Devin McGinn is a writer, actor, producer, and director. He has been on shows like NCIS, Bones, Castle, and many more. McGinn wrote, produced and starred in a 2009 horror comedy called The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu which is centered around the last living relative of H.P. Lovecraft who has to save the world from Cthulhu. McGinn’s most recent film is Skinwalker Ranch. Inspired by legends surrounding the real life Skinwalker Ranch, this film is a found-footage sci-fi thriller about a team sent to investigate the paranormal activity at the ranch.
I recently had the opportunity to interview McGinn about his background and Skinwalker Ranch.
You can learn more about this movie by visiting its homepage here and by liking them on Facebook. And if you follow the film on twitter @Skinwalker2013, remember to use the following hashtag when discussing it, #SkinwalkerRanch.
Nicholas Yanes: Like many myths and urban legends, most people in the entertainment industry have an origin story. When did you first decided that you wanted to make a career in entertainment? On this note, did you pursue your career through a formal education or did you just start trying to get work?
Devin McGinn: From a very young age I was trying my hand at acting and directing. I was the kid dragging a VHS recorder in a wagon behind a camera trying to make a sci fi movie. Neighbors would see smoke bombs going off and say, “Oh, that McGinn kid is making another film.” My creative drive to be involved in that kind of storytelling has never wavered.
As far as education, I did attend a two year program in Los Angeles with some additional training here and there, but in the end I don’t think there has been any better learning experience than actually working.
Yanes: Over your career, you have been in a lot of short films and have been an extra in a lot of shows. What are some insights you’ve learned from these experiences? For instance, did being an extra help give you an understanding of film production you couldn’t get elsewhere?
McGinn: I’m guessing by extra work you mean my Guest Star work 🙂 I did do extra work when I first started but luckily it was a short run. But yes, it did help greatly. I was the actor that never went back to his trailer. I would stick around and try to learn as much as I could. It was an amazing opportunity to learn how things operated from both sides of the camera.
Yanes: According to IMDB, your first producing and writing credit came from The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu. Where did your inspiration for this movie come from?
McGinn: I was a huge fan of of the Cthulhu mythos and other Lovecraft stories. I originally wanted to make an adaption of “At the Mountains of Madness” but of course did not have the budget to really even try. So I thought, how can we use all this great material with such a small budget but still do it some kind of justice? A comedy! I’m actually really proud of that little movie and it’s neat to see it have the cult following that it does.
Yanes: On this topic, how did being a producer change how you approached this project?
McGinn: My father and I teamed up and funded the entire thing. I give him so much credit to believe in me enough to put that kind of personal investment on the line. I think most fathers would have thought “You want to spend how much to do what!”. But he was there every step of the way and I couldn’t have done it without him. When we found out we had been selected for Slamdance it was a huge relief. At least somebody was going to see our film. Let’s be honest, as a producer on such an indy film you’re involved with everything. When it’s your money on the line it’s like “Do we really need that many doughnuts!”
Yanes: Now on to your current film, Skinwalker Ranch. The stories of strange activities surrounding Skinwalker Ranch have been around for decades. Did you hear of this folklore before or after you learned of this movie being developed? With this in mind, did the ‘reality’ of the ranch impact how you approached this story?
McGinn: I had heard of it long before I thought of the idea of turning it into a movie. I have always been interested in things like, Bigfoot, UFOs, the Lochness Monster, etc. So somewhere along the line I read about this Ranch that had a bunch of this crazy stuff supposedly happening in one place, though it wasn’t until years later that Steve Berg, one of my partners on the film, mentioned he was reading about it. I remember thinking, how has no one made this movie yet! As far as the reality of the Ranch that leads us to the next question…
Yanes: Skinwalker Ranch is done as a found footage film. What was the reason why you selected this style?
McGinn: The reality of the Ranch certainly played into this. I also loved that here was a found footage movie where it makes sense for the Cameraman to know exactly what he is doing and be able to get decent shots even in times of great duress.
The idea of it making sense to have nicely framed shots in this genre was very appealing to me. I have a lot of friends that enjoy these movies but are physically sick throughout because of the violent camera work. Of course we have some of that, but I hope we found a nice balance.
Yanes: Every scary movie I’ve ever studied has a moment in which the production crew felt there was something truly paranormal occurring. Did you or crew have a moment like that?
McGinn: Working long nights on a secluded Ranch certainly is a prime place to get that kind of vibe. There were those times when it felt like we were being watched from just beyond the darkness even if perhaps it was just the cattle. However the strangest thing probably happened upon our departure. Very shortly after we wrapped the 100 year old barn on the property burned down for no apparent reason.
Yanes: Given that this was your first movie as a director, what are some things you feel you learned on set that you would have never been able to learn otherwise?
McGinn: Make sure you have instant playback! Due to the camera we were using I was not able to have instant playback on set. So there were a lot of times my character was in a scene and as a director I was left trying to guess what worked and what didn’t.
Yanes: What are some long term goals you have for Skinwalker Ranch? Do you see it leading to a sequel or spin-off series? Additionally, after Skinwalker Ranch, are there any other paranormal sites that you’d like to do a movie about?
McGinn: My hope is that enough people see it that we might indeed be afforded the opportunity to further explore the Mythology. There is so much to work with and it’s amazing to see how far back the stories go. We’re talking all the way back to the Buffalo Soldiers when the native people simply referred to that area as “Skinwalker Trail.”
As far as other paranormal sites nothing specific, but I have been reading about lesser known paranormal events and some of them are incredibly fascinating, so we’ll see.
Yanes: Finally, are you currently working on any projects that people should look forward to?
McGinn: I just wrote and Directed two music videos for the up and coming band The Moth and The Flame which I’m very proud of. It was a project I worked on with Ken Bretschneider, a fellow producer on Skinwalker Ranch and founder of Deep Studios.
As far as film, we do have a few things in the works, though it would be a bit premature to announce anything. Hopefully I will be able to talk more about something soon! Thanks for the time, really appreciate it.
Remember, you can learn more about this movie by visiting its homepage here and by liking them on facebook. And if you follow the film on twitter @Skinwalker2013, remember to use the following hashtag when discussing it, #SkinwalkerRanch.