It's been a while since we've rounded up an interview for you... part of the reason is the fact that I've been pre-occupied with a couple of projects, the other part is that it's Christmas - I'm working part time over these couple weeks and I'm doing my best to catch up on some horror films, as well as finish a few video games... waste of time? Maybe, but very entertaining. In any case, we've got an interview for you today... and it's a dandy.
As a lot of you know, I'm a marketing and advertising guy by day - Indie horror aficionado and advocate by night... or whenever I find time. Because of this mix, I not only sit back, crack a few beers and get entertained by watching my indie horror, I also get a bit analytical. I wonder about who the film is catering to and who its audience would be, I look at the art and website and consider how they've been marketing the film, I consider the premise and it's appeal... all before I throw the DVD in. Really, this is all stuff that every filmmaker needs to do when they set out to create something... and, 'side note' - if you're setting out to make something and are interested in my opinion, please email me... I'm more than happy to throw ideas out there, but I digress... The point is, while I was looking into "The Open Door" before I threw the DVD in, I was already thinking that this is a film that's firing on all cylinders.
The premise behind the film is as intriguing as any I've heard in recent memory - there's a pirate radio station that appears on full moon nights and callers will have their deepest wants and desires granted, but... you better be careful what you wish for. As for the site, the art and all their marketing... it's top notch. Did it deliver? You bet... the first thing I noticed was the production quality, it was on par with a film ten, twenty or even a hundred time's its budget (granted, I have no idea what the budget was, but I can assume). Then, very quickly, you realize that common hurdles for other indie filmmakers weren't obstacles - the acting was great, the story kept me entertained and flowed from beginning to end and, of course, the effects were unreal... and there was some great gore.
I'm a fan of indie and micro-budget horror and, usually, that requires suspension of disbelief... and a lot of it. Very little was needed here. The story is well crafted, the film is superbly put together and it delivers where it needs to... and horror fans should be pleased.
We had the opportunity to discuss the film and how it was put together with Clint Carmicheal, the Executive Producer and Producer of the film, and he offers up a great interview...
So, tell us a bit about “The Open Door”
The Open Door was basically three friends coming together to green-light themselves on a feature film. We are all working pros in the business, but in different disciplines, and we thought the three of us could pull together our respective resources and expertise to create a quality feature film at very low cost. It was put up or shut up...if we pulled off what we thought we could, then this would be the beginning of creating content for ourselves. All of us had come close to getting something made before, but the usual challenges of money, egos or timing had derailed those previous projects. We all felt that this particular grouping was really strong...we have our separate areas of expertise, Clint Carmichael/actor, Doc Duhame/Stuntman, Greg Hobson/Editor-DP, which we felt covered the three critical areas of a genre feature. We all write and all of us had produced or directed projects before...Me plays, Doc 2nd unit stunts and Greg episodic TV, so we really had a great deal of confidence that we could make a solid film for very little money. Of course many favors were called in and a little luck was essential in everything working out. In the end it was a tough journey, but a very gratifying one; our little film will be distributed world-wide and audiences will get a chance to see our efforts!
If you don’t mind us asking, what was the budget and how did you go about securing financing?
The short answer is...more than a buck but less than a million. We have to keep that private for obvious reasons. We put up the money ourselves, hey no risk, no reward. It was an amount the three of us could share, but like all films, we spent more than we planned. Ultimately we felt very good about what we were able to achieve with limited resources, not many films at our level have the stunts and VFX that "The Open Door" has, and that's primarily due to relationships and creative choices.
I really loved the idea of the pirate radio station… and the fact that, throughout the film, it always remains a bit of a mystery. Talk about the origins of that idea?
Doc Duhame, who directed and wrote the script, had been listening to late night radio shows and heard one that always was dealing with paranormal issues and even occult topics. Doc and I had been working on an outline for a feature film which focused on a woman alone in a house being terrified by spiritual phenomena...and when Doc mentioned the radio show idea as the source of the evil, we all just loved it and went in that direction.
With that idea of a pirate radio station that grants listeners wishes, you could’ve gone anywhere and made the story about anyone, really. You opted to go with high school kids. Was this a conscious choice? As in, was it to make the film more marketable?
