Demons and Murder and Scandal, Oh My: A girl’s guide to Hellions, a new film by Bruce McDonald

This Halloween, Whizbang Films and Storyteller Pictures bring audiences face-to-mask with director Bruce McDonald’s newest terror flick, HELLIONS. The film tells the story of Dora, a teen who must survive a hellish Halloween fighting pint-sized demons who stake claim on more than just delicious bags of candy. HELLIONS will haunt you for weeks, hammering home the old adage, “be careful what you wish for, it just might come true”.


The Kill Spot sat down with Chloe and Rachel to learn a little more about the movie through the eyes of the ladies who battle these malevolent masked creatures.

TKS: Great to meet you both. I know you’re in between takes, so I’ll get right to it! I describe HELLIONS as a mash up of THE WIZARD OF OZ meets TRICK ‘R TREAT meets ALIEN. These movies all feature strong, young, female protagonists. Who are some of your favourite heroines in film and did you draw on them for your characters?

Chloe: That’s a great question. I don’t think I’ve pulled on anyone specifically. I’d like to think Dora is a person of her own. I think that’s what makes her really interesting. She has no insecurities, she knows exactly who she is and she has no problem being exactly that. They’ve written an interesting teenager. Most teenagers are portrayed as subdued and quiet, or angsty, because they don’t know who they are yet, where Dora is angsty because she knows too much and is too intelligent for her own good. It’s kickass that the heroine has to kick butt and pull herself together.

TKS: What do you think the significance is of making the protagonist/heroine a teenage girl?

Chloe: The hellions are kind of reflections of Dora’s childhood. When Dora gets some life changing news, she really must face growing up even though she’s not ready to be an adult.  She experiences things as, you know, a girl, that guys just never will – physically, mentally, socially etc. It’s a poetic and intense coming of age story, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, with more blood and guts!

TKS: Rachel, my next question is for you. HELLIONS takes on the mother-daughter relationship. What resonates with you about motherhood and family as the subject of this film?

Rachel: When it comes to losing someone you love, a parent losing a child is the most devastating. There’s definitely the sense that if you add motherhood and family to any horror movie you’re raising the stakes. The things that happen to Dora are basically the worst things that you can imagine happening to your child, all coming true. That will really hit home for a lot of people.

TKS: This is a script written by a man and directed by a man but it features leading women. I am wondering how the collaboration with Bruce affected or shaped the female voice of the story.

Chloe: I mean, working with Bruce has been really interesting. He’s totally open to anyone else’s interpretation and ideas. I’ve said this a lot in interviews because it’s the only way I can describe it. He has this vision and then he takes everyone else’s ideas and he morphs them together. So I don’t think it tainted the idea of the woman protagonist.

Rachel: He’s very collaborative. He just did an amazing job. He strikes me as a person who has a lot of sensitivity so you’re not going into a film with a director who is super macho. I mean he’s a compassionate, warm, sensitive human being so he’s going to create a film that has all those elements.

Chloe: On top of being super cool at all times. Altogether, I don’t think they could have picked a better director for something like this.

TKS: Thanks so much guys, for sitting down with The Kill Spot.

Chloe and Rachel: Thanks Alison.

HELLIONS is written by Pascal Trottier (THE COLONY), directed by Bruce McDonald (PONTYPOOL, HARD CORE LOGO) and produced by Frank Siracusa (HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN) and Paul Lenart (HONOR CODE).

 You can stay up to date with the latest HELLIONS news on Twitter and Facebook.

And, be sure to check out the HELLIONS Video Contest! The contest is open to anyone with a scary video, up to two minutes long. The theme: Red. Submissions can take any form – a fake trailer, a scene from a horror script you’ve been writing, a short film – as long as they somehow connect to Red. Red like blood, red like hellfire, red like blind passion, red like Blood Moons on Halloween … use your wildest imagination. You have until February 28, 2014 to enter. For more details about the contest and/or to find out more about the film, visit

“Anger is part of my relation to the world”: An Interview with Claire Denis, By Kiva Reardon

As seen in Cleo.

