Sunday, May 25, 2014
Interview with filmmaker, David Stagnari: "People going through an emotional conflict and looking for answers really understand the film. It's not for those in denial."
You can purchase Catharsis here: http://www.catharticcircle.com/filmMENU.html
Another link to an article I published on this blog:http://somethingslurking-hook.blogspot.com/2014/05/speaking-to-subconcious-look-at-david.html
At what age did you realize you wanted to become a filmmaker?
My love of film began around 5 or 6 years old. But I was 12 years old when it dawned on me I could actually make a movie.
What were some of the films that inspired you as a child?
It's hard to answer that. Many movies obsessed me. The triple features at the drive in theater was an amazing place for a film education. I kept a book of all the movies I saw in the movie theater. I started writing it when I was very young. Here is a portion of the first films I saw, in the order and year I saw them. You can get a sense of the variety.
1969 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
1971 Bed Knobs and Broomsticks
1971 2001 A Space Odyssey
1971 The Anderson Tapes
1971 The Andromeda Strain
1971 The Beguiled
1971 Mary Queen of Scotts
1971 Evel Knievel
1972 Tales From the Crypt
1973 Paper Moon
1973 The Mechanic
1973 Live and Let Die
1973 Planet of the Apes
1973 The Neptune Factor
1973 Tora Tora Tora
1973 The Stone Killer
1973 West World
1973 Tales That Witness Madness
1973 Soylent Green
1973 Don't Look in the Basement
1973 Last House on the Left
1973 Dirty Harry
1973 Magnum Force
1973 High Plains Drifter
1973 Billy Jack
1973 Panic in Needle Park
1973 Dracula vs. Frankenstein
1973 Frankenstein's Bloody Terror
1973 The Day of the Dolphin
1973 Cisco Pike
1973 take The Money and Run
1973 Horror Express
1973 Death Wheelers
1973 The French Connection
1973 The Seven Ups
1974 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
1974 Blazing Saddles
1974 99 44 100% Dead
1974 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
1974 The Devil's Nightmare
1974 Freeble and the Bean
1974 The Super Cops
1974 The Laughing Policeman
1974 The Man with The Golden Gun
1974 Mr. Majestik
1974 Badge 373
1974 The Longest Yard
1974 Phantom of the Paradise
1974 The Taking of Pelham 123
1974 The Parallax View
1974 Death Wish
1974 Night of Bloody Terror
1974 Night of the Strangler
1974 Macon County Line
1974 Joe Kidd
1974 Vampyres - Daughters of Dracula
1974 Young Frankenstein
1974 UFO Target Earth
1974 The Devil's Triangle
1975 The Devil's Rain
1975 The Getaway
1975 Walking Tall
1975 Junior Bonner
1975 Aloha Bobby and Rose
1975 White Line Fever
1975 Vanishing Point
What were your experiences like in film school?
The year I went to SVA was very disappointing. I felt more productive and inspired before I went to film school. Teachers constantly cancelled classes, equipment didn't work properly, and there was a feeling that high school was continuing instead of a serious college and artistic study. But of course I did learn a few things, such as recognizing underlying themes and secrets which I feel are important to good filmmaking. And I made a few lifelong friends.
What prompted you to make a film?
After years in the music business I realized all my inspiration for music came from film. I had been away from filmmaking for a long time and wanted to return to it with a maximum effort and see if I could make something interesting. That's when I wrote Catharsis in 1998.
Speaking of Catharsis, it's been out for many years. How has the response been to the film so far?
I made the film without intention of anyone seeing it. I never had an audience in mind. So getting amazing responses to the film has been beautiful. I've had some people get violently angry about it and some that called it artsy-fartsy crap. It's not everyone's cup of tea. People going through an emotional conflict and looking for answers really understand the film. It's not for those in denial.
I see your point. It's a very challenging, yet fulfilling movie. Can you tell me what inspired the idea for "Catharsis"?
