Today I have welcomed Filmmaker Stephen Biggin into the Cavern Of Chaos to introduce his film WITCHTOWN to the masses. Continue reading if you dare to enter the mind of this mystic of the Black Arts and behold here you have today’s Horror Q&A featuring Stephen the man behind the mayhem of what is WITCHTOWN.
- Thomas Otterman
To. Stephen can You please tell the fans a little about yourself?
SB. Hey! Thomas! Yes! I am an independent filmmaker based in northwest Ohio, and we have been making films and video’s for over 5 years now, however, WITCHTOWN is our first official full length production. Josh Kenczewicz ,the Producer of WITCHTOWN attended the Bowling Green art school ,and I attended the Toledo school for the arts in downtown Toledo. Together with our combined talents, I feel like we were able to make a great team.
TO. What can you tell us about WITCHTOWN 2018, without giving any spoilers of the film
SB. Without spoiling anything I would say WITCHTOWN 2018 is the story of two bumbling occultists attempting to bring a dark force back to mankind’s realm, in an effort to correct the current political/religious climate mankind has made for itself. With WITCHTOWN we wanted to, create a feeling you obtain from an old style film circa the 50s - 90s, yet make it new and modern for the current times
TO. Why did you decide to put WITCHTOWN on Kickstarter? and what was your experience using the platform
SB. We really just sort of made the Kickstarter as an experiment in crowdfunding. I never really considered it a viable way to fund a film, and especially one coming from such a small obscure production company. I decided to give it a shot while keeping the goal small and realistic. We figured that we had already been paying for everything out of pocket, and agreed to do so until the film was completed, but maybe we could raise some money to purchase the more extravagant props we wanted.
To our surprise we found people on Kickstarter who seemed to share in our vision, and I was blown away when we began receiving donations. With that money we were able to purchase all of the items that we needed to continue filming, which ultimately kept us from having a large gap in our production timeline. I love Kickstarter, and the people on it, and I could not imagine making another film and not utilizing it.
TO. What type of budget did you have? and did you experience any problems with the location shoots
SB. We started with a budget of about $1000 dollars (quite low, I know) but quickly found that wasn’t going to be enough. After fundraising and purchasing all of the equipment needed, we had spent roughly between $3,000 - $5,000, and currently are well above that ( I’ve stopped counting, but it’s probably closer to $6,000 - $8,000). We had several mishaps that definitely raised our budget including having to purchase a new camera and computer midway through production.
Those two expensive items were very disheartening to have to purchase in the middle of production but we got through it, and the end product honestly benefited from us being forced to buy better equipment. It was really a blessing in disguise.
The only real issues we had shooting honestly was Ohio’s unpredictable weather. Since our shooting ran so far over the deadline, we had to shoot through different seasons and do our best to disguise it. In WITCHTOWN you will see scenes from every season: Winter, spring, summer and fall! One of the more “seasonable tell-tales” are the Christmas lights in background of the opening scene.
We fought really hard during our initial shoot to hide these, and we realized no matter who’s house we filmed this scene at there was no escaping neighborhood Christmas lights unless we waited for the new year to continue filming. Obviously we decided to use the shots with the lights in the background, and if asked, we have all agreed uniformly, that WITCHTOWN is in fact a Christmas movie;) Other than that, the only other issues we had were curious bystanders accidentally getting in our shots while they were trying to figure out exactly we were doing. WITCHTOWN was shot entirely in guerrilla style, so we had to shoot cleverly in public places without permits or permission, which was a lot of fun itself.
TO. I remember you saying that you had used aerial drones for some of WITCHTOWNS filming, so what are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using drone technology?
SB. A definite advantage would be that it allows the filmmaker to obtain shots that previously would have cost quite a bit, or would end up just not being practical due to cost. Even 10 years ago the independent filmmaker would be hard pressed to include aerial shots in their film, short of hiring a helicopter pilot or crane operator, so I definitely am a huge fan of drone technology for use in film! Plus, with technology getting better, they now include features like image stabilization, and one button take off/landing, so obtaining great looking aerials has never been easier!
Having said that, my only complaint with the drone we had used was the lifespan of the battery pack, which would last about a full 20 minutes in flight. We found that as long as we had our shot list properly mapped out we could actually complete a lot within a 20 minute span, despite it feeling a little hectic.
TO. What were some of the biggest obstacles you had if any in the production of the film?
SB. The Biggest obstacle I would say for us was scheduling. It seemed like throughout the entire production, we were quite unlucky when it came to our casts availability. We also had some cast members that live out of town which added to the stress of scheduling as well. The scheduling difficulties would affect our shoots also, as we would end up filming way more than we needed out of fear that we would miss something and then be unable to easily re-shoot. The scheduling BY FAR was the most difficult, tedious part of the process.
TO. How did you make the Goon masks? Was there any trial and error involved in the process
SB. The goon masks were made by applying layer after layer of latex until we achieved the shape and texture we were looking for. Our goal was just to make it “look gross”. It was definitely trial and error, as this was the most extravagant we had gotten with makeup, as previously we had just applied small amounts of makeup to create cuts and wounds, never a full head. Our first test subject was Eric Zygela, (Goon playing Trouble) and he was shockingly very patient with us, despite losing quite a bit of hair due to latex leaks! Ha! He was a good sport.
TO. Do you have any tips for future film makers that may be reading this?
SB. Oh ok, awesome, for sure man! Yes! My advice would be: just make it, don’t wait... there will never be “the right time/place/ or condition. “ .... just start making it, even if you just have a fraction of an idea.. it will evolve as you work with it and, I feel, you will often surprise yourself with the outcome! Even just getting with friends and improvising a conversation on camera to see where it goes is a great way to come up with a “plot point” which leads to a scene, which leads to an Act, which eventually will become a production.
