Exploring the techniques, strategies, and key pieces of advice for aspiring horror directors, straight from the minds of some of the greatest filmmakers and creators in horror. Host Nick Taylor engages in one-on-one conversations with directors, producers, writers, actors and artists to uncover the keys to their creative and professional success in the horror business.
The Legendary Adam Green!
Guys, we got ADAM F****N’ GREEN ON THE SHOW TODAY!!
Adam is a guy who needs no introduction; the man behind Holliston, Frozen, Spiral, Digging up the Marrow, and the beloved Hatchet series, Adam is a household name in annals of horror history and a downright awesome human being. I'm sure you already listen to his podcast The Movie Crypt, but if you don't, I highly recommend you do.
Ok, this episode is amazing and clearly one of the best we've ever done. Adam slayed this interview and went above and beyond and completely over-delivered on the advice front. He is brutally honest about this industry and tells a bunch of wonderful and insightful stories about how he got started, pushing through hard times as a director, and Dee Snider.
This episode is a little longer than most, but I promise you’ll walk away smiling, inspired, and very informed. I loved this interview, and it’s definitely one of the ones that I will listen to regularly. So, without further ado, here is the incredible Adam Green!
Flex every opportunity. This goes out to those filmmakers out there who are not full-time yet. One of Adam's first jobs was editing videos for local businesses, videos that are typically pretty lame. But, he found an opportunity to use his directorial sensibility to make the videos great instead of shrugging the work off as part of his temporary day job. Instead, he channeled his passion into the work that was right in front of him, and as a result, that ad he edited was extremely popular and allowed Adam to hone his skills in what would have otherwise been a bland opportunity. Regardless of wherever you are in your filmmaking journey, find ways to flex your skills and passions with what you do instead of shrugging it off as unimportant.
Ignorance is bliss. One of the things Adam really made an effort to convey is that throughout the course of his directorial journey, he knew very little about filmmaking but picked it all up as he went. Regardless of the fact that he didn't know what a feature or a reel was in the beginning, the consistent element of his origin story is that he constantly put one foot in front of the other, built momentum, and learned everything by doing. This is huge, as a lot of filmmakers feel intimidated and think they either need to go to film school or read dozens of books about filmmaking to get started. No. The best way to learn is to take consistent action, not by researching or feeling intimidated by your lack of knowledge. You don't have to know everything, or anything actually, but you do need to get moving.
Giving others huge opportunities can be a huge opportunity for you. When Adam was selecting his production designer, he picked a greensman, someone who'd never done the job before. But since Adam's movie represented an enormous opportunity for him to excel and show what he’s capable of, this guy over-delivered, and as a result, the production value of Hatchet was very high. This is what you want when you're working with low budgets; you want people who aren't in it for the money but for the opportunity to make something great with you. Your film could be a jumping-off point for someone's career, so don't always feel the need to crew your movie based on someone's IMDB credits. Observe their attitudes, your gut feeling about them, and really think about what your movie represents to them in terms of opportunity. Find people who have as much to prove as you do and it will not only save you money and boost your production value, but it'll create a wonderful adventurous spirit on set.
Be cautious of favors. This is a complimentary point to the previous one. What you do not want on set is people who will begrudgingly do you favors and then constantly remind you of how much they usually get paid throughout the course of production. This is very toxic. Don’t get me wrong, though; sometimes it's worth it to reach out to collaborators who are way out of your league, which was the case with both Ry
THE POWER, Writer/Director, Corinna Faith
Corinna Faith is a British Writer and Director who recently made her feature debut with The Power. The Power tells the story of a young nurse forced to work the night shift in a crumbling hospital during a time when England was plunged into mandatory blackouts every night to conserve power. As she works her shifts by candlelight, a terrifying presence threatens to consume her and everyone around her. The Power is a very atmospheric and spooky supernatural thriller, and the concept of nightly blackouts in an asylum is very eerie. The Power is now streaming on Shudder. Corrina and I discussed the making of The Power, her supernatural and paranormal research for the movie, and big director lessons learned from her first feature.
Here are some key takeaways from this conversation with Corinna.
Re-visit the 70s. The 70s was a very innovative time for filmmakers in the wake of the dissolving of the studio system. Here you saw the unbridled rise of auteur and renegade filmmakers, and as far as decades, none of them compare to the ’70s. Prior to making The Power, Corinna's cinema diet consisted of a number of 70's films, focusing intently on the work of Robert Altman. The edge and sophistication of the ‘70s sensibility shine through in The Power and gives it a very noticeable quality of filmmaking and interesting storytelling. It also helped that the story took place in the ‘70s. If you're a student of film, it would behoove you greatly to dive into this decade as much as possible as it was a golden age for independent film and maverick directors.
