Horror movies have never been for the faint of heart. However, because it is a genre that requires creativity to please its demanding fans, it is a film genre filled with talented filmmakers who are still under the radar. Two such filmmakers are Chris St. Croix and David Buchert. In addition to using magic to perform crimes (don’t believe their denials), Chris and David are filmmakers who have produced the recent horror anthology, In the Dark. Wanting to learn more about their backgrounds, their love of horror, and how they produced In the Dark, Chris and David allowed me to interview them for ScifiPulse.
To learn more about In The Dark, check out its homepage here and its facebook page. More importantly, you can see In the Dark by ordering it or renting it from iTunes, iTunes Canada, Amazon, Playstation, Vudu, Xbox.
Nicholas Yanes: IMDB has failed the world by not having a biography of you two. Could you both take a moment to talk about your backgrounds?
David Buchert: I’ll try to give the bullet points. I made backyard horror films before I moved to Nashville to go to film school. While in film school I worked as the filmmaker liaison at The Nashville Film Festival. After leaving the festival I worked strictly in film production. I started at the bottom as a production assistant and worked my way up through every job position. I co-directed a feature documentary that had one screening in New York before being shelved by the producer. My second feature, Blood Oath was distributed by Troma a few years ago. I worked as a production coordinator on a religious film to make the money to shoot In The Dark. I haven’t had a “real” full time job in over 15 years and I’ve worked on thousands of hours of video productions.
Chris St. Croix: I have had an interesting road to this point. It all began with a Super 8 camera and being a junior George Lucas in my backyard making little movies. But when I was fifteen I picked up a microphone with a band and spent years making music, always loving and watching tons of movies and keeping my eye on that world. My day job was also always something in the film world. So in 2003 I decided to make my first short film and had so much fun I never looked back.
Yanes: What was the moment in which you both knew you wanted to make a career in film?
David: I’ve always loved movies but I knew I wanted to work in film when I was 13 years old. Tom Savini was a big hero of mine when I was a teenager and like most kids who read Fangoria magazine, I wanted to be like him. It wasn’t until I got my own video camera that I realized I wanted more control over the final product. That was really the transition into directing. Evil Dead is the movie that changed my life.
Chris: I knew I wanted be in or have something to do with the movies from about four years old. I had to get on that screen or in that TV box. My music career was supported by working as a PA, AD, Cameraman, Editor, etc. in the film and television world. So the call of film was always there and all it took was making that first, real, short film Rocco & Vinnie. It’s on my website. It got into some fests but it was really the creative satisfaction that made the decision for me. This is not just something I want to do. It’s something I have to do. And I don’t know how anyone does it unless they feel that way.
Yanes: You two have worked with each other on In the Dark, The Keeper, Night Terrors, and Dirty Little Secret. What elements do you two think are essential to have a great professional partnership in the film industry?
David: We were friends before we worked together so it was an easy transition. A few things that are essential for us as filmmakers are knowledge, trust, and pizza. Film knowledge can be a huge asset on set. Chris and I have a shorthand because if one of us says “you know that shot in…” the other immediately knows what they’re going for. You have to have trust that the other person won’t steer you wrong. You have to question each other and sometimes lose a fight but trust that everything we are doing is for the best possible end product. Pizza is essential because we go to the buffet and knock ideas around. We have literally planned out all of the beats of a script over a few hours and tons of cheap pizza.
Chris: We don’t automatically love each other’s ideas. We are independently creative filmmakers with different visions and dreams. But we are friends first. If done correctly making movies is really mentally draining and can be physically destructive. I worked in a lot of nasty warehouses lifting boxes with no AC in the summer during my music years and THAT is hard work. But you do a 26 hour day after a five day run of 18 hour days for an ESPN commercial, you better hope you have people you like about around you. That they are also super talented is just gravy. It can be a really heartless and lonely business. But it absolutely doesn’t have to be. We prove that every time we work with or for each other and with our friends.
David: Honestly, In the Dark was the perfect film for us to make right now because we are still having to ask for a ton of favors. It’s much easier to ask someone for six days of their time for free than it is to ask for fifteen. In addition to just being easier to plan with no money and a tight schedule, we love the format of anthology films. It’s great to be able to tell a variety of stories in 90 minutes. I believe most 90 minute horror movies should have been short films in the first place.
Chris: Dave said it all. Pulling together a crew, especially ours that is in very high demand to work for the love of the project, is a next to impossible. But six days? Easier to pull off with as few cut corners as possible. Plus, I agree with David. Some stories only need to be twenty minutes or whatever they need to be to tell the story. Plus, I love writing stories that deliver in a short period of time. Some of the most creative experiences I’ve ever had are the commercials I’ve done. Learning to tell a story in thirty seconds is a great exercise for longer form storytelling as well.
Yanes: In the Dark is partially an homage to Tales from the Crypt. Could you talk about how this show impacted the two of you? What were some other classic stories you both feel influenced this film’s production?
David: Creepshow was a bigger inspiration for me than Crypt. I was a big fan of Crypt and Darkside growing up but Creepshow holds a very special place in my heart. Another inspirational film that, until recently, had largely been forgotten is Jeff Burr’s The Offspring (also known as From A Whisper To A Scream). I lived in Georgia when it came out and I remember seeing the ads in the local papers and thinking I HAVE to see that. One of the things in Crypt, Darkside, Creepshow and EC comics that stuck with me is the macabre horror comedy. We wanted to make something that would catch you off guard and make you cover your eyes while you laughed.
