Leo Francis' Exclusive Interview with Sarah and Gavin Michael Booth (The Scarehouse)
I recently had the pleasure of viewing an advanced screening of The Scarehouse after I connected with the film makers behind the 2015 extreme indie-horror shocker. Here's what I had to say about it... "Writer-director Gavin Michael Booth and his wife, co-writer and lead actress Sarah Booth's The Scarehouse, is a revenge thriller that is equal parts Saw and Scream... and the balance between the two is what makes this movie so much god damn fun. The film is a sick and twisted ride through two girl's fantasy of retribution against those that have done them wrong in the past, and it's an absolutely brutal good time. With strong performances from the leading actresses and some absolutely cringe-inducing gore, The Scarehouse is definitely one to watch out for." You can read my full review here. So after loving the film I wanted to know more about it and the film makers behind it, and luckily for me Gavin and Sarah were not only kind enough to take the time to conduct an extremely in depth interview about the entire film making process, but they also provided me with some exclusive pictures and the first look at a brand new clip from the movie which you can see at the end of the interview. Thanks to Gavin and Sarah for taking the time to answer my questions, and please enjoy this exclusive interview from The Children of Samhain.
Leo Francis: First let me congratulate you on the film. As I am sure you can tell from my review, I was a huge fan.
Gavin Michael Booth: Thank you on the film. It is nice to have it out into the world. Time for the lovers and haters to decide where the film will fall. Who knew our little indie film would be already bootlegged the streets of Indonesia and rank in the Top Ten most torrented films on Kickass Torrents and the rest for almost a full week (amongst the Oscar nominee screeners and other major new releases)? I know it is piracy, but I didn’t know it was possible for the little guys to even crack into that level of demand.
LF: Did you come up with the story together?
GMB: Originally it was going to be all guys - basing the story around a fraternity prank gone horribly wrong. Loosely in my head a sequel could involve an all female cast if it wasn’t going to contain any returning characters from the first film. Once the film was pitched the interest from our distributor quickly turned to the all female cast and it was back to the drawing board, scrapping most of what was created for the original version.
Sarah, being my wife, by proximity was around while I bounced ideas off her. We had currently written the story for one short film together (“To Hell, With Love” - Fantasia 2013, available for free on Youtube) but she doesn’t classify herself a screenwriter. I had a tight deadline to turn in a treatment given that Universal was interested already. I was pacing our apartment, talking about ideas with her while we were jogging or grocery shopping (we are one of those gross couples that does even the most mundane tasks together). Her feedback started becoming too fantastic to not include her with a story credit. Especially since I could pick her brain and research so much off of her from the female perspective when it comes to bullying and social class. She also came up with the concepts for a few of the most gory kill methods seen in the film.
Sarah Booth: I’m pretty sure there are some people in Toronto that think we are truly disturbed if they passed us in a store aisle and heard us discussing plot points. “So do you think ropes can hold up under a jeep winch? Would that be enough pressure to break all of her ribs? At least one?”
LF: What was the inspiration for the film or where did the idea come from?
GMB: I’ve had the story for several years. A good friend of mine, Shawn Lippert, owns and operates a Halloween fun house called “Scarehouse Windsor”. Through knowing Shawn I eventually ended up taking a tour of the haunted attraction during the daytime when he was setting up for the season. I never knew how these attractions work. I figured you needed a lot of staff to be pulling off the scares at each corner. It was amazing to me how much could be automated by motion sensors, air cannons and a limited number of people who simply change costume and move further down the corridor to scare customers again without them realizing it is the same person.
I had been working on a film for years about a Columbine style shooting that made it so close to camera on three different occasions but couldn’t quite get made given the number of real life tragedies such as the Batman theatre shooting and the Sandy Hook incident. It was wen writing this film that I first took the tour with Shawn through Scarehouse Windsor. I was deep into research on school shooter profiles and the history of real shooting events. I thought out loud with Shawn - why would someone walk into a building with a gun and execute in a sloppy fashion. You don’t have control, you can’t know for certain where your main “targets” are. You also likely aren’t coming out of that building alive and if you do you are going straight to jail, do not pass go. Inside a haunted attraction, I joked that day that you could invite the people you wanted for revenge to a special preview night, have home court advantage in the dark and even put the victim’s bodies on display and no other guests walking through would think anything more than it was a great prop or great make-up effects. Hiding in plain site. That was the birth of the story. Like any story I’ve come up with it quickly was jot down on a scrap of paper or a Burger King napkin and added to a box of ideas to one day pursue.
