In the world of indie films, you’ll find yourself a lot of people who talk big, but pull off very little. Toronto based filmmaker Reese Eveneshen is not one of these people. With his 2010 zombie flick “Dead Genesis” hitting shelves recently, he gave a refreshingly candid interview with HorrorNews about being a Jack of all Trades in the mighty genre known as horror.
1) Who are you, and what do you do?
Well, among close friends and some family I’m known as Reese’s Pieces, or just “Pieces” if you prefer. But for the sake of some professionalism, I’m also called Reese Eveneshen from time to time. Usually not the full name all at once though, if I hear that, usually I’ve done something wrong. Right now I am still on a journey to figure out exactly “what I do?” I’ve done a lot on film sets, starting from being a production assistant and all the way up to director or producer. Sometimes all the jobs end up blending into one giant thing. And it’s just a process of taking all that away and seeing what really fits and feels good. Primarily right now though, I’m a director and writer, most notably (or not so notably depending on who you talk to) of a zombie flick called Dead Genesis.
2) Pulling off making a feature length film independently is no small feat, yet, you managed to do it with your 2010 film “Dead Genesis”. How did you achieve this?
Insanity. It was mostly achieved with the thought and feeling that we really had nothing to lose. We shot the film in the summer of 2009 on a shoestring budget, not really paying anyone and certainly not paying ourselves. There really wasn’t any fear or hesitation going into it, by that time we had worked on/made a few features already. So a lot of the production was just going through the motions of making a movie. We had no real dreams or aspirations for the movie while we were making it short of hoping that maybe we could show it here and there and sell it for a couple bucks. The main reason to make the movie was to have fun making movies, making films is what we love to do. And that’s what we set out to do, was just to have a great time doing what we love.
However, the finished product took the hard work of a lot of very talented individuals right across the board. Everyone gave 100% to the production, long hours, hot weather and just working hard. And that kind of work ethic is really special when none of you know exactly what is going to happen to the movie in the end. We achieved making a feature film by banding together as one giant family and just pushing through right to the very end.
The fact that our little movie has gotten somewhat out there in the world is wonderful. Who knew? That’s what I find to be the real challenge of making a movie. The actual getting together and making of the movie isn’t too bad. It’s the getting your baby out there and trying to show it/sell it to people who might give a damn. And it’s that feeling of exposure when you are so close to something, finally letting other people see it, that’s scary. But in the end it is what it is, you take everything with a grain of salt and just remember why you did it in the first place.
3) The usage of zombies is of course fairly common in the horror genre, how do you feel you contributed to a sometimes stale subgenre?
At the time when we were making Dead Genesis, I was really hoping we were onto something. Zombies have become much more a mark of pop culture with the release of The Walking Dead. When we were making the movie, the show wasn’t even out yet. Zombie fans were still considered a sub culture. You either liked it, or you didn’t like it. The idea was to make a zombie movie that was able to appeal to both demographics. If you wanted zombies, great you got em’! If you prefer a more human angle, great you got it! That’s what we were hoping for anyway, and I still think we achieved that as best as we could given our limited resources. Again though, at the time, we thought this was a great idea for a zombie movie. And not only that, it pushed more for the infamous social commentary angle that Romero had gone for. We were trying to make a zombie movie that felt more like the original Romero trilogy, a human movie with zombies in it.
Unfortunately though, by the time the film was all cut together and being shown, The Walking Dead exploded onto TV, and suddenly it wasn’t such an original idea anymore. Not that I feel we were ever going to be some massive zombie hit, I had just hoped we would have made a bigger splash in the zombie pool. But in terms of contribution, I’d like to think we still were able to make a more “cerebral” zombie movie rather than just a blood and guts one. There are plenty of blood and guts zombie movies; we just didn’t want to be like all the others. But who knows, this is just what I think; it’s the audience out there who makes that determination! I just wanted to make a zombie movie and get it out of my system! After I made it I found people wanting me to do more zombie stuff… I’ve done something zombie related every year since 2009 now… I am done! Or at the very least need a nice long break.
4) You recently acted in a short based on a story by Stephen King-how did you get involved with the project and what was the experience like making the film?
The project is written and directed by a dear friend and business partner of mine, Peter Szabo. We’ve known each other for years now and have been working on each other’s projects for quite sometime. He had been talking for years about picking up the rights to a Stephen King short and making a short film. I was always game for it; this is Stephen King after all! Finally he managed to snag the rights to a short story of King’s called “NONA” (from the collection of Stephen King shorts “Skeleton Crew” We also retitled the movie to “Love Never Dies”). And he asked me to come on board as producer of the project.
This wasn’t a big budgeted short at all (though, it did have a bigger budget than Dead Genesis!) and as always we were going through the regular trials and tribulations of making an independent film. Being cast in the film really came as a matter of convenience. We needed an actor who could be there till all hours of the morning, every weekend for a month and a half. And one thing lead to another and suddenly I was acting in this short as well as producing. I wasn’t completely new to acting; I’ve done it before, but it’s not typically something I lunge at the chance to do.
It was a good experience though. And Peter did a great job putting on the directing hat and handling a solid crew like the one we had.
5) You seem to be a bit of a Jack of all trades- what role do you enjoy most when it comes to film making and why do you think you like to wear so many hats?
I don’t try to wear so many hats, I’ve been trying to delegate more and more as the projects go on. I think most of it comes from the “do it yourself” mentality. I’ve been making movies and such since I was in high school, and aside from friends, I didn’t really have a crew. It really forced me to go through an extensive film school of trying a little bit of everything. And in the long run it has helped me get out of a lot of jams on bigger film sets, I’m happy to know as much as I can about everyone else’s job.
