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.


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