[Blood in the Snow ’13] Anthony D.P. Mann talks “THE GHOSTKEEPERS”
Even in the world of independent horror cinema, actor/filmmaker Anthony D.P. Mann is unique. As a youngster, while his peers were dining on slashers and gore fests, he was seeking out classic horror adaptations from British television. While other filmmakers gravitate towards larger productions, he’s stayed and worked out of the university town of Kingston, Ontario, utilizing the local structures and making sumptuous looking period pieces on a micro-budget.
Back in issue #313, FANGORIA readers were introduced to Mann as he was working on his second feature, TERROR OF DRACULA. This fall, with his new film, Mann is making a departure from the classics. THE GHOSTKEEPERS is his modern take on the haunted house story, with a dose of 80s nostalgia thrown in for good measure. The film follows Barry (Christian Pawlowski), a horror uber-geek who is recording a podcast to celebrate the 25th anniversary of favorite film, THE HOUSE WHERE EVIL IS BORN. The location for the podcast is that of the film’s infamous and possibly haunted shooting location, Marlowe House. In tow is Raike, his tomboyish sound recordist; Amber, a local psychic; and the film’s two leads, Vera Sunset, an 80s nude model and scream queen and the hammy theatre legend Victor Brimstone (played with panache by Mann himself). As the night wears on, unease sets in with this party and the ghosts won’t rest until all dues are paid.
THE GHOSTKEEPERS delivers the goods with deft storytelling and charming characters. The film’s festival tour brings it to Toronto Blood in the Snow Film Festival this month. We sat down with Mann to talk about his latest endeavor.
FANGORIA: Your previous two films were period pieces with characters from classic literature. With GHOSTKEEPERS, what made you want to take the leap forward to a more modern era?
ANTHONY D.P. MANN: I seem to inhabit the world of Victorian England, having played Sherlock Holmes / Dracula / etc in previous outings. I love that era, as I grew up on the Hammer films / BBC and Granada TV and so many of those films and shows are set in that period. It was such a dark and mysterious age, where danger and suspense seemed to wait around every foggy corner. GHOSTKEEPERS is quite different. It is definitely contemporary, even though I think folks will agree it certainly is an old fashioned ghost story with modern sensibilities. I love period films, but am quite pleased that I made a departure; I have a lot of affection for this piece and the present is so much easier to shoot than period. I have set PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (out in Spring) mostly in the 1930s, and that was a challenge too. My next film will be another contemporary film, with my usual tendencies.
FANG: What attracted you to the ghost story/ haunted house subgenre?
MANN: I love ghost stories more than any other type of entertainment. My favorite film of all time is THE CHANGELING, a Canadian haunted house masterpiece, and I actually pay it some homage in GHOSTKEEPERS. It probably helps that I’m a believer in ghosts—that always leads to divisive conversation! I have always been drawn to cases of supposed “true” hauntings ever since I was a kid. The first play I ever wrote and produced was based on Harry Price’s investigation of the Borley Rectory, and I am always seeking out new cinematic and literary haunted house yarns. GHOSTKEEPERS is my own contribution to the subgenre, and I have a few more I would like to tell.
FANG: With your other films, you were dealing with established well-known texts. This is original work and I was struck by how character-driven it is. Can you talk a little about putting the script together and creating characters we grow to care about?
MANN: With GHOSTKEEPERS, it came together almost by chance. Our distributor asked if we could pull off a haunted house flick, and I immediately thought of an old play script I had written as a divorce project a few years back. The script was called “The House Where Evil Was Born”, and was set in the 1980s. The story was essentially the same, but I decided to modernize it for a contemporary group of podcasters. I am so pleased with how it came out, and how people are enjoying these characters. A character-driven script (with the right actors) can absolutely compensate for lack of budget. Thankfully, I had a wonderful team of actors, and such a fantastic location to shoot in, that everything has come together to create micro-budget indie magic. It was sad to say goodbye to these characters that were given birth in my mind, especially Victor Brimstone, the washed-up horror actor that I play; don’t be surprised if I return to at least one of these characters someday.
FANG: You made such wonderful use of locations in your hometown of Kingston with your last film, TERROR OF DRACULA. How did your approach location in this film? What were your strategies and challenges in dealing the house that would become Marlowe House?
MANN: I pride myself on being able to make the most of my locations, and finding creative ways to shoot. With a setting like Marlowe House, the imagination ran rampant with all the opportunities that I had. It really is a giant, three-storey house in Gananoque, Ontario that once operated as a B&B. The current owners were so very kind to open their doors and welcome us in for a month. After having viewed the house, I found myself revising the script to make use of some of the house’s character. There were certainly challenges, however. For instance, the high ceilings and white color scheme just swallowed-up our lighting… we had to get creative there. Also, it was so bloody cold in the house; that was the perfect motivator to get our shots in one take! What a patient and dedicated cast and crew I work with!
FANG: Finally, what’s next?
MANN: I am currently in the midst of editing Phantom of the Opera, which I am very excited to share. That is going to be out on DVD/VOD everywhere in the earlier half of next year. I have high hopes for it, actually. I have a slew of other film projects brewing and germinating, and am considering a crowdfunding campaign to raise capital to do a whole slate of work, almost like announcing a season of theatre… time to grow this business even more.
Before all that, however, I have a televised Christmas concert coming up in early December. Most folks don’t know this, but my true love really is singing and playing for people. In fact, the only formal arts training I actually have is piano and voice; all this acting and film-making stuff has been learn-as-I-go! The broadcaster has hired an old church in Kingston, and I’ll be at the baby grand playing and belting-out tunes along with some special guests for an hour. It will be seen across the province after December 9th, I believe. It’s a very family-friendly and traditional Christmas show… quite the turn-about for this Master of Micro-Horror, no?
THE GHOSTKEEPERS plays the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival at Toronto’s Carlton Cinemas on Saturday, November 30 at 4:00pm. For more information and to buy tickets, go to Blood in the Snow.