Interview with Contest Winner E. Reyes

E Reyes Horror Author Interview

In December, Horror Writers held its first flash fiction contest, calling for submissions 750 words or less, in the realm of horror. E. Reyes stood out from the 50+ entries with his short tale “Christmas Blues”, a glimpse into the mind of a family man on the threshold of a life-changing decision. I had a chat with him about his story, the writing process, and the horror genre.

 

 

 

 

Your flash fiction, “Christmas Blues”, earned the Grand Prize in our flash fiction writing contest. What compelled you to write it?

I was compelled to write the story while watching the opening scene from ‘Krampus.’ As I watched people fighting and running like animals for merchandise, I started thinking about the people who are not fortunate enough to provide a lavish Christmas for their families. I wanted to write something that had to do with that. I put myself in the shoes of a very depressed and desperate man that would do anything for his family. And of course, a bit of myself is in that character. 
 
Christmas Blues features a family man grappling with a life-changing decision. What have you put most of your effort into when writing this story?
I just had this image in my mind of a man with a scared and worried face, pacing a dirt road that led to a crossroad. I kept getting into that character and started feeling the way he would feel; having a family of my own. So the effort I made was getting lost in the character while I wrote it with full attention to his dilemma. 
What did you edit OUT of this story? Did it start out differently?
I didn’t edit anything out. I had planned to make it longer but the story wouldn’t allow me to. When I got to the end, I left it obvious as to what decision he made. 
 
You’ve already published a book, “Short Tales of Horror”. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I did a lot of research before making “Short Tales of Horror”. The first research I did to craft my writing was reading books about it. The one that I call my “bible” is Stephen King’s ‘On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft’. That book helped me a lot, and showed me mistakes I had made. I started writing in 2012, but I was nowhere near ready until 2016. Each story was different than the finished product. I edited and edited until I got feedback and felt the stories were right. I felt confident enough and wanted to release it on my own. But as far as researching for a story I use the handy-dandy Google search. I also observe people a lot. I’m the quiet guy that soaks up the audience around me for my disposal (haha)  
 
I want to talk about your process. How many hours a day do you write? Are there any rituals or things you can’t write without?
My writing process is not where I want it to be. I plan to write 2000 words a day at the least. But in 2016 I would write whenever I was summoned to. Inspiration would just hit me. But after winning the Horror Writers contest (and getting motivated by my fiancee), I feel it’s time to really get serious with my writing. When I write, I have to have to have coffee or green tea, and music that I feel the main character would listen to; it’s usually creepy soundtrack music. 
What are the worst and best parts of the writing process for you?
The worst part of the writing process is getting stuck or feeling like what I write isn’t flowing well. I end up finishing later, erasing it, or start over the next day. The best part about writing is getting excited about what’s getting written down. It feels like I’m not the one doing it. It feels like the story is writing itself and I’m just a vessel for it’s horror. Sometimes I stop while writing the story and say, “Wow.”
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?
My favorite character this far is a young man I haven’t written about it. He’s extremely cynical, but he is an interesting character. I plan to write his story next. 
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
I would tell me, “Do not–I repeat–do not stop writing. Music is not going to be fun to make later on, so stick to writing. You will enjoy writing even more than you do now. Read as much books as possible and write every single day.”
So far you’ve won a writing contest and self-published a collection of stories online. Do you consider yourself a professional writer? What does literary success look like to you? 
I consider myself a professional writer that needs to take it more seriously now. What I consider a literary success is getting published. I really want that. 
What other projects are you working on right now?
I’m not working on anything at the moment, but I plan to write the story about the cynical young man I was talking about. 
What would you like to see in the horror genre in the future?
I would like to see less cliches, less torture porn, and no rape scenes unless the rapist gets murdered for it. I strongly oppose anything rape. 
I ask all authors this final question: Do you believe in outlining/prewriting?
No, because the story writes itself. My muse (which is a skeleton man dressed in a black suit and tie with a type writer), may be able to tell you if he outlines it, but I’m sure the story is never outlined.
E.Reyes lives in Tucson, Arizona with his fiance and three children. His book, Short Tales of Horror, is available on Amazon.

Interview with Leigh Janiak

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A honeymoon is in many ways a transformation, the melding of two lives. For some it can mean the loss of individuality to gain to deeper sense of connection to another; for others it simply means a time of hope and promise. The honeymoon phase is a time of deep passion and optimism; our eyes are wide and the world is full of possibilities. Director/Writer Leigh Janiak, with her film Honeymoon, has taken this time of unlimited potential and driven a spike through its still beating heart.

The film follows Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie) as they honeymoon at a remote cabin next to a picturesque lake. Soon into the couples stay, Paul discovers Bea in the woods, wandering and alone with no recollection of how she got there. After that night Bea starts to display peculiar behavior and it becomes increasingly clear that something terrible happened to her that night.

Harry Treadaway (Control) and Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones) give fantastic performances as our young couple. This is first film for director/writer Leigh Janiak and she already shows immense talent. Much like Jeremy Sauliner (Blue Ruin) and James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now), she is part of a new generation of young film makers who are making deeply personal genre films that are breathing new life into independent cinema.

Leigh Janiak’s lifelong passion for film started with The Goonies, a film she has seen “a thousand times.” At an early age she was making backyard films using her parents VHS camcorder. She attended NYU where she focused on creative writing and comparative religion. After working on numerous short films and experimenting with Super 16 and old-school Moviola editing, she ultimately abandoned her PhD and moved to Los Angeles to pursue film full time. In Los Angeles, Leigh worked at Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company, Appian Way, and at Misher Films in both development and production. Leigh and her writing partner, Phil Graziadei, met as undergraduates at NYU. They’ve been friends for over a decade and writing partners since 2005. They’ve written numerous feature films together.

