Interview with Horror Master Drew Daywalt

Fewdio.com Fewdio create nightmaresMeet Drew Daywalt who is one of my biggest photography fans.  😉

I’m honoured that he allowed me to interview him for my blog as he is a very talented emmy nominated writer/director and is one of the members of the fantastic and horrifying FEWIDO crew.

FEWDIO create nightmares and if you don’t believe me, check them out at http://www.fewdio.com.

As a director, cinematographer, producer and lots more, what is it about horror that attracts you so much?

I think, like a lot of horror film makers, and fans for that matter, there is definite catharsis to it.

As a member of the audience, I love the thrill of a good scare.

I grew up in a 160 year old inn in Hudson Ohio that was chock-full of scary places, cold spots, bad rooms and alien noises (mostly in the basement).  I’m the youngest of 6 and my parents bought the 7 bedroom behemoth when it was abandoned and in a state of almost complete ruin.  Everyone in town thought they were crazy, but they needed a cheap home for their huge family, so they moved in and started fixing it up.

What followed were great times, but also some terrifying experiences – one afternoon there was a blood curdling scream that shook us all up, but no one was ever able to explain… then there was the inexplicable cold spots in the back staircase to the servants’ quarters. (We didn’t have servants – we used the rooms as some of our bedrooms). There was also a VERY CREEPY well from 100 years ago in the woods behind our house.  My parents always warned us not to go near it, for obvious reasons, but all us kids were convinced it was haunted. (When THE RING came out, I was like, THERE’S OUR WELL!)

I loved horror films as a kid – everything from the old James Whale & Todd Browning Universal Monster movies to Jacques Tournier’s Night of the Demon, all the way through Jack Arnold, William Castle, Hammer Horror and eventually John Carpenter. While the other kids were worshiping sports heros, I loved Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price.

Tell us about ‘Camera Obscura’ the horror web series that you’re currently working on?

I wrote Camera Obscura as a pitch about a year ago, and had it sort of sitting on my shelf when I was approached by Robert Kandle from MWG Media.

He liked some of my short horror films that I’d posted on Youtube – Bedfellows and Dinner Date, especially – and said his company wanted to get behind me as an artist.  I was floored and complimented.

He said, “What do you have that we could do as a web series?”, so I pitched him Camera Obscura.

It’s the story of a young woman who basically discovers that her recently deceased crime scene photographer grandfather didn’t just photograph crime scenes.  Seems he stumbled onto a world of demons and otherworldly abominations that prey upon the human race while moving unseen by almost everyone.  Grandpa Sam researched the things in ancient texts and discovered a way to imprison the creatures in photographs with a special magical camera that he built, and he saved the photos in a photo-album – their prison.

Clara accidentally destroys the prison book in episode one, releasing all the demons he’d captured out into the world.  After being attacked by one of them, she researches her grandfather’s old files and is horrified by the size and scope of her mistake in destroying the old photo album.

With the demons after her, and the camera she inherits from her grandfather, she sets out to re-capture them all, and commit herself to completing her grandpa’s life work.

It stars Reagan Dale Neis as Clara (she was in my first feature film STARK RAVNG MAD, so I’ve worked with her before and she’s fantastic).  Jack Klugman plays her grandpa Sam.  He’s most famous for his roles as Quincy on the show of the same name, and Oscar Madison from THE ODD COUPLE tv show with Tony Randall.  Strangely enough, I actually was more familiar with Jack through his roles in 9 Twilight Zone episodes, and the films TWELVE ANGRY MEN and MR. ROBERTS.  Timm Sharp and Donnie Jeffcoat also star, as her geeky best friend and an overworked LAPD Homicide detective, respectively.

