Q&A: “DARK FEED” writer/director Shawn Rasmussen
While directing a movie has long been considered a solo profession, there has been a recent rise of sibling directorial teams. To that list, we can add the names Shawn and Michael Rasmussen, who first became known for scripting John Carpenter’s most recent feature THE WARD and recently saw their first film as writer/directors, DARK FEED, hit DVD from Lionsgate. Shawn Rasmussen recently sat down with FANGORIA to talk about their journey.
FANGORIA: Where are you and Michael from?
SHAWN RASMUSSEN: We’re Boston-based, and DARK FEED is truly a New England production. All of our cast and crew are from the area, and we got a lot of support from the local film community in making DARK FEED.
FANG: How long have you been making movies?
RASMUSSEN: We’ve been writing screenplays together for about 10 years. DARK FEED is our third film as screenwriters and our first as directors. Our first movie, LONG DISTANCE, starred Monica Keena and premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival back in 2005, and our second film was THE WARD. Basically, we started to write screenplays because we were bored with our corporate jobs and wanted a creative outlet. We thought it would be fun to write a low-budget screenplay and then make the film on our own. Luckily, someone read that script and decided they wanted to make it instead.
FANG: What was the first movie you saw that made you want to make films?
RASMUSSEN: Wow, that’s definitely a tough question. As kids, we both grew up on George Lucas and Steven Spielberg movies like STAR WARS and INDIANA JONES. But we also love films by Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Roman Polanski. Our parents took us to see Hitchcock films when they were rereleased in the ’80s, and that had a big influence on us. And then, of course, there was Carpenter’s early work.
FANG: Who is the older brother, and when did you start making movies?
RASMUSSEN: We went to college together at Southern Methodist University in Dallas; Michael is the older brother by a year and majored in cinema, so we started to make student films together. After college, we both decided to get corporate jobs—Michael in publishing, and me in hi-tech.
FANG: What’s the story of DARK FEED, and what inspired it?
RASMUSSEN: DARK FEED centers on a film crew shooting a low-budget movie in an abandoned mental hospital with a shadowy past. The late nights and lack of sleep start taking a toll, and the longer the crew works, the more the leaky, wet building seems to be coming to life, feeding off its new inhabitants. Something hiding in the hospital’s walls slowly seeps out and infects their minds.
The seeds of DARK FEED were planted when we visited the set of the first film we wrote, LONG DISTANCE, back in 2004. They were shooting at night in an abandoned psychiatric hospital. We spent three weeks in that building, wandering its darkened corridors, passing shadowy rooms with peeling paint and exposed pipes, and quickly realized this needed to be the setting for a horror film. From that experience, DARK FEED was born. It was a labor of love for us; we raised the money ourselves and shot it with a really talented cast and crew on a very small budget.
FANG: Who were your actors?
RASMUSSEN: Most of our them were first-time film actors from the theater world. We cast DARK FEED from the local theater programs at Boston University and the American Repertory Theater, but we cast some people from the Boston indie filmmaking scene as well. They all brought a lot of enthusiasm and energy to the project. It was a blast working with them.
FANG: Before DARK FEED, you wrote THE WARD for the legendary John Carpenter. How did that come about?
RASMUSSEN: Well, we wrote THE WARD as a low-budget film which we were going to shoot ourselves, but the financing didn’t come together. Our agent asked us if he could shop the script around, and a production company, Echo Lake, wanted to buy it for Carpenter. We were skeptical that the movie would actually get made, but thought it would be pretty damn cool to work with him regardless. His films were very influential on us growing up.
FANG: What did you learn from working with Carpenter?
RASMUSSEN: We learned a lot. First of all, it was a dream come true to collaborate with such an iconic director, but he also really changed the way we write. We were fortunate enough to sit down and go through the script page by page with him. He was constantly challenging us, asking us to think about how certain scenes would be shot. As odd as it might sound, as writers, we’d never really put much thought into that. We were more interested in the story.
FANG: Are you working on your next movie? What can you tell us about it?
RASMUSSEN: We’re in postproduction on a film we shot this winter called THE INHABITANTS, which is more of a throwback to some of our favorite ghost stories from the ’70s, and we’re looking to start preproduction on a new project very soon. It’s a Lovecraft-inspired story, and we’ll be teaming up with a talented directing team here in Boston.
Anyone who wants to dive further into the madness of the Rasmussen Brothers can become a fan of DARK FEED on Facebook and follow the brothers on Twitter: @RasmussenBros.