Take care of your health. Ok, I'll admit this is a boring one, but before you wring me out on Twitter, think about it. Corrina learned that your health is one of your greatest assets as a director, which is absolutely true but often the last thing to be taken care of. We've talked about this a lot, but yes, while making your films, there will be sleepless nights, there will be uphill battles, way too much coffee, and aching bones, but it benefits you as a director to take care of your health as much as you can. Being healthier increases your physical endurance, emotional resilience, problem-solving ability, and overall cognition, which are all things you will need a high supply of when you're on set. So, as hard as it is, do what you can to get adequate sleep, exercise, and a decent diet.
Find a mentor/cheerleader. It is a difficult long slog to get movies made, things go wrong, projects get canceled, but it’s important to keep the faith. When Corinna's first project was unexpectedly canceled, she was very dismayed, but she had a pivotal mentor who expressed confidence in her work, and that's all she needed to push through the difficult times. Sometimes all it takes is for one person to believe in you for you to believe in yourself enough to push forward during adversity. This worked very well for Corinna, who years ago was in a very difficult and frustrating place but now has an awesome first feature under her belt. Try to find those mentors out there whose feedback can help shape your ability, they can not only improve your craft, but their confidence in you can help you push through the tough times.
Thanks for listening, don't forget to subscribe.
Produced by Simpler Media
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG Writer, Josh Miller
Josh Miller is a household name in the horror community, an American filmmaker, writer, director, and actor. Among other things, Josh created the Fox animated series Golan the Insatiable and wrote the script for Sonic the Hedgehog film, and is directing the cult horror-comedy Hey, Stop Stabbing Me! He is the co-host of The Greatest Movies Never Made podcast, along with Stephen Scarlata, which showcases some of the most interesting movies that never got to see the light of day.
I caught up with Josh to talk about his overall career, writing processes, and how he got to write an enormous studio picture like Sonic the Hedgehog on today's episode of The Nick Taylor Horror Show. Now please give it up for Josh Miller.
Here are some key takeaways from this conversation with Josh Miller.
Make something, anything. Josh's start came from having no contacts or footholds in the industry at all. Instead, he made a super low budget feature in college called Stop Stabbing Me, and regardless of how good it was, ultimately, it led him to get recognition which over time yielded his eventual career success. A lot of filmmakers get held up on perfectionism and waiting for the perfect project instead of just f*****g making something. Yes, it's important that your name be synonymous with quality, but when you're just starting out, all producers really want to know is that you can finish something and release it. That alone will enable you to stand above seventy-five percent of the pack. So, in the words of Robert Rodriguez, keep making shit. You never know where it can lead.
Read good scripts and bad scripts. As a screenwriter, Josh reads a ton of scripts, and as important as seeking out good ones, it's almost as important to seek out bad scripts. A bad script allows you to have a higher level of consciousness about the pitfalls of screenwriting like lame dialogue, bad storytelling, lack of tension, etc. It's critical to identify these things so you can avoid them and the best way to do that is to get acquainted with what makes a bad script bad by reading bad scripts. So, next time you see a movie and realize it had a terrible script, find the screenplay, read it, and analyze for yourself what went wrong and what could have fixed it. I find journaling about what you don't like about movies and scripts to be a great way to avoid mistakes when it comes time to sit down to write.
Stick with it. Josh got to write the script for an epic production like Sonic the Hedgehog, but it came after years of trying to break through with multiple projects. Josh stayed the course, built his contacts, stayed on the radar of important people, and simply didn't give up for over ten years, and here he is. Of course, success like this is never guaranteed but, failure is once you throw in the towel. After writing Sonic, Josh is heralding Sonic 2 and...I don't want to start a rumor, but it's on Wikipedia, so I guess I can say it. It looks like Josh is penning the untitled Ace Venture sequel. Fingers crossed. In any event, Josh's story is similar to many directors' in how it's one of endurance and momentum. Keep at it, stay the course.
Thank you for listening! Don't forget to subscribe.
Produced by Simpler Media
BoulderLight Pictures Founders, J.D. Lifshitz and Raphael Margules
J.D. Lifshitz and Raphael Margules are the founders and executives of BoulderLight Pictures, a horror-centric production house in Los Angeles. Under BoulderLight, JD & Rafi have put out over 15 movies including: Becky, Pledge, Contracted, Dementia and most recently, The Vigil. When asked who the next Blumhouse will be, Jason Blum, without question, said BoulderLight pictures. Between their shrewd emphasis on economics, eye for bold talent, and recently launched international sales arm, JD and Rafi are a force to be reckoned with - and it seems like they are just getting started.
In this interview, we talked about their filmography, the launch of BoulderLight, and strategies for aspiring producers, on this very special episode of The Nick Taylor Horror Show. Now without further ado here are JD Lifshits and Raphael Margules of BoulderLight Pictures.