Chris: These are basically our Tales episodes. As if we were asked to make one for a reboot of the series. Truth be told, we would love to be the ones to revive the Tales series for a modern audience. Indie execution but still with the polished classic filmmaking techniques used in the original series and in, In The Dark. So instead of just wishing, we set out to make a great film first but also show we could be a part of an anthology project like that. Build it and they will come. On the movie side though, Creepshow and Cat’s Eye are my favorite anthologies.
Yanes: In the Dark is an anthology film. Given that it is made up of smaller stories, how did you two divide the labor so that each story was distinct but still flowed with one another?
David: The labor was divided between us because we knew we were the only ones willing to go through the entire production for free. It was our money and product so we were invested (literally) in ways that no one else was. The workload just worked itself out. I had more experience in lighting than Chris did so I took that position on his films. Chris is a freelance editor so he took that position on the entire movie. We both wrote and directed two segments and helped produce each other their stories. It’s really the only way we know how to work. ‘The Keeper’ is and action/horror film. ‘Dummy’ is a horror/thriller. ‘To Be Loved’ is a horror/comedy. The anthology format gives us the ability to tell completely different looking and feeling stories.
Chris: We started this together too. It was a larger plan from the beginning and way before anthologies became cool again. And with the aforementioned classic anthologies as our template we knew they had to be cohesive and flow, so we wrote to give it variety but keep a consistent tone. We feel like it’s perfect timing. And as we wanted ours to be more classically filmed than the handheld camcorder look, we knew we’d stand out in that way.
Yanes: Being an indie film producer typically means having a really tight budget, yet, nothing in this film looks cheap. How did you two stay on budget while making sure everything remained looking high quality?
David: Thanks for the compliment! We made the stories for the amount of money we had in our bank accounts. There wasn’t really a set budget since we weren’t answering to anyone for the money spent. I just said to myself, “if I spend $XX amount on this part of the film I can still pay my mortgage this month.” The quality of the film is because Chris and I know how to stretch the budget since we’ve worked in all aspects of film for the last 17 years. We’ve seen money wasted on other people’s projects that could have been avoided if they had planned better. We do as much of the work ourselves as possible and plan out the shoot as well and cost conscious as possible. We used available equipment and simple lighting to get some very effective shots. You don’t have to have money to make a great product. That being said, I can’t wait to have money!
Chris: The secret is just working harder. It’s simple math. If you can’t pay people to spend months curating and buying props and building sets you have two options, settle for a location that anyone can get and is easy to find, i.e.: boring, or say goodbye to your social life and sleep and turn your house into the set you envisioned over a three month period. I turned my house into the set of ‘To Be Loved.’ The first way looks passable, the other makes you react to our film the way you did because it’s the same quality of a bigger movie, but made with sweat instead of money. All that matters is what’s on the screen so you just have to be willing to sacrifice. And not everyone is willing to do that. Money can make things happen faster and be less stressful. But not having it is no excuse, especially if you are willing to bet on yourself as we are.
David: Marketing is a whole other monster. Getting the word out is very difficult because of the competition for space on sites. There are a dozen new horror movies every week so how is someone supposed to know what to watch? Social media is a great tool for marketing that we are still trying to figure out. Someone can “like” a post that you share but unless THEY share it, the word still doesn’t get out to more people. It amuses me that when we post a great review the film got that 8 people “like” it and when someone posts a selfie of a new haircut they got it gets 67 “likes”. I would STRONGLY suggest that anyone making films set aside money for marketing. It becomes a job even more difficult than actually making the movie.
Chris: The last great hurdle for truly independent films, that is, those without a PR firm and a publicist and ad budget big enough to make a dent, is how to cut through the noise. Being in a genre helps. But with so much content and a lot of it with all that other help, there is no one way. And for those of us who can’t spend 12 hours a day, no exaggeration, on social media to make any kind of dent, we need to keep looking for a way to break through. Horror media’s news cycle is so short it’s not a viable promo plan. But we are doing everything we can to get the word out and have gotten a lot of love. I know we are both planning to include PR and a publicist on whatever our next films are. Having someone with access in your corner is a must.
Yanes: Overall, when people finish watching In the Dark, how do you both hope the film impacts them?
David: I just want the audience to have fun and recommend it to their friends. In The Dark has some scary moments, some gross out moments and some funny moments. I think it hits the viewer on all levels. We love it when people compare it to Creepshow because that’s a 33 year old movie that has proved itself to be timeless. I would love to be talked about in 33 years.
Chris: I hope they are giggling and smiling and feel like they just did something naughty. It’s meant to be an amusement park thrill ride. Its movie comfort food that I think also has a good amount of nutritional value too. Reviews have called it gory, fun, stylish, insane…we love it all. The biggest compliment we get is that it looks like a “real” movie. We know what they mean and that just means we did what we set out to do.
Yanes: Finally, what are some projects you two are working on that you want people to keep an eye out for?
David: It’s still too early to talk about some projects but we just started work on a web series for a very popular female group and we are potentially producing a horror film for another director in a few months. We always have a handful of scripts we would love to make and depending on how well In The Dark is received, we already have some ideas on where to take the next one.
Chris: As soon as I finish something I say I’m going to take a break, but then a day later I’m knee deep in writing and building something new. I’m just looking forward to 2016 and all the new doors In The Dark will open for us both, allowing us to meet and work with new people and do more of what we do on a larger scale.
Remember, to learn more about In The Dark, check out its homepage here and its facebook page. More importantly, you can see In the Dark by ordering it or renting it from iTunes, iTunes Canada, Amazon, Playstation, Vudu, Xbox.