Cult Projections: What two movies from your youth can you single out that represent that moment for the science fiction and for the horror genre? Where did you see these movies? What was it about each that impressed you so much?
Enzo: The first would have to be Alien. My father was a projectionist that used to travel around to social clubs screening 16mm prints of films for them. I remember the time he had Alien – I must have been eight or something – and I was desperate to see it. He put it on in his little theatrette at home, with all the lights off and then left me on my own to watch. I didn’t make it through the opening scene on the ship. Petrified out of my wits by the music and the mood created. Since then, that film has had a particular thing for me, let alone after I managed to watch it through for the first time.
Choosing two is hard!
The other would probably have to be either The Shining or The Exorcist. Both of those films I remember distinctly from when I was young really affecting me in no small way. Both of them have the kind of deep character development that is absent from many films today, as well as taking their time with things. Both of those elements add so much weight to proceedings that they become really unsettling experiences, particularly when you’re confronted with the hardcore stuff.
CP: You’re primarily a producer and editor, but you’ve also got numerous screenwriting credits, and you’ve directed two shorts. In what order do you prefer all those roles, and why?
Enzo: I find editing a tough one to top, as I’ve been doing it for so long it is ingrained in me now. But if there was one thing that maybe tops that for me at the moment it is directing. It feels like home. And it’s a place where I feel like everything I have ever learned in all of those roles (and more) comes together in a way that is feeling right. I’m still producing because I can (and need to!), but I’m beginning to lean away from writing, especially if I’m directing, simply because I find riffing off of someone else’s pages a lot more satisfying, but also as a writer I need time in the kinds of huge swathes I don’t have right now.
CP: Considering we are currently enjoying what has been called the Golden Age of Television, what are the elements that are most important in a science fiction movie or series and what elements in a horror movie or series? What are your favourite current series (or mini-series)?
Enzo: So many shows I’ve yet to catch up on! I’m currently partway through House Of Cards and Orphan Black, they’re both great. I loved the first season of American Horror Story – I though that was some of the greatest TV I’d seen in a long while.
I don’t know that what’s necessary for good TV is all that different to what makes good film – an interesting story told through well thought-out and developed three-dimensional characters. If anything, the added challenge is that the episodic format, simply due to the number of hours of storytelling, demands more and more questions to be answered. It’s hard to leave things in any way open-ended after a couple of seasons. Often for me, the question is more interesting than the answer. I always find horror films (for example) to be far less affecting once the ‘monster’ is revealed. It’s a tough balance to strike.
CP: Many successful movies and television series have achieved great critical and audience reception even though the production values have been low. Can you always rely just on ideas, concepts, and storylines? Just how important are production values in genre filmmaking?
Enzo: I think production values are very important. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be low, particularly if they work together with the film. It’s why found footage still works for me. In the hands of filmmakers that understand how to use that particular medium or whatever you want to call it, it’s super effective. I find the super-slick and expensive looking found footage way less effective, because the production value becomes a distraction.
But all of that is secondary to a good idea, well executed. I think you can rely on that for a good film. But I’m not sure that you can rely on that for success. I guess it depends on your definition of ‘success’!
CP: Along with your colleague, Julian Harvey, you are co-credited with creating the sf web series Airlock. Tell me how the series came about? How easy or how difficult was it making the web series Airlock compared to your Found Footage horror movie The Tunnel?
Enzo: Airlock was born out of Jules and I looking for our next feature. It started as more of a procedural. A scenario where one guy was stuck hostage on a ship, watching havoc unfold on the station from a distance, helpless to do anything or warn those he knew and loved. We wanted something we could create on a modest budget yet still make interesting. It evolved considerably from there, particularly once Marc and Shiyan took over the writing.
Airlock was the most difficult experience of my career thus far. The scale of it, sets, CGI, a tiny shooting schedule… yeah it was tough. The Tunnel was shot on a similar schedule, but the aesthetic allowed us to move quickly, and we had a far smaller cast, too.
CP: What was your experience at Supanova like?
