Texas Frightmakers: Q&A with Producer Allen Reed
This month we talk to Texas Frightmaker Allen Reed from Subamerican Productions, a Texas-based pair of filmmakers who have just completed The Merchant, their first feature-length film, which was shot entirely in Texas using local talent. I sat down with Reed to discuss his work as an independent Texas producer of horror films.
Mr. Dark: Can you tell us a little about who you are and what you've done?
Allen Reed: Well, let's see... We are Subamerican Productions, LLC, which basically consists of myself and director Justin Mosley. We are a very indie filmmaking duo that does not fight crime on the side. We've been making short films for 6 or 7 years, but last year we undertook our first big-boy-pants project. It's called The Merchant, a supernatural thriller/horror film set in the late 1800's and filmed in East Texas.
MD: Give us some background on The Merchant. You wrote and produced the film; how did that production come together?
AR: It started on Justin's back porch as a careless comment: "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if we made a western?" I scoffed at the idea, having heard about how taxing and expensive it is to make a period film. I turned the idea down, flat. Six weeks later I had my first draft written. The idea was just too tempting for us. We thought, living here in Texas, that we had a fighting chance with so many history enthusiasts and western fans around. We were right. The community responded very well to this project. It did not take long for the project to grow into something bigger than us. We were covered by the local newspapers and magazines and even ended up on the 6 o'clock news. Word got around fast, as it tends to here. Before we knew it, we had a great location and some great talent on board. It's been work, work, work ever since.
MD: You're part of what I consider to be a "new wave" of indie horror filmmakers. What drew you to a project like The Merchant instead of a more traditional horror film?
AR: I love traditional horror. I have since I was a kid. When other kids were watching Flight of the Navigator, I was watching Chopping Mall. The best thing, and the worst thing, about traditional horror is that it's abundant. It's everywhere. You have decades of films to draw upon, and a hundred new titles pop up every year. That's why we will probably never go the traditional route. It's difficult enough being taken seriously as an indie movie producer without creating a product that ends up being white noise against a thousand films about teens on vacation. Of course, a few of those titles turn out to be great, but we just can't do it. We're bored with it.
MD: Are you a native Texan, or did you just get here as soon as you could?
AR: I wasn't born here. I was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas (go ahead, let me have it), but I spent most of my childhood and adolescence here. I lived in Southern California for a few years and hated it. I know, as a filmmaker I'm not supposed to have that opinion, but I do. I have lots of family there, but the place just isn't for me. I'm a Southern boy, and Texas is definitely home. That's why it makes me so happy to see the film industry begin to explore the South.
MD: What is it about Texas that made you want to create horror here? Why not LA or the tax-credit wilds of Canada?
AR: I think any tax relief we may have gotten from Canada would have been offset by the ridiculous travel expenses and moose attack insurance. And, as I said a moment ago, I've never liked California. It just feels like a creepy uncle to me. Not right. Here in Texas we've had the home field advantage, and it shows in the work. I mean, what better place to create a western setting than Texas? Arizona, maybe, which we strongly considered. But in the end it could have only been done right here. The involvement, resourcefulness, and enthusiasm of the community have been invaluable.
MD: What's the future for The Merchant? Release plans, film festival screenings, con appearances?
AR: Currently we are planning to submit to festivals in New York City, Atlanta, and here in Texas as well as Sundance and possibly Cannes, though it's hard to imagine going to France right now. Of course, almost any indie filmmaker thinks their work would do well in the bigger festivals like Sundance, but the feedback we have received so far, even being in post, has made us think we may have a monster on our hands. Ultimately, what we do with it will depend on what is best for our distribution goals, but I am proud of the film and would like to show it anyone with at least one eye.
MD: My traditional final question: What's your favorite horror movie?
AR: If you asked Justin, he would say John Carpenter's The Thing. He likes it for what it achieves in the time before CGI alligators and 30-year-old teenager horror classic remakes. I agree; the film is great. It's genius, the design and practical effects used in that movie. It's something I wish the horror genre would return to. Nothing beats practical. My personal favorite is Evil Dead 2. Scared the hell out of me as a kid, and now it gives me a good, dark laugh. I am also a huge George A. Romero fan. I was loving the zombies before they stumbled their way onto lunchboxes.
Big thanks to Allen Reed for taking time out to talk to us! I'm looking forward to more from him and Subamerican. Keep an eye peeled (no, literally, go grab a peeler) right here on Dread Central for more on The Merchant as it happens!
Hell has come to the town of Burning Bush. The year is 1895, and the town has fallen into gambling, prostitution, and loan-sharking; but when the town's benefactor, William "Big Bill" Micallef, must make good on a deal made with the demon Belial, it's the innocents of Burning Bush who must pay with blood. Now a pair of young ranch hands, a pregnant widow, a can-can dancer, a Haitian bartender, and a booze-swilling gunslinger must fight for their lives as Belial aims to destroy everything and everyone in town and reap the souls promised him.
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