Thursday, November 12, 2009

Interview With Jason Horton, Writer/Director of the upcoming "Trap"

It's Thursday and we haven't posted anything new since Monday... I apologize. Yesterday was a holiday and, well, I didn't even think about writing anything until it was too late. By too late, I mean, by late afternoon I was knee-deep in some serious PS3 gaming, after having watched a couple of horror flicks. The two horror flicks? "Dead Snow", which is great fun, fairly original and very gory and "Antichrist", which is, well... um. Yeah. I think Lars Von Trier may have been using the film as a way to air some grievances. Anyhow, I can say that we'll try to make it up to you with quality back to back posts, today and tomorrow. As for tomorrow's post, I read a very interesting article on how the success of "Paranormal Activity" could actually be detrimental to the indie horror scene... very interesting, especially after talking with Brad, who was at AFM over the weekend. For today, we've got a great follow up interview with Jason Horton, the guy who made one of my favorite indie horrors of last year, "Edges of Darkness".

If you haven't seen "Edges", I highly recommend it. We interviewed Jason a while ago, last April, to be exact, and he offered up a great interview about the horror anthology. If you're interested in checking that interview out, you can click here. Now, I usually try to keep in touch with most people, just so I can keep up, offer help, keep up on the scene, but it's gotten pretty tough lately... especially as we've been working on a bunch of projects, ourselves. Anyhow, Jason reached out and said that he was working on a new film called "Trap" and I thought it created a great opportunity to do a follow up interview to see what he's been up to and find out how "Edges" is doing.

Last time we talked, you were about to release “Edges of Darkness”. Fill us in, how’s it doing?

I think it's doing pretty well, especially considering the type of movie it is and the budget it was made for. It's the first movie I've done where I can walk into most stores and see copies on the shelves for rent and sell. I walked into a Hollywood Video in Burbank on the release day and saw that they had over 12 copies on the shelf for rent (ALL RENTED OUT). It was really cool. I haven't gotten a sales report yet from Shoreline or Anchor Bay, but I expect one before the end of the year. I think it's doing better than they expected though, because there' s been some unofficial talk of a follow-up to Edges at a larger budget.

So, now that “Edges” has been out there for a while, anything that you would’ve done differently? Any new lessons learned that you can pass on to our readers?

I think you learn so many things with every project you do. On the paperwork side, make sure you have your deliverables together before you start shopping you film. If the distributor wants the movie, they MAY help with SOME of the more expensive items like Errors and Omission insurance or the HD and Digi BETA Masters, but they will not do everything. Know before hand what is needed, make sure you understand what ALL the items are and how to prepare them properly. It'll save you tons of headaches later. Producers do your research.

On the creative side, Edges was a rushed production from the writing of the script all the way through production. It was a situation where the opportunity to make the movie presented itself and I feared if we didn't move ahead as quickly as possible the money would not be there. So, I rushed and let some things go, script-wise, production-wise, performance-wise that I normally wouldn't have. Out of fear, I made several conscious decisions to settle for less than my and others best work. On a micro-budget production (well I guess any production) you're always going to have to compromise things due to budget or time, but there's a line that each one of must drawl when it comes to the artistic integrity of our work. I feel there are a few times in Edges that I stepped a little too far over over mine. Don't get me wrong, I like Edges and am very proud of the work and everyone in it. I just wish I would have pushed a little harder on the script and the production.

You’re on to your next project now, a film called “Trap”. Tell us a bit about it.

Trap is a relatively "quiet" piece, especially compared to Edges. It follows an abduction that goes bad when a middle-aged kidnapper falls in love with his 15 year-old victim.

It's basically a 3 character thriller/drama. There are two kidnappers, the middle-aged Walter and the younger Franklin. They quickly come to odds at how to handle the situation. Plus there a few cool twists. Like Edges it's very character driven and plays with the conventions of it's genre. But, unlike Edges it takes place in the "real" world. I absolutely love horror and want to continue to work in it. But, I wanted to follow Edges with something different.

What’s the budget for this one and how do you secure financing? Did “Edges” open any doors for you here?

