By: Kyle Reese
I got introduced to Drew Daywalt by means of a misunderstanding we had over his upcoming SyFy film LEPRECHAUN'S REVENGE. After hashing things out he was cool enough to do an interview with us and spoke honestly about his film LEPRECHAUN'S REVENGE that premieres this Saturday March 17th, St. Patrick's Day. He also gave us an exclusive photo from the film. Check out what Drew has to say about his film, CGI and more after the jump.
Igorslab: Let’s start off with a little background. Tell us a little bit about you self?
Drew Daywalt: I have been a working screenwriter and director in Hollywood for 15 years. I used to do big studio action stuff. I’ve written for Tony Scott, Jerry Bruckheimer, Brett Ratner. Lots of high octane, young male driven action and buddy stuff. But I was in that loop in the studio system where I was making a living but nothing was getting made. So when the writer’s strike happened in 2007 -2008, I decided to make a bit of a career change. I saw how horror films were getting made so readily, and they were done on these controled budgets. I also realized how much influence watching monster and horror films as a kid had influenced my going to work in Hollywood -- and I decided I would pursue my heart’s desire and try and make a go of it in horror films.
So during the WGA strike I got together with friends and we made a bunch of horror shorts, only a few minutes long each, more like skits, and we posted them online. One of the first ones I made, BEDFELLOWS, went viral and had 2 million hits in the first week, and I knew I was onto something. It was a weird thing discovering I could scare someone. I knew then that I wanted to direct, and I wanted to direct the genre stuff that I love.
IL: What film if any got you into filmmaking? and between writing and directing which do you prefer?
DD: I was 7 when I saw Star Wars in the theatre. It was the first movie I ever saw in a movie theatre and I was completely fucking floored. There I was, 7 years old, sitting there stunned silent for the entire 2 hours. I didn’t know I wanted to make movies at that moment, but I did know I wanted to build worlds. To create and immerse and get lost.
As for writing versus directing, I love both, for very different reasons. I think the beauty of writing is that there’s no compromise. You write it, and in your head it’s performed perfectly, the special effects are pristine, and it’s exactly the movie you wanted to make. Directing, is, on the other hand, a constant state of compromises, fixes, delegations and missed (or gained) opportunities. But the massive advantage to directing over writing, is that, at the end, everyone sees the vision, not just you, the writer.
IL: You have done a good number of short films as well as a few episodes of MTV’s DEATH VALLEY. How was the transition from working with your rules to working under someone else’s rules?
DD: I think I’ve learned that there are varrying degrees of involvement, no matter what the length of the project. If it’s 100% my script and my produciton and me directing, then I’m there 100% of the way to take the credit and the blame. It’s good and it’s bad. But when I’m working for someone else on their material, I really wat to commit to sharing the vision - bringing about their concept, but with my take on it. And here, since I’m not responsible for all of the decisions made, creatively or budgetarily, I don’t get all the credit, but I also don’t get all the blame. It’s good and it’s bad here as well.
IL: From DEATH VALLEY to a feature film that is going to premiere on SyFy this St. Patrick’s Day called LEPRERCHAUN’S REVENGE. Tell us about your first horror feature film?
DD: Doing this project as my first horror feature was exhilarating because it was so damned hard to do. I mean, we had 1 week of prep, 15 days of shooting, and I had 96 pages of script to cover. There were eviscrations, disembowelments, throats torn out, near decapitations, car chases, fistfights on rooftops of moving cars, melee battles with this axe thing, a massive downtown parade, exposions, car accidents... oh and let’s not forget story and character... It was grueling and ridiculous what we had to do, but it was a blast. And I have my kick ass team and cast to thank for that.
IL: Is there a huge difference going from shooting a TV show, shorts to a feature film? If so can you tell us what they are?
DD: Actually, the big difference between doing short films and TV/Features is that in short films I have to carry more shit and hang my own lights. Otherwise, it’s still story telling with a camera and that all comes down to working with your production team(large or small) and your actors.
IL: I would have to imagine the cast would be one of those differences. Tell us about the cast of LEPRECHAUN’S REVENGE?
DD: Even I’m shocked at how good the cast is. I think that speaks to the script and the work of my team, in drawing them in on such a small budgeted project. Billy Zane and I immediately bonded and it was like going to work with your brother every day. He’s smart and intuitive and put a lot of work into his character. Every day he’d come to set with new thoughts and ideas on how to make his character and the film a sa whole, better.
I hate to call anyone an icon because it’s like short hand for “old” but damn it, William Devane is an icon. And he’s such a great guy. He’d come on the set and have everyone laughing and enjoying themselves. And he really dug in to the light spirit and fun of the piece. We took the work seriously and tried to make an entertaining film, but god forbid we ever take ourselves seriously.