TO. So what? If anything do yo have lined up in the near future? Is there a sequel to WITCHTOWN in the works? and if so when do you expect to start production
SB. We plan to immediately submit the film to festivals and we plan to hit up as many comic and film conventions as possible... as weird as it sounds, I would love to try and convert WITCHTOWN into some form of performance piece like Rocky Horror, but that could be just a pipe dream haha.. There is a very clever idea for a WITCHTOWN ll which I think will go quite well given the reception to this one.
TO. I know I already know the answer to this one, but for all the fans out there that don’t. When you are watching films what format do you prefer blu-ray, VHS, or DVD ? And why do you prefer it over the other two?
SB. HaHa yes you do! I love the VHS format the best. There is a quality and tone to it that I think adds to the overall experience of the movie. What most filmmakers and (film fans) often neglect to realize (in my opinion), is that this never ending search for the clearest image often adversely affects the film, in that it exposes “the strings” that hold it together. A little blur is the filmmakers best friend! The best thing I can compare it to is music recorded on vinyl... it just has something about it that can’t be replicated digitally.
TO. Are you an 1980s Horror fan? What about that decade makes the films so special?
SB. The Biggest! I think those years proved to be the peak of practical effects, and stop motion advancements which will always look the best because there is real principal material being filmed.
By the end of the 80s, moving into the nineties, digital animation had started making an appearance, and it simply doesn’t hold up.
I think there is still a market for the old way of filmmaking, but unfortunately, Hollywood is unwilling to acknowledge it.
TO. What are your top 5 Horror films of all time that you have watched?
5). Evil Dead (1981) 4). Dead and Buried (1981) 3). Re-Animator (1985) 2). Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) 1). Phantasm (1979)
TO. Out of the following slashers (Michael Myers), (Jason Voorhees) or (Freddy Krueger) who is your favorite and why
SB. I would say Freddy, cause, Wtf are you supposed to do? There’s no getting away from that guy! At least the others you can blow up/send to hell... with Freddy you have to figure out how to rip him from the dream world and THEN have to figure out how to kill him... You have to sleep eventually, and the idea that he takes advantage of your most vulnerable human needs is an incredible frightening premise.
TO. What was the first film that scared you? If there is one, and how did it affect you?
SB. There were two! I don’t know which came first, but both still have me checking under my bed (just in case).
The first was The Gate (1987) with Stephen Dorff, which I do still think is a great film with great effects. The other one (strangely) was the original Puppet Master (1989), which is a franchise that I also still enjoy. There was something about that film I found as a child disturbing haha....both of those films captivated me , and made me realize how fun it is to be scared and probably propelled my interest in horror to become what it is today.
TO. What film Directors past and present have inspired you? and in what ways were you inspired?
SB. I have really always had a deep appreciation for the films of Roman Polanski. I would say few have been able to bring that level of class to the Horror genre as he did. Despite some of his unsavory life choices, he totally changed my perception, at a very young age, or what horror could be, especially With Rosemary’s Baby from (1968).
That film builds in a way that allows the viewer to feel what Mia Farrow’s character is experiencing (seclusion/paranoia)without relying on cheap jump scares, or a score to drive the film and elicit feeling. There are other examples from his career, from different genres as well, that definitely set him apart from the rest (Ninth Gate, Carnage, Pianist, Tenant, China Town ect) yet there is something about Rosemary’s Baby that simply has kept it timeless and the only way I can describe it is “classy”.
I would die a happy man if I am to one day make something having a fraction of the brilliance that film has maintained after all these years.
TO. What is your favorite Horror film remake? And which is your least favorite and why?
SB. I think the new Evil Dead Reboot is sort of both for me. I was really shocked by how brutal the effects looked, and they did it right, by keeping both the lighting and blood dark... the scene where the main girl splits her tongue is TRULY horrifying! However despite the impressive level of gore and shock value the film produces, it is missing so much that made the original great.
For example the new one starts off with friends attempting to have a detox session for there drug addict friend in a cabin in the woods, and it’s revealed in the first few minutes that there is a past trauma in her life. Such a serious and dark contrast to the original, which was a light hearted weekend of friends on a camping trip.
The original allows the film from feeling light, to heavy once the deadites arrive, versus the immediate seriousness of the remake. Also the gore in the original was much more “fun” in my opinion in contrast with the gore of the remake, which was meant to be more of a shock. This all sounds sort of contradictory, I know haha. I felt torn while watching it.
TO. Stephen since you have now completed WITCHTOWN , how does it feel to know eventually it will be seen worldwide
SB. Honestly it’s a little scary! Haha I’m sure that sounds kind of stupid, but I do tend to psych myself out a bit from time to time. I used to play in a band years ago, and I would get the same feeling before going on stage. However I will say that the screenings we’ve had have gone over very well so far, so that is a comfort for sure.
To. In the future would you be interested on being on the CINEPHILES and CENOBITES show?
SB. Absolutely! I would love it!
TO. Stephen I would personally like to Thank You for all the time spent with me conducting this Horror Q&A.
At this time is there anything you would like to add? Website info? anything in general you would like to tell your fans or folks that are just discovering you for the first time?
SB. No problem Thomas! Thank You for your time and consideration as well! We are currently working on a site which should be up soon and will be witchtownmovie.com I will let you know when the site is up and running! We are also discussing of printing the soundtrack on LP vinyl, and creating some cool looking “old school” VHS copies as well! Other than that, I would just like to say that in making this, we definitely experienced periods of ebb and flow, however every phase was rewarding in its own way, and I am extremely grateful to everyone involved ( with yourself definitely included! )
I look forward to showing and sharing WITCHTOWN with people, and I hope everyone is able to recognize all of the hard work everyone put into it.
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