Tag Archive | "horror comedy"

MOST LIKELY TO MURDER: Dan Gregor & Doug Mand On Bringing Their Film To Life!

MOST LIKELY TO MURDER: Dan Gregor & Doug Mand On Bringing Their Film To Life!

Desperately in need of some quality laughs this Spring? Look no further than ‘Most Likely To Murder’ from director Dan Gregor and writer Doug Mand. Best known for their work on stellar comedic writing on ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,’ this dynamic duo is now taking their A-game from the world of television and lighting up the silver screen. A home for the holidays murder-mystery comedy, ‘Most Likely To Murder’ focuses on former high-school hero Billy (Adam Pally) who comes back to his hometown expecting things to be like they used to be. Instead he finds all his friends have moved on, and his ex (Rachel Bloom) is dating the former high school outcast (Vincent Kartheiser). So, Billy becomes obsessed with proving the outcast is actually the killer behind a mysterious local death. It’s like ‘Rear Window’… for stoners. The film’s eclectic cast includes Adam Pally (“Happy Endings”, “Making History”, “The Mindy Project”), Rachel Bloom (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”), Vincent Kartheiser (“Mad Men”), Doug Mand, and John Reynolds (“Search Party”, “Stranger Things”). Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Dan Gregor and Doug Mand to discuss the their careers, the making of ‘Most Likely To Murder’ and the challenges they’ve faced along the way.

How did you get involved with the arts early on and what made a career in the entertainment business something you wanted to pursue?

Doug Mand: I guess I was always trying to make people laugh, trying to entertain and be on stage. I was drawn to New York and performances. I immediately got into sketch comedy. I met Dan and we started a sketch comedy group at NYU. Living in New York and going to college, it’s like you’ve already graduated, so while we were in college we were already trying to perform with the Upright Citizens Brigade. You graduate and before you know it, this is what you’re doing because there is really no other decision to make! That’s what it felt like, so we all got day jobs and before we knew it we were working comedians. It was one of those things that naturally happened, and it always felt right!

It sounds like the chemistry between you was immediate!

Doug Mand: Yeah, Dan and I were in the sketch group together and Adam Pally and I were living together in the East Village. Dan soon moved onto our couch after graduation. Basically, we had all be really close friends and the 3 of us began writing together, producing pilots and stuff. Yeah, the chemistry was always there. We were very fortunate to be able to sell a few things early on and say, “Okay, I guess we’re doing this!”

In those early years, which of your projects had the biggest impact on you in a creative sense?

Dan Gregor: Doug and I made sketch, which was on stage at first, called ‘Banging My Dick Against The Wall.’ It was sort of about our inept dating lives. We eventually turned that into a little bit of a web series. That experience of producing narrative sketch, a pretty specific artwork, was probably the most informative. In a lot of ways, it was the first time we really stepped out of sketch comedy and started producing stories a little bit more. It allowed us to break down storytelling in a way that we found very accessible. It was still about finding the funniest idea and thread that idea of the course of the story that has an emotional arc. It became a really informative tool for how we then started to write.

Doug Mand: It was that script that got the attention of the ‘How I Met Your Mother’ writers because it was a show about dating in New York. It just so happened that at that time they were looking for more people from New York to come in. At that point, Carter [Bays] and Craig [Thomas] who created the show had not lived in New York for over 8 years. I think Dan and I would both agree that in terms of learning experiences working on ‘How I Met Your Mother’ for 4 years was a graduate school for writing. We were surrounded by such amazing and generous writers. For 4 years we wrote story and jokes with some of the most talented people we’d ever met. I think that’s where we learned how to really write.

How did the idea for ‘Most Likely To Murder’ originally come about?

Doug Mand: This is a story that we started writing when we were on ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and we’ve always been really into the idea of the week or night before Thanksgiving. Typically, you come home, you go to the bar you all used to drink at, and see all the people that you grew up with. There is a real moment of self-reflection where you’re like, “Am I were I want to be? Look at all these people and look at how much they’ve changed. Look who’s pregnant! Jimmy got fat! Greg’s losing his hair.” Whatever it is, all these things you are seeing 15 years later is almost like a Snapchat or Facebook before Facebook really. We were really interested in that time and coming home. Liking home for the holidays movies and merging that into a noir-detective mystery was something we had been dabbling with in writing for 5 or 6 years. We hoped to put those two genres together and hopefully elevate the story a little bit by adding some intrigue. This felt like a story that we could make at a budget and not have it be some huge studio movie. It was a smaller story that we wanted to tell, so we felt this was the right movie for us to make, produce, direct and be in because of the size of it.

Adam Pally, Rachel Bloom and Vincent Kartheiser

The cast for the movie is amazing. Tell us a little about bringing everyone together to make these characters come to life.

Doug Mand: Like I said, Adam Pally is one of our best friends, so when we started writing this movie, it was with Adam in mind. He was always the Billy character, so we built it around that. Rachel is obviously a very close friend and is married to Dan. She’s always been incredibly talented and amazing. She won a Golden Globe and there was all of this interest in Rachel. We had always wanted her to be in the movie and she was like, “Yeah, I would love to do it.” We thought it was a good opportunity for her to do something different than her ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ character, so she came on board, which was amazing. For Vincent Kartheiser, we sent the script to his manger! It was one of those things! Vincent was our first choice to play Lowell. We had no real connection to him but luckily enough, which doesn’t usually happen in this business, he got the script, read it and it really connected with him. We met him, and he was onboard! The casting came together really naturally in a way that doesn’t usually happen! We were very fortunate that a lot of the stars aligned for this! Vincent fit right in. All of us are very close and although we didn’t know Vincent going into this, he fit right into it immediately! The same thing happened with John Reynolds as well! We were huge fans of his through ‘Search Party.’ We sent him the script and he responded to it! So, it doesn’t happen often, but it did for this movie and everyone fit together nicely.

They are some concepts that carry out through the course of the film. Is there are real life origin story for the sex tape?

Dan Gregor: The actual story is much dumber and grosser. When I was around 12 years old, I had a TV in my bedroom with scrambled Skinemax porn. I would stay up to all hours of the night trying to make out body parts! [laughs] When I think I thought I saw sex happening through the scramble, I would sprint to the TV room with the one actual cable box in my house. I would throw a VHS tape into the VCR and record the last 5 seconds of the sex scene that I had made it in time for. I accumulated a dozen last 5 seconds of sex scenes on this weird, disgusting mixtape! I was very, very fond of it, as a disgusting 12-year-old might be! I eventually grew up and stopped using the disgusting VHS tape but, as an adult, I came across it again. It was in the back of my closet at my childhood home. I found it much later and I was really taken back! I really wanted to see this tape, but I couldn’t find a VHS player. Doug and I talked about that stupid little anecdote a couple of times and it was actually kind of foundational for the feeling of the movie in this weird way. By that I mean, you have all these weird feelings of nostalgia and desperation to hold onto your past and who you were but no matter how hard you try you can’t.

What were the biggest challenges you faced in bringing this movie to the screen?

Doug Mand: From a directorial standpoint, it is just the marathon of it. I have done a lot of short films, web series and music videos — literally shorter things. The first challenge that hits you really hard when doing your first feature is the marathon of “Oh shit, I have to keep doing this every day for a long time.” Readjusting and finding that endurance is a real challenge. On a practical level, we tried to make a movie that hopefully, in the world of low budget movie making, a film that doesn’t feel totally cheap and nothing, but it was totally cheap and nothing! [laughs] Every dollar meant a lot to us and did a lot for our production. One of the big things we had going for us was that we shot so much of the movie in that suburban house. It was so important to have those two houses across the street from each other. It was sort of our ‘Rear Window’ concept and a real elemental part of the movie. We were desperate for these places. We ended up submitting to shot in this town, East Chester, NY, which is around Westchester County. We were heading over there to film and in a couple days, they kind of screwed us. They pulled our permits and threatened us for no reason, other than it’s a scam they pull, with quadrupling all of our budgeted fees. It was going to shut down production but thankful our producer, Petra Ahmann, was able to do something. We were literally already filming on location for a few days before. She pulled it out and somehow got them to let us shoot again without totally screwing our budget. We ended up losing the ability to do night shoots, which was a pretty central part of the movie and in the horror movie genre, it’s something that’s so important. It ended up impacting us in a good way by having us readjust and figure out, at the last minute, how to do the finale sequence, which is hopefully just as tense and scary as a daytime sequence. Ultimately, I think it added a little something by making it a little more unique. It all came down to turning lemons into lemonade and I feel really good about it!

There’s no doubt you are skilled writers and no strangers to improv through sketch. How much of what we see on screen comes from improvisation?

