Stacy Davidson stopped in to talk about his new film SWEATSHOP and discuss a bit on what it’s like being a film maker today.
He is such a talented guy, so if you’re unfamiliar with him, it is my pleasure to introduce you! Here is our interview in full, enjoy!
Dai: Hi Stacy! Welcome to HorrorNews.net! Thanks for joining us today!
Stacy Davidson: Thanks for inviting me in! It’s rainy out there.
Dai: I love rainy weather, it keeps the pricks inside and let’s the freaks out :) I am a big fan of your latest film SWEATSHOP so it’s an pleasure to have you with us! Before we get to the film, tell us a bit on how you became a film maker.
Stacy Davidson: Like everyone my age, I imagine. Psychotherapy and really bad judgment. No, actually I saw Star Wars in the theater when I was three years old, and apparently I’ve been talking about making movies ever since. But it was probably a combination of monster movies like King Kong and Creature From The Black Lagoon on TV, and Tom Savini’s book that made me obsessed with creatures and horror flicks. I used to make masks and stuff, trying to copy what I saw in his book when I was about seven or eight.
Dai: Did you ever run around with the family camera filming random things or mini movies? I used to do that all of the time. Haha
Stacy Davidson: I wish I HAD a family camera. We were poor ass folks. What I did do was participate (and usually completely take over) in a haunted house almost every year of my life until I was in my mid teens. I was always looking for new ways to make the parents shout at us, “that’s inappropriate! This is a church!” Etc. etc. But I have always absorbed film. I didn’t learn the technical stuff until way later, but I always tore up films in my head.
Dai: HAHAHA! Nice! So you’ve been into horror your whole life. Did you always plan to make horror themed films or did you fall into it.
Stacy Davidson: I always wanted to make movies with space ships or monsters, one or the other. Preferably both. But not like Night of the Creeps where it was like somebody said “this movie’s great, but what it really needs is a space ship in the beginning! The kids love space ships!” (I really do love NotC, but seriously…) So, I’ve always gravitated toward horror, but I wanted to do creatures and dark, creepy, experimental stuff. And I got to play around with that plenty in Domain.
Dai: Perfect timing on bring that up! That is my next question. :) DOMAIN OF THE DAMNED is your first film. Tell us a little about it.
Stacy Davidson: Well, it’s hard to say a little about it, because it’s so crammed with basically every horror theme I’ve ever been interested in. It sort of started when the videographer I worked for suggested making a “quick” movie at a haunted house between seasons (which has become a really, really popular thing to do now… I’ve noticed…) So when I sat down to write the script, I drew on a fiction I had been playing with for years, originally for a computer game, and I ended up really throwing a lot of my favorite things about horror in general into it. So it starts out as sort of a silent film, kind of my take on the first few minutes of Vampyr, and then it sort of becomes an 80’s slasher with all these crazy DJs and a killer on the loose who thinks he’s “death”, but that turns out to be sort of a red herring, because then that killer turns out to be a joke and the real “death” appears, along with a sh*tload of undead carnie freaks, and suddenly bullets are flying, and guts are flying, and it’s more of an ode to Aliens in the 3rd act.
Dai: Sounds crazy! How was it making your first film with such an eclectic story base? What was the experience like?
Stacy Davidson: It was cra-zy. Eight drafts, and a few revisions. We had six cast readings, and I went through six drafts during that alone. Because it was my first feature length script, and when I conceived of the movie I had only picked up a DV camera for the first time a few months earlier. It ended up being delayed a couple of times, once due to the haunted house putting us off, and once due to some money injection and we had to break for six months to reorganize and build sets, and eventually recast. So by the time I finally started photography “for real”, I had shot a bunch of short films and DP’d one other feature. But it was just nuts. Cause I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Plus I had to write, direct, edit, do most of the actual producing work (nobody made schedules for me, nobody talked to the location for me it was like pulling teeth to find anyone to contact the actors for me, and I usually did all that too.)
Dai: After it was all said and done, and you got to see the film played out on screen, how did you feel to see your first feature film finally realized on the screen?
Stacy Davidson: We nearly sold out a 500 seat theater, the River Oaks, oldest theater in Houston, and it was amazing. We also screened it at Texas Frightmare Weekend, and it was a total blast. It’s so much fun to watch your movie with an audience. Especially the kinds of films I tend to make, because they really are made to be watched with an audience, preferably in a drive-in or grindhouse sort of situation. They’re audience participation flicks. You want people to be a little buzzed, and jumping, and screaming, and laughing, and I got all of that. There’s no feeling like it in the world, and I think it’s because you finally get to feel like you’re seeing it with fresh eyes again.
Stacy Davidson: Plus, I just try to make “fun” movies. I want people to get into it and have fun. Not enough horror flicks are fun these days, and the ones that are tend to be that way because they’re pandering or being kitschy.
Dai: Congrats on the success of DOMAIN! How well did that film prepare you for filming SWEATSHOP?