Enzo: Supanova was fantastic. Pop-culture nerds are the best (I’m one of them!!) It was a blast to see the reaction to the screening, and to arrive back to our booth to find a queue of fans already waiting for everyone’s autographs. It was also a special moment for me to sit next to my son who plays one of the aliens and watch him sign posters for the fans. These are the kinds of memories I feel fortunate to be able to create for my kids due to what I do. I’m a regular attendee at Supanova Sydney, but this year was super-special.
CP: Do you believe in homage, or do filmmakers just “borrow” and “steal”?
Enzo: I totally believe in homage – I do it all the time!! However, there is a big difference between homage and theft. One works and one doesn’t. There is a lot of homage to films like Alien and The Descent in The Tunnel, but some of it is very subtle. As filmmakers we’re always very influenced by those that have come before us, but we take those ideas and make them our own. Riffing off someone is good and can be interesting. Ripping off someone is just dull and unimaginative.
CP: Tell me a little about Deadhouse Films. What was the main reason you formed the company?
Enzo: The main reason was that once Distracted Media ended, I needed something to keep pushing my endeavours through. I wanted something with a name that said genre, and that let me play in spaces and in ways we couldn’t really justify at Distracted. So far that seems to be a step that looks to be paying off.
CP: Do you plan on distributing as much as producing? Can you imagine making a horror online series, just as you’ve made an online sf series?
Enzo: I’d love to make a horror series, but it feels like a tough sell at the moment. The distribution space is a challenging one, and time will tell if that side of the business is set to grow or be shut down.
CP: What drew you to Ursula Dabrowsky’s Inner Demon to be distributed by Deadhouse Films?
Enzo: I saw Inner Demon at A Night Of Horror in 2014 and was blown away by the slick production value, but more importantly, the level of unpredicatability. It’s a film that every time I thought I had it pegged, it took a 90-degree turn. That was fun for me, and rare for a horror film. I wanted to do what I could to get that out to the world.
CP: You’ve just completed a horror anthology in association with A Night Of Horror International Film Festival, how did that come about?
Enzo: I pitched the idea to Dean Bertram that we should use the fest to curate and invite some films into an anthology feature to screen at the fest, and that it was something we could repeat each year. He agreed that it was a good idea and the rest, as they say, is history. It is so difficult to get noticed as a filmmaker, and shorts are usually the way you start. However I figured that if we could combine some really great shorts into a feature that we could create something that had a value greater than the sum of its parts, and that this would be a beneficial for everyone. It’s difficult to sell a feature, but it’s pretty much impossible to sell a short.
CP: What’s next on the Deadhouse agenda?
Enzo: A stack of projects in development, so it will really be about which one of them gains the most momentum first. We might be making a couple of new web series next year, but there is also a feature or two that look like they might come off. We also have a VR project in the works! Exciting times!
CP: Finally, what are your top five favourite “Found Footage” flicks (other than The Tunnel)?
Enzo: Ha ha! I would never list The Tunnel as one of my favourite films!! Do you think I just sit around all day and watch my own work?? Ha ha ha! So top five FF movies …
The Blair Witch Project. Still the granddaddy of the modern FF horror as far as I’m concerned, and the subtlety with which it was tackled still gets me today on every re-watch. I know it wasn’t the first, but I feel a bigger milestone than Cannibal Holocaust in many ways.
Chronicle. An exception to the rule of “big budget and slick” found footage being less effective. Josh Trank managed to not forget that these films still need to be character-driven, and established a very clever way to break the camera free of having to be hand-held so that it didn’t break us out of the moment and allowed so many liberties with style that it made for a very refreshing FF flick.
Exhibit A directed by Dom Rotheroe is another fine example of the FF device in the hands of someone that gets it. This is a lesser-known film, but it’s a strong entry into the genre. Performances are strong, and the whole affair is quite unsettling. And not your usual splatter or monster horror fare, either. Definitely recommend for anyone looking for a hidden gem
The Taking Of Deborah Logan. Holy moly. One of my favourite films of 2014. Breathtakingly creepy performace from Jill Larson, and a straight up scary movie. Loved it! Keen to see what Adam Robitel does next!
Creep. Creepy psycho Duplass. ‘Nuff Said. So much tension created by two people on their own. So great!
Whoa, I’ve run out already? The original [REC] has to be a parting shot – huge influence on The Tunnel, and super effective spin on a well-tread genre.
CP: Thanks Enzo!