Doug Mand: Dan and I had been writing this script for a long time and we knew what we needed to get in that respect. Additionally, as the director, he knew what he needed to get for the editing room. We didn’t have time to shoot all day but as soon as we got what we knew we needed we always tried to allow the actors to play a bit. There are definitely some great improvised lines and moments in the movie that were born from playing around. Adam Pally and John Reynolds, being a fantastic improvisors, allowed for some great moments we weren’t expecting.

One of my favorite moments in the film is the ‘Who’s Those Guys’ song. Was that one of those moments?

Doug Mand: Yeah, that is one of those improvised moments! We were on set when Adam started pretending to play the strings holding the evidence and I started singing a song. It was a really silly moment on set that did well. When we started screening the movie, people really liked that, so we started thinking about fun ways to put little Easter eggs in the movie. We thought it would be fun to produce the full version of that song and use it as the closing credits song. We also made a music video for it to promote the movie! We made that with our good friend Jack Dolgen, who’s a writer on ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”\’ He writes the music and in the writer’s room as a scriptwriter, as well. Jack had seen the movie and he loved that part. We said, “Can we make a song out of this?” He said, “Yeah, let’s definitely do it!” He wrote a song and the three of us, Doug, Dan and Jack, filled out the rest of the lyrics. We made it as silly and ridiculous as we could possibly make them!

What does the future hold for you guys in both film and television?

Dan Gregor: We are excited to try to do this again with Lionsgate. It was a great experience. As you know, Doug and I are in the TV world. I think I will be directing some of ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ this year, which will be fun! That’s where we’re at!

You guys have built great careers for yourself based solely on your creativity. What’s the best lesson we can take from your journey?

Doug Mand: I would say make things. For Dan and I, that’s what it’s always been about. If you want to be a writer or a filmmaker, you actually have to go make that happen. No one is going to give you the keys to do it. Go write something and shoot it. We were lucky enough to be in the Upright Citizens Brigade community and have friends who were like-minded, so we had a community of people we could always reach out to and get a camera, a crew, shoot in a place we could sneak into and get it for free. Just make things. Don’t just talk about doing things — make things! That’s the best advice we can give. Go out and do it! If the work is good, it will find a home somewhere and good work will beget more work. That’s the biggest lesson you can take from us.

Thanks so much for your time today! We truly loved the film and can’t wait to help spread the word!

Dan Gregor: Thank you so much!

Doug Mand: Thanks for your support, Jason!

‘Most Likely To Murder’ hits DVD, Digital and On Demand via Lionsgate on May 1st, 2018!

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Check Out A New Trailer and Poster For ‘Most Likely To Murder’ Starring Adam Pally and Rachel Bloom

Check Out A New Trailer and Poster For ‘Most Likely To Murder’ Starring Adam Pally and Rachel Bloom

Check out the newly released trailer and poster for Studio L’s (formerly Lionsgate Digital) new film MOST LIKELY TO MURDER, starring Adam Pally (“Happy Endings”, “Making History”, “The Mindy Project”),  and Rachel Bloom (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”).

A home for the holidays comedic murder-mystery… Billy comes back to his hometown expecting to be beloved like he used to be. Instead he finds his ex is dating the former high school outcast, so Billy becomes obsessed with proving the outcast is actually the killer behind a mysterious local death. It’s like Rear Window…for stoners.

‘Most Likely To Murder’ will be available on Digital and on Demand May 1st.

*World Premiere at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival*
SXSW Screenings: 
Screening 1 – Stateside Theatre on Monday, March 12th at 7:00pm
Screening 2 – Alamo Lamar D on Tuesday, March 13th at 6:00pm
Screening 3 – Alamo Lamar E on Wednesday, March 14th at 9:45pm

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THEY’RE WATCHING: Micah Wright & Jay Lender On Their Impressive Film Debut!

THEY’RE WATCHING: Micah Wright & Jay Lender On Their Impressive Film Debut!

Brigid Brannagh as Becky Westlake, Kris Lemche as Alex Torini and David Alpay as Greg Abernathy in "They're Watching"

Brigid Brannagh as Becky Westlake, Kris Lemche as Alex Torini and David Alpay as Greg Abernathy in the awesome horror-comedy, “They’re Watching.”

Fans of cinema take note! An unstoppable creative force officially arrived on the scene — Micah Wright and Jay Lender! However, these guys are far from an overnight sensation. The duo, who originally met when they were fresh out of college, spent the better part of two decades working in television animation on some of the most memorable shows around. They have written, storyboarded, directed, created and composed songs for shows like “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “The Angry Beavers,” “Hey Arnold!,” “Phineas and Ferb” and “Constant Payne.” Their impact on pop culture doesn’t stop there! Together, this dynamic duo has written and designed on over 50 video games including hit games in the “Call of Duty,” “Transformers,” “Ratchet & Clank” and “Looney Tunes” franchises. They have written six graphic novels (including the WWII homefront epic, “Duster”), several films, and have won two awards for their virtual reality work for Samsung. It is an impressive resume and they are just getting warmed up!

In 2016, the time has come for these multi-faceted artists to make the jump into feature filmmaking with their amazing horror-comedy, “They’re Watching.” The film focuses on an American home improvement TV show visiting a remote Eastern European village where the young crew thinks the lack of mocha lattés and free wifi will be the worst of their problems. After their filming interrupts the superstitious villagers’ private religious ritual, the situation takes a turn for the homicidal … and when the blood starts flowing things get really weird. “They’re Watching” turns a classic horror premise upside down to create a fresh, funny, eye-popping (and extremely welcome) twist on one of film’s most beloved genres.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Micah Wright and Jay Lender to discuss their amazing careers in entertainment, making their long-awaited transition into feature films, the challenges of bringing “They’re Watching” from script to screen and what the future may have in store for them!

You both have an impressive body of work. What inspired you to pursue a career in the arts at an early age?

Micah Wright

Micah Wright

Micah: I have always enjoyed writing. I was never much of an artist but I always enjoyed writing. When I was in college, my college roommate said, “I am auditioning for a sketch comedy show today. Could you help me run lines?” I thought, “OK. Whatever!” I ran his lines with him and he asked me if I wanted to come watch him audition. I went and halfway through the audition, I was like, “Wow. These people are no good!” I just got in line and put my name on the list. I auditioned and they said, “You are terrible on stage but you are really funny! Why don’t you write something and come back next week?” I started writing sketches and by the second semester I was in the group and writing half of the show every week. We did a one-hour, original sketch comedy show every Friday in front of 300 screaming college kids. I eventually worked my way on to stage and was doing standup. When I graduated, I decided to move to Los Angeles. I came out here with the intentions of working on “The Simpsons” but then learned you had to go to Harvard to work on the show! I ended up at Nickelodeon, where I met Jay!

Jay: I think my story can be short! Once I realized that “Bugs Bunny,” “The Little Rascals” and “The Twilight Zone” didn’t just happen and that people needed to make those things, I knew I had to be involved in that kind of work!

After you met, it didn’t take long to form a bond and become a productive duo. What made you guys such a great team through the years?

Jay: I think what makes us great together is that we do not have the same ideas, world view or even the same style but we challenge each other. When we work together, we have plenty of big arguments all the time. I force Micah to back up his ideas. When I recognize that he is right, I back down and he does the same thing for me. Having the person who is essentially your worst critic in the room with you all of the time is an amazing trial by fire for all of your work. So, if Micah says it’s OK, I know it’s OK.

Micah: Yeah. I also think we bring different skill sets to the party. Jay is a brilliant artist and animation director and has picked up a skill set for editing in his head and putting it down on paper that I am still trying to achieve. I was trained as a film directing and editing kind of person, where you shoot a whole bunch of stuff and put it together in the editIng room. That is two different approaches to the same kind of material. We have different approaches to the work itself. I think that Jay has a superpower. It’s something I call X-Ray Deconstructo-vision! He can look at any movie or television show and immediately point out the story flaws and then is able to talk about how to fix the structure of the piece. If I had a superpower, I guess it would be Stupid-Idea-O-Vision! [laughs] I just throw out insane concepts and hope one of them sticks!

Jay: And they do. He gets to places that I can’t get to. He has big ideas that have never occurred to me. Then my job is to steer them into a direction that can be made into a story.

Which of your past projects have had the biggest impact on you creatively?

Micah and Jay: We started at Nickelodeon when it was the “Peas and Carrots” channel that no kid would watch. Over the next six years we were there, it grew to be the #1 channel on cable tv with kids and adults. There was a fabulous sense of “what’s next” and of artistic experimentation there in those years, and that kind of experience can either inspire you for life… or ruin you for life when you go work somewhere that’s not as experimental or creative. We chose to be inspired.

