Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Interview with Indie Filmmaker Andrew Schrader

Recently I had the stellar opportunity to view one of the most inventive and original indie horror flicks I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this year. Fever Night aka Band of Satanic Outsiders blew me away with its hallucinogenic story of Satanists lost in the woods. It was a real throw back to ’70s acid trip movies, and I mean that in the best way possible!

Made over two years on a minuscule budget, Fever Night is a triumph in indie filmmaking! Recently, I had a chance to talk with co-creator Andrew Schrader about he and fellow creator Jordon Harris’ mini masterpiece. Both Schrader and Harris wrote, directed and basically acted as the entire crew when making Fever Night. Since Fever Night was one of my favorite indie films of 2009, I had a bunch of burning questions to ask Andrew!

Fatally Yours: Hi Andrew! I was seriously blown away by your first film, Fever Night aka Band of Satanic Outsiders. What is the backstory on the film and why did you and co-creator Jordan Harris decide to make it?

Andrew Schrader: Thank you. I don’t know where to start, really…college was coming to an end and we figured it was either make a movie or just find a shitty industry job and jerk off our bosses like everyone else. Originally, the plan was to move to the middle of nowhere to start an artist commune where we were going to experiment with method acting.

But one night, [I] was having a breakdown in the shanty out back where [we] lived, and Jordan came in to talk. We basically decided right then and there that we were going to make a horror movie, and that was the end of it. So, on graduation day, we met up at eight in the morning, got really drunk, graduated, and left for San Diego to start pre-production. All we knew when we started (on Jordan’s mom’s living room floor) was that we were going to make a 1970s acid movie about Satanists. It would be shot in the woods, lit with flashlights. And we knew what the last shot was going to be. That’s it.

Fatally Yours: You mentioned that it took two years to complete the film. How did you manage to have the willpower and passion to see it through to the end and keep inspiring the cast and crew to work on it?

Andrew Schrader: Even at the lowest points, we always said the movie was going to get done. We just resigned ourselves to the project and to the lifestyle, because as long as it took to make it what it needed to be, we knew that it would get done. Sometimes it was really hard to work on the movie, and some times it was all we wanted to do (usually not both of us at the same time). We got really lucky and were able to find actors who had a lot of faith in the project and in us, and genuinely loved the whole process. It definitely helped that we all lived on a bare cement floor in the woods for a month to kick it off – it created a sense of solidarity. Over time, we became close friends; they often inspired us to work harder.

We were two-thirds of the crew, the other was Steven Isaac Getz. At times, he really held the production together – it really helped having a third voice in the mix. He is an awesome guy; he also shot (and is currently making) the feature-length behind-the-scenes doc. He shot something like 60 hours of footage.

Still from Fever Night

Fatally Yours: What were your influences and inspirations when making Fever Night?

Andrew Schrader: Other movies, most of them shitty ones. We wanted to make a really indie film that wasn’t gonna fuck around, and that wasn’t going to have any of the aesthetics of the contemporary horror flicks that were and are still popular.

Shitty movies are the best inspiration because they make filmmaking appear more accessible. You watch a great film like The Shining and think I could never make something like that. Watch Surf Nazis Must Die! and you think, I could make a better movie than that one.

We love watching propaganda and bizarre television, like Fox News. We also saw Crispin Glover’s latest movie, It Is Fine, Everything is Fine which was real cool. That was one of the best movies we’d seen in years. Super messed up, but really awesome. A movie like that could only be made once – I mean, at one specific point in history. Soon after, the main character (a palsy victim) died. Check it out!

Fatally Yours: The look of the film is very hallucinogenic and distinctive. How and why did you decide upon such a stylized palette for your film?

Andrew Schrader: We honestly don’t remember. We had originally written the acid trips as series of images of snakes and fire – just cutting from one to another, like in 70s acid movies. But then we edited a cut or two of the movie and realized we had to do more with it. It didn’t really flow right…

The rape scene was originally edited much differently, but after the hallucinogenic style had been established, we changed it to fit with the rest. We have many different cuts of that scene.

