Wednesday, July 8, 2009
LOUP GAROU FILMMAKERS SPEAK!
This summer marked the release of one of the most anticipated films ever shot in Taylor, Mississippi. “Night of the Loup Garou’’ continues to build a cult audience among college students, connoisseurs of fine acting, and lovers of old school drive-in cinema. The film was shot last summer without a budget and without a script, using local folks for actors. Velvet Ditch recently spoke with the filmmakers Micah Ginn and Matthew Nothelfer about the picture.
Velvet Ditch: Who came up with the idea of shooting a low-budget horror film in Taylor, Mississippi? And why the Loup Garou?
Matt: Micah and I have always talked about making a feature while working on our documentary film projects. Mostly because talking about being feature film directors made us feel more self-important when blabbing about it over a beer or two. And then somehow we actually talked ourselves into it. The reality was in early 2008 Micah eventually just said. "We have to make a movie this year, that's all there is to it!"
Micah: As for Taylor, we had always planned to shoot there because Thad Lee had graciously committed his cabin to the project as the primary location. At first, we were going to base the story in the Louisiana bayou, yet shoot in Taylor, since the Loup Garou is indigenous to Cajun Country. But from a production standpoint, it made more sense to just set the movie in Taylor. Doing so kept us from having to drive to Louisiana and get exterior/establishing shots of bayous and swamps, and allowed for a little more mystery in our story. Why is the Loup Garou in Taylor, MS? The plot thickens!
And why the Loup Garou? Cause werewolves are already cool, but a Cajun werewolf??? How can you not love that?
Velvet Ditch: What were the challenges with shooting with no crew and one camera? Was the project easier or harder than expected and will you produce another film here?
Matt: The one camera detail is about the only thing we had in common with a typical film shoot. Most indy films work it that way. Of course, they'd use better gear than just a consumer camcorder!
The main difference was trying to get good images with minimal art, costume, set design, and pretty much no real production crew. Organizing and creating the visual aesthetics of a set is a huge job, maybe the most important job, on a normal film. We had Laura, just one person, basically doing all that stuff.
So it ends up being an exercise in trying to not shoot the flaws on the set that were always around the edges. Aside from that we did the cinematography with essentially two video production lights and anything else we could get our hands on: flashlights, white pieces of cardboard for bounce light, wicked lanterns with open flames, whatever worked or helped.
Velvet Ditch: We’re really into profane movies? Why’d you guys opt out of any bad language or the typical horror T and A?
Matt: I was all for it. Mostly because I don't get to see T and A in my real life, and standing next to naked ladies without paying for it seems really cool to me. However, a PG level movie was the target at the outset so we stuck to it. At any rate, we used up our personal profanity quota during production yelling at Scott Morris and the dog he brought to the set.
Micah: We went with no cuss words for several reasons. First, it's just generally unnecessary. Second, I wanted to keep with the really old, bad movies that were made in the era before cussing and nudity became so rampant in the movies. Third, I can watch the movie with any audience and not cringe at foul language or raunchy scenes. Fourth, it makes my mother (and father too) happy, and that's very important always! Fifth, it gives the movie an innocence that I think fits it.
Velvet Ditch: What was the deal with local writer Scott Morris during the production? I heard he brought his dog.
Matt: Indeed. What was the deal? As co-director I never figured that one out. Were we attempting to deliberately create chaos on the set in order to prepare for the trials of larger productions in the future? If so, I'm not quite clear on that strategy. How many self-absorbed literary authors half drunk on bourbon trying to hijack the on-set direction and talking over the actor's lines while in the middle of filming are typical during a normal movie production?
Hmmm, come to think of it, we had two of those kind of folks on-set.
Micah: Scott Morris was to the movie set as a fever blister is to a cover model on the day of the shoot: Total catastrophe. If it weren't for his abilities as an actor, I would have had a restraining order put on him. As it is, though, he is probably the greatest actor of his generation, and thus must be tolerated.
If we had a nickel for every time Scott's dog "Muddy" ruined a shot by wandering obliviously into the scene, our budget would have ballooned into the millions.
Velvet Ditch: What would you do different for a – let’s say – Loup Garou 2?
Matt: Have somebody give us, the cast and crew, money to make these things. It's not that we need a lot. Making low-budget films are fine, but NO-budget is a strain. Personally, I'm more than flirting with bankruptcy with my financials --I'm having a torrid affair. So setting aside the time to work for free is extremely difficult to do. I don't mind making our ideas come to life for free, but as a private contractor/freelancer, when I'm devoting hundreds of days to making a movie, that's potentially hundreds of days I'm not doing a paying gig. And the Loup Garou movie from production to post production was easily over 150 days of 8+ hour days of solid work. The post-production is pretty time-consuming.
Micah: I would get a budget and script in place before shooting a single shot. Also, I would make the deputy character a sheriff, cause he's good.
Velvet Ditch: How’s the reaction been to the film since it premiered in Oxford? What’s next for the movie?
Matt: Seems good. Somehow people even liked Scott Morris in it.
Micah: The reaction has been wonderful. We had a sold out show the first night, and from all accounts the film has been well attended over the last two weeks, enough so to be held-over at the Amp. We are very grateful for all those who've come out to watch it, cause it truly makes all the hard work worth it!
What's next for the movie is a few more dates in the area...for instance a Tupelo screening, a Memphis screening (all still in the works), then try to get into some Louisiana theatres. We're also talking to Nova Cinemas about playing in some of their theatres across the Midwest and Southeast. The hope is that we get it in front of as many audiences as possible. I'll be curious to see how it plays when it gets away from the home-field advantage.
Velvet Ditch: Hey, what about that Ernie Sakolov. What an amazing talent! Did you find this guy in the Ukraine? Really fantastic acting.
Matt: I know. The range that was exhibited in his performance was astounding. Quite frankly I didn't think we'd be able to get such a solid performance from him, so I was pleasantly surprised. His ability to inhabit the Ernie character really held the film together, I thought. It's a shame the guy we got to play the adult Ernie was such a dud.
Micah: I'll say this: Everyone on set was terrified of Ernie. Lot's of folks think he is an actor...but he is actually a big-game hunter from Russia. He has a show on MTV-Russia called "Me and Zee Beest", and he is a European sensation. We're hoping to make him the David Hasselhoff of the East. He is the secret to the success of the film, for sure.