Your latest project is a great horror-comedy called “They’re Watching.” How did the concept come about and what made this the right vehicle for your first feature film?

'They're Watching' will be released on March 25th, 2016.

‘They’re Watching’ will be released on March 25th, 2016.

Micah: We have been very interested in features for a long time. We had sold a feature script that got made in Korea as an animated film but we hadn’t had much luck with breaking into live action. I went to an event at The Writer’s Guild where Billy Ray, the writer of “Captain Phillips,” was speaking. He is also a director and recently wrote and directed “The Secrets In Their Eyes,” which stars Julia Roberts. He was speaking and he said, “I think the future is writers who direct and directors who write.” This idea of the Hollywood dichotomy where we have directors and writers separately is sort of a function of the old way of producing material that is quickly going away. These days that you have movies that cost less than $10 million and movies that cost more than $100 million and not a whole lot in between. Jay and I knew there was no way somebody was going to say, “Oh, you guys came from animation and video games, let’s make a movie!” Even if we say, “We made $3 billion for Disney last year on “Phineas and Ferb” or “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2″ made $2.7 billion worldwide … ”

Jay: Yeah! They aren’t going to turn around and say, “Here is Transformers 7. Go!”

Micah: Exactly! That is all they have now.

Jay: Yeah, that is literally all they have and the other smaller stuff is mostly independently produced. So we were thinking, “What can we do that is independent that we can write and direct ourselves, is cheap and would make money.” There is no point in writing a really small, domestic drama about a woman who loses her child at the bus stop if nobody sees it because then everyone says, “Yeah, you made a movie but nobody saw it. Why should we let you direct Transformers 7?” We thought about what we could do that would be small, compelling and inexpensive to make, so we thought, “Oh, a horror movie!” We love horror movies, so it was not a big jump for us to bring our sensibilities and skill sets to a horror movie. That is the movie that we did!

Carrie Genzel as Kate Banks and Kris Lemche as Alex Torini in "They're Watching"

Carrie Genzel as Kate Banks and Kris Lemche as Alex Torini in “They’re Watching”

What did you hope to achieve with this first film? Were there things you wanted to showcase from your skill set?

Micah: We knew that we would end up showcasing things that were within our skill set. I mean, if you have a skill set and you aren’t using it, you are an idiot! [laughs] That is all I have to bring to the party, what I know how to do well. Attempting to do something I don’t like, am not necessarily good at or we are not the right people doesn’t make any sense creatively or from a business perspective. I think what we knew what we wanted to do when we did something was to respect the traditions of our genre but overturn them. Other people have more money, bigger names or maybe even have a great idea but for us to get down into the mud and deliver the exact film that has been fed to people all day long wasn’t what we were interested in doing. It is a viable business strategy and there is room in the world for just making horror movies that deliver gore nonstop. We wanted to do something that we would love and feel stood out from the crowd and let us be ourselves.

Jay: Exactly. I think both of us felt the urge to do something where anyone can watch it. I like to joke with my wife that this is a horror movie for her and her friends because half of our speaking cast are women. They talk about everything other than the man in their lives. It is also a film based on the number five show on cable television with women. It is very much a horror movie that women can enjoy and men can enjoy as well. I think a lot of times horror movies cater to just men. “Look at this pretty blonde girl get her throat slit!” No thanks! [laughs]

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced with this film? Are there hurdles that stick out in your mind?

Micah: Tons of them! Most films are made in the editing room. That, in a way, is true of our film as others. Luckily, we have this animation skill set that demands you edit the movie in your head before you shoot it because you can’t do in animation what you do in other films by saying, “Let’s try another angle,” or “Let’s try that again, only angrier!” In animation, that means completely redoing everything. We knew what we wanted when we got started but, because we were working in live-action, it also afforded us the opportunity to make some changes later on. There are some scenes in this movie that are in different places from where we wrote them. There are scenes where we swapped dialogue from other scenes and placed it on top of other scenes you see. We were able to really take advantage of live-action in a great way. There are things we would do differently now if we did a sequel, when we do a sequel. I think we are really excited about the potential of learning from the natural growth curve of working in a new medium of live action film, which was new to us, but also in working within the structures of this first person/found footage format.

What can you tell us about finding the right mix of people to bring these characters from script to screen?

Micah: We had written the character of Vladimir as a 50-year-old fat guy. Then we saw 20 50-year-old fat guys but then Dimitri Diatchenko walked in as a 6 foot tall, 290 pound of solid muscle, a gigantor! We instantly changed in our heads what the character looked like.

Jay Lender

Jay Lender

Jay: We had the same experience with Alex, who is our goofball character. When we were writing the screenplay, we kind of used Shaggy from “Scooby Doo” as the model because he is the go-to character and everyone knows what he would say or do in a particular situation. When we had our casting call, we saw a parade of excellent Shaggys. They all did excellent versions of that character. Then Kris Lemche walked through the door and started doing something completely different. He was doing this annoying, motormouth character but it was still our dialogue. Micah and I looked at each other and said, “What is that?!” After he left, we thought about it and realized that everything he had done still worked for our character even though it was a completely different take on what we had originally envisioned. We wanted to be kept on our toes like that. From that moment on, we couldn’t imagine Alex being played by anyone else.

Did you split the duties as co-directors or was it more working hand-in-hand?

Micah: I think we worked hand-in-hand and attached at the hip. There are certain things where I would step back and let Jay focus and vice versa. A lot of people feel the job of the director is to tell the actors what to do. My feeling is that if you are talking to the actors too often, then you hired the wrong actors! On set there are a lot of things a director has to be doing at all times. The number one job of the director is to make choices. Jay and I tend to think in similar ways, so whenever there was a choice that we had different feelings about, we would have a conversation between ourselves and then issue the edict from Micah and Jay as a unit. That way we wouldn’t get a divide and conquer situation on set. There are some things I handled better, logistical things and making sure we stayed on schedule, and things that Jay handled better like camera placement and shot choice. In general, I think we have similar desire for the material, simply because we had spent so much time writing it together.

Jay: When we write, we read aloud, so we have an idea of a baseline performance in our heads. As long as the actors are improving on that, which how could they not, we were happy! [laughs]

Brigid Brannagh as Becky Westlake in "They're Watching"

Brigid Brannagh as Becky Westlake in “They’re Watching”

Was there are particular part of those skill sets that came in handy in an unexpected way for “They’re Watching?”

Micah and Jay: The one thing we could count on while transitioning from animation to live action was who we were and what we were capable of. Any skills we had were long since accounted for and applied to the project—we came ready to play our A-game. So, in that sense, the only unexpected skills came from other quarters. When we learned that two of our actors were concert-level musicians, we wrote that into the script, and ended up with something really special. Things like that, or happy accidents on the set, was the most exciting part about working in live-action. That kind of thing rarely happens in animation.

Was they’re anything you had intended to include in the film that didn’t make the cut or anything you were able to capture that you hadn’t expected?

Micah and Jay: There were a number of deleted scenes. One of them was the boss, Kate Banks, reminiscing about her great husband back home. We liked the scene, but it was slowing down the sequence and softening Kate too early in the picture, so we took it out. There was also a really great bar sequence where Vladimir and Alex concoct a plan to ship AK-47’s to Texas where Alex felt he could definitely sell them for big money. It got cut for time, and because we felt that Vladimir’s shady nature had already been explored with his offering to help Greg smuggle heroin into Moldova.

Mia Faith as Sarah Ellroy in "They're Watching"

Mia Faith as Sarah Ellroy in “They’re Watching”

What are your thoughts on the current state of horror cinema? What’s the good, bad and ugly these days as both fans and filmmakers?

Micah and Jay: What we love about the Horror genre is that it’s a big tent and encompasses a lot of different story types and filming styles. No movie from Eli Roth could ever be mistaken for a film by David Cronenberg or Sam Raimi. John Carpenter’s films stand starkly apart from those of George Romero or Rob Zombie. Superhero films tend to be pretty samey-same, but it’s difficult to compare a film like ‘Slither’ to ‘The Witch,’ you know? But they’re both horror films. Horror encompasses everything from your mother going nuts like in ‘The Babadook’ to Michael Myers stabbing you with a knife because… well, just because. And one of the greatest things about horror is that whenever it starts to get too stale or rote, it’s such a relatively inexpensive format that someone with new ideas can whip up a sea change overnight. In the last few years we’ve seen radically different approaches to this sort of reinvention, from inside-baseball self-critique like ‘Cabin in the Woods’ to lowest-budget found-footage films like ‘V/H/S.’ We love horror. The only critique we have of horror is when filmmakers forget that gore and blood and murder by themselves aren’t a substitute for characters the audience cares about and a story which makes sense.