It is no coincidence that we filmed the movie inside the very same Scarehouse Windsor and that Shawn Lippert built the majority of our sets for us!
LF: You both took on numerous roles in the film making process in addition to writing and directing the film. Sarah, you were responsible for casting and Gavin you not only edited the film but you worked on the sound too.
SB: Let’s be honest, a lot had to do with our lack of budget! The casting was fun for me. No one likes to believe me but I had to audition to be in this film. They especially don’t believe me when I tell them that it was my original effort to audition for the part of “Lisa”. I wanted to do some ass-kicking on camera! I had just finished doing some background stunts on a major studio film and had been taking stunt training classes. Lisa seemed right up my alley. Yes, I cast the film but all cast had to be approved by distributors and Telefilm Film Canada (our grant body that invests in Canadian filmmakers projects). I had far from the final say.
They came back to Gavin and said that I might not be best for Lisa. He thought he was going to have to come home from that meeting and break my heart! They followed up with the next sentence: “She should play Corey.” Well it was a quick “yes” from me on that suggestion. Casting the other girls; Toronto is a small industry. We all know each other, even if just loosely. There are not a lot of films for twenty-something females - not for serious screen time. There are lots of secretary, girlfriend in bit part, nurse, etc. so I thought it would be great to call upon many of the talented ladies I’ve seen in small parts that I think deserve the best shot. Toronto and Montreal, because I do work in Montreal too and have another pool of talent to draw from. It was a lot of fun to build the ensemble of the sorority sisters.
GMB: I love editing. I don’t know that even if we had the budget for an editor that I would have hired one. I have grown up since the 8MM film days and VHS days of piecing together my own projects. The Scarehouse was a tough edit too - looking back I don’t know if someone else would have pulled the same story from the material shot. The entire flashback sequences were an afterthought for example. They were never in the original film. We were ONLY inside The Scarehouse for ninety minutes. Having edited the rough cut and then had permission to go back and shoot these scenes we thought would be great to showcase all the girls when they were still friendly - well - there was already so much insight as to how I had edited the main portions as to where flashbacks could be worked in, how to write the scenes that catered to what had just happened or was about to happen on screen.
I did a bit of everything on this film! Sarah and I even did some music for the film playing prepared piano, and when you hear a haunting singing over the score in moments of tension - that is Sarah and her co-star singing on location in an old swimming pool room inside the building we shot in! I designed sets with Shawn. I physically built sets. I did special sound effects. Really an array of everything. In post and marketing too - cut the trailer, designed poster layouts, directed photoshoots, helped with the music supervision pulling from many of the talented artists I’ve had a chance to direct videos for. Love it all. Would do it all over again if asked to.
LF: Is it safe to say this film is your baby?
GMB: 100%. I’ve only known filmmaking where I am very hands on in many departments. Sarah also did the majority of the wardrobe for the film and from time to time you could find her scrubbing toilets. Our producing partner, Mike Carriere, ended up having to re-plumb the building with his brother Brad days before the shoot started just so we could flush! Most people wore many hats. You have to. It is just the nature of things in the indie world. Often for my music videos or other films I’ve also been the director of photography and the camera operator so this was LESS than normal. I love every aspect of filmmaking so it is a thrill to be on set, to be problem solving and working with a team to make the shot happen over and over each day.
SB: We don’t plan on having any real babies so film babies is perfectly fine with us. We can spend all of our time playing with them, telling our friends how big they are getting and annoying the hell out of our social media friends with photos and updates!
LF: How was the dynamic while working together?