Really, we just wanted to make a cool Satanic acid movie, a new wave horror film. As we reached the next stage in production – whether it was the writing, or the filming, or initial editing, etc. – the movie was constantly changing. It turned out to be a great process for this movie. Very organic.

Fatally Yours: Not only is the film stylish, but it also has a very professional feel to it, despite its low budget and the fact that it is your first directing gig. Did you or Jordan have any formal schooling or training before filming or did you just go for it?

Andrew Schrader: Thank you. We went to UCSB. I was a film and media studies major; Jordan did honors art studio work. There is not really a film program there in terms of production, so in school I focused on film history, theory, and analysis. Essays and such.

We wrote scripts and made shorts on the side. We had written several features. Jordan’s short film work was awesome. I saw a 16mm film he made and told him we should live together the next year.

So came the Bad People commune house in Isla Vista. Six lived there – but the backyard or living room was always buzzing – we would basically just make stuff and play music and write and drink. I think the most training actually came from each other, because everyone pushed each other to be better.

Fatally Yours: The actors in the film are phenomenal. How did you find them and how was it working with them?

Andrew Schrader: All the actors are fucking great, for sure. Trying to remember…we held several auditions. Phil [Marlatt, who played Warren] showed up late, I remember – at the very end of the day.
Peter [Tullio, who played Elliot] showed up as his girlfriend’s chaperone (who was auditioning for Terry). We liked his look and asked him to read. He had this cool greaser vibe going, like a fifties character. And the character was supposed to be a “greaser punk”, so yeah…

We had been drinking for about six hours when Melanie [Rose Wilson] showed up to audition for Terry. I think she was weirded out a bit, but she turned out to be really cool. Michael Q. Schmidt threatened us a bit and then talked to us about Hamm’s beer. Figured he’d be the one for the job. He’s cool, too.

Everyone was really awesome; that’s the thing. I was amazed when Melanie actually flew up to Shasta County, because she came about a week after Peter and Phil. I figured she’d back out – she was basically flying up to a nowhere town in the middle of the forest to sleep on a one-room concrete floor.

And everyone was totally down for whatever needed to be done. They are all the most awesome people to work with, and several of us have become real close.

Fever Night DVD with my quote on the back! :D

Fatally Yours: What were your favorite/least favorite experiences when filming Fever Night?

Andrew Schrader: We have no idea. I think we’re still in post-traumatic shock or something. The most interesting experience, though, might have been watching Michael Schmidt jerk off before his scene for, like, and hour and a half. In plain view. Staring at Vanity Meers. We were so busy setting up stuff, we didn’t think about how creepy it was until we checked out Steve’s behind the scenes footage!

Fatally Yours: What obstacles did you face making Fever Night?

Andrew Schrader: Everything. Money. Time. People. Girls. Money. Girls. Cops. Technology…

Fatally Yours: What advice would you give aspiring filmmakers?

Andrew Schrader: Produce ten times more material than you can actually use. 90% of what you make is going to be shit, so make sure you over compensate. Make sure you know what film you want to make and don’t let anything stop you until it becomes what it needs to be.

Fatally Yours: Are you working on anything else at the moment? What is next for you and your production company, Bad People Motion Pictures?

Andrew Schrader: We have lotsa scripts in many genres we want to do, but right now we’re in pre-production on a teenage melodrama called The Age of Reason. We started working on it in college before Fever Night. It was written for us to play the main characters originally because we thought that no one would want to work with us anyway, but now we figure it’ll be the only time we have the chance, so why the hell not? It’s gonna have a cool style, kinda like Clockwork Orange and a ‘80s PG “coming of age” movie.

Fatally Yours: I know people are clamoring for a DVD release of Fever Night; do you have a DVD release date yet or is there another way people can see the film?

Andrew Schrader: Unfortunately, not right now. There are distributor kits being sent out this week, but until it’s distributed, it’ll be tough to see. We have a lot of music in there, so things are tricky legally. There is, however, a way to see it online…

Fatally Yours: Thanks so much for chatting with us Andrew! 

Andrew Schrader: Thank you! Yer the best!

Visit Fever Night’s Official Site!

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Visit Fever Night on Myspace!

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