I have decided to start a series of interviews focused on contemporary horror filmmakers, to spread the word about their great work and make people aware that horror is very much alive!
My first guest is Mr. Eric England, filmmaker responsible for one of the most remarkable Horror films of 2013, "Contracted" and the badass slasher flick "Madison County" (2011). In this interview, we talked about influences, building a career, future projects and much more! I hope you all enjoy it.
Daniel: Your first feature film is from 2010, right? Hostile Encounter?
Eric: Hostile Encounter was more of an experiment; it was something I did on my own, with my friends at the time, just trying to prove to people that I could make a feature film. I paid for everything myself; I basically made the film with three or four other people. We used that as showing tool to get the financing for Madison County, so technically I consider Madison County my first feature film but Hostile Encounter is definitely the first one I shot.
And what is the film about (Hostile Encounter)?
It’s about a guy that goes through a recent break up with his fiancée, she leaves him unexpectedly and in order to cope with it he goes on this kind of soul-searching journey across country just on his own vacation, by himself, he ventures of into this kind of wilderness and run into two people that are essentially doing illegal activity and trying to get rid of, it’s kind of a very simple movie about things that go horribly wrong for a guy who is in a spiritual journey.
Where can we find it?
It was never released! I don’t know if I’m ever releasing it. *laughs*
I reckon there were lots of changes in the creative process between that first movie and Contracted, which got a wider released in a lot of countries around the world. What changed the most when it comes about production, writing, and direction?
The releases didn’t really affect me as much, other than just exposure, but in terms of the process, having done the previous films before Contracted allowed me to understand how to use my resources and stretch our budget a lot further than we normally could done and gave me that natural experience, and I think the more you practice something the better you get at, and I had a lot of practice before Contracted thankfully and it allowed me to control, we didn’t had a lot of days or a lot money to make the movie so I think it allowed to understand my resources and execute the movie in the best way possible which is why it seems to be successful.
Is Madison County available on Netflix?
I believe it is available here in America only through the DVD service. It was on stream for a while.
I have seen a lot of people talking about Contracted through Netflix. Do you think Netflix helped to spread Contracted to the world?
Absolutely, Netflix is huge in terms of exposure, it’s where people go to watch movies now, myself personally, I don’t even have regular cable on my TV anymore, I just have Netflix, you know, whatever I watch is on there, so it’s definitely crucial in terms of people knowing about your movie.
Would you consider Netflix a powerful tool for independent filmmakers?
Yes, I would, in terms of exposure I would, it’s great for little movies to get on there and get released and have millions of people watch their work when normally that audience wouldn’t check out those kind of movies or have such easy access to them, but the downside is on Netflix, the filmmakers don’t make a lot of money, they don’t make money every time someone watch their movie, so in terms of the financial side I think it hurts the independent film because you are only getting a one-time fee and it’s not a lot of money so it’s hurting the financial side which allows filmmakers to make more great films but in terms of exposure it is probably the best thing out there right now.
Is there a better option for independent filmmakers when it comes about money?
Yes, it would be traditional VOD, like iTunes and cable on demand something like that, where people have to pay to watch the movie or obviously sitting in the cinema, going to the movie theater is always the way I prefer to see films. In this day and age it’s not realistic for every movie to be released that way so I think whatever way allows the filmmaker to make money to continue making more movies is the best way possible and Netflix allows some money upfront but you don’t make money every time someone watches your movie, which would be great, because if millions of people watch the movie there would be a lot of money but it’s a give and take, Netflix is good for exposure, but not for the financial side.
I noticed before that you have, what can I say, a nice relationship with piracy, you have a lot of covers from pirated versions of Contracted all over the globe. How did you come up with this sense of humor when it comes about piracy?
I think I just learn to accept things that you can’t change, I’m not going to be able to stop people pirating my films overseas, I want people to pay to watch the movies, but in a weird way when Contracted is being pirated among some of the biggest and most expensive movies out there it’s kind of an honor, it lets me know that people really want to see the movie in countries where the movie might not be available yet or whatever, but it’s definitely troublesome. When the movie was coming out in Hong Kong, recently or in Japan, I noticed that the movie was heavily pirated so I knew that was money that we were losing because the movie was being released in that country which is unfortunate, but at the same time, if there is a country that we can’t be released and the only way for them to see it is to pirate, it’s hard for me to be upset about that, but at the same time, they could export a Blu-ray or something from another country, whatever you have to do. The bottom line for me is I’m not going to be able to single handedly stop it, so in a weird way I take it as flattering, I just kind of have to accept what is happening.
