Monday, February 25, 2013

Death to the World: Scaring up a modern slasher film in Montgomery

  The following is the Capital City Free Press’ exclusive interview with Shane Gillis, director of the forthcoming film, Death to the World.

CCFP: What is your background in filmmaking?

  Shane Gillis: I've wanted to make movies for as long as I can remember, but really got motivated in the mid to late 90s with the introduction of the Mini-DV format. That was the first type of camera I bought for myself. It was also around this same time that non-linear video editing became accessible to pretty much anyone with a computer and capture card. Before that, I was always interested, but never had the equipment to shoot or edit film. I began reading everything from Rick Scmidt's Feature Filmmaking at Used-Car Prices to boring manuals on how cameras worked, film and digital. So really, I was just a movie fan that got obsessed and blindly started learning by doing.  Lots of terrible shorts and half a feature from those days….  Luckily our house got robbed and all that was stolen.

CCFP: You’ve tackled a documentary on a band, so what prompted you to make the leap to tackling a fictional work? What was the lure of the slasher genre for you?

  Gillis: I've always been interested in making three types of movies: horror, comedy, and weird genre films (such as Beyond the Black Rainbow). Horror was my first love. John Carpenter's Halloween is my favorite movie of all time--everything from the look, the mood, and especially the music. I'm as excited about scoring the movie as I am about shooting it. Halloween has always been the perfect combination of aesthetics and sound for me.

  When I made People Will Eat Anything, it was a totally organic thing that started with me simply filming Ed Kemper Trio in the studio. It continued to grow from there and five years later, I had a documentary. I never really set out to make documentaries. I always wanted to shoot a fictional story that was a total creation of my imagination. Well, that's hard as hell. So the documentary was a good way to learn my way around the technical aspects of making a film without having to worry about characters and plot so much. I just had to capture what was happening. But I always wanted to make a horror film more than anything.   

CCFP: When did the creative process begin, and what was your motivation for this particular story? Where or from whom have you drawn inspiration for this story?

  Gillis: My writing partner and the producer of the movie, Rick Gardner, and I have been working together since 2008 on various projects. We've written tons of short and feature length scripts over the years. Most of the shorts were cartoon ideas. Last year we had a pitch meeting with Adult Swim about possibly doing a cartoon. We had two scripts for two different shows, music, voices, and pretty much everything except the animation in hand. The guy looked at us and said, "You need to show us what this looks like as a cartoon. It needs to already be animated." He went on to explain that they don't read scripts. His bosses need to be able to pop a DVD in and watch something for two minutes to decide if it's good or not. We don't know how to animate and didn't really know anyone at the time that did (or that would for free), so we took a little break from writing. We had been writing for nearly four years already.

  Then one day this past September I was sitting in the pediatrician’s waiting room with my son, seemingly for hours, when I had an idea. I sent Rick a text that just said, "Let's make a movie." Just like that, after months of not working on anything, or even talking really, the machine fired up again. It hasn't stopped since.

  But Death to the World wasn't the initial idea. We started outlining a different story, which we quickly realized was much too big of an idea. It's not something that could be done on the cheap. But we were dying to make something.  So I just simply said, "How about this serial killer movie where _________________ happens?" I can't tell you what's in that blank because it's a spoiler. But that's how easily this began.

  I would say the main inspiration, and the thing that will make this movie seem more in the vein of a couple of movies over here versus a million horror movies over there, are ideas I got from the film, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and a story by Poppy Z. Brite. The story stays with the killer in Henry. That perspective is odd for a horror film. I really like that and knew I wanted that POV in our movie. But the kill scenes abandon that altogether, and make you feel like the victim again.

CCFP: Are you filming exclusively in Montgomery? How did you go about selecting the locations for filming?

  Gillis: 95% in Montgomery. Some landscape shots are from my hometown, Samson, Alabama. There will be a few shots at Lake Martin and possibly Wetumpka. The rest will be done right here. Locations came from friends offering up their homes and just knowing folks who own local businesses and don't mind us making a mess in their places on a Sunday. The rest will be guerrilla style. Shoot and get out before the cops come!

CCFP: How did you approach the casting process? Did you have any individuals in mind when you wrote the parts?

  Gillis: Originally, Rick and I were going to play the main two characters. As we started writing more and thinking about production, we both realized we'd rather just make the thing and not be in it. But after the parts were written, I ran into Josh Carples at Publix one day, and it hit me later that night that he'd be perfect for the lead. I talked to him the next day and he was in. So we tweaked the character a little bit to be just like the Josh Carples we know and love, but just adding a murderous dark side that nobody sees.

  Same with Rudy Banes…. I knew he'd be perfect to play Mike because he's just that guy - a scene stealer, the life of the party. When looking for the part of Meredith, Josh recommended his girlfriend, Lindsay Garrett, and that's working out unbelievably well. The others haven't been so easy. We're holding auditions on March 2, to try and cast the other parts.

CCFP: When do you plan to complete and debut the film? Are you planning a premiere event?

  Gillis: We hope to have it shot, scored, edited, and completely finished by August 1st.  Some major festivals we want to enter have deadlines set for then. So that's our main push. We will definitely rent out The Capri theater a weekend in October and premiere it there. That's going to be a blast. It will be free to everyone. From there, we have no idea. It largely depends on how much money we raise through our fundraising campaign as to how many festivals we can enter or theaters we can rent.

  For more information on Death to the World, visit the production’s Facebook page:

  To become part of the action and support the project, visit Death to the World’s IndieGogo fundraising page. Through donations, you can be named in the film’s credits, secure a walk-on role and earn many other benefits associated with the film:

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