Leigh Janiak was kind enough to take time from her busy schedule to sit down with me for a few minutes.

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How are you holding up today?

I’ve got my coffee so I’m doing ok

What’s it like to do all these interviews back to back? It has to feel like speed dating.

(laughs) It’s good. I like it. Its crazy. But sometimes it hard to keep track of what I’m saying. I’ll be answering a question and halfway through I’ll lose track because…

We keep asking you the same questions.

Yeah and you sort of forget where you are in the answer.

I’ll apologize in advance for not having an original take on the question-and-answer thing.

You’ll do fine

How long did the screenplay take to write?

I think we started working on it… We saw Monsters which I think was the end of 2010 or the beginning of 2011 [ed note: Monsters was released in late 2010] and that’s kind of what like jarred us into… why aren’t we just making a movie here? It was like, how many years are we just going to write scripts and to what end will that bring us? When I knew that I didn’t want to be very old when someone let me be behind the camera. I think that we started writing Honeymoon mid 2011 and we ended up sending it to our producer by the end of 2011.

Patrick Baker…

Yeah and his wife/producing partner came on board and it took about a year to secure financing. They raised it all through private equity. Which was very lucky for us. And then we shot the film in the spring of 2013. So it was pretty quick for indie in the grand scheme of things.

So then how much control did you have over the final cut of the film?

A Lot. I think that was the great thing about having private equity, you didn’t have these foreign film financing entities or big corporations… I had the support of the producers. I shot a teaser where I laid out my vision for the film and I was able to execute that vision the whole way through and I feel really lucky for that.

There is a clear Invasion of the Body Snatchers influence in your film and while that film was focused on a small town, your film is centered around a couple. Were you using the Body Snatchers story as a way to say something about marriage in same way they were making a film about the cold war?

The Body Snatchers trope… its a film that seems to be made every ten years. We were doing a very intimate Invasion of the Body Snatchers movie. If you look at those movies over time, they’re dealing with some sort of social issue. In our case, it was dealing with personal identity. Being in a relationship and knowing who you are. Look at Twitter, this giant hive mind which is awesome and terrifying. I think that’s where the renewed interest in body horror is coming from. It’s becoming this: What does is mean to be human. But no I wasn’t trying to say anything about marriage. People keep asking me about that (laughs). I’m not married but don’t hate the idea of it or anything.

Kind of going back to where it started. You have mentioned Spielberg or specifically The Goonies being a direct inspiration for you getting into film making. I couldn’t imagine the audacity of a child looking at The Goonies and saying “yeah I could do that.”

(laughs) No…

And I know that Monsters was the one that kicked your ass in gear. Was there a film that made you think “yeah I could do that?”

The time I really wanted to be a film maker… and I know this is silly and cliche but I think I was most motivated or inspired by… I was 13 when Pulp Fiction came out and it was so different. I went to the theater by myself in suburbia and it was amazing, it was telling all these different stories, so yeah Tarantino and Danny Boyle and all of those mid-90’s film makers… I think that was the beginning of the modern heyday of indie film and that certainly made me feel like I can do this or I should try to do this

Sorry to jump all over the place.

It’s fine.

The score for your film was done by Heather Mcintosh.

(Smiles) Yes.

She also did the score for Compliance, a soundtrack that I personally loved. Did you seek her out? Or had you seen Compliance before working with her?

I saw Compliance while we were still financing and I just thought that her score was awesome it gave the film… well you can’t judge what a film would have been like without its score but with that score it was certainly elevated and tonally just made it so uncomfortable and perfect. Heather is just amazingly talented, so yeah I sought her out and was really really pleased and excited when she came on board. We talked about Jonny Greenwood and kind of making it that unease or creeping under the skin of the audience so it wasn’t like hitting them over the head with it.

And her work certainly fits in with your small intimate storytelling, especially with Compliance being such a small intimate film.

Yeah she was awesome.

Although now that I’ve said that out loud I’m not sure “intimate” is the right word to describe Compliance.

(Laughs) Yeah it was very intimate. Quite romantic. When were dropping in temp score it took awhile to find those things that ended up working and Heather just nailed it right away. She found that right balance, it was ominous without being too on the nose.

So, what are you working on next?

My writing partner and I just finished with a pilot and its a limited series, 10 episodes and while we are trying to get that setup somewhere we are working on new feature ideas.

Do you think you will stick with genre pictures?

I consider myself more of a scifi person more than a horror person, so generally all the material I gravitate towards has a science fiction element and I think the horror will come. It’s funny as I’m saying this the pilot we are working is more of a thriller and for sure has more horror elements than science fiction. So who knows?

Thank you so much for doing this, it was really nice to meet you.

You too, have a great day

Honeymoon opens on Sept 12th and will be available on VOD the same day.  Do yourself a favor and check it out. 

Interview with Eric Stanze

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Interview conducted by Christopher Maynard

Eric Stanze is an Independent filmmaker raising funds for a feature length film called The Stoplight. He is best known for directing Ratline and Deadwood Park but also was second unit director on We Are What We Are and Stake Land.

How are you today?

Overworked by all the demands our upcoming film Stoplight is putting on me, but I also just keep getting more and more thrilled about the project.  The super-enthusiastic response to our announcement of the film has been energizing… I’m bowled over by all the positive feedback and general fan excitement.

Where are you from?

I was born on an army base in Virginia.  I spent most of my pre-teen years in a company town that surrounded a lead smelting plant on the eastern edge of Missouri.  Our house was at the top of the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River.

Where did you grow up and go to school?

