Your new movie Once,
When I Was Dead - in a few words, what is it about?
When I Was Dead is a film about an artist who after a bad art gallery
showcase is considering giving up her dream and faces her nightmares head
on. Itís about finding inspiration, knowing your potential, and facing
the many challenges that come with achieving your dreams, and finding the
true soul within you.
were your sources of inspiration when writing Once,
When I Was Dead, and was any of this based on personal experience,
your personal feelings about being an artist?
When I Was Dead is a very personal film for me, as a lot of it was based on how I was
feeling as I wrote it back in 2005. I was in a very dark place in my life
and wondered where my life and career would go. In order to achieve the
goals you want, you have to look inside yourself to see where you believe
you can go. When I did, the result was terrifying to me. I did learn a
valuable lesson in writing in that the best stories come from personal
experiences, so I based my thoughts, feelings, insecurities, and desires
into this short script. I had planned to make it several times and it felt
right to do it now as it represented the closing of a chapter in my life.
have to talk about your films hallucinatory sequences for a bit, and were
all of them properly scripted, or rather made up on the spot?
It was a
mixture of both. The majority of the sequences were written in the script,
but the first hallucinatory sequence was changed on set to better reflect
what was processing in Ameliaís mind. It wasnít as sexual in tone but
as we filmed the scene, we realized it needed to hit that mark for it to
reflect Ameliaís psyche, to show the combination of pain and pleasure
that was conflicting within her.
"Broken Hearts" by Shay Cully
scene with Alice making her painting was not in the early drafts, and upon
inserting the scene it became a better film to show the path Amelia could
go on if she followed a certain way. Itís the only scene that is
verbatim from the script as it was important to show an artist in such a
fragile state but yet finding her true passion in such a dark and
do talk about the paintings used in the movie, and where they especially
created for Once, When
I Was Dead?
painting for the film, Broken Hearts, was painted exclusively for the
movie by Shay Cully, a tremendous artist who I had met when I played In
Fear Of at the Macabre Faire Film Festival. As an artist herself, Shay
understood the story I wanted to tell and created the painting after
reading the script and talking with me. I was completely floored when I
first saw it. It perfectly captured the tone of the story and was both
beautiful and haunting at the same time. Shay is one of the most creative
people I know. Her dedication to her art and loyalty to her friends are
second to none.
Steven-Mark Glassner [Steven-Mark
Glassner interview - click here] is also an artist, and many of his paintings are in
Ameliaís space. It was Steve who insisted I make this film after reading
the script and I realized that with both Steve and Shayís input, it had
the one piece that had been missing the first few times I had attempted to
make this film, that authenticity from the art world on making the film as
accurate as it is in viewing that world.
by Steven-Mark Glassner
created the Blood Angel Wings painting, which was accomplished by having
Kaylee Williams [Kaylee
Williams interview - click here] come to NY for a day to lay down on a canvas while we drew
around her to get the parameters right. It was very surreal when it was
done as it presented such a beautiful yet haunting visual, and during the
time we made the painting, I had a death in the family, so the meaning of
the wings took on a whole new meaning for me personally. Without the
artistry of both Shay and Steve, the film would not look nearly as
beautiful as it does.
How would you describe your
directorial approach to your story at hand?
would be the best way to describe it. Having done many films of different
types with the In
Fear Of episodes that I have done, Once, When
I Was Dead was a completely
different film. I had a great producer in Tony DeBenedetto [Tony
DeBenedetto interview - click here] who financed
the flim and believed in the concept from the moment he read it. He also
has been a huge part of In
Fear Of moving forward the way it is now. I had
never done a film with so much backing behind it and was used to being my
own boss so it was a new experience. Tony is a pure businessman and an
even better person, and itís truly an honor to be his production partner
on this film.
Forst, who I worked with on several In
Fear Of episodes, had a daunting
task of handing special effects and makeup, and did an amazing job
bringing all the effects to life. There was one effect we had talked about
doing that I do regret didnít make the film because of time, and if Lisa
is reading, ďIím sorry! Iím a shit!Ē Lisa is going to be a HUGE
star in special effects and I am truly dazzled by the work she does. I
hope someday to give her a budget worthy of her talents but she can make
anything look great. The visuals of Adam and Eve were difficult, and she
managed to pull it off with the different paint mixtures and blending of
key to any film, and Barbara Weber is a frequent collaborator who, when I
hire for a project, I send a series of tracks in tone for her to get the
style I am going for. Every time Barbara nails it out of the park and adds
her own unique spin to everything. She is quick, efficient, and created a
terrific score for Once, When
I Was Dead.
What can you
tell us about your cast, and why exactly these people?
the fifth time I had attempted to make Once, When
I Was Dead, the first in 2007, then in
2009, 2010, 2012, and finally last year. Each time I had talked to
different actors and crew to do it and each time before it didnít work
out. However, with Tony, Shay, and Steve showing interest in making Once, When
I Was Dead,
I knew that this was the right time to make it, or it would never have
Stone [Gabrielle Stone
interview - click here] I had met on Facebook, but I had heard about her from about five
different filmmakers I knew that had worked with her or interviewed her
and told me not only how good of an actress she is, but how cool of a
person she is. After a few conversations on Facebook, she sent me her demo
reel and I was impressed. Being the daughter of a famous actress in Dee
Wallace (which I didnít know initially), she is very well grounded and
is also a hard worker. She had that innocent quality that I saw in Amelia
and I felt she could pull it off. She understood the character immediately
and I enjoyed collaborating with her on Ameliaís strengths and
weaknesses. The look of Amelia was all her, and with the films she is
working on now, I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work with her
on this film.