Every time I see someone selling pirate films here I try to find a copy of Contracted so I can send to you, but I still havent found it!
Ok, I appreciate that!
Talking about the public then; as part of the viewing public I have noticed that most of the people that enjoy Contracted are young, have you noticed that too?
Yes, absolutely, I definitely noticed that there is a younger audience that has find the movie, which has been surprising but great at the same time. When I was watching movie when I was younger I still remember them today, so I think that allows for longevity, that’s how people build great careers, so the fact that it’s tapping into younger audiences is great, cause they are the ones that really care and talk about it with their friends and give a great word of mouth which helps with the exposure.
I don’t know if is just an impression of mine, but it seems to me that this connection between Contracted and younger audiences exists because of your approach to sexuality and STD’s in the movie, which are always subjects in debate in their life.
Yes, I definitely think so, I think we presented the movie in a way that they can relate to. I tried to play the movie very straight, so the scenarios are real and honest, the characters are very real and honest, they are flawed people, and I think when you are in the age between 17 and 25 you are going through some of those changes yourself, you are questioning who you are and question why things are going your way, I think it’s something that a lot of people in that age can relate to, so they look at the movie and it’s truly terrifying to them, because there are difficult times in their own lives.
How old are you?
So that makes you only two years older than me, which means we grew up to the same horror films. If I’m not wrong your favorite horror film is Scream, is that correct?
Yes, that’s correct.
Besides Scream, which other films do you think that influenced your career?
I’m a big fan of the classics, so it’s hard for me to pinpoint, but I’m a big fan of Hitchcock Psycho, I love John Carpenter’s original Halloween, The Thing, the original Texas Chain saw Massacre, I like the remake as well. I’m a big fan of old Stephen King Movies like Christine and Pet Sematary and Carrie. I had a very strong diet of genre films. Fright Night and Lost Boys were two of the first movies I ever saw, Stephen King’s It still is one of my favorite movies of all time, one of the first movies I ever saw. There’s a lot of classic in there and I’m a big fan of a lot of modern classics as well.
Do you follow the contemporary horror scenario?
Yes, absolutely, I follow it very closely.
So which directors and film would you recommend from this recent batch?
There is a lot of really talented guys, Adam Wingard and Simon Barret, who made You’re Next, and their new movie The Guest is out right know.
Have you seen it (The Guest)?
Yeah, I love it. It’s great, Simon is an actor in Contracted and a friend of mine and I think those guys are really talented. There’s also a movie called Almost Human that came out recently and it was very good, the filmmakers are also friends of mine. There’s a movie called The Battery that I really like and I’m a big fan of Ti West stuff like House of the Devil. There are a lot of really talented guys making really cool movies right now.
Is there anyone you would like to work with in the horror genre?
There are tons of actors I would like to work with, I’m not sure, I mean, in my head I think I’d really love to adapt a Stephen King novel one day, that’s something I’d really like to do, but other than that there are actors that I would like to work with, but for the most part I just want to continue making really cool stuff.
Which of his novels would you like to adapt?
I don’t know, I’m such a fan of all of his stuff. I haven’t read a lot of his new stuff, so I would probably need to see what is available, but if they ever try to remake something like Maximum Overdrive or Carrie or something like that, I’d love to revisit something and try to bring a new spin to it, but I’d be interested in seeing what he got laying around that hasn’t been adapted yet, so I’d have to dig to find which one I would really, really want to like to do.
Talking about revisiting films, what’s your opinion about remakes?
I’m a fan of them, I saw the Texas Chainsaw Massacre before I ever saw the original film. I think just because of the age I am, I was growing up in a time in the early 2000s where genre movies where being remade constantly and they introduced me to other horror movies, so I think remakes can be a good thing, especially if they are done well, I think people don’t like remakes because they are studio driven ideas, studios say “Hey, we have this cool property that made a lot of money once, so let’s see if we can recycle it and do it again” and that’s the pure motivation behind it, they are just trying to make more money of it, so they don’t care about the original content, and that’s the problem, that’s why remakes get such a bad rap, but me personally, I think if there is an amazing movie out there, and you can get another amazing filmmaker to tell that story, I would watch a remake of the same movie if one came out every year, if it was a good director, so I really think remakes can be a good thing, it’s just a matter of finding the right scenario in which the filmmaker has control and he is making something worthwhile.
