Indie Horror Month - Exclusive: Scott Leberecht and Matt Compton Talk Midnight Son
Before writer/director Scott Leberecht embarked on the sometimes difficult journey making his latest film Midnight Son (review here), he was working as a visual effects artist for Industrial Light & Magic. He said it was while he was still working for the prestigious company when the inspiration for his twist on modern vampires struck.
“I actually had the idea for Midnight Son percolating for a few years before I wrote the script,” explained Leberecht. “I got the inspiration for the story from when I was working up in San Francisco for ILM. There was this one house on a corner I would pass all the time that had all the windows blocked out, and there were handmade paintings in the windows. I can vividly remember just standing there, staring at this house, and found the idea of someone living like that so fascinating - like there was someone inside that house that wanted so badly to connect to the outside world but just was unable to do so for some reason. And that’s the world I created for Jacob in Midnight Son.”
As a storyteller, Leberecht didn’t want his take on vampires to be like anything fans have been exposed to over the last several years, especially with the growing popularity of the bloodsucker culture due to the success of projects like Twilight or “True Blood.” “From the start, I always wanted to take the realistic approach with Midnight Son and make audiences understand that there’s nothing glamorous about being a vampire when you think about it. You can’t go outside during most normal hours, you have to drink blood to survive, and if you’re a good person, how do you get that blood? These are the struggles I wanted Jacob to face.”
“It was important to me for audiences to see just how isolating it could be when you treat vampirism like a congenital disease. Midnight Son is about Jacob’s fight against this disease he’s had his entire life but is only now starting to manifest in some pretty big ways. We see him struggle with his own humanity as he comes to terms with what he’s becoming, and we watch him make some pretty devastating choices as he keeps getting pushed along this dark path,” Leberecht added.
For producer Matt Compton Midnight Son was a story he immediately recognized as unlike anything going on in the horror genre at the time. “When I first read the script, I knew there was something so amazing and unique about Scott’s story so I knew I had to get on board to help get this movie to the finish line. Scott had such an enthusiasm for the story, which is why I think we all went above and beyond to make sure we got to this point of getting the movie out there for audiences. That enthusiasm was almost infectious.”
Compton pointed out that even though Leberecht was adamant about making something “new” in the world of the night stalkers, the writer/director also saw the importance of paying homage to the classic vampire tales as well, which is part of the reason behind Midnight Son’s homage to Tom Holland’s 1985 classic Fright Night.
“The homage to Fright Night was definitely Scott’s idea,” explained Compton. “He shot the footage without knowing if we could get the rights. I guess he just trusted in his intention. The first time we asked, we got quoted a huge rate, not even in the realm of possibility. So we had to go back and literally beg as fans, and everyone was kind enough to lower it down to something that was feasible for our budget. I know Scott was thrilled it worked out, especially since the movie is a classic and a favorite of all of ours.”
When it came time for Leberecht to find his lead actor, he had no idea that Jacob would actually come looking for him in the form of actor Zak Kilberg. Kilberg, who had heard from a friend about the up-and-coming director’s project, contacted him without reading one single script page and told him he had to be in this movie. That kind of enthusiasm left an impression on Leberecht.
“When Zak first contacted me about the movie, it’s almost like I knew he was going to be Jacob even at that point. I still had him send over his photo, his reel, and a video audition just so I could get a better sense of him as an actor; and they all just blew me away. He was Jacob, and the first time we met in person, I gave him the role, which was completely a gut decision by me. Zak just understood what I was going for from the start and was so great to work with in developing this role. My gut just knew he had the talent to pull off the performance I wanted for Jacob, and he never let me down,” said Leberecht.
While the first-time feature filmmaker said he was expecting a lot of pressure when it came time to make Midnight Son in 2008, he said he had no idea just what was going to be in store for him, and part of the reason for the film’s completion is an amazing producing team that had aligned for the project.
“There’s definitely a different kind of pressure as a filmmaker once you start spending other people’s money,” explained Leberecht. “You don’t get the luxury of experimenting when you have people investing in your idea so you have to know what you want as a filmmaker. I was lucky I had such a great team in place - Kevin McCorkle, who plays Dr. Barnes, came onto the project early on as an investor and got the ball rolling. His enthusiasm from the start was integral to the film’s success. Maya (Parish), who I met in film school, came on as both an actress and as a producer and has been such a huge part of Midnight Son from beginning to end. Then there’s Matt. I’m telling you; the hours that guy has put into this film, not to mention his unwavering patience and devotion, have taught me a lot about how to roll with the seemingly never-ending indie filmmaking punches.”
Leberecht went on to discuss how a modern indie horror pioneer was another driving force behind Midnight Son’s completion. “Another huge person behind Midnight Son was Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project). We had spent our entire budget on the shoot and had no money left for post production because some of the money we were expecting to come through didn’t when the 2008 economy tanked. We were absolutely screwed.”
“Then David C. Hughes, our Sound Designer, called and told me that he was working with Ed on Seventh Moon. He told Ed about Midnight Son, and Ed emailed me, asking to see some footage. I sent him some raw footage, and he asked to read the screenplay. Once he did, he said he wanted to come on board as an executive producer. He was able to raise a ton of money and was nothing less than a mentor during the editing process. He worked his tail off, tirelessly watching cut after cut of scene after scene and giving me great notes the whole way through. Again, I consider him a true creative collaborator and guide through the entire post production. This film would not be what it is if it weren't for him,” Leberecht added.
Now with Midnight Son’s world premiere just a few short hours away, the first-time feature director was honest enough to admit he does have a small case of jitters going into tonight’s bow at the Cinequest Film Festival “Honestly, I’m really quite nervous about the premiere. We’ve never screened the movie for the public so Cinequest will be the first real test. I just hope audiences will respond positively to the story of Midnight Son. I feel so grateful to have gotten to this point, and I know that the reason we’re here talking about this movie now is due to the tireless efforts of every single person involved in making Midnight Son happen.”
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