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You won’t find the genre’s busiest screenwriting duo typing
away in some bungalow in Malibu, but in a quiet town in Australia. Meet
co-writer Shayne Armstrong and co-writer/director S.P. Krause, whose debut
effort 18 (see exclusive pics here),
marks just the tip of a deadly iceberg filled with upcoming fright flicks from
this Aussie duo. Part one of our chat with the boys (pictured below; Krause on
left) looks at the their haunted house movie 18, while in part two tomorrow the
filmmakers spill the beans on 6 MIRANDA DRIVE—their movie for WOLF CREEK
director Greg McLean and Lionsgate—and several other upcoming projects. All
accompanied by exclusive pics and artwork, natch.
FANGORIA: How long have you guys been writing for?
KRAUSE: We’re originally from the same small, flat, isolated
country town—the kind of place where’s there’s shit-all to do and if you’re of
a creative bent you start making your own entertainment. So, after we’d watched
every movie in town on VHS six times over, we started writing and making
unwatchable shorts together in high school. We separated for a while and went
to different towns for our college years and then swung back to work together
in Brisbane in our 20s. Around 1997 we decided to pull our finger out and write
the kind of films we’d hire from a video store on a Friday night, and that was
when things started to change for us. A simple epiphany but a good one.
FANG: Are you life-long horror fans?
KRAUSE: The crappy shorts we made at high school were all
ripoffs of genre films we liked. Just down the road from our small town
shithole was another shithole even smaller and shittier called Chinchilla.
George Miller (the talented George Miller, not the other one) was raised there
and it’s no surprise at all that something as brutal as MAD MAX came out of the
guy. We’re similarly inspired by the horrible place we’re from, and we’ll be
mining that vein for many years to come. We’re happiest writing horror and have
never seen it as some place to kick start a career, so we can really make the
sci-fi trilogy we came up with in primary school. We do write crime and sci-fi,
but they’re still primarily horror films. We’ll be happily writing, making and
watching horror films until they unplug the machine.
FANG: There seems to be a huge horror production base in
Australia. Is it easy or hard to get these movies financed?
KRAUSE: I don’t know if there’s anything harder than getting
a movie financed. There’s decent support to score development funding for
screenplays and lots of properties find cash for this, but it’s a big leap from
there to production in any genre. What horror films (sometimes) have going for
them is they can be made for smaller amounts of cash and that helps our mostly
useless Australian producer find the pitiful amount of money required. Horror
guys are used to thinking up scenarios that lend themselves to austere staging,
limited cast and locations, so we’re ahead in that way and any advantage in the
near impossible hope to fund a feature film with someone else’s money is
FANG: Why’d you guys put your own cash into 18?
KRAUSE: We would have taken anyone else’s money but nobody
was offering any. I’ve noticed that many low-budget indie films are financed by
the wealthy parents of rich little shits, but that wasn’t going to happen in
our case. Neither of us knows any rich people or at least none that like us
enough to give us their money. We had no choice but to use our own cash. Shayne
and I work as writers, so we squirreled away what we’re making there to invest
in the film and our other producing partners, Charles Mitchell and Lachlan Madsen,
also threw in their money so we could get through the first block of shooting.
In truth we preferred to do it this way. When we take on a writing commission,
creative veto goes to the guy laying down the cash. They’re the bosses. We
wanted a vacation from other people controlling the creative, and right or
wrong, it’ll be the sum of our creative and business decisions that will make
18 work or fail. We also wanted to dodge distributors telling us who we could
or couldn’t cast and avoid their input in the script. If we’re going to make
something with an infinitesimal budget, without fees and all the difficulties
that go with being foolishly ambitious with a microscopic amount of cash, we
wanted the satisfaction of creatively leading the project. Then there’s the
question of ownership. Our goal was to own something outright, a piece of a
film that could be around for a long time. It’s my belief that this is one of
the only ways to make money from filmmaking and thus make it self-sustaining.
If you own what you make, maybe there’s a chance of making something out of the
backend. We’re also going to hold onto the film after it’s done and go through
the adventure of selling it ourselves. Of course, if someone appears with a
large amount of cash and wants us sidelined, than we’ll only be too happy to
accept. Our main motivation has always been to raise the budget for our next
film from the sale of 18, and if that can be found without us getting too
deeply involved, then we’ll sideline ourselves. But until that happens, we’ll
see you at the markets!
FANG: What separates the film from other haunted house/ghost
KRAUSE: We’re huge crime fiction fans, and what we like
about the haunted house subgenre is that usually some kind of crime has been
committed to cause the haunting or create the ghosts. We thought we could amp
up this part of the story and do something as smart and as effective as
JENNIFER 8. We also didn’t want to make anything coy. Aussie films are so often
timid and dishonest when it comes to genre. We wanted to be upfront with the
haunting so there would be nothing ambiguous about it. The house in 18 is
haunted and the audience will tweak to this within minutes—though the main
character will lag behind for reasons of suspense. We have a female lead as
many ghost stories do, but the audience will never think that events in the
film are happening inside her head, and it’s really the story of the mental
disintegration of a f**ked up chick. We hate that kind of shit! You get what
you pay for with 18. Ghosts and plenty of them.
FANG: How did you get DAYBREAKERS FX chief Steve Boyle
KRAUSE: We’re based in the same city, and we knew of Steve’s
excellent work. We got him drunk several times, and he agreed to do the movie.
Steve reduced his fee for 18, and in exchange we’re producing a dark and clever
little short that he wrote called MULLET GUT, which Steve is also directing.
Production on the short has begun.
FANG: What kind of stuff is he doing for your movie?
KRAUSE: Steve has designed our three demonic teen ghosts. He
was a one-man band during the shoot, applying the makeup and squirting blood
all over the place. Without Steve we didn’t have a movie and he has delivered
in spades for us.
FANG: Discuss your production strategy, i.e. your separate
KRAUSE: We scrounged enough cash for a four-week shoot in
February, and two of those weeks were Steve’s effects for the film. We knew
we’d run out of dough at the end of the four weeks and would have to find the
same amount again for another block of shooting. To find the dough, we went and
wrote movies and TV shows for other people and once again squirreled our fees
to find the budget for the next four-week shoot, which we’re kicking off in
mid-August. Shooting this way has suited us. We like to take our time, so eight
weeks is better than the usual four to six that Oz films get. Even though we’re
making it for a laughable budget, we’re still doing all we can to make it look
like a real movie and we need time for that. Shooting this way we can also cut
what we’ve done and see how it’s working. If something looks or sounds like
shit, we’ll rewrite, reshoot or adjust in the next block to avoid the same
problems. We get to see where the strengths of the project are, play those up while
dealing with weaknesses. Peter Jackson made BAD TASTE over two years of
Sundays, and Christopher Nolan shot his first film, FOLLOWING, over a year, so
we’re in well traveled territory.
TO BE CONTINUED
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