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Horror movies &stuff Interviews:Director Greg Stechman

Director/Novelist Greg Stechman is certainly a guy on the way up. At the ripe old age of 27, he's acted in 7 films, penned and produced four films, and has directed 3 films. Not to mention he's the manager of an up and coming actress, and is co-owner of Burning Grounds Entertainment, an indie film production company. Despite being severely injured by a drunk driver some years back, Stechman is still as driven as ever, and continues to make, write, and produce films. His next effort is a twisted little horror movie called "This Hollow Sacrament", which is based on a string of real life murders that occured in California in the mid 90's. In this interview, Stechman reveals more about the film, himself, and his influences as an artist.

MR. H:Tell us a little bit about yourself Greg..i.e. where you were born, where you grew up, where you reside now, etc.

Greg:I was born and raised in Sacramento, California, which is considered the Central Valley. I'm still here there (here) to this day. I love it. Sacramento is the greatest city in the world.

MR. H:When did you first know that you wanted to be a filmmaker?

Greg:I knew I wanted to make movies when I was 7 and my father owned an old VHS camcorder. I used to make short films on it -- mostly of toys, etc. that I owned. I created my own credit sequence with red felt tip pens and white paper when I was 11.

MR. H:Did you attend film school or did you just have a natural talent for directing and felt you didn't need to attend film school?

Greg:I actually studied Communications in college. My original passion was to be a screenwriter. I wrote a script in college called "Michael and Claire" that I originally wasn't supposed to direct, just write. I ended up directing it as well.

MR. H:Does the filmmaking bug run in the family, or are you the first director in the Stechman family so far?

Greg:So far just me, although I have a cousin who is a camera operator and another cousin who is an animator.

MR. H:What was the first piece of work you ever directed? I mean go way back to your first ever project, your first time ever behind a camera.

Greg:The first film I ever directed consisted of me following our dog around the back yard with a camera at age 7 or 8.

MR. H:What was the first film project you ever directed?

Greg:"Michael and Claire" in 2003.

MR. H:Now you've done some acting in movies along with the whole directing thing. Which is harder for you, acting or directing?

Greg:Directing. Acting comes very naturally to me. I've always loved to entertain people, be it with comedy, etc. I'm also very comfortable with public speaking. Ironically enough, I ended up directing as well. Given, the choice to do one or the other full time...it would be a tough call.

MR. H:Now as I understand it, you underwent a spinal fusion/shoulder reconstruct surgery after a drunk driver hit you. When did that happen...and after that accident occured, was there ever any doubt in your mind that you'd be directing or acting again? Or were you more determined than ever to recover and continue on with the goals you had set for yourself to accomplish in the realm of film?

Greg:Sadly enough, I have still not fully recovered. I found out just last week that two discs in my spinal cord are still herniated and may need surgery. And, to answer your question, there was never any doubt in my mind that I would be able to direct again. If I am alive, I'm making films.

MR. H:Now you're a young guy, 27 years of age, you're in that target demo for most horror films released nowadays. How do you feel about the whole violence in media issue that congress always seems to target everytime someone does something crazy? Do you think Hollywood needs to tone it down a bit, or are movies are not responsible for our actions, and the ultimate deciding factor is how parents bring up their kids?

Greg:I think Hollywood should tone down films marketed AT KIDS. That being said, I'm a big fan of violent films, which is why the rating system was invented. If a movie's rated R or NC17, you know kids probably shouldn't be there. If parents are stupid enough to not monitor what their kids watch, they deserve what they get. I love violent films. I love "Hostel" and "The Descent" and "Irreversible" and "Audition." The bloodier the better. But, those films are for adults and older teens.

MR. H:You have an indie horror pic coming our way called "This Hollow Sacrament". Tell us a little bit about the film, and what we can expect from it.

