What drew you to the core story of “The Horsemen”?
I think the script is what drew me. I had a script for quite some time before we got to do it. I was always fascinated with the script, it was a unique combination between something very important and something very emotional, and still very hardcore horror. It wasnt just a plain thriller it had a strong dramatic side that attracted me to the script. It was a big part of my pitch when we talked about how to do this movie. I wanted to protect the emotional and the dramatic side of the story.
What was your attitude towards showing the violence in the film?
I wanted to be as graphic and as hardcore as I could. Without being too heavy, I wanted it to feel very real, I wanted people to identify with all these scenarios. It was a very important part of the story, that the thriller side be so hardcore. I wanted to be as hardcore and as graphic as possible, without taking it to a supernatural world. The research we did on these suspension techniques, we took it pretty far to make it feel real. This movie is filled with contrasts, many beautiful things, but a lot of dark stuff too.
Was there any creative imput from Platinum Dunes or Michael Bay?
In filmmaking, you always, always work together. Obviously Platinum Dunes and Michael have a lot of experience in some areas, but they hired me for a reason, so there was a very respectful relationship, we all listened to each other, we had open minds. Of course there was a lot of input from Michael and Andrew (Form) on the set. Ive been shooting films for 20 years, and Im used to shooting with strong creative forces, but it was a very respectful and open relationship that we decided to have before we even started shooting.
What was the material excised and reshot?
The biggest thing was, we knew that there were a few complicated ideas, the detective side was very complicated. We were struggling with the shoot to be as clear as possible with the story so we wouldnt confuse the audience. Once we got to the edit, we learned that things that made sense in the script were hard to understand in the edit. We started to re-edit and focus on the right things, and when we had a chance to do reshoots- we were ok on the budget- we had an opportunity to fine-tune and edit. Originally we were going to reshoot one or two scenes, some inserts I wish I had. We needed to make the story clear and we ended up getting a lot of value out of these days. For instance, we reshot all the police station scenes.
What was your key motivation to separate the film from others in the heavily-populated serial killer genre?
I may repeat myself, but once again what made it different was the emotional side, and the fact that I was reading it as a drama, a real situational drama thriller. How these kids are angry about society, and how they turn against society. At the time when we were working on it, we had some of these school shootings, and it felt very relevant as to whats going on in the world today. Its not just scares, it feels relevant.
What was the difference working on such a small, unconventional movie like “Spun” versus a slightly bigger budgeted genre film?
I do around 20 projects a year, so I am used to all different situations. Music videos, small budget, commercials, giant budget. We burn money on commercials as much as we did on Spun. The attitude on our end was to put the money on the screen, to use the money wisely. Spun was completely made out of pulling favors, asking people if they are available- those kind of movies are very different in every aspect, its impossible to get them done unless youve invested a lot of faith in other people, and ask people to help you out. The actors were there for no money. Horsemen was obviously very different, it was well-planned, it had a proper budget. Creatively, Spun it was an important, fun movie to make, and I had the same creative attitude to Horsemen, even though it has a different tempo.
What are your feelings on the film’s extremely limited theatrical run and lack of support from the studio?
Thats part of the business. Its always beyond me. Im sad because the print looked great and the movie was made for the movie theaters. On the other hand, people are gonna see it on dvd. I make movies for people to see. I used to do stuff for myself but nowadays the motivation is to attract a big audience, for people to see what we do. At the end of the day, people will see Horsemen, but not in the theaters. Ive got a great response from countries in Europe who saw it in the movie theaters. I just wish we could have gotten the same response in America.
You have a background in music, but “The Horsemen” is curiously free of music save for a mid-film rock song. At any point, were you interested in infusing the film with either specific music or maybe a musical feel?
Its always in the back of my head, but I always try to use music for the right purpose. In Spun we picked music that captured that lifestyle and music, what those people listen to. In Horsemen, it was never relevant, I started out adding music but it just felt weird, it didnt mix with the lifestyle of the characters, so we decided to score it. I wanted the music to push the emotional end and to make the images and the story strong.
What is your next film project?
When I finish a film or a big project, I go back to shoot my short films and videos, Ive been working on a ballet with Baryshnikov. Im shooting a Madonna video, next week Im shooting a Lady Gaga video. I have a bunch of scripts Im working on as well. Well see.