If a man by the name of Paul Busetti approaches you and you happen to be relatively close to an oven... RUN LIKE THE WITCH THAT KIDNAPPED HANSEL AND GRETEL! You'll find out soon enough the reason why. We recently had a conversation with Busetti creator of Cannibal Cheerleader Camp among others and learned that he's a Class A horror dork like the rest of us ripe with a genuine appreciation for the everything from Fulci to Cronenberg. His newest project, Dysphonia, is primed and ready for co-conspirators in financial backing. With teaser reel firmly in hand (see below) and a a whole slate of new pictures including a project on the Indy Go Go market, Veil, Mr. Busetti is here to give you a double take of terror. Read on to discover the seedy underbelly of independent film making at it's finest.
TERROR: I see that you list the Manson girls among the influences that led you to make Dysphonia. Were any of the “twin” horror subgenre films influential in how you have approached this picture?
BUSETTI: The look and demeanor of the sadistic twin sister characters Samantha and Sophie was based heavily on accounts of the Manson girls in Robert Bugliosi’s book Helter Skelter. The photographs of the Manson girls are something I’ve used as a reference when describing the twins to people. I actually had some artists do concept art based on Susan Atkins. Their faces and eyes had to show the capacity to murder with a knife. As far as other twin horror films, my favorites are The Hammer production Twins of Evil, Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers, and DePalma’s Sisters.
TERROR: Where did you come up with the idea for this project? Any inspirational twins in your life?
BUSETTI: I wanted to write a revenge film that was rooted deep in misunderstood memories from the characters’ shared childhood. I was interested in evil and where it comes from. Besides Helter Skelter, I also read books about the Holocaust such as Primo Levi’s book If This is a Man, Children of the Flames, and several biographies of Josef Mengele. In the script, the character of Metzger, who is a mentor and a surrogate father to the twins, is heavily influenced by Mengele and his fascination with twins. As far as personal experience, I’ve always been interested in twins, but I’ve been lucky to never come across any as brutal as Samantha or Sophie.
TERROR: We recently had Italian Horror at the Blood Sprayer… Argento and Fulci are both mentioned as influences on photography. How can we expect to see their mark on your work? What’s your favorite work by either of these legendary filmmakers?
BUSETTI: When I discovered Italian horror I fell in love. They’re completely unrestrained and indulgent nightmares. They feel strange and lull you into a trance. They’re everything I ever wanted from a film. The photography, pacing, editing style, and art direction is all an influence on Dysphonia. I was watching a lot of Italian horror while I was writing the script. Argento in particular has a gift for constructing murder scenes that involve all the senses of the viewer and make it terrifying to watch or even listen. Something I want to do with Dysphonia is to make the sights, sounds and smell of each scene as specific as possible because our most vivid memories involve all our senses. The script often describes the antiseptic smell of a hospital room or the smell of burning flesh. These are things that can come across in a film if handled correctly. My favorite Argento film is Suspiria but I also really enjoy Tenebre and Opera. My favorite Fulci film is The Beyond but I love the entire Gates of Hell trilogy. Some other favorites are Massimo Dellamano’s What Have You Done To Solange?, Mario Bava’s Shock, and Michele Soavi’s The Church.
TERROR: What type of horror films are you typically drawn to? What are you favorites? As an independent filmmaker, who do you look at as the “healthy competition” in the indy horror market?
BUSETTI: My favorite horror films are the Italian giallo and supernatural films from the 60s and 70s, Sci Fi horror, the recent wave of French Extreme horror, and anything Cronenberg. My favorite horror films are The Fly, À l'intérieur, Polanski’s apartment trilogy (Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant), May, Alien, The Thing,Halloween, and The Exorcist. I think The Silence of the Lambs is a perfect film. I saw Jaws when I was 5 and Robert Shaw’s death scene left a serious impression on me. I’m biased because I grew up there, but I think the horror films coming out the Virginia/Marlyand area are very impressive. Directors like Chris LaMartina, Robert Ziegler, and Kevin Kangas are all making great low budget horror films that really display the love they have for the genre. It would be amazing to work up to the level of guys like Lucky McKee, Adam Green, James Wan, and Neil Marshall.
TERROR: Finding funding for independent filmmakers is fairly difficult even in the best of times. What methods have you been able to use to find funding? Have you had success with Kickstarter.com or Indy Go Go?
BUSETTI: The budgets on my past films have been small enough that I didn’t need to do much fundraising to get them made. Dysphonia is a huge step in terms of size and budget and we believe it will take between 150 and 200K to be made properly. Because of the budget size, we aren’t planning on utilizing crowdfunding sites. We have put together a business plan that can be found on our website (www.tensundays.com) for anyone interested in investing. The goal with the business plan is finding investors and producing partners that are going to be with us after the film is made. We’re looking for people who believe in the script and can help get it made and find distribution. We’re currently in the middle of an IndieGoGo campaign for another horror film titled Veil. It’s also a feature, but the scope is significantly smaller and we’re looking to raise $5000 by October 31st. We were curious to test out crowdfunding and Veil happened to be a perfect project for it. We’re trying to offer interesting perks as incentives to donate and we’re even giving away bloody clothes worn by the actors and actresses in the film. Anyone interested can learn more about the project at www.indiegogo.com/veil.
TERROR: Do you see any drawbacks in use funding sites that placed limitations on how you reach your funding goals?
