Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Interview with "Slayer" Filmmaker Ed Peduzzi

Ed Peduzzi is the writer, director, director of photography, actor, editor (and took on many other jobs) for his impressive no-budget film Slayer (review). Slayer is a nontraditional vampire tale that features many remarkable action scenes and some amazing effects, all held together with a serious, thoughtful and dramatic tone.

Slayer was recently finished after Ed spent most of his college career working on the film and is now available on DVD. Slayer really blew me away and Ed Peduzzi is quite the impressive young filmmaker. I highly encourage you check out this film, which Mr. Peduzzi himself calls, “a low budget guerrilla war film with vampire-like creatures.”

Fatally Yours: Ed, thank you so much for doing this interview. I absolutely loved Slayer.

Ed Peduzzi: Thanks.

How did you come up for the idea for this film? What inspired you to make it?

I knew I wanted to make another no-budget feature by the time I would turn 21, (I made my first when I was 17) so while in college I pretty much waited until some idea came along that would stick. I made a lot of Naked Gun-style short films in college, and one of them titled "Vampires on Campus" which was kind of a mock movie trailer that seemed to get a very positive response from people. After a while the idea mixed with ideas I had for a serious drama that I had no hope of shooting for budget reasons, and I ended up with the early outlines for Slayer, which was a much more dramatic/serious/realistic take on what had started as a campy genre short film.

The acting in the film is one of the things that makes Slayer so enjoyable. Why did you decide to play Eric? How did you find the other actors to star in the film and what was the auditioning process like?

Since I was in collage at the time (hoping to make this a student film, although Slayer ended up having nothing to do with the school) I only auditioned college students, to make my cast as accessible as possible. I held auditions for the semester prior to senior year, when we spent 9 months shooting around the actor's schedules. At first I tried to audition actors, but there were 2 unavoidable problems. First, they generally had big egos, something that can bring production on a no-budget film to a stop when you have 2 or more large acting egos on set at once. Second, they couldn't act at all, everything was projected too loudly, as if they were on stage, and even minor rolls were over acted as if they were the star, it was just sad. So I went about finding people with little to no ego, people who wouldn't necessarily complain at every setback. Also, you don't need to be an actor to act. Actors are capable of acting like other people, and whether or not they're convincing is up to their talent. So I looked for anyone who fit the ego bill who could read dialogue as normally as possible, just being themselves, and most people I found could pull this off easily. That meant my job was to find people who most resembled the characters I wanted them to play, and then ask them to read dialogue as if they were just talking to someone. Almost all the actors I ended up finding had little to no experience acting, and all ended up having little to no ego, with one exception. I ended up playing Eric out of desperation. With first semester of my senior year starting, there were still 2 parts not yet cast, that of the main baddie "Sam", and the timid "Eric". I must've offered Eric's role to everyone I walked past by the end of the previous semester, and I always got the same response, "Sounds cool, but I just don't have the time." I couldn't really hold it against anyone, Eric's part meant being on set almost every day of filming, no other actor had to deal with that. About 2 weeks before principle photography began, I just gave up. At that point I knew that even if I found someone willing to do it, I wouldn't have enough time to test their reliability. And that was the most important trait I looked for next to lack of ego. So I buckled down and did it myself, which became a pain for a number of reasons. Since I was the DP, I did all the camera work for every frame I wasn't in, and set up every frame I was in, handing the camera off to whomever was available, which was usually Nate Adams who played Cid.

The action sequences in Slayer are extremely realistic and very impressive. Did the actors have to go through any kind of special training for the fight scenes?

There wouldn't of been any need to train anyone. Except for a particular fight with a bat (you know the one I'm talking about but I won't give away why it's different here) all the fights are quick since we tried to keep things real. This meant no Matrix style choreography. I pretty much improvised all of our fighting as we went, including the bat fight. The only thing I had to train myself to do is get used to shooting with the intent of adding various effects, be they matte shots, rotoscope shots, or CGI.

The locations in Slayer were great. How did you find the locations and what did you have to do to secure them? Did you need special permission or special permits?

There were no permits required since all but one location was actually on campus. I went to a very small college in the rural area of Massachusetts, so even though each location was on campus they were a stone's throw away from one or two other locations used in the movie. Truth is if we were to turn the camera 60 degrees during most scenes, you would see a college campus. Looking back, it's surprising that we were able to milk all those locals out of barely a square mile. Making sure every scene's look wasn't repetitive in a Blair Witch sorta way was a big concern. The hardest location to find was the slayer's hideout. In the script it was a run down shack in the middle of the woods, and we found a few options, all of which were shot down by their landlords. Eventually I bit the bullet and had no choice but to use the mod that I was living in on campus. We didn't have many dorms there, so 2/3 of students lived in varying styles of modular housing. I lived with 7 other people in one, and it basically became the set for the slayers. We shot most of our interiors there during the month long January term when no one was around, and what little we shot there during the normal semesters was fortunately easy going since none of my mod mates really used the living area there, many of them ended up with cameos in the film, or as production assistants when their interest in the project led them to helping out. The room in which the slayers play Mario Kart was actually my room, a 2 story loft which ended up as a principle set piece. I slept upstairs (just as Clint is seen doing in the movie) and then filmed downstairs. In some of the shots just outside the hideout, in which the hideout is visible, the neighboring buildings/campus had to be digitally removed and replaced with trees and grass a number of times. The only locations not shot in Massachusetts were a few small pickup shots done in my hometown of Manhattan. These were intercut close ups of objects and such, and the only full scene was the fight on the roof (the one with the pipe).