Greg:"This Hollow Sacrament" is based on a series of murders that took place in the Central Valley in the mid-1990's. It's a dread-soaked horror film that leaves a lot of plot points up to the viewer's imagination, but there are scenes of excruciating violence throughout. Very realistic. Very gritty. The goal was to make a crime drama/horror film that looks like a documentary. We wanted to put the viewer in the place of the victims. It's an unusual POV to take on a horror film, but I think it turned out great.

MR. H:Is "This Hollow Sacrament" going to be part of a series of films, or is this simply just a start to finish horror movie that you don't intend to turn into a trilogy or long running series?

Greg:There is a sequel already written for "This Hollow," however three parts might be excessive. Although, if the film's successful and people want to see more, I'm going to give the fans what they want at the end of the day.

MR. H:Are you prepping the movie for a wide theatrical release, or direct to dvd..like are you in the position where you can get a theatrical release of some sort, or has the plan always been to send the film straight to home disc?

Greg:I don't really have a specific distribution plan in mind per se - we're in the process of shopping the film to theatrical and video distribs right now, as well as some film festivals. At the end of the day, again, it's going to come down to what the people want to see - if the movie gets good word of mouth, then I'm going to push for a wide release; that being said, however, usually there is more money to be made in the DVD market currently.

MR. H:Most of the people you got for this movie are unknowns or first time actors. Was this the plan all along for casting, or did you have some larger names in mind at first?

Greg:No, this was the plan all along. The things that happen to the characters in the film are so horrible, I don't think the audience would have bought it if the parts were played by known actors. Like I said, the intention was to make a fictional film that runs like a documentary, hence no one could be known.

MR. H:When is "This Hollow Sacrament" set to be released, and have you secured a distributor for it yet?

Greg:It's out to distribs currently. We hope to know more on that soon.

MR. H:When can we expect a full on trailer to be cut for the film?


MR. H:You directed and wrote "This Hollow Sacrament"..which is more fun for your directing, writing, or do they both rank about the same?

Greg:Oh no, writing definitely. Directing is a cool gig, but writing is a great, creative process. Writing is far less mechanical. I love it. It's therapeautic.

MR. H:Now you've got another horror film in the works called "Deep In the Darkness". Can you tell us a little bit about that movie (who's in it, who do you have lined up to be in it) or is it on "Hush Hush" mode for now?

Greg:We are still in preparation on the film. It's based on the novel by Michael Laimo, and we'll be filming in a town called Walnut Grove in late fall/winter 2007. Everything else is hush-hush on it for now.

MR. H:Is horror your favorite or most preferred genre, or just a genre you like to dabble in from time to time?

Greg:Horror is my favorite genre, although I do like comedies as well. But, if I'm known as "the horror guy," then I will have made my mark. I'm proud to bear it.

MR. H:Everyone has a favorite thing they love about horror films. Some like the blood and gore, others like the adrenaline rush that comes with on-screen suspense and terror, some like the escapism factor of seeing something out of the norm unfold on-screen, and others just like to be scared out of their wits. What's your favorite thing about horror films? All of the above, or one thing in particular?

Greg:I love seeing a film where all of the elements above come together and leave a lasting impression. Leaving the audience feeling disturbed. Suspenseful is good, blood is good, jolts are good, but if you forget them two hours later, what's the point?

MR. H:Who are some of your influences in the horror genre? i.e. directors, actors, writers, etc?

Greg:Directors - Stanley Kubrick, Takashi Miike, The Pang Brothers, Neil Marshall, Eli Roth, James Wan, Tobe Hooper, Quentin Tarantino, Guillermo del Toro, Robert Rodriguez, Scott Spiegel, William Friedkin, Hideo Nakata, Sam Raimi.

Films - The Wicker Man, The Shining, The Descent, Audition, Gozu, Icchi The Killer, The Eye, The Vanishing (Dutch version), The Devil's Backbone, From Dusk Till Dawn, Intruder, Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, The Exorcist, Alien, Aliens.

MR. H:What horror actors and directors would you like to work with that you haven't worked with yet?

Greg:All of the above. I actually really want to work with Dante Tomaselli and/or Eli Roth some day. They have fantastic vision and are so passionate about the genre, it's amazing. They're nice guys, too, and genuinely care about filmmaking.