Claire Denis has never shied away from monsters. While her work is described as sensual and erotic (both true), her films are never sentimental. They are complex, engaging with the fact that life, while often beautiful, is also harsh, cruel, and painful. This pain has been explored in relation to colonial history (Chocolat, 1988), the immigrant experience (No Fear, No Die, 1990), maturing adolescence (U.S. Go Home, 1994; Nenette and Boni, 1996), serial killers (I Can’t Sleep, 1994) and semi-cannibals (flesh is bitten, but never consumed inTrouble Every Day, 2001), sublimated homosexual desire (Beau Travail, 1999), mortality (Intruder, 2004), and back to that colonial experience again (White Material, 2009). She is interested in the grey areas, and eschews didactic, pointed narration in favour of suggestive imagery and sensation. Voiceover, while used, often complicates rather than explicates matters, offering glimpses into the rich interiority of her characters. As she says in the documentary Claire Denis, The Vagabond (1996): “I’m interested in the slice of humanity that surrounds a monster.”

Finding that slice of humanity is all but impossible in her latest film, Bastards (2013)A scathing indictment of contemporary France, late-stage capitalism, and feel-good film trends, Bastards is a severe and brutal film. The story follows Marco (Vincent Lindon), a seaman who returns to Paris when his brother-in-law commits suicide. There, he finds his family in ruins, both financially (their shoe company has gone bankrupt) and emotionally (his niece Justine, played by Lola Créton, has been sexually abused and is addicted to drugs). Upon discovering that a seedy financier, Eduard (Michel Subor), is to blame, Marco seeks revenge by seducing the man’s wife, the much younger Raphaëlle (Chiara Mastroianni).

Bastards is comprehensive in its bleakness. The graphic content (including not-so-subtle allusions to horrific sexual abuse) is matched by the overall grey tones. An alienating electronic soundtrack dominates, composed by longtime Denis collaborators Tindersticks, who eschew the warmth of past scores with droning synth. It is also one of her least thematically oblique films, all but over-determined in its near-Greek-tragedy qualities that suggest Marco, and all the players, are doomed from the outset. In a lesser director’s hands, such a well-trod tale of revenge and familial rot might succumb to cliché, but Denis’ familiar (and beautiful) elliptical touch remains. This touch, however, is not the same lush caress of prior works; the lingering shots of Lindon’s muscular back straining beneath a crisp white shirt or of the nape of Raphaëlle’s neck (an often relished body part in the Denis oeuvre) bespeak vulnerability rather than eroticism. Violation is the name of the game here, a fact established from the start with an image of Justine walking bloodied and nude down a dark street. This image loosely structures the film, coming up time and again as the narrative builds to its brutal conclusion: a video of Justine being raped. This sordid image is the film’s final, devastating blow. But it is the money shot we deserve. Because although Bastards seethes with anger, it is not the nihilistic kind. It is the kind of righteous, if not revolutionary, anger that forces us to face the monsters, removing us from comfortable cocoons of passivity, and leads us to engage with the world—in all its horror, despair, and beauty. Only those who do not are truly doomed.

cléo: So our next issue is on the theme of “doom”—

Claire Denis: Doomed?

cléo: Doom. This theme was decided upon well before I saw Bastards, but then I saw it and—

Denis: It is a very doomed film!

cléo: Yes. It works perfectly, but doom isn’t a new theme for you. You can see it in films like Trouble EverydayBeau TravailWhite Material. Here, however, it feels different in the sense that it’s angry—and I don’t mean that in a trite or reductive way.

Denis: No, it is angry. This is true. I was not aware of it when I was writing it, but I was full of anger. But it’s a sort of deep anger that I didn’t feel when I was shooting. Something came so naturally out of me, but with love for the characters. I must admit I was not angry at my characters. I was angry at something else, maybe the society I’m living in or what films keep selling. We’re in a world that is hard and violent, but there is redemption at the end and blah, blah, blah. But this is not true. It’s not true. But this is not new for me. When I was a teenager— and this shaped much of my life—I read William Faulkner. I found a vision of life that is made from blood and—the word in English… C’est comme “l’amour,” faire l’amour…un mot très biblique…fornication! Le sang et la fornication. [It is like “love”; to make love, but a more biblical term…fornication! Blood and fornication.] I was very young, but I realized it was true, that we are born from this. This can change in the process of life, but it remains.

cléo: That intersection of the erotic and blood or death has come up before in your work. Especially in Trouble Every Day. But there’s a beautiful sort of poetry of the violence in that film; here the eroticism is gone. It’s bleak.

