|James Thomas (L) and Canyon Prince (R)|
JAMES THOMAS AND CANYON PRINCE INTERVIEW
Interview conducted by Richelle Charkot
Two Guys and a Film is an independent film company started by Canyon Prince and James Thomas, focused on getting independent films made and distributed. In 2012, the company produced its first two feature-length films. James made his feature-film directorial debut with the action/horror film Run Like Hell, while Canyon made his directorial debut with the indie drama Hard Sun. (From the Run Like Hell press release.)
The two filmmakers sat down with Richelle to discuss their experiences with Run Like Hell, their influences, and what we can look forward to from them in the future.
Richelle Charkot: Considering some of the more shocking and calculated moments in Run Like Hell, I would venture to guess that you two at Two Guys and a Film were raised on great movies. What are some of your earliest memories with horror or thriller films?
Canyon Prince: I actually didn't get into horror films until much later in life since, growing up, my parents weren't wild about the idea of their children staying up late to watch unsuspecting teenagers getting sliced and diced. My mother had seen the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and I think from then on, horror was off limits for all of us. So instead, I ended up spending my free time reading a lot of Stephen King books. Go figure.
James Thomas: I have an interesting connection with horror films. I remember when I was a kid, maybe 10 years old, and my birthday fell on a Friday the 13th in October. Well, I stayed up and watched as many Jason Voorhees movies as I could. I think I spent the next year afraid that somehow Jason was in my closet, but that sparked a love for the genre. Every four or five years the 13th lands on Friday in October and when it does, the Friday the 13th marathon begins!
RC: What is the appeal of the horror genre for you?
CP: They're so much fun! And challenging. Whether from a writing standpoint, or directing, or acting. There's a lot that goes into a horror film. And there's nothing like sitting in the theater with a crowd during a horror film. The energy is crazy. People jumping, and screaming, and yelling, and laughing. I love it.
JT: Horror takes us through the full gamut of emotion. Fear, excitement, suspense, drama, and even comedy are all woven throughout. That takes the audience on more of a rollercoaster ride than any other genre and that's exciting as a filmmaker. It's also the only genre that has an amazingly loyal core base of die-hard fans. Fans that will watch any movie.
RC: I bet you both have some great guilty pleasure favourite flicks as well. Any you'd confidently share? I won't tell anybody.
CP: I think because I missed out on so much of the horror films growing up, I went on a total binge in my twenties. Interestingly enough, since my brain was much more developed as a twenty-something than it was back when I was ten, coupled with the fact that I know how special effects are done now, I've kind of missed out on the scare factor of a lot of films. With that being said, lately I've been on a kick to try to watch the most gruesome and horrifying films around. So far, no luck. Out of that list recently I've watched I Spit on Your Grave, Frontiere(s), Funny Games, The Human Centipede, The Green Inferno. There's still a couple I'm working my way up to. I don't know if I'll ever work up the nerve to watch A Serbian Film.
JT: Anyone that knows me, knows I'm a big fan of dance movies like Step Up and Stomp The Yard. To me they are action films without explosions! (Although I love explosions!!) I love the music, the shots, and they always have a great use of vibrant colors. I think that's what draws me to them.
RC: Do you remember the first moment you realized you wanted to work in film?
CP: Even though I wasn't watching horror films, I was watching a TON of other films. I was a kid of the '80s, so I grew up on Star Wars, Indiana Jones, E.T., The Goonies. So many great films back then. Spielberg was a big influence, as he was to all of us from that time period. I remember just knowing that I wanted to be involved in that. As a kid, I didn't really understand all the other people involved in the process, just the people I saw when I watched the films, which were the actors. So that's what I started pursuing. My parents were really supportive in my pursuit of that. I ended up studying at Wolftrap in Vienna, VA. Even back then though, looking back, I realize I was making movies with friends using my parents video camera that I basically took over as soon as they bought it.
JT: I was always one of those kids with a camera. I would shoot little shorts and fake music videos with my friends. It really hit me that this is what I wanted to do when I watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. What really caught me in that film was the cinematography, in particular a specific moment when Jessica Biel is running through a secret passageway and these shafts of light break through the cracks. The look of the light fighting through the atmosphere was so stunning and inspiring. That was the first moment that I said, "I want to create that!", and I haven't looked back since.
RC: Tell me about the writing process for Run Like Hell; did everyone work individually and then collaborate, or was it a consistent group effort?
CP: James and his brother Joe went off and wrote the original script for the film while I was working on the script for my film Hard Sun. Once the first draft was finished, we came together and started discussing things. I gave a lot of notes and ended up being really involved in a lot of changes we made to the story, so they decided to give me a story credit. Once the story was in a good place, I ended up being pretty involved in punching up the dialogue and working out some of the bigger changes that were made to the script, so eventually they ended up giving me a writing credit on the film as well. Nowadays, James and I work a little differently, but it's still a lot of the same process.
RC: With such an identifiable and creepy setting in Run Like Hell, I'm wondering if the location was the bigger inspiration in creating this story. Did you happen upon an eerie farmhouse and then spawn this story? Or was it something else that inspired the film?
CP: The film originally took place in an entirely different setting, but while we were out location scouting, we found this amazing compound and knew we had to shoot there.
JT: [W]e were so excited that I went back to the script and molded it around this priceless location.
CP: We try to keep the entire process loose like that. Keep ourselves open to things that are happening around us and allow them to affect the film. It's worked out pretty good so far.
JT: I'm a huge fan of not being so married to what's on the page that you don't take advantage of a great location.
RC: Tell me about your favourite gory scenes in this movie.
