In a business as fickle as film making, in many cases it is imperative to wear many hats and possess many different talents. Douglas Rath is a prime example of a man that wears many hats in the industry. He is a well known editor, but he is also a very impressive director, producer and writer. He has been a part of many prestigious projects including the title of editor of SyFy's hit series, Face Off. He is now flexing his directorial muscles as director of the new horror/thriller film Shock Value and the upcoming, shocking thriller, Monster Butler that will star Malcolm McDowell and Gary Oldman.
What got you interested in this field of work?
I hate to have fallen victim to cliché but...it was Star Wars, at least in the beginning. I saw it in a theater when I was a toddler and knew I was going to be a Jedi when I grew up. I've since found out, rather disappointingly, that light sabers are hardly ever used in film production...unless you are making a Star Wars movie. By the age of 6 I was on an absolute bender watching films...I remember watching ‘Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer,’ ‘Phantom of the Paradise’ and ‘Naked Lunch’ when I was in grade school and just being amazed, fascinated. From there my influences became Lynch, Wilder, Kubrick, Tarantino, Scott, Coppola, Gilliam, Kurosawa, The Brothers Quay...it’s endless. I have a lot of respect for a lot of people.
Out of all of the projects you have been associated with, which are you most proud of?
Apart from Shock Value, I’d have to say Monster Butler. It’s still in development but I am very proud of the short I did with Malcolm McDowell. The process of putting that feature film together has been extremely challenging but also afforded me some extraordinary experiences. We did 12 weeks of pre-production in the UK with a large crew building sets, gathering props and making costumes...we came within four days of filming but were forced to push the production. During that time I was given the opportunity to work with some legendary actors and ridiculously talented crew. I’m very excited to be focused on it now that I've finished Shock Value.
You directed the new film Shock Value. Can you give a little insight into the film?
Absolutely. Shock Value is a project that started with my long time friend and collaborator Anthony Bravo. He and I had been trying to come up with something we could self-finance. Anthony wrote the script to be produced on a small budget with minimal cast and crew. On the strength of the script we had gotten a couple of offers to do the movie at a larger scale but passed on them in order to maintain creative control. We were about to begin pre-production when our friend Russell Barrett gave Greg Goodman the script thinking he would like it - he was right. Russell subsequently became one of the Executive Producers and also did all of our computer generated effects (you probably won’t notice the effects shots though because they are so well done - but there were more than a hundred of them). Greg had been searching for something small that he could do independently and said it was exactly what he’d been looking for. Amazingly, Greg took it on faith that I could direct and that Anthony could carry it on- screen (he is fantastic in the film by the way). Anthony and I were both a bit surprised that a studio producer at Greg’s level would want to make a small indie film - in between producing ‘Captain Phillip’s and ‘The Fantastic Four’ reboot - but he did.
You are best known as an editor, but you are also an incredible director. Do you prefer doing one over the other or are they equally a passion for you?
I consider editing to be part of directing. It’s been said (I think by the druids or Aristotle) that a film is directed twice: first by the director then by the editor. Many of my favorite directors also edit. Editing is story telling and therefore a fundamental tool of directing. I feel it should be part of every director’s skill set. If you don’t have the ability to edit, or have at least a comprehensive understanding of the process, then you are missing one of film’s most important tools. You are also giving up a great deal of the creative process to someone else. I love editing when I like the material, but it can be a gruelling marathon! Paradoxically, although I’m not terribly social and prefer being in a dark room by myself for weeks on end, directing is the most gratifying thing I’ve ever done - at least from a creative standpoint. Scuba diving with sharks is pretty fantastic too....
One of your most noted works as an editor is SyFy's hit series Face Off. How excited where you to be asked to be a part of such an amazing project?
It was great to be asked onto that show. The crew behind ‘Face Off’ are really wonderful people. When I worked on that show I cut many of the super tease show-opens for the series and the producers gave me a lot of freedom to make them as dark and crazy as I could. When it came time to hire a makeup artist for Shock Value I actually headhunted one of the ‘Face Off’ contestants, Tara Lang. She did an amazing job with very little time and money creating realistic and - when necessary - corny effects for the movie.
Shock Value and Monster Butler both fall into the category of horror/thriller. Would you consider yourself a fan of the genre?
I love the Horror genre but lean more towards psychological horror than slasher. My favorite horror film is ‘The Shining.’ I also really admire ‘A Haunting in Connecticut,’ ‘Audition,’ ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ and ‘Cabin in the Woods.’
Speaking of Monster Butler, it is set to star some pretty iconic names such as Malcolm McDowell and Gary Oldman. What was it like to be hand picked to work on a project with those two amazing actors?
It is hard to explain the joy one experiences when standing behind a camera saying action to a film icon. I hope my career continues on a trajectory that gives me opportunities to work with legends and that that feeling of joy never goes away. I’ve seen a lot of folks, particularly in Hollywood, act like they are too cool to be impressed by people...but for me it comes down to respect for the work that they have done and when I am working with someone like Malcolm McDowell I never forget about the impact his work has had on cinema and the world. In between takes, I think: “Who the hell am I and why the hell are you listening to me?”
When can fans expect to see Monster Butler?
Malcolm and I hope to get it up and running within a year. There is still a lot to do but we are moving forward very quickly and it’s really exciting to get back into the material again.
Do you have any advice for the up and coming writers, editors and directors out there?
Definitely, though I am not by any means an authority and I still have a great deal to learn, hopefully I can offer a few pearls from my limited wisdom. First and foremost: practice your craft. Focus on the work, become as skilled and knowledgeable as you possibly can. Write, direct or edit anything you can get you hands on. If you have the ability the opportunity will present itself eventually. Know what your motives are, otherwise you might end up going down the wrong path or chasing the wrong projects. Forget about ego and vanity. I’ve seen a number of people who focus all their energy into networking or marketing themselves but forget to hone their craft. A great deal of “directors” just want to march around telling people what to do and shout action. They put little thought into what directing actually is. If you think that it’s all about power and control then you should be in middle management.
Are there any projects you have coming up that you would like to plug?
I have a number of different projects in different genres but right now I’m primarily focused on Monster Butler. I also have a strange website that I’ll be launching soon. It’s basically a dumping ground for weird ideas, photographs, short films and music. It’s not quite ready to go but when it is I’ll let you know.
Thank you so much for taking the time out to do this interview. It really is an honor.
The honor is mine, thank you for your time as well.
More about Shock Value:
Miles Fowler makes horror movies. Cheap, perverted, blood-soaked schlock-fests that few see and fewer enjoy. Wallowing in obscurity and desperate to make a name for himself, Miles happens upon a bizarre opportunity when he’s the sole witness to a brutal, real-life murder. Sensing a once-in-a-lifetime chance at artistic (and financial) glory, the z-level auteur decides to build his next project around his new “discovery” - serial killer Nick. But when he finds that Nick is in no way ready for his closeup, Miles must resort to that grandest of Hollywood traditions: blackmail. Pushed from the shadows into the spotlight, Nick has no choice but to learn his lines, hit his marks, and contain his homicidal urges. When cameras roll, however, “creative differences" might just put everyone's life in turnaround.
Directed by DOUGLAS RATH, produced by GREGORY GOODMAN, written by ANTHONY BRAVO. Starring Anthony Bravo, Zak Hudson, Malcolm McDowell.