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An Interview with Shayne Leighton, Star, Writer and Co-Director of The Incubus

by Mike Haberfelner

February 2010

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First of all, why don't you introduce yourself to those of us who don't already know you?

 

My name is Shayne Leighton and I was born and raised in sunny South Florida (which I despise and can't wait to move out of!)

 

I am nineteen, and after graduating Dreyfoos School of the Arts for theater, I have completed two independent feature films, Guardian of Eden and The Incubus (wrote, directed, and starred in both). Guardian of Eden won for Best Up and Coming Filmmaker at the 2008 Delray Beach International Film Festival and The Incubus is now being shopped for distribution. I was also recently in the much anticipated independent feature, Legend of the Red Reaper by Tara Cardinal [Tara Cardinal interview - click here] coming soon in 2010. Presently I am working on various other independent film projects as well as my first album, all while trying to get myself out to California already!!!

 

Your upcoming film The Incubus - in a few words, what is it about, and what character do you play in it?

 

The Incubus is about a fictional small town that gets invaded by a coven of ghosts that literally suck the life and energy out of human beings to sustain themselves. My character is Marnie Rose, a college student in the small town, who lives with a physically and mentally abusive Uncle (who is also that town pastor by day... go figure). My character ultimately ends up falling in love with Raphael (Frantisek Mach), who is one of the members of the incubus clan upon finding out that when he feeds on her energy, he is suddenly able to feel alive again. He no longer feels dead and empty as before, but now his world has color. While these two characters try to maintain their impossible romance they are met at every turn by the wicked clan leader, Bianca (Alexandra Santanna). I will not give away the ending but what I will say is that The Incubus is the ultimate metaphor for life and undying first loves.

That which is as universal as death must be a blessing.

 

Alexandra Santanna, Shayne Leighton

You don't only star in the film but also wrote and co-directed it, edited it and were involed in the soundtrack. What can you tell us about your very deep involvement in Incubus?

 

Both me and my executive producer, Marcie Gorman wore MANY hats while creating this film... no joke. Also I want to clarify that I did not edit the film. That awesome credit goes to both Full Service Films and Underdog Flicks. But it was both a tribulation and triumph to be so involved in a project like this. It is truly my brainchild. I hatched it and with Marcie's and everyone else's help, I was able to watch it grow into something more than any high school graduate could have imagined. There wasn't a moment on set where I could relax... but that was totally okay with me. I'm the kind of person who enjoys running around like a chicken with the head cut off! And trust me... there wasn't a full nights sleep while we were in production either. We all sacrificed a lot... but in turn we were able to learn so many things.

 

What were your inspirations for writing Incubus?

 

My main inspiration for the story was my actual first love. (No he didn't suck the life out of me.) But I would definitely consider him my muse because he is such a dark and interesting personality. He's a sweetheart and a good friend to this day and I thought of this story because he has a very funny way of expressing his emotions. (He doesn't really express any at all... seemingly...) And to me this was so interesting because I am the type of person that wears my heart on my sleeve constantly. But sometimes, when you catch him in a good moment, he seems to completely light up. He goes from black and white to color and surprises you (like Raphael's world in the film). He is what truly inspired this story because there is nothing like a first love.

 

Shayne Leighton, Michael Nouri

How would you describe your directorial approach to the film?

 

Actors come first. Before the lighting and the sound and the scenery, it is always the performance that sells your story. I was lucky to be able to cast some of the most interesting and amazing people I had ever met for this film and they each fit their part perfectly. So it made my job that much easier. I tried to inspire my cast with preliminary pieces of the score that Anthony Espina composed early on for the film. I sent them drawings and photos of things I found online that inspired the creation of the characters in my script. Everything fell into place after that. I didn't want this movie to look like anything else. I wanted it to sort of have a Tim Burton feel without ripping him off. I wanted deeply over-saturated colors and spooky locations and an incredibly haunting score (which Anthony Espina did so beautifully). But what really achieved my vision was Michael C Nouri's take on his character Johnny. With his spiky black hair and deep eye-liner, you can't really get much more "Burton-esque" than that.

 

Marcie Gorman, Shayne Leighton

A few words about you co-director Marcie Gorman?

 

It is impossible to say what she is to me in a few words. She is my angel, my fairy godmother, a second mom, a soul-sister, and everything in-between. She is the sole reason why this whole venture even started. I met Marcie in my senior year of high school. I was playing Serena in Fame! the Musical, and Marcie was brought on by our theater dean to help with the production. Soon, Marcie and I started talking about her past lives and careers and her interest in helping out youth in the arts. I sent her my screenplay and the rest is history. It is so strange how life works sometimes. One moment you are talking to a woman you barely know in the parking lot of your school, leaving a Thursday night show to go home and finish some essay or another, and the next moment this woman is your best friend and you're making movies and planning huge things for your future - all the while your head is spinning.

