Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Michael Ling Discusses Upcoming Short Film Edward Lee's The Bighead
Dread Central recently hosted the online premiere of the brand new trailer for writer/director Michael Ling's upcoming short film Edward Lee's The Bighead, and with its LA premiere just a few weeks away, we thought now would be a great time to chat with Lee.
Based on Edward Lee's seminal and wildly controversial 2003 novel Edward Lee's The Bighead, this harrowing tale is set in the West Virginian backwoods where vicious monsters, both human and supernatural, go on a terrifying rampage in search of a special young woman. Their path of destruction uncovers long held secrets and puts the fate of the entire world in jeopardy.
The short film stars Raquel Cantu as the untamable sexpot Jerrica, Carrie Malabre as the shy Charity, Orson Chaplin as the demented psychopath Tritt "Balls" Connor, and Lance Trezona as Tritt's dim-witted accomplice Dicky. Award-winning director of photography Fady Hadid shot the film, and Geoff Skinner and Donald Wygal, Jr., produced.
Check out the highlights from our exclusive interview with Ling below!
Dread Central: So talk a bit about what got you into filmmaking and how you started in the industry.
Michael Ling: Well, like most folks my age, I got sucked into movies when my parents took us to see Star Wars. That just blew my mind as I had no idea there were movies like that out there. The next big step was my parents (or rather Santa if you can believe it) giving me The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film when I was around twelve. Now I had a giant book of cool movies to seek out which timed nicely with the video store boom. My friend Dennis and I would watch three or four movies a night, numerous times a week, and the video stores in our small Michigan town knew us by name and could barely keep up with our renting habits.
This lead to the two of us moving to LA for film school, which eventually lead to getting jobs as a PA and then advancing into different jobs on various movies. In my spare time I always wrote scripts, and with the recent boom of sites like Kickstarter, after wrapping a long gig on John Carter, I decided enough was enough and now was the time to make our own movie.
Dread Central: What was it about Edward Lee's story that you felt was ripe for a cinematic adaptation?
Michael Ling: The Bighead was the second of my forays into 'extreme horror' (Jack Ketchum's Off Season was the first) and it blew me away with its originality. I didn't even know you could do that kind of stuff in books. Besides the crazy gore and sex, though, Lee had great characters that made for quite a page-turner. I thought that level of nutso scenes and likable, well thought-out characters would make for a great movie and a movie that people hadn't seen before too.
Dread Central: So where did you guys shoot then and how long did production go for?
Michael Ling: We shot a couple days in Agua Dulce for all the exterior scenes. They have an amazing space with everything from a pond to woods to jungle-like settings out there. The bar scene was done at the Hideaway Bar in Sylmar. Both places were very generous to us and worked with our low budget. We shot for four days in total and managed to squeeze everything (big thanks to our co-producer Greg Guzik for keeping us on a tight schedule).
Dread Central: Any surprises along the way?
Michael Ling: I'd say the biggest 'surprise' we had was having to change out one of our leading ladies on the fly. We had a slight 'name' cast as Jerrica, and the day of the shoot she didn't show. We later found out she was sick, but for a few hours we were on location with a limited time at the bar and more than a little stressed. Luckily for us Raquel Cantu, our script supervisor, was really an actress just doing this as a favor to a friend. We managed to talk her into taking on the role and she nailed it. It turns out we were much better off with her playing Jerrica and sorry we never cast her in the first place; I will never be able to thank her enough.
Dread Central: I noticed this is a very monster-heavy story- can you talk about the special effects process and what went into the design work? Did Lee's story inspire all the designs or did you get to give some input as well?
Michael Ling: Our Bighead was brought to life thanks to Mark Villalobos at Monster Effects. We had a start of what he needed to look like based on the book, of course, but that was always a bit vague so we could really let Mark do his thing. I got to visit his studio and go over designs with him, which was amazing as I've always loved make up and effects. As a kid that grew up reading Famous Monsters and Fangoria, this was a dream come true. Mark really kicked ass for us though and made a creature that stands (deformed) head to head - and mutated body - with the best of them.
Dread Central: Tell us more about your cast and what they brought to the table for their respective characters.
Michael Ling: Just like our amazing crew, our cast was outstanding too. I was worried that being a low budget flick meant that we would have to 'settle' for whoever auditioned that didn't suck too badly but that was so not the case. Since we were going to be doing this on the quick, we wanted good actors but also people that we wanted to hang around with that wouldn't have egos.
Orson Chaplin really nails the twisted psychopath, Balls, and I think people will be talking about him after they see the movie (and probably be scared to talk to him as well). Casting Charity was tricky as we wanted someone that could pull off the shy and mousy bits of the character but not get lost on screen; Carrie Malabre was perfect for that and we were lucky to get her.
I've already mentioned how great Raquel was in bringing Jerrica to life, but really everyone just brought their 'A' game to set as we didn't have time to do numerous takes on every scene.
Dread Central: I noticed this is something that you're also hoping to adapt into a feature; was it hard determining what aspects of the story to show for the short and which ones you'd have to keep for the feature?
Michael Ling: Producer Geoff Skinner has been working with me for a few years in trying to shop this around Hollywood and helped me choose the best bits for the short. I would have LOVED to have Jesus (via Tom's visions) in there and cannot wait to cast him for the feature version.
It was tricky trying to introduce all the key characters and still tell a fairly brief stand-alone story, that's for sure. I liken this to a TV pilot where it can stand by itself as a short film but there is also a hint of much bigger story that we could tell. Hopefully people are going to want to see more of what is happening in Luntville with all these great characters.
So first and foremost we are actively seeking funding to get the feature made. We have the script and a budget ready; now we just need the money. There has been some interest from financial backers already, which is very encouraging. I hope once people see the short they will be impressed with the quality and enticed by the earning potential to give us a shot with a low budget; of course, if someone wants to fork over Avatar-type cash for us, we would be okay with that too (laughs).
So for the immediate future, I am just focusing on The Bighead and getting the feature version prepped (and made). Down the road I have a couple of other scripts we have been shopping around, and Large Melon is eager to adapt a few more of Edward Lee's books too.
Edward Lee's The Bighead will premiere in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 30, 2013, at 7:00 PM at the Acme Theater in Hollywood (135 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036). Check out the trailer below, and keep your eyes peeled on the short film's Facebook page for news on upcoming screenings and more!
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