Here are some key takeaways from this conversation with JD and Raphael.
Your movies must have urgency. You know that feeling when you hear about a project, or see a trailer, or read an announcement for a movie and you cannot f*****g wait to see it? You ever find yourself actually wishing that they announced the project closer to the release date because of the pain of having to wait for it? Those are the kinds of projects you need to make! Nowadays, with the ubiquity of streaming, audiences have an infinite cinema library at their fingertips, they need to not only know about your project but they have to be extremely excited about it and dying for it to be released. As JD and Rafie mentioned, the way to do this is to create things people haven't seen before - a compelling hook, a completely different take on a reliable trope, anything that hooks the audience. If your movie feels cliche and part of a sea of sameness, you may get a decent review, or the attention of a few odd audience members who stumble upon it while looking for something to watch on Saturday night, which is fine. But the real name of the game is for your project to be so compelling and exciting, that people are counting down the days for it release. A natural extension of this rule is present in the next point.
If you're not in love with it, it probably wont work. It's a cliche at this point, but to make movies, you really have to love it. Making films is extremely difficult in every single stage, and one of the only ways to get through the difficulties associated with filmmaking is to absolutely love it. This is also necessary because the audience will always be able to sense your passion in the film itself. You can feel the excitement and sheer glee of filmmaking with directors like Spielberg, Tarantino, Sofia Coppola, and PT Anderson. That's because these people are in love with their movies, and this passion is completely infectious to audience members. If you're taking on a project as a career stepping stone or a way to make a quick buck, in all likelihood the energy of the movie is going to be flat and so will its ratings. Plus, to get your movie greenlit, Producers need to see your enthusiasm for the project in order to invest in you, because they know that the going will get rough two weeks into production, and you need the kind of heart for the project that will enable you to push through. There are plenty exceptions to this rule, but as Quentin Tarantino says, "if you really really love movies with all of your heart, then you can't help but make a great movie." Passion has to be alive in every frame of your movie and if you do this right, in all likelihood, audiences will be passionate about your movies too.
Ask for advice, not favors. This is a big piece of advice that JD realized at a young age when he reached out to Eli Roth on MySpace and got an answer back the same day. JD asked Eli for advice and as a result, Eli became his mentor and tremendously helped guide him through the ups and downs of Hollywood. Having someone like this in your life is priceless. Everybody needs a Yoda, so thin
THE EMPTY MAN, Writer/Director, David Prior
David Prior is an American writer and director who made his feature directorial debut with The Empty Man. The Empty Man is an epic in the world of horror and one of the most criminally overlooked horror movies of 2020. The movie itself has the scope, ambition, and execution of a Chris Nolan movie while mixing elements of cults, quantum horror, and creepypastas into an extremely unique mythology that is all its own.
Guys, if you haven't seen it, you have to. Empty Man was one of the most ambitious horror movies of recent years. The story behind the making of Empty Man is very harrowing. In the middle of shooting in South Africa, the movie was temporarily shut down due to weather conditions, during which a key studio executive who greenlit the film left the studio, essentially leaving the movie abandoned. If that wasn't enough, once the movie finally got finished, David had to endure a series of calamities, including negative test screenings and studio interference which kept the movie in limbo for years. If that wasn't enough, once the movie was finally released, it was in theatres during the height of the pandemic only to get largely negative Rotten Tomato reviews (which were very unjust) and thus be completely buried.
However, as of the past few weeks, The Empty Man has been seeing a major resurgence as a number of outspoken critics have been singing the praises of the movie and thus causing it to get the attention it deserves. The story behind the Empty Man brings to light the many issues that can befall a movie but also shows the power of the internet to champion a movie when it belongs in the spotlight. I'm personally thrilled that Empty Man is getting the viewership that it has been; it’s a must-see, and I'm convinced it will be considered a horror epic for years to come.
In this conversation with David, we got into the whole story behind Empty Man, his directorial processes, and what he learned observing directors like David Fincher, Tim Burton, and Peter Weir when he visited them on set while producing special features for multiple DVD titles. All of this and so much more on today's episode of The Nick Taylor Horror Show.
Here are some key takeaways from this conversation with Empty Man Director David Prior.
Movies are made in prep. When you watch Empty Man and observe all of the locations, decisions, camera angles, story elements, it's a comprehensive and ambitious epic of a movie. But, its budget was comparatively low. The key to accomplishing all that he did on a mid-range budget was preparation. David stressed each and every detail related to locations, productions, blocking, scheduling, and set details to an obsessive degree and made sure it was all communicated to his production crew. So much of your time in production is spent in communication and dealing with the consequences of miscommunication. If you can alleviate this by being incredibly well prepared, you can set yourself up to be way ahead of the game. This will alleviate your time, energy, and focus substantially so you can get the right shots the right way and substantially boost your film's production value because you've handled the minutia upstream. The idea of prep sounds like a little detail but can make or break your movie.