This film, along with your already amazing resumes, put you in a great spot for the future. Where do you see yourself headed next?

'They're Watching' — A must-see horror comedy!

‘They’re Watching’ — The must-see horror comedy of 2016!

Jay: I think we have a couple more movies that we would like to do. We also have a couple of television shows we would like to do.

Micah: We are not self-funding, so we can’t necessarily decide what our next project is at the moment. We have movies, TV shows and graphic novels, we will see where the money comes from and then we will know what we will do!

Jay: We have two sequels to this sequel in mind, should we be lucky enough to make money on this first one. We have a couple of other horror movies that would be more straight forward, not found-footage first-person thriller movies like this one. We also have a World War II movie we would love to do and a number of gigantic, big-budget action films we would love to do as well, along with a live-action television show we would love to be out pitching as well.

Micah: I think the key for us is to always love what we work on.

Jay: Exactly!

What is the best lesson we can take away from your journey so far? Is there a secret to your success?

Micah: Work to please yourself. That is the one thing I learned very early on when I was working in animation. You have no idea if the audience is going to find something funny but if you don’t find it funny, moving or compelling, then no one else is either. If you are making yourself happy and being honest with yourself about if it is making you happy, that is a great first step.

Jay: On the more practical side, accept and respect the fact that it is a business. We may not like it, we are creative people and want to be able to do what we want to do but you can’t drag 80 people out in the woods at 3 a.m. in Romania for free! [laughs] If you don’t have a plan to generate a product that will make money, this will be your last time doing this!

Thanks for your time today guys! We wish you continued success and can’t wait to see where the future takes you!

Micah: Thanks, Jason!

Jay: Thank you!

‘They’re Watching’ hits theaters and On Demand on March 25th, 2016! Check out the official site for the film at www.theyrewatchingmovie.com. Follow Micah Wright and Jay Lender on Twitter.

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THE FINAL GIRLS: Director Todd Strauss-Schulson On Bringing His New Film To Life

THE FINAL GIRLS: Director Todd Strauss-Schulson On Bringing His New Film To Life

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True horror fans are always looking for a breath of fresh air in a genre which is often oversaturated with run-of-the-mill schlock or over the top gore that often more often than not lacks satisfying storytelling. Enter Todd Strauss-Schulson. His new film,“The Final Girls,” is an unconventional comedy about Max, a high school senior, who is mysteriously transported with her friends into a 1980s horror film that starred Max’s mother, a celebrated scream queen. Trapped inside the movie, Max finds herself reunited with her mom, who she lost in real life. Together with Max’s friends, they must fend off the camp counselors’ raging hormones, battle a deranged machete-wielding killer and find a way to escape the movie and make it back home. “The Final Girls” is a film genre fans have been looking for; seamlessly blending horror, comedy and emotional storytelling. The film serves as a signpost for the big things to come from the director in his blossoming career. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Todd Strauss-Schulson to discuss his love of film, the challenges of bringing “The Final Girls” from script to screen, the lessons learned along the way and more.

What drew you to the world of filmmaking early on and ultimately made you pursue it as a career?

Todd Strauss-Schulson

Todd Strauss-Schulson

That is a good question. I grew up in Queens and I always wanted to make movies. I don’t know what was wrong with me! I just loved, loved, loved movies. My mom has a story about me when I was around 2 years old. I would freak out on Friday mornings until she would put me in a stroller and bring me down Queens Boulevard. There was a movie theater down the block called the Midway. I just knew, at 2 years old, when they were changing the words on the marquee and the pictures on the posters, that I need to see that stuff! There was something in me that gravitated toward film. I loved it! As I was growing up, I tried to watch every movie. I grew up next to a video store. Literally every day after school, I would try to rent three movies a day to try and get through all the movies in the store, which was very difficult to do. I was also making films every day. From the time I was from 13 to 17, every day after school with my babysitter, my little sister and me. That was what I was doing! I was trying to teach myself how to do it because I went to a school that didn’t have any arts programs. I was teaching myself how to do it and it was getting in my brain. It is unclear exactly what it was I loved about movies but I think there was something about the feeling and emotion of it. I just got so wrapped up in it. I remember seeing “The Muppets Take Manhattan” and crying for days! I also remember seeing “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” when I was 8 years old and freaking out! There was just too much feeling but I liked it!

I found myself gravitating toward the films where you could really feel the filmmaker. I wanted to be a director and it was helpful to see movies where I could see a director. I went crazy about “All That Jazz.” I thought that was one of the greatest films I had ever seen. The same goes for “The Hudsucker Proxy,” “El Mariachi,” “Barton Fink,” “Army of Darkness,” “Boogie Nights,” “JFK,” “Dead Ringers,” “One From The Heart” or “Holy Mountain.” There were so many movies that I thought were amazing! I can go for more. Do you want me to go for more? [laughs] “The Red Shoes” and “Before Sunrise.” I just loved those kinds of films where I could feel someone and that is what I wanted to do. That is my background!

It is so cool to hear that background because I really found myself drawn in by the feeling this film emotes. How did you get involved with ‘The Final Girls’ originally?

'The Final Girls'

‘The Final Girls’

Actually, I went to school with the writers. I went to school with Mark Fortin and Josh Miller. About eight years ago, we were hanging out after we had graduated college and Mark soft-pitched me this idea. He was like, “How about a movie where the girl and friends get sucked into this bad ‘80s horror movie but her dead mom is in the movie?” I said, “That is a good idea.” I never heard about it again. That was the end of that and I went off and made my first film. I was 29 years old and I made this big studio movie, which was my first movie. About a month before I did that movie, my father passed away. I was very sad and it was very difficult because he was my best friend. He had been very supportive of my filmmaking throughout my entire life and he passed away right before I got my first movie. I went off to make that movie and it was a very intense emotional experience, as you could imagine. It was right into the lion’s den! What was happening when I was making that movie was that I was dreaming about him all of the time. He would visit me in my dreams almost every night. As I was editing the film, Mark and Josh sent me this script. I read it and I was like, “Oh my God! I get this!” This is a great idea for sure and I always knew that but now I had this really strong emotional pull to the material. When I read it, to me it was the story of a girl who loses her mom and gets a second chance to see her movie in what is almost like a dream, a crazy cinematic universe. That was really compelling! I felt it and I got what it was. It was also incredibly exciting as a kid who grew up loving movies to make a film about movies, being sucked into a movie and to be able to deconstruct the movie and have it be the antagonist. All those fun visual ideas seemed very innovative and were things I hadn’t seen in a movie before. There seemed to be a tremendous amount of ambition I could bring to this story emotionally, comedically and visually. On top of all that, I felt it was a really interesting personal story told in a way that was very visually expressive. That is the stuff I like the most from being a kid and why I wanted to make this movie. After I got involved, it was about three-and-a-half years of working on the script, looking for money and casting it before we actually got a chance to shoot it.

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I think you hit the ball out of the park when it came to casting “The Final Girls.” How difficult was it to find the right mix of people to embody these characters?

It was hard. It was fun though because it is a really young cast. A couple of them I was friends with already. For example, I had worked with Tom [Middleditch] before and knew him a little bit. Angela [Trimbur] I knew as well. It was exciting to put together a young ensemble of cool people that I wanted to go to camp with, ya know? That is what it felt like! We were all going to camp and I was the head counselor. The crew was all about the same age as well. It was like we were a bunch of kids getting away with something! We were making something ambitious, special and weird. We couldn’t believe someone had given us money to make this thing! I also thought it was really important to feel the tone of the movie in the cast. The tone of the movie is challenging and people didn’t understand what this movie was. To me, it felt very simple. I was going to tell the story, in my voice and in the way it made sense to me, which was to have it be funny, sad and weird. That didn’t seem difficult because that is what I am like and when I tell a story that is what it sounds like. People didn’t get it and I thought it was really important to feel the tone in the casting. The movie is going to be really funny and at some points really broad, so you bring in Adam Devine, Thomas Middleditch, Angela Trimbur and they can bring that style of comedy. It is a very cool and modern but very silly comedy. At the same time, the movie wants to feel like it has real people and is kind of grounded, so you cast Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev and Alia Shawkat to give these soulful, grounded, natural performances where they are like real kids. Then the movie wants to be really sweet, sad and pull at your heartstrings. Taissa Farmiga and Malin Akerman really deliver that. Taissa especially, who is this fragile, ethereal, super-emotive young girl and every scene she is in, you can just feel the heart of the movie in her eyes.