I believe it started with that insecure voice in your head that sabotages your ideas with negativity. Then I thought about the idea of emotionally running away and the mental journey of where you go to avoid those emotional obstacles. Then the images of the thing you're running away from following you and making a film about the entire conflict and resolution. So the final inspiration was to turn a thought process filled with sadness, artistic impedance and loss into a physical journey of confronting fear. Humans are strange in that we run away from traumas we think we can't deal with. But emotional obstacles are always there and they want to be confronted. The more we run the more they present themselves in our subconscious or even physically. The very thing we run away from, when faced, is the thing that frees us.
Dylan Murphy portrays that sadness so impeccably. Was he your first choice?
No. A photographer, named Jack Roman, who worked on the production, was my first choice. But a set of strange occurrences brought Dylan Murphy to the role. He was not an actor but I think he did a great job. He understood the character.
How difficult was it to try and tell a story that almost entirely has only one character?
It was challenging. I looked for answers to the character in his face. He had to look like a nice, well dressed, together person in complete denial. His hair and clothes had to look the direct opposite of what he is going through emotionally. Sometimes when dealing with emotional trauma you feel a sense of isolation. In the script the character was referred to as THE WANDERER and GOD'S ONLY MAN.
I was going to ask what you called the character. That's fascinating. I love that because he does really feel isolated throughout the entire film. How many drafts of the script were there?
I think there were 30 different drafts. The script was only 13 pages.
Was the internal dialogue part of the script or was it something that you experimented with in post production?
It was there from the beginning. It was a poem I wrote when my Mother died in 1994.
It's no secret that Catharsis is a work straight from the heart and it took a few years to complete. First, was finance an issue? And second, how difficult was it as an artist to stay idle during those periods when the film wasn't in production?
I didn't have a lot of money but I wanted Catharsis to look as polished as possible. David Lynch said, "You don't have to sacrifice quality because you lack money. There's always a way." That became a mantra. Even when selecting the crew. You don't have to take the wrong people. You can find talented people that will work for nothing. The gaps between shooting can be tough because you feel you don't have any control. There are shots in Catharsis when the main character is walking and there's a cut and it's a year later. But those gaps afford you the opportunity to over prepare and perfect upcoming scenes. When I make my next feature film I want to shoot the whole thing in 45 days!
What were some films that inspired you during the making of Catharsis?
I remember watching Alexander Nevsky, The Magnificent Ambersons, and Begotten during shooting. But I don't think there were any particular films that inspired me during that time.
Let's talk about some of the locations because they're beautiful. My personal favorite is in the cemetery. It's just our one character filled with nothing but white tombstones all around him. This is the most loneliness of all the scenes.
Thank you. All of it was shot on Long Island and Westchester. The locations were heavily photographed prior to shooting and then every shot was storyboarded. But I don't think I looked at the storyboards once during the entire shoot. I left myself opened in case a better shot presented itself.
What are some of your memories working with the director of photography, Stephen Panariello?
We got along great. He's very talented and a great human spirit. We inspired each other artistically and still do to this day. He was the third DP I interviewed. The first one read the screenplay and threw a chair against the wall in anger. I learned later that he was in denial over a death in the family and the script touched a nerve. The second was interested but seemed, in the phone interview, he would be very difficult to work with. Then, when Steve read the script he threw the script in the garbage pail in anger. In the middle of the night he pulled it out of the garbage and re-read it. He called me and said, "I have to do this movie." He was willing to go on the emotional journey we all were on. I'm very happy he did. An early meeting with Steve was on his boat. He took the time to hang pages from the script all around the boat that inspired him. I was immediately impressed by the artistic gesture. He's a dear friend and we both look forward to working with each other again.
The visuals are stunning. No doubt about it. The score compliments the visuals beautifully.
It took an entire summer to score the film and create the sound effects, which, I consider part of the score as well. I wrote 44 pieces of music on a Roland sequencer and various synthesizers. Many of the pieces I liked but didn't work properly with the scenes in the film. I remember watching the final scene with the piece of music that's in the film for the first time. I welled up with tears. I knew it was right.