Denis: Yeah, it’s true. Because Trouble Every Day was fun. It was fun to go that far together, although the scenes were painful. I remember, those two scenes [of Béatrice Dalle consuming a man mid-coitus and Vincent Gallo taking an act of cunnilingus too far], we were afraid shooting them, editing them, acting them. Bastards was bleak. We were doing something, knowing it was wrong. Because when Marco, the lead character, decides to make love to the neighbour [Raphaëlle], it’s not true love or desire—it’s through vengeance. Maybe a sort of love came with this, but at the beginning it’s almost hate, that action.

cléo: I wanted to talk about the film image in Bastards; the video of Justine being raped. Why include it?

Denis: I think it would have been weird to finish the film on Marco dead and not go back to the mother [Sandra, played by Julie Bataille]. Now she knows she has been blind, her daughter [Créton] is dead, she wants to see those images. I think it was fair. For me, it was fair that she would ask the doctor [played by Alex Descas] to be with her, because she was afraid, and the images belong in the film. And they were not terribly explicit. They were explicit, but it was in a blur. It was not showing too much.

cléo: Women bear the brunt of this film too. I wouldn’t say it’s punishment or victimization, but they bear the brunt of what happens.

Denis: Yes.

cléo: Can you talk about that choice? Why focus on mothers and daughters?

Denis: I think I focus on fathers. To be a father, like Marco is a father. And what happens when this kind of thing occurs between a daughter and a father. Because the daughter is not completely a victim of her father, she’s accepting it too. In a way—maybe I’m about to be completely crazy—when I was the age of a daughter I thought if I had a bad experience with sex, even though the man was brutal or ignorant or whatever, I always took it for granted that this was my problem. That this was the problem of women, to keep it for ourselves.On déplace le problème. [We shift the blame.] I remember when I was very young and coming home and thinking: “Well, this is my problem. There is nowhere I can go and complain.” There’s not a guiltiness of being a woman, but women deal with their bodies in a very complex way, a total way, a global way. Not like men. Men, they have a hard-on or not. The feeling of a woman is so much more complex, because she can pretend, she can fake, she can also be terrified and hate and not show it. I think to be a woman is a complete sexual experience in a way. And this makes everything more complex.

cléo: I love this idea of a complex sexuality. I find this sentiment comes across in your “Paris films,” if we can call them that, as it subverts the idea of Paris as “the city of love.” The way you use Paris in this film seems to do that—can you talk about how you used the city in Bastards?

Denis: It’s all the places I dislike! [Laughs] The building, the apartment—I’m afraid of that part of Paris. I have no commitment to that city. When I did I Can’t Sleep, I was showing a Paris with a serial killer, but it was the Paris I never grew up in but discovered as an adult. This film was bleak also. It doesn’t only mean “bourgeois.” Bourgeois sometimes means money, finding a nice penthouse. No, I wanted something like a tomb, for the apartment to look like a tomb.

cléo: We touched on this briefly, the idea of the film coming from this social anger. To me, this felt like a righteous anger towards late-stage capitalism. And this was said about White Material, that it was a “social problem film,” which was a considered shift for you. Do you see this film that way?

Denis: No, I did it genuinely. It was just in me. I would never say: “Claire, now it is time to make a social film, let’s get involved in social things!” No, I am living in a country, I am living my life. I’m filled with anger, I’m filled with regret, I’m filled with great memories, also poetic memories. But anger is part of my relation to the world.

cléo: I want to talk about the cinematic body and the way you use it. Bodies are used in a way in which the skin of the film becomes your own. Why does filming this way speak to you? …

Read full interview in Cleo Journal here.

Exclusive: Steve Hoban Talks Darknet and More!, by Drew Tinnin

As seen on Dread Central.

From Blood and Donuts and Ginger Snaps to Splice and, his latest, Haunter, producer Steve Hoban has been a staple in the Canadian horror scene since the mid Nineties.

He’s now working again with director Vincenzo Natali on a new experimental web series called Darknet that should be making its way onto television here in the States in the near future. For now, as of 12:01am this morning, fans can watch the first installment over at And, believe me, it’s worth checking out. Consisting of interweaving storylines and connected characters in different instances of urban horror, the first episode runs about 25 minutes and features some really solid, well-crafted moments. Just before the debut, Hoban was kind of enough to speak with us for a few minutes to talk about the series.

Dread Central: Since the idea of the Darknet files has been kept close to the chest and the teasers don’t really show too much, can you expand on the concept and talk about what horror fans can expect from the series?