There are a few roles I really enjoy but probably won’t pursue much anymore. I love being a camera operator, but I don’t think I’m very good at it. And technology is changing so fast that I can’t keep up with all the technical know how. I love editing, but I’m starting to become more aware of the importance of handing it off to someone else to handle. It gives you a certain separation and distance that you just can’t get when you are the one editing. I used to love dipping into special make up effects, but there are far more talented people who are better suited for that line of work than I am!
I’ve pretty much come down to just wanting to focus on writing and directing. Although, I must say that I don’t write nearly as much as I used too. It’s getting harder to sit down and focus on my own material. There was a point where I was writing a ton, sometimes for other people (which I don’t think I will ever ever do again). And now, I maybe sit down to it once a month or so. I don’t think I’m losing interest in it, it just seems harder to find the focus to type it all out. Though I have found recent inspiration in actually physically putting pen to paper… which I suppose makes you a true “writer”. So we’ll see how that goes. I love directing though, that’s where I am most comfortable, I believe I will stick with that for now!
6) What are your goals as a horror maker, where would you like to see yourself and the genre go?
I don’t have a whole lot of aspirations to stay in the horror genre. I love horror movies, they are a blast. But once you’re in that special little group it really feels like the pressure is always on to do more of the same. That’s not very exciting to me at all; I’d really like to focus on a multitude of different genres for the next little while. I may dip back into horror at sometime, but not anytime soon I hope. Dead Genesis is barely a horror movie anyway if you go by traditional definitions, it is certainly not scary.
I would like to see the genre head in a more original (says the guy who made a zombie movie) and independent route. Smaller budgeted “good” horror movies, like they used to do; I would love to see more of those. A couple of them are being made here and there, and I hope we will see resurgence in those types of films as the years go on. I would like to see less “found footage” movies; I just do not see the appeal in that.
7) What is your attraction to the horror genre?
It’s the idea that generally you get the feeling that you’re watching something you shouldn’t see. There is this stigma over horror films, always has been. You tell someone not too familiar with the genre that you’re a fan and they scoff at it. I have family members still that don’t see it’s worth. As a kid growing up I had a video store right around the corner from a condo we lived in. I would never check any other section but the horror section; the front and back covers were gateways into places that you knew you weren’t supposed to be. That’s where the attraction started, and I still kind of feel that way now. Though I don’t feel I’ll be able to ever feel that same magic I did as a kid.
Also, horror movies are usually so unflinching! I don’t even mean with violence, it’s so much more then that. The good ones get under your skin and stay there just fighting to get out. You watch it the first time and go “what the hell was that?” and then you watch it again and it just gets better and better. There are no rules with a horror movie, most every other genre has a certain set of rules to abide by, not the horror genre. No rock can go unturned in a good proper horror film.
8) As a self taught filmmaker, what for you has been the most important things you have learned about the craft, either technically, artistically, or both?
I’m certainly still learning, I’ve got a whole hell of a lot to learn. But at this time the best thing I’ve learned is to take time with a project, DO NOT rush into it. This was a mistake we made with Dead Genesis, we just rushed right into it. After it came out and started making some minor waves I kept getting told that you need to get out there and make another one. I still don’t buy into this theory… because nobody I know is succeeding at doing this. I say take your time developing a story, finding a great team of people, and when you’re ready, go make your movie. The more I listen to some people’s ideas of what the “business” demands the more I realize some of them might be a little crazy. Don’t get me wrong, you should still remember that it is in fact a business, but you have to be an artist as well. If you want fame and fortune, go for the obvious maybe, which seems to be working for some people. I think right now I want the other side, the more obscure one. I’m not a starving artist, I have a job, I have a life and I’m happy. Focus on what makes you happy and one way or another it’ll work out.
9) You are certainly a member of the Canadian horror scene. How did you come to be involved in the local scene- did you contact other filmmakers like yourself, or were there other ways you became a part of the community and familiar with the fellow members?
The Canadian horror scene isn’t very big to begin with. I think most of us know each other just by reputation and film! I know a good chunk of them either via association, or because we all started off by working on each other’s projects. Truthfully until I read this question I didn’t think I was a part of the Canadian horror scene at all! But now that you mention it, that’s pretty cool and I’m happy with that. In one way or another I’ve worked with a handful of people in the “scene” and that’s pretty much how it all happened. For a bunch of peoples whose flicks are deemed “depraved” or “immoral”, we’re all a happy and smiley group who don’t spend a whole lot of time talking about horror flicks around each other.
10) What is your next project? Are you writing anything, in pre-production, etc?
GumShoes! I’ve been putting this movie together for a couple years now. And it is going to happen come the New Year. Dead Genesis was one hell of a ride, a ride that lasted close to 3 years with lots of ups and downs. During that time I’ve done small little projects here and there, but I am chomping at the bit to do GumShoes! I’m reluctant to talk too much about it, but I think it’ll be an exciting flick. Definitely the polar opposite of a zombie horror movie! But to end this on a more horror related note, you know what I would love to see? Another great werewolf movie! It feels like it has been ages since a kick ass werewolf movie came out. I keep hearing via ahem “industry officials” that werewolf movies aren’t a big sell. To that I say F*CK THAT, somebody get out there and make an awesomely terrifying werewolf flick! … That’s my two cents anyway.
Interview: Reese Eveneshen (Dead Genesis)