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INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS MACK

1) Filmography
  • Safe Spaces. Producer/Co-Director. Jelmack Productions. Documentary in pre-production.
  • Creatures. Writer/director. JELMACK Productions. My suburban voodoo thriller:Feature in pre-production.
  • Vampire Vermont. Writer/director. JELMACK Productions. This feature-length comedy was awarded an Avid Film Camp free editing grant by the Digital Media Education Center, and is currently in post-production (2000).
  • The Blind. Adaptor/Director. Red Poppy Theatre. Directed a two-day workshop and promotional fundraising video of the project (2000).
  • LoserS. Writer/Director. JELMACK Productions. Directed a film trailer with original music, which has been featured at www.minutemovies.com (1999).
  • Balsac. Writer/Director. Studio Latin Paris Productions. This comedy is the pilot episode for a series which has been shown @Studionext.com, and on station DUTV in PA (1999).
  • Time Enough: The Alien Conspiracy. Actor. Play Jack Tanner, a half-alien time-traveler (Kevin-didn't know if I should put stuff in or not, don't want to give anything away). Shooting now!
  • Contact Blow (199???). Actor. Played Rudy, an East-German hitman on the lamb. Nathan Thompson, director.
  • Blood Harvest (198???) Actor. Played Puck, the leader of a band of religious psychotics. Nathan Thompson, director.
  • The Elevator. Writer Director. Mercury Video (1986).

    2) Biography (write in first person)

    I was born a coal miners daughter...no, wait. Start again: I've been writing and directing since I was a kid, first theatre, and in recent years film. I've worked professionally in theatre and entertainment in New York, and in Seattle and regionally, and have directed and had my plays staged in a wide variety of theatres. I teach full-time at Bronx Community College to make a buck, where I also run their Theatre Workshop. What else? I'm on the advisory board for ESTRENO, an organization devoted to promoting translations and productions of Spanish Plays, and I'm directing a bunch of plays. Is that enough?

    3) What are you influences and aspirations and what got you into wanting to make movies?

    I've always wanted to direct. I've got a huge background in theatre, and only in recent years have moved into directing movies. My hugest influences? Beckett, always. They change. David Lynch (Eraserhead, Blue Velvet), George Romero (old Romero...), Renoir, Winter Sleepers, Horror Art in Theatre, Antonin Artaud, the Grand Guignol, Nosferatu (both the original & the Kinsky remake). Sankai Juku. Wim Wenders, Herzog, a bunch of people. Clive Barker. Other people.

    I was in doctoral hell for a number of years, where my specialty was horror art in theatre. Thomas DeQuincy (On Murder as Considered one of the Fine Arts), Griselda Gambaro (Bad Blood), and Artaud were seminal influences during this period.

    Nathan Thompson (Contact Blow) and I were briefly roommates in a house in Vermont. I would wake up and have breakfast with Nathan in front of the tv, while he rewound and replayed crucial moments in Dawn of the Dead and other similar films, pointing out techniques, etc. Nathan helped develop my thirst for low-budget horror films.

    4) How important is your script?

    Very important. I'm a story teller. However, if something doesn't work, I cut it. I can be merciless on my writers, and have no hesitation shredding a work apart and recreating it. Good dialogue, inventive playable scenes that work on a screen and not just on page are important, as is PLOT, character, etc..!

    5) What equipment/format do you use and why?

    I use mini dv (XL-1). I love what the XL-1 camera can do. Digital video makes the film-making process truly democratic. And the quality of the picture is great. It is not film, nor should it be. Film is something different. I love film, but it's not where I'm at right now. DV offers great possibilities artistically, and I'm satisfied right now exploring that.

    6) Talk about cost/budget/funding

    Cost-ouch. Most of my films have been out of my pocket, and when I'm lucky, I pay back cost, etc. I try to keep to a pretty tight budget, I'm finding food services to be more expensive than anything else (next time maybe I'll shoot an anorexic one-monster, no-person film...). Funding is limited, if you want to stick to your dream, and not somebody else's vision. I want more funding, sure, but I also want to do the films I want, the way I want to do them. It's a choice.

    7) How do you cast your actors?

    Very carefully. Either they're actors I've already worked with, or I thoroughly screen them. I was lucky to cast actors in Vampire Vermont whom I'd worked with intensively as professional stage actors.

    8) How important are your actors to your movie?

    Very. One bad actor can really wreck a scene. Don't use them unless you really have to. Do not cast friends unless you know and trust their work! There are enough talented, skilled performers out there looking for the chances to shine in a film. Though it is still my baby and I retain artistic control making movies is a collaborative process. Use the skills and inventiveness of your actors, encourage them to work within your vision.

    9) How long did it take to make your first feature film?

    Weeks.

    10) How do you get special effects done for your movie?

    Post-production for slow-mo and other visual effects, live for fangs, blood, etc. For Vampire Vermont I lucked out to get Paul Mafuz to help create some neat special effects. But sometimes I just do it myself. Sometimes I get neat suggestions from cast or crew.

    11) Any production tips for the novice filmmaker?

    Get your cast to sign release forms before the first day of shooting. Budget yourself carefully, you don't want to run out of money before you finish. Make sure you have everything solidly scripted before you start. Create a shot-list for each day's shoot, even if you don't follow it, it will help you. Limit the amount of time for each part of the shoot, or your actors will shoot you. Get crew you can trust.

    12) Weirdest thing that ever happened while shooting any of your movies?

    Being stopped by a cop for "looking suspicious" with a camera in m lap, in the back of a Saab on a suburban street. No, that's not weird, that's just stupid...

    13) What about distribution?

    I'm exploring internet distribution and other options even as we speak.

    14) What are your future projects?

    Creatures, a tale of suburban voodoo. Enchanted, a romantic comedy. Who knows what else?

    15) Anything you want to add? Long live the new flesh. Death to videodrome.

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