Courtney Halverson is a dear friend of mine now. I first worked with her on Death Valley at MTV and we hit it off immediately. I remember reading this script and instantly thinking it had to be her. And I’m really proud of her. She carries the entire throughline of the film and does a great job of bringing real moments and real pathos to a character that could easily been another horror damsel in distress. I know everyone’s going to be impressed with Courtney’s work on this. I know I am.
IL: There are also a lot of photos out there of your Leprechaun. He is not the stereotypical Leprechaun we are use to. Who came up with the design or is this how Irish folklore describes the little menace?
DD: Anthony C. Ferrante, the screenwriter had this great concept that we ran with. The idea is that our leprechaun is more of a woodland goblin/ogre/troll thing that has been buried in the roots of a tree for over a hundred years and the tree has literally become part of it. It’s like a DNA splice of man tree and goat. Jeff Farley brought to life a great physical creature from early concept art by artist Jacob Hair.
IL: I like the fact that you went with practical FX for the Leprechaun. What made you go practical over CGI?
DD: Sadly, even the small amount of CG effects we do have on this film look terrible. I would never have approved a single one of them creatively, but with the budget and schedule, we just couldn’t get a decent artist, so the CG effects in the film look like there were done by a third grader, but what are ya gonna do?
On a larger level, philosophically, I hate the overuse of CGI everywhere. Even great big giant budget films tend to have shitty looking monsters. And at this low budget and in this time frame, I knew the whole film would look like crap if we had a CGI monster. I hate CG creatures unless their done right. And “done right” is Hollywood code for “expensive and time consuming”. And we didn’t have the time or the money for that.
I knew that if we went full CG on the creature in the short time we had to make this film (5 months, by the way from start to finish) then the creature would look like dogshit. There’s just no way to do good CG on this budget and this schedule, but if we went old school physical effects, and just enhanced it a little bit with CG, then we could pull it off. But even that was going to be tough. Jeff Farley, an amazing physical fx artist and good friend of mine, came in and made it work. He’s really a great joy and a creative force. There’s no “We can’t do that,” with Jeff. He just rolls up his sleeves and makes it happen. It’s inspiring to work with him.
IL: Some people will put your film up against the Warwick Davis LEPRECHAUN films. They are obviously different, but are you a fan of those films? And does your film play on the humor like those films or is it a serious horror film?
DD: I think simply based on the logline and the title we’ve been given, we’re going to be compared. And people really know that franchise already, so I wanted to go in a totally different direction. Something more historical, mythological. Something fun and quirky and dark, but not full camp. Ours is more an homage to the old 1950’s rubber monster films. You know, the Jack Arnold stuff where a guy in a monster suit terrorizes the town and the girl while the sheriff and his team are baffled.
IL: Is there anything you would have changed in the film if budget or restrictions weren’t in play?
DD: The CGI. It’s garbage. Thank god there isn’t much of it. I’ve always been honest with my audiences about my films - you know, what works and what doesn’t. My creative team and I committed to a physical creature, and we knew it would be a guy-in-a-suit monster movie so we set out to make it the best damn one we could. But there is still some CGI in the film, and it sticks out like a big sore, liquidy, poorly animated thumb. If I could fire the CG team they forced on me and get my own guys in there like I wanted, it would look great, just like the creature suit and the cinematography does. But I think every filmmaker has those kinds of regrets about their films.
IL: Are you a horror fan? If so what is your favorite movie and why?
DD: I’m a huge horror fan. My current favorite is the 1963 paranormal thriller THE HAUNTING based on the Shirley Jackson novel, THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. I love it because it has that really creepy slow burn and no real special effects to speak of. It’s all in the mind. That’s really the kind of horror I love best.
IL: What is up next for Drew Daywalt?
DD: I’m about to start on a really dark and twisted anthology series, and then there’s a deeply disturbing haunted house film I hope to be filming by the end of the year.
IL: Lastly, we like to ask this question a lot. What advise can you give to aspiring filmmakers?
DD: Writers write. And nowadays I like to say, “Filmmakers film”. I love the age we’re living in for moviemaking. With cheap DSLR HD cams and easy-to-learn editing software, every filmmaker can make just go out and make their films. It’s a great time to be coming up in the ranks of filmmaking.
Again LEPRECHAUN'S REVENGE premieres on SyFy tomorrow night March 17th so definitely support Drew and his film. Thanks to Drew Daywalt for talking the time to answer all the questions honestly and for the exclusive photo you can see right here: