Exclusive Interview: Filmmaker Nicholas McCarthy on The Pact and More - Dread Central
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Exclusive Interview: Filmmaker Nicholas McCarthy on The Pact and More

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On Friday, July 6th, up-and-coming writer/director Nicholas McCarthy’s feature film debut, The Pact (review here), hits limited theaters nationwide courtesy of IFC Midnight Films; and in anticipation of its release Dread Central had the opportunity to chat with McCarthy about the flick.

Starring Caity Lotz, Casper Van Dien, and Agnes Bruckner, The Pact follows a pair of sisters who return to their childhood home after their mother passes away suddenly. While staying overnight in the house, a mysterious presence shows itself and proves to be interested in harming the siblings, and after her sister goes missing, it’s up to Annie (Lotz) and local Detective Creek (Van Dien) to figure out the mysteries lying within the house before it’s too late.

The Pact‘s story actually begins back in January 2011 during the Sundance Film Festival, where McCarthy’s short film of the same name debuted successfully, promptly putting the writer/director front and center on the independent scene. Shortly thereafter, McCarthy set out to adapt his short film for a feature-length effort that would also allow the filmmaker the chance to make the leap from the world of short films he’d been working steadily in for seven years.

Last week Dread chatted with McCarthy about his approach to adapting his short film for this project as well as more on his experiences working on The Pact and how a split within the genre back in the 90’s inspired his ghost story.

Dread Central: Since this is your first feature film, I’d love to hear a little bit more about yourself and your approach to filmmaking with The Pact.

Nicholas McCarthy: Well, I have always loved movies, and I had been making short film after short film after short film pretty much up until now with The Pact. Honestly, I’ve never really had a plan; I moved out here 10 years ago and didn’t really know how it was going to work out.

I’ve really realized as of late just how important it was to keep directing all those little films before this because it really prepared me. Going through the film festival experience, too, really allowed me to learn a lot because there is a huge difference between screening your movie for a few friends and screening your movie in front of 200-300 strangers.

So about four or five years ago, I started working on a bunch of screenplays; I had some success here and there, but I also wrote a few slasher films that never went anywhere either. So the short film of The Pact was born out of that frustration- my own frustration with where my career was and just how bad the business had become.

Dread Central: Can you talk a bit about the differences between the short version of The Pact versus the feature-film version?

Nicholas McCarthy: Sure. The Pact short film was more of a moody character piece about this idea of a woman believing in ghosts, and for the feature film I had to open that world up a bit. Honestly, I didn’t make that short as a trailer for a feature; it was only when I left Sundance and I met with ContentFilm that the idea of a feature film was first brought up. During our meeting they told me that they loved my movie and wanted to make a feature of it. I didn’t have a script at all, but I never told them that- I realized what kind of opportunity this was so I took six weeks and put the script together. All together, it took us about 40 weeks to complete The Pact from start to finish.

Dread Central: Being a first-time feature filmmaker is always stressful- did you face any big challenges along the way?

Nicholas McCarthy: You know, the biggest challenge for me was just going from making shorts to making my first feature. It wasn’t really the day-to-day activities on the set because we had money for a crew and everything. I guess the biggest question for me going into the feature film was whether or not this story was 90 minutes worth of entertainment for fans and would it be scary, and I think we succeeded in both of those goals.

Dread Central: Can you talk about your influences for The Pact? I got a bit of a Ju-On vibe while watching the movie myself.

Nicholas McCarthy: I wasn’t ever consciously trying to tell a ghost story specifically; it was more about the fact that I just wanted to tell a story, and I’ve always found ghosts scary, as most people find ghosts scary. But that wasn’t enough because what can be scarier than ghosts? Other people; human nature can be a terrifying thing so those were two huge elements in this.

I wanted there to be that sort of idea of a person that is in the room that is invisible because it’s a really terrifying thought- you’re being watched and not even knowing that you’re being watched is kind of a disturbing idea so I wanted that in this movie; kind of an homage to those ‘the call is coming from inside the house’ moments you’ve seen in horror movies throughout the years. That was the idea.

I think something happened with horror in the ’90s where the genre kind of split in two; I think the split happened during this mainstream acceptance of slasher films where that subgenre split into the PG-13 world and the R-rated world. Then there were ghost stories like Ju-On and Shutter overseas or The Sixth Sense here in the States, and finally, ghost stories were frightening again. I didn’t really think about it at the time, but The Pact ends up sort of being a mash-up of that divide because there are definitely elements from both slasher films and ghost stories at play in this.

Dread Central: Are you working on anything now? Because you’re a fan, I’d guess you want to continue to make horror films for a while at least.

Nicholas McCarthy: For sure; the one thing that always pissed me off as a fan is when a director would come in, do his first movie which would usually end up being horror, and then would take off for another genre and then go on to bash the horror world. They just leave the genre behind, and I never want to be that guy. The Pact was a great experience so I plan on staying for some time, I hope at least (laughs). But I do have another project that I am working on; I can’t say too much because it’s still early, but it is a devil-centric story and we’re looking to start filming this fall. I was raised Catholic so it should definitely be interesting.

Exclusive Interview: Filmmaker Nicholas McCarthy on The Pact and More

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Graham Humphreys Reveals His Poster For An American Werewolf In London

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Graham Humphreys continues to cement his position as one of the top horror artists in the business with his stunning new poster for An American Werewolf in London. This piece was created as a private commission, and fans of John Landis’ 1981 classic are going to love it. You can view the final design of this incredible poster below.

Final design with text.

Graham also provided us with a detailed statement about the creation of the piece, along with a bunch of screen grabs taken throughout the process. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you can see how the final image looks before the text was added. In case you missed it earlier, you can also check out our extended interview with Graham here.

Exclusive Statement from Graham Humphreys
As a commercial artist and illustrator, there is only limited scope to make a job entirely your own – so with each project you are answering a brief in order to fulfill the needs of a client. Of course, the client may choose to give you free reign, though this is with the understanding that you are acknowledging their needs and thus expected to work within certain unspoken parameters. Mostly, these confines are defined by how a product is to be sold, licensing instructions and an understanding a market. With this in mind, the client is paying and thus nominally always right… though it would be unprofessional not to make them aware that other options might work better for them!

Without these commercial constraints, a private commission can remove the barriers because no market is to be met and there is only the artist and the private client to answer to. Creating a poster for a familiar and heavily licensed title is an entirely different prospect if it is not going to be generating money in the public domain and is thus essentially ‘fan art’. Unlike say, a T-shirt company ripping off someone elses art and charging money for the printed image, or perhaps a poster reproduced without permission by either the license owner or artist, then sold for profit.

Here, Dread Central have asked me to talk through one such commission, ‘An American Werewolf in London’, painted as a private commission for an individual that wishes to own a unique image that they themselves have made happen. NB: All likenesses and specific imagery (including the title and names etc) are subject to license and copyright and not for any use other than as examples of a work in progress (and of course, all rights are reserved!). Just need to make sure that it absolutely clear!

The client had commissioned two previous posters from me (as well as numerous poster designs from fellow artists), so a basic understanding of expectations had already been established.

My work begins by watching the film from beginning to end – to re-establish my own connection to the film (if one already exists). I saw ‘An American Werewolf in London’ (in London!) on it’s first run and the proximity to many of the locations (Tottenham Court Road tube station, Piccadilly Circus, being the obvious ones) made it instantly impressionable for me. Existing posters, in particular the official theatrical versions and various home-entertainment sleeves, focused on a limited image pool. My job was to find new ways of representing the film, free of the past baggage, but also to listen to my clients requirements.

Looking for a fresh perspective means avoiding the familiar stills that have defined the past marketing, this is achieved by making screen grabs from the DVD or blu-ray. As with most commercial jobs, I generally make a selection of about 40 images, then review these reducing the number to about 15 that have the best narrative potential, including a good visual range of actor expressions and reactions. My client required the Werewolf, London references, the moors, David and Jack, a full moon and the ‘Slaughtered Lamb’ pub sign… then whatever else I chose to include.

On the basis of the selected screen grabs, I make necessary light and contrast adjustments in photoshop, make them greyscale (removing the distraction of colour) and print them out at a size I can easily trace in pencil onto paper. All the pencil sketches are then scanned into photoshop, so that I can rearrange, resize and move around in order to determine the best layout, one which tells a story and has a visual impact. (I find it’s better to present sketched layouts rather than a photocomp’s, partly because the photographic material is usually of varying quality, but also because a pencil rough is more fluid and does not dictate the final impression).

Selected screen grabs.

Selected screen grabs 2.