SB: Prior to getting married a few years ago we had never worked together. He had his projects and I had mine. In order to find out if working together would drive us nuts or potentially harm our marriage we started with out short film “To Hell, With Love”. That was a testing ground for how dynamics would work on set. It was Gavin writing, directing, editing, both of us writing the story and producing and me acting in the film. We ended up having so much fun dipping our toe in the pool we figured diving in with a feature would be ok.
GMB: And we survived! Working with Sarah was a dream. She’s a fantastic actress. I’m happy the film is out now and it doesn’t sound like a husband talking up his wife. The world can see that I’m not B.S.ing on that fact. She always has fresh ideas. She never tires, even after many stunt takes. She’s a fantastic team player and was always kind to the entire cast and crew. It couldn't have gone better with us working on set together. She even scrubbed toilets when we didn’t have enough PA’s! I have a picture of that somewhere - her in costume, with big yellow rubber gloves cleaning up the pee and poo of fellow cast and crew just to make sure the film kept running smoothly. I hope this isn’t the last film we can make together.
LF: Sarah, You have to act in several extremely intense scenes that require you to sadistically torture another human being. Are you able to separate easily from the character or does that ever take an emotional toll on you?
SB: No emotional toll. Quite the opposite, I wanted to show somewhat that Corey was starting to REALLY dig her revenge. Remember, if you haven’t seen the entire film, I’m staying out spoiler territory here but these girls are determined at any cost to get their revenge. It is their last supper of sorts so with Corey I wanted her to have no regrets and leave it all on the court. I think prison messed her up in a huge way. She’s just not quite right anymore. The fact that her and Elaina can’t look in the mirror and find all the blame they need is proof how much sitting in a dark cell, festering in angry thoughts, using the other girls as scapegoats becomes a reality for them. That fact alone starts Corey off already mentally unstable so it was fun to have her laugh and toy with the girls. She’s giving this Dexter-like bravado that she’s in control but as the film unfolds you start to see that control knocked out from under her a few times and she’s much less “the boss”.
LF: Your chemistry with your co-star Kimberly-Sue Murray feels so organic. Did the two of you know each other prior to filming? If so - was the part written for her?
SB: The part wasn’t written for her at all. Elaina was the hardest casting. We had a few actors come in and read or put themselves on tape several times trying to pinpoint an Elaina. Kimberly-Sue and I did go to theatre school together and were roommates for a while here in Toronto. Her and I were able to tap into some real friendship and we even did audition tapes early on together - a screen-test of sorts to show how we could play off of one another.
It helps that Gavin is very good at keeping both Elaina and Corey always in the moment they need to be in. There’s the element of Corey always trying to dominate Elaina and manipulate her into keeping her head in the game. There are a lot of subtleties we were able to work out on set to keep that “will she, won’t she” make it to the end of their plan.
LF: The role seemed pretty physically demanding, did you receive a lot of training to do the stunts? Did you sustain any injuries?
SB: Not a lot of stunt training but we were able to work with a fantastic stunt trainer Kevin Briand. This man loves stunts. He also happens to respect Gavin quite a bit and is always the best team player. We didn’t have a lot but we devised a way to execute each stunt with the minimum amount of bruising. Though there was bruising! There is a moment when Lisa kicks me and I fly backwards landing on my back. I cracked my head good and hard on that one.
Another moment, when I run up and stab Lisa in the shoulder with my pocket knife, we were starting to run out of time so each reset became more and more frantic for everyone. Even though it is just the hilt of the knife and the actress, Jennifer Miller, is wearing an armadillo pad on her back, I missed just slightly and jammed the metal into her shoulder blade. In the same shot she next spins around and knees me in the nose; which given the adrenaline and shock from having her shoulder hit so hard, sure enough, she turns around and smashes me in the nose for real! I’m shocked - still give my line and finish the take. THAT is the take in the film. Couldn’t beat that realism!
LF: What was your favorite scene to film and why? And what contribution to the story are you most proud of?