And how long did it take you to cut the entire film?
Principle photography began in October 1999 and was completed in April 2001. Editing and sound was completed October 11th 2002. Credits and color correction completed February 7th 2003.
When you saw the final cut was there any fears with the pacing?
The pacing was deliberate. I was going for a dreamy, mysterious atmosphere and felt the ending wouldn't work without establishing a substantial journey.
I love the final scene of the film where the character is reborn. That must have been a messy shoot.
I wanted three days to shoot it but the bathroom was located at a Catholic school and the priests only gave me one. And they had no idea what I was going to film in that bathroom so there was always fear someone would walk in at the worst moment. So we arrived at 9am and shot until 5am. the bathroom had to be cleaned and then re-shot four different times. Those twenty hours went by very fast. And we left that bathroom cleaner than when we arrived. It was tense and beautiful.
Christopher P. Garetano's documentary, Horror Business introduced me to Catharsis and yourself. What was the experience like and how important was that documentary for helping spread the word about your film?
I was happy to be a part of it. Chris put so much heart and soul into that film. It was a great success for him. If it wasn't for Horror Business, many people would not have seen Catharsis. For that I'm grateful.
Was the final cut of Catharsis what you envisioned?
It was very strange seeing scenes come to life exactly how I imagined them. There's always moments in the final cut you wish were different. I haven't watched it in many years but overall I'm happy with the end result. The film cost $7,000 but most of that money didn't end up on the screen. Much of it was transportation, food, post production, and equipment rentals.
What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?
Challenge your taste. Watch a variety of films. Strive for originality and perfection. Pencil into the schedule that some days you will feel insecure and lack inspiration. It's part of the process and a temporary feeling. Don't give up.
Do current films still inspire you? If so, who are some of your favorite directors working today?
I marvel at Martin Scorsese still making compelling, youthful films in his 70's. He's the last man standing of his generation of filmmakers. I'm a fan of Nicholas Refn, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jonathan Glazer.
What are some projects that you have in the works?
I've spent years trying to secure a few million dollars for a feature length horror film I wrote. I came close a few times but it didn't happen. It's a shame because It was so scary and very deep. It took a long time to let go of it.
I spent a few years shooting a documentary about an autistic painter taking over an abandoned gas station to create an art school for special needs children and war veterans. I just showed a portion of it this week at an autism awareness event and the audience loved it.
I have another documentary in the works I might do. But I'm very excited to start shopping an original screenplay I've been working on over the last 15 years. It's not a horror film, but all I can say is... it's surreal.
David, it was an honor and thank you for taking the time to chat with me.
The pleasure is mine. Thank you for your interest and kind words.
Saturday, May 17, 2014
Rob Zombie has said that he's done making horror films. Maybe the well is dried in that department for him. However, many rumors have recently circulated about another Halloween film. Halloween 3D. I can't say I'm elated to see it, but I'm a fan of Zombie's work. If the rumors turn out to be true and he is making another Halloween movie I'll go see it.
With all that said, the topic tonight is on Rob Zombie and a new find from his website.
Here is a trailer for Rob Zombie's next film, 31. I'm not sure what the hell it's going to be about but I'm intrigued. Fans are encouraged to sign up for his email list to get more info on the film.
This trailer is ambiguous and doesn't give us much to sink our teeth in. What is 31? What does it mean? Will it tie into the Halloween films somehow? Clearly the image is of a clown. Will Sid Haig return in some sort of prequel, or spin-off, and reprise his role as Captain Spaulding? Is this an entirely new film with original content and characters? Will Sherri Moon-Zombie play Gacy? Okay, that was a joke but at this point your guess is as good as mine.
Here it is. You decide!
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Speaking to the Subconscious: A Look at David Stagnari's "Catharsis"
By: R.K. Hook
You can't describe David Stagnari's Catharsis in one word. The film is dreamy, hypnotic, gloomy, stark, surreal, lonely, and in many ways, therapeutic. It's a film that I return to at least twice a year. For whatever reason, and there are many reasons, the film continues to resonate with me, and brings me new pleasure each and every time I view it.
