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Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions fans are eager to know! Your short horror film, Killing with Kindness, went over great at GoreFest and had people mimicking the actors of your film which was unusual to watch people re-enact a film they saw at a film festival earlier that day! People love your unique approach to mixing intense horror and comedy (which is a very difficult task). You are a big hit amongst the indie horror community, especially the Phantasmagoria fans.


Let's start by asking if can you share a bit about your background in filmmaking and what initially drew you to filmmaking.

First off, thank you so much for those kind words. I sincerely appreciate it. We worked very hard to make the film, and I placed a lot of faith in the folks I asked to help me, and they rewarded my faith in them with amazing jobs by everyone involved. It was a lot of fun, and all of us who worked on it are friends, and I think that comes through in the final product.


My wife Ashes and I attended the Shawna Shea Film Festival in 2019. There we got to see some incredible films, including “Firstborn” by Erica Stockwell-Alpert and “Heartbeat” by Diana Porter. Both of those films were the directorial debut of each woman, and they inspired us so much that on our way home, Ashes and I decided that we needed to make movies. We also met Michael Neel there as well, who has been a massive inspiration and a supporter of ours.


In 2021 I helped Mike on his film Celephais after I was laid off a week after my 40th birthday. Over the summer I learned a lot about guerilla filmmaking, and at one point for a specific effects shot, I was covered in biting ants, but it was fun working on a film, and I had a good time. A few months later, still out of work, I was told a friend of mine, Stacy, was working as a producer on a low-budget indie film and was looking for a PA. The work I had done with Mike (who also knew Stacy and vouched for me) got me the job. That was September.

I learned a lot on that set, and right after that film wrapped, I started on another where I was able to work with some awesome people, and ended up being Claire Forlani’s driver, bringing her to and from set. I also got to become friendly with Skeet Ulrich, who got me free passes to Rhode Island Comic Con where he was a guest on a weekend during filming. That film wrapped the week of Thanksgiving.


I did my first commercial shortly after that, in the first week of December then I started a new job in January. I didn’t know much about it other than it was a Miramax film with Paul Giamatti, my favorite actor. That film was The Holdovers. Learning how two-time Academy Award winner Alexander Payne ran a set, and seeing how amazing Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Dominic Sessa, and the rest of the cast and crew turned out to be informed me on how a set should be run.


My next film was Finestkind, where I got to work with Ben Foster, Jenna Ortega, Tommy Lee Jones, and directed by Oscar-winner Brian Helgeland. Again, seeing how they all worked together and how Brian treated his crew helped me learn that people in this industry can be awesome, despite their accolades and accomplishments. I mean, I went up to Brian- who was nominated for an Oscar for writing Mystic River and won for writing LA Confidential- and shared my thoughts on how I felt he could improve his dialogue for a specific scene, and he not only didn’t fire me but thought my idea was great and understood where I was coming from, and after that first day he made it a point to chat with me every day. At the wrap party for The Holdovers, Ashes and I were walking up the stairs, and Alexander was standing at the top, having a conversation. He saw me, saw Ashes, and paused his conversation. He went over to us and said “You must be Ashes. Hi, I’m Alexander” and shook her hand. There was a writer/director with multiple Oscars who not only paused his conversation but did so to greet one of the Health and Safety PAs and his wife, whose name he had mentioned a month prior. Think about that for a second. I wasn’t directly involved with his day-to-day stuff, but he knew who I was, and remembered my wife’s name from a conversation weeks before. It made a massive impact on me.


I’ve always enjoyed being creative and getting to learn from the best in the business has helped me and allowed me the chance to see how things are done on the biggest stages.  I’ve always believed in treating people well, and that success doesn’t mean that you can look down on someone. I believe that you can always learn something on set. I think the most important thing you can do as a director is to know what you can do and what you can’t, what your strengths are, and how other folks can complement your strengths by mitigating your weaknesses. Surround yourself with people who will help you, challenge you, and offer differing perspectives on your vision.



What are some of your biggest inspirations or influences regarding filmmaking?