SB: The ending scene is my favorite. Full of blood. Stumbling around. That blood tasted like cherries so it wasn’t too bad to be slathered in it. I knew in my gut that scene was going to be a great moment but when I saw it with Adrian Ellis’ score I flipped out for it. He made it more epic than I could have imagined. That’s a whole other story about how Adrian was in Europe and convinced the string section of an orchestra to play the Scarehouse score string parts for free! That is all in the end scene’s music swell. (Video Adrian shot on his phone while in Prague recording session)
Story wise, I came up with the corset squeeze. I pitched the idea to Gavin, we go back and forth for five minutes and all of a sudden it is absolutely gruesome in our minds. We wanted each death to be related to something from the night in question two years ago. Gavin’s idea was that if this was the last time Corey and Elaina saw these girls then it would be the night burned in their brain at trial. Sitting in their cells they would replay it. They’d be thinking of each girl and what would get under each of their skin, what would really torment them beyond just a quick stab; real, true suffering. Gavin wanted there to be hints and tie-ins, especially on a second viewing, that tie it all together.
LF: Gavin, the gore in the film was extreme, to say the least, but it looked absolutely amazing. I always prefer practical effects to CGI, and I get the sense that your decision to use practical effects was an aesthetic choice as opposed to a budgetary one. Is that correct?
GMB: It was always idea to go practical. I’m not hardcore against CGI. I think there is amazing CGI out there but that is absolutely pricey to get done right. I also don’t mind the practical/CGI hybrid. Some episodes of The Walking Dead for example downright nail it.
However - yes, budgetary restrictions were a huge factor for every department on The Scarehouse. My background is in once making an entire feature for $470.00 (Canadian!) and directing an endless slew of music videos that were always done on razor tight micro budget. Approaching The Scarehouse with that mentality of how to stretch every dollar and how to shoot around what we had to work with really saved us day to day.
The make-up artist and hair stylist we brought on - Carly Nicodemo and Taylor Vigneux - aside from all of the beauty stuff handled the special effects make-up. I gave them the freedom to explore how to come up with each effect practically but I also like to try and challenge my crew members to push beyond what they have learned or done in the past. We had a day where *walkie-talkie* “Uh… the boobs aren’t working… repeat… the boobs are still not working” was a production hold-up for almost 8 hours in a 12 hour day. It was a disaster - we had contracted the breast make-up gag out to a third party. It didn’t work. The fake breasts we had ordered to be created ended up looking like a kid’s art project - lumpy, uneven, etc. It was Carly and Taylor that found a cheap and quick way to work around the original plan and we were able to shoot and save the day without dropping too much coverage.
They are geniuses in my eyes. They don’t mind me saying that this was their first time doing real gore stuff for a movie and constantly - right until the premiere was over - where worried that it wouldn’t look real enough. Our world premiere, I sat in the lobby during the screening and a woman came bolting out of the cinema, hands over her mouth, and began vomiting before she even reached the washroom. At our Toronto premiere the effects made a women run from the theatre and pass out in the lobby. She had to be revived by paramedics and taken away by ambulance. I don’t think Carly and Taylor doubt their effective make-up any longer! We truly did only budget for the exact number of frames or seconds we knew we were going to show the audience. That is all you need! The sound design George Flores did on the film does the rest. Even if you cover your eyes you can’t avoid his equally disturbing sound effects for each gore bit.
LF: You have a very bold visual style to your work...
GMB: Do I? That is nice to hear. I don’t like bubble gum and rainbows. I don’t like overly bright teenie melodrama. The film I was working on prior to The Scarehouse was about a school shooting and we were going to tell it in a way that hasn’t been seen on screen before. It was going to be gritty and real as well as a technical and production groundbreaker. I think films, even The Scarehouse with it’s over the top plot and kill scenes, have to be grounded in some reality, some sense that maybe these characters could exist. Maybe that visual style comes from wanting to not hold back any punches on screen.
LF: What film makers would you consider to be your biggest influences?
GMB: Oh, man. Richard Linklater is my favorite I think. I enjoy so many of his movies on a massive scale. Larry Clarke. Do you remember seeing “Kids” for the first time? I do. I was in high school and that film felt “real”. That might have been the first time I saw the sort of unknown cast “mockumentary” style of filmmaking. I loved it. It feels so real. Childhood is more the obvious with Spielberg and Lucas.