When I was 11, my family moved near Pittsburgh… George Romero zombie country.  It was shortly after we moved to Pennsylvania that I started shooting little 8mm films with my friends.  We attended Beaver High School, about 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.  I later finished off high school in a small town south of St. Louis, Missouri, at Windsor High School.

When did you discover film?

I was probably five or six.  If I saw anything on television that was some kind of “making of” program – with behind-the-scenes footage of a movie or TV show being made – I was transfixed.  I loved Star Wars and wanted to make action-packed sci-fi movies.  I loved Jim Henson’s Muppets.  I couldn’t make films or a TV show, so I made a lot of puppets.

What has attracted you to working in the horror genre?

When I was 9 or 10 I spent the night at a friend’s house and we caught 1958’s The Blob and the 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers on TV, late at night.  I think that’s where the first seeds of being a horror fan took root.  Later, when I saw The Evil Dead and The Toxic Avenger, I loved ’em… but also, the rough edges of those movies made me realize I could make movies too.  If Sam Raimi and Lloyd Kaufman could make cheap but cool movies, without big Hollywood budgets, I had a shot at making it work as well.  Later, after making a lot of terrible student movies in high school and college, I began to realize that interesting, thought-provoking, artful movies could be made in the horror genre – not just fun slasher and gross-out movies.  Things are improving, but the genre used to be seen much more as some kind of restriction on what can be accomplished cinematically.  In reality, the genre adds a whole lot of additional, wonderful colors to the palette.

How did your relationship with Jim Mickle begin, and will it continue?

A friend of mine, Aaron Crozier, got the gig as the 1st AD on Stake Land.  I was a big fan of Mickle’s previous film, Mulberry Street – and Larry Fessenden (Habit, The Last Winter) was producing Stake Land.  Fessenden is something of a hero to me, so I was pretty much prepared to do anything, fill any crew position on that set, if they’d have me.

Aaron put in a good word for me, and I was asked to join the shoot as an unpaid camera operator for the DVD making-of documentary.  A week into the shoot, I was asked if I’d like a paycheck to direct and edit the documentary.  Halfway through the shoot, I was bumped all the way up to 2nd Unit director of Stake Land.

I think at first they had no idea who I was, but then slowly they realized I’d directed a few of my own films, and that I wasn’t just a fresh-off-the-turnip-truck videographer.  On day one of the shoot, I was a nobody; lowest priority. Then, two weeks into the shoot, a producer told me he was happy I was there, because he hoped my involvement with the film would draw my fan base and boost sales of Stake Land.  That’s quite a leap, from day-one lowly behind-the-scenes camera-monkey to, a couple weeks later, hearing producers talk about my fan base.

The new issue of Rue Morgue Magazine came out during the shoot, and in it was a very positive retro-review of my film Deadwood Park.  I didn’t even know about this.  It was actually Larry Fessenden who handed me the magazine on set and showed me the review.  So it was clear to Mickle and Fessenden that I was quite capable of taking on the more substantial and challenging position of 2nd Unit director.  As an added bonus, I struck up a friendship with Larry – and I was relieved to learn this indie film hero of mine is a really cool, down to earth, super nice person.

I was hired on to Mickle’s follow-up, We Are What We Are, again as 2nd Unit director.  A ton of material was assigned to me on that movie.  Easily fifteen or twenty times what they’d assigned to 2nd Unit on Stake Land.

We Are What We Are was a great experience.  I loved the work, and collaborating with Mickle was a joy because he’s as cool a dude as he is talented a filmmaker.  I love how both Stake Land and We Are What We Are turned out.  I’m proud to have contributed to those two really incredible films.

I’ve stayed in contact with Jim Mickle since We Are What We Are.  Yes, I hope to work on more of his films in the future.  When and if the circumstances are right, if he calls me up and asks, I’m there in a heartbeat.

How do you describe Stoplight?

One of the film’s strengths is that it is difficult to describe.  We’ve been calling it, “A road-trip odyssey, a stark thriller, and a harrowing descent into madness.”  This is accurate, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Stoplight is a road trip film, following in the footsteps of classics like Vanishing Point, Two-Lane Blacktop and Easy Rider.  It’s also a weird mutation of a horror film.  It tells a dark tale of a personal, almost spiritual journey, while also commenting on a lot of what’s broken in America.  Religion, the erosion of the US economy by the wealthy few, sexual repression, the role women are still boxed into in American culture…  these are some of the themes that pulse menacingly beneath the surface of the film.  The nefarious nature of such stuff begs to be folded into a horror art film.  It can be subtle, nearly invisible – and I don’t have to take sides. I don’t have to provide answers.  The questions are scary enough.

Will you be the cinematographer?

Yes.

What camera will you shoot it on?

I still have not made a final decision, but I’m spending a significant amount of time on the research, evaluating what gear will likely fit best with this specific project.

Why have you chosen to crowdsource this project?

Our prior films have been funded primarily by investors, mixed with a handful of fundraising events (usually rock shows).  For Stoplight, we wanted to have our fans involved from the beginning.  This way, we see a bit more funding up front, and the fans get more out of the movie.  They become participants – not just consumers who buy the product at the end of the process.

We’ve never gone the crowdfunding route before, so we want to learn the ropes, figure out what works, what does not work, evaluate the experience and see if we want to repeat it in the future.

Do you think the explosion of online VOD distribution is good for film?

Personally, I prefer the DVD or Blu-Ray, but I understand the current distribution landscape is dominated by VOD.  There are negatives to this, but mostly, I think it is positive.  It helps level the playing field, and provide nearly equal access to big budget films and small indies alike.  Back when everything was on tape or disc at Blockbuster and Best Buy, the indies were choked out.  Best Buy would have fifty copies each of the last twenty Big Hollywood Hits on their shelves, and not much else.  Online distribution means a great indie film shares the same “shelf space” with the Big Hollywood Hits, and audiences finally have a real choice.