Is Texas Chainsaw Massacre your favorite remake?
In terms of remakes, I would definitely say it’s really high up there, I think maybe John Carpenter’s The Thing might be my personal favorite, but I definitely think the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake is up there.
Have you seen Maniac? It’s my favorite remake from this recent trend.
Maniac is really good! It’s good.
Do you have plans to work with films outside the Horror genre?
Yes, I do. I think everything that I do will have some bit of horror in it, so it is not like I ever want to leave the horror genre, but I definitely have movies that are more funny, I have some sci-fi stuff I’d really like to do, and I have a lot of other genres that I would like to try and get my toes in, but horror is where I’ll stay for the majority of my career.
That’s great to hear! As a big fan of Horror it’s always good to see a director committed to the genre.
Talking about general cinema, do you think that independent filmmaking influences the mainstream filmmaking scenario and vice-versa?
Absolutely. I think that within independent films you have things like Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, they come out and they make a ton of money and the first thing you start to see is studios making more found footage movies, so I absolutely think they do, especially in the horror genre, the studios and the mainstream are more influenced by independent film, they see what works on an independent level with those audiences and they try to drive those hardcore audiences to the theater to use the word of mouth to drive it to the mainstream, but it doesn’t always happen because that’s exactly what they are doing, they are just trying to mimic, just trying to copy. The original Blair Witch and the original Paranormal Activity, the reason why people love those and the sequels kind of suck are because they were made by people with no financial agenda, they were making the movies purely on their own spirit , in their own passion, their only motivation was to make a great movie, they didn’t know if it was ever been seen by anyone, and then it goes on to make hundreds of millions of dollars, and then the studios takes notice and they are like “Oh man, we should do that”, and suddenly it’s just a financial drive, so the passion is what is lacking. And I absolutely think that the mainstream influences the independent side, one of my next movies is absolutely geared towards trying to be released in a lot of cinemas and a lot of theaters and the only way to do that is try to accomplish what the studios are doing on a mainstream level, but also keeping it more passionate and independent spirit , so it doesn’t feel like I have a bunch of studio heads telling me what to do, so there’s a weird balance there that needs to be achieve that is very difficult.
Talking about your next films then, is your next film The Sirens?
No, it’s not actually. I may be doing The Sirens sometime next year, but it’s not what’s up next. What I have coming up next I can’t say what it is yet, but we start shooting it in 2 weeks, there will be announcements and everything, but it’s still in the genre, but it’s a lot more comedic, like a dark comedy.
Well, I’m quite curious right now, I’m really excited for this next project!
Nice, thank you.
It seems that Imdb indicates a lot of movies on your page, like Madison County 2, Hellbent. Who adds those films there?
I have no idea to be honest with you, like Madison County 2 I never added, I don’t know how it got there, we thought about doing a Madison County 2 but I personally probably will never make Madison County 2, so I don’t know who puts all those up there, but I’m sure some of them need to be taken down. *laughs*
Have you seen the last ones added there, like the short movie called The Settling?
Yeah, I did that one, I shot that but the other movies are definitely all real, there is a screen play for Madison County 2 that I wrote, but I don’t know if I ever will make them, or some of the other films. They are definitely real movies, they all have screenplays that I considered directing, but sometimes I think people just get anxious and they put up projects there before they are announced and suddenly I have five movies I’m doing. *laughs*
I think that’s a good thing that people keeps wondering and expecting what’s next in your career right?
Yes, totally, for every one movie I have that is listed on imdb I have three other projects I’m working in that no one even knows about yet, I definitely have a lot of movies that I’m working on that I hope will keep me very busy over the next three to five years, but yes, I want people to be excited and know that I’m working hard, since people want to watch my movies and I want to give them something to watch.
Alright, that’s it for now! I’m very thankful that you accepted my invitation!
Thank you, I appreciate you having me. Have a good day!