For his latest film, Crisis Hotline helmer liked the idea of combining a personal (LGBT) and cautionary tale (dating apps).
Where and when did your career start, sir?
I guess it all begins back in 1987 in San Jose, CA where myself and three other friends (including my Crisis Hotline Executive Producer and Editor Mark Balunis) made a horror film on VHS tape called The Hunted and had the time of our lives making it.
Filmmaking was always the goal from a young age?
Certainly from when I was in high school. After I made my first movie, I was completely hooked for good.
And have most of your productions been in the LGBT or horror genre? Or both?
Actually no. My early stuff was in the horror genre but I’ve done very little of that or LGBT stuff the last few years. I like working in almost all genres – science fiction, drama, even documentaries. I liked the idea of making an LGBT/Thriller since there is so little of it out there.
How long do you think it took you to hit your stride as a filmmaker or screenwriter? And do you think you improve with each one?
That’s a very good question. I can easily answer the second question with a resounding YES. Not only do I improve with every movie I personally write or direct but I improve with every movie I work on in any aspect – whether it’s holding the boom mic, pushing a dolly or keeping track of the walkie talkies. Whenever I am able to be on a movie set, I consider myself very fortunate and grateful. As to when I “hit my stride”, I honestly feel that I am at the beginning of a whole new stage of my career and I learned a ton of things making Crisis Hotline. But if I had to name a specific turning point, I would say the film I directed when I was a student at Vancouver Film School would be one. That short film was the first one that I intensely prepared, had a great crew, good equipment, etc. Once I went through that process and came through the other side with a nice movie that won some awards, I gained a lot of confidence. Now with “Crisis Hotline”, I’m going through a whole new process of working with a real distributor (High Octane Pictures).
How much is riding on CRISIS HOTLINE?
I’m not sure I would use the term “riding” but it is an important next step. I’m confident in the quality of the final film we made and I know it’s something different from the usual fare out there. Like most indie filmmakers, we always want our current film to help lead us to the next film and I think Crisis Hotline will do make that happen.
Where does the horror or thrills come in this one?
The horror is definitely the resolution and the antagonists. What gets inflicted on our main character is truly horrifying at an emotional, psychological and physical level. The thrills come in the way of the plot. There is a time limit our heroes have to save Danny’s (and three other characters) life that plays out in close to real time. As those minutes tick away, the tension gets tighter and tighter.
Is there a scene that even you, as the filmmaker, get squeamish watching back?
Oh yes, most of them in fact! Especially since I know where the story is headed and the ultimate motivations of the characters. That’s why I think Crisis Hotline gets better by seeing it multiple times. But I did design the scenes to get more squeamish as we hurtle towards the end of the film so I would say the final act is full of scenes where I find myself exhaling a lot.
How different was the first draft of the film to the shooting script?
Hardly at all actually. A few tweaks here and there – mostly in the first 10 pages to get the set up just right. But the response I got from key people as well as the cast was so strongly positive that I didn’t feel the need to change too much.
How would you describe the tone? It’s a little bit of everything, right?
I would describe the tone as impending dread. It’s a nightmare that peels back its secrets one by one. The audience knows our main character is in a lot of danger but they aren’t exactly sure what that looks like. I agree with you that it fits into a lot of descriptions – horror, thriller, psychosexual mind screw, erotic. I’ve heard more than a few people call it an indie version of “Eyes Wide Shut” which always lights me up in a good way.
Should people keep away from those dastardly dating apps?
Well, I don’t think dating apps are inherently dastardly. Heck, I’ve used them in the past. Yes, I do think dating apps could be abused but Crisis Hotline wasn’t meant as a knock on them. But I did think they were an original starting point for a good LGBT/thriller that audiences could be surprised by.