Steve Hoban: Sure. We kind of flew under the radar because of the way we put it together. We ended up shooting six episodes but really we shot them as a prototype block of six. They are an adaptation of a very successful Japanese show called “Torihada” and they really key off on what that show originally was. Their show was very lo-fi and really just had creepy or scary or horrific things that felt very immediate and felt like they were things that could happen in the real world. Our show is a little more polished than that show is but we started with that. It’s short, visceral, fast, scary things that should feel like it could happen to anybody in the audience. You should watch this show and think as you’re stepping out your door that night or the next morning, ‘Hmm, maybe I should keep my eyes open.’

DC: With “Torihada”, it’s difficult for fans here to find a version with English subtitles but apparently it’s available everywhere in Japan. Are you taking any moments from that series or is it completely original?

SH: We’ve done both. We have a combination of episodes that are literally the same stories that were in “Torihada” episodes and then we have others that are originals. Then, we have some that mix them. The biggest difference is that we could have four segments within a half-hour episode. In Darknet they tend to be interrelated, so there are characters that go from one to another or there are elements that connect the stories. So, in a way, it’s a little bit more like a pulp fiction TV-series in that there are connected episodes. We even have characters that go from one episode to another even though each segment is its own unique story with a beginning, middle, and an end.

DC: Now, how do those connections work with different directors? When they sign on, do they have to use a certain character or a certain moment?

SH: Yeah, the way we did it is that Vincenzo [Natali] and I develop the scripts in-house with six different writers, so we were developing all of the scripts. Then, we put it to the writers initially to find the connections within the segments within their episode; then, we worked with them to further enhance those. Then, we took the six scripts and said, ‘Let’s take this character – she’s in the first episode – and let’s put her in episode three and in episode six.’ So, in some cases, it was to take a character that a writer was writing in one episode and make her a slightly different character or make him a her or vice-versa. Vincenzo and I were really just marshalling along the screenwriting. Vincenzo directed the first episode and I directed the second, so we had seen so many actors by the time we got to the third episode that we had a very good idea of what actors could fill a lot of the roles. It was done as a very collaborative thing.

DC: Well, I like the inner connections like that, especially with actors playing different characters. That’s been proven successful with something like “American Horror Story.”

SH: Absolutely. In a way, I think fans of “American Horror Story” would like this show and in another way it’s very very different. “American Horror Story,” of course, gets a whole season to explore these characters. In ours, you can have a whole story, beginning and end, and never see any of the characters again or hear anything about that story in four minutes. Or, then a character can reappear a number of times. I’m a huge fan of short story fiction and have been for years, so, to me, it’s what makes short stories so fun. They’re so visceral; they’re so fast and so satisfying as opposed to waiting so long to find out what’s happening. I would say, for any of our ongoing elements, nobody needs to see an episode where a character reappears because they get everything out of every discrete episode itself.

DC: How interactive will the Darknet site actually be? After the first six episodes, the series is opening up for fans and other filmmakers to direct or to contribute, right?

SH: That’s one of the things we’re most excited about. Once we get up and running in the new year, people will be able to submit their own scripts or even finished stories or finished segments that can be compiled into other episodes. Ultimately, we’d like to have those play on the website and some of the selected ones would ultimately become part of a TV show and end up on the DVDs that will follow the broadcast of the show. It’s a real opportunity for people out there to start becoming part of the show and make the show themselves. Even though we haven’t put a call out or anything, people have become aware of the show in, I guess, a grassroots kind of way. So, the core of people that are already interested in this type of thing already know about it. We’re not at all set up right now to handle submissions; we really don’t want them yet. We may put out our ten favorite scripts online and get people to vote on them.

DC: I’ll be sure to put a little disclaimer saying, ‘Screenwriters, do NOT send your scripts in yet!’

SH: (laughs) Yes, please. Not yet. We definitely want them; we just don’t want them quite yet!

Darknet is directed by Natali, Hoban, Brett Sullivan (“Orphan Black,” Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed), Rodrigo Gudiño (The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh) and newcomers Anthony Scott Burns and Jeremy Ball. The writers are Natali, Pascal Trottier, Doug Taylor (Splice), James Kee, Randall Cole (388 Arletta Ave) and Sarah Larsen. Darknet is executive produced by Vincenzo Natali and Steven Hoban, producers are Jensenne Roculan, Mark Smith (Haunter, 388 Arletta Ave), Paul Rapovski (Lost Girl) and supervising producer Kana Koido.