 

A quick thank you to Eric for taking time out of his busy schedule to do this interview.   He seems like a really good guy who happens to be making films that speak to me and my sensibilities. I, for one, am very excited to see this film and wish Eric and the producers the best of luck with this worthwhile endeavor. Please give him some love.

The Stoplight Indiegogo campaign runs through July 26th: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/stoplight–2

You can find Eric on Twitter @eric_stanze

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An Interview With Marilyn Burns

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I am still gobsmacked that I had the honour of speaking with Ms. Marilyn Burns. Yes, Marilyn Burns of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame.  I can only speak for myself when I say that Sally Hardesty in TCM was my first Final Girl. Shawn Ewert, director of the upcoming film Sacrament was genreous enough to set this interview up and it was just a joy. I hope you find Marilyn to be as lovely and down to earth as I did. You can see Marilyn Burns in Sacrament, premiering June 7,2014 at The Texas Theatre in Dallas, Tx .

I don’t remember the last time I was as nervous as I was dialing up Ms. Marilyn Burns. She immediately put me at ease by saying, “Oh Lisa! Yes, yes, yes!”

L.F. How did you meet Shawn Ewert?

M.B. “Ya know, I probably met him at different conventions in the past. Different shows, maybe Texas Frightmare and stuff and he just called me up and asked me to do his film. I knew of his work because he’s a wonderful director and so I was real excited to be able to work with him.”

L.F. Didn’t he write this part for you?
M.B. “Oh Lisa, I don’t know.”

L.F.  That’s what I heard.
M.B. “Well, then he did. I’m very flattered and delighted to be in his picture. Yeah, he had me in mind when he wrote it; he thought it would be a cool touch to it, ya know?”

L.F. Are you able to speak about your role in Sacrament?
M.B. “Well, I don’t know. How much do you know about it? I don’t know how much I can say, ya know? I know that in most movies of this nature, they do want things on the hush hush because that’s part of the fun and surprise when it comes out.”

L.F. Well, we should probably keep it that way; I dont want to ruin anything.
M.B. “No, thats the thing; I wouldn’t watnt to either. I will say this.  He’s a wonderful director and I had a great time shooting with him and he had the most fabulous cast and most fabulous crew. You couldn’t get better. They were so professional. They did everything in tip top fashion.  Everything was planned out to the T.”

L.F. So, this was a really nice experience for you.
M.B. “Oh definitley. One of my best experiences yet, to date.”

L.F. Really?
M.B. “I really enjoyed it; we had a lot of fun on the set.”

L.F. You were there with Mr. Guinn, correct?
M.B. “Yes.”

 

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L.F. Have you stayed friends since the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre film?
M.B. “Yes, because now they’re having all of these reunions at conventions. We’ve been on several and, I think, this year were going to Corpus Christi and Austin; we’ve got several coming up where we’re all going to be together.”

L.F. It seems the main cast, from the original movie, you keep popping up in films with one another.
M.B. “Yeah, if we can.  It’s really fun to work with each other.  Now, it’s like, can you believe this.?!  Especially when John and Gunnar and I were in Louisiana, shooting Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D; we were having lunch and we looked at each other and said, can you believe this? here we are, back again, all in the movie. So, it made it really fun on the set. There’s a lot of reminiscing and the conventions are fun too because they’re like reunions.”

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L.F. When you did TCM3D, was it surreal to see yourself at the beginning of the movie from the origianl film?
M.B. “No, I knew that was going to be there. I was surprised how much they used of it. I didn’t think they were going to use that much of the clip. I thought, my goodness. (laughs) I had forgotten about that.”

L.F. As a fan, it was really excting for me to have the movie start that way.
M.B. “Well, I mean, of course I thought it was exciting. I was glad they wrapped them up together like that. I didnt expect it.”

M.B. “What did you think of that one?” (movie)
L.F. I thought it was fun!
M.B. “You did?”

L.F. Yeah, it was tons of fun with the 3D.

M.B. “Yeah, that made it neat, too. We all had a very good time there. That was great because I got to be with Gunnar and John. Like I said, I had done some things with Ed at different reunions. Recently, we were in Germany together last year. Who would think I would be going to Germany this many years later?”

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L.F. Yeah, is it unbelieable to you that this movie is still as popular as it is?
M.B. “I’m amazed people still talk about it. It’s a blessing. Who would have ever thought?”

L.F. So, you had no idea when you were filming that this would be a hit?
M.B. “I just wanted it to get released in theatres. That’s what I prayed for. So many movies are made and, then, they never make it. Finally, it got picked up and it just kept going. I guess its still going today, or I wouldnt be doing so many conventions.””

L.F. You have fun doing the conventions? Does it ever feel like work?

M.B. “Are you kidding?” (laughing) How could you go to one of those conventions, get money for autographs and smile all day and not have a good time?”
L.F. Well, I’ve come across a few people who look less than excited about it, so, i just had to ask.

M.B. “Why wouldn’t they have fun?!” (laughing)

L.F. I dont know, I asked myself the same question. (There is much laughter at this point.)
M.B. :If we hear someone griping about something, we all get together and go, is he out of his mind? What’s his problem? Why is he here anyway, then? If this is a job to you, don’t come. That’s not what the deal is. It’s an hounour.”

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L.F. Aw, thats nice,
M.B. “Well, it is. People like something you did? You should be proud and grateful that they care. That’s just a give. Don’t you agree with me on that?”

