Dead On Appraisal is one of my favorite films so far this year. I was stoked, yes stoked, to get these three directors, Sean Canfield, Scott Dawson, and David Sherbrook to answer some questions. Here’s what these madmen had to say…
David Sherbrook – The Morning After
LEGLESS CORPSE: Your segment in Dead On Appraisal “The Morning After” has a ton of effects in it. Working on such a modest budget was it tough to pull all the effects off?
DAVID SHERBROOK: It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure. Thankfully, my cohort and partner in Infested Films, Scott Dawson, is an FX maestro, and he was able to pull off and enhance all the insane ideas I had, like the Chad/Jeff Monster, which is still one of my favorite things we’ve ever made.
The effects were so demanding, I remember there were a few days where Scott was out in the garage painting and doing the final touch-ups on the creatures while we were shooting in the house, and I would come out in between takes to see how things were going. I’m pretty sure we didn’t sleep for a week during filming, so things got a bit stressful, but at the end of the day we got everything that we wanted and then some. Looking back, it was kind of a miracle we got it all done in time.
LC: Many people think that anthology films are dead, I happen to love them, why did you decide to work on an anthology film instead of going for a single narrative project?
DS: Dead On Appraisal was actually the product of necessity more than anything. I’m a huge fan of anthology films, but in all honesty we didn’t really set out to make one from the get-go. The Morning After was actually my thesis film back when I was still in school, so originally it was supposed to be a stand-alone short.
After The Morning After, we signed on to film a segment for the now defunct anthology The Black Box, which is where Freddie and the Goblins came from. Unfortunately, that film didn’t pan out, so we found ourselves with 2 short films that took place in the same house, and were trying to figure out the best way to get them out to the masses. And thus, Dead On Appraisal was born.
LC: I love the music in the film, especially the swing song during one of the crazy effects/action sequences, how did you go about picking the music for the film.
DS: I’ve been a musician ever since I could walk, so I’m always thinking of how to integrate music into my films in creative and fun ways. The swing song actually started out as a joke. We were cutting the scene together and it just wasn’t working the way I wanted it to, so we thought it would be ridiculous to throw something way out of left field into the mix, something no one would ever expect. And after watching it, and tweaking the cut, I came to fall in love with it, so we kept it. It kind of changed the tone of the film as a whole, too, which in my opinion worked out for the best.
LC: About the music, I recognized (maybe I shouldn’t admit to knowing this) one of the songs when Chuck, Darryl, and Beth go in to fight the monster, as the theme to the indie game Baby Maker Extreme. Did you have anything to do with the game?
DS: Never heard of that game… The song is actually called “Big Rock” by Kevin MacLeod. He writes tons of royalty free music for films and we just found it out of the blue and thought it worked perfectly. That game sounds pretty funny, though. I’m gonna have to check it out.
LC: You have quite a few shorts under your belt. Is there any plans for a feature film in the near future?
DS: Definitely. I’m working on pre-production for my first feature right now. It’s a slasher film with a twist, and I think all the fans will love it. Aside from that, we’ve got a few other scripts in the works. Scott actually wrote a pretty cool supernatural survivalist type script, which are hoping to shoot in the near future as well. So expect to see a lot more from us in the coming years.
LC: What types of films do you enjoy? ‘The Morning After’ has a very cool Tromaeque feel to it, are you a Troma fan?
DS: I love all types of movies, but (as is pretty obvious) horror and comedy are definitely my favorites. Movies like The Fly, Evil Dead, and The Toxic Avenger definitely inspired The Morning After, but that’s only a small part of what I love and what I want to accomplish as a filmmaker. My influences are many, and you can expect a lot of variation from me in the future. I’ve grown a lot since I made The Morning After (5 years ago!) and I’ve really come to appreciate story and character over violence and gore, so I want to explore that a little more in my coming projects.
And yes, I’m a huge Troma fan. Lloyd and Co. are enormous inspirations not only in tone and substance, but in their approach to filmmaking as a whole. I love indie cinema, and I (and everyone else making ultra-low budget stuff) owe a ton to Troma for paving the way for all of us. I got the chance to work with Lloyd on my short film Theodore, and it was a blast. He’s such a humble, fun, and interesting guy, and working with him fulfilled one of my childhood dreams.
LC: Who have been some of your biggest influences in the industry?
DS: Everything from the Coen brothers to Fulci. I’ve always gravitated towards David Cronenberg’s early films and his obsession with body horror, and Sam Raimi’s insanely creative and unique style. I’m also a huge book nerd, and my writing is inspired a lot by people like H.P. Lovecraft, Joe R. Lansdale, Robert Bloch, and Clive Barker, to name a few.