Slayer has many impressive shots, like when the camera follows a knife thrown into the air and back down into someone's hand, and when a car plows down a few vamps, not to mention the fight scenes. How did you achieve these particular shots?

The knife shots were all CGI for the knife, with actors pretending it was there. Shots like the car impacts and bat impacts and various other impacts were an old technique called rotoscoping, the only new slant is it's now digital rotoscoping. Basically it means that each actor/object is filmed separately and then digitally matte lines are cut around them frame by frame, when all your layers are cut out they can be composited together to form one shot. It's a lot like photo shop work, except you have to do it to every frame. It's a technique that I rarely see used in Hollywood, kind of puzzling since it's very cheap, but more importantly unlike CGI which can be added whenever, you need to shoot with this in mind for it to work. Since I did all of the effects and rotoscoping on the film I got very used to shooting for the intended result.

How much time was spent in pre-production, shooting the film and in post-production?

Well, preproduction would be a gray area, since there was the initial first short, and then various outlines for a while, maybe a year. Then the script slowly went from first to fifth draft over the next 3 years, although that wasn't a full time occupation until my second semester junior year. That's when I started auditioning and finding locals. Shooting went for the 2 semesters, including the January term in between, so a total of 9 months. Then there were a few pickups done later in August. Tiny pickups, sometimes only a shot or two, went on throughout all of post production, sometimes to change or add stuff that was originally cut from the film.

Post went of FOREVER. Let me put it this way, I was 21 when we started shooting, I turned 24 two months after post was finished, ugh. By the time we were finished shooting the film was already a 77 minute work print. I had done a lot of editing/effects/color work during those 9 months since shooting around the actors schedule game me a lot of time for post. Although there was still plenty left. Part of the reason post took so long is because I moved twice, and constantly burnt out, often taking 2 week lazy sessions on couches watching my friends Buffy DVDs or whatever was around to take my mind off work. Sound was finally finished late January of '07.

One of the most interesting aspects of your film was the debunking of the typical vampire myth – your vampires can go out in sunlight, aren't affected by crosses, garlic or holy water and aren't the typical suave, slick-dressing vamps. Why did you decide to debunk the regular vampire myth and go with something different?

Much of it was for budget purposes. If our RIP's (our version of vamps) couldn't go out during the day, then we would have half the film or more filmed during night shoots. Not only would this make filming hell on earth for our actors, all of which would have classes the next day, but it would have meant lighting at night, which would have been hell for me. Lighting at night would have required equipment we didn't have, and time we didn't have. As far as the rest goes, I wanted to make things realistic, so I dropped everything but the need for blood, and the aging gig. That way we could keep the fighting and victimization of the "enemy" realistic as well.

Is there anything you want the audience to walk away with after they have watched your film?

Yes, a wish to buy the DVD, since I'm broke. But in all seriousness, I just want people to acknowledge the lack of gray area in most films, a gray area that in a way desensitizes people to violence. I wanted the "bad guys" to look sad and pathetic when they were about to die, as opposed to the evil then dead scenario that usually plays out in these kind of movies. I didn't want the violence to feel “cool.” I wanted it to feel sadly necessary. I hope that gets through to the audience.

What is next for Slayer? Has it made rounds at horror festivals/conventions yet? Do you plan on securing a distributor?

We've gone to a few festivals so far with many more we intend to hit this year. The first horror fest we'll hit is the Indy Horror Film Fest. (http://www.indyhorrorfilmfest.com/)
As far as distribution is concerned, I'll take what I can get. Like I said, I'm broke, so if an honest deal comes along, I'll take it. (and I can't stress "honest" enough I've already had to turn down 2 offers because they wanted my soul) I've signed a few small deals so far, although non have taken effect yet. And are unlikely to get me all that much.

Where can people buy a copy of Slayer?

Slayer should be available at www.independentfeatures.com in a month or so, but until then it's currently available at Slayer-Movie.com and myspace.com/Slayer_Movie for 10 bucks.

Do you have any plans for making another film in the near future?

Yes and no. I've done 2 no-budget features so far, and if I live to be 100 I'll have done 2 no-budget features by then. So what I'm saying is yes I plan on doing more films, but only if I'm getting paid. So if you like Slayer, buy it, and tell your friends to, that way I can move back out of my parents apartment and make more films for you good folks!

Thanks again, Ed and we wish the best of luck to you and Slayer.

Thank you.

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