Your movie The Wrong
Door - in a few words, what's it about?
College student Ted Farrell knocks on the wrong door to deliver a singing
telegram and meets a beautiful woman who appears to be in danger. After
delivering the singing message to the correct address down the hall, Ted
returns to find the woman mortally wounded on the floor of her apartment
and the killer still in the apartment!
How did the project get off the ground in the first place?
James Groetsch and I met at a film school, Film
in the Cities, in Minnesota. Doing a feature film was partly intended to be a final
project of the film program. We discovered an advertisement from Super
8 Sound in Burbank California about making feature films for a fraction of the
usual cost using professional level super 8 equipment.
What were your sources of inspiration when writing The
Hitchcock movies, Blood Simple by the Coen brothers, Blow
Out by Brian DePalma, The Exorcist, by
William Friedkin. I was also inspired by my listening to old radio
suspense dramas from the 40’s and 50’s on cassette tape.
What can you tell us about your
writing, producing and directing partners James Groetsch and Shawn Korby,
and what was the collaboration between the three of you like?
all wanted to have equal say in creative decision making on the film. We
divided specific roles; I was the cinematographer, James Groetsch was
the editor, and Shawn Korby composed and performed the music soundtrack.
John Schonebaum was an executive producer. We spent about three months
getting together at a Perkins restaurant hashing out the story. That was
a lot of fun, brainstorming together late at night. (One
time, a couple of older gentlemen in the booth next to us chimed in with
the idea that the dead woman’s body should be carried out in a rolled
Do talk about The Wrong Door's
approach to the thriller genre!
the common Hitchcock-theme of an innocent person getting caught up in a
series of dangerous events was interesting to us. We also liked the
austere, moody, after hours feel for our story. Also, like the
characters in DePalma’s Blow Out as well as in Antonioni’s Blow Up, we
gave our leading character a skill that he would use to turn the table
on the killer and protect himself.
A few words about your
overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
sure how exactly to answer this one. Although three of us wanted credit
for directing, we thought we were being savvy by choosing just one of
us, Shawn Korby, to be the one who would “talk to the actors.” But I
just learned from lead actor Matt Felmlee that there were plenty of
times he was getting input from all three of us and that it was confusing!
can you tell us about The
Wrong Door's cast, and why exactly these people?
advertised for auditions and were fortunate to have many people read for
us. Matt Felmlee was perfect as an everyday young college student. He
could be very natural (act like he’s not acting) and also had the
range to look like a practiced singing telegram performer. It took a
while to find our killer, but once Jeff Tatum read for us it was, we
knew he was the guy. He had a great presence and a feeling of boiling
intensity under the surface. Loreal Steiner had been a friend of Shawn
Korby and appeared in my short student film The Pizza Man.
talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere!
the film took place over a two-month period between September and
October in and around St. Paul, Minnesota. The filming started out warm
and sweaty in James Groetsch’s apartment in early September followed
by mostly exterior night scenes during a cold Minnesota October. We had
a handful of young volunteer crew members who graciously hung around all
hours of the night waiting for us to figure out what the hell we were
doing. In spite of the inevitable shooting frustrations, it was a fun
shoot. We were filled with youthful vigor and the conviction of doing
exactly what we wanted to be doing.
Wrong Door has only now been re-released, 33 years after its
initial release - so how did this come about?
still scratching our heads in amazement that this much concerted effort has been put into re-releasing
Wrong Door. In the last five or so years, we have had more than one request for
original VHS copies of the film and a couple offers to re-release it on
DVD. We didn’t know what to expect when Rob Hauschild of Wild
Eye Releasing contacted us a couple years ago, but his steadfast commitment to not just
re-release the film, but to include the whole story of The
Wrong Door’s creation and the filmmaker’s journeys continues to be astonishing! I think as
time goes by and movies are technically easier to make, an appreciation
has grown for the efforts it took to make films just a few decades ago!
it make you feel to watch The
Wrong Door from today's point of view?
and embarrassed. I’m really proud of what we accomplished and of how
well we got along as friends while making it, but it feels a little like
we’re re-releasing a grade school crayon drawing we collaborated on.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of The
Wrong Door, both back when and upon its re-release?
can share two reactions that totally surprised me at the time. A fellow
film student was pretty underwhelmed with the film, which surprised me
because as a filmmaker, he knew how much work and ambition went into it,
and how little money we had to work with. But I was delightfully
surprised when the owner of a large chain of video stores in Minnesota,
a guy who literally watched three movies every night, told me how
impressed he was with The
future projects you'd like to share?
a fantasy of someone like Brian DePalma calling us and saying “Hey
fellas, I saw the re-release of your film The
Wrong Door. How about I find some money and help you produce a remake?” count?
What got you into
filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on
My dad and mom shot copious amounts of home movies on super 8. My dad
spliced together large reels of home movies and we frequently watched
them as kids. Later, I did sketch comedy bits on my family’s super 8
camera with my brothers and my friend Shawn Korby. I was sixteen
when Raiders of the Lost Ark came out. A high school teacher
showed us a documentary of the making of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Shawn Korby and I made a 90 second homage called Raiders
of the Lost Bark. The combination of those things sealed my fate! I took some classes at a
film school, which is where I met James Groetsch.
Do talk about your past filmwork apart from
The Wrong Door for a bit!
Groetsch and I collaborated on a feature length project in the late 1990’s called Now Hiring, a
comedy about young employees at a movie theater, shot on digital video.
James moved to Florida, and I remained in Minnesota, where I developed
and produced 5 episodes of a would-be television comedy series called The
Gale Whitman Show. From 2002 until the present, I’ve co-produced several Native American
documentary projects, the most notable being a feature length
documentary Little Crow and the Dakota War, about
an uprising by Minnesota Dakota Sioux caused by government corruption
and unfulfilled treaty promises, which led to the largest mass hanging
of American Indians in US history.
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results?
The links below
will take you
How would you describe yourself as a director?
and slightly obsessive.
who inspire you?
Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Alfred Hitchcock.
Your favourite movies?
Rear Window, All the President's Men, Blue Velvet, No Country for Old
and of course, films you really deplore?
Blair Witch Project, Avengers movies…
movie's website, social media, whatever else?
two best places to check me out are my
YouTube channels: Bill Weiss - @BillWeiss66 -
and Cabin Country Podcast - @cabincountrypodcast5738
for the interview!