LF: What horror films did you see as a child that left a lasting impression on you?
GMB: 100%, A-Number 1 is the original "A Nightmare On Elm Street" I have seen that horror film more than anything else. I still think it is a fantastic film. I grew up reading Fangoria like so many of us and always reading about how they made the Freddy films was key to my education growing up in a mostly pre-internet time. That film was my bible on how a horror film is made. The Friday series too. So many repeat viewings. I’m a huge fan of sequels done right or always giving a new sequel a chance to see where they take it - I thought a few of the Friday sequels were incredibly inventive. One of my next films could actually be what I think would make an absolutely amazing Friday the 13th sequel/reboot and truly bring fresh blood to it but I think Bradley Fuller and Platinum Dunes already have something in the works. Instead I’ll stick with our brand new original slasher character.
LF: You also worked as a Foley artist for the film. I have always been fascinated by the art and think you did a fantastic job. Without spoiling anything, can you tell us about one of the times you had to get creative to achieve the sound you were hoping for, and where that sound falls in the film?
GMB: When it came to foley and special sound effects I talked with George Flores our post-sound wizard. He gave me instructions on how to record and a list of suggested items to use for sound effects. I took a return trip to the Scarehouse Windsor building in Windsor, Ontario with Shawn Lippert and Mike Carriere and we spent the day in the actual location rooms making everything from the rope tightening sounds to someone being kicked down the stairs to almost all of the evil witch and clown laughs and other soundscapes of the various areas of The Scarehouse loop CD that Corey and Elaina are playing in their attraction. You can hear Shawn Lippert and I doing our best laughs. Lots of them made the film. There’s an easter egg for you.
The rope tightening was two elements layered together - one is a huge piece of industrial plastic shrink wrap being stretched between Mike and myself. Then we used a deflated volleyball and a leather jacket to twist them as hard and tight as we could. That is it. That is the corset rope sounds. Once recorded by Steve Scott our location sound man extraordinaire and mixed by George it is just massively intense in the finished film.
The best had to be recording the ADR / wall of the patrons lined up outside The Scarehouse. My assistant Kristen Calibaba and fellow producer Joel Boyce take the cake with great deliveries like “They’ve already got enough skeletons in there you skinny bitch!” and “What? Do sluts get in for free?!” as the sorority sisters enter one by one. We have video of all the foley sessions I’ll be cutting together and releasing sometime in the near future. The process is fascinating to me as well.
LF: What was your favorite scene to film and why?
GMB: To be completely honest this film was hell to make. A daily nightmare- as a producer and a director. So now that the film is in release and generally being well received I’m going to take some good time and think on this one, see what hindsight comes up (insert time-lapse until third person-Gavin has figured it out).
Ok I have it! I’m a big fan or long takes when they make sense or tell a story in a cool way. Gravity. Amazing. Children of Men. The Best. OK GO music videos. Mind blowing. These are all great examples. I’ve done some one take music videos in the past and originally for The Scarehouse the opening was a single-take for five or six minutes. The two lead characters, Corey and Elaina are moving from room to room, through trap doors and into different hallways running a final checklist for the The Scarehouse before they open the doors that night. I loved designing that shot. Working to make sure when we build the sets that these particular sets were built near one another or connected to one another so that this single take could work. It is always fun when a shot is challenging for all departments. The lighting had to be rigged that this haunted house was working in some elements. We have foot pedals and smoke machines the girls are testing. The set up and planning was thrilling. We brought in a fantastic steadicam operator known as “Shaker” up here in Toronto. Lovely guy - willing to give it his all. Sarah Booth and Kimberly-Sue rehearsed it. This was going to be the opening credit sequence, this was going to be the first thing you see in the film so you want to leave an impression.