There are no greenlights. Given his experience on Empty Man, David is someone who can attest to the many difficulties that can befall a production, particularly one from a major studio. David learned that as a director, at no point is your movie ever really guaranteed. Even if your movie's been approved, even if it's been funded, even if it's been edited, you're never really safe, and therefore you can never let your guard down.
I'm paraphrasing here, but Guillermo Del Toro once stated that the natural state of a film is for it not to happen, and Rob Zombie calls every finished film a miracle because a completed production defies the odds because movie making is chaos, and the studios are ruthless.
It's hard enough
LUCKY, Writer/Actress & Director, Brea Grant & Natasha Kermani
We have a super special episode today with Brea Grant and Natasha Kermani in the house!!
Brea Grant is an actress, writer, director, graphic novel author, and a household name in the horror community. Perhaps best known among us horror fans for her acting work in Dexter, Heroes, After Midnight, and Rob Zombie's Halloween 2, Brea also recently wrote and directed the very bloody and very funny 12-Hour Shift, now streaming on Hulu and if that wasn't enough, Brea has released her newest graphic novel Mary: The Adventures of Mary Shelley's Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandaughter.
Natasha Kermani is an Iranian-American filmmaker who made waves on the horror circuit in 2017 with her feature debut, Imitation Girl - a hypnotic, doppelgänger science fiction treat. In what many would call a horror dream team, Brea and Natasha recently came together on Lucky, written by and starring Brea with Natasha directing.
Now streaming on Shudder, Lucky is a dark, satirical slasher with very relevant social commentary - the film tells the story of a young woman who finds herself stalked by a murderous figure who appears in her house every night. With zero help from friends and local authorities, she realizes she has to take this predator out herself. Lucky is not only a very effectively frightening slasher, but it's a refreshingly unadulterated statement on violence against women in America. It's the type of movie that has the potential for multiple interpretations, which is one of the things that makes it as fascinating and powerful as it is.
In this conversation, Natasha and Brea trade career strategies, writing processes and discuss the production story behind Lucky. All of this and so much more on today's episode of The Nick Taylor Horror Show. Now without further ado, here is Brea Grant and Natasha Kermani.
Here are some key takeaways from this conversation with Natasha and Brea.
Take note of Ego vs. Confidence. There is a fine line that directors must always walk when on set - if you're too much of an ego-maniac who barks orders all day without any regard for those around you, your crew will mutiny, as they should. Yes, of course, there are many directorial exceptions to this rule, but by and large, ego is the enemy. However, if you're too much of a pushover, your crew will walk all over you. This is why it's important to distinguish the difference between ego and confidence. Confidence is a necessary part of any directing job, as your entire cast and crew will turn to you to make decisions on just about everything, and you need to have an answer or solution. In order to do that, you need confidence in your ability to lead. A film crew, just like a sea crew, needs a captain they can rely on. Without confidence, you'll be eaten alive, but with too much ego, you'll be ignored. Learn the difference between the two and strike the balance.
Take the time and space necessary. Directing is largely a game of hustle. Hustling to get your shots, make your day, and ensure everything goes according to plan. In the midst of all of this hustle, a lot can get lost in the fog, which is why it was very refreshing to hear Natasha talk about the importance of taking the time and space to get the shots right. Directing relies so much on your cognition in order to effectively tap into and communicate your creative vision. Rushing all the time and exerting stress on each and every move can obliterate your creativity. Yes, it's critical to make your day and get your shots without being too precious about details, but like everything, this is a balance. It’s important to ensure that you breathe and take the time necessary to get what you need to get when the cameras are rolling, instead of just moving on every time. Unless you're behind on schedule, in which case, yeah, you should probably move on.
Work with those who will challenge your decisions. Making a movie is a matter of melding together an infinite amount of decisions; everything from castin
Always informative and interesting
Nick always has interesting guests and asks great questions leading discussions in ways that even the most seasoned fan will get some new insight out of. Highly recommended listening.
Great dialogue and format
Nick hosts an amazing discussion that speaks primarily to a horror community, but is truly rich dialogue for artists in general, whatever the format. I think there is an ongoing theme of artistic process, or maybe just defining a plan, then doing that plan. I’m always inspired by these episodes, and Nick is a fantastic interviewer. He clearly does his homework, and has an infectious reverence for his guests. Thanks for making great content Nick.
A Great New Podcast for Horror
If you make horror movies (or just love them) I cannot recommend this podcast enough. The production value is excellent and Nick gives great interviews. The first one with Gregory Plotkin is a wonderful deep dive into directing and editing horror. This one just jumped to the top of my podcast list.