I was also blessed with getting to work with Jeff Farley, a spfx guru behind some of the best physical effects in the last 20 years.  He did the Cryptkeeper for HBO, he did Babylon 5, Pet Sematary and like a million other films. He’s not just a world class sculptor, but also a top notch animatronics expert and a sweet sweet guy.  We asked a lot of Jeff on this one – he had to create 5 demons from scratch, and he was just unflappable and no matter what I threw at him in the design and construction phase, he would just nod and smile and say, “Yeah. That’s easy. We can do that.”  Then he’d always add to the idea and make it ten times better.

You recently filmed ‘Camera Obscura’ in an abandoned hospital in L.A.  What was that like and did you get spooked at all?

Linda Vista Hospital in L.A. was built in the 1920’s I’m told, and was used all the way up until 1990.

Since then it’s been a film location, and if you’re into urban decay, this place is a feast for all the senses.  The paint is peeling, the doors are squeaky, the windows are boarded up, the electricity shudders and flickers… it’s really like something out of a nightmare.

One of the reasons I think I have such a knack for horror filmmaking is that I’m really a big scaredy cat.  The whole 5 days we filmed at Linda Vista (night filming, no less!) we were all uncomfortable and constantly looking over our shoulders… and there was one really bad experience…

It actually happened during preproduction.

While scouting the location, we were in the labyrinthian basement taking location photos.  It was very dark and there were 4 of us and when one of the producers, Bea Egeato snapped a picture of a frosted glass door, she and I both exclaimed simultaneously, “Oh shit!” because, in the flash, in that instant, we both saw a face pressed against the frosted glass on the other side, leering at us.

It was seriously fucking scary!

When we looked at the photo after the fact, there’s just a white cloudy thing on the glass.

What does the phrase ‘the dark side of life’ mean to you?

Hmm… That’s a good one. The Dark Side of Life.

Well for me it’s all those dark frightening things on the edge of your peripheral vision when you’re alone at night.

You know when you spin around because you thought you saw something in the corner of your eye, and your adrenaline is going?  But then there’s nothing there, and you’re convinced it keeps moving behind you? THAT feeling!  I hated that sensation as a kid.

I’ve learned to get kind of a cheap thrill out of it as an adult, and now I’m building a career out of recreating that very sensation of dread.  That would be the dark side of life.

I also firmly believe that our darkest, most demented dreams  – the really sick twisted stuff that most people bury inside themselves – and that I like to bring out and display in film — THAT is the dark side of life. The darkest animal part of ourselves from our dreams that most people dare not share with anyone, lest they think we’re insane or dangerous or both…

What is your favourite piece of work to date and why?

My fans have responded overwhelmingly to BEDFELLOWS, and I think it’s because that is the one film where I truly and absolutely captured the spirit of my own personal boogeyman.  Everyone had a boogeyman as a child. If you ask around, everyone’s boogeyman looks completely different.

Mr. Smiley from Bedfellows was mine. To a T.  Make up artist Mikal Sky, actor Peter Giliberti and I worked really hard on that one to really nail my own personal nightmare man and I think that resonated with people.  Maybe not the character in particular, but definitely the situation, the helplessness and the anticipatory dread.

Dread is the key ingredient to everything I do. I don’t think the moment of attack is the scary part… it’s that dreadful “moment before” that is REALLY TRULY terrifying.  I much prefer slow, building tension and horror to blood and gore, although, I do love the blood and gore too.

What does the future hold for you and your fans?

I have 4 short films completed and in the can, but I still need to edit them.

There’s also CAMERA OBSCURA which will launch the first of 17 episodes in October.

Then there’s my work with FEWDIO. We just announced at Comicon that we’re partnering with FANGORIA to create a webseries together. I’ll be able to give more details on that in a month or two. But it’s very exciting.

Finally, if you could have one print of my work, what would you have and why?

Witch Portrait

Hands down, it would be THE WITCH.

That one scares the hell out of me and press my “fear of hags” button in a big way.

There’s an amazing amount of rage and violence in that one.

There’s truth in it, an honest primal look of hatred and destruction in her eyes that gets me. I love that one!

I could make a whole short film about the fear that THAT picture radiates in me.

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