My first idea involved a portrait of David looking lost and frightened (I felt this was essential to the story), the Werewolf with it’s head bursting through the cinema shutters/signage (the idea of breaking the fourth wall), the decomposing Jack (a perfect metaphor for David’ s own life falling apart), his nightmare of the home invasion (one of the most effective and horrific moments in the film, I felt), plus Brian Glover’s ‘Slaughtered Lamb’ local – a look that defines rednecks and racists the word over when confronted by ‘other’!). I also wanted to add the tube attack victim to open up the carnage. Although Jenny Agutter’s nurse added the romantic dimension for an audience that expects the convention, I wanted to concentrate on David’s story, so chose to only include her face as if she were painted on the shutters, ie. a film poster element.

I was surprised that the client didn’t want the home invasion creatures, nor the reference to the sleazy cinema hordings (which I thought made a good location gag – obviously not!), they also did not want the rotting Jack. It was disappointing to lose these great horror elements, especially as they’d particularly wanted ‘horror’! But a compromise was reached by including the transformation scene at the bottom, and reinstating the moors (which I’d thought unnecessary).

Fortunately, my second sketch was well received and the painting could commence.

On the basis of the selected screen grabs, I make necessary light and contrast adjustments in photoshop, make them greyscale (removing the distraction of colour) and print them out at a size I can easily trace in pencil onto paper. All the pencil sketches are then scanned into photoshop, so that I can rearrange, resize and move around in order to determine the best layout, one which tells a story and has a visual impact. (I find it’s better to present sketched layouts rather than a photocomp’s, partly because the photographic material is usually of varying quality, but also because a pencil rough is more fluid and does not dictate the final impression).

Once I have my sketch approved I reintroduced the photographic source material over the sketched parts, so that my layout remains exactly as approved and so that I’ll have the best possible likenesses to trace onto the watercolour paper.

Early sketched elements.

I usually have a basic idea of what colours I’m going to use. In this instance I knew that I wanted a silvery blue moonlight to bathe the entire image, but also the contrast of the orange glow of artificial lighting, the pub and cinema foyer. I knew the big splash of red in the wolf’s jaw would jump out, becoming the focal point. This painting took about three days to complete, the sketch process (including the grabs) about a day upfront.

Composition design.

The final painting was scanned and all the text added in photoshop.

My client will now make a full size poster print, to be framed, from the file I send him. Next up, ‘The Thing’!

Final painting before text was added.

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Syfy Renews Z Nation for a 5th Season; Season 4 Finale Airs Tonight!

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Syfy’s popular zombie series “Z Nation” just keeps shambling on, and tonight the two-episode Season 4 finale, “Mt. Weather/The Black Rainbow,” airs. If you’re a fan of the show, we have good news for you… it’s not over yet as David Latt of The Asylum has announced on Twitter the pickup of “Z Nation” for a 5th season! So you can expect lots more adventures with the gang in 2018.

Below is the official word from David along with a brief synopsis of what’s ahead tonight in the finale, which kicks off at 9/8c.

Synopsis:
In the mind-bending two-hour Season 4 finale, Warren and the team must stop Zona from launching operation Black Rainbow, which will cleanse the landscape of both zombies and humans. In Part 2 the secret of Warren’s Black Rainbow dream is unlocked when they reach their final destination. The cast includes Kellita Smith as Roberta Warren, Keith Allan as Murphy, Russell Hodgkinson as Doc, Nat Zang as 10K, Gracie Gillam as Sgt. Lilley, DJ Qualls as Citizen Z, Ramona Young as Kaya, Justin Torrence as President Donald Trump, Michael Berryman as The Founder, Micheal Daks as Mr. Sunshine, Anastasia Baranova as Addy, Sydney Viengluang as Sun Mei, Joseph Gatt as The Man, and Natalie Jongjaroenlarp as Red.

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First Look at Chris Alexander’s Space Vampire

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Who says all vampires have to be all extra-broody or sparkly or take up residence in Transylvania? Certainly not indie filmmaker Chris Alexander, who has just unveiled the first images and posters for his latest foray into film, Space Vampire!

The movie stars Ali Chappell as a beautiful female alien parasite who falls to earth with an intent to drain women of their life forces. As if women don’t have enough problems in this day and age!

Alexander wrote, directed, edited, filmed, and even provided the score for this intergalactic terror tale. Talk about a jack of all trades, eh?

Enough talk! Dig in!

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