Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Screenwriting Aspirations

There's a pretty good reason why I haven't been posting on here regularly and I'll let you know what it is...

I'm polishing up a script that I'm going to be entering into the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards.  I've been working on this script for a while and, a few weeks ago, I saw that the late deadline for the contest was Monday, April 2nd.  So, I made that my goal.  When I say I've been working on it a while, I mean I've been working on it for a while... like, 2 years.  I wrote my first draft fast, like a month and a bit.  Then, I rewrote it a couple times, I gave it out to a few people to get their advice and feedback, then I sat on it... for about a year.  Not sure what I was doing during that time, probably just drinking and contemplating the shittyness of aspiring to be a screenwriter.  Anyhow, I picked it back up a few months ago and, well, here we are.  So, every spare minute I get, I've got that fucking thing open and I'm tweaking words, phrases and sentences.  I'm cutting lines of description and I'm really working hard to polish this turd up.  At absolute worst, I want to be done with it so I can move on to my next script, for Christ's sake.  

There's only a handful of screenwriting competitions that are worth entering, let's start with that, and PAGE is one of them.  Slamdance's early deadline is in a couple weeks, that one is also worthwhile, especially as they have a horror specific category AND they've developed some of the screenplays.  I'll be entering it, as well.  Here's a link to the PAGE Awards site, as well as Slamdance, if you're interested.  I actually know a couple people that have been judges at PAGE and I've spoken with the festival director before.  I've also spoken with the festival director at Slamdance.  Long and short, I trust them.  For horror, there's also Screamfest and Shriekfest, but I don't know when their deadlines are.  I'm going to look into that.  

The cool thing is that, for an extra $50 or so, both PAGE and Slamdance will give you feedback on your script.  This is really what I'm looking forward to.  Truth is, not that many people have read my work.  Sure, a lot of my friends in the industry have, but they're going to be bias.  Sure, a few friends outside the industry have, but they don't know a good script for a piece of shit.  Sure, my film professors and some script supervisors have read my work, but I was paying them.  This will be industry folks that don't know me at all and have nothing to gain.  I want to know where I stand with them.  Quite frankly, so should you.  If you're an industry outsider and you're an aspiring screenwriter, what kind of options do you have of getting noticed?  Well, I'll tell you what... some sort of accolade from one of these competitions is a good start and if you get the big heave-ho right away, knowing why you suck is just as important.  

Anyhow, I'll let you all know how it goes, every step of the way.  

Stay tuned...      

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Interview with Drew Daywalt, director of the upcoming SyFy film, "Leprechaun's Revenge"

Sometimes you get to do a wicked interview and sometimes you get to do a WICKED interview... and, what can I say?  This interview was particularly wicked.  Why?  Because we're talking with Drew Daywalt.  Who's he?  Well, Drew Daywalt is a name you should know and, if you don't know it, get to know it.  He's truly someone that all of us indie and micro-cinema horror filmmakers should look up to and strive to be like.

He first came to our attention with his short horror films on Youtube and when he was doing that, he was one of the first.  Fast forward a few years, he's now at the helm of a big project for SyFy called "Leprechaun's Revenge".  What's next?  I can't wait to find out.  

Anyhow, let's cut to the chase here... You need to see "Leprechaun's Revenge", which premiers on SyFy this weekend, but before you do... you need to read this interview.  Trust me, you'll be glad you did.  

We’ve been following your career path for a while now, but for those who might not know, please give us a bit of a recap. Tell us a bit about yourself and some of the projects that you’ve worked on.

Thanks for talking to me Ted! I actually think you were the first person online to interview me ever, come to think of it, and I’ve always been really grateful of your support. I love Dead Harvey.

I have been a working screenwriter and director in Hollywood for 15 years. I used to do big studio action stuff. I’ve written for Tony Scott, Jerry Bruckheimer, Brett Ratner. Lots of high octane, young male driven action and buddy stuff. But I was in that loop in the studio system where I was making a living but nothing was getting made. So when the writer’s strike happened in 2007 -2008, I decided to make a bit of a career change. I saw how horror films were getting made so readily, and they were done on these controled budgets. I also realized how much influence watching monster and horror films as a kid had influenced my going to work in Hollywood -- and I decided I would pursue my heart’s desire and try and make a go of it in horror films.

So during the WGA strike I got together with friends and we made a bunch of horror shorts, only a few minutes long each, more like skits, and we posted them online. One of the first ones I made, BEDFELLOWS, went viral and had 2 million hits in the first week, and I knew I was onto something. It was a weird thing discovering I could scare someone.

Your latest project is “Leprechaun’s Revenge”. So, what’s the quick synopsis?

A young girl picks a red four leaf clover and inadvertently releases an ancient creature that was magically imprisoned beneath the roots of an oak tree by her ancestors. The thing gets loose and terrorizes her small New England town. And now the girl and her drunk grandfather and hapless sheriff father must stop it before it kills everyone.

You worked with some great actors on this film, including Billy Zane, William Devane and Courtney Halverson. How was it working with such a talented cast?

