Indie Horror Month Interview: Eric England Talks Madison County, Roadside, His Latest Project Contracted and More
In just under two years, up-and-coming filmmaker Eric England has already left quite an impression on the independent genre world. His feature film debut Madison County debuted to a sold-out crowd during LA's Screamfest last October and is set to make its home release this May.
His follow-up feature, Roadside is currently being wrapped up and will undoubtedly showcase a different side of the director and for his third project, he's teaming up with several other indie filmmakers on the rise for the cautionary body horror flick Contracted which begins shooting soon as well.
As you can tell, England's not one to rest on his laurels; recently Dread Central had the opportunity to catch up with the ever-busy director to chat about the release of Madison County, the status of Roadside as well as more on his latest project and what the independent filmmaking world has taught him over the last few years.
Read on for our exclusive interview with England and make sure to check back here the rest of the week for more coverage in honor of Dread Central's Indie Horror Month.
Dread Central: So, it's got to feel pretty good to finally get Madison County out there and into the hands of the fans. Any plans for an unrated or director's cut for the DVD release?
Eric England: Thanks so much! I'm not sure exactly what the final verdict on the home release of Madison County will be- I know they've been talking about Rated and Unrated cuts of the movie but I've been adamant I don't want to change my movie. We haven't gotten our official rating yet either so we'll see what happens. I personally don't think Madison County is all that gory so I can't imagine we're going to have too many problems but there is some extreme violence which may influence the rating. We're just waiting to see what happens.
But I am ecstatic that Madison County is finally coming out May 8th; we've had the deal with Image for a while now but we have had to mind our P's and Q's until they made the official announcement. One of our biggest concerns throughout the process of making Madison County is that we wanted to make sure that no matter who we did end up with, that we were protected and that the movie would get released the right way. That's part of the reason we didn't have a sales agent on this one; we wanted to go through the entire process of making a movie from start to finish and learn the dirty side of the business.
Dread Central: From previous conversations, I know Roadside was a complete departure from Madison County; can you talk a bit about how important it was for you to go in a different direction creatively while making Roadside?
Eric England: You know, it wasn't something that was blatantly obvious to me. I was telling someone the other day that I have a weird approach to filmmaking in that I really like for it to be organic; I like for it to just…happen. I don't make movies for other people. Do I want other people to enjoy them? Yeah but I make them because I have stories inside me that I really want to tell, or I identify with and once I'm done with the film, I watch it and analyze it to learn about myself.
Making films is like my therapy; that sounds so cliché and self-absorbed but I mean it in the most genuine way. I don't like to over analyze what I'm doing because I'll get bored with it if I conquer it or understand it too fast.
As a young up-and-coming filmmaker I'm down to do just about anything so if a producer came to me and said 'we want you to do another slasher film,' I wouldn't be totally against it. We work in a tough business and I'm in no position to look a gift horse in the mouth but since I've been fortunate enough to do films kind of on my own terms, I guess I just wanted to try and do something that pushed me as a storyteller, not necessarily something 'different.'
It just so happened that this film became as 'different' from MC as I could get. I do know that when developing the idea and writing the script, I wanted to do a single setting, high concept thriller. I thought that would push me to tell a complicated story in one place (which was true) and it might make the production a little easier, which would allow us to keep the budget down. On that, I was totally wrong (laughs).
Dread Central: What's the official status on Roadside then (I think I saw you guys were doing some sound stuff over the weekend)?
Eric England: Roadside has been in the editing room for a little longer than anticipated but my editors, Daniel Dunn and Levi Blue, did a really great job of finding the right way to put the pieces together. So now we're in the middle of getting the sound and Visual Effects done and the movie should be ready to show in the summer/fall. I'm keeping this one a little more under wraps than MC because it's a different film and I want it to catch people off guard, especially because it's definitely going to take a few people by surprise.
We actually did have some interest in it back when we were making it which was great affirmation for me. It's hard to believe a movie that wasn't even done could drum up interest but as of now, we still aren't sure what the official plans for Roadside are just yet. It's been a labor of love but I want to make sure we get it right.