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Lived to Tell: Inside The Scarehouse with Sarah Booth, by Alison Milward

D Films’ most recent venture, The Scarehouse, has wrapped principal photography in Windsor, ON. The feature film began shooting in August 2013 with intended release in Fall 2014. The movie is directed and co-written by Canadian filmmaker Gavin Michael Booth of To Hell, With Love acclaim. His wife, Sarah Booth, is the co-creator and star of this movie. I was lucky enough to sit down with Sarah to dig up some dirt on what we can expect this year from what is being described as a “Mean Girls meets Saw” take on horror.

TKS: Hi Sarah! Walk me through what The Scarehouse is about.

SB: The Scarehouse is about two girls who seek revenge on their sorority sisters and they open a haunted house as the perfect place to execute their plan. It’s a revenge plot; it’s a girl on girl torture comedy.

 TKS: What are you most excited about that will get audiences excited as well?

SB: One of the things I am most excited about is that it’s an all-female horror film. There are just so many stereotypical female roles in horror films and I think what’s really fun with The Scarehouse is that, yes, all the characters are kind of stereotypes, but there are so many variations of those stereotypes included that I think every person will be able to find someone in their lives that they can identify … and, perhaps get some satisfaction out of seeing their Hollywood demise. Is that dark?

Also, the kills. There are a lot of kills that I haven’t seen before.

And, I don’t think that The Scarehouse is your typical horror film format either. You’re rooting for the killers. You’re not trying to figure out who the killer is, you’re actually trying to figure out why the killers are killing.

TKS: There’s a lot of estrogen in this movie. Do you think there is a void in horror for strong female leads?

SB: Absolutely. I think, like I said before, there are a lot of stereotypical roles in horror, in film in general, but especially in horror – the girlfriend, the slut, the smart girl – you know who is going to go first. I think characterizations are really interesting in this one just because it’s girls interacting with girls. There are strong ones and there are weak ones; I think audiences will have some familiarity and be able to identify. You know, wonder and think, “Oh, I hope that’s how I would act”, or not.

A big thing also is, I’ve never seen so many females on screen as I did with The Scarehouse. Every principal female character has more lines than men in this movie. We received over 120 tapes for just the principals. The female talent in this country is astounding. Just having these girls step up and do these roles … the girls conveyed that they were excited to play such meaty characters – not just show your tits stuff. Juicy roles where you had to dig and act. These are some badass ladies.

TKS: There are some awesome kill scenes in The Scarehouse. What are some of your favourites out there and how do they compare to the ones in TSH?

SB: I will always remember the Johnny Depp death in A Nightmare on Elm Street, I loved that one, but I think, probably, my number one favourite kill scene is the Drew Barrymore scene from Scream. I didn’t grow up with a big film background. I didn’t have all this knowledge or history of horror films but that film always stuck with me. It was epic. That was by far the best opening of a horror film I have ever seen. With The Scarehouse you also have the comedy that Scream injected and the same ‘you don’t always get what you expect’ factor.

TKS: Canada has a list of notable movies and directors that have helped shape the international horror landscape. What do you think The Scarehouse brings to the genre?

SB: I think something unique that The Scarehouse brings, definitely, is that you’re rooting for the killers. It’s something new we’ve seen with Breaking Bad and Dexter, but it’s something that hasn’t really been done that much before in film horror. I mean, you know, maybe with sequels you get to know the killers, but off the bat with The Scarehouse, you get to know these girls and once you find out what they are up to and who these other girls are, you have that feeling where you think these other girls deserve to die. It’s kind of scary as a human to feel that, it makes you feel like shit, but honestly I think that its the most important thing in film, to create empathy (for a character) that you would never imagine having/doing in real life. You get to feel sympathy even, for something, somebody that you would never justify in your reality. Storytelling allows us to imagine.

TKS: You wear many hats on this movie – co-creator, casting director, associate producer, lead actress – what are some tips you have for entrepreneurs who aspire to “do it all”?

SB: This is my first time on a project this large wearing this many hats. I think one of the biggest things is to know what kind of person you are. You have to realize the commitment to each role that you are making, and deliver. Some days I did not want to be a producer but sometimes things come up and you’re in it and you just have to make it happen. I really think that if you want to try and do it all, just do it. It can be a lot of trial an error to figure out what works. I think one of the biggest things to remember is that it’s not about you at the end of the day – it’s about a lot of other things.

