With the Screamfest L.A. Film Festival running this Friday, October 12th, thru the 20th we spoke with Crawlspace filmmaker Justin Dix regarding his tense gore-fest, which is set for its West Coast premiere (courtesy of IFC Midnight) on Thursday, October 18th, at 9:30pm.
Co-written (with Eddie Baroo and Adam Patrick Foster) and directed by Dix (who also produced, with John Finemore and Nicholas Sherry), Crawlspace stars Peta Sergeant (Iron Sky), Nicholas Bell, Amber Clayton and Samuel Johnson, among others, and (according to the film’s synopsis) follows “a squad of elite soldiers sent to infiltrate and extract the lead science team from Pine Gap, Australia’s top secret underground military compound, after it comes under attack from unknown forces.”
Chatting with Dix (who prior to writing and directing Crawlspace has had an extensive career in the field of special effects, his work on display in such genre films as Storm Warning, Lake Mungo, and Red Hill, among others), the filmmaker told us of his inspiration for Crawlspace, “My inspiration was actually John Carpenter films. I have always loved his work, especially [his remake of] The Thing. Crawlspace keeps the characters contained in one spot and with paranoia within the group. The music, too, which was done by Jamie Blanks, who directed Urban Legend, is also very Carpenter-inspired. Both Jamie and I are fans, and loved the tone of his work, and wanted to capture the feeling with the soundtrack [too].”
Querying the Australian (who, when not writing and directing, serves as the director of the FX house Wicked of Oz) on the scripting process of Crawlspace, Dix offered, “It was very quick actually. I have always written scripts, but like most people my past efforts are all huge in scope. Crawlspace came out of a necessity to write something contained, but which still had scope. Also, when coming up with the story, I have a love for all things genre, so I was thinking, ‘Is it zombies? Is it viral? Is it creatures? Or is it something else?’ And then it came to me. ‘It’s everything!’ It also makes it a lot easier writing with no [creative] restrictions when you have a special effects company.”
With the script in hand, Dix set out fund the project, which he did so privately.
“It was pretty much a case of just asking everyone, and I mean everyone!” said Dix of the process. “Asking them over Christmas dinners, coffee with friends of friends, whoever! This also came together pretty quickly, though, probably due to the fact I had done a lot of work prior and had storyboarded the entire film, every frame, even before approaching anyone for money. I think that it gave investors an enormous amount of confidence, as they could see the vision I had for the film.”
Shot on the Red Camera over the course of twenty-three total production days at the Dockland Studios in Melbourne, Australia, Dix and crew constructed a total of sixteen sets in the facility’s vast Studio One.
“Since I was my own production designer, I had everything planned before starting pre-production,” recalled Dix of the set design for Crawlspace. “I knew it was going to be tough to achieve what I wanted, so I had my concept designers draw the sets and plans well in advance. As far as my approach, I was influenced by the original Alien, but not so much by the look, but the method in which they made the sets and filmed on them.”
“Once the actors entered the world of Crawlspace, they were pretty much in there,” he continued. “It created a lot of believability for them. Also the cramped conditions helped them get into character. Alien did the same, with creating sets that you could walk around on and virtually get lost in.”
To capture the tension the environment created, “We used original Russian Lomo anamorphic lenses, 2:35 Anamorphic,” said Dix of shooting. “My director of photography, Simon Ozilins, owns them, and they have a tricky depth of field, but he knows how to shoot the shit out of them, and that he did. We discussed our inspirations: Ridley Scott, JJ Abrams, and I feel we got a bit of each of them, but also Simon has such an incredible eye. We were like two peas in a pod.”
As for the creature design, “Having a special effects company certainly does help when doing a film with a lot of effects or creatures in it,” Dix offered. “I basically wanted to put everything into the film: zombie things, creatures, gore, and makeup, and the context of the story allowed for that. We actually had another creature designed for one major action sequence, but I just wasn’t happy with it at the time, so I choose to create something different, which made me a lot happier in the end. This changing of a horse mid-stream is usually out of reach of other productions, due to the cost or not wanting to waste money, but having the SFX background, I knew how to get around it, and we got the ‘bang for our buck.’”
With the feature in the hard drive, Dix set forth into post-production.
“It took a while, probably six months,” recalled the filmmaker, “and there was a lot of care taken in the editing and the sound design. I have an amazing sound designer, Paul Pirola. He actually is Australian but has been the sound designer for some big Hollywood films, like Sucker Punch, Knight and Day and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, just to name a few. I always knew that half the battle to make Crawlspace a living, breathing environment was going to be in the sound design.”
“I’ve worked on a lot of films, and they are all pretty tough,” reminisced Dix, “but Crawlspace was different. There was a lot of love on the project. Actors and crew were sticking around on set and not wanting to rush off and get away, due to the fact that it was such a fun and enjoyable shoot. I will always remember it fondly, and I could not have dreamed that it would go so well. That’s what is most memorable about Crawlspace.”
As for the current states of distribution, the announcement came earlier today that IFC Films has acquired North American rights to the film.
Tickets to Crawlspace can be purchased by clicking here. The event takes place at the LA Regal Cinemas Stadium 14, 1000 West Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90015.
Tickets to the Opening Night Film & Party of Screamfest can be purchased here, full festival passes can be purchased here, and the full schedule can be found here. For more info follow Screamfest (official site here) on Twitter or Facebook.
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