Exclusive: Writer/Director Michael Ojeda and Producer Jason Gurvitz Talk Savaged and More
For his genre debut, up-and-coming filmmaker Michael Ojeda is ready to give viewers a revenge tale unlike anything they've ever seen before in the indie feature Savaged. Read on for the goods.
Savaged is the brutal tale of a deaf woman named Zoe (Amanda Adrienne) who is tortured and killed by a gang of racist rednecks in the middle of the desert while traveling cross-country to meet her fiancé. A mysterious shaman happens to find her lifeless body so he uses it as a way to resurrect an ancient Apache Warrior who wants to hunt down the murderous group and make them pay for the sins of their ancestors.
Co-produced and co-financed by Raven Banner Entertainment and Cart Before the Horse Productions LLC and co-produced by Green Dog Films and Reigning Entertainment, Savaged recently wrapped production north of Los Angeles and is currently gearing up for a 2012-2013 festival run.
Recently Dread Central caught up with writer/director Ojeda as well as producer Jason Gurvitz on the phone to discuss their modern day twist on the old school revenge tale, how the town from U-Turn inspired Ojeda during the script process and what their future plans are with Savaged and beyond.
Check out our exclusive interview below, and look for more on Savaged soon!
Dread Central: How did you come up with the idea for Savaged?
Michael Ojeda: I wrote this script about four and a half years ago; I wanted to come up with something I hadn't seen in a while because a project really lacks any sort of luster to me if it's something I've seen before. I realized that it had been a while since I Spit on Your Grave (this was before the remake) and that we hadn't seen a good revenge movie in a while.
So I thought about it and came up with this idea that was a twist on the usual revenge story- this idea of a woman who was brutalized and left for dead, only to be rescued by a shaman and then possessed with the spirit of an angry warrior who was seeking revenge against these people. It was a revenge story but with a lot of supernatural aspects to it as well. I didn't want to do straight revenge.
Then I had this idea that if I wanted to write this script, I wanted to go somewhere interesting to write it. I'm a huge fan of the movie U-Turn so I found out the town where they shot that, which was Superior, Arizona, and headed off to check myself into a motel. But when I got there, they told me that there was only one room and the reason no one wanted it was because someone was killed in there a year ago. I didn't even hesitate; I checked in there for two weeks and worked on the script for Savaged.
Dread Central: For those of our readers who may be unfamiliar with your project, can you tell us more about the characters in Savaged and more about what we can look forward to in terms of tone and that kind of stuff?
Michael Ojeda: Well, our main character is a deaf mute who is traveling cross-country to meet her fiancé. Along the way, she stops in the wrong town which is full of these hateful rednecks who think it's okay to hunt and kill Native American boys for fun who also happen to be the descendants of a U.S. General from the 1890's who used to do the same back in his day.
So of course these guys are bad news, and they kidnap and brutalize our main heroine and leave her for dead in the middle of the desert; a shaman comes along and finds her body and possesses her corpse with the spirit of the Apache Warrior who was one of the victims of that U.S. General decades back. He wants to destroy the General's bloodline so he uses this woman as a vessel to do just that.
Things do get a bit complicated, though, when her boyfriend rolls into town because one, she's dead and rotting- she can't ever go home or be with him- so she doesn't want him to see her like that; and two, the town all of this takes place in is a very racist town and he's black so that complicates things on entirely new levels.
But I just really wanted to incorporate elements I hadn't seen in revenge movies before- ghost stories, love stories, exploring racism, too- and see how I could fit those into this story to do something really unique.
Dread Central: Jason, what was it about Savaged that caught your eye as a producer, and what was it about Michael that made him the perfect person to tell this story, in your eyes?
Jason Gurvitz: It's his stories, they're so unique. See, I have always liked horror movies, but that enthusiasm waned a bit for a while; then when I read Michael's script, I felt like it sparked again. So yeah, we met a few years ago, and originally I had read his script for another project which felt like all the stuff I used to love, but it was a little too ambitious for the two of us.
So then Michael did the script for Savaged, and it was great, too; it was a little more manageable for us, but we also knew we were going to need some help to do it right so we set out just the two of us to shoot 25 minutes of footage to start gaining interest in the project. It really worked and impressed people enough to invest in us, and I think that's a huge credit to Michael's abilities; this movie is going to be unlike anything I've ever seen before, that's for sure.
Plus, it must be said that we would absolutely not be here at this point, having made this movie, had it not been for Raven Banner, Cart Before the Horse, Green Dog Films and Reigning Entertainment. They were all incredible and stepped up for us to make it happen, and we are just so grateful for that.
Dread Central: Can you guys talk about the cast in Savaged?
Michael Ojeda: We had such an amazing cast; everyone just delivered on this beyond any expectation I could have had. Amanda really put everything into this performance, and she just goes for it with this role. She essentially has two roles in this movie so she really had to push herself hard, and she had a lot of special effects make-up she had to wear every day because of the fact that her character's corpse was rotting. But yeah, the entire gang did great; I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to work with.
Dread Central: Michael, because this was such an ambitious project to make on a smaller budget, were you ever concerned at all about Savaged getting out of hand?
Michael Ojeda: A little, but I knew we could do this- I knew how ambitious this was going to be from the start, but I think my TV work helped me prepare a lot for this. I had worked on a lot of the battle scenes you'd see on "Deadliest Warrior" so having bigger action scenes never really worried me. I really wanted there to be a lot of action for 'so little'; that way the movie has a much bigger feel.
Jason Gurvitz: Being independently financed, it was so important to us that a lot of the aspects to Savaged have that 'studio quality' feel to them so that we could make sure the visuals were servicing Michael's story properly. Plus, we're both very economical so we didn't struggle too much on this; we definitely had a bigger budget than we had originally expected to, but it was definitely less than anything a studio would ever consider making a movie for. Either way, we definitely had the money we needed to make Savaged the right way, and I think people will be surprised by what we pulled off.
Dread Central: So what is the status with Savaged now then? Are you still in the editing process?
Jason Gurvitz: We are; in fact the film will be playing a few film festivals, but I can't say which just yet, but we just delivered rough cuts to them. We're holding off on distribution for now just to see how things go; we've had a few offers already, but we didn't take them. I'm really excited to see how the festival screenings go, and then we'll go from there.
Dread Central: Are you guys planning on sticking around the horror genre for a while? Do you want to continue to work together on other films?
Michael Ojeda: You know, my first movie was a crime thriller and I admit that I made a lot of mistakes on it, but I think my biggest mistake overall is that I didn't do a horror movie instead. I grew up loving them, but I really should have taken that gamble back then. But yes, I definitely want to make more horror movies- all types.
Jason Gurvitz: I'll keep making horror movies for as long as Michael keeps making horror movies; he's who I want to work with on these kinds of projects. He has such a great style that I really enjoy so if he makes any more horror movies, I want to be involved. Definitely.
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