Also, having a spark of imagination, (putting it down on paper), and having fun with it matters.  If I could do one thing for the rest of my life it would be horror and action.

TKS: I understand The Scarehouse was shot in an actual funhouse and began filming on a full moon, and you shot through a Friday the 13th. Did you experience any weird, creepy things during the filming of this movie?

SB: Yes! I believe in ghosts and they brought a paranormal team into the building where we were shooting. Only about the third week into production did I feel that I was dreaming dark and crazy dreams. I was getting woken up by things. I think by being in the horror atmosphere for so long – you walk around the corner and there is a severed hand or you have blood on your hands for 12 hours – you start absorbing creepy vibes. One time I felt something crawling on me, one time I felt a hand slide down my face. A couple of people were telling me creepy things that were happening to them too like lights dying for no reason and running into apparitions.

TKS: Can you leave us with a list of your top 3 horror recommendations that horror fans ‘must see’?

SB: 1.) I haven’t seen this one but I heard amazing things coming out of the Fantasia International Film Festival about a Canadian indie called Antisocial.  2.) If you haven’t seen Scream, go fuck yourself. You have to see this movie. 3.) Honestly, the first Saw was a big game changer. Saw brought us that format twist where we didn’t know who the killer was – you know, don’t show the monster, let people’s minds wander.  Paranormal is a good example of this too.

Thanks to Sarah for sitting down with The Kill Spot for this interview.

The Scarehouse stars Sarah Booth, Kimberly-Sue Murray, Emily Alatalo, Dani Barker, Katherine Barrell, Jack Ettlinger, Jennifer Miller, Ivana Stojanovic and Teagan Vincze.

For more information about the movie visit The Scarehouse on IMDb.

Like The Scarehouse – Movie on Facebook here.

Interested in visiting The Scarehouse Windsor? Learn more at 

Twisted Twins Video Interview by Rue Morgue

On this episode, Jen & Sylvia Soska discuss how the collaborative process works between them and how they cast their films. They also offer advice on how to develop and finance an independent horror film.

Plus – we get a major scoop on the actor they’re trying to wrangle into their NEXT feature film project.

Vol. 1

Vol. 2

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American Mary Official Trailer #1 (2013) – Horror Movie HD

Eli Roth’s 10 Golden Rules of Moviemaking by Eli Roth

Read at MovieMaker

Making over 100 short films before graduating high school and paying for his collegiate efforts by working as a part-time cyber-sex operator, Eli Roth is and has always been a man devoted to his art.

And that art has since taken a variety of eclectic forms: Roth has acted, worked in stop-motion animation, created his own haunted house in Las Vegas, and authored an award-winning PSA on animal rights. But most notable of his achievements, of course, are his directorial successes. The “Frank Sinatra of the Splat Pack” (so dubbed by fellow director and friend, Quentin Tarantino) has directed some of the most visceral horror movies in recent years, including Cabin FeverHostel, andHostel: Part II. He also took a critically acclaimed turn in front of the camera, co-starring with Brad Pitt in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Most recently, Roth has changed hats to producer, producing five projects in the last year alone. In 2009 Roth gave us the following hard-earned wisdom.

Although I’ve only directed three features (and a bunch of short films, including a fake trailer and a fake Nazi propaganda film), I have worked in one capacity or another on nearly 150 different film productions. Even when I was the guy getting coffee or standing on the street in zero-degree weather, asking homeless crack addicts to please keep their voices down, I was always learning.

By the time I stepped onto the set of my debut feature, Cabin Fever, at age 28, I had 10 years of production experience. I knew how to run a set. More importantly, I knew how to run the set of a low-budget, indie film.

All three of my films, though widely distributed, were made independently for a total combined budget of $16 million.So my golden rules are for moviemakers who cannot afford to shoot more than 24 or 40 days, or do more than one or two takes; they’re for moviemakers who have to shoot every day as if it’s their last ever, because if they don’t make their day, the whole film will fall apart.

1. Get as much on-set production experience as possible before directing. If you want to be a doctor, you don’t just buy some surgical tools, show up at the hospital and ask who needs surgery. Yet most movie fans think that because they know movies they can direct. Boy, are they in for a surprise.

Coming up with shots is easy. It’s how you make the scene work when your actor’s in a bad mood or the neighboring building won’t stop construction—that’s directing. And the only way you can know how chaotic it can be is by working on sets.

