Indie Horror Month Interview: Matthew Currie Holmes Talks P5YCH and More
Matthew Currie Holmes is probably best known to horror fans all over as "M" from Joe Lynch's Wrong Turn 2 and several other notable genre roles, but now he's embarking on a new career path that's taking him behind the camera - as a director.
Recently Holmes launched a new Kickstarter campaign for his upcoming first-ever feature film called P5YCH, which follows a group of survivors whose attacks served as the inspiration behind five of the biggest horror movies of all time.
Since we here at Dread Central are suckers for anything willing to throw the genre on its head, we recently caught up with the up-and-coming indie filmmaker to hear more about how he got started in the industry, making the transition to director and the plans for the feature film of P5YCH.
Read on for our interview with Holmes below, and make sure to check back here later this week as we wrap up our coverage of Dread Central's Indie Horror Month.
Dread Central: Why don't you start at the beginning and tell me more about how you got started in the industry.
Matthew Currie Holmes: Well, I started working in film and television as a PA up in Canada about 13 years ago. At the time I was an aspiring rock star in an indie band, and in order to make enough money to tour across the vast tundra that is the Canadian prairies, I worked in film. Unfortunately, my time on stage in those smoky bars across the country was coming to an end and so I stayed working as a PA. While it is true you can learn a ton about filmmaking just by being on set, I still didn’t want to be the guy who gets fat guarding the craft service table so I decided to try acting.
You can imagine my wife’s delight when she discovered I was trading in the oh so lucrative career of touring indie musician for the glamorous life of a struggling actor! All kidding aside, she was actually really cool with it. She had only one request- that I spent at least eight hours a day on my career. If I had an audition, study hard, and if I didn’t, I had to write. When I was done writing, I had to shoot- anything, really. She said as long as I treated it like a full-time job, she would support me.
So I worked every day writing, acting, taking classes; and eventually I got work as an actor and after a few years was making a living doing what I loved to do. In 2006 I had won an award for my work on a short-lived Canadian series called "Godiva’s" and I had also landed roles in Firewall, The Fog and Wrong Turn 2 so I decided to move to LA and capitalize on my good fortune and moderate success.
But then the writer’s strike hit, and I was back to where I started. I had moved my family from Canada to LA and was back to the beginning. My wife gave me the same ultimatum, and seeing as I couldn’t go out and audition because of the strike, I just started writing spec scripts and figuring out how to make them into movies.
Dread Central: How did you and Tracy Morse first meet up and began working together?
Matthew Currie Holmes: I met Tracy in 2007; he actually recognized me from Wrong Turn 2. I remember I asked him what he did, and he said, "I write horror films." Not "I write screenplays" or "I’m a writer" but "I write HORROR films." We talked about our favorites and became instant friends.
By 2008 Tracy and I had already written a pretty good draft for our meta slasher P5YCH, were deep into our second feature film and outlining a third so it was clear I’d found a great writing partner. We recently started a small company called The Blood Bros., and we have a slate of five mostly horror films in various stages of development; our first two films - P5YCH and our vampire movie for fanboys, Self Storage - are ready to go.
Dread Central: Tell me how P5YCH came about since clearly you guys are playing on some familiar horror tropes with your story (I'm sure being fans played into this a bit).
Matthew Currie Holmes: I had the idea for P5YCH for about 15 years ago. I was watching Friday the 13th Part Two, and when it was over, I joked that the final girl was going to need therapy for the rest of her life. Then I took the joke to its natural conclusion and said, "Imagine if all the survivors from all the great horror movies were in therapy for PTSD? That would be kind of funny and fucked up... all in group therapy, sharing experiences, etc." I’m kind of twisted like that. So fast forward 12 years; Tracy suggested we write a film together and wondered if I had any ideas; I told him the premise AS A JOKE and he freaked.
I didn’t see it as a feature and thought there’s no way we could get the rights to all the films. Tracy spent the next hour explaining how we could do it, copyright free, and it still be enthralling and scary. When he was done pitching his version of my joke, I knew we had something special.
Being fans of horror, especially slasher flicks, we had this shorthand; we knew there were certain rules we needed to follow like what "mask" our killer wears, the final girl overcoming fear, stuff like that. The cool thing with being referential, or meta, is that we were able to pay homage to the films we loved by adding certain lines or gags, but more importantly we wanted to create a new mythology for fans to enjoy.
Dread Central: So no copyright issues?
Matthew Currie Holmes: No. Our movie’s main premise is that the year is 1984 and the five survivors whose real life traumas in some way or another influenced five terrifying horror films are undergoing experimental treatment for PTSD.
P5YCH is Inception meets Friday the 13th.
Dread Central: Let's talk a bit about the short film- did you guys do a festival run for it at all or was it more as a showpiece for potential distributors?
Matthew Currie Holmes: We shot the short film/extended trailer as a showpiece for investors and production companies. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. People have been calling and we’re setting up deals now, but more importantly, I’ve had such great support from the horror community.