L.F. Absolutley. It’s an honour for us (the fans) when we get to meet somebody.
M.B. “It works both ways. I’ve met terrific people. Every time is very exciting. A lot of times, I have my brother pick me up from the airport. He says, I like picking Marilyn up from the airport because she’s so happy when she gets back.  I can’t ever remember one that I felt disappointed or upset or it felt like work. Gosh, I’m just grateful as hell that I get to go.”

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L.F. So, going way, way back, your first role was in a Robert Altman film?
M.B. “That was just a teeny, tiny little part. I ran down and managed to get a role as an extra and then ended up working on the movie in a different capacity. I then auditioned for Sidney Lumet for Lovin’ Molly;  it had Blythe Danner, Beau Bridges and Anthony Perkins. He gave me the part and I was going to be one of the four leads; I was so excited. Then, a couple of weeks later, he called me and said, Marilyn, I’m so sorry, but in order for me to get Beau and Blythe, I have to cast this girl named Susan Sarandon. So, he gave me a role as an extra and I was a stand in for both Blythe and Susan; theyre both 5’7″ and I’m 5’3″so, I had to stand on an apple cart.”

L.F. So, did you always love horror or did you just happen to end up in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?
M.B. “Well, I was on the Texas Film Commission; I helped start that in 1971 and, so, I was familiar with all of the things that were coming in and out of Texas. I met Tobe (Hooper, writer and director of TCM) and Kim (Henkel; writer on TCM) on the set of Lovin’ Molly. I had seen them in Austin and recognized them as filmmakers. They come on the set and they want to watch Lumet shoot. Then, they help themselves when the food comes out. The producer, Stephen Friedman, who had just finished The Last Picture Show, he came over and says, who are you guys? Do you work on this? When they told him no, they weren’t working, Stephen says, Give me back the chicken!”

“So, because I was on the Film Commission and worked with the head of the commission, that’s when I saw that Tobe and Kim were working on this movie (TCM) together. Warren Skerrit, the head of the Film Commission,  is actually the one that came up with the title. They had titles like Scum of the Earth and Headcheese. I think the first title was Headcheese, then it was Scum of the Earth. I thought, I don’t really want to be in something called Scum of the Earth, but what the hell, its’ a movie. To get a lead in a movie, it was aweome ya know? I said something to Warren;  I said, these guys need another title. Warren was a pretty artistic guy and he came up with the most perfect title, ya know? Such an attention getting title. There werent that many chainsaw massacres back then and then you add Texas to it; people are curious about Texas. Back in 74, that title was just catchy. It helped make the movie.”

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L.F. Do you ever wonder what might have happened with Sally?
M.B. “Yeah, well, I’ve written about 5 or 6 endings for poor Sally and we kept thinking of doing it and I know Tobe, Kim and I worked on it for a while. We had a plausible reason for what happened to her.

L.F. Did you go directly from TCM to Eaten Alive?
M.B. “No, I did Helter Skelter before that.”

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L.F. Were you, at all, concerned about taking a role in Helter Skelter?
M.B. “Um, yeah. Because number one, it was too early. It was too soon after the murders and everybody in L.A. resented us doing that. Second, because they told every actress that auditioned, you’re going to have to shave your head. I thought, well, I dont want to shave my head, but I’m new in Los Angeles , I have a new agent and  I can’t say, Gosh, I’m Miss Picky and I don’t want to do that. That would have been terrible and it would have been insulting to the director and casting director. Then, I thought, oh, Marilyn, how stupid of you. You’re not going to get cast; they probably already got it hand picked or have package deals. So, I did say to the director, I really dont want to shave my head; is there anything we can do diferent?  He said, well why don’t you read for Linda Kasabian? After I read it, I thought, oh, this is the best part ever. I remember going home and crying my eyes out, thinking I had done terrible. That same afternoon, the phone rings and its my agent saying I got the part.”

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“I’m grateful I was in it and grateful it came out and it was received as well as it did. And Steve Railsback  was a hit! You couldn’t get a better Manson. I had a ball and met the best people; it was a real good experpience. Of course, then you had to worry about when it came out. There were some gripes and I remember when we shot for the La Bianca house, we were on their block and we were in a house two doors down (from the origianl La Bianca house) and the people thought we were so disrespectful. They turned their music up really loud, thinking they would screw us up, but we were shooting without sound that night. It just put us in more of the mood of Manson. It was too perfect.”

L.F. Was that a little bit creepy, though?
M.B. “Of course it was creepy, but ya know, the movie was creepy, the character was creepy, so it just helped the actors. Everything was wrong; let’s face it, that was really wrong, everything that happened.”

L.F. Did you meet Ms. Kasabian?
M.B. “Oh gosh, no. I know some people met the people they were portraying, but not me. She’s in the witness protection program somehwere. She’s the only one that was at both murders and because she was a rat, she gets off. She is the only one of the whole gang who managed to be in the car twice. I had to really work on Kasabian to figure her out and make it believable.”

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L.F. When you played Sally (TCM) and Faye (Eaten Aive), was that hard for you? Were you tied to that bed in Eaten Alive forever? That’s what it felt like.
M.B. “Yeah, Texas Chainsaw,  I did a lot of physical stuff and it wasn’t hard. I just wanted to give them a 10; the best I could do. The only thing I could do was give Tobe a 10 and he could bring me down if he needed to, but he never did. A couple of times on Chainsaw, when I ran into the bbq place, I ran into the camera, the camera man…..you know, I didn’t want to look like one of those stupid girls who is running in one clip and then the next time you see her, she’s casually going into somewhere…oh, help me…..
He would tell me, Marilyn, slow down; hit your mark and don’t hit the camera man.”