Work in any capacity you can and make yourself indispensable. You will see every mistake in the book, and you’ll learn as much from the bad experiences as the good ones. You’ll see what happens when a director doesn’t have a clue about what he or she’s doing or what happens when he or she gets focused on one idea that clearly isn’t working. You’ll see what’s possible to accomplish in a day and you’ll see how one small error in set dressing can bring the entire production to a halt.

Making movies is so much more than coming up with shots. You are running an army and the only way to understand how to best run that army is by working your way up through the ranks. And yes, even Quentin Tarantino worked as a production assistant and shot an unfinished feature before he made Reservoir Dogs. You won’t spend the rest of your life getting coffee if you’re good, and you never know how those experiences will pay off on your own films years later.

When Joey Kern got glass blown in his eye on the set of Cabin Fever, we had an ambulance on standby, an on-set medic, a photo double ready and a whole other list of shots to get that didn’t include him so that we could film while I figured out how to rewrite the story around his injury. That kind of preparation for worst-case scenarios can only come from on-set experience.

2. Keep your eye on the donut, not the hole. This is a golden rule David Lynch taught me; it was his one piece of advice for me before I made Cabin Fever. I tell it to all my actors and crew members and we use it as a mantra during the shoot.

David told me, “Eli, man, the only thing that matters to the audience is the information recorded in front of those 24 little frames per second. That’s the donut. All the other bullshit—the drama, the backstabbing—that’s the hole. And if you’re not careful, you can get sucked in. Your job is to keep your eye on what matters.”

When the union came to North Carolina and illegally threatened our Cabin Fever crew members until they signed union cards, which then sapped all our money halfway into our shoot, we raised more money and kept going. Actors will fight, they’ll sleep with each other, their agents will drive you crazy, and, if you’re not strong, you can easily get sucked into all of that stuff that never winds up on the screen. Your job as director is to not just stay focused on the end product, but to continually motivate everyone to do their best by keeping them focused on the end product, too. And it works. All my cast members still repeat it to me in David Lynch’s Midwestern twang: “Eye on the donut, not the hole.”

3. Hire really attractive stand-ins. Crew members are horny. They get frustrated that it’s not the 1980s anymore and that there are sexual harassment laws that prevent them from hitting on every girl at work. But movie sets are still kind of fair game, a place where people can openly flirt. But crew members often won’t hook up or have a “locationship” because they work with each other again and again. That’s where the stand-ins come in.

The stands-ins are crew, but they’re not necessarily there every day. And if they’re the ones standing there for 45 minutes while the crew sets up the shot, everyone wants to look cool. People may say this is sexist, but it’s very basic human psychology: When you have pretty girls on set, the boys behave. Period. You’d think it would whip them into a frenzy, but it’s the opposite. When there are no girls on set, that’s when they’re at their worst.

On Cabin Fever we had two attractive actresses and it became a real problem. (We were in the woods with 30 guys and two girls.) After the first week, we hired a bunch of female production assistants and the boys calmed down (we didn’t have money for stand-ins).

On Hostel and Hostel: Part II, I made sure that I had beautiful stand-ins and the crew loved it. They were always so happy; they just wanted to take a moment to look cool and feel like girls were still interested in them. They’ve learned not to go after cast members because they’ll get in trouble with the producers or a jealous director (ahem), so the stand-ins keep them happy. A smile from a pretty girl goes a long, long, long way.

4. Have an equal balance of guys and girls. Sorry, it does matter. Film sets are a close replication of overnight camp: You’re there for eight weeks, you live together, eat together and do activities together. It’s not school, but you still have to be there. And at the end, you all say you’re best friends and that you’ll stay in touch forever, but then you don’t ever talk to each other until the next film.

It’s so similar that you’ve got to build your crew like a co-ed camp. It makes everyone happier to come to work if there are more possibilities for hookups.

Now, I wouldn’t pick your key crew members this way—go with the best DP, production designer, costume designer, editor, etc. But get a good balance of attractive, friendly assistants for the various departments. Even if they’re not so good at their jobs, somehow their presence gets others to work harder. It’s kind of a tradeoff. I am not advocating hiring bimbos or himbos, but think of your crew like a dinner party guest list: You’ll want something for everyone. People work a lot harder when they are happy to be at work.

