One of my favorite things about having done this site for more than just a couple years is being able to watch indie filmmakers progress. There are lots of filmmakers that we've talked with multiple times and it's always interesting to check back in with them after each project. Not only is it interesting to see how their ideas, production quality and films evolve, it's also interesting to hear the lessons that they've learned along the way... and, hey, that's what this site's all about.
We first spoke with Geno McGahee after his first film, "Evil Awakening". You can find that interview by clicking here. We next spoke with him after his film "Rise of the Scarecrows" and you can find that interview here. Now, Geno's finishing up his most ambitious project to date, "Family Secret". He's put together both a trailer (which I haven't seen, but I don't think is fully done at this point) and a music video (which I'll embed right before the interview) and, from what we can tell, it looks like Geno has definitely moved on to a whole new level of filmmaking. Please enjoy the video and definitely give the interview a read, he offers up plenty of insight and lessons learned.
Last we talked, you had just finished up “Rise of the Scarecrows”. What have you been up to since then?
Well, I have been up to a lot. I completed filming RISE OF THE SCARECROWS in 2004ish and sort of gave up filmmaking after that, but then I was able to strike the distribution deal with Tempe Entertainment and my world of filmmaking was reborn. I filmed a movie called “SCARY TALES” in 2008 and I had made an effort to improve, mostly technique. With the distribution deal and success in sales of RISE and EVIL AWAKENING, I wanted to present something to investors so they can see that I’m more than a “backyard cinema” filmmaker, and it worked.
My new project is a film called FAMILY SECRET. I had a budget to hire a cinematographer, editor, brought in established actors, and acquired great locations. I wrote it not concerning myself with whether or not the actors can remember the lines. I really shortchanged myself and the audience by cutting dialogue in my first two movies because the actors could not remember the lines. FAMILY SECRET is the best thing I have ever done and I want people to know that this is what I’m about film-wise…I’m not just a backyard cinema film guy. I’m a real filmmaker, and I will prove that with FAMILY SECRET.
First off, tell us a bit about both “Family Secret” and this music video.
FAMILY SECRET concerns a journalist that reunites with his family after the death of his grandmother. As he eases back into his life without his family, he gets drawn right back when what appears to be the dead grandmother is going around killing family members.
What I did with the movie was to bring back the shock value. There is surprise after surprise and I challenge anyone to guess what will happen next. I really think that this is the next big thing in horror. I know that those that know my work will doubt when I say that this is going to be big, but today is a new day for me and I am working with totally new people and writing without restraint.
Sonora is a great band out of Brazil. I found them on line doing cover songs of some great metal songs…which I am still stuck on...and Chris Miyai, the lead singer, had such an amazing voice that I had to contact them about doing the title tune for the movie. They thankfully agreed and here’s the power of the Internet. It creates the opportunity for a great rock band from Brazil to work with a film group out of Massachusetts.
Horror films and heavy metal videos go hand in hand and I wanted to create one with Sonora, and with the help of the band and my editor, Forris Day, JR., we have a great rock video that I hope the people will like.
If you don’t mind us asking, what was the budget for this latest film and how did you secure the financing?
I entertained several investors before agreeing with Webhead Entertainment, LLC. They came in and invested into the project and that, along with my sales from my first two movies and every other penny I could get together equaled a budget of $14,000, give or take.
Your production value goes up with each film and now, I’ve noticed, you’re filming in HD, as well. Talk about your progression over the last few years.
There were some negative things that happened during RISE OF THE SCARECROWS and I was incredibly frustrated with the lack of dedication from most of the cast and crew. I wrapped in 2004 and was done filmmaking, and with all the negativity even afterwards with people saying that distribution was impossible and to give up on filmmaking, I was ready to take the advice but it drew me back and when I landed a deal with Tempe, I knew it was a new day for me. I took over the entire production and eliminated 99% of the old crew, replacing it with willing and able people. I filmed SCARY TALES and it was such a vast improvement that I knew that I could make something special if I had good equipment and the right people involved. Basically, no more bullshit.
With FAMILY SECRET, I made the decision to bring in a cinematographer, a special effects team…basically improving on all of the criticisms from the audience that watched my first two movies. They would attack the technique and acting and you know what? They were 100% right. It bothered me at first when they would say “hang’em up,” and I would say: “Do they know what I went through with zero budget to even get these produced?!!! Do they know the shitheads I dealt with?” All of that doesn’t matter, because my name is on it and I they were correct about most of the negative things that they have said and it has helped me immensely. I have turned a negative into a positive and they can attack certain things, but technique and acting will not be on the list.
I stepped out of my comfort zone and employed “real” actors and brought in all new people, and the results speak for themselves. My editor, Forris Day, JR., and my Director of Photography, John Golden, have helped me SO much with the production. I have learned so much and they have really helped bring my vision to life. I feel that FAMILY SECRET is my first film. It is the first film where there were no restrictions writing wise and that has made a giant difference in the production. What I wrote was what was said…no changing along the way, no ad-libbing, and no cutting down lines to make it easier for the actor.