More recently, guys like Jason Eisner, Ti West, and Joe Lynch really inspire me to up my game and keep doing what I love. There’s a lot of cool stuff going on in horror right now, and I think it’s the perfect time for up-and-comers like us to make a name for ourselves and get our stuff out there to the people who love it just as much as we do. There’s a revival happening, and we want to be at the forefront of modern indie horror.
LC: Now that Dead On Appraisal is finished up, will you be jumping into another project? If so can you tell us a little about it?
We just finished up our next short film called Drumman’s Palace, which will be hitting the festival circuit this summer and fall. It’s an atmospheric piece heavily inspired by the works and universe of H.P. Lovecraft, and it’s very different tonally from Dead On Appraisal. I’m really excited about it, and can’t wait for everyone to see it. It’s definitely the most ambitious and fully-realized film we’ve done to date.
Aside from that, we’re working on our first full feature, the slasher I mentioned earlier, and a few other smaller shorts and music videos that we’ve got in the pipeline.
Sean Canfield – Father Land
LEGLESS CORPSE: Your sequent ‘Fatherland’ in the film has a much more serious tone then the others. What was your inspiration for the story?
SEAN CANFIELD: Well, my segment was written and shot in conjunction with the wraparound story. So i had the setting and the house to work with and I started thinking at home horror. We know a few veterans from school and one in particular who had some PTSD issues that lead to his death via overdose. Bob Clark’s Deathdream is one of my favorite horror movies, so I took that rough concept and ran with it as it related to the then ongoing wars. You have to keep in mind Father Land was shot in 2010, so at the time it was something that had been talked about in the media quite a bit as we prepared for full withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. I wanted Father Land to be a semi-serious counter-point to the non-stop insanity and gore of the rest of the segments. Of course, I still think the ending is in line with the other shorts as far as ridiculous violence goes, and it’s meant to make you chuckle after taking everything so seriously.
LC: Was Dead On Appraisal always meant to be an anthology or was it shorts that were made and then cut together into a feature film?
SC: We made The Morning After as an epic short, it originally ran over 30 minutes. We made another short after that, and then took on Freddie, which was Scott’s labor of love and ode to the Chiodo brothers and Joe Dante. With two gory horror shorts shot in the same house, (at the time a coincidence) it made sense to expand it into a feature. I put together Father Land really quick, because I had to move to Alabama and had a very small window of opportunity in Los Angeles. With my jack of all trades insane genius director of photography Craig Seidl we managed to pull it off. Well Craig mostly pulled it off. So no, we didnt set out to make a feature until half of what became the movie was shot and edited. At that point, a feature made the most sense since time and money had been invested and there is a very small market for short films in the world of distribution.
LC: You have many credits all with different production roles. What position do you like best?
SC: We made this movie for an insanely small amount of money, and what that means is you take all the help you can get, and wherever you can’t get help, you just do everything yourself. Scott fabricated all the puppets and effects virtually by himself. David, myself, and Megan Harmon were all there at different times to do some non-artistic stuff like pull apart molds, pour plaster, and glue stuff together, but Scott still did probably 80% of everything by himself. We all worked day jobs while we were in production, so that made things even harder, but on low budget films you definitely learn a lot about the production process out of sheer necessity because there is simply not enough money to hire the help you need. Ive always wanted to direct, and outside of a TV pilot I shot for a friend, I had never really directed my own script. There are millions of reasons to procrastanate on making your own project, but because of the circumstances it was the proper kick in the ass I needed to get it done. We shot the segment in two days, and it was a great experience for Craig and I. Weve worked together for years in various companies and schemes (most of them pushed forward by Craig but this was our first shot to prove if we got the budget we want for another feature, that we can do it). I’ve never hidden the fact that I wanted to direct, but a lot of people do. So given the chance I wanted to take advantage, and I felt like we did. I love helping Scott with effects and design problem solving, but directing is my only real desire. I helped produce Freddie and the Goblins out of necessity. Scott and David were very busy with the effects and directing that they didnt have time for scheduling so I kind of just hopped on the project. In fact, I dont recall ever being hired, but at the end of the process we all did what we had to in order to get the short shot.
LC: ‘Fatherland’ has a very dark tone and is certainly more psychological horror. Do you prefer this type of horror over the blood and guts, effect heavy films?
SC: Prefer? Love just as much? Yes. Really, Scott David, and I were the only other people that loved Society, From Beyond, and Freaked the way that we do. Gore movies are my favorite. If I had to choose a favorite genre, splatter movies would be at the top with ’70s Euro-crime, which are also typically pretty violent. I never set out to make a gory or psychological horror short, I just told the story I had. My main thinking was to get it shot in 2 days at the house.