Catharsis is a film, but even more so, an experience. It took four years to make, with the same financial issues that most indie filmmakers run into. Still, with a small budget this film does look incredibly polished and leagues ahead of what I've seen from other indie filmmakers. Everyone involved seemed to have the same objective in mind: make a great film that will stand the test of time. And although Stagnari has said that he didn't intend for this film to be seen by a particular audience, I can't imagine how this film could ever go unnoticed.
The story is simple, yet complicated at the same time. We follow the character, written in the script as The Wanderer or God's Only Man, played by Dylan Murphy. His only true friend is his notebook and the words he writes in that notebook. His enemy is his conscious; that nagging voice of negativity. The man we follow throughout this film is us. I say us, because I feel that most people could easily relate to this character. He walks through churchyards, along desolate train stations, among the dead in a cemetery. He wanders for miles without ever seeing another human being. And while he's on his journey, the voice in his head booms. He has doubts about his future, the world around him, and his existence. He fears death, yet finds comfort in the cemetery, most likely because he ponders a time when the dinner table was full of family and life. Full of laughter and love. Now, he's totally alone on his journey. But on a basic level of thinking that is life. We're born alone, wander alone, and die alone. We're alone and struggle with that in our minds.
With very little dialogue and only one character that element of loneliness sweeps over me. I can feel it in my bones when watching the film. The trees are all bare. And the only other character we see is a mysterious man (played by David Stagnari) that follows our main character around. This mysterious figure has a watch that he winds throughout the film. Time is moving ever so quickly as our main character stays in limbo. This man is not so much another character as he is just a figment of imagination, or a figure from a deeper subconscious. The portrayal of loneliness makes me think of other characters like: Henry from Eraserhead, the astronauts in 2001: A Space Oddessy, Sam Well in Moon, and even Marlon Brando as the grief-stricken widower in Last Tango in Paris.
The pacing is deliberately slow (the film is under an hour long). It's like exiting one dream, and entering another. The visuals are stunning and inspiring and surreal. There's a scene where the character walks across a bridge. Once he's near the end he dissolves. I've often asked myself why the director choose to do this. A neat editing trick? No. The character dissolves because he's completely dead inside. The flesh is only a shell while the soul is empty.
In life we live, travel and come to a definitive end. Death.
The final scene is one that continues to perplex me. It's such a visceral ending, such a well-crafted ending that I'm constantly questioning what I've witnessed on the screen. I'm still not sure if I've seen anything more bizarre in films as I've seen in the final concluding minutes of Catharsis. The Wanderer ends up in a diner. The mysterious man finally catches up with him. They have a lengthy conversation. During this conversation we start to understand the purpose of this mysterious man's existence. He and The Wanderer are one and the same. He dwells in the mind of The Wanderer. After the conversation The Wanderer gets up and heads to the bathroom. This is where The Wanderer's transformation and healing starts. From here it gets messy. Literally.
A black, sludgy substance seems to be coming from an orifice of The Wanderer as he sits on the toilet. He writhes and convulses as this slime keeps pouring from his body. As this slime spreads throughout the bathroom a sac emerges from under the bathroom stall. Inside this translucent sac is the body of a naked man, fully grown and developed. He frees himself from the sac and bites through an umbilical cord.
He's cleansed. He's free. He's reborn.
The film is shot in stark black and white up until the final moments. After he's reborn, he exits the bathroom through a door that reveals a different landscape. Everything around him is vibrant; the colors, the sound. The trees are full of life and the birds chirp their serene songs. Instead of an empty land, with no hope, there is the sun beaming down with a promise for the future. The reason why it's such a challenging ending is because you can look at it entirely different each time. What if the character has died and gone on to some sort of paradise? Maybe he wasn't reborn in this life. Maybe all of his problems, anxieties and doubts destroyed him. After this life he continues a journey in a different plain of existence. I tend to think he was reborn and not dead. There is an argument for two different endings, though.
