Exclusive Interview: Writer/Director Mel House Talks Psychic Experiment, Upcoming Projects and More!

Dread Central: Can you walk us through how production went on Psychic Experiment- any hiccups along the way?

House: Surprisingly enough, production went fairly smoothly for the most part considering that we had to shoot for 30 days spread out across three months in the Houston summer of 2008. So obviously it was hot as hell but we got through it best we could. The only hiccups were some of the practical FX we mentioned – a few of the gags proved to be too complicated to shoot during the main production so we pushed them back to post pickups and then Hurricane Ike hit the weekend that we were scheduled to shoot.

Fortunately, we were spared by Ike but a LOT of the locations we had shot at – especially the ones in Galveston - were nearly destroyed. They’ve since been built back up though which is great. I wouldn’t want my crazy horror/sci-fi flick to be the last living document of the Strand Business District. But aside from the above, the only time we 'hiccupped' was during the post and sales process. We had some VFX issues which we dealt with then Activity came out and caused a small feeding frenzy (since we were Katie’s 'next' movie at the time). This led to our foreign deal, but it took a while to close the Lionsgate deal – they wanted me to trim the movie down to 90 minutes or thereabouts (from 2 hours).

At first I didn’t know if I could do it mainly because I’d lost perspective by that point. However I took some time away from it, sat down one weekend and promptly cut out 15 minutes in the first sitting. It was an interesting experience and another invaluable learning one. I’ve got to note that all they told me was “make it 90 minutes” so Lionsgate left it entirely up to me to do the final cut which I thought was pretty damn cool because I got a Lionsgate movie out of it as well as a 'hard knocks/high stakes' editing course. You can’t beat that.

Dread Central: You had to wear a lot of hats in order to get Psychic Experiment made- how hard was juggling so many different aspects of production?

House: To be honest, it was hard to let go of a few of the aspects. Having come straight up through the most guerilla of guerilla filmmaking experiences, I was used to doing damn near everything. With me it’s much less of an auteur trip than it is an insurance policy because who’s the one person I know I can depend on? Myself. So I’d take on most production aspects on past sets up to and including set construction because no one else would do it, you know?

Back to letting go- we were fortunate to have been able to hire an awesome crew to work with us on Psychic Experiment so I could easily let go of DP, gaffer, sound, AD duties; things like that. Paying folks does bring a certain level of accountability with it so it’s a lot different than working with a volunteer crew or your college buddies. In most cases, you can afford to get folks that do a WAY better job than you ever would if you were to take those tasks on and everyone we got were heavy hitters so there’s no doubt in my mind that I was safe in delegating out those tasks.

The music and score were interesting because I wanted to see if I could write the score and assuming I could, there were parts of the movie that I felt like I had to score (other musicians will probably get what I’m talking about). There were personal beats that I just wanted to really put my stamp on. However I knew that if I faltered my co-composer Dwayne Cathey, who is a much better musician than I am, would be there to make it work so there was a certain amount of middle ground there for me as well.

Dread Central: How did it feel when you found out Lionsgate picked the movie up for distribution?

House: I think I punched a wall out of happiness. Not kidding. Watch the movie, I’m a miswired emotional mess. But ill-advised wall-punching aside, that was essentially the best possible outcome for us, and I couldn’t have been happier. Everyone knows Lionsgate, they recognize the logo, so there’s a certain level of legitimacy and validation that comes along with it. I’ll always remember that I got the phone call the night that Melanie and I went to see Paranormal Activity 2 which of course, is very fitting.

Dread Central: So what's up next for you?

House: Well, next up for us are several things. Imago- which is a film I co-wrote and produced for my director friend Chris Warren- is now in post production and looking to get done by the end of the year/beginning of 2012. That one brings back a LOT of the Experiment cast and crew and also adds Lisa “I Killed Freddy Twice” Wilcox to the mix. Can’t wait to get that one done, it’s also good and weird.

We are also about to debut a comedic web series titled Placeholders in the next few weeks. It focuses on a public access station and all the wackiness that ensued when I worked at one back in the late 90’s with the usual suspects from Experiment and Imago returning. Placeholders also gives me a nice outlet to vent a lot of my frustrations about the industry, my place in it, my trajectory, and on and on. It’s been a tough road so far, but misanthropic comedy makes the journey so much smoother and includes everything from ghosts, fringe pornography, Russian mobsters, and musical numbers. Great fun for the whole family.

Finally, the next big project is a feature film titled Soon, A Light On. I’ll be writing and directing again, and it’s easily my most ambitious feature to date on a number of levels though the story is much simpler than something like Experiment. This one is a ghost story that takes place in New Orleans in an old plantation house. A writer mysteriously inherits the place, coincidentally just as he’s going through a divorce and strange things start happening, dark forces are awakened, and everything goes askew. I'm definitely going for more of a classic vibe with this one - Ghost Story, The Innocents, stuff like that. But we're planning to shoot this one on location in early 2012 and I'm not sure how much we can say about the cast, crew or our plans for this one yet as it’s still in the early stages but I guess to say that it’s my dream cast wouldn’t be overstating the matter too much. Big emphasis on 'dream.'

Exclusive Interview: Writer/Director Mel House Talks Psychic Experiment, Upcoming Projects and More!

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