Stacy Davidson: I learned all the things to never, ever do again. I worked only with people I really trusted, I kept the scope down to something that could be shot in a few weekends, I was much more careful selecting the cast (most of them were people I knew very well, and the few newcomers like Julin were so good, I had no doubts). What I really came with this time, though, was a solid vision in my head about how I would shoot it, what it would look like. I knew we would almost never lock the camera down. I know I would be shooting tight most of the time and going for a deep focus feel (and I didn’t use a 35mm adapter, none of that junk, just a clean image and careful lighting), and I knew that I would be shooting much more for the edit this time. Rather than just covering everything, and then going in for the over-the-shoulders, I really wanted to plan ahead so that every shot had some intention behind it. And I wanted to nail the atmosphere more. I wanted more suspense and creepiness, to return to an 80’s methodology, where you let things simmer before they boil. A lot of movies these days go straight to boil, and just keep boiling. No atmosphere or suspense. So, to make sure I was getting that right, I watched movies like Terror Train, Prom Night, The Burning, My Bloody Valentine, Sleepaway Camp, Alice Sweet Alice, all through the editing, I always had a splatter flick on.
By the way, the funny thing about shooting that way is, your crew tend to spend most of the time wondering what the hell you’re shooting, and you get a lot of grumbling when you’re playing with lights, or rehearsing over and over so you can plan out a good camera move. Indie crews aren’t used to all that. It probably seems like a bunch of arty nonsense to them. But by and large, the Sweatshop crew were all troopers, they totally pulled it off with me, even if they weren’t sure what I was doing.
Dai: Well personally I am a big fan of the film. I think it was new, refreshing, and had one of the best monsters and best kills to come out in a very long time. Yourself and Ted Geoghegan both wrote and he produced as you directed the film. Tell us what it was that dynamic was.
Stacy Davidson: Yes, actually my awesome, amazing girlfriend Laura Bryant produced the film here in Houston through her company Bloodline Entertainment, she was the line producer, she helped setup everything, kept up all the communication, and she was the drill sergeant on set. Once the movie was in the can, Ted sort of took the ball and has become the primary producer doing all the legwork in postproduction. The working relationship has been totally amazing all the way around, nothing like the horror stories you usually hear about “producers.” We kept all the control of the movie between the three of us, and as a result we have a very efficient team with mutual respect. As for the script, Ted had an old 50 page draft of this slasher flick called “Sweatshop”, and it was supposed to be this guy with a hammer, and teen ravers in a warehouse, and I was just really wanting to work on something with him so I suggested he let me shoot the script. I did my draft of the script, which he gave the thumbs up, and I shot that draft pretty much verbatim. The only changes were made for technical reasons, and always for the better, so we were really happy with that. It was always a tight little kick ass script, even when it was a 50 pager. All I did was switch a couple of things around and add 40 pages of story to fill out the premise a bit.
Dai: Well congratulations to you, your cast, and your crew for making such a great film! What were some of your favorite parts of the film?
Stacy Davidson: For me, it was all about doing a classic slasher, that totally felt like it could have just been lost at the back of the shelf at some fly-by-night horror studio until now, but at the same time, I wanted something fresh too. Something that would give me a reason to shed some light back into this once popular corner of horror, and for me it was all about the hammer. I think it was originally written as a ball-pen hammer, and when the FX artist Mike Oliver and I started looking for hammers on google, we started coming across all these images of hammers sitting next to the giant, bad ass anvils. So finally, we were like, “why don’t we just make a hammer out of an anvil?” As much fun as the movie is, in a slasher sort of way, I think it really comes to life when he picks up that bad boy. There was a certain clip that Michael Gingold showed to a crowd at a Fango show, involving Julin and, well, the hammer, and Michael sort of turned to the crowd, and he said “I’m getting tired of all these slashers, it’s awesome that we have a teen SMASHER movie now!”
I also enjoy playing the “follow the evil bottle” game. That should be a drinking game.
Dai: That’s awesome! I bet that had to of made you proud. I think we can expect some great things from you in the future with your present work being as awesome as it is. What projects do you have coming up? Is there anything you are working on?
Stacy Davidson: I also enjoy playing the “follow the evil bottle” game. That should be a drinking game.
Stacy Davidson: Well, I’d love to work with Ted again. But we don’t have anything specific lined up. We’re just totally in Sweatshop mode right now. Maybe someday I’ll do something with spaceships. Stacy Davidson: I’d like to do werewolves. But Ted hates werewolves.
Dai: Well thank you so much for talking with us today! Do you have any advice for new film makers trying to burst into the industry?
Stacy Davidson: There’s still time to take the blue pill. Seriously, learn the technical side. As long as you can do it all, you won’t have to depend on anyone. Also, learn the business side. Read Rebel Without A Crew and From Reel To Deal.
Dai: Awesome! Tell us where we can find out more about you and your films!
Stacy Davidson: www.odysseepictures.com, and twitter me at @Stacy Davidson
I want to thank Stacy again for coming to chat with us and thank YOU for joining us!
Make sure to keep an eye on HorrorNews.net for all the latest updates on SWEATSHOP and Stacy Davidson!
Interview: Stacy Davidson (Sweatshop)