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David Buchert Interview
Conducted by ZigZag
With their new anthology film In The Dark, directors David Buchert and Chris St. Croix are bringing a series of short horror stories together in hopes of thrilling genre fans with short attention spans. The movie is presented through a series of four or five short stories and two of them are currently being shown at film festivals. There is an Indiegogo campaign underway as the producers continue to fund raising to shoot the next installments.
I was recently able to sit down with director David Buchert (Blood Oath) to discuss the project in general and his film Dummy specifically. He also was able to provide some interesting advice to low-budget filmmakers.
HorrorTalk: Hello, David. Thanks for taking a minute to sit down with me to discuss your new film project. What was the inspiration for this film anthology?
David Buchert: The inspiration was simple. We didn't have enough money to make another feature by ourselves. I had made Blood Oath and Chris had made Shattered and we were still playing catch up after our investments. It doesn't hurt that we love the anthology format and that Creepshow was one of my most watched movies growing up.
HT: How would you pitch this anthology to horror fans?
DB: It's a mix of Tales From the Crypt and Tales From the Darkside with some Trick 'r Treat violence thrown in. And it has nudity.
HT: Are the stories tied together thematically or simply share aspects of the horror genre?
DB: The stories aren't tied together thematically or stylistically. We're doing our best to make completely different looking and feeling films. With Dummy I chose to make a film without graphic violence and nudity because I had just done that with Blood Oath. I kept using the word "classy" when I would describe what I wanted to do. Chris decided to make a wild and crazy shoot-em-up monster movie. We're hoping to explore all of the sub-genres in the horror world. We even have a few stories that are sci-fi horror.
HT: The two stories currently available look really nice, what cameras are you shooting with?
DB: We shot mostly with the Canon 5D. A few shots on Dummy used the T2i as a second camera. One Stedicam shot in Dummy was on the HVX because of focus issues.
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HT: What do you see as the greatest limitation in contemporary low-budget productions?
DB: Audio. People are so obsessed with how the film will look they discount the audio. If the video looks questionable the viewer might think it's a stylistic choice but if they can't hear it you can't make an excuse.
HT: Aside from funding what has been the greatest challenge in creating this feature?
DB: The challenge now is to get the word out. We had a successful run on Dread Central and Horrornymphs with over 250K views but that still feels like the tip of the iceberg.
HT: Looking back on your first film Blood Oath, what was the greatest lesson you took into this production?
DB: I think the lesson would be to stay out of the woods and to shoot consecutive days without long breaks. There is a scene in Dummy that takes place in the woods and we shot the film over several months. I apparently didn't learn my lesson from Blood Oath.
HT: What elements of low-budget cinema, specifically horror do you find most rewarding?
DB: I like being surprised by quality. I think the bar has been set low since so many people have the ability to make movies that I really don't get excited to watch horror movies like I used to. Don't get me wrong, I find a ton of enjoyment watching bad movies but I love seeing someone on my level (no money) pull off a great movie. It gives me faith.
HT: What makes this anthology different from other recent ventures?
DB: I think the stories are complete stories and not just scenes strung together. Most low budget anthology stories don't seem to have a beginning, middle and end. They are more like a twenty minute idea with no story direction. I think our episodes work as short films but could be expanded into features if we had the opportunity.
HT: Do you incorporate personal fears into the material or focus on universal themes?
DB: A little of both. In Dummy I focused on isolation and vulnerability and threw in a creepy ventriloquist mask for good measure. I'm not sure which story will be next, that depends on the budget but I have a choice of zombies, aliens, creepy dolls or simple revenge. Maybe I'll set the next story in a high rise under attack by giant tarantulas and work out my fears.
HT: What has been the general time frame to produce each segment of the anthology?
DB: That's hard to say. We had a lot of start/stops in production. The films were shot back to back but Dummy was shot in chunks. The majority of the hospital was shot over a week then I took a few days off to do some pay work and came back to produce/light The Keeper. A few weeks later three of us went back to the hospital for an additional two days of shooting then we had another break and shot a day and a half at a house. Then I waited until fall to shoot exteriors because I wanted a different look to the woods setting. The woods took a full day and an extra three hours on a second day. The good news is that we were working on finishing The Keeper and promoting the shorts as I was waiting to finish shooting so there wasn't really any wasted time. Post production took a few months because we were asking for free color correction, sound mixing and fx from working professionals so we were working around their schedules.
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HT: What has been the biggest learning curve and how will you use this in future episodes?
DB: There really wasn't a learning curve. The biggest problem is tailoring the idea to fit a small budget and time-frame. You have to figure out how much you want to compromise and still be happy with the outcome.
HT: Is there a particular sequence that you are more satisfied with in your episode or something that you never quite nailed?
DB: There's a scene in a bathroom that turned out nice. I knew I needed to nail the final reveal and I think I did. When we showed the movie at Chicago Fear Fest I heard people behind me gasp. I'm really proud of a few shots in the small boiler room where we built a fake wall, installed a backlit fan and smoked the room for atmosphere. I joked with Chris that I wanted a "Michael Bay fan shot" There's also a cool four minute Steadicam shot.
HT: Could you take a moment to recommend some horror anthologies that have inspired you?
DB: The usual inspirational suspects would be Creepshow, Tales From the Crypt and Tales From the Darkside. Darkroom really creeped me out as a kid. The opening narration used to scare the crap out of me. Goosebumps was kid friendly but there were some great stories in the bunch. Dead Of Night (1945) has a good ventriloquist story I watched before I started Dummy.
HT: Where would you like to see In The Dark ultimately lead?
DB: To consistent directing work. I spend most of my time producing for other people and companies and don't get to direct as much as I would like. I can't think of anything that's more fun than being on a film set calling "ACTION!"
HT: Well, best of luck and thanks again for taking the time to visit us at HorrorTalk!
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