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Was there anything you really wanted to accomplish with your sophomore outing as a director?

A can't miss flick!

A can’t miss flick!

My first movie was a pretty difficult experience. It was my first movie, an expensive movie, we shot it in 3D and I was working with adults who surrounded me and made it very difficult for me to shoot things the way I wanted. I come at things from a pretty visual place first. I am highly designed in the movement of the camera and finding ways to push a story or emotion forward visually by doing things I haven’t seen before. Every time I tried to do that on my first movie, people were trying to stop me and it was exhausting. With my second movie, I just wanted to flex. I wanted to come out with guns blazing. There is the booby-trap sequence where the camera is flying around, doing these camera calisthenics and all that sort of stuff. I wanted to go for it! I wanted to shoot a movie and make it feel tonally and aesthetically like me as possible because I was a little bit reigned in on my first one.

What was the biggest challenge you faced with the feature overall?

Todd hard at work on set.

Todd hard at work on set.

Every day was a marathon. It was really difficult. We shot this movie in 26 days, which is short. Like I said, I had designed the entire film before we shot anything. The edit of the movie was kind of preordained by me, meaning I could feel and see sequences in my mind. So, we knew what we had to do and when we got to set we would be like, “OK. We have to do 50 shots today! 50 setups in order to get the sequence.” That is a tremendous amount of setups. Most movies are doing 20 or 25 with twice or three times the budget. It was grueling and exhausting but we had an amazing crew of people. Everyone was really young, hungry and ambitious. I think everyone was really excited to make something or be in something they hadn’t seen before. There was a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm on set but we were killing ourselves every day! We knew we would have 50 setups in a day and by lunch we would have 18. Uh oh! I guess we somehow have to make up the deficit! [laughs] We shot so fast but we also had to make room to get comedy and performance and things like that. There were no easy days and each day was a race against time in a really severe way! It wasn’t like we were figuring it out when we got there. We had a shopping list! When we got there we knew exactly how daunting the task was and we had to muscle through it and get it all because all of us wanted this to come out in a very specific way with a very specific vibe and very specific look.

What is the biggest lesson you learned through the creative process on this film?

Todd and a few of his cast members between takes.

Todd and a few of his cast members between takes.

That is a good question, as well. I am just so proud of this film. It took a lot of fighting and muscling my agenda through, ya know? It took a lot of being ambitious and pushing people. People ask, “Why is it going to take 50 shots to do this?” Just because it is! I don’t know! That’s just what it is going to take! [laughs] That is what I want and what I think will be good! Having the enthusiasm for the project was a really helpful key to getting everyone on your team. Another thing I learned, which was a really pleasant part of the experience, I knew I could score with this movie. I knew there were a lot of things visually, tonally, comedically and emotionally that were personal to me and I thought I could do well with and show who I was through them. I also love doing that for other people, so I love that Nina has a moment on the dock to score. She plays a two-dimensional mean girl who at some point explains why she is mean. She sort of says, “I’m sorry,” and asks for an apology. She says she was mean because she was hurt and jealous. To me, that was an amazing scene for her and she really scored there. I love giving Thomas and Adam all the room to improvise because I know they can score in those characters and with those points of view. I loved giving my DP, production designer and composer opportunities to score. I gave them challenges that were really hard but I knew they were so fucking talented that I could give them the opportunity to score and kill it. They absolutely did! That was an absolutely enjoyable atmosphere to have throughout the making of this movie!

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With all that said, where do you see yourself headed next as a filmmaker?

I want to keep doing this! I want to keep doing visually innovative and ambitious movies that are tender hearted and very funny. They don’t make a lot of those movies anymore! They don’t make “The Fisher King” anymore and I love a movie like that, so I am writing something for myself that is about a guy who invents a machine that can record his dreams. There are also other bigger movie things brewing that I probably shouldn’t talk about but I am also making a television show. I wrote the show with my best friend and it is about modern sensitive men and it is called “Pussies.” That is true! It is a real, true thing that is happening. [laughs] So, get ready!

Todd Strauss-Schulson

Todd Strauss-Schulson

That is awesome to hear! My last question for you is simple. A lot of people can look to you for inspiration. What is the best lesson we can take from your journey so far?

That is nice of you to say! You know, I didn’t make my first movie until I was 29 years old and before that I was making about 100 short films a year. I was making so much stuff! There are a lot of 22-year-old kids who will e-mail me and say, “I’m ready to make a movie!” I think you need to earn that confidence with some experience. The experience is what carves out your point of view. You get that point of view with the more things you make. You have to learn to be confident and not just be arrogant, if you know what I mean. The more you do it, the more you learn how you do it, how you see things, how you want to work with actors and what your tone is. I think the lesson is that the more stuff you make that teaches you who you are, the better.

Very well said. Thank you so much for your time today, Todd. I appreciate it and I love “The Final Girls.” Can’t wait to see what you do next!

Thank you very much, Jason! It’s been a pleasure!

‘The Final Girls’ hits theaters, On Demand and on Digital HD October 9th! Be sure to follow Todd Strauss-Schulson on Facebook and Twitter.

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THE FINAL GIRLS: Awesome Retro-Styled Theatrical Poster Unveiled!

THE FINAL GIRLS: Awesome Retro-Styled Theatrical Poster Unveiled!

One of our most anticipated films of the Fall just got a band new, retro-styled poster! Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson’s ‘The Final Girls’ is an unconventional comedy about Max, a high school senior, who is mysteriously transported with her friends into a 1980s horror film that starred Max’s mother, a celebrated scream queen. Trapped inside the movie, Max finds herself reunited with her mom, who she lost in real life. Together with Max’s friends, they must fend off the camp counselors’ raging hormones, battle a deranged machete-wielding killer and find a way to escape the movie and make it back home.

The film features a tremendous ensemble which features Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Alexander Ludwig, Nina Dobrev, Alia Shawkat, Thomas Middleditch and Adam Devine.

‘The Final Girls’ hits theaters and VOD on October 9th, 2015.

the-final-girls-2015-retro-1

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ALPHA GIRLS: Get Your Thrills With An Awesome Satanic Sorority Slasher Film!

ALPHA GIRLS: Get Your Thrills With An Awesome Satanic Sorority Slasher Film!

alpha-girls-2013

This week, we spotlight the awesome indie flick, “Alpha Girls”. Visit the official site for the film at www.alphagirlsmovie.com.

The Alpha Beta’s, lead by the super bitchy Veronica, are one of the hottest sororities on campus and they are looking for new pledges. Enter a new pledge class who spend most of their time in the sorority house being humiliated and forced into doing absurd things to garner prestige and meaning to their lives. Morgan, Cassidy, April, and Juliette are all loners who each have their own unique reasons for joining the sorority. Morgan wants everyone to like her, while Cassidy dreams of having power. Juliette wants to have the money she has never had and April would simply like to have good grades. Eventually the girls get fed up with Veronica’s tortuous ways and set out to teach her a lesson by playing a joke on her. After reading from the sorority’s charter, Cassidy conjures up the satanic past of the sorority and their innocent joke turns deadly. Soon the girls find themselves embroiled in a world where their wildest dreams and worst nightmares come true.

Available September 1st

Available September 1st

‘Alpha Girls’ is a fun satanic romp that kept my attention from start to finish, mostly due to the terrific cast. Falon Joslyn’s Morgan and Beverly Rivera’s Cassidy are central to the film and have a great onscreen chemistry. Their relationship is completely believable and is the pulse of the film. There are also great performances from Nikki Bell, Nicole Cinaglia, Kara Zhang, and Victoria Guthrie. Near the end of the film there is a cameo appearance from an actor who is tackling a character that no one would expect to see him portray.

For all of you die hard gore hounds out there, the film does dish out the red stuff in ample amounts. The deaths don’t break any new ground as far as originality, but they are effective and carried out fairly realistically for a low budget film. The soundtrack compliments the film well, especially the cover of ‘Amazing Grace’ set to the music of ‘House of the Rising Sun’. A post credits documentary on the satanic happenings at the Alpha Beta Sorority house was also a very nice touch.

‘Alpha Girls’ is clearly influenced by some of the horror genre’s best and is reminiscent of a film from the eighties. It is perfect for a Saturday night alone or your Halloween party this October. Give ‘Alpha Girls’ a chance, I don’t think you will be disappointed. I wasn’t.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Alpha Girls is available on iTunes, Amazon, and On Demand September 1, 2013

Written and Directed By: Tony Trov, Johnny Zito
Starring: Falon Joslyn, Beverly Rivera, Nikki Bell, Victoria Guthrie
Runtime: 90 Mins

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Among Friends: Danielle Harris Dishes On Her Directorial Debut And More!

