We speak with director, producer, editor and actor Joe Dante as he describes the longtime friendshipthat helped spawn Nightmare Cinema.
This horror anthology will premiere at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal on Thursday, July 12th.
A series of down-on-their-luck individuals enter the decrepit and spine-chilling Rialto theater, only to have their deepest and darkest fears brought to life on the silver screen by The Projectionist – a mysterious, ghostly figure who holds the nightmarish futures of all who attend his screenings. By the time our patrons realize the truth, escape is no longer an option. For once the ticket is torn, their fate is sealed at Nightmare Cinema.
For more information on Nightmare Cinema, check out Fantasia International Film Festival.
Dread Central: When it comes to you and Mick Garris, you guys have worked together before. How was it reuniting with him for Nightmare Cinema?
Joe Dante: Well, I’ve known him for so long that I can’t say that I reunite with him when I see him. He’s a friend of mine. We see each other frequently. I’ve known him since the 1980s, when I did The Howling. He was working as a publicist at the company that I was making the film for. Later, he moved to Universal when I was doing amazing stories. I think that’s when he started writing and ultimately directing. So, we go back a long way. In addition to being a writer and a director, he is also something of a entrepreneur. Mick pretty much single-handedly put this whole project together. As you know, he was one of the forces behind Masters of Horror, which is an anthology series that was happening in the mid 90s and had two seasons on Showtime. He is very connected in the horror movie community. And he uses his connections with friends to populate the rosters of these various anthology projects that he gets behind. This one, which is currently a feature, I think has sort of been envisioned as a back door pilot for a possible TV series.
DC: I can definitely see this as a series. As far as the atmosphere, what was it like working on an anthology at this caliber? Was it friendly? Competitive? Was there a lot of communication?
JD: Well, you know, this is not a very expensive movie, so crosscutting measures are involved, right down the line – to the point that most of us didn’t really have a lot of communication with each other. There was of course a building where the basic unit was housed… an office building. But all the series stuff was shot all over town in various places as separate units. We really didn’t have a lot of cross-fertilization. We did all of our stories independently. The only given was that these had to be stories that were shown to the characters in a haunted movie theater. It’s kind of a trope in these multistory movies that the characters at the end either all end up dead or are shown their future. It sort of mines some of the material from the 60s when Amicus was making a series of horror films like Tales from the Crypt and Asylum… stuff like that. The virtue of which was it wanted to hire pretty big names for a small amount of time. So they ended up with these posters of all these British names on it and you thought, “Well, how are all those people in one movie?” It was because they each were confined to their own stories for the most part. I think you find that directors really enjoy doing anthology films because the responsibility for this, except for the movie, is not on any one person’s shoulders. You have a little freedom to experiment – to try things out, knowing that your story is not the be all and end all of the success of the movie. So, I think we all feel a certain amount of freedom with that. Also, you get to make it your own. Each of the directors approaches their material in their own personal way. And there’s nobody there to tell them, “You can’t do this. You can’t do that.” You can shoot it in any style you want. I think you often find some people doing some of their best works. I know that with the Masters of Horror series, some of the episodes are some of the best work of people that were involved.
DC: Absolutely. Okay. Does anything remain the same from one production to the other?
JD: Generally, you do get to meet the people who are involved beforehand. People are coming in for costume fittings or you’re auditioning actors, so you are bound to run into the same people. But as far as the actual gestation of the project and the editorial time spent, that’s really pretty much entirely your own. And there’s not a lot of cross-fertilization. I think Mick is the only one who’s actually seen the whole movie, up until about a month ago. So when we all got our first ganders at the movie, it was our first time looking – except for reading the script – the first time looking at all the material that had been done by each of the directors and how it fit in with the overall story, which Mick directed the wrap around story. There always has to be a wrap around story in these films. It can’t just be a bunch of stories. There’s always got to be something that ties them together.
DC: Very true. What drew you into your story?
JD: Frankly, Mick was just starting out and he wanted to get this project off the ground. He needed some guests, so I signed on basically to help him get the film made. It’s not like I haven’t done these things before. I do enjoy doing them. And they don’t take a lot of time, which is also a nice perk. Now, admittedly, it doesn’t take a lot of time to shoot, but I think this picture has been in post-production for a year. I think we shot that stuff well over a year ago.
DC: Wow. With yourself, you’ve worked as a director, producer, writer, editor, actor and so much more on films. Out of all of these roles, which do you enjoy the most and why?
JD: Well, I’m not acting, I’ll tell you that. I enjoy directing. I enjoy editing. I started as an editor, so my first instinct is that of an editor. I find that when you get in the editing room… the movie that you are making… you have to perfect the movie that you started to make, even if it is a little bit different than the one you intended to make. You have to find the movie in the editing. Often times, what you come out with is different than what you anticipated.
DC: And finally, what do you want viewers to gain after watching Nightmare Cinema?
JD: I certainly don’t want them to be afraid to go to the movies again. I would like to have them think, “Geez, I sure would like there to be more of those stories. Maybe it’ll be a tv series.”