I also needed to film in HD. If you don’t have HD, you don’t have anything at this point. My earlier films are forgiven because they are backyard cinema, but if I were presenting a movie in hopes of creating the next horror icon, it had to be HD…because nobody wants standard definition at this point, especially on the higher levels.
So, why a music video? Is this in place of a trailer or is this just to some sort of cross promotion to get the word out?
I actually have a trailer. You can see it on youtube, but we are working on another as we speak. The video was to work a duel promotion for FS and Sonora. It’s such a great song that it should generate interest in the movie and the movie is creating a buzz, so it generates interest in the band. It’s a win/win and I’m old school. I loved Dokken’s Dream Warriors video and song and I think that there are many out there that are sick of the remakes and “re-imaginings” and Asian transfers. They want something fresh and American…the American slasher is sadly missed. HATCHET came out and promised to bring it back and it stunk, but FAMILY SECRET will bring back the feeling that horror fans have missed. People will talk about it and it’s a throwback to the 1970s brand of disturbing and surprising horror.
Talk about some of the lessons you’ve learned over the last few years and how you’re applying them to this project.
My prior productions from EVIL AWAKENING to RISE OF THE SCARECROWS taught me a lot. I have learned mostly to believe in myself and to stop dealing with nonsense. I used to drive around and pick up cast members only to have them come out to the car and tell me that they couldn’t do it that day…frustrating. It made me deal with the new people in a more professional way. If you can’t make it to the set, then you can’t be in the movie.
Through the production of FAMILY SECRET, I have learned SO much about filmmaking…the technique and lighting and learning what to film to make sure that the editor can make it into a cohesive movie. The largest lesson that I have learned is to trust my instincts and don’t listen to those that tell you that you cannot do something. The minute I washed my hands of the doubters, the world opened up to me. I also am assertive now and there is a zero bullshit policy now. It’s a business and it’s bad business to have bad actors or dead weight on the set and unfortunately, some buddies have not made the cut, but I had to do what I had to do to make the best production possible.
I have also gotten more organized and FAMILY SECRET has been my life since December of 2008. It’s still dominating my thoughts and actions and I won’t rest until it does what I want it to do.
What’s your goal for “Family Secret”? Are you going to hit up the festival circuit?
The goal for the movie is a theatrical run and to be the next low budget horror film to take the world’s imagination. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY did it on a budget of 11,000 bucks and it was a very simple production. FAMILY SECRET is a better movie with better production value and I think that it has a legitimate chance to make it on the big screen. All of the greatest horror movies started out with a low budget and an indie status, more or less. You look at A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, FRIDAY THE 13TH, and HALLOWEEN….all three are low budget flicks that made gobs and gobs of money and there is a reason why. It doesn’t take a lot of money to make a great film. It takes a good story, presented well. I know that there are those out there that saw my first two films and scratching their heads, but FAMILY SECRET is in a different universe than my first two.
I have entered it into three festivals thus far and have my eyes on a few others. I hope to win, of course, and I’m trying to keep my feet on the ground. I had a test audience for FS and they jumped and were shocked at the right times. It was really promising. I think that will be across the board.
How are you going to approach distribution this time around?
I can’t go deeply into this matter, but I have one distributor that has it right now and it looks promising…if it comes through, then we will be going worldwide and possibly, make my dream of the big screen come true. I have spoken to two other distributors and they both expressed interest, but I’m hoping that the big distributor will run with it and give me a deal that I can accept. Through my horror site, scaredstiffreviews.com, I have met some great people and thankfully, they have pointed me in the right direction and have made distribution easier and have given me a very big opportunity that I’m hoping pans out.
Where can people find out more about “Family Secret” and/or get their hands on a copy?
At this point, they can go to scaredstiffreviews.com and click on the FAMILY SECRET cover art on the top left and it will bring them to the page where all the news is. They can also befriend me on Facebook. I have weekly updates there and sometimes I say something that some people may deem humorous….maybe not, but you can at least get FAMILY SECRET updates there. I also recommend visiting webheadentertainment.com, another great place for information about FAMILY SECRET. I’m hoping that a deal will be struck soon so people can see it and see what the new X Posse Productions is all about.
I am reshooting SCARY TALES at the present moment, high definition and with established actors. I will be wrapping in October, 2010. I was also hired for an Internet TV show called “JAKI’S BUZZ,” an entertainment show, and am planning on shooting FAMILY SECRET II next spring. If not, I have another movie called “SICKLE” that has a lot of potential. The point is to keep producing and improving. If you’re not growing, you’re dying, and the plan is to continue to grow and win fans and hopefully make my mark on a very large scale.