LEGLESS CORPSE: The bulk of your film experience comes as a producer, how did the directing gig for AFTERMATH come about?
PETER ENGERT: I did another movie like seven or eight months before AFTERMATH and some of those producers worked on AFTERMATH, but they were having some problems with the director. Basically a week before shooting started they called me and asked if I would take it over if anything happened. So obviously I worked with these producers before and the saw how I worked, trusted me and I trusted them, I offered them my help. A few days later I was on a plan to New Orleans and I took over the project, it was like three or four days before principle photography. It was a tough call. I had read the script before because Christine Kelly, who played the lead in my previous film, who plays the pregnant girl in AFTERMATH, I made some notes for her because she asked me to take a look at the script. So I was familiar with the project. I was a writer and producer but not really a director. So they they gave me the budget and the script as well as the actors. We lost the DP (Director Of Photography) so we hired Scott (Winig).Scott and I became really good friends and spent, literally, hours and hours before crew call to do the pre-production work (laughs). I think the that was the lucky part in this whole thing. I had absolutely nothing to be inspired by but the screenplay and the characters.
LC: The story is more psychological horror. Was it hard to keep the physical monsters, meaning the zombie-type infected humans, in the background of the story as opposed to in the audiences face?
PE:: No because I wanted to focus on the characters. How one another would react and behave in this type of situation. Dealing with these types of budgets limits you. You just can’t really rely on something you don’t have the money for. But the actors were given to me and they were all very different. I tried to push them really hard. Sometimes I really pushed them son the spot so they brought out things they thought they couldn’t. So no, not really . I did the same thing with the refugees, which are zombie-ish, thirsty, hungry, disfigured humans. But I still wanted to find the humanity in them. So sometimes you feel sorry for them. Besides we, well hopefully not, if anything like this happened, you and I could be one of these and do what we had to to survive. So no, absolutely not, that was the main focus to keep the characters at the center.
LC:: I know you said you came in very late in the pre-production process, my next question was regarding casting, did you have any input in casting at all, or was the entire cast already set when you came aboard?
PE: the cast was already set. Eddie Furlong approaches the the material in a totally different way than Andre Royo. They do their work in a totally different way on set, but that’s exactly what I like. I just have to find my way to reach these actors and how I can leverage that element. I actually like the channel. I have to mention that when I came to New Orleans the crew was well prepared. Everybody in there departments were very very good and very supportive. They all understood the best you can do is just go out there and do their best each day and hopefully finding that magical moment which could just a beautiful camera set up with the actors, to find away to just enjoy the experience. Everyone did their part and on behalf of the producers, I want to thank them and the cast and crew who were all prepared and supportive.
LC:: The majority of the film takes place in a farmhouse cellar. What are some of the on stickers shooting in a relatively small space with a fairly large cast?
PE: We shot three weeks in the studio, so all the interiors were built. We were able to move around all the walls. We shot one week on location. It was linear shooting in the studio, meaning if we were talking about ten days, the shot the first day of shooting, was the first day of the ten (basically shooting in order of the script). It became a little complicated when you get on location because sometimes on one day we had to shoot three different “movie” days. So the makeups are different and everything. Again, when you have a good crew that are prepared, we made it happen. Besides rain and storms, but I guess that’s part of filmmaking. But you get the job done somehow.
LC:: Being a writer yourself, do you find it harder directing someone else’s story, as opposed to your own original material?
PE: in the beginning yes. But my main focus was finding these characters and when looking at the project from the inside and outs of the characters. I was looking at the project from the characters point of view, that was my way in to understanding the material. In the beginning it’s difficult if they are not your words, script, or idea. However the writer did a great job and I think he set a great platform to play with and work with. Same with the actors.
LC:: What are some upcoming projects you have coming up that our readers can keep a lookout for?
PE: I’m setting up two projects. One is called THE SHOW, which is in the same vain as Se7en. It’s about an FBI Agent who investigates a website that is offering 10 million dollars for the most brutal and creative execution aught on video. So it’s very up to date. All of these projects I always want to focus on a positive message or a meaningful story. This is targeting how we let the negative elements be the center of our focus, including the media. The other project I’m doing is a drama called VIVIAN and it’s about a 13 year old girl trying to convince her dying, anorexic mother that life is still an option. So again, it’s a drama but it’s a dark drama, but with a positive, up-lifting message about anorexia. Which again, is an important topic and problem in our society.
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