreefilm.com
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
like we covered a good amount. Thank you for your interest in what we do.
for the interview!