Unfortunately we didn’t have the camera team to pull it off. It was really a shame. We shot that thing for two days and didn’t get it. I wish I was just told it wasn’t going to happen and I would have altered the shooting plan. Approximately 1/10th of our budget went into this, the additional day and not getting the shot at the end of it. Can you imagine? The focus is shoddy throughout it. Every. Single. Take. There are something like thirty-seven takes! Even though it didn’t ultimately work out it was one of the things I was looking most forward to on the film and had a lot of fun designing right up until it started to become a disastrous waste of money.
LF: And what contribution to the story are you most proud of?
GMB: The flashbacks. What most people will never know about the production is that the flashbacks were conceived during post-production and never part of the original script. The original vision for the film was to keep it completely contained like “Cube” or other single location films. Partly for budget and partly because the title side it all. What is this film about and where is it set? The Scarehouse. During editing we had a test screening with our distributors, Telefilm, a few of the producers and some trusted creative friends. While everybody was seeing the potential in the then 100 minute rough cut an idea was presented that it might be neat to add a prologue right off the top of the film which showed all the girls all dolled up, as friends so the weight of Corey and Elaina’s actions against these girls would have that much more gravity.
Initially I didn’t like the idea because I really enjoy the discovery you get watching The Scarehouse - the plot takes a huge left turn six minutes into the film and from that first “wait, what?!” moment you take the journey of finding out why these two girls are so scorned. I thought adding anything off the top would cheapen it. Sarah and I had a vacation shortly after that test screening and I was sat on the beach with a notepad and bingo it hit me. What if we had several of these flashes, we can shoot it through the eyes of one of the girls using a camcorder to document the night’s sorority initiation. We can get characteristics of each girl that only help boost their personas in the scenes inside The Scarehouse, we can mess with the audience of the top of not realizing the first flashback is a flashback yet. We could include moments in that night of partying and the prank gone wrong that Corey and Elaina would have replayed over and over in jail in their heads. These moments could lead to the custom tweaks to the Scarehouse and the torture methods chosen. Emily’s wearing a corset that night out and wants to be thinner. Katrina is obsessed with flaunting her fake body. The lingerie the girls use with Brandon becomes Jacqueline’s Scarehouse attire. A lot of people who have watched the film for a second viewing now write us saying how many moments of foreshadowing and reference they are catching.
I’m most proud of that because it wasn’t planned - wasn’t part of the story and more so than other films I’ve done gave me a sense that “reshoots” or “additional shooting” on a film isn’t the typically thought kiss of death. You’re truly never done making your movie until you are locked and have delivered it for release.
Actually, going back to the last question and the world’s most expensive unusable indie movie long-shot. Since we shot the flashbacks - I was able to use moments of the flashbacks cutting back and forth with moments from the long take. I can say with confidence it makes for a better movie and I like the set up much better now, the audience not realizing it is two different timelines yet. You make it work in the edit. It’s your job. Of course even in what I did use, I was still forced to use some less than glamorous focus to make it work but c’est la vie, you make the best of what you have and think of every option to find solutions.
LF: You did have a bit of a budget to work with, even though you’re still an indie horror film. How did you find financing for the film?
GMB: Well “bit of a budget” by the time you pay union actors and union fees as well as give everyone on the crew a higher than normal crew rate doesn’t leave a whole lot to put up on screen so we still had to be inventive in every department every hour of every day of production! That was important to us, to pay the crew more than slave wages. The trade off is, a well fed and well paid crew should in theory be happier to come to work every day and give their all for the film.
However, the financing structure for the film is part of what makes being a Canadian filmmaker so fantastic. Our distributor committed a small portion of the budget, we had a little bit of private money in the pot and then the rest is made up of tax credits the Ontario government gives on film productions shot here (this is why you hear about the Total Recall or Robocop or X-Men: Days Of Future Past shooting north of your border). The final portion was from Telefilm Canada which is a government body designed to assist with Canadian films. There are a lot of qualifications a film has to have but the Canadian film system was on board and excited with what we were trying to do with The Scarehouse, how it was going to be released in the U.S. by Universal and some of the grass roots marketing concept we had to go with the film (example: the prank video), having social media conscious people in the producer circle and a history of a few viral video and marketing successes under our hat already.