Among Friends: Danielle Harris Dishes On Her Directorial Debut And More!

You know her, you love her and the horror industry wouldn’t be the same without her — she is legendary scream queen Danielle Harris. This brunette bombshell has grown up right before our eyes on television and the silver screen, establishing herself as on of the most dynamic actors in the business. Never afraid to experiment or to follow her keen instincts when it comes to a role, Danielle continues to surprise her fans with each new project. Her latest endeavor is no exception to that rule, as she prepares to unleash the next exciting chapter of her career! In her directorial debut, Harris has enlisted some of her very talented friends. “Among Friends,” written by Alyssa Lobit and produced by Jennifer Blanc-Biehn and Athena Lobit, is a twisted tale of horror focusing on a dinner party gone wrong. Set against an 80s backdrop, the good time takes a dark turn when one in the group hijacks the evening in an attempt to help the others come clean about their secret betrayals against one another–and is willing to cut through the bone in order to expose the truth. Collectively this group of very talented women has decades of experience in the film industry and they are excited to be bringing fans and audiences everywhere a roller coaster ride of fun, intensity and, oh yes… blood. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Danielle Harris to discuss her passion for filmmaking, the challenges involved in creating her first feature film, her upcoming web series and much, much more!

The Directorial Debut of Danielle Harris

Obviously, many of us watched you grow up on TV and in movies. You grew up in the industry. When did you first get the feeling you wanted to be behind the camera?

I think it was just over the last couple of years. I came to a point where I was on set and started thinking, “Why am I not doing this?” I wasn’t getting the scripts that I wanted as an actress. I was handed the opportunity to work with some friends of mine that I wanted to work with. I felt I had a list of people I wanted to work with and all of these fun things I wanted to do but I was just sitting back waiting for them to come my way when I could just go out and make it happen myself! That is really where it came from.

For those unfamiliar with the film you chose for your directorial debut, “Among Friends,” what can you tell us about it from a plot perspective?

I would describe it as “Heathers” meets “Very Bad Things” meets “Clue.” It is all of the things that I love about the horror genre but I have a sense of humor about what I do for a living. I really don’t take it too seriously, so I didn’t want to make another torture porn, slasher movie kinda thing. I just wanted it to be fun! The script that came my way was very different from what we ended up doing. I checked in with Alyssa [Lobit], the writer, after I signed on to it and said, “What do you want to do? What do you really want to do?” In this genre, I sorta have this get out of jail free card to do whatever it is I want to do and know I have the support of the fans. I feel like many first time directors may not want to take that risk because they feel they only have one shot to make it or break it. I didn’t feel like I had that because I already had a support team behind me. That made it a lot easier for me to take risks and do things that were a bit unconventional but still stay within the things that I know work and still do what I really wanted to do.

You didn’t have reservations about taking the leap into a directorial role but it took a while to find the perfect project. What can you tell us about that search?

It kinda found me. I have been reading scripts forever, probably about three years, just trying to find the one. There were a couple along the way which I thought would be cool and I turned them over to my managers and agents. They were cool and had potential but it was a situation where I thought, “This one is cool but it could use some work.” When the script for “Among Friends” came to me, it was more of who was involved with it. I really loved the fact that the antagonist and protagonist were females. All of the characters are a bit stereotypical but at the same time are so different from what the normal horror type characters are while still staying true to the genre. Kimberly McCullough has known Jennifer Blanc for a long time and I have known Alyssa Lobit for years. It got to the point where I said, “Hey! I am going to do this thing. Would you be interested in starting a production company and/or get something going with my girlfriends?” I don’t know if you know the statistics but it is something like only 18% of females are active in the entertainment industry both in front of and behind the camera, which is really devastating to me! There are even fewer female genre directors. That was even more shocking to me because all of the heroines in the horror genre. I think I just wanted to do this because I could take a different approach than a lot of the different men I had been directed by. I also pushed my girls to go a little bit further because they know that I am another girl and I would have their back as far as some sexually graphic stuff. Even though there is no nudity, as far as violent stuff, they could feel safe and protected knowing there is another female there to make sure everything is OK. But back to your original point, the script kinda came to me!

Danielle Harris Hard At Work On The Set Of ‘Among Friends’

Was it difficult to balance the horror elements with the more humorous elements without going too far in either direction?

Actually, I kept wanting to push it! I found that sometimes, the people I was working with would say, “Uh, are you sure that is the way you want to go?” I remember working with Nick, the DP, saying, “Make it raw. Make it like an editorial. We really want it to be like this.” Nick said, “It doesn’t really look like a horror movie!” And I said, “Exactly!” [laughs] That was my point. I really wanted it to be stylized, different and to take on a different feel than what I had seen out there! While I wanted to stay true to what works, I also wanted to cross the line a little bit, have fun with it and break that boundary.

You are friends and have worked alongside with many of the players involved in this project, so you know their strengths as actors. What did you learn from that aspect of this project?

There were lots of surprises! [laughs] As awesome as it can be to work with friends, it can be difficult too because you do already have a relationship. You are dealing with a lot of different personalities and sticking them in a room where it is hot and there is a lot going on, it’s stressful. We shot the whole film in 10 days, so it was very challenging. You know your friends have your back and at other times it is easy for them to tell you when you are pissing them off, as opposed to a hired actor. A hired actor doesn’t have that comfort zone with you, where my friends do have it. As amazing as it can be to work with your friends, it definitely adds a unique challenge.

You also have another balancing act to handle as you make an appearance in the film. What was that experience like for you being an actress and director at the same time?

I do have a very, very, very small part in the movie and I also brought Michael Biehn (Terminator, The Victim) to do a small cameo. We are both in the scene together. Kane Hodder (Jason X, Hatchet) is also in the film and he has a much bigger part than I do. I actually came to set that day and realized, “Oh my God! I am working today!” [laughs] My mind was just not there. I am not sure if I am an actor who can be in front of and behind the camera at the same time. I am not sure yet! Actually, I am creating a web series with Alyssa Lobit. We just started a production company with Alyssa and Athena Lobit and are in the middle of creating a killer web series, which seemed only natural because we had been working so much together. I am going to take a crack at directing myself because I am going to be in it as well. I am going to start small and see how it goes! [laughs] But for my first directorial feature, I didn’t want to put myself in front of the camera for very long, so I was only in a couple of scenes. I did decide to do something but I can’t tell you because it would be a total spoiler! Let’s just say when I screened the movie in Los Angeles a couple of months ago, when I came on screen everyone started cheering, laughing and clapping! I got a really big reaction! I definitely did something in my movie that I wouldn’t have done in anybody else’s! That’s for sure! [laughs]

Danielle Harris: The Future of Horror

Do you view working with a smaller budget, as you did on “Among Friends,” as a blessing or a curse?

It is a little bit of both, I think. Part of my feels like, “Wow! It can only get easier from here!” A small budget can be a big challenge because when things fall apart, you don’t have money to fix it. You have to find other ways to do it and you don’t have any time to do it in, which can be really frustrating! At the same time, being able to pull off what we did with the limited budget is a testament to the friendships I have created along the way in my career. There are people ready and willing to step up and know that doing so will come back to them tenfold when my next movie has a bigger budget. I don’t think that I could ever shoot a film like that on limited funds again. It was hard. We had to go on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo to try and raise money for things like our deliverables for post because we just didn’t have it. It was things like that, having to raise $5,000 or we weren’t going to be able to finish the movie. A lot of movies don’t get made because of situations like that. However, I am lucky to have awesome fans who are willing to step up and help make sure the project happened! That shows me that I have the support from people who want to see me continue to direct and I am going to continue to pursue it!

When should we look for “Among Friends?” I know you have been in the process of seeking distribution.

Yeah! We have some distribution and we are pretty close to closing North America. We have a couple of other countries where our deals are almost done, which is pretty amazing because we really only finished the film before Cannes. Right now, we definitely have one country and two others with deals on the table. Hopefully, North America will close soon too! I think we are really, really close. I just want to put it out and see where the chips fall!

What’s next for you, Danielle? As an actress and as a filmmaker still looking for that next perfect script?

