Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Co-Writer/Director Andrew Weiner Talks The Frankenstein Theory
This week Image Entertainment released first-time director Andrew Weiner's docu-style indie thriller The Frankenstein Theory, which resurrects one of the genre's most beloved giants as a 300-year-old experiment gone awry in the Arctic Circle, on DVD and VOD.
Co-written by Weiner and Vlady Pildysh, The Frankenstein Theory stars Kris Lemche, Christine Lakin, Joe Egender, Heather Stephens, Eric Zuckerman and Brian Henderson. Dread Central recently chatted with Weiner about his first-time experiences at the helm of the found-footage style project, what inspired the story of The Frankenstein Theory, whether or not he's got a plan for a sequel and much more.
Read on for our exclusive interview with up-and-coming indie filmmaker Weiner for Indie Horror Month, and make sure to check out The Frankenstein Theory now that it's available everywhere!
Dread Central: So my first question is a two-parter: One, were you a Frankenstein fan going into this project; and two, can you talk about why you chose to approach this character and story as a documentary? It's certainly an approach that we've never seen before, which was interesting.
Andrew Weiner: Well, I think it's hard to grow up in the US and not know who Frankenstein is because he's been an iconic character for so many years so I was definitely a fan of the character and Mary Shelley's original novel as well. When we first approached this story, Vlady (Pildysh) and I immersed ourselves in the novel so we could wrap our heads around it and find the moments and themes written some 195 years ago that would work in a contemporary setting.
That was something that was hugely important to myself and Vlady, that we kept this fantastic story still believable because that's where the real terror comes from so we also did a lot of research in history and medical books so we blended those elements with the fantastical elements from Shelley's story and approached them very scientifically for this. He's an intelligent creature; he's not an unintelligent 'beast' by any means. He has emotions and he's someone who's been forced into isolation and has had to live like that for a very long time, which has turned him into something that ultimately cannot be reasoned with.
Dread Central: You've been writing and producing for some time now- had you always intended from the very beginning to direct this project as well?
Andrew Weiner: Oh yeah, I had always intended to direct from the get-go. I felt like this was a great story to adapt, and I really used the script as my blueprint to figure out where the camera would go and other elements you wouldn't usually have in a script just because that was the way we wrote it. I knew going in to The Frankenstein Theory we wouldn't have a huge budget to fall back on so from the very beginning, even while writing, I had to be conscientious of every little detail, which was a great challenge. We told a very difficult story with not a lot of money and that was a huge learning experience for all of us, but thankfully I had my producing partner Caleb (Kramer) involved the entire time. He's really great about letting me focus on the creative aspects of production while he took care of the rest.
Dread Central: You also have a story that eventually ends up in the Arctic, which is pretty ambitious for an independent production. Where did you guys end up shooting? Did the cold and snow end up making things a lot harder to get things done?
Andrew Weiner: We ended up shooting in the wilds of Alaska and using that as our environment for the Arctic Circle. It actually worked out really well since it was much easier and cost-efficient to shoot there than if we would have headed way up north in Canada. And since we did make this film on a shoestring budget, there were always challenges, but going to Alaska was necessary to the storytelling of the film and really set this story in an environment we don't see too much.
I also wanted the sense of isolation and loneliness that resides within the creature and our protagonist Venkenheim to be mirrored by their surroundings, and we see how these inhospitable conditions help play into the characters’ psychological unraveling as things steadily deteriorate around them. Shooting in the snow definitely came with its own set of problems, and I'm pretty sure my crew wanted my head any time we needed to move our set-up because it generally meant 45 minutes of trudging through two foot deep snow and then resetting everything, which wasn't easy at all. They were all great though and always got the job done brilliantly, but I'm sure they all secretly wanted to kill me (laughs).
Dread Central: Can you talk about collaborating with your cast for The Frankenstein Theory? I just discovered one of the actors, Joe Egender, in Holy Ghost People at SXSW so I was excited to see him pop up in this. He was just great.
Andrew Weiner: I really loved working with this whole cast and Joe was amazing. It wasn't a huge role or anything, but he put a tremendous amount of research and energy into creating that character. That was such a big scene in the movie too; it's really where everything tonally begins to shift, and Joe just brought this intensity and crazy sense of charisma that made that small part into something really incredible. He was such a tremendous talent, and I was incredibly lucky to get such a great group of actors on my first feature.
Dread Central: Do you see yourself returning to this universe in the future for a sequel at all, or is it too early to discuss a follow-up?
Andrew Weiner: I'm very open to the idea of a sequel if things go well on this first one; I think Vlady and I only scratched the surface of this character and we've talked a little bit of some possibilities so we'll see what happens. But when you have such a rich and iconic character like Frankenstein to work with, anything is always possible.
Dread Central: What are you working on now then?
Andrew Weiner: I’ve just been hired to write and direct a series of short horror films that we start shooting in two weeks; after that I’ll be focusing on my next feature film project, which is a thriller. I'm really excited about that and it's very, very different than this movie.
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