LC: Is directing something you plan on continuing in the future, or do you see yourself primarily in another role?
SC: I moved to Los Angeles to pursue directing, but you take what comes along and learn as mufh as you can on sets and figure out how to run them. I’m still practicing, always will be, but as far as what I’m pursuing, it will be my own independent projects.
LC: What kind of movies influenced you to become a filmmaker?
SC: Everything. I’ve learned from romantic comedies, silent dramas, and german splatter films. I just love movies in general, I want to make all types.
LC: A lot of people think that there is really no room for shorts now a days. What do you think some of the benefits of shooting shorts are?
SC: The problem with shorts is they have a very limited monetary return opportunity, but they are essential for young filmmakers to learn and develop their style before moving into the complications of a feature.
Yes, my next project is a short coming this fall, and a feature documentary about Huntsville, Alabama. I will also be releasing my first novel, Saturday in the Park, sometime this year.
Scott Dawson – Freddie and the Goblins
LEGLESS CORPSE: Your segment had me cracking up as Freddie was slaughtering the goblins. How much time did it take to clean up that house after shooting that massacre?
SCOTT DAWSON: Well, I think we learned an important lesson as horror filmmakers when we shot ‘The Morning After,’ David’s segment in the film. Most of the gore in that one took place in the carpeted bedroom, so I made it a point to shoot my messy scenes in the kitchen, where it only took a few thousand moppings to clean the stickiness off the floor.
LC: You did all the practical effects on the film correct? How much prep time did you need building all of the creatures and effects?
SD: I have a habit of always coming up with new ideas at the last minute, so I could always use more time than I have, which is how it usually goes when we’re preparing for a film. I had to pull an all nighter going into my shoot to paint all the puppets, and for David’s I was sculpting, making molds, and painting as the crew was filming inside the house. I’d like to think we’ve gotten better at allotting the necessary time, though. For our latest film I had a solid day off before we left for the location.
LC: I can’t say, or I don’t think anyone else can say, they’ve seen a Cyclopes, Unicorn, with tentacles for arms creature before. What was the brainstorming sessions for that character like?
SD: The Stu-Monster was the only one of the goblins I didn’t draw beforehand, and I had no idea what he was going to look like. I think he was originally written as a sort of shapeless blob with one eye wearing an expensive suit, and when I started sculpting the head it gradually became a horse-like shape, so I went with it. Then he became a Unicorn, because that’s funnier than a horse.
LC: This is your first directing gig, was directing easier or harder than you thought?
SD: That was still the hardest shoot I’ve ever been on, not only because I was attempting to direct and keep track of way too much, but also having to handle the FX work, which was pretty heavy. Not to mention wearing the monster suit and doing a bunch of stupid stunts. David had to step up and take over for a lot of that stuff, I could only see out of a tiny hole in the mouth of that thing, and the springs inside were so loud everyone had to scream directions at me.
LC: Not only did you do the practical effects you also did the CGI stuff. With your fingers in both mediums, and the debate about practical Vs CGI, do you have a preference to one over the other?
SD: I definitely prefer the practical side of FX work, but we also use visual FX as a tool for augmenting what we shoot on set. I never want do a CGI creature in our films, but properly used VFX can allow for a much higher level of freedom and creativity on our small budgets, whether it be simple rod and wire removal, to more elaborate shots with multiple elements composited together.
LC: Now that you got your first gig as a director out of the way do you plan on doing anymore directing?
SD: I would love to keep directing, and we have no shortage of scripts and ideas we hope to someday make. We have a very close-knit group of likeminded people on our team, and each time we make a film we seem to add more permanent members to our crew, who are always 100% committed to the project, no matter how hard we have to work to get it done.
LC: How did you, Sean, and David come together to make this wonderfully fun, over-the-top, gore fest?
SD: We all met at film school, and quickly got a reputation for staining various floors and ceilings with blood while making crazy short films together. It evolved from there, and an anthology film felt like the logical first step into feature length territory, considering how many short scripts and ideas we had at the time.
LC: What projects of yours can we look forward to in the future?
SD: The next Infested Films project is the high concept short film ‘Drumman’s Palace,’ that David wrote and directed. It is a big step forward for us in terms of scope; we were working with a bigger budget and had wonderful locations and actors. There is also an enormous amount of FX work, of course, and I am very proud of everything we pulled off. We hope to have it finished very soon and on the festival circuit this fall. There are several feature length projects we’re considering as a follow-up to ‘Dead On Appraisal,’ including a classic 80’s slasher film with a unique Infested Films twist!
Check out my Dead On Appraisal Review.
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