Filmmaker Mark Steensland has been in our newsfeed quite a bit recently. Between the world premiere of his short film The Weeping Woman this weekend at Motor City Nightmares and the news that he had just acquired the rights to the novel Tengu, we thought it was time to talk to the man himself and find out more about his projects.
Dread Central: This spring has been shaping up to be huge for you, first the world premiere of your new short film, The Weeping Woman, and now the announcement that your Chang Shao Trading Co. recently acquired the rights to the novel Tengu. You have to be riding pretty high, right?
Mark Steensland: Yes. It’s all good. We have a lot of irons in the fire right now, but that’s a requirement these days because the wheels in the film business tend to turn slowly.
DC: You are having your world premiere for The Weeping Woman this weekend at Motor City Nightmares in Detroit, do you have anything special planned for the screening? Any Q&A, etc.?
MS: We do. We have a couple of posters that have been signed by Stephen Geoffreys, and we plan to give those away. We also have buttons with the tagline that we’re going to give away, and I’m planning to give a few lucky audience members copies of Fabio Frizzi’s soundtrack from the iTunes store. I’m not sure what else we will have time for.
DC: You cast Stephen Geoffreys as your lead in The Weeping Woman; how was it working with Evil Ed?
MS: Steve is a great actor, and I knew he would be perfect for this role. I have to admit that I was nervous. We were going to have a very limited amount of time with him — only two days total — made even shorter by the fact that we had so little daylight because we were shooting in the middle of winter. I had met him at the Eerie Horror Festival in 2010, and I had a good impression that was only confirmed during the shoot. He really was a trooper to work in those conditions for that amount of time. We’re hoping to work together on something else in the future.
DC: Be honest. Did you ever say, “Oh, you’re so cool, Brewster!” to him?
MS: (laughs) No.
DC: You also cast Melissa Bostaph (a DC alum) as the titular Weeping Woman in her first role; how did she do?
MS: She was great, given all the pressure. And I think she really enjoyed the work. I understand she’s been cast in a couple of other things already so maybe this will be the start of something new for her.
DC: I have to ask: Fabio Frizzi, the man behind some of Lucio Fulci’s most memorable tunes — you got him on a genre project, his first in 20 years. How did that come about?
MS: I’m a huge Frizzi fan. I have to say it’s Fabio’s music that, for me, anyway, makes the Fulci movies what they are, especially City of the Living Dead and The Beyond I worked with Patrick Savage and Holeg Spies on my last three movies. They’ve since gone on to score films such as The Human Centipede so things are really breaking out for them, which is great. But there was some concern about getting our schedules to mesh. And then it just kind of hit me one day. I was listening to some of Fabio’s music and thought he would be perfect to score this movie. So I wrote to him and told him a little bit about the project. He read the script and he watched my other short films and he really liked everything so he agreed.
DC: What do you think about the final product (score)?
MS: Honestly, I can’t imagine anything better than what he did. The first time I heard his main theme, I totally flipped out. In my mind this score is right in there with the other two scores I mentioned. His music is so identifiable, and yet he managed to do something totally new without making it sound like an imitation of his other work. It’s fantastic. And it’s on iTunes for only 99 cents!
DC: How has The Weeping Woman been received by those that have seen it? How has the reaction been versus your previous projects?
MS: I have discovered that I am a more divisive filmmaker than I think I am. It just seems that some viewers get things out of my movies that I didn’t intend or see until afterwards. On The Ugly File, for instance, I heard that many people were really offended because it had to do with deformed children. Frankly, I was shocked. This wasn’t a reaction I expected — especially from a horror audience — but there it was. A lot of people were very uncomfortable with Sucker, but I think that was mostly because they were thinking about where the movie could go rather than where it actually goes. And as much as people seem to like Peekers, there are some haters out there. But that’s just the price of doing business. So with this one it’s been split. Some people really like it, and some people don’t like it as much as my other films. For me, personally, I have to say that I am very satisfied with this one. Working with Stephen and having Fabio’s music and the winter backdrop — I love it.
DC: Tengu. You just picked up the rights; what do you have in mind for this one?
MS: Well, I think it’s ironic that when we optioned the book, the Japanese tsunami and nuclear problems had not yet happened. So I feel like this might be a raw nerve out there because of the novel’s subject matter. On the other hand we’re exploring some ways that we might be able to make it work for us.
DC: Anything to say to fans of the novel?
MS: I’m a writer first and a filmmaker second so I respect the writing. As with every project of mine where we’ve adapted an existing story, we’ve made sure to involve the original author as much as possible. I won’t name names, but my writing partner and I were involved with pitching our take on a book to a major studio, and we came up with something we thought was a good adaptation. We were told that we had “stuck too closely to the source material.” Needless to say, we didn’t get the job. So, as with those other projects, Graham Masterton is totally involved. I think we may have to make some major changes — especially if we set it in the present day — but I don’t want to do anything unless Graham is happy.
DC: Any other projects coming down the pipe that you can talk about now?
MS: Rick Hautala and I have written two drafts of a feature version of Pigeons from Hell. This is my favorite short horror story of all time. It was written by Robert E. Howard, who is better known for Conan. The story has been adapted before — for the Thriller series in the 1960s. And as good as that version was, it really missed the best parts of the story. This was a case where our pitch to the studio was to stick as closely as possible to the source material, and they agreed. So while we did make some changes, they really have more to do with making the story big enough for a feature film.
We also still have the option on James Newman’s book Animosity, which was just published by Necessary Evil Press. It’s a great book and James loves our screenplay. We also have a script called The Special, which Rick and I wrote for Masters of Horror, but we were pitching it for the third season, which didn’t happen. So we re-wrote it as a feature and have a good cast attached so far, including Stephen Geoffreys, Tiffany Shepis and Lynn Lowry. We’re trying to get this financed now so we’ll see. There’s a bunch of other things in various stages of development, and you just never know which one might take off. I’ve been in the business long enough to understand that at least.
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