The paradise theory comes from a shot in the film where a telephone pole dissolves into a cross. Is this the character trying to find peace with God or a higher power? Earlier in the movie that mysterious man asks the main character if he's "going to the end?" What does that mean? Is it death? Does it imply that he's looking for salvation? It's both. The Wanderer will decide his own fate when he's good and ready. When he's exhausted all avenues. When he finally defeats his biggest challenger: His mind. When he fully realizes his cognizance he will have the answers.
I found this film by watching another film, a documentary on low-budget horror filmmakers called, Horror Business. The documentary is fascinating and follows a group of filmmakers who live by their work. They strive to be better, and some even struggle just to finish their projects. The passion from all of these filmmakers bleeds through the screen. Although I'm a fan of most of the filmmakers featured in that film, Catharsis stands out because it continues to challenge me. It's also very therapeutic for me. It's a film that speaks on so many levels. You can't watch it just once. It commands to be seen over and over again.
That's truly the criteria for what makes a film immortal.
Monday, May 5, 2014
Interview with Oz Bloodcurse: "I hate any religion that has that grip on a person's thinking and free will."
It's been ten years since Neldoreth started. Overall, how do you describe fronting one of the most evil bands to ever come out of PA?
Well, it's been a long ride! Sometimes it's very hard to imagine that it's been ten years since I made this pact!
Take us back to the beginning. Where did the idea for Neldoreth come from?
Neldöreth was formed in November of 2004 by myself and original drummer Brad Feist. We had been together in a symphonic black metal band called Dark Symphony. We decided to quit that and form something more to our suiting to our Satanic beliefs and thus Neldöreth was spawned. The first line up was myself (vocals), Andy Check (guitars), Nathan Bailey (guitars), Jay Smith (bass), and Brad (drums).
As far as the name, it's taken from J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Silmarillion". It's a forest that was part of the kingdom of Doriath. However, I think it's taken on a whole new meaning and when people hear the word Neldöreth, they think something totally different than a forest in a book.
Musically you've come a long way. How do you feel about some of the eariler Neldoreth demos?
To be very honest with you, I haven't even thought about the demos and early albums in some time. I don't even own the first two full lengths. I would have to agree with you though, the band has changed very much since 2004. As for how I feel about the old material, I really don't have an answer to that, as it's been so long.
Somewhere in '07 you completely rebuilt the band. Was it an easy choice separating from the original members? Are you still in contact with any of them?
No, it wasn't. The line up at that time was not getting along, especially with Bryan (Anderson, drummer). The recording sessions for 'Under Azazel's Dark Wings' was a nightmare! There was a lot of negativity during rehearsals and live rituals that was unneeded and it was beginning to effect the energies, so I had to make a change. Then I met Darrell (Creel) and that all changed. The approach to writing changed, the atmosphere changed, everything changed except the original pact and goal I had made in 2004. As far as communication with the 2006-2007 line up, the only one I still speak with on occasion is Jay (Smith, bass).
When Darrell joined the band, Neldoreth really came out with a vengeance. How was it to work with him and will there be a reunion with the two of you?
Working with Darrell was a good experience. It was different than the other guys because him and I never argued about shit. We were pretty much on the same page on most things...even at the end we never fought. But at the end of the day he just decided that Neldöreth wasn't for him anymore, which is a shame. As far as a reunion, I don't see that happening for various reasons.
With all the tours and countless rituals, who is the best band you've shared the stage with?
I've played with Hubris a great deal, and they are great...the future of USBM for sure! But I'd say my favorite had to be touring with Vulkodlak back in 2012. They had to do the tour without their bass player, and for just two guys they were so tight!
For the new fan, where should they start when listening to Neldoreth?
I'd say the latest album, "The Saints of Blasphemy - I: Baptized in Blasphemy". It has that classic Darrell Creel writing style but I went back to my black metal vocal style so I think it was a good combination. It was also the best written and best production wise.
What is the best song you've written as a band?