In Eaten Alive, that had it’s issues. Yeah, I think they did have me tied up there forever and gagged. Some of the actors were way too into their parts and I had to remind them that we’re acting.(starts laughing) That’s probably why it looks so damn real!
L.F. Yeah, it looks awful.
M.B. “Yeah, it was pretty uncomfortable.”

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L.F. Was Texas Chainsaw Massacre 4 the first time you did a cameo?

M.B. “Yes, Kim had wrote me a real good part, but they werent S.A.G. ,so, I couldn’t be in it unless someone dubbed my lines. So, I just played someone on a gurney as Anonymous. I thought it was just going to be in the background; it was going to be our private joke.”

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L.F. Did he write that part for you in Butcher Boys?
M.B. “Oh! I don’t know. I think so. He definitley had me in mind.”
L.F. I felt really bad for you when they took your dog.
M.B. “Oh, that was terrible! Dang it I haven’t even seen that.  Is it good?”

L.F. Yeah, it’s fun and crazy in a really great way.
M.B. “I’ve got to see that! You did your research, girlfriend!”

L.F. Well, I’ve had a great time working with Shawn Ewert.
M.B. “Oh yeah, he’s remarkable, isn’t he?  You know what? It was my birthday on Wednesday and when I came home from dinner, there was this box of flowers. I thought, who is this from?  It was from Shawn and I was never more amazed.

L.F. Avery Pfeiffer and Troy Ford ( the two leads in Sacrament) both spoke very highly of working with you. They said that you were so wonderful and so easy to talk to and really helpful.
M.B. “That’s lovely. I’m glad to hear it. I certainly enjoyed the whole experience.”

L.F. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. It really was an honour.

M.B. “Oh Lisa, it was great talking with you.”

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Amanda Rebholz Answers 11 Questions With Lisa

imageAmanda Rebholz took some time out of her crazy busy schedule to answer some questions and let us know a little bit about her. Just to give you an idea of the amount of responsibility she carried on Sacrament, she is billed under Actress, Miscellaneous Crew, Camera & Electrical Department, Costume Department, Producer and Writer. What can’t Amanda do?

1.You were a published author at the age of fourteen; what kind of writing do you prefer to do? Short stories, articles, screenplays….

When I was a little kid I would churn out stories at a ridiculous pace… I filled notebooks with stories and poems and little one-page things. My grandma eventually bought me an electric typewriter and taught me how to type so that I could be more productive. It kind of progressed from short stories to articles for my middle-school newspaper, and by the time I was fourteen I was doing reviews of CDs and movies. The local newspaper had a contest to bring in young writers and I was chosen; what started as a few articles for them became a regular column. I wound up being the youngest writer on the syndicated New York Times news wire when I was a teenager, and I started writing for a few magazines and doing live concert reviews. Because of this, I met with a lot of musicians and celebrities who were coming through Dallas and Austin. My mom and grandma were so supportive and would drive me to these events out of town so that I could interview the people and write these pieces. In college I started writing slam poetry and spoken word pieces and performing them at open mic nights on campus… I won a few contests that way and had a couple of pieces published. These days I am writing screenplays, but I still keep a regular blog, write freelance articles for different newspapers and magazines, and write short stories and poetry whenever the mood strikes me. My biggest regret is that I’m not as prolific now as I was when I was a kid. Back then I’d write so much and never stop to go “Wait, there’s a plot hole there” or “this has been done before”, I was just focused on getting the word out on the page. Now I’m in my own head a lot and it inhibits my writing. If I’m doing a screenplay I have to think “What kind of budget would we need to pull that off?”, things like that, and it really changes the final product.

2.You have quite a few job titles on Sacrament; how did all of this responsibility land on you?


Shawn Ewert’s been one of my absolute best friends for years now, and he’s always been a writer and an artist. We’d talked about collaborating before and I actually shot stills and helped him on an unreleased short film he did called “The Sleepover”. Even when he was doing that project, he had the idea for “Sacrament” but he’d gotten stuck on the script. He showed me what he had and we started brainstorming. I was able to help him get through some of the roadblocks, but most of the leg work was his. After the script was written and polished up a little, I volunteered to put up some of the funding to make it happen. Shawn’s got a great work ethic and he’s someone I really believe in. He’s a very stubborn, driven guy and he’s very intelligent. I think because he’s quiet and he doesn’t go around shouting from the rooftops about his ambitions, people underestimate him, but Shawn knows what he wants when he’s working on something and he tries to put people around himself who will help him realize that goal. I’ve done a little bit of everything for different productions, so I was happy to lend my experience to him in any way that helped. I didn’t really mean to get the part of Lorri (which is named after my late mother, who Shawn was very close to as well), by the way. Another girl auditioned and I thought she was actually very good, and I knew how much behind-the-scenes responsibility I’d taken on with this project. It was going to take up the entire summer. Being in front of the camera and behind the camera at the same time was bizarre and stressful and crazy, and sometimes I think it made me a little too close to the project. At the end of the day everyone else got to go home and work on other things and I was still knee-deep in this movie. But that was also really awesome because I got to see it develop from embryo to toddler, so to speak, and I was a part of every side of it. Shawn was really great about listening to my input and so it was really fun for me to take on so many parts. I think that’s the whole spirit of indie film like this anyway. If you’re making a movie on this kind of budget everyone HAS to chip in and roll up their sleeves. No one’s entitled to anything, most of us haven’t even come close to paying our dues to have any sense of being ‘better’ than anyone else. If something needs done, people just have to pitch in and get it done at the end of the day. It was a huge communal effort to make “Sacrament” and I was honored to be a part of it in so many ways.

