five with frights:
- edward douglas
EDWARD DOUGLAS, one half of the hit Halloween / horror themed band Midnight Syndicate, made a big splash recently with his movie "The Dead Matter". I had the privilege of talking with Edward about the movie...
- MR. FRIGHTS: Can you tell us a little about the early beginnings of The Dead Matter?
EDWARD DOUGLAS I shot an earlier version of "The Dead Matter" back in 1994 as my first project out of college. It was myself and
Mark Rakocy (VFX artist and associate producer of the new version) running extension cords into the woods of my parent's backyard, shooting on Super-VHS, and making the film for about $2000.
Tony Demci (co-writer of both versions) played Mark the Zombie and a local cast including friends and family filled out the rest of the team. That group included Christopher Robichaud who would reprise his role in the new version.
Part of the concept for "The Dead Matter" came through playing Dungeons & Dragons. In the adventures, the vampire or similar villainous undead creature was always surrounded by an army of skeletons and zombies. That planted the idea of a magical relic that could raise and control "dead matter." From there it was taking that relic and placing it in hands of a guilt-ridden woman who wants nothing more than to contact her deceased brother.
I loved the humor element in "Lost Boys" so that was a big influence for some of the more campy elements of the film. With the 1995 version knew we would be limited by the technical quality. The goal was always to finish the film, get the experience, and use that to put ourselves in a position to remake the film with a bigger budget some day. Thanks to Midnight Syndicate and Robert Kurtzman that opportunity came about ten years later.
- MR. FRIGHTS: You worked with so many great people who have made their mark in horror, what was that like?
EDWARD DOUGLAS It was tremendous. One of the most rewarding aspects of this whole process was learning from
Robert Kurtzman and
Gary Jones. Bob left LA with the goal of making films in the midwest and he did just that in 2007 with "The Rage."
So like George Romero and Sam Raimi, Bob was an inspiration for me as well as a huge supporter from the beginning. If it hadn't been for his involvement the movie wouldn't have happened as it did. As Line Producer (among a million other jobs) Gary Jones was there with me every step of the way. As a first-time director/producer, just watching a veteran like Gary go through the process was invaluable. He is another big reason the movie turned out the way it did.
Tom Savini has been a friend of mine for a while through Midnight Syndicate so finally getting to work together with him on a project was awesome. Teaming up with veteran actors like Andrew Divoff, Jason Carter, Jim O'Rear, and Dick Dyszel was also great. Those actors really helped inspire some of the younger actors on set.
Getting to work with "Big Chuck" Schodowski was an extra special treat for me. I grew up watching the late night horror show he hosted with Lil' John in Cleveland. It was a big part of my early education in horror. He had also always been a supporter of Midnight Syndicate from the beginning so getting him in the movie meant a lot to me.
The best part of working with all these names in horror was the fact that ALL of them really came through for us and brought tremendous things to the production.
- MR. FRIGHTS: When you started out on this project, from the very get go, what were some of the things you personally wanted out of the experience? Are those still some of the same things you wanted out of the new movie?
- EDWARD DOUGLAS I love horror films. My goal from the beginning was to make an entertaining supernatural / horror film that would be a little different from what was out there, a bit unpredictable, and would hopefully stand the test of time. I've always liked the concept behind "The Dead Matter" so that was the story I wanted to tell. Fortunately we were able to do that in this new version.
- MR. FRIGHTS: If you had a chance to be "killed off" on screen, how would you most like to go out?
- EDWARD DOUGLAS I wouldn't mind becoming a ghost trapped in the mansion with Kate Beckinsale (character of Christina Mariel) in "Haunted" (1995) - one of my favorite horror films of all time.
- MR. FRIGHTS: When you feel like watching a movie, what's most likely to be found in your selection?
