Thursday, January 8, 2009

Follow Up Interview with Geno McGahee, writer/director of "Rise of the Scarecrows"

When you're an avid watcher of micro-cinema and indie horror, you'll inevitably watch a lot of films from first time filmmakers... and that means you better have a bit of tolerance when it comes to glitches and minor issues. Lord knows I do. Actually, to be honest, I'm usually entertained by fuck-ups. For example, finding a boom mic or a boom mic shadow is kinda like playing Where's Waldo - you know it'll be there somewhere, you just have to look for it. Anyhow, what sucks is that a lot of good first time filmmakers never manage to make another film... or they take close to a decade to get involved in another project. It's disappointing because it's really cool to see sophomore efforts in the indie scene. They usually have the same actors, there's a similar style in the look and/or storyline and, almost always, the film is better than its predecessor. That's certainly the case with Geno McGahee's film "Rise of the Scarecrows", the follow up film to his first effort, "Evil Awakening".

"Evil Awakening", on a lot of levels, was a stereotypical micro-cinema film from a first time filmmaker. It was shot on DV, 4:3 format, it had a few of those glitches and issues, but it was a great effort, it was entertaining and I, personally, enjoyed it. Now, having just watched "Rise of the Scarecrows", what you get is all of the positive things from the first effort, a great new storyline and a lot less of those issues and glitches. It's great to see a filmmaker progress and pump out a better film, especially when the jump is as big as it is in this case. So, if you saw "Evil Awakening", you'll definitley want to see "Rise of the Scarecrows" and, having seen both, I'm very excited to see what McGahee comes up with next. Here, we talked with McGahee about the making of "Rise of the Scarecrows".

“Rise of the Scarecrows” is the follow up film to “Evil Awakening”, when did you decide to go out and make a second film?

The decision was basically made immediately after I filmed Evil Awakening. I have always been a big fan of Scarecrows and thought they were a great topic for horror films. So in the summer of 2004, we began filming this one. Making Evil Awakening was a major learning experience for me and I think that it’s a natural thing for people to want to improve and so I focused more on the story and turning out a better production. I also had the benefit of having Evil Awakening out there and a lot of people were asking when we were going to make another movie. So locally, we were getting name for ourselves and we had a small demand for a new movie and many locals that wanted to be in it. It all made the decision to make another one a lot easier.

There’s a lot of similarities between the two, mainly in how you develop multiple storylines and that a lot of the same actors are returning. Where did you get the idea for this one?

I like the 1988 flick “Scarecrows” where bank robbers drop into a field and get hunted by killer scarecrows. When it comes to horror, the scarecrow is a great character and one that is imposing no matter what it does. It can just be hanging there and rattle people. I had the idea for this one for quite a while actually but the story didn’t really develop until after Evil Awakening was complete. I wanted to give the audience something more than a slasher or zombie movie. I wanted to give them something to chew on and I like movies with surprises and that have more to it than just a guy with a knife and a mask going around killing people. I think that indie horror can be deeper than that and I really focused to make the script as strong as possible and to focus on the filming and to fix some of the issues we had in Evil Awakening.

Did you increase your budget on this one at all?

In a way, we did. I purchased a better editing program and bought the scarecrow stuff. Overall, I still worked on nearly no budget. I would answer yes to this question, but really, I would say that the budget wasn’t that much bigger than Evil Awakening. I just knew a lot more and put forth a better effort here.

What did you shoot on and how long was this shoot?

We shot on a digital video camera that was a couple steps up from the one used in Evil Awakening. I think it was a Sony. The shoot itself was very long and frustrating, and at one time I thought that it wasn’t going to complete. We had 20 minutes of completed and edited footage in 2004, but then I couldn’t assemble the cast and my editor at the time was tied up with work, so it just looked like it wasn’t meant to be, but then we got it together and reunited in 2006 to complete it and we finished it in about 4 months.

As far as the filmmaking process is concerned, what did you learn from the first film that you could apply here?

What I think I learned more than anything else was to focus more so. We also learned some different camera angles and such to set the mood. You also never know what people will like and I will admit when I’m wrong. I think that my approach in the beginning of Evil Awakening turned a lot of people off with Sam Adams (Steven Joseph Adams) screaming profanity and running over and elderly man and then pissing on him. I think that it rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Actually, I know it did from some of the emails I got…but at the time I wanted to get the audience’s attention and did so, but I should have probably started out more subtly as I did with Rise of the Scarecrows.

What I also learned from the first production was to concentrate and develop other characters rather than focusing on death count. In Evil Awakening, I think that it was Sam Adams and everyone else, although “The Geib” stands out. I love Sam Adams, but if I had to do it again, I would have done some more development on other characters. In Rise of the Scarecrows, you have a lot of great characters and you know where they are all coming from.

As far as distribution is concerned, what did you learn from the first film that you applied here?

I think that getting your foot in the door is the toughest aspect of distribution. I had a deal on Rise of the Scarecrows that I just signed last week. What I learned is the routine, I think. I know what I need to do and how to approach the matter. Thankfully, I know which distribution companies are not filmmaker friendly and will screw you hard at the drop of a hat. As far as getting distributed, I really didn’t have much of a doubt that Rise of the Scarecrows was going to be picked up. Evil Awakening sold well and the people seemed to have liked it for the most part and to see Evil Awakening outsell other titles that have better known filmmakers is a nice thing and tells me that we may be on a good track to get well known and make some noise in the horror world.

I did learn a lot from Evil Awakening to Rise of the Scarecrows about marketing of the product and that is why you see a big difference in the cover art from Evil Awakening to Rise of the Scarecrows. We are see people and in the horror world, a cover sells the movie. Thankfully I was able to do a lot of promotion and hit the newspapers locally and got them moving, but had it had a better cover depicting what was going on rather than the subtle message, we would have been in better shape I think. I hope that Rise sells well and the people give Evil Awakening a shot afterwards. It may go in that order more often than not because of the cover art factor.

Where can people find out more information on “Rise of the Scarecrows” and/or buy a copy?

They can keep up to date by going to I run the site and I try to keep the fans informed. They can email me with any questions at Tempe Entertainment will be making the announcement on the distribution date very soon, but it looks like late April. People can see the trailer on youtube and if they want updates, they can email me and I will add them to my contact list and when I send out a mass email about the productions, they’ll get the news.

What’s next?

I just completed “Scary Tales” an anthology and I think that it is the best film that I have done from a technical aspect and the best actors that I have ever used. I think that it has something for everyone and it will be making the film festival circuit (hopefully). I have never been more organized and that was the key to getting Scary Tales done in 2 ½ months. I have a great graphics guy that is working for X Posse Productions now in Jamie Swimm (Diverse Designs) and am working once again with the Putrid Flowers and Lobster Records for the soundtrack. Scary Tales is a big achievement for me and when people see it, they will probably realize why. I just finished my screenplay “Family Secret” and am set to film that in May. Family Secret is going to be special and I have some notable actors and access to many locations now that will make this one stand out. The point is to improve step by step and I think that I’m doing that.

I will be at Monster Mania in March in New Jersey and will be selling my flicks and some Tempe flicks and merchandise. I hope that everyone going to this event will stop by and say hello and then say hello, can I please buy your movies. I’m looking forward to it.

I will also be promoting Rise of the Scarecrows and hoping that the horror fans will give it a chance. I really think that it’s the best scarecrow film since the original Scarecrows and I would love to hear from the fans of that film. There have also been a lot of bad scarecrow horror films and people may have lost faith, but trust me, Rise of the Scarecrows is a great flick. I am very proud of it.


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