LF: I tend to prefer indie-horror films to the big budget studio releases, mostly because the indie film makers are able to take risks they normally wouldn’t be allowed to take. It seems to me this is the genre in it’s purest form. Do you feel budget restrictions forced you to be more creative, and do you think that yielded better results?
GMB: People rip on the studio system a lot. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you that you generally find more original, brave films in the indie film work where there are far less restrictions on the filmmakers. When there is so much money being spent to make a studio horror film and then even more money than the budget sometimes to market that film there is a safety factor required to ensure that it is money well invested and there will be a return - and most of the time it works - there is a massive audience for those films no matter how tired or generic some of them might be to viewers like you and eye. It is the old adage that if you want something in your film that others don’t then you are going to have to pay for it yourself to see it happen. I wish studios would take more risks. History has proven the biggest risks have often been the best rewards as well as the best films.
In terms of budget restrictions forcing creativity to the forefront - 100% that is the case with The Scarehouse. The Scarehouse is open to the public but we rarely see the public in the film expect for a few small instances. I would have loved to have afforded more extras and small part but the union rates for that was insanity for our budget - so you work around it - a security camera shot for the line up we can shoot in thirty minutes flat. Then we loop record a few extras doing all of the screaming and hollering and cat calling you hear in the soundscape of the haunted house setting the atmosphere that Corey and Elaina really are hiding in plain sight and always one plastic bag covered fence wall away from being discovered.
Another great example is the chase scene towards the end of the film. In the film it is massive - maze like hallways, feeling like the Scarehouse is miles long. Well that is the exact same hallway, just shot from different angles or a quick set redressing and rolling again. It is very much like that scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where they keep showing you the same show of the knight running over the hill in the distance. Over and over. We did build A LOT of that haunted house. To walk through all the sets was pretty massive for an indie film but each time one of the girls enters the haunted house is is exactly the same set just redressed with different mannequins and our D.O.P. gave a different lighting color scheme for each character.
Every day on an indie film you don’t have the money to solve problems so it is the director’s job to tell the same story and even BETTER the story regardless of the limitations. It’s MacGyver filmmaking. We only have these 3 popsicle sticks, a water bottle and some chewing gum - how can we make this effect work. My background in indie music videos has taught me so many endless lessons in cutting corners. Being my own editor helps me think on set how I’ll cut a scene together and know what shots I can afford to drop from the shot list if we are crunched for time on any given scene. You call on every trick you’ve ever learned to get your indie project made.
Also - shooting in my hometown of Windsor, Ontario, well that was a super blessing. So many restaurants like Boston Pizza, Rino’s Kitchen, The Manchester Pub donated food. My mother and stepfather cooked in the on-set kitchen! You buy anything you only need temporarily from the stores that have the best or longest return period. Use it and return it or a refund after the shoot. We really were dancing nickel to nickel at the end of the film. You use every smart technique you know to keep the creativity flowing instead of becoming a slave to the dollar and losing sight of what you wanted to say with each scene.
LF: Have you always been a fan of the horror genre?
GMB: I think the first horror movie I saw - WAY TOO YOUNG - was "An American Werewolf In London". Freaked me right out. My childhood friend, Eli Parent and I, would spend summer vacations from school riding our bicycles to our local video store and renting between three to six movies every day. Complete chubby couch potato kids! One summer we did the horror movie section from A-Z. Saw them all. All the sequels, the good and bad. Loved it so much. So yes, very much always a fan.
SB: For me, Gavin has a few years on me, so it was "Scream" in the late nineties. That is still one of my favorite films. I loved being scared by horror movies. Gavin showed me the original "Paranormal Activity" when we first met, and then the jerk had the nerve to go home and leave me alone after watching that! Terrifying!
LF: Do you feel like it doesn’t get enough respect from mainstream audiences?