BUSETTI: Certainly there are people with bogus projects or ulterior motives abusing funding sites. Because of this, precautions have to be taken to ensure that people are legit. These sites have to make it clear that you are donating, not making an investment. There is no guarantee the project will get made and no enforcement that the filmmakers will deliver on their promises. As far as the filmmakers go, anytime you accept money from someone else, you become handcuffed in some way to them. To raise money, you may have to disclose more about your project than you wanted to. Filmmaking in general has become less mysterious and over saturation can kill anticipation. By the time a film is completed, you may be sick of hearing about it, seeing behind the scenes pictures, reading the director’s blog, and watching multiple trailers. In a perfect world, you should be able to make your film, show it to an audience completely in the dark, and have the work speak for itself.
TERROR: This picture does not appear to be an over the top gore picture from the teaser, but after reading the sample scene, I must say it appears as though your make up folks are going to have their work cut out for them. Have you used pyrotechnics and burn simulations stunt work before? Will the scene in question (the infamous oven sequence) be as graphic as the script makes it out to be or can we expect a more subdued cook temperature?
Busetti: The teaser scene itself is not particularly gory, but there are multiple murder set pieces in the script that are effects and makeup heavy. Part of the budget is going towards a special effects team that can handle all these demands. Special effects, whether it’s blood, makeup prosthetics, or pyrotechnics, add another variable into the filmmaking process. If mishandled, it can distract the director from what’s really important, which is the scene the effects are serving. In the past, I’ve always done all my own effects work and greatly enjoyed it. On this project, I know I’ll have to hand that work off to someone more qualified. Rest assured that the oven sequence will be just as graphic as described in the script. It’s a hugely important scene and I want it to become a classic.
TERROR: I always have to ask, what will you be using in the way of fake blood? Some use the less realistic Crayola red blood, others, a dark karo syrup… where does your blood come in?
BUSETTI: Nothing fancy. Dark Karo corn syrup, red food coloring and a few drops of blue so it doesn’t dry pink on clothing. In the early giallos, the blood is extremely bright red. The blood is Sisters is almost orange. As much as I love Italian horror, the blood spilled in Dysphonia will be more realistic. My first short film was black & white and we used chocolate syrup because that’s what Hitchcock used in Psycho.
TERROR: The independent film market seems to demand that the production company and filmmaker go straight to festival sometimes even before a film has been completed? Will you be following this marketing technique? Do you have any staple festivals you’d like to submit to?
BUSETTI: I wouldn’t be averse to screening an unfinished version of the film or certain scenes at horror conventions because that’s where the real fans gather. My dream is to screen the film at the Sitges Film festival in Spain where films like The Brood, Deep Red, The Fly, and Kill Bill have screened and won awards in the past. Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX would be another great festival to play.
TERROR: Any thoughts on how to break out of the current distribution model and put the distro rights in the hands of the filmmakers themselves but still attain enough financial success to recoup expenses at the very least?
BUSETTI: Obviously, many indie filmmakers are embracing digital download. What is unknown is what influence watching movies on iPads, computers, and smartphones will have on viewers. We don’t know if people will fall in love with films the same way we they do when they watch them in a theater or when they discover them in a video store. The film brat generation fell in love by spending all day in the cinema and the current generation of filmmakers fell in love by watching VHS tapes in their basements. I worked at an independent video store for 6 years and every day I would find something new I didn’t know existed. It’s more satisfying to seek something out rather than just have everything at your fingertips. Other filmmakers are directly selling DVDs through their own sites or taking their films on the road and 4 walling theaters to build a fan base. Adam Green had success by mobilizing his fans and having them demand a theatrical release for Hatchet. Having people demand Paranormal Activity to play in their city worked. I took the time to demand it and then went to see it in the theater. I didn’t want to wait to see it. More than anything, people hate missing out on something great. I still believe that if you make a movie people want to see, it will get seen. That audience may not be theatrical, but instead it may be on DVD, On Demand, or on iTunes. If you’re frustrated that Transformers played on 6000 screens andHatchet 2 played on 68, stop paying to see Transformers. As an independent filmmaker, support other filmmakers and films you love. Support theaters that show films nobody else will carry. For years, Blockbuster had the virtual monopoly on video rentals and could dictate the market and blackball certain distributors. People got fed up with them and now Blockbuster is in the gutter. Have patience that the dinosaurs will eventually die off.
TERROR: Dysphonia is in the funding phase… has the casting been set in stone and production schedule been established? Who will you be working with on this production? What stage of production are you in now and when might we anticipate the initial release of this film?
BUSETTI: Casting is still in progress and we have a 26 day schedule based on our proposed budget. Because this is the most ambitious project we’ve attempted, I want to surround myself with all the people who have been there since the beginning and I can trust. One of the reasons for filming the teaser scene was to work with possible cast and crew from the film. Guys like the DP J. Michael Whalen, producers Chris Kiros and Ian Albetski, gaffer Habib Awan, UPM Brigette Proctor are all people I’d love to return for the feature. We’re still in development on Dysphonia and if we can raise the budget, we’d like to be filming in Winter 2011. As far as a release, it’s too soon to tell, but I’ll be eager to edit the film and get it out to the masses.
TERROR:Any other projects in the works that you will taking on concurrently with Dysphonia?
BUSETTI: I just finished working on the feature comedy The Maladjusted with horror scream queen Tiffany Shepis. I’m holed up in a casino hotel room with the writer/director and the DP doing a rough cut. It was an excellent shoot and I’d love to work with some of the crew and actors on Dysphonia. In November, we’ll be producing Veil, which we’re doing in the interim to keep our teeth sharp. It’s about a man who goes missing after arranging a late night rendezvous with a woman he meets online. It explores the theme of people using technology to disguise themselves. The IndieGoGo campaign has been going well and production begins in November. We’re very excited and believe it will make a great companion piece to Dysphonia.
Thanks Paul for taking the time to aquaint us with your new project and outlook on indy horror.