3.Would you be interested in having this many hats to wear on another project?


I think I would, but hindsight is 20/20. Of course when you put a film to bed you’re able to look back and see the things you might’ve done differently, the oversights you made, things like that. I’m very critical of myself and my mistakes and I always strive to be the best I can, so I always go “Ah! I should’ve known that would happen!” after something goes wrong. But you can’t play the ‘could’ve would’ve should’ve’ game, you just have to focus on making your next project even more awesome. I’m working on a film right now in LA and I started out as the director’s assistant but I wound up polishing script pages, rewriting some pretty crucial scenes, taking on-set stills, collaborating with the special effects artists, going to production meetings, getting to be involved with editing decisions and reshoots, and working on the publicity and marketing for the final product. If I’m really passionate about something, it’s really hard for me not to dive in with both feet and really devote myself to the project.

4.Do you have a favorite area of the horror genre?


The ones that really disturb me aren’t the gory ones, although they’re certainly cringe-worthy. The thing I absolutely cannot handle in a movie is when someone has a really messed-up leg injury, like if there’s bone showing or they get their tendon or hamstring cut or something else horrific like that. I will squeal and cover my face or leave the room or something if that happens, it literally nauseates me. But that’s not a ‘scare’ moment. My favorite horror movie ever is ‘Jaws’ and people always argue that that isn’t a horror film. It’s not traditionally horror, it’s more drama than anything I guess, but it always freaked me out and I think it was never about the shark for me, it was about the relationship between the three main men and the sea and the unknown and this primeval beast that they’re up against. I love psychological horror like ‘The Strangers’ and ‘You’re Next’, too. Home invasion stuff really bugs me when it’s done well because your home is supposed to be the safest place in the world, it’s the first place you want to go when shit hits the fan. So if your home becomes the danger zone then where do you go? Plus I live alone in a studio apartment and I’m usually coming home very late at night to an empty, dark place… so I’m always pretty convinced that someone in a scary mask is probably hiding behind my shower curtain. I usually search my apartment right after I go in to make sure that isn’t the case.

5.How did you get into acting and working on films?


I just happened to make a lot of friends who do this for a living. I’ve been a horror fan since I was a very little kid; I remember watching horror movies on my grandpa’s lap when I was a toddler. There are pictures of me dressed like witches and goblins and demons from the time I was like two years old. My mom was a big horror fan and we’d rent all of the classic slasher movies on VHS on Saturday nights and watch them in our apartment. We weren’t too far apart in age, she was only 21 when she had me, so we had an insanely tight relationship and she would expose me to a lot of things I probably shouldn’t have known about. Like buying me a Chucky toy when I was four. But because of that, when I was older I heard about this convention in Dallas called Texas Frightmare Weekend, which is absolutely huge now but back then it was really small and intimate and homey. My first year going was in 2008 and I met a lot of amazing people who were not only into horror films but were actually making them. I fell in with those heathens— Shawn and his husband Jeff were among the first people I met. Two of my closest friends, Brandy and Burt, were producing a horror movie called “Possum Walk” and they needed someone to do some ADR and line dubbing for one of the actresses. I don’t even know how they thought of me but they did, and surprise surprise, I was actually pretty good at voice acting. I came in and did the ADR for that part and after that, I stayed involved. I wrote a short film called “Closure” which we shot, but it’s never come out because it’s kind of been stuck in post-production limbo for more than three years now. Still, it was my first exercise in writing and producing something myself, and I made a lot of great contacts. At Texas Frightmare Weekend I had met this amazing director and FX artist out of LA named Robert Hall, he’d done this great indie film called ‘Lightning Bug’ and had just finished this badass horror film, ‘Laid to Rest’. We became friends and stayed in touch, and I visited him when I was out in California, stuff like that. In October 2013 he called me to ask if I wanted to come work for him on this upcoming feature film, ‘Fear Clinic’, which is starring Robert Englund and Fiona Dourif and all of these other amazing talents. Of course I did, I dropped everything and moved out here. I got to participate in all of the pre-production stuff and went to set in Ohio for a month while we shot the movie, and I’ve been working closely with Rob every step of post-production. I also became very close friends with one of the actors, Thomas, who is also a director and writer. I’ve been really lucky in that all of my friends are creative and they encourage me to pursue my own aspirations. I’m friends with a terrific pack of artistic weirdos and it’s the best possible scenario because they don’t know the meaning of the word ‘impossible’.

6.What was your favorite moment or experience working on Sacrament?


I got really tight with some of the cast, and honestly those are the best moments. You really do become a family on a set, you guys are all in the trenches together, sometimes in weird or uncomfortable situations, working long days without a lot of luxuries, things like that. You either fight like cats and dogs or you become really good friends. Luckily I really loved the cast and crew that Shawn put together. We had so many inside jokes and stupid fun adventures. One of my favorite things was with my co-star Brittany, we were in a car with Troy and Avery and we had to drive past the crew for a shot. We decided to go really slow with all of the windows down, blaring rap music and thugging out on them like gangsters. It was hilarious. Or the time that Troy tried to teach me to twerk.. or when we were filming in this huge bed and breakfast and they gave us permission to have a pool party after hours. We wrapped and then everybody went and got in the pool and it turned into such a ridiculous evening. We were a really tight-knit group and it was so much fun.

7.Are you interested in branching out into any other genres (i.e.) comedy or drama?


I am always interested in branching out. I love horror movies to the core of my being, but most of my favorite movies are dramas, character studies, things with a lot of dialogue and development. Most of what I write is only horror on a very basic level, it’s more about unusual situations and how people react to them. I’d love to do some drama. Comedy is hard, much harder than horror. If a horror movie sucks but has good gore, people will still love it and support it, it’ll find an audience. If comedy isn’t funny, there’s no saving it.