GMB: I don’t think they’ll ever win Oscars with most of the big horror films if that is what you mean by respected and praise from the critics. The box office on most of these mainstream horror movies show people keep horror movies very much in their respective regular viewings. I would say there is a a stigma against “indie” films in general. “Indie” to a lot of people means “cheap” or “not as good”. Now that is the case with some films but regardless of budget restrictions or lack of star power there are constantly fantastic indie films coming out of every country making films. I really hope with the rise of streaming media and content increase that more indie films, horror films included, get a chance to connect with audience.
SB: When we were casting the film some agents wouldn’t give us the time of day for that exact reason. “Oh, it’s a horror film. Oh, also it is a low-budget horror movie.” No asking to read the script, discuss with a producer what the film is about or how the roles might be great for their clients or give their clients more to do than stand around in booty shorts waiting to be killed. It isn’t just audiences that might not respect horror films as much as other genres.
LF: What’s your particular favorite sub-genre?
GMB: Found Footage (stop rolling your eyes everyone reading this!). I have two found footage ideas that have not been accomplished yet and do something different. “The Blair Witch Project” is a complete masterpiece for its time, it was terrifying and it showed us a film in a way that we hadn’t seen exactly like that before. Found Footage, like any sub-genre, gets worn out as all the knock-offs come out, people start making them without a unique concepts but I still love great found footage films when I see them. “VHS 2” anyone? Jason Eisner’s Go Pro on the dog segment from VHS 2 is absolutely brilliant. The trailer for “Unfriended” that just came out - I’m there! Where do I get tickets. It looks like the next evolution of found footage.
SB: Slasher! "Scream 4" was just as good! I love those movies. Especially the way they used to be done with the “whodunnit?” angle. The original "Friday the 13th", you didn’t know who the killer was until the end. Ghost face was always getting a little smarter, a little more slick from film to film and the original - when there was two killers - wow, what a twist. I good slasher film does it for me every time.
LF: If you could punch one fictional character in the face, who would it be?
GMB: Elaina in “The Scarehouse”. Just shut up and commit already!
SB: Any one or all of the Plastics on “Mean Girls”.
LF: Have you ever walked out of, or fallen asleep during a film? Which movie and why?
GMB: "Batman & Robin", "Blair Witch 2: Book Of Shadows" and "Lucky Numbers" (with John Travolta movie). I walked out of the theatre for those. Blair Witch 2 I was so angry I didn’t even stop to get a refund. Rage for that film. How how great a sequel it could have been. If those producers happen to read this - I have your Blair Witch 3 for you. Seriously - I have THE concept. I really believe that. Give me 15k, true to the original film and let me go make it. PLEASE. Someone has to redeem Book Of Shadows. Fuck that movie.
SB: I fall asleep all the time! That’s my specialty; they are like bedtime stories to me. It has zero to do with whether I love or hate a film, I just get comfy and doze off! I did fall asleep during “The Hobbit: Part 1: 3 Hours Of Snooze” or whatever it was called. That was a film that put me right to sleep. I wanted to walk out of one of the films I acted in once it was so bad… but I had my flask with me and was too drunk to actually get out of my theatre seat.
LF: What is the scariest or most disturbing film you have ever seen?
GMB: "Hostel"! Dear lord, I honestly had to fast forward through a bit of that movie. The minute the power drill went in that kid’s knee - I almost puked. I’ve never felt more unsettled by any film ever. I know that might sound weird from the guy that just made The Scarehouse with cutting implants out of a chick and squeezing someone to death in a corset but when I watched Hostel all I could think was “this is actually happening somewhere in the world”. With all the human trafficking for the sex trade industry it seems impossible in my mind that Eli Roth’s concept, as original as his script is, isn’t based in some truth out there somewhere- an unaware truth to him. Rich people paying to torture and murder humans because they’ve already banged all the supermodels the wanted to, bought every boat, taken the space flight… what’s left for a thrill? I thought Roth did a fantastic job with that film because I have never felt that visceral of a reaction to a horror film.
SB: The latest film I watched that really disturbed me was "Oldboy"; the original. I haven’t seen the remake. That plot is just messed up!
LF: What’s your favorite horror film of all time?
GMB: "A Nightmare On Elm Street".
LF: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this. Cheers.
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