CP: I remember, logistically, every one of them was a nightmare to shoot. A rule of thumb is pretty much whenever you have practical blood effects, they're not going to work properly. We had an amazing FX team, but things inevitably happen. It didn't help that we were shooting in the middle of the desert and there's sand and crap flying all over everything, clogging up hoses and pumps and stuff. A lot of the deaths in the film came out of necessity more than anything. I don't want to give too much away for those who haven't seen the film yet, but there's a lot of fun kills in the film and a lot of shocking moments.
JT: I think my favorite prosthetic in the film is the axe to the arm. Carrie Mercado, our SFX make up guru, really did a great job! If you watch that scene frame-by-frame and stop on the close up of the sheriff's arm, it's terrifyingly realistic.
|James Thomas (L) and Canyon Prince (R)|
RC: Who is your least favourite celebrity and how would you kill them in a horror movie?
CP: Haha, oh man, that's a dangerous one.
JT: I don't know if I have a least favorite celebrity. However, as a director I would love to work some amazing actors that can play really good bad guys. The bad guys are really the star of any horror film and it would be fun to build a really great bad guy, then find an awesome way of killing off that character.
RC: How would you like to be killed in a horror movie?
CP: Super gory! With lots and lots of screaming. Every actor wants a great death scene, but it helps when it gets dragged out for a long time.
JT: Hands down by Leatherface.
RC: Canyon, you have some very emotional scenes in Run Like Hell; tell me how you prepare for some of the more poignant moments in this film.
CP: Robyn Buck (who plays Maggie) was the lead in our film Hard Sun, which I had directed just before we started shooting Run Like Hell. Her and I had bonded a lot during that process, so when it came time to shoot Run Like Hell, where we played a married couple, I just used that friendship to fuel the scenes. Most of Luke's motivation is to protect her and get her out safely. I just tried to make that the thing I thought about when cameras were rolling and it seemed to work nicely, especially in the more emotional scenes of the film. We were all a pretty tight-knit family by that point, so all the actors were always around to give each other support in those heavier dramatic scenes. I'm not really one who does a ton of prep work before shooting. Especially not this film, since I was also producing and things were always so hectic. Lots of times I wasn't really even looking at the script until we were on set. Oddly enough, that helped keep everything fresh and truthful. I'm really proud of the work that's on screen.
RC: James, is it ever difficult to direct friends when you're filming?
JT: It's not actually. I've always believed that if you aren't doing this with friends, that it's not worth doing. Making a feature film is incredibly difficult. We work very long hours and are under constant time constraints. If we don't enjoy working together, it makes it that much harder. When it's time for camera's to roll, we did a great job of being able to assume our roles, but that's what happens when you surround yourself with professionals!
RC: When in the writing process, are you writers who need to listen to music or have complete silence? If so, what music was playing during writing Run Like Hell?
CP: I generally listen to Spotify playlists when I write a script. It really helps get me in the mood and feel of the film. Since I was only really involved in note sessions on Run Like Hell, I didn't have any particular music that I listened to. Though the script I just wrote is a horror film as well and I did have a Spotify playlist for that. It's got mainly film scores on it since stuff with lyrics usually distracts me. Films like The Lady in the Water, Cropsey, Under the Skin. During shooting I had a playlist for Luke as well, which was basically a bunch of hard rock. Bands like Papa Roach, Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, Drowning Pool. Hard hitting stuff that was being used on a lot of these YouTube videos that guys in the armed forces were posting from their tours overseas.
JT: Music is incredibly important to me. It really shapes the emotion of a scene. Have you ever played back a scene without the music? It's very different. I listened to a bunch of great bands and film scores during the writing process. I even created a playlist as played it on repeat. Different scenes called for different feels so there is a very eclectic group of songs. Some of the songs that inspired me ranged from Tyler Bates' Score of the Halloween remake, to various August Burns Red songs, and even "Don't Fear The Reaper" from Blue Oyster Cult.
RC: Tell me about some of the hurdles involved in filming in such a hot location.
CP: Originally we said there was no way we'd be shooting the films in the summer, but as things kept getting pushed for one reason or another we ended up shooting Run Like Hell in August. It was miserable out there. The heat, the sun, the dirt, the wind. We had to take a lot of safety precautions with all of that to make sure no one got heat stroke or badly sunburnt or anything. Luckily everyone survived. Funny thing is, all those environmental challenges actually helped all of us as actors. It wasn't hard to look like crap and look exhausted. We were constantly sweating so we never had to run around the block to get sweaty before the cameras rolled.
JT: Palmdale is a fantastic place to shoot, but it does get unbearably hot. On our hottest day temperatures were upwards of 125. We had to be very careful to stay hydrated at all times. Fortunately, we didn't have any issues with either personal or equipment. Also, you really have to be liberal with water.
RC: Your friends are all coming over for a double feature movie night, your choice – what do you pick?
CP: I've been known to pull four or five movie marathons, but if I could only pick two? I'd go with Martyrs, which is probably one of the most beautifully disturbing horror films I've ever seen, followed by one of my favorites of all time, The Shining.
JT: Depending on the crowd I'd start with White Zombie, which is probably my favorite Bela Lugosi film. I'd follow that up with either Halloween or Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre!
RC: What's next for Two Guys and a Film?
CP: Our second film Hard Sun, which I directed, will be releasing on VOD and DVD/BluRay in the fall. We've also got a couple festival dates with that film in October. After that, we've got about eight films in development and about four television shows, all in various stages.
I'll be directing another film, hopefully in the winter or early spring called Lot 310, which is a paranormal horror film in the vain of The Amityville Horror. It's based on some real events so that one is going to be a ton of fun.
JT: Canyon and I have spent a lot of time on this incredible story based on true events. It will be a fun story to tell!
HorrorTalk would like to thank James and Canyon for taking the time to sit down and share their experiences!
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