Having made his mark in the horror genre with brutal genre films such as Broken and The Devil’s Chair, filmmaker Adam Mason has quickly become a prolific director in not only feature films, but also over 200 music videos for bands such as AFI, Blaqk Audio, Palms and most recently, the 12-video film companion to the Alice In Chains album, Black Antenna.
Never slowing down, in between music videos over the years, the filmmaker also helmed the found-footage shocker Hangman and is currently the only director to have helmed two entries in the Blumhouse/HULU Into the Dark series (I’m Just Fu*king with You and They Come Knocking). Those topics alone would make for some good conversation, but we thought we’d take it even a step further and also talk to the director about his recent video podcast work for Korn, as well as the almost legendary Pig, a film that Mason would rather you DON’T see.
Oh yeah, and a film shot 100% in quarantine and produced by Michael Bay, the upcoming Songbird. Read on!
Dread Central: Your work has always been impressive, in the sense of it being so eclectic and varied. Before we jump into your directorial work in features, let’s touch on your music videos. More than just your typical videos, the recent work with Korn and Alice In Chains is pretty unique.
Adam Mason: I started doing music videos twenty years ago, now. When I moved out to LA in 2007, I kind of lost all of my contacts in that world. I stopped doing them for quite some time until about five years ago. I started doing videos for Blaqk Audio, who is basically half of AFI, so then I started doing videos for AFI too. Those led to doing the Alice In Chains thing and then to Korn.
Those were all through the same management company, so I do most of my work with them on music videos. It’s a good relationship because they trust me. I’m kind of a one-man band in a lot of ways; I DP a lot of my own stuff, as I have for the past ten years or so. I do a lot, so it’s not needing a big crew. When Alice In Chains wanted to do basically a video for every song on their last album, they wanted me to do it. It coincided with the idea coming into my head that day, where it would be a film about two homeless people, living in their car, where you slowly realize that they’re aliens. I pitched that to (Alice In Chains guitarist) Jerry Cantrell and Sean (Kinney, drummer) and they both really liked it. It became the Black Antenna project, which was immensely challenging. I think we shot for sixty days. The longest shoot I had ever done and I almost kicked myself for taking it on, but at the same time, it was so rewarding, because I was a big fan of Alice In Chains.
The Korn thing came after that, they wanted to do something of a podcast. I think a lot of these bigger bands are just looking for new ways of promoting their music, so I came up with an idea for this fictional podcast about a cult. I did two videos for that and we’re starting up again in a couple of weeks.
Related Article: KORN to Release Fictional Narrative Podcast Based On THE NOTHING
DC: The short form storytelling of music videos is something I’ve always found very interesting. Do you prefer one over the other, music videos or features?
AM: It’s my favorite thing (directing music videos). I’m a guitarist, and I always wanted to do music more than movies. I’m just not that talented (laughs). I don’t have the confidence to be on stage playing, so doing music videos is my way of still being a part of that world. It’s my absolute favorite thing, especially if its for bands I look up to. I got Chino Moreno from Deftones to do the music for one of my last films (I’m Just Fu*king with You).
DC: What led to that? That’s such an interesting choice to score a film. I’ve always loved Deftones and the other work Moreno has done.
AM: It was an idea that just popped into my head. I had done a music video for one his side projects, Palms, about seven years ago. I had always wanted to do a video with Deftones and when I got the job with Blumhouse, I thought it would be a great opportunity to work with Chino, directly. I’m friends with his manager, so I sent him a text asking if Chino would be interested, not thinking anything of it and an hour later, I got a reply, saying he was on board. That was pretty awesome, a great experience.
DC: Doing two films for the Into the Dark series, you had a hit the ground running approach, right? I think I read that you had sixteen days to shoot?
AM: Yeah, they were sixteen days each, which is brutal, but I’ve done that several times over the years, so I’m not afraid of it by any means. They say those types of crews are small ones, but to me, they were BIG crews, you know? I was supposed to do the final episode of season two as well, but had to bow out, to do Songbird.
DC: My favorite film that you’ve done is Hangman. It’s a film that to me, feels like a look at our safe spaces and environment being invaded, violated and so on. I’m curious what led to that film in particular.