Even I’m shocked at how good the cast is. I think that speaks to the script and the work of my team, in drawing them in on such a small budgeted project. Billy Zane and I immediately bonded and it was like going to work with your brother every day. He’s smart and intuitive and put a lot of work into his character. Every day he’d come to set with new thoughts and ideas on how to make his character and the film a sa whole, better.

I hate to call anyone an icon because it’s like short hand for “old” but damn it, William Devane is an icon. And he’s such a great guy. He’d come on the set and have everyone laughing and enjoying themselves. And he really dug in to the light spirit and fun of the piece. We took the work seriously and tried to make an entertaining film, but god forbid we ever take ourselves seriously.

Courtney Halverson is a dear friend of mine now. I first worked with her on Death Valley at MTV and we hit it off immediately. I remember reading this script and instantly thinking it had to be her. And I’m really proud of her. She carries the entire throughline of the film and does a great job of bringing real moments and real pathos to a character that could easily been another horror damsel in distress. I know everyone’s going to be impressed with Courtney’s work on this. I know I am.

You worked with Jeff Farley, one of our favorite effects guys. Talk about the effects and will the gore-hounds have something to look forward to?

Jeff saved the day on this film. It was awesome. I knew that if we went full CG on the creature in the short time we had to make this film (5 months, by the way from start to finish) then the creature would look like dogshit. There’s just no way to do good CG on this budget and this schedule, but if we went old school physical effects, and just enhanced it a little bit with CG, then we could pull it off. But even that was going to be tough. Jeff came in and made it work. He’s really a great joy and a creative force. There’s no “We can’t do that,” with Jeff Farley. He just rolls up his sleeves and makes it happen. It’s inspiring to work with him. I think gore hounds and creature fans will be more than pleased with his work, as well as the work of Ashley Walsh who supervised all of the gore while Jeff focues on the monster.

Do you have a favorite moment in the film? Tell us about it… and why?

I have a few. The thing about creature features is that we’ve seen every kind of kill you can imagine. There’s nothing knew under the sun, in that regard. I also had no money to do the kills right, so instead of going for super realistic gore, we did a stylized thing and most of the deaths are hysterical to me. But my favorite has to be one of the main characters who gets it in the end. I don’t want to spoil anything, but you’ll know it when you see it.

Do you have a favorite behind-the-scenes story? If so, what is it?

Thanksgiving fell into the middle of our shooting schedule, and we shot the film in Baton Rouge, Louisiana so a bunch of us were orphaned on location over the holiday. But I flew my wife and children out and we had a great thanksgiving dinner with the cast and crew. It was really nice. There was a great bonding that occured on this film and we felt like family. Billy was my surogate brother at the table and there was William Devane, our family patriarch watching football and enjoying the little kids. It was awesome.

You come from very indie roots and this is a pretty big project. Tell us, how did this project come about?

Oh man. This one came out of nowhere on me. It was so fast, it sent me reeling a little bit, actually. I was developing a really dark and horrific script with After Dark when they told me that Syfy had approved me to direct this other thing they had that was going right away. It was about a town caught up in it’s own dark history with a mythological creature, in this case a leprechaun. I read the script, it made me laugh and I thought, what the hell. I’ll try a creature feature. And we were off to the races.

When we first started watching your films, you were making short, indie films on low, low budgets. Since then, you’ve directed some episodes of MTV’s “Death Valley” and now “Leprechaun’s Revenge”. What are the most important skills that you acquired from your indie days?

Somehow, being able to work fast and cheap is still one of my greatest tools, much to my own damn chagrin. The thing is, the more money they give you, the more they ask for. So while my early stuff was indie short film horror, we didn’t have much, but we had time to deliver. Here I had more money, but the demands were much higher, the bar is raised, so I really felt very much the same as in my early indie stuff. The pressure was on, but in a different way.

I’m sure that a lot of our readers would aspire to follow in your career path… if you could pass on a few pieces of advice to them, what would that be?

My advice is that, with the advent of digital DSLRS and wide bandwidth to boradcast on the internet that occured last decade, you need to buy a camera, write short films, then film them and post them. It’s way easier than in the 90’s when I started and you had to save up to rent film cameras and buy film stock. It’s crazy how easy it is now to access the gear. The saying has always been “Writers write.” Well now it’s “Filmmakers film.” I really believe in just going for it and practicing your craft until people notice. I really do. I love the age we’re in.

So, tell us, where can people find out more about “Leprechaun’s Revenge” and when does it air?

You can see a trailer of it here -- and it airs This Saturday night March 17th at 9pm and I think again at 11pm. So it’ll make a great St. Patrick’s Day party viewing. Just make sure to have some green beer on hand!

What’s next for you? Do you have any more projects in the works?