Dread Central: What was your approach for the short film versus how you'll tackle the feature film?
Matthew Currie Holmes: We approached the short film with all-hands-on-deck. It came together so quickly. I was acting in Andrew Kasch’s short film Stay at Home Dad and we were talking about P5YCH, and it was actually Andrew’s push that set up our shoot. He suggested I film a trailer to show investors what I can do, and literally two weeks later we were on set shooting our first scene.
I had no idea how it was going to come together; luckily I have a great producing partner named Tiffany J. Shuttleworth, and she was there to oversee everything and really steered our ship right into port as it were.
But I pulled every favor I had and was able to cast some amazing people like screenwriter/actor David Hayter (X-Men, X2, Watchmen), Amanda Fuller (Red, White and Blue) and Paul Campbell (Battlestar Galactica). We shot the majority of the short at my house. My wife made a nice breakfast every morning; it was like a very large family visit for three days.
I don’t know what I did in a past life to deserve this, but everyone came together and worked their asses off for me. They all just want to see this movie get made and knew that the short film/extended trailer we were filming was a GIANT piece of the puzzle. I am so grateful to have such amazing friends.
Our approach to the feature is different in that we’re asking for a hell of a lot more money, which means we’ll have more than two weeks to put it together. It’s a pretty big film so most of the time between now and when we shoot will be preparation. P5YCH is going to be our calling card, and I know there will be a lot of unknown variables waiting in the shadows; I just want to be as well prepared as possible so I’m starting now.
Dread Central: Why did you guys decide to go with the crowd-funding approach for P5YCH? I would love to hear more about the positive aspects of the approach for other aspiring indie filmmakers out there.
Matthew Currie Holmes: I think crowd-sourcing funds is not only a great way to raise money, but more importantly, it’s a great way to raise awareness for your project. Platforms like Kickstarter allow indie filmmakers to target market their film, specifically to those who want to see it, and it allows people an opportunity to be involved on the ground floor.
We started a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the development of P5YCH; those are the costs associated with making a movie that are out-of-pocket expenses like creating a budget, getting clearance, casting and of course shooting our short film/extended trailer. All of these will help us secure financing for the movie.
Our overall goal is to have 1,000 kick-ass horror fans wearing 1,000 kick-ass P5YCH Shirts.
Dread Central: What happens after you guys finish up with your campaign? When do you suspect you'll be able to start filming?
Matthew Currie Holmes: The Kickstarter campaign is finished on April 22, 2012, and we are well into the development of the feature and hope to be shooting as early as August.
Dread Central: I'd love to hear more about what inspires the kinds of stories you guys like to tell; what stories speak to you as both a fan and a filmmaker?
Matthew Currie Holmes: Basically we like to write the kind of stories we, as fans, would love to see.
I remember when I was thirteen; I saw The Lost Boys in the theater and was blown away. I couldn’t get over how scary and yet how FUN that movie was; I must’ve seen The Lost Boys seven times that summer. There is something so fucking watchable about it. It was well shot, didn’t take itself too seriously, didn’t laugh at itself either, it was scary when it needed to be and exciting the rest of the time. The Lost Boys is just a great flick, and those are the kind of movies I want to see- really exciting, scary, gory, fun horror films that are well made and still carry a sense of adventure.
I love horror films from the 80’s; there was a sense of wonder to those films that I feel has sadly been replaced with carnage for brutality’s sake. I’m not a fan of films that after you watch them you feel compelled to take a shower. That being said, there are great disturbing, brutal films out there like Martyrs. Sure, what happens in the film is awful and it pulls NO punches, but there is something so compelling about it. If a filmmaker can marry the two, then I’m a fan, but if they just tie a hot girl to a chair, rape and torture her for the sake of being "extreme", I’m not interested.
Dread Central: Being an indie filmmaker is never easy no matter if you are crowd-funding or you've got a signed check in your hand; what keeps you going? What keeps you motivated?
Matthew Currie Holmes: I am the least cynical person on the planet and I really don’t know how to fail. Not to sound arrogant but it honestly just doesn’t compute. If "success" takes 20 years, then so be it. Doesn’t mean I stop believing in myself; that doesn’t serve me at all.
Look, if you’ve spent 15 seconds with me, you’ll know that what I have in the tank and what pushes me every day is my unbridled enthusiasm and passion for film. The movie theater is my church; cinema is sacred to me. It moves me, scares me and inspires me like no other art form, and it’s with that kind of wide-eyed wonder I approach filmmaking.
I know it may sound naive and Capra-esque, but no matter how frustrated I get trying to get P5YCH financed or how much bullshit I have to put up with - people telling me horror doesn’t sell, or telling me "no" every time I ask a question - at the end of the day I just take a breath, look into the mirror and say, "I’m actually making a movie." And that is just so magical.
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