AM: I hadn’t done a commercially-minded movie at that point, so I was kind of annoyed at myself for not doing one of those yet. I had just had my first kid, my daughter, and I remember one night, watching her on a baby monitor. I was having a glass of wine and watching a movie and I thought of how terrified I would be, if I saw a hand or foot in that room with her. Coincidentally, there were a lot news reports at the time, where people would find homeless people, hiding in their attics and closets.
So, it kind of grew out of that and to be honest, I’ve always been fucking with the audience in movies I’ve made. I thought it would be exciting and interesting if the audience knew that the family in the movie was in a lot of danger. Hitchcock said that tension is a family riding around in a car and the audience knowing that there’s a bomb in the hood. My writing partner and I came up with the idea of every day scenes with the family, that would be tense, because the audience would know there was a guy with a knife, hiding in their house at the same time.
DC: You mentioned your daughter and having kids, which leads to my next question. I’ve found that it’s difficult for me to revisit a lot of films I loved, prior to having kids myself. I love Martyrs, but it’s not an easy watch for me these days.
AM: You’re totally right (laugh).
DC: Your film, Pig, was almost mythical in that nobody has seen it, prior to that screening years later. Now years removed and after having kids, is it hard to look back at that era of films for you? Do you feel differently about that film than you did when you made it?
AM: I actually forget about Pig, but more often than you’d expect, it comes up (Laughs). My blood runs cold and I feel an incredible disconnect with that film. I feel a sense of shame when I think of Pig. It’s weird because I made it, but I’m extremely relieved that it’s not widely available. That was one of the smartest decisions that I’ve ever made, along with (actor) Andrew Howard. We were like, “Yeah, we’re never going to release this.” I get offers at least once a month from people wanting to release it but no. It’s almost become, like you said, this mythical thing, constantly on these “50 Most Disturbed Films of All Time” lists and nobody’s seen it! It’s hard watching those ultra-violent movies, even ones I used to love. A film like Irreversible, I would never watch these days, but I have immeasurable respect for it. I always had a weird relationship with violence in my films, because when I made them, I was coming from a specific place in the way I handled it. I was trying to vent about things that happened to me, when I was younger. I was making these very violent films and in my own mindset, and I was always in the shoes of the victim, not the killer. I was trying to show the audience what it felt like to be on the receiving end of violence.
DC; Finally, and I know that things are somewhat under wraps regarding what you can and cannot talk about, so feel free to only say what you can. Songbird sounds quite interesting.
AM: Yeah. I was in preproduction on the episode of Into the Dark. I was going to do for season two and it was from a script I had written. I was very passionate about that script and had been trying to make it for years. We were just in preproduction the week of saying “Oh fuck, this virus thing looks serious, doesn’t it?” Every day it got worse and worse. Then five days into prep, we were shut down. It was obvious that this thing just wasn’t going to happen. I had been wanting to make this one for years and was finally going to be able to do it, with a decent budget…and it got taken away from me. I was really depressed about that and thinking of my family’s safety during all of it, their health, and it was a bummer.
What’s crazy is that we got shut down on a Friday and on Saturday, Simon (Boyes) my writing partner called and was super excited. I picked up the phone and he said, “We just got a major movie! We’ll get all of our actors to be a part of it and film it on their cell phones!” Because I knew how to edit, I could just edit the movie. I was really taken by the idea. Coincidentally, I had been talking to this guy, Adam Goodman, who used to be a chairman at Paramount and Dreamworks, and I pitched the idea to him, it was very much what he was wanting to do, like a forward moving, guerilla style approach. We wrote a 10-page call to arms and named it Songbird and sent it to Adam Goodman, who basically just immediately greenlit the movie. Everything just began to snowball after that. Michael Bay came on board to produce it, which was so surreal for me. That’s when I’d know I made it, when I got to write a Michael Bay movie (laughs). I’ve always joked with my wife about that, my goal was just to write a Michael Bay movie.
DC: Talk about manifesting (Laughs).
AM: I manifested it! (Laughs), So yeah, I’m now directing a movie that Michael Bay is producing, so that’s awesome. Plus, we got such a great cast (Demi Moore, Sofia Carson, Peter Stormare, K.J. Apa, etc.), because nobody’s working, so they just want to do something. It’s taken on a life of its own and I can honestly say, it’s been the most fun I’ve had doing this for a good 15 years I’d say. I had fallen out of love with what I do; it’s hard not to feel jaded after a while. This just made me excited again. Having Michael Bay be so supportive and reaching out to give me advice has been surreal and unlike anything I’ve had before, so it feels very special.