If you happened to catch Contracted back in 2013 or the backwoods slasher Madison County a couple of years before that, then you’re already familiar with director Eric England’s work as a director – and you’re definitely watching too many horror movies.
The newly released Roadside (review), a fairly by-the-numbers thriller about a bickering couple held hostage by a mysterious woodsman on a remote road, has actually been waiting to get picked up for some time after completing its production a few years back. For anyone looking to make their own low-budget horror movie, some of the insights England gives below might help point you in the right direction.
DC: Roadside was originally going to come out before Contracted, correct? Did you make the decision to put it away for awhile or was it a mutual decision to get Contracted out there first?
EE: It was kind of just a stalemate with the movie. While we were finishing up Roadside we were looking for distribution and Contracted just kind of took off. The way it got made, the way it got finished, it sort of just took precedence. We were having issues with finding distribution for Roadside because, you know, it’s a small movie, it’s a unique concept and it didn’t have any stars. So, it was one of those movies where distributors were like, ‘How do we market this?’ So, we decided to let Contracted lead the way and allow that to open the door for Roadside.
DC: To me, Roadside has more of a classic horror setup than Madison County or Contracted. Was it easier to get financial backing and a cast involved because Roadside has more of a straightforward plot?
EE: It was definitely easier to pitch and assemble, so to speak. We actually started shooting Roadside six months after we finished Madison County, so it came together really quickly. You take a movie like Phone Booth where it’s got Colin Farrell and Keifer Sutherland, it has two huge movie stars. This movie was kind of a test for Ace [Marrero] and Carrie [Stegeman] because this was their first starring role and, normally, if this was a three to five million dollar movie no one would hire me to direct it at 23 years-old. But we kind of all were looking to create opportunities for ourselves, so in that regard it was easy, but once we finished the movie we realized selling this type of movie is a lot harder than actually getting it made.
DC: You’ve definitely had a good run of getting your own films made and not being forced to do projects you’re not fully behind just to keep working. What are some of the reasons you’ve been able to stick to your guns while that may prove more difficult for others in the business?
EE: The simplest answer is the movies I’ve made so far have had such limited budgets that it’s been easier to make sure that I’m making movies that I truly want to make. It’s funny, Madison County and Roadside were both movies that I wanted to make at the time but they were movies that were almost made by committee. It was basically just my friends and I going out and shooting these movies and we were looking at each other like, ‘Hey, we like movies like this, what kind of resources do we have and what kind of stories can we tell?’ So it was almost filmmaking by default and Roadside was the last movie where I decided to make a movie like that. Now I’m trying to transition into making movies because that story should be told and that kind of started with Contracted. Contracted was the first movie that I ever made because I was truly truly into that story. I didn’t know if I had all the resources to make it happen but I wanted to make this movie. Now it’s like, ‘Hey this is the movie I want to make and how do I get it made?’ Now I have an agent and a manager and we’re kind of setting a path of the filmmaker I want to be.
DC: So you guys didn’t have much of a technical education, you just hit the ground running and just started shooting?
EE: Essentially, yeah, we all went to film school. My main producer, Daniel Dunn and I, that’s where we met was in film school. But in terms of actually making movies, no, not at all. I actually wrote a couple of screenplays before I wrote Madison County and Contracted was an idea I think I actually had before Roadside. We had this kind of menu of ideas that I had written down so Roadside followed Madison County in that Madison County was done all during the day. And some people didn’t like some of the characters so let’s do a movie that’s done completely at night and is really character driven. It was just kind like dipping our toes in the water, throwing rocks into the lake and seeing where the ripples go. So, in a weird way I almost consider Madison County and Roadside almost like short films that I was just experimenting with and we able to jump start our career. They’re by no means masterpieces but they’re signs of young filmmakers getting their sea legs under them.
Roadside is available now on DVD and Digital Download.
Ace Marrero, Katie Stegeman, and Lionel D. Carson star.
Dan and Mindy Summers are on a road trip along a desolate mountain highway when Dan is forced to exit the SUV to remove a dead tree blocking their path. Before he can get back inside, he and Mindy find themselves held hostage on the side of the road, trapped in their car by a mysterious, unseen gunman. They must fight for their lives in a sadistic game of cat and mouse set against a backdrop of numbing cold, pitch darkness, and raw terror. Dripping with suspense until the very last frame, Roadside offers massive thrills and a unique concept reminiscent of the films of Hitchcock.