Thursday, May 1, 2008

"Satan's Whip" - Our continuing case studies on getting your indie horror film done.

Continuing on with our new feature of doing case studies on filmmaker's indie horror efforts, here's the second one... which means I'm going to have to acutally set up a link to archive them on the left now. This time, we talk to Jason Maran, the writer and director of "Satan's Whip". As usual, if you're a filmmaker and would like us to cover you and your film, just let me know.

Film: Satan's Whip
Written By: Jason Maran
Directed By: Jason Maran
Released By: Brain Damage Films

About: Being honest, having seen the film and looking at the cover art now, I really have no idea what it has to do with the movie, but... that's Brain Damage for you. "Satan's Whip" is billed as straight horror, but it's really got a lot more to it than that and, by that, I mean that it's really more of a dark comedy, with some twisted horror elements. The film screened at various festivals, including Shockerfest international Film Festival, Terror Film Festival and the Filmmakers Series in NY and it's the story a young priest, Claude, who embarks on a quest to find a missing priest, which spirals into a blood-bath of witchcraft, insanity and cannibalism.

Budget: Jason Maran managed to secure financing on his own and "all in all, the film cost approximately $15,000", but there were a few incremental things that may have pushed the budget up slightly. A rarity in low-budget filmmaking, Jason usually "had between 5 and 7 paid crew members, making between $75 and $150 each", on the set. However, "the grip/electric equipment rental didn't cost much and someone loaned (them) the camera for the shoot, so (they) saved there". If you do check out the film, it does have the look and feel of a more expensive film, so they really did do a good job at stretching those dollars.

Getting it made: The film was shot in eleven days, spread out, unbelievably, over nine months, and it was shot on mini-dv, using a 24P camera. As mentioned above, for a $15K budget, the film looks great and Jason gives credit where credit is due - "the credit for the cinematography goes to Chris Benker, who also produced". Shooting over nine months is not really optimal and the reason they had to do that is because of two factors that were out of their control and one that was in their control... The first two factors were that "almost all the actors worked for free, so (they) had to be as accomodating as possible", as well as that they "pretty much (ran) out of money and (Jason had) to take a temp job", which would, obviously, delay them a few more days. However, if Jason could've changed anything, it would've have been the third factor, which is securing locations. They had couple locations drop out on them and "if (he) had done a better job of locking down locations before the first day of the shoot", they may have avoided that. "To spread eleven days of shooting over nine months is absurd."

The performances: All things considered and by his own admission, the actors were "very patient with a director who was, at times, indecisive and inarticulate" and who also "violated a cardinal rule of directing." "Supposedly, a director is never supposed to make an actor watch a film or television for inspiration... I think it's a bullshit rule, so I did show them some stuff." Whatever he did, the performances were way above par for low-budget indie horror. In fact, there was a stand out performance by Pete Barker, who plays the old priest, Father William. First off, rarely do you see older actors in low-budget horrors, but to see one that gives a good performance is extremely rare. He did a great job and "in fact, the only reason why (Jason) wrote an 'old' character was because (he) know he would do it." As for the other actors, Jason "found almost all (of them) by placing an ad in Backstage, which is a publication for actors." Jason adds, for "a filmmaker who can base his casting out of NY or LA has much to choose from. There are a great many actors who aren't rich or famous, but who are good and are willing to work on no-budget stuff."

Distributing the film: The film was picked up by Brain Damage and "distribution is going about as well as it possibly can." Asked if there's was anything learned from the distribution process, "you have to tell the audience what they're getting, so they know how to react to it. "Satan's Whip" is being marketed as a hard-core horror film, was intended to be a comedy, albeit a dark, weird one." So, what about that reaction? "I've gotten a kick out of the public reaction to the film, which has been pretty negative. One fellow from Nigeria wrote on IMDB that he wept for humanity after seeing it. For my part, I have never seen a film that has made me weep for the future of the world. Not even Pasolini's Salo. I hope he had Kleenex."

What’s next: Jason is currently working on a script that he hopes to produce later this year and, it's another absurd, weird comedy.

For more information on the film, you can go to the "Satan's Whip" Myspace page or to buy a copy of "Satan's Whip", you can click on the link below:

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