5. Attach a shot list to the sides. Every morning people get the sides and they read through what we’re shooting. But I always attach an extra sheet with a typed list of shots.

I have my coverage shots and then my “Time-Permitting” shots. It’s usually about 25 to 35 shots—an ambitious list—but not so overwhelming that people think it’s not doable. And as the day goes on, the crew members start to cross off their shots. Then they see how much they’ve gotten done by lunch (and you can see which shots you can combine, what’s necessary and what’s extra).

You can tweak stuff, but when crew members see they only have four or five shots left, they move faster. They see that you have a focused plan and they feel even more involved in the process, which gets the best out of people.

6. Have good catering. The crew will revolt if the food is terrible. A well-fed crew is a happy crew. Also, make sure craft services has healthy food. You can fill it up with junk food, but I usually set up two tables—one healthy and one filled with crap. That way your actors and your grips are happy.

7. Ready, Aim, FIRE. Do not be afraid to fire crew members or actors. I have fired a major crew member on every film I have made, and it was always the right thing to do. You have to be very careful and confident that this person is not doing his or her job, but you are running an army and you need the troops to respect your authority. When they tested me on Cabin Fever, I fired half my grip and electric department and promoted a best boy I liked to gaffer. Those who stayed were amazing for the second half of the shoot and all the other crew members snapped to.

On Hostel, I fired my costume designer (who was a friend of mine) and everyone else worked their asses off because they saw that no one was immune if they were not going to do their jobs. It’s never fun, but if someone’s really wrong, not doing their job or not respecting your authority, get rid of them immediately.

8. “Thank You.” Learn those words in whatever language you are shooting and use them at the end of the day. They go a long, long way. You’re paying people (or not) to do a job, so it should be expected of them to do it well. But it’s very important to let them know you appreciate it, too.

At the end of the day, what creative people want most of all is to feel valued; to feel that their input on your project made a difference and that you appreciate it. Thank them and tell them what a great job they did, how audiences are going to love it because of what they added to it. I thanked every crew member on Hostel in Czech and Slovak, and then learned how to say “good morning,” “enjoy your lunch” and “cut!” They had never experienced an American director who didn’t treat them like “the locals” and they really went the extra mile for me.
I was a PA on many films and I always remember who was nice and who wasn’t. I remember how hard I worked for the ones who said “thank you.”

The same behavior goes for screaming: If you’re going to have a temper tantrum, you better pick your moments. The crew will put up with it once or twice, but then they’ll become immune. You will not gain their respect by screaming at them, you will gain it through your ability to execute a well-organized plan and communicate your appreciation for their hard work. Screamers just get ignored and crews work slower to piss them off once the yelling becomes funny, which usually happens on day two.

9. Rock out between set-ups. Quentin does this on his sets and I started doing it on Hostel. Have some really good music ready between set-ups and rock out to it with the crew. They’ll get the shot set up faster. It’s amazing how much a crew can get done in one AC/DC song.

10. The easiest rule to forget: Have fun. From the time I was a kid wanting to work on sets my parents always told me, “Enjoy the journey.” When you’re standing out in the freezing rain yelling “roll” and “cut” for 16 hours and getting paid $90 a day, it’s kind of hard to have a good time. But if you can find joy in those moments and in the fact that you’re actively pursuing your dream, then you’ll really enjoy it.
Directing is a very, very stressful job; the entire world changes for you. Everyone treats you differently because now you’re suddenly “in charge.” The stress and loneliness can destroy you,but you’ve got to learn to enjoy it, no matter how bad things get—no matter what happens—and still retain that inner joy of being a kid, living your dream.

You have to have fun or what’s the point? And sometimes you need to be reminded of that. So go out for crew drinks. Laugh and share playback on the monitor with everyone when you’ve filmed a great kill. And do that extra take for fun, even though you know you’ve got the shot, just for the love of making movies. Directing can be the greatest job in the world, but only if you let it.

Sebastian’s Voodoo (2008) – Director: Joaquin Baldwin

Title: Sebastian’s Voodoo
Year: 2008
Country: USA
Director: Joaquin Baldwin
Writer: Joaquin Baldwin
Producer: Joaquin Baldwin
Production Company: Pixel Nitrate

Plot Summary:

A voodoo doll must find the courage to save his friends from being pinned to death.

Short film by Joaquin Baldwin followed by Skype Q&A by Short Indies and Small & Creepy Films