 

As an actress, what did you draw upon to bring your character to life?

 

Obviously, if I said I drew upon real-life experiences, people would be giving me very funny looks right now. Marnie is a very soft spoken character. (I am the exact opposite.) If I had to give her a color, she would be blue because she is so serene and almost sad in a way. Going to an arts high school, you meet a lot of very different personalities. I suppose I strung Marnie together with bits and pieces of real people from my life. The biggest piece I took though was actually from a character I had seen in a short film about a ghost (ironically.) This film wasn't really a thriller and even more of a love story than mine, but the lead character was so breathtakingly pure and endearing that I found myself taking a lot from what I had seen in that film.

 

James Pace

Michael Nouri

A few words about your co-stars?

 

Frantisek Mach

The most AMAZING and TALENTED bunch of people I ever had the pleasure to work with. James Pace and Mikey Nouri are absolutely brilliant actors. Frantisek Mach came such a long way in a short while and he is brilliant as well. (The next Van Damme!) Alexandra Santanna went from being my sweet and beautiful best friend to a sinister little evil doll in five seconds flat. The drop-dead gorgeous Donna Lisa and lovely Danielle Lilley are so amazing and off to California to go after their dream... I know they will succeed! And last but definitely not least is my favorite... Melvin Lima (who?) he is so adorable and brilliant and talented and I know I will see his name in lights. Much love to the Incubus cast... we became a family.

 

Alexandra Santanna

Donna Lisa

Danielle Lilley

Melvin Lima

 

When and where will the film be out (tentatively)?

 

Tentatively and not in stone it will be released Spring 2010 hopefully, and we are looking at domestic theatrical release. Again... nothing concrete that I can actually announce but if you want to find The Incubus fan page on facebook or go to http://www.theincubusfilm.com you can see all the updates as they happen.

 

Your and your film's website(s), MySpace(s), Facebook(s), whatever else?

 

Ok people...here's a running list of the links! Ready? Go!

Official Website: http://www.TheIncubusFilm.com

Blogspot: http://theincubusseries.blogspot.com/ 

Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/shayneleighton?v=feed&story_fbid=1287487623153#!/
pages/The-Incubus/48376785843?ref=ts

Twitter (Incubus): http://www.twitter.com/theincubusfilm 

Twitter (Mine): http://www.twitter.com/shayneleighton 

Myspace: http://www.Myspace.com/theincubusseries 

My Official Website: http://www.wix.com/theincubus/Shaynes-website

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/TVtheincubus 

...and done!

You are also (as actress only) in the upcoming Legend of the Red Reaper. A few words about that movie and your role in it?

 

I play Annaleyah, jealous kid-sister to the Red Reaper (Tara Cardinal [Tara Cardinal interview - click here]). This set was such a pleasure to work on and Tara is such a talent. I was only on set for three days but I felt an instant connection with everyone and I truly appreciated the experience. It was very professional and fun at the same time, and after three years of Red Cardinal Productions trying to get this damned thing done, I really can't wait to see it. Check out the trailer! It's sure to be awesome!

 

Any other upcoming or future projects you'd like to talk about?

 

No films to speak of right now, but I am working on my first solo album this year, so please stay tuned :) 

I hope to be on another film set real soon. (As an actress and not much else.)

 

Let's leave the present and future behind for the moment and move forward into the past: You started acting at a very early age in your life - what can you tell us about your beginnings?

 

I started acting in television commercials when I was five. My favorite commercial experience was doing the Nike commercial for the 2005 Summer Olympics campaign, but my favorite experience overall growing up, was being in the Italian Vogue Bambini when I was seven years old with a close friend (another redhead). Some people consider starting out so young as a vice and sacrifice that you have to handle later life, but in my case it was definitely a blessing. Learning so many things so young is the reason why I am so driven today.

 

Have you ever had any formal training as an actress?

 

Yes, I try to study as much as possible - when the finances permit :). My favorite coach is Marc Durso with ActTrue. His teachings are nothing but honesty and really being. He often says as actors, that means we must ACT... not emote. Because then we would be called emoters. It is about our actions and what causes our actions and the way we feel as a result of that.

 

Your movie debut as an actress was Miami Ghost Tale if I'm not mistaken. A few words about that film?

 

It was a learning experience for a lot of people. I was fifteen at the time, so I appreciated it for what it was.

 

On Guardian of Eden, you already served as director/actor/star. What can you tell us about this film and your experiences on it?

 

It was my first try at really creating and manifesting my own vision. Honestly, I would have to say that my vision did not manifest exactly the way I wanted it to, but like Miami Ghost Tale, it was a learning curve and an experience that taught me lessons I now apply today. Plus I got a film festival award... so it ain't all bad. :)

 

Any other films you've been in I have forgotten to mention you'd like to talk about?