I just wrapped “Hatchet III” about a week and a half ago. I spent almost a month out in the swamps with Victor Crowley and the rest of the gang, getting the shit beat out of me for the lack of better words! [laughs] I am a little beat up and trying to recover from that fast and furious shoot. Right now, I am basically just doing the circuit and trying to do as many film festivals as I can. “Among Friends” is making the rounds as well as a movie that I did with John Jarratt and Casper Van Dien called “Shiver,” which is in quite a few international festivals as well as festivals in the States. “The Victim,” directed by Michael Biehn, is also doing quite a bit! Towards the end of the year, I will start doing the promotional tour for “Hatchet III.” I am trying to focus on all of that right now and I am going to take a little bit of time for vacation and recharge before returning to the web series, which is tentatively called “Pussy Posse.” It has been really fun creating that with Alyssa and creating our own thing. It has really let me find my own style and lets me do what I found out I love to do, which is direct. I actually prefer directing to acting! I think I will be moving more in that direction. I will always be an actor though, I can’t imagine not doing it, ya know?

Seeing you see the film industry from a different perspective than most people, meaning you grew up in it, you continue to act and now you direct, what is your take on the current state of the film industry?

Danielle Harris

I have felt for a while like there is really no middle-class. The film industry has kinda been the same way. It seems you either have these awesome independent films people are making for $50,000 or you have these $1 million budget movies that star the same people over and over again. As far as the horror genre, it is unfortunate because most horror movies are made, the ones that come my way at least, between $150,000 and $600,000 because they know the films will have a huge audience and they are going to sell it and make a lot of money. They don’t need to make a genre movie for $15 million because it doesn’t really make money, unless it is some really big movie. A lot of the audiences that come into see films are going to see films with movie stars. I don’t think a lot of movie stars want to do a “SAW” movie that is going to make a lot of money. The whole business is a little bit tricky right now. The economy is still in the toilet right now, so a lot of people don’t have money to do things like go to the movies. When movies come my way and I see the budget is $100,000, I don’t really want to get involved with that as an actor knowing how hard it is going to be on set and to do what we are supposed to do with no money. It is really difficult and people are doing it all the time. You do it because you love to do it. I just think we haven’t found our place yet and the movies they are making for a lot of money, like the Michael Bay movies and things like that are big and actiony or sci-fi stuff using green screen and lots of CGI, are the result of studios sticking to what they know works because they want to be sure they make their money back. They aren’t willing to take a chance on a film that might not hit. I get it but I am kinda tired of seeing it! I mean, let’s think of something a little bit innovative and see what happens!

I think a lot of people still underestimate the power of social media. How has it impacted you as an actress, director and businesswoman?

It’s amazing! Honestly, it is fascinating to me when I go to a signing or something and I hear people talking about “Among Friends” just from me tweeting about stuff or me interacting with fans. That is one of the reasons I have always done signings because it was my only opportunity to have people get to know me as me. You never know how people will perceive you and that is why I have done so many. Now, with Facebook, which I am admittedly pretty bad about, and Twitter, which I am pretty aggressive about, it’s great. It is a way for people to get to know you and if they are on your side, they are going to support you. I think it is really important to be accessible, so it has absolutely helped me 100%! For example, we are talking about it and you haven’t seen the movie yet. If social media didn’t exist, people wouldn’t be able to be on board with a project like this.

Danielle Harris

What’s the best part of being Danielle Harris these days?

Oh God! Jason, you always end these interviews with some question that makes me say, “Oh God!” [laughs]

Yeah, I know! [laughs] But seriously, I ask because it seems like you are at a really great point in your career, which is giving you a lot of unique opportunities.

There is a lot going on and the best part about it right now is that I feel renewed. I feel like I became an actor because it was sort of chosen for me, even though it seems that is what I am destined to do. I have said this for years but I don’t want people with children to force them into the entertainment industry. I think that is a decision you need to make as an adult. As much as I don’t regret it, people always say to me, “You always say you wanted to do movies!” And I am like, “Dude, I was like seven when I started doing it. I also wanted to be a princess, a doctor, a ballerina and a model!” [laughs] I think that is the best part of being me these days — finally being given an opportunity to choose my own path. A lot of people don’t get to do that. I didn’t go to college, so I just did what I knew I was supposed to do but it wasn’t necessarily what I would have done if I had had a chance to start over. I just did what had already worked for me and there was already a sort of branding thing in place where everything aligned for me and now I can do what truly inspires me! And I have the support of everyone behind me!

That’s a great outlook! Where’s the best place for people to learn more about the film and to follow your adventures online?

They can check out the “Among Friends” Facebook page and on Twitter at twitter.com/Among_Friends. Of course, you can always follow me, @halloweengal, on Twitter. I tweet all kinds of stupid stuff, as you know because you follow me. It’s usually something crazy like pictures of my dog or something ridiculous! [laughs] Any of those three are the places to go for more information.

Thanks for your time, Danielle! We are looking forward to spreading the word!

Awesome! I really appreciate it, as always! Thank you so much!

ABOUT THE FILM: AMONG FRIENDS is a twisted horror about a dinner party gone wrong. Set against an 80s backdrop, the good time takes a dark turn when one in the group hijacks the evening in an attempt to help the others come clean about their secret betrayals against one another–and is willing to cut through the bone in order to expose the truth.

Executive Produced by Jay Lobit (Three Little Birds Productions) and William Allison (Hollywood Treasures, Inc.), AMONG FRIENDS was shot in August 2011 in Los Angeles and is currently in Post Production.

This film marks a collaboration of real-life friends, with most people in the cast and crew having known each other for years. Written by Alyssa Lobit and Produced by Jennifer Blanc-Biehn and Athena Lobit, AMONG FRIENDS is the feature directing debut of Scream Queen Danielle Harris. This group of women collectively has decades of experience in the film industry and they are excited to be bringing fans and audiences everywhere a roller coaster ride of fun, intensity and, oh yes… blood.

Among Friends. This dinner party’s gonna be KILLER.

Directed by Danielle Harris, “Among Friends” stars Christopher Backus, Jennifer Blanc, AJ Bowen, Dana Daurey, Brianne Davis, Kane Hodder, Kamala Jones, Alyssa Lobit and Chris Meyer.

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Official Trailer For ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ Unleashed!

Official Trailer For ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ Unleashed!

Here is something you can really sink your teeth into! The first official trailer for ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ has been unleashed! The film, directed by Timur Bekmambetov, stars Benjamin Walker, Anthony Mackie, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jimmi Simpson, Alan Tudyk, and Robin McLeavy. Check out the synopsis and trailer below!

‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ hits theaters June 22, 2012!

Synopsis: The film explores the secret life of our greatest president, and the untold history that shaped our nation. As a young boy, Abraham Lincoln witnesses the shocking death of his mother, leading him on a path to an ongoing war – and ultimately to the presidency – he chronicles in a hidden diary. The journal reveals the incredible story of a clandestine warrior who never stopped fighting for the country he led and the people he loved.

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Alan Tudyk Talks ‘Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil’ And Much More!

Alan Tudyk Talks ‘Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil’ And Much More!

As a fan of film and pop culture, chances are that you have already encountered the work of Alan Tudyk. Whether it was capturing the imaginations of legions of fans for Joss Wheadon’s “Firefly” and “Serenity” projects or developing a diverse array of characters in a slew of recent comedies, he has established himself as one of the brightest up-and-coming stars in Hollywood. For his latest project, “Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil,” Tudyk is paired with the equally hilarious Tyler Labine in what is sure to become a cult classic! The film is a hilariously gory, good-spirited horror comedy, doing for killer rednecks what “Shaun of the Dead” did for zombies. Tucker and Dale — best friends vacationing at their dilapidated mountain house — are mistaken for murderous backwoods hillbillies by a group of obnoxious, preppy college kids. When one student gets separated from her friends, the boys lend a hand, but as the misunderstanding grows, so does the body count.

A hit on the festival circuit, the film debuted at Sundance, won the Midnight Audience Award at SXSW, took home the Jury Prize for First Feature at Fantasia, captured the Best Director Award at Fantaspoa and walked away with the Best Motion Picture Award at Sitges. Not too shabby for a couple of rednecks! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Alan Tudyk to discuss his start in the entertainment industry, his biggest influence, the making of “Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil” and what lies in store for the months to come.

“Tucker & Dale vs. Evil” will be available On Demand everywhere August 26, 2011, and in limited theaters on September 30, 2011!

Tackling a career in the entertainment is often not for the faint of heart. What drove you to pursue a career in the entertainment industry?

Alan Tudyk

I think, no I know, that I was one of those type of people who knew that this was the only thing that I could do! [laughs] It was the only thing that I wanted to do and I was going to devote my life to it! I had a GREAT deal of energy when I was younger to where when people, when I was younger, said, “You know! A lot of people don’t make it in this business!” It added a lot of fuel to the fire and gave me that I’ll-show-you mentality! It was like, “it may appear that I am washing dishes at a shitty restaurant but IN FACT I am studying to play the part of a dish washer in a shitty restaurant!” [laughs] I truly looked at life that way! Everything was about finding a way to be a better actor. I was very, very passionate!