Dread Central: Contracted has you pairing up with some other successful indie filmmakers (BoulderLight Pictures co-founders JD Lifshitz and Raphael Margules); how different has this pre-production process been for you than on your other films? How has that made you have to change up your script approach?
Eric England: Contracted has been great in every way so far. The pre-production process is a little different since I'm working with new producers, but at the core -- it's mostly the same. Doing Madison County, Ace and I were basically roommates and we got a lot of shit done for first time producers. Roadside was kind of a rush job; the money and script were at the right places at the right time and we just pushed the go button before we could think so we kind of jumped in head first.
That was a tough task to handle but at the end of the day, it was an amazing learning experience that I'm glad I have. But the overall process is still the same; going through my usual routines during casting, hiring, prepping, etc. I'm just happy to be able to bring a good chunk of my previous Madison County and Roadside crews on board with me for Contracted.
What's exciting though is working with new producers because we each bring our own experiences to the table. There's really a lot of learning on both ends which is nice. JD and Raphael, my producers, are all about integrity and quality so they're making sure we're not cutting any corners on a lot of things like most indie films (and filmmakers) do. They're especially on top of me about the script, which is nice. I'm a director, first and foremost, because at the end of the day my script is going to become a film, so I focus on the visual storytelling more. That means I sometimes neglect things in my script so they're trying to break me of that habit, which I appreciate. So I've definitely spent a lot more time with my script than I have on previous films and it's nice because at the end of the day, we all want to make not just a good horror movie but a good movie.
Dread Central: Just because I know you and have seen your candid thoughts on sex and that kind of stuff online, Contracted seems like it's going to come from a very personal filmmaking perspective; does it seem that way to you as well? I know we chatted up the body horror aspect of this movie- how far do you plan on taking that aspect for Contracted?
Eric England: I guess I do have 'progressive' views on sex and relationships (laughs) so I definitely think there will be some of that in Contracted. But for me Contracted is really a product of all the promiscuity that goes on in the world and the lack of understanding for which the consequences carry. There are shows that glamorize promiscuous sex like "Teen Moms" and "Jersey Shore" and I just wanted to take that and kind of spin it on its head.
Contracted is definitely not a 'preachy' movie by any means. It doesn't get on a soapbox about anything; it's more of just a really gruesome PSA on sex and relationships all spinning out of control. Love, passion and emotions are all powerful things and if they're played with in the wrong ways they can become deadly. So to get psychological and physical is the only way to do this kind of film, for me.
Dread Central: You've made two features and are about embark on your third all in two years which is a pretty remarkable feat; what have been the biggest lessons you've learned along the way and how do you keep challenging yourself as a storyteller each time around?
Eric England: Thank you so much. I've learned so much along the way. I've learned a lot while making movies but I think you learn so much more in between the movies really. This industry is a weird place filled with egos, empty promises, cliques, greedy people, liars, etc. but it's also filled with some truly great, beautiful people and those are the ones I want to continue to work with.
I didn't come to LA to become rich and famous; I want to make money so that I can continue to make movies. Part of why I try to make movies at such a rapid pace is I'm always looking to the future. I don't want to wait on my first movie to come out for people to say 'okay, that's a passable movie but we'd like to see your next one.' This isn't 'Mother, May I?'- this is my life so I'm going to work as hard as I can before I die because I truly love what I do.
I want to get better and even though I'm proud of the films I've done I can do better. I WANT to do better. In terms of always challenging myself, I try to be open to almost everything. When I first became a filmmaker, I only wanted to direct my own scripts. But now I'm attached to bigger projects, set up at companies and studios that I didn't write and it's been a really exciting process of coming in fresh and not being 'the man in charge.' Even though I'm the director, I'm still low on the food chain in a room full of suits that cut the checks so it's been a learning process that I want to try and turn into a better one than the horror stories we've all heard in the past.
I want to direct movies I would have never thought about trying to make with different sized budgets (lower and smaller) and just keep getting behind the camera; the only way to push yourself and to learn is by doing and no one gets anything done by just talking about it.
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