A little bit...we had already spent time working on the woman alone in a house idea and it didn't take much to morph into a teenage girl alone because we were always trying to think of ways to increase the vulnerability of our lead character. Once we decided to make her a younger character it just all seemed to fit really well into a high school social world. The influences and peer pressure of that time in our lives leads to some very questionable choices...and ultimately our film is about the choices we all make.
You also had some great effects and great gore in the film. Tell us a bit about your favorite effects and how they were accomplished.
My favorite effect is the burn...Doc being a stuntman and having many relationships in the stunt world (we met doing live stunt shows together at Universal many years ago) knew he was going to call in some pretty big favors. The burn in TOD is about as big a burn gag as you'll see in any Hollywood feature...full head to toe flames with the stuntman's face exposed. Zack Duhame (Doc's son) did the stunt, the first burn of his career, and he did a really wonderful job. The other aspect that I thought really rocked was the job our very young and talented make-up girls did on creating the burned face and head of Daniel Booko for the shot after he collapses. Genna Garner and Erika Godfrey were fresh out of make-up school when we found them for TOD, they won Best Special FX make-up at this year's Big Bear Horror Film Festival...not bad first time out of the gate!
Okay, tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences and what got you into indie film?
Well, I've been an actor for over twenty years, but I started off in film school, and although acting is a first love I always intended to produce, write, direct or in some way partner with a team of creative people who really take responsibility and author a film. To me that means you are either producing, directing, have written or are starring in the film. Those are the people that have the most impact on how and why a film works...or doesn't. Influence wise I feel I learn from everything I see (and I try to see everything). I love old Hollywood and the work of directors like: John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Capra, William Wyler and George Cukor. But my film school experience introduced me to a whole other world of film and filmmakers and other film cultures: Japanese, French, English and even some Latin and Bollywood product. As far as I'm concerned you learn from it all...Spielberg, Tarantino, Cameron...hey even Eli Roth. Good work and even good efforts that fail can teach us. As far as what got me into the indie movement...if you want to make something happen, if you want to tell a story on film, the only way you can guarantee that you'll have the chance is to do it yourself. I think everyone who makes film is very independent by nature...it's just that if you have a commercial ability and you're good at what you do, Hollywood will come knocking.
Film school: Yes or No?
An emphatic Yes...as I said before, the film school experience was important for me and really opened up my eyes to world cinema. I attended San Francisco State University...and Northern California has such a different perspective than Southern California and Los Angeles, which is where I'm from. It's really all about the art of cinema for them...and Hollywood is completely dominated by a commercial point of view. I don't think you need to debate them or be at odds with either...you just need to understand that the more personal and art dominated a film is...the less commercial it's prospects. Popcorn movies will appeal to the widest possible audience and have the greatest commercial potential. But there will always be a place for both. The task for any filmmaker I think is to find an audience and infuse as much of your art as you can into the projects you create. If no one cares to see your movies, if you create work that is so personal very few people are interested, then you won't be making movies very long. It's an expensive medium...if you're all about the art, you can always buy a canvas and some brushes and go nuts. Film is such an expensive proposition, even as it's become much more accessible, it is still a large scale collective art form that has large costs attached. That will always have an impact on what filmmakers decide to devote large chunks of time and resources to.
Did you enter the film in to any festivals? If so, how did it do? What are your thoughts on the indie horror festival circuit?
I think film festivals in general are great...and Horror film festivals are fantastic! It's where real fans of indie films, and those of us that make them, get to meet and discuss and watch films...what could be better! Festivals run the gamut from tiny little efforts to very cool long standing fests with following media savvy and resources. But if your a filmmaker you need to get your stuff out there and let an audience tell you what worked and what didn't. It's such a great way to learn...to improve your craft. You also get to meet some wonderful people and hopefully make a business connection or two. I studied Chris Gores book before I started submitting "The Open Door" to festivals...and it was really helpful. Let's face it, unless you have lots of money, you can really blow some budget of festival submissions as well as the costs if you get accepted and attend. "The Open Door" has done great at Horror festivals as well as some indie fests that have a horror section. So far we have been accepted into eight film festivals and have won six awards. We won Audience Choice Award at the 2008 Shriekfest F.F., Best Feature Film & Best Supporting Actor at 2009 Horror UK, Best Feature Film at 2009 Dark River F.F., Silver Screen Award at 2009 Nevada F.F., and Best Special FX Make-Up at 2009 Big Bear Horror Film Festival. We just got accepted into the Festivus Film Festival which will screen in Denver come January 2010...so the beat goes on. I can't image making a film and not participating in some selected festivals...it's just a great experience. Bravo to the indie film festival circuit which is the grass roots support to the future filmmakers of the world!