I grew up watching a variety of different things and reading different things, and those things have all helped inspire me. Consuming Three Stooges and Twilight Zone episodes, Mel Brooks and Godzilla films, The Simpsons, and Stephen King when I was younger gave me the foundation of horror and comedy. Not to mention The Monster Squad and Michael Jackson’s Thriller. My dad would rent “The Making of Thriller” documentary on an almost weekly basis for my brother and me, which helped show me the behind-the-scenes magic of the short film and helped lessen the scarier aspects of what I would watch in the future.

I think my biggest influence might be Stephen King’s

“The Mangler”, mainly because when I was younger

I liked to write stories, but after a while, I gave it up

because my stuff seemed too outlandish or the ideas

felt stupid to me. Then I read “The Mangler”. If you’re

unfamiliar, it’s a short story about a laundry machine

that gains sentience and begins killing people. It was

made into a movie, and there was a sequel. After that,

I felt that nothing I could come up with would be crazier

than that.

The Dead of Winter Horror Festival you organized in

February garnered a lot of attention. Can you tell us

about the genesis of this festival and what audiences can expect from it in the coming years?

The Dead of Winter Horror Fest was something that grew out of a prior attempt at creating an event that helped celebrate the independent filmmakers of New England. Our friend James Lamond from It Came From the 508 Productions asked us to help him curate the festival. We looked into a bunch of venues and other options that would allow us to allow everyone to showcase their talents.

When we turned to John Keough to help us, that was when things really took off. With all of our combined talents and skills, we were able to create something amazing. I had been introduced to John when he had posted about looking for a director for a project on which he was executive producer. I hadn’t thought to put my name in the race but figured that the worst that could happen was that I was considered but did not get the job. I didn’t expect to, as I had only directed one short. John has turned out to be an invaluable ally and a great friend. He has helped us be successful and made a positive impact on all of us.

When I say “us”, I’m referring to myself, Ashes, James, John, Alyssa Volpe, Erica Looker-Winchester, Paul Turgeon, and Dan Bouchard. We are the team that organized and worked the event. We all played pivotal parts in bringing it into existence. Ashes and I hosted the event in character from James’ upcoming film “Stakes: A New England Vampire Story”, and the proof of concept trailer premiered at DoW.

This inaugural event was a single day, and people have continued to tell us how much fun it was and how much they enjoyed it. Next year the event will be two days, and we are already planning some great things! We have been discussing the things that worked, the things that we think can be improved upon, and how we can maintain the things that people enjoyed while improving the things that require improvement. We also have a few surprises up our sleeves that we will be announcing soon, all the way up to the event.


Magenta Manor Productions seems to be a significant part of your filmmaking journey. Could you elaborate on the vision behind this production company and its role in shaping your projects?

Magenta Manor is the nickname Ashes and I gave to our home, similar to Wayne Manor, or Gray Gardens. We had thought that if we were serious about producing our own films, then we were going to have to have some sort of banner under which those films are produced. We now have three films under our belts, with several more planned and in pre-production, and not just our own. We have another first-time filmmaker that we will be helping out later this year.



Your wife's film, "Sweet Dreams," is highly anticipated at the Phantasmagoria Film Fest on May 4th. How does collaboration work within your creative partnership, and how do your respective styles complement each other?

It means a lot that you’re anticipating her film. This is her directorial debut, but she has been in front of the camera several times and helped behind the scenes on both of my films. Sweet Dreams is a short that Ashes had been working on for a while and it was awesome to bring the concept into reality. It was definitely a labor of love; Ashes and I did everything ourselves. Writing, directing, acting, cinematography, sound, editing, special effects, props…everything.

We work well together, mainly because we hold each other accountable. We don’t just sit there and tell each other that we did a good job. We offer constructive criticism and feedback based on what we see, and how we feel about the flow of the film. I believe one of the things Ashes said about my most recent short was that I needed to break up the “monotony of exposition” that was plaguing it. I think that as a result, we make each other better. We both understand story structure, and we both understand that everyone’s mind and thought process works differently. My perspective on my short is going to be different from hers, and vice versa.