8.Did you have any particularly difficult or grueling experiences working on Sacrament?


I’ll tell you who the unsung heroes are on a film set, and it’s the special FX artists. Especially on an indie film with a very low budget, where the artists are working in really grueling conditions under crazy time constraints, trying to make magic happen. There was one night when we were shooting out in the woods and our head makeup artist Matt Ash was using the bed of a pickup truck as a workstation. People were holding up their cell phones for light as he tried to apply a tubing rig and use an air compressor and everything else… the generator was overheating, we hadn’t tested the gag yet in daylight because there hadn’t been time… one of our actors ended up completely naked in the field trying to hose himself off from sticky fake blood using an old t-shirt and bottled water because we were a little unprepared for the way the gag was going to go off. Scenes like that require very precise pre-planning and you don’t have that luxury when you’re working on a tight budget and deadlines. It’s really inspiring watching people just dive in and grit their teeth and figure out how to fix something in a situation like that. You can either stand there and complain or you can solve the problem and make it work, and every single time Matt did the latter. The hardest part for me about that was having to stand by not knowing how to help because I don’t know anything about effects. My own personal hardest moment was probably a tie between a scene I had to film in a barn and a dialogue scene with Brittany. The scene in the barn was incredibly hot, it was the middle of summer in an abandoned barn in Texas, and I was soaked in sweat. Hay and dust were sticking to me, I was in a wig and full makeup, and I had to lay down in the straw. The barn was full of wasps and we were all afraid of snakes and everyone had guns and sticks and were trying to make sure the area was clear. It was a long, harrowing day, not terribly fun but it looks awesome on film. And the dialogue scene was just a particularly long, tricky speech that Lorri is giving to Jennifer [Brittany’s character] and I just couldn’t nail it. I kept flubbing lines, walking out of frame, missing my marks… if I could do something to fuck it up, I seemed determined to do it. I felt so bad for Brittany having to put up with me that day.

9.What do you hope people’s takeaway will be after seeing the film?


Shawn had such a specific idea when he wrote the film; as a gay male who’s been out his whole adult life and who is very open about his marriage and his feelings on equality in a conservative state like Texas, Shawn has faced a lot of prejudice and hatred in his life. A lot of us who worked on the film, including me, identify as bisexual or gay or some other variation from heterosexuality, and even the straight people on set consider themselves allies for GLBT equality. Living in a pretty straight-laced state the way we do, we see a lot of people who may not be as extreme as the citizens of Middle Spring but that doesn’t mean much. It’s a lot more likely to face discrimination than to be welcomed somewhere with open arms. And I know Shawn has a conflicted history with organized religion and coming to terms with where that stands when it comes to his personal life, as do I. It’s the reason I left the Christian church, I didn’t like the way they made me feel about who I chose to love or get involved with. ‘Sacrament’ is not just a horror film and it’s not exploitive, it isn’t a ‘gay’ film. It’s a movie about people who take an ideal too far, who live on the far extreme end of a conviction. They don’t believe that they’re villains or that they’re doing anything wrong; they actually think they’re doing the characters a favor by saving them from a life of sin. And while most of the religious nutjobs in the world like the Phelps family may not go quite this far, it isn’t that outlandish. You hear stories all over the world about ‘pray the gay away’ camps and organizations that boycott GLBT-friendly establishments and do everything in their power to prevent marriage equality from becoming a reality, and sadly a lot of them ARE affiliated with the churches. It’s a rough place to be if you’re actually an open-minded, loving, modern Christian because your whole group is getting a bad rap because of these people. But the truth is, it is happening all over the place and I think Shawn had a very strong conviction that this was a story he needed to tell and wanted to get out there. I think writing it was liberating for him. And everyone loved the idea of a film where the main couple are a strong, committed gay couple instead of the typical ‘final girl and love interest’ scenario. You don’t see enough strong gay characters in film right now, especially horror or indie films.

10.What other projects do you have lined up?


I’m living in Hollywood right now, working on the post-production of ‘Fear Clinic’. We’re going to be coming to Texas Frightmare Weekend in a few weeks to promote that, show some clips and do a panel. I’m coming out with my boss Rob as well as Thomas Dekker and Corey Taylor, so this is a huge deal for me to be among such talent— but besides that, they’re just sweet guys who I love working with. After TFW, I’m coming back to Texas for the big ‘Sacrament’ premiere and then I will be back to LA to work on another feature with Rob. We have a few things lined up once we put ‘Fear Clinic’ to bed, and I’m writing a new screenplay that I’m insanely excited about. I’ve also been focusing on my other artistic endeavors more. I’ve been a photographer since I was 12 and I’m really starting to get more confident in my skills there. I’ve been very lucky to work with some of my talented friends lately, putting together these really bizarre and beautiful photo shoots, and I want to try to put out a book or something similar.

11.What is one thing that you would like to accomplish this year?
I’m working really hard to better myself in every possible way. I know this sounds really cliché but it’s true. When we started casting ‘Sacrament’ I was about 350 pounds and I was reeling from the death of my mother. I’ve taken care of her since I was nineteen so it’s been very new to me to live on my own and only be responsible for myself, and moving out to LA and making new friends has really opened up my horizons and helped me kind of find myself. I am really exploring who I am and experimenting; I’m having so many great new experiences. I’ve met some incredible people and I can’t wait to keep traveling down all of these wonderfully-weird, windy paths to see where they lead. I think 2014 is going to have some big things in store for me, and if the last year is anything to gauge it by, I can’t even begin to imagine where I’ll end up.