 

Nope, I think you've nailed them all. We can list some projects that I was an extra in... but how uninteresting would that be? haha

 

You were still very young when making Guardian of Eden - and in fact are not exactly old now ... How come you have at a rather early age plunged into all aspects of filmmaking pretty much head-on?

 

Awesome question! As stated at the beginning, I am the ripe old age of 19. I am aware of how severely young that is, but when you love something passionately, it is never too early to begin your journey. I just love every piece it takes to make a story on screen come alive. Every aspect is brought to attention. You have music, performance, visual arts. Without one piece, it would fall apart. That is why I try to delve into as many aspects as I can, because it is such a beautiful collaborative effort. I love working as a team to achieve something. And regarding my age, I guess it is just because I have always been told that I'm an old soul. I've known exactly what I wanted to do since I was five years old. I'm driven, and I think starting early is a challenge, but one I love to face head on every day.

 

Your films tend to have a supernatural edge to them. Is the supernatural something that especially appeals to you (as a writer and/or as a person) or is that just coincidence?

 

Not at all a coincidence. I am currently in the writing phases of my first novel (also supernatural). I just love the genre and the mystical element! It's so interesting to me. People have to deal with reality everyday. So when you're able to create something that has no earthly limitations, why not make it something out of this world? I appreciate the things we as humans don't understand as well as the things that hatched out of many years of storytelling passed down. I love and believe that there is magic out there. Reality leaves a lot to the imagination!

 

What can you tell us about your experience as editor - as far as I know you have edited quite a few trailers (mainly for books, right?) over the years?

 

Yes, I run a side business, when I am not on a film set, editing book trailers mostly for authors of young-adult books. I have worked the most with Cynthia Leitich Smith's Tantalize book series (also supernatural). My most recent book trailer was one I did for Kimberley Griffiths Little's book, The Healing Spell. I also edit trailers for independent films. This is another part of the filmmaking process that I enjoy so greatly, because you are taking all of the pieces and pulling them together to make one whole story.

 

Plus, you also make rock music - what can you tell us about your music, where is it available, and who are your main influences?

 

My first three original songs that I recorded especially for The Incubus Motion Picture Soundtrack are now available on iTunes. They were masterfully produced and co-written by Ginger-Ly Salem and Steve Salem from Ginger-Ly Enterprises. I am currently in the development stages of finding myself as an artist. But what I can already say about my music-to-come is that because I am such a dramatic personality, my music will have a lot of dramatic influences. I love rock and songs that actually make you feel something - songs that bring something out of you. I absolutely love Paramore! They are my first influence, though my voice sounds nothing like hers. I also love Lady Gaga, and Kings of Leon, and Creed. So a little of this and a little of that and you get Shayne! :)

 

Actresses (and/or indeed actors) who inspire you?

 

Nicole Kidman (for her performance in Moulin Rouge) - she is beautiful and amazing, and a redhead! She doesn't feel the need to be classic Hollywood and spend time in tanning beds all day. I also really admire and respect Meryl Streep! She is so dynamic and can play anything! I love Jodie Foster - for her strength, and Penelope Cruz - for her sensuality. I think Robert Downey jr is legendary and amazing and of course I can't leave my dream husband Johnny Depp off the list. But not because he's good looking. Because I fell in love with him when he played Sam in Benny and Joon, which is my all time favorite movie.

 

Your favourite writers?

 

Ann Rice. Enough said. Her novels aren't novels. They are poetry in book form. I also have a lot of respect for the Coen Brothers.

 

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Directors who have influenced your directorial style?

 

Tim Burton. Tim Burton... did I say Tim Burton? He is a genius. I love how magical he makes every one of his films feel. It's like I feel like I'm ten again when I watch them - like I am experiencing magic for the first time. He is so brilliant and I have seen every last one of his films ten times over.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Benny and Joon, Coraline, Edward Scissorhands, Moulin Rouge, Big Fish, Mamma Mia, and Sweeney Todd.

 

And of course, films you have really deplored?

 

Urgh... can we just discuss Twilight for a minute since I know there will be people comparing my film to that of Catherine Hardwicke. That woman was given millions of dollars. I was given thousands. Lets take a look at these films side by side. I know there are a lot of Twi-lovers out there, and I totally respect the fandom. Like I said, I love the supernatural romance genre, and I liked the books, but there was so much to be done with this film both directorial and acting-wise that just wasn't done.

I also can't stand idiotic comedies with bathroom humor... (i.e. Not Another Teen Movie, Super Bad (gonna get hate mail for that one), Scary Movie-series, Beer Fest, ... I think you get the picture.) I also hated the movie Evening, which I thought I would like... but it was a sad disappointment.

 

Anything else you are dying to mention and I have just forgotten to ask?

 

You're an awesome interviewer! I seriously think we have covered it all.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

No no... thank you!!! :)

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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