"Cooking 4 Friends" sounds like an intriguing project. Could you give us a glimpse into the concept behind this new venture and what audiences can anticipate from it?

This is a short that I based on a flash fiction story from a collection I put out in 2010 called “Monsters in the Closet” about a man who kills and eats his wife. This short expands on that idea and brings it into the modern day by making the protagonist the host of an online cooking show who has a unique take on how she procures her fresh ingredients.



What do you believe sets independent filmmaking apart from mainstream cinema, and how does this influence your approach to storytelling?

I think the biggest thing is the desire to tell a story over the desire to make money. There are so many more opportunities for independent filmmakers to tell a new, original story than for someone in a big studio. The trend seems to be legacy sequels, attempts to create a cinematic universe, and planned trilogies that are doomed because the first film in the series does poorly and the creative team leaves the project. Look no further than the attempt to revive The Exorcist franchise with a planned trilogy that is also a legacy sequel. Don’t get me wrong - I would love to make films for a living. It’s been my dream since I was a kid. But that’s not the motivation I have behind making my movies. I have stories to tell, and I want to share them. If I’m bale to entertain people along the way, then it makes my stories worth telling. 

Horror fans especially want something new. They don’t care what it is, as long as it’s entertaining. We don’t want a steady stream of prequels, sequels, remakes, and reimaginings. We want originality, creativity, and new takes on old ideas.



Can you share an anecdote or moment from your filmmaking journey that particularly resonates with you or taught you something valuable about the craft?


I was a massive fan of Paul Giamatti before getting to work with him,

but events that took place on the set of The Holdovers launched

him into a different stratosphere for me.

There was a two-week period where we were

filming in western Massachusetts, and when I came

back from that I visited my parents. It was then that I learned

that my father had been diagnosed with stage 3 bladder cancer.

He had been almost as excited as I was about working with Paul, and on the final

day of filming I approached him and asked him for a small favor.

He obliged by recording a 30-second “get well soon” video for my dad,

who watched it hundreds of times before he passed.

There was no reason that Paul had to do that, he could have easily told me that he was busy, or just couldn’t find the time, or that he needed to get into character, or just refused without a reason. But he didn’t. That is something that I will never forget, and I truly hope to get the chance to work with Paul again, so I can tell him exactly what that small act of kindness meant to my dad and my entire family.

That moment, coupled with my experience with Brian Helgeland on the set of Finestkind and my experiences with Alexander Payne have taught me incredible lessons about how to run a set, how to truly appreciate your crew, and show them how important they are to you, and that without them, no film can be made.




Looking ahead, what are some aspirations or goals you have for your filmmaking career, and how do you envision your work evolving in the future?

My goals are to be able to continue to create with Magenta Manor Productions and be able to make films full-time. I see my work and my wife’s work evolving and growing and improving as we continue our journey. We are eager to learn and take on new responsibilities on sets, doing different jobs and learning how to do more things on set. I operated a camera and did lighting for the first time on Sweet Dreams. I taught myself how to edit for Killing With Kindness, and with Mike Neel’s help, I learned some basic color correction to make Sweet Dreams better. With each film, I’m learning more and more. The same goes for Ashes. The more involved we have gotten with the process of making a film, the more we have learned and the better we get as filmmakers.


If there’s any advice I can give to someone who wants to get into filmmaking, it’s this:

Just get out there and do it. It doesn’t matter if you shoot it in your backyard with your phone. Write the script, make the film, and do the thing that makes you happy. Create. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t as good at it as you would like to be right away, because the more you do it the better you’ll get. Don’t worry about who will like it and who won’t because there’s nothing that everyone likes, and there will always be people who look to tear others down for no reason. The biggest thing, if you want to be a filmmaker and you want to create, that you need to do is be a part of that community. Support other people in their creative endeavors, help them the way you would want to be helped. Don’t view other creators as competition because they’re not. In the independent creative community, when one of us succeeds, we all succeed.


Thank you so much for this opportunity and the great questions! I look forward to the success of Phantasmagoria and of all the filmmakers who submit their work to you.

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