We're still in the process of contracts with the distributors, so I can't go into the budget specifics now, but trust me it was very low. People will surprised when they hear the real numbers.

Trap was developed before Edges US release, but it was through the production and post of Edges that I met the financier. Also, I had pitched three horror project to be shot at one time to a production company a few years back. I had the scripts, breakdowns, art-work, promotional trailers, a full business plan. They weren't interested. About a week after Edges release I get an email asking to resend the proposal.

Last time around, you shot on the Sony Z1U, in HDV Format, and said you wouldn’t recommend it… so, what did you shoot on this time?

This time I shot on "old faithful" a dvx. There's a lot of bad feelings right now about DV, but I still think when used properly the dvx gets a great image that's comparable to the better HD cams. I know this camera better and was able to shoot with multiple cameras without renting. On micros it's all about what you have access to. I did use a lense package and did plenty of advanced HD blow-up tests using compressor and instant hd. This way I can deliver a quality 1080P version of the movie if the distributor requires it (and many do these days). Overall I'm much happier with the look of this movie. Although, due to budget constraints, I had to DP the movie myself. So at times between the technical aspects and monitoring performances, I was stretched a little thin. But due to the small nature of this project, I think I handled it well.

What stage are you at right now and what kinds of hurdles are you facing?

I just locked the cut and finished sound design. I'm still doing some minor color-correction tweaks, but plan to wrap everything up this week. The major hurdle I'm facing with Trap is going to be in how well it sells. The really cool thing about micros is they don't have to sell well, compared to bigger budget movie. But of course you want everything you do to be better creatively and financially than your last. Trap is the 1st movie I've done where I can't really rely on the genre to sell the movie. Edges for how creative and different it was, got a lot of traction just because it was a zombie/horror flick. Zombie/horror flicks even big ones don't need "names" or anything like it to sell. Typically, in bigger budget productions, a movie like Trap would be sold on the basis of star power. I chose to do Trap because, as an artist, it was the story I wanted to tell. I also wanted to show that I can do different things. I'm anxious to see how it is received.

Are there any examples of things that you screwed up on or learned from when doing “Edges” that you applied while making “Trap”? If so, what?

I didn't rush it. I still wrote the script pretty fast, but at least this time it didn't get a total structural overhaul 3 weeks before production. We still had a very short shooting schedule. The movie was shot in 6 days with no room for pick-ups (except a few 2nd unit exteriors). But I took the time to get that one more take and push things just a bit further. One of the biggest differences in the movies, in my mind anyway, is sound. We looked a little longer this time and found a single mixer that stayed with us for the whole shoot. Then in post, I've grown a lot as a sound designer between Trap and Edges, so I really think the sound work in Trap is much better.

And this time I have my deliverables all prepared including a complete behind the scenes package. I lost a lot of BTS footage on Edges and Anchor Bay didn't want include what little I did have. On Trap I have four quality BTS documentaries, 2 feature commentaries, deleted scenes with commentaries and a 5.1 mix. In addition my producer was able to secure a couple of songs for our soundtrack from Chubby Checker.

What are your goals for “Trap”? Will you be doing the festival scene?

I've already been talking to distributors and if the price is right, we'll have a sell before the end of the year. It's not that I don't believe in the festival scene, but with movie at this level I feel you're better off to sell them quick and move on.

Where can people find out more about “Trap” and/or follow your progress?

There's an official site still under construction but up.
But our facebook page is the one I work on the most. Please become a fan. You'd be surprise at how much that kind of stuff matters to money people and distributors.

We're also on myspace.
You can also follow me on twitter @jhorton2003

So, any idea of what’s next after “Trap”? Any ideas brewing?

So many things in the pipes. Like I mentioned before there is talk of a follow-up to Edges and I have a kick-ass script just about done. It's more of a singular story than Edges and stand alone, so you wouldn't have had to see Edges or even know it exists. If this comes together I really think it could be the one that really puts me on the map.

My producer is also really big on following up Trap. Not really a sequel but a movie that features a few of the minor character from Trap. It's a surreal action/comedy.
I have another dozen or so scripts circling around town, you never know when something's going stick. We'll see.

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