Who would you cite as your biggest professional influence and why?

I liked Gene Wilder a great deal as a performer. I liked watching him perform, I thought he was amazing! What I loved about him, and still do, is his ability to go to such extremes but you still buy into it as, “That’s just him.” He almost seems to be living right on the edge of hysteria at all times. Even when he is simply talking to someone, he almost has a tremor in his voice, where HE CAN FREAK and it isn’t too far. He can move just a little bit and he is losing his mind or he can come back down to a very soft level. “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” was one of his films that I really loved but “Young Frankenstein” was amazing. He can be so serious in a comedy, so serious in ridiculous situations. One of my favorite ones is in “Young Frankenstein” was where he is going to go in and talk to the monster for the first time and says to EVERYONE in such a vaudeville way, “Whatever you do, do not open this door … I am going to go in here and if you open the door, you will undo everything that I have worked for! The stakes COULD NOT be higher! DO NOT open this door!” As soon as the guy closes the door, the monster goes “Grrrrr!” and it is “Open … the … door.” He is so serious and believable on both sides of that door and he is so afraid! Anyway! That’s why I love him!

Your latest project is “Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil.” How did you get involved with that project?

I read the script, it was a script that came through my agent, just like anything else. Actually, I wasn’t the actor originally slated to play my role in the film. There was another actor that had been attached to it for a very long time. He fell out about two weeks before shooting. When I got the script, it was like, “Hey! You wanna go to Canada?! [laughs] Like, next week, go to Canada?!” So, I read the script and really loved it! At first I was a little suspect that it would work, the whole concept of it, but by the time that I got done reading it I believed that it could work! I got the director, Eli Craig, on the phone and we discussed how he wanted to shoot it and how he wanted me to play it. It was a conversation to determine if we were on the same page. It was really kinda like the Gene Wilder thing that we were just talking about, believing in something no matter how ridiculous it is! For example, someone may just have jumped head first into a wood chipper! So you can’t be like, “This is ridiculous!” or not taking it as seriously as “OH MY GOD! WHAT JUST HAPPENED!?” [laughs] He agreed that everything had to be played as real as possible. I was very excited to do that, so I flew up there a few days later!

There are so many great moments in the film. How much of what we ultimately see on screen came from improvisation?

There are a lot of lines that we came up with on the day. There was a lot of improving with Tyler, myself and Eli, who is the director and the writer. When we were on set he would say, “Well, what if you said this right now.” Once the actors put the characters on and started actually doing it, new ideas became apparent that might not have been there before. At points it is like, “Oh, of course! Here is a funny joke.” There is a fair amount of that on this project. Eli was very cool about letting you do things and say your lines. I wasn’t used to that. I am used to having to fight for stuff! Eli was very cool about it. There is a line where they say, “Let’s have some tea” right after I have been tortured by the kids and had my fingers cut off. I say, “I’ll make the fuckin’ finger sandwiches!” [laughs] It’s a corny joke but I was like “PLEASE! Can I say it?” and Eli said, “Oh yeah, say that!” My reaction was “Really!?” because I was so ready for some kind of resistance. Then I was like, “Listen, I know it says that I drink a beer but what if I pour it on my face? I have already talked to costumes and they can double this shirt. I have already talked to makeup and it is waterproof makeup so there is not going to be a long reset time.” I cover all my bases to hear somebody say, “No. No. No. We can’t do that!” but Eli was game for all of it. It was so easy, “Oh yeah, pour the beer on your face! Cool!” [laughs]

That is great! It seems like you had a great work environment!

Yeah! It results in you coming up with more stuff because you have someone who is encouraging you!

What can you tell us about your co-star Tyler Labine. What did he bring to this role?

Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk in character.

Oh, so much! Tyler is such a nice, good hearted and funny guy. He is so genuine and I can’t say enough about how that effects a set. He is someone that is a nice guy and is there to work, not put out by anything! He is up for it all and really funny. He brought a lot in regard to a lot of the lines that you hear. There were so many great things that he came up with for that character. One thing in particular was when he is with Katrina Bowden for the first time and she asks his name and he stumbles to get it out because he is so taken with her. Little things he did like that added to the character. There is so much stuff that it is hard to separate. We got together yesterday to work on the DVD and we found places where I said, “I came up with this.” Then Eli would say, “No you didn’t. Check your script! I did!” and I would be like “Oh! I thought that was my idea!” [laughs] And vice versa, everybody came up with great stuff and couldn’t remember where it was. We were all just moving so fast and trying to make the best movie!

What was the biggest challenge for you as an actor on this project?

Hmmm. Biggest challenge? Well, my focus on the movie was to keep it real. That was what I went in thinking. You’ve gotta go through this and don’t chicken out on it. Really try to put yourself in the mindset of someone who is going through this. And when you are shooting the scenes, don’t go for the easy jokes. The challenge for me on this film was the challenge that we all had, we didn’t have enough time. When you can only do two takes, you better know what you are doing with those two takes. It is two times doing that scene and that is it! You think, “Imagine if you could have done four!” [laughs] You kinda have to really be ready and know not just what you want to do but even what is going to be in your way to do what you want to do, if you know what I mean. You have to know what the questions are, as well as the answers when going into a scene because you just don’t have any time.

Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk: Keepin' It Street!

You and Tyler together make such a great duo, which people might compare to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. What are our chances for a sequel to Tucker and Dale or seeing you two paired up again on another project?

If we are lucky! I would love to work with Tyler again. I don’t know about a sequel because I am not sure how it would work. I would love it though! I would love to do an “Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy” kinda thing. I am not saying that Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine are Abbott & Costello, they were national treasures … [laughs] but that template is what I am suggesting!

Your career has been and continues to be very diverse. Is there a particular type of film or genre that you are anxious to tackle in the future?

Wow! That is a GOOD question. I would have said a western but I have done a western now. I would love to do what I would call an acting movie. I want to do a movie where I get to act. I guess that you could argue that I am acting in everything that I do BUT I want to do a movie with subtlety, subtle themes, complex relationships and that the movie hinges on complexity of the human condition. Something serious! Something like that. I guess I have done some stuff like that but barely. I have done one play. Something with acting!

Looking back on your career so far, how do you think you have evolved in your craft since starting out?

I think that I am a little more relaxed. I am more likely to wait for something to happen in a scene rather than make a thing happen in a scene. I was pretty surprised when “28 Days” was on television not too long ago and it wasn’t my first movie, but it was the first role that I was on set for more than just a week. I played such a crazy character and in every scene that I did, I was trying to make a joke or trying to be funny. I don’t do that any more! I just try to be honest and if there is something funny, it will just be there but I am not coming in, forcing something to be funny. When I watch “28 Days,” I just want to tell myself, “RELAX!” [laughs] “Stop chewing the fucking scenery!” All I had to do in one scene was mop the floor and I am doing this whole, “She just walked over the floor that I just mopped and now I am upset with her and where is the mop water and … ” I watched and went, “Oh God, stop! Get over yourself! This movie isn’t about mopping!” [laughs] But that energy led to other things, so what are you going to do!

What other projects are on the horizon for you that we should be on the lookout for?

Tucker and Dale: Comedy Gold!

I am doing a TV show right now for ABC called “Suburgatory” that starts this Fall and will be right before “Modern Family.” I play a jackassy, douchebaggy but well-meaning cosmetic dentist who is best friends with Jeremy Sisto. My character lives in the suburbs and I have called him out to live there where I always seem to be in the country club. I wear Speedos, which I will be fashioning! They will be in the pilot episode! My ginger skin will be on full display! [laughs]

Oh my!

I have a fake tan right now. I am overly fake tan, that’s the character. So I am now living my life with an extreme fake tan! It’s bizarre! Then the other thing that I just finished, and will be out next summer, is “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.”

We will be looking forward to those! What is the best advice that you can give to all the aspiring actors out there?

What I find more and more is … enjoy yourself. A lot of people say this but if you feel that this is the only thing that you can do, then absolutely do it! If there is something else that you can do, go ahead and do that because it really is very, very hard. There are people out there with such determination that do live and breathe it. So if you are one of those people, go for it but have fun doing it! Don’t get all caught up in the disappointments that absolutely are going to happen and those frustrations that are absolutely going to be there. Enjoy the fact that you are pursuing your dream and that it is a commendable thing! When you perform, give it your all but enjoy it but don’t try to succeed … [laughs] because that is a mistake!

Thank you so much for your time, Alan. We look forward to spreading the word on “Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil.” It’s a great film and a whole lot of fun!

Thank you!

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