"Ritual Suicide" hands down! It was also up to that point the most personal one for me, although on the next album there is two that go along with that one that are even more personal to me.
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that Neldoreth and Christianity are enemies. When did your hatred for Christianity begin?
I hate any religion that has that grip on a person's thinking and free will. I always knew I was a Satanist from a very young age, even before I knew what that was, and it wasn't until I made a pact with the Devil that I truly embraced it and understood my reason for being on this planet.
What are your thoughts on the current metal scene? Specifically in your area.
To be completely honest, and don't take this as having an ego or anything like that, but I do not consider Neldöreth part of the local scene. Neldöreth is not your typical metal or black metal band. It is a temple...a temple to worship of worship . Those who understand this, come to our shows, which we call rituals, not for just entertainment, but to worship and feel the energies that come forth through our music. This does not mean that there are not great metal bands in the area, but I feel what they do and what Neldöreth does is two completely different things. That may sound like an elitist statement, but it's really not meant in that way.
What vocalist/musician would you love to collaborate with on a future Neldoreth album?
Will you be taking the band outside the US for any international tours?
Been working on that. There has been some offers but we just have to work out the small print details first to make everything worth it.
What is your favorite album of all time?
Watain's Sworn to the Dark
What are your religious views?
I usually do not like to discuss my spirituality in interviews because many readers do not understand such things. Something so powerful cannot be explained to it's full potential in a paragraph or two. And it goes so much deeper than words. One must sacrifice the ego and give up such mundane pleasures to fully understand it. Satan is not just a name to use as shock value, as so many groups do, but is something that deserves the utmost respect and worship.
What vocalist has been the most influential to you in your career?
Jon Nödtveidt (Dissection)
Tell me about the upcoming album!
"The Saints of Blasphemy - II: Communion of the Abhorrent" is the second part of the Saints of Blasphemy trilogy. It begins with the Saints of Blasphemy receiving their first unholy communion. On earth, a disciple of Satan begins his walk towards becoming a Saint himself. The album will be recorded at Ahhie/Little Room Studios, Inc in Pittston, PA under the work of Val Valenti. Then it will be sent to Josh Freemon (Hellgoat) to mix and master. Originally I had planned to go back to Billy Slusser again, but with his busy work load I felt it better to go this route. Although I had a great time working with him on it, and the album is the best produced album we've done.
As far as players, Loki Syx is doing the guitar work with some help from Ricktor Ravensbrück (Electric Hellfire Club / Wolfpack 44). Bass will be recorded by my long time friend, Ixitichitl (Manticore) and drums by Vehemence (Vulkodlak). Jason Burnett will also return to do some spoken rituals. There will also be four guest vocalists in the one song. Vincent Crowley (Acheron), Steve Tucker (Warfather / ex-Morbid Angel), Dana Duffey (Demonic Christ), and Xaphan (Kult ov Azazel).
What are your thoughts when the CD is complete and the artwork is finished? As an artist that has to be the best moment to finally hold it in your hands then release it to the world.
By that point I am usually in the middle of booking the tours to promote it, or doing interviews, so at that point it's hard to focus on much at that time. But once I get a chance to sit down then yes it's a great feeling of course.
Tell me a little about the current Neldoreth lineup.
Well I mentioned above who will be on the album. As for live rituals I am talking with a few people at the moment, none of which I can really mention yet. I can say that Vehemence has agreed to do drums for the fest dates and the touring in 2015 for the next album.
Where do you see Neldoreth in the next ten years?
To be very honest, I am not sure Neldöreth will still be active in ten years. Once I feel that Neldöreth has done everything it was meant to do, then that's it. And when that time comes there will be no reunions down the road! And then I will possibly have one final choice to make. And all this may take another ten years and it may not, so I am not sure.
What do you mean by one final choice?
When it's my time to leave, I will do so knowing that I accomplished everything I was meant to and I will not linger.
What is your favorite horror film?
If you could dig up one musician from the grave and share the stage with him, who would it be?
Jon Nödtveidt (Dissection)