I’m off to do a high profile web series and after that I’m directing another feature. A ghost story. This one is incredibly dark and character driven. It’s so completely on the other end of the horror spectrum from lighthearted murderous Leprechauns.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Interview with Christopher DiNunzio, writer/director of "Her Heart Still Beats"

I always like doing interviews with filmmakers that we've talked to before.  It's great to see how they've evolved and, also, to know that they're still out there, fighting the good fight.  A true indie horror filmmaker is kinda like those cheap clown punching bags, you know?  They don't cost much, they get the shit kicked out of them and they're not widely regarded as the best toy on the market, but they keep popping back up and they're always smiling.  I don't want to say that Christopher DiNunzio is like a cheap clown punching bag, but he certainly is an indie horror filmmaker.  The last time we spoke with him, we were discussing his feature vampire gangster film, "Livestock", which is a great flick and if you'd like to go back and check out that interview, click here.  Now, DiNunzio is back with a horror short called "Her Heart Still Beats" and here's what he had to say about it...

Tell us about your film, what’s it all about?

The film is called "Her Heart Still Beats" here's the synopsis: When Ed's wife comes home early from work one day he becomes overtaken by a strange feeling when he looks into her eyes. Disturbed or possibly just paranoid, Ed becomes possessed with his wife's eyes and struggles to understand these feelings. Is she evil or is he insane? They may not have enough time to find out.

If you don’t mind us asking, what was the budget for the film and how did you secure financing?

I don't mind you asking but I'm not telling! LOL. It was low. Very low. We own a lot of equipment so it cuts the cost down. Me and my producer Jason Miller financed the entire thing.

As of right now, what are your goals for the film and what kinds of things are you doing to make sure you reach your goals?

My goals are to get as many people as I can to see "Her Heart Still Beats" and use it as a show piece to get more films made. Right now I'm looking into self distribution. I really need to get on that but I just started a film festival with a few great filmmakers and friends of mine (Jason Miller and Nolan Yee) It's called The Massachusetts Independent Film Festival. You can send us Horror by the way! So I've been putting in a lot of time into that. It's been fun! As the film goes I've sent the film out to some people and the response has been great! I'm looking into streaming and hope to get that off the ground soon.

What about film festivals? Are you going to enter your film? If you have, how did it do? Tell us about your feelings around the indie film fest circuit.

I have sent "Her Heart Still Beats" out to a few festivals, I won't hear back from any until summer. I just started a film festival myself so I think they are great! But seriously they are a good way to get you and your film's name out there. Just make sure you research the festival before you submit and remember if your film gets rejected it doesn't mean it sucks. Some people have no taste and others may have to cut your film because they've gotten a ton of good films in and someone needs to get cut. No one likes cutting films.

Talk about distribution. Have you secured distribution? If so, how did you go about doing that? If not, what’s your plan?

My plans are to stream it but I still need a tech guy to help me with that. I can safely say I know nothing about this stuff so If you know someone please let me know! If a company wants to take it on I'd love to hear them out. I'm not dying to give it to a distributor who's just going to sit on it.

Where can people find out more about the film and/or get their hands on a copy?

I have a donations button on my website ( If you donate and send me an email or a note though paypal I'll send you a DVD or Blu-Ray. They are burnt but they look really good. The Blu-Rays look amazing!

Talk about the production. How did it go? Tell us one good or funny story that demonstrates the trials and tribulations of being an indie filmmaker.

I don't have any funny stories because my cast and crew were great to work with and are just good people. We had fun and the set was full of positive attitudes. When you get people who know how to work hard and are willing to do so it makes it easy. I got to work with Fiore Leo and Leighsa Burgin again, and they are just so talented. I love them both. I also worked with a few new people, John Martellucci, Michael Capozzi and William Bloomfield. All three are great to work with and have a lot of talent. I really had an A list cast. No exaggeration. I also would like to mention some of my crew who worked their butts off. James Sullivan, Chris Hebert, Martin A. Begue, Justin Thibault and Scott Reardon. They all put so much into this film. Also Nicholas David Potvin gave me another great score for the film.

What about you? Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into indie horror.

I got in to Horror from watching Dario Argento. He showed me Horror is an Art. Then I found Mario Bava, who came before Argento but just as cool. Filmmaking gives me so much pride. I love to create something and have people feel something cause of it and Horror lets you use so many emotions. To go back to Dario I just love his work he seems so free with his filmmaking. He makes the films he wants to see and that's what I try to do. I make films I want to see and hope people dig them and if they do I love them for it! Really all the people who have given me support over the last few years I thank you!!!

Talk about the indie horror scene. Where do you think it is now and where do you see it going?

The indie horror scene is cool. It's a lot of people that want to see new stuff and share with each other. That's always a great thing. As far as it's future is concerned... Horror will never die!

Do you have any more projects in the works? What’s next for you?

I do. Myself and another friend of mine, Pedro Alvarado, are writing a feature. It's a crime/drama about the tough decisions people need to make in order to stay alive or to keep feeling alive. It's going to be a dark neo-noir film. We got our inspiration from all those great old Noir films from the 30's and 40's. I can't say too much more about it right now but we hope to start shooting this Spring/Summer. Keep a look out for it!