Filmmaking is a hard business at any budget, but especially at the independent level, which is why you always have to make sure to have a strong support team in place. For his slasher flick Madison County, director Eric England collaborated with producers Daniel Dunn and Ace Marrero to ensure that Damien and all his victims had their chance to be enjoyed by genre fans everywhere.
Now that the film is well into post-production, Dread Central had the opportunity to chat with Dunn and Marrero about their experiences making Madison County, what lessons they came away with from their experiences, and why they believe Damien is a contender to become a contemporary icon of horror.
Heather Wixson: So, guys, when Eric told you that he wanted to move production to the middle of nowhere to shoot Madison County, were you at all apprehensive about what that experience might be like?
Daniel Dunn: Not at all, actually. I had confidence in Eric’s vision for the film. The movie is written about a county in Arkansas and is based on true events, so in my opinion it makes it a more realistic and believable film to have it on location. Also, the kind of scenery and sets needed for this film could not have been recreated on a sound stage in Los Angeles.
Ace Marrero: I was never personally apprehensive about it because I love to visit new places and experience new things. But as a producer on the film, I was more concerned about everyone else. We had some fun experiences with lodging and wildlife while in Arkansas so you never know how much people will tolerate so thankfully it all worked out in the end.
HW: Now I know Ace mentioned some of the living conditions the cast and crew faced while working on Madison County, but can you talk about some of the other challenges you guys faced as well?
DD: I would say the biggest production challenge for me was acquiring the appropriate resources to make this film as great a picture as it was a script considering it was a low budget film. Also, the fact that it was filmed in Arkansas limited our time frame and corrections abilities. But in the end we pulled it off.
AM: For me, because I was also acting in addition to production, I think it was taking on as much as I did and not having the proper team in place from the jump. We thought we could manage it all, and in the end we did, but it was tight. We didn’t have all of the key players from the beginning that you’d need like a Line Producer, a UPM [Unit Production Manager] and we didn’t even have an official AD for the whole shoot. That’s not something that will happen again on future productions.
HW: I know it takes real dedication to work on a film on an independent budget. What was it about Madison County and working with Eric that made you want to dig in to make the project successful?
DD: From a business side of things, I believed that this film was well written by Eric and very marketable. I also had faith in the crew we hired that they had the skills needed to make Madison County successful.
AM: For me, I think it was part ignorance, part naivety and the rest was made up by a passion for making movies. It was always exciting for me to bring pieces to the puzzle. This was my first official producing credit, but I faked it till I made it. To be fair, I had been going to classes through SAG, reading books all before Daniel approached me to be in the film as an actor. I basically from there just invited myself to the producing party and essentially worked like I was part of the plan. I was actually already knee-deep in Madison County before we ever had an official conversation about me producing.
It also helps that the script was good and there was a great interest from other parties. Plus, horror is Eric’s pure passion and there’s no way I’d miss out on being a part of that. It was my personal challenge to provide him with tools he’d never had to take his filmmaking to an entirely new level. It never was about money.
HW: Now that you guys have moved into post-production, how involved are you staying with Madison County until the film is completed?
DD: As far as my role in post-production, I’ve been more involved with things in the editing room more than anywhere else, just making sure that everything is on schedule and looks great. To be honest, we went with a pretty green editor named Levi Blue, but I can say that he has more than exceeded our expectations on Madison County. His work on the film blew all of us out of the water.
AM: We’ve all been very active in post-production. Personally, I’m still wrangling the boys and making sure things continue to get done in a timely manner for the most part. I make phone calls when something needs to get done and do my best to stay on top of it all. During editing, I popped in at least once a week to check in and offer my notes and suggestions for changes, but Daniel and Eric spent most of the time in the lab with our editor, Levi.
The way we look at it, though, we’re young hustlers and we know we will continue to put out great products, brands and franchises to keep us as busy as we want to be until Hollywood recognizes that we are not waiting for opportunity to knock.
HW: I’m sure you both have to be horror fans in some regard, so from a fan’s perspective, what makes Damien such a badass slasher?
DD: As far as Damien goes, I always liked the fact that he speaks for a whole community and has become their enforcer in the most brutal ways.
AM: For me, Damien is scary because he is unpredictable. There is an eerie dynamic between him and the townspeople. It is clear that he is the protected son, but he’ll quickly bite the hand that feeds him. The people of Madison County are his caretakers, but they are also the ones afraid of him the most. Their “perk” is survival, but they’re left to live in endless fear. That makes them just as crazy in my opinion and that scares the hell out of me. With that being said…there are no rules…just pure mayhem, and what you’ll see in the movie is barely scratching the surface of what he’s capable of.
HW: Now that you can reflect a bit on your collective experiences as a producer on Madison County, what would you say is the biggest lesson you learned?
DD: I would say that the biggest lesson I learned was this is not a job I would want to try to do by myself. Having Ace and Eric help me out throughout the process was key to making this movie work.
AM: I’ve learned that being genuinely excited about a project and finding people that feel the same goes a long way. Everyone believed in it 200% and even more so now, which is amazing. We’ve had many people compliment us on the tight ship we ran and what we’ve been able to accomplish so soon in our filmmaking careers, and it’s because we had the right team. The perfect team? No, but I’m not interested in that personally. I think room for growth inspires new thinking and fresh creativity in my opinion. We have all made mistakes, but with a crew that averages out at 25 years old, it was expected and encouraged.
Our cast and crew are STILL the biggest supporters of the movie, plugging it at every chance they get and we’re not paying them to do so; that speaks volumes. I truly feel that it’s because we established a solid base to build from and did a good job of keeping that belief growing strong with professionalism, enthusiasm and honest fun!
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