- EDWARD DOUGLAS Horror. 95% of the time, that's what I'm watching. New, old, supernatural, slasher whatever. If I want a change of pace, slapstick comedy from the Zucker brothers ("Airplane", "Naked Gun") is always a good go-to for me. I'll miss Leslie Nielsen, he was a favorite of mine. I also enjoy historical films and documentaries as history is a big source of inspiration for my work with Midnight Syndicate.
Hit the Grab Bag Questions below to go on with the interview...
GRAB BAG QUESTIONS
- MR. FRIGHTS: The Dead Matter is pretty horrifying (in a good way), but was the process of completing the film more or less horrifying than the actual movie?
EDWARD DOUGLAS We had our share of horrors shooting the film. Most of it surrounded the weather. On our biggest day of shooting on our most expensive set, Mansfield experienced the worst storms in 20 years and half the city flooded (including part of our backup set).
When you are on such a tight timetable and budget as we were, you can't afford those types of disasters. Luckily I had a great Assistant Director (Philip Garrett), Line Producer (Gary Jones), and cast and crew. They all came together and made things work under very difficult circumstances.
At the end of the shoot, we got all of our scenes covered on time which was a victory as I don't know what we would have done had we not.
The most horrifying moment of the process occurred a few weeks after we had wrapped shooting and sent everyone home. We developed two of our reels (all from the finale of the film) and they had edge fog on them. Somewhere along the developing process, a bit of light had gotten onto the film.
In the end we were able to push in past the fog in post and use the footage - however up till that point was one of the most awful experiences I can remember. Just the idea that the footage might be unusable. It's something I hope no director ever has to face (although it happens). That definitely made me question my decision to shoot on film instead of digital.
In the end though, it all worked out. I am really happy with the look of our film and am glad we took the extra steps to shoot on film.
- MR. FRIGHTS: What do you think your biggest challenge was with getting this movie done?
EDWARD DOUGLAS Raising money for an independent film is extremely challenging, especially when you are talking about a budget the size of ours (absolute peanuts by Hollywood standards - but still the biggest locally-financed film in Cleveland history). That was the greatest challenge.
The weather on our shoot was the second biggest challenge as that flood was about the worst thing that could have happened to our production.
Distribution has also been a challenge. From 2007 to 2009 the film distribution business underwent cataclysmic changes - virtually all of it very bad for the independent filmmaker. The ability for independent filmmakers to see any money back on their investment has become extremely compromised (and it was extremely difficult before!).
Technology, piracy, it's all very similar to what happened in the music industry. There is some good to come from it but for the working musician, filmmaker trying to earn a living - not good right now.
Everybody is just trying to find that formula to make it work. I'm sure someone will but right now there's a lot of people that don't know what the future is.
- MR. FRIGHTS: What was one of your favorite moments from the set?
EDWARD DOUGLAS We had a really great cast and crew and my best memories were hanging out with them before and after shooting each day. Work on set was pretty stressful (the weather and compressed schedule didn't help).
I guess the best moment on set was when we yelled "It's a wrap!" - because at that point we knew that we had covered the whole script - and done it on time. It was a great feeling - knowing we had taken a big step in achieving something I'd been working towards for so many years.
- MR. FRIGHTS: What's it like to work on a project for so many years? Are you satisfied with the results?
EDWARD DOUGLAS Well there was plenty of time in between where we weren't thinking about the project so it doesn't always feel that long.
I think the time in between really allowed me & Tony to rework and tweak the script. Tony put so many great ideas into this new version (most of my favorite scenes). I can honestly say I am satisfied with the results. I made the movie I wanted to make - and I know we did the absolute best we could with what we had to work with.
The best feeling was sitting in the back of the theatre at one of our first public screenings and hearing the crowd react - laugh, gasp, jump a bit, clap at the end... that's the absolute best part.
- MR. FRIGHTS: Do you think you'll be making another film?
- EDWARD DOUGLAS Absolutely. It was a great experience and now we've got a great team in place. I'm already looking forward to the next one although the next project will be a new Midnight Syndicate CD for August 2011 surrounding a haunted carnival theme.