MR. H:A few days ago, it was announced that "Halloween" is being remade and Rob Zombie is directing that one. "The Omen" remake just came out, "Creepshow", "The Stepfather", "Phantasm", and "Friday the 13th" (possibly) are all up for future redo's. Where do you see the horror genre headed with all of these remakes of the classics? Is it in serious trouble due to lack of new, original ideas, or do you think the remake craze is just about studios seeing dollar signs, and not being willing to spend money on creating new stuff?

Greg:I see no problem in remaking films, so long as the director and producers understand the material and try to give the audience something new. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a great remake. Unnecessary, but was a fun movie. I have no problem with remakes and I personally think that Rob Zombie will do a terrific job on Halloween. I also loved The Hills Have Eyes. So, maybe my take on remakes is different than others. Oh, and I am more excited than anything to see the remake of The Wicker Man.

MR. H:Which horror movies released in the last 5 years have impressed you the most? Including Theatrical and dvd releases?

Greg:"The Descent", "Hostel", "The Devil's Rejects" "Saw", "Cabin Fever", "High Tension", "The Devil's Backbone", "Memories Of Murder", "Infection", "3...Extremes","One Missed Call", and "The Eye".

MR. H:On the flipside of that coin, which horror movies released in the last 5 years have in your opinion been huge letdowns?

Greg:"The Omen" remake, "Land Of The Dead", "House of 1000 Corpses", "Resident Evil", "Alien VS. Predator" (I include this because at one point, both series were considered horror), "Cursed" -and a variety of horrible, straight to video films that were shot by monkeys with a camcorder.

MR. H:Back onto "This Hollow Sacrament"..is this a straight up hardcore horror movie, or a horror film with thriller and other elements mixed in?

Greg:This is a crime drama/hardcore horror film. It's like "Irreversible" meets "Hostel" meets "NYPD: Blue."

MR. H:Will "THS" be a blood and gore feast, or are you going more for psychological scares?

Greg:Oh no, it's a blood fest. The psychological aspects are there, but watching people go through excruciating pain can be pretty damaging. It's a win-win.

MR. H:When did you get the idea for this film? Is it based off of a novel, short story, or is this a Greg Stechman original?

Greg:It is based on a true story. Four women (who were rape victims) were murdered in the Central Valley. The results of the case (which is still unsolved) actually changed the way that CA law views pregnant women being killed. The first application of that law stemming from these cases being the Laci Peterson investigation.

MR. H:Where did you guys shoot "This Hollow Sacrament"? Was it a smooth shoot, or did cast, financial, or weather related difficulties ever rear their ugly head a few times?

Greg:We shot "This Hollow" in Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, Nevada, Stockton, and a few dozen other places. The only weather difficulty was extreme cold. It is very tiring to be that cold all the time. With all indie films, financial considerations are always an issue, but we were blessed with crew and cast who had extra money and didn't mind supporting the film. That's saying a lot, when you're willing to work for free AND put money into the project. They were all great. Shooting for the most part was pretty smooth. I wanted to die from exhaustion a couple times, but everyone got along and it was a fairly upbeat set. We would pull pranks on one another to keep things lively. We would also do stupid stunts, like jumping into 35 degree water in December or hunting sea gulls with rocks or launching bottle rockets at various crew. All of this was caught on camera as well. I like to keep things fun.

MR. H:What did you set out to accomplish with this movie? A horror film that horror fans would remember for a long time, or just a popcorn flick?

Greg:I want people to remember this thing for 30 years. Even if I make a popcorn flick, it's going to be like "Aliens" - a benchmark.

MR. H:Why the title change? And give us your 5 favorite horror movies in no particular order.

Greg:The title was changed back to the original script title. I like it. Top 5 horror movies EVER: "The Wicker Man", "The Vanishing", "Audition", "Last House On The Left", and "Nightmare On Elm Street".

MR. H:Thanks for the time Greg!

Greg:Thanks guys!

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