Gabrielle Stone, Tiffany Shepis
Shepis [Tiffany Shepis interview
- click here] I have known for nearly ten years, and approached her back in 2007
about another project which never came to life. Tiffany is a tremendous
actress and a popular name in horror. I did have Tiffany in mind when I
wrote Lucy but I wasnít sure if she would do it because she mainly does
features. I have to give huge credit to David Marancik (who was on set
photographer) and Debbie Rochon [Debbie
Rochon interview - click here], who are great friends with Tiffany and
put in a good word for me on the film and the role. On the surface Lucy
can appear to be one dimensional, a sultry femme fatale who wants Amelia
to embrace her dark side, but Tiffany performs in such a meticulous way
that you believe she cares of Ameliaís well-being, even if it is to her
own benefit. Tiffany is a great collaborator and, like Gabrielle, made
suggestions to her character that only improved the character on screen.
Dawson was suggested to me by Steve Glassner [Steven-Mark
Glassner interview - click here], who had worked with her on a
commercial shoot, and what I think sealed the deal for me is that when we
met up to talk the film, she brought her son along. Seeing her as a mother
showed me that she has strong instincts as a mentor and can show that
stern yet nurturing nature to Amelia in explaining why she is failing as
an artist, and Kiva portrayed it as if she had experienced some demons
of her own, so she knows the pattern. A fun fact about Kiva is that she
started as a child actor and her first role was a small part on the TV
series Taxi, and her experience as a dancer, she was in The Big
Lebowski in The Dudeís dream sequence, would transition well in
mentoring an artist.
Williams interview - click here] is the only actor of the main cast I had worked with before, in
Fear Of episode Merinthophobia: Fear of Being Bound, and I trusted
Kaylee in portraying such a difficult yet silent role of Alice. Kaylee has
become a good friend and I knew she could handle the vulnerability and
fragility that Alice conveys in her scene. Itís so hauntingly poetic
that itís one of the rare times upon putting a scene together in the
editing room I got emotional, because I felt every ounce of her pain.
Kaylee is an amazing actress, and a fearless one who is not afraid to put
her soul on display for the world to see, and I wanted to make sure it was
captured on screen in that regard. I donít think anyone could have
played it better than Kaylee did, and the final shot of her is probably my
favorite shot I ever filmed.
Eivers, who plays the art patron, was suggested by Kiva, and I felt since
they were friends, it would show their chemistry on screen. Itís only
one scene, but Kris was a pro and nailed his scene. The Adam and Eve
characters, played by Blaine Pennington and Taylor Costello, were cast for
different reasons. Taylor is a friend of Gabrielleís and has a great
dancing background, and could convey the rhythms of the scene that I
wanted. Blaine was cast in the In
Fear Of episode Agoraphobia: Fear of
Leaving Home, and I was blown away by his acting ability. He also has the
most beautifully gorgeous yet haunting eyes Iíve seen and knew it would
look amazing in contrast to Taylor as well as Gabrielleís reactions to
talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
learned a lot on this set and did some things I would never do again. It
was a different challenge, one that in some areas I was ready for, and
some that I was not ready for. I was lucky to have a great cast and crew
who knew and believed in the film so much that they delivered in spades to
make my job easier in some regard. It was also surreal to see something
youíve spent so much time on, so many iterations attempted to be made,
finally come to life in front of you. I remember Gabrielle asked me
ďDoes it feel weird seeing it coming to life,Ē and I admitted that it
was more difficult than I thought it would be. Youíre seeing aspects of
your personality, your psyche, and the thoughts you had when you broke
down happening in front of you and it sets you back to that place
temporarily. It took me a long time to shake it off after shooting and
even in editing it was difficult. I edited it with my friend Stolis
Hadjicharalambous who knows the beats well and it was good to have that
input from another source as it added a better perspective and a more
solid film in its final form. Our sound man, Keith Chernin, did a terrific
job in mixing the dialogue as we were recording, making my first (and
probably only) sound mixing work on film a successful one. One regret is
that I should have enjoyed the experience more and not have been so tense
few words about audience and critical reception of your movie so far?
get go, everyone who worked on the film knew that this could be a
polarizing film. People are either going to love it or hate it. I will
admit it does have a bit of a pretentious vibe to it and is more artistic
than I would like it to be. Iíve been pleasantly surprised that those
who have seen it, especially filmmakers and artists, understand the story
being told and many can relate to it. I know to a couple it has hit a
little too close to home. Aside from your great and short review, Iíve
had a lot of good feedback on it as a whole.
Iíve surprised some people, especially those who like my work on In
Fear Of, because it is nothing like any of the episodes Iíve done. I think
while I do have a certain style of filmmaking, it's good to try different
genres and mix it up a little.
recently won a prestigious gold REMI award for Best Horror/Fantasy Short
Film at the WorldFest Film Festival in Houston and it is making the rounds
at festivals. I recently received an email from one festival saying it was
one of the best short films they'd seen but couldn't accept it because
some found the subject matter disturbing. Not sure if it's genuine or just
a cop out response in an attempt to make me feel better but I've been
hearing a lot more positive than negative that's for sure.
future projects you'd like to share?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
to mention In
Fear Of, which you have promoted many times on your site. I
am very appreciative of that, especially in interviewing many In
Fear Of alum
before their episodes were released. Well, now they are: You can
check out the web series In
Fear Of at
and order the season for as little as 99 cents an episode. If youíre a
Twilight Zone fan youíre going to love it.
website, Facebook, whatever else?
can check out Once, When
I Was Dead on its Facebook page at
and you can view the teaser at
You can also check In
Fear Of out on its official site at
for the interview!
You're welcome and thanks for all the support.