Brad Ellis Interview
Interview conducted by by Daniel Benson
Brad Ellis is a Memphis filmmaker whose darkly romantic vampire movie Daylight Fades is currently being distributed by Lionsgate in the UK. He's been making movies since high school with his production company, Old School Pictures, and took time out to talk to HorrorTalk about vampires, filmmaking and what makes him tick.
Daniel Benson: The guys involved in your production company, Old School Pictures, go back to high school together. How has this developed from high school projects into commercial movie making?
Brad Ellis: We were all in the same film production class in our senior year of high school and had an assignment to make a short film. As a result of that we found we really enjoyed working together and we wanted to take things a step further after we graduated. Even though we were spread out across the USA, we still came together under the Old School Pictures banner when we made a movie. We developed a small, cult following here in Memphis and over time it attracted investment in our projects, which is eventually what got Daylight Fades off the ground.
DB: You made a horror movie called The Path of Fear in 2002 and then went completely the opposite direction to make a comedy [Act One, 2009]. What made you move away from horror to make the comedy?
DB: Tell me what Daylight Fades is all about for our readers who haven’t seen it.
DB:Twilight, Stake Land, Let me In, Fright night, and TV shows like The Vampire Diaries, True Blood:There are so many vampires in the media, what does Daylight Fades bring new to the table?
BE: Hopefully a more realistic perspective! Although I’m a fan of a lot of the stuff that comes out today it is geared towards a younger audience, it’s very sensationalised – which works for those kind of projects, but we never looked at Daylight Fades as solely a horror movie. Maybe that’s not the best way to put it when talking to a horror film site [laughs] but we wanted to take a unique stab at this type of film. We were more focused on the dramatic elements, but you get to have fun with the horror stuff too.
DB: You shot the film in various locations around Memphis, was it important to you to showcase your local area?’
BE: Yes, I grew up here and I really wanted to make Memphis a character in the film and I wanted to give the city a voice. A lot of independent films are made here, but a lot of the time the filmmakers throw their actors in a room and don’t really showcase the city. Memphis has a lot to offer and one of the first things I noticed on reading the script was how many different locations there were. We shot a lot downtown, which is very industrial-looking and has a lot of history and the texture in the buildings is fantastic. I really wanted to bring that to life in the film, because working with a limited budget we don’t have the production design of a bigger feature and Memphis fortunately filled in the gaps and looked great.
DB: It did. Did you use any sets or was it all shot on location?
BE: It was entirely on location except for some of the in-car scenes which we shot on a sound-stage with green screen.
DB: You’ve shown the film at some festivals and screenings and picked up some festival awards. How have viewers reacted to the film?
BE: Overall it’s been good, we’ve actually gone back and tweaked a few elements based on audience feedback. The cut that’s been released by Lionsgate in the UK is about 10 minutes shorter than the original version, so we’ve definitely used the audience feedback to our advantage.
DB: Did you make the film to ride the current wave of vampire popularity or is it just good timing?
BE: Honestly, I swear the script for Daylight Fades was written long before any of the Twilight stuff rose to popularity. We were casting at the same time as the Stephenie Meyer books came out and people were just starting to catch on. At first we were extremely frustrated because our take on it was that the vampire genre was kinda dormant for a while in the early 2000s and all of a sudden there was an explosion of movies and TV shows about vampires. We got caught in the middle of that and it did get frustrating because it looked like we were trying to ride the wave. Ultimately it’s been to our advantage though, from a marketing perspective.
DB: Who in the horror industry influences or inspires you?
BE: John Carpenter for sure. Halloween is my favourite film of all time. I love the way that man shoots his films and I’ve learned a lot about framing and blocking from watching his work. And that’s the approach I took with Daylight Fades, I wanted it to look a little more classical in style
DB: You seem to take a fair amount of time between making movies, why?
BE: Well there’s everybody’s location as we talked about earlier, and I think we’re slowly rising to some prominence so we’re a little more selective about what projects we take on. It has to be a project that everyone agrees on.
DB: Will you come back to horror for your next project or are you heading in an altogether different direction?
It looks like our next project will be something in the horror realm. And this one might even be a bit more straight-up horror, which really excites me as I haven’t made a flat out horror film.
Daylight Fades is available on DVD now.
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