Talk about distribution. What lessons have you learned and if you could pass on any words of advice to other indie filmmakers, what would that be?
My advice is get ready for the other really tough job in filmmaking...selling your film. Get educated about the process, plenty of books out there to get you familiar with all the basics (there is no short cut, read them). The best piece of advise I can give is...go after this part of the process with the same energy and determination that you directed at getting a film made in the first place. Making a film is hard...selling a film is harder. The biggest reason that is true is that the skill set it takes to make a film isn't the same as selling...you have to talk to lots of people who are business people and don't care that you sold blood or pawned a family heirloom to get the show made. They have their own needs and problems...and this is where the art and business sides of filmmaking collide. Be realistic, be determined and don't stop till you get it done! "The Open Door" had really excellent reviews, won a bunch of awards and was liked everywhere I went with it. But I still had to talk to a lot of agents, distributors and reps to find the right fit. You can be taken advantage of very easily at this point in the process, don't rush and go to the dance with the first girl that winks at you. We have a sales agent Lantern Lane Entertainment repping the film and we just signed a deal with Moving Pictures Film &TV to handle all foreign sales. We should be able to announce a domestic distributor very soon. But this has been a process, don't rush, but don't drag your feet too much either...trust your gut and start planning the next film. Nobody should make one film thinking it will create a career...it takes a few to really learn this process and start building the relationships you need to succeed at this. My second film as producer, a short action-comedy starring Patrick Warburton "The Action Hero's Guide To Saving Lives" is creating even more opportunities as a filmmaker...but it all started with "DOOR".
Talk about the indie horror scene. Where do you think it is now and where do you see it going?
Good question, but I'm not a guy who thinks in those types of terms about any genre...or filmmaking in general. I'm a "build it and they will come" kinda guy. I think you need to be aware of what people are doing, but don't try to be too clever about constructing a project because you "think this is the new thing". To me it all comes down to making a good film. If you do good work, good things and more opportunities will happen. In general, the Horror scene keeps pushing the boundaries of taste and possibility...and certainly there is a rock solid fan base for Horror product. But you better be good...and I don't think it matters if that means bloody and gore filled or more psychological and suspense driven...good versions of both types find an audience. The best films I think are driven by artistic vision from a filmmaker who plows ahead no matter what the "market" or "scene" is doing. Really good films change the direction filmmaking is going in. Right now "AVATAR" is being talked about as a game changer...only time will tell. But if other filmmakers follow suit and start creating more and more motion capture created visual FX driven films with an "AVATAR LOOK" they'll be right. Until someone else makes something that gets everyone's attention and creates a new style. At the heart of any successful film is a good story...good storytelling no matter the medium or style, is the key.
Where can people find out more about “The Open Door” or, better yet, buy a copy?
Please come and visit the web site... TheOpenDoorMovie.com
We are hoping to announce a domestic distributor early in 2010...at which point the DVD release should be coming soon!
How about I'll check back in and let you know as soon as we hear.
What’s next for you?
Well, the short film I mentioned earlier..."The Action Hero's Guide To Saving Lives" has had a wonderful reception and we are working on a feature film version right now...either studio or indie just depending on interest, timing and money. So I plan on producing something in 2010...as well as continuing to work as an actor. A little indie film I worked on as an actor called "DISPATCH" should be coming out in 2010...and then there is the ever present process of going out there and auditioning for the next job! So look for me on Theater and TV screens near you...and please check in on the web sites every so often to hear the latest news!
My own site should be up by January 1st... ClintCarmichael.com