SDCC 2012: A Chat With The Gang Behind Dave Parker’s COLDWATER

Thursday was a busy day for me at San Diego Comic Con.  By 4:00 that afternoon, I had found myself in The Hilton Bayfront across from The Convention Center.  While a bevy of batmobiles were displayed on the lawn outside of the hotel, inside I found myself sitting at a table with James Duval (DONNIE DARKO), Ivan Djuvoric (UNDER THE BED) and director Dave Parker (THE HILLS RUN RED) – the guys behind the upcoming horror thriller COLDWATER.  We found ourselves not only discussing their film which was to be featured in The Virtual Drive-In panel in Hall H later that day, but also the mechanics of what makes a film scary and the various influences that have left their mark.

So tell me about COLDWATER.

James Duval – It’s NOT about cold water.

Dave Parker – COLDWATER is a film about a guy who gets dropped off at a house he’s never been to, to house sit for a friend of his.

Ivan Djuvoric – But he doesn’t know whose house he’s house sitting.

Whose house he’s house sitting…say that five times fast.

Dave Parker – The friend in question was supposed to do the house sitting job but couldn’t, so he has his friend do it for him.

Okay, so are you the friend in question?

Ivan – No, I’m the guy that gets stuck house sitting.

Oh okay, James?

James – No, I play Guy.  I come into the story later to throw a bit of a wrench into the equation and change the direction of the engine.

Dave – Okay, okay…I’m not sure that really answers the question.  It’s about a guy who is house sitting a house that he is unfamiliar with and the longer he stays in the house, the more he discovers that the house is not normal.  There’s something odd about the house and IN the house.  He’s not quite sure if he’s alone and if something or someone is in the house with him.

So what are we talking here?  Ghosts?  Is this a paranormal story? Or will it more-so be left up to the viewer to truly decide?

Ivan –  We definitely want the audience to be their own voice of reason and allow them to create their own interpretations on what it is.  We definitely know the direction of the movie but we didn’t want to spoon feed them what exactly is going on throughout the movie.

James – Which is exciting.  It’s almost sort of the questions you’re asking, “Is it a spirit?  Is it not a spirit?” That’s exactly part of the journey you’ll experience when watching the film.

Dave – Exactly. The thing for us is to take the elements of a mystery and enhance it with horror and terror.  That, you know, in the best sense of it, give a mystery sort of set up and then try to terrify the audience with that.

James – One of the things that drew me to this project, to the script and to the story in general was the idea of…when you don’t really tell your audience what’s happening….when you don’t really spell it out for them, there’s nothing more frightening than one’s own imagination.  This film, this script and this story lends itself to letting your imagination run away.  This is why it’s so important to let the audience have the capacity and the space to be able to put that in their mind, to give them the space to imagine what that horror is that’s not being explained.  And there’s nothing more frightening than not being told what is frightening!

So in your movie, the house is located on a street named Coldwater Canyon, which is the name of the street I grew up on!   That being the case, is the idea behind this film inspired by something that might have actually happened to you?

Dave – Certainly some of the inspiration was the actual location that we shot in.  I had house sat there, by myself.  And it’s a very creepy and unsettling place to be, by yourself.  That definitely is infused into the movie.

Ivan – We definitely knew that we had the location before we even began the movie…so when we started writing it, it really was a big cornerstone to how we were writing it.  We utilized it as a character in the movie itself.  So along with the collaboration process, it was about always finding ways, because we knew the house and knew how it was laid out, to use that to our advantage.  How can we use that to allow the audience to live Andre’s experience.

And that leads me to my next question.  Did you find it challenging or limiting to be confined in one sole location for the production?

Dave – It enhanced it for us.

Ivan – Everything played towards helping everything else.

Dave – Yeah, it led to more, in some ways, happy accidents.  I’ve been a big fan of real contained things in horror films.  My favorite film is REAR WINDOW.  And that is a guy in an apartment.  ROPE is another one.  Hitchcock was the master!  So I was really excited about the fact it was in one location.  We could really take the house and exploit it, at least for us, to its maximum potential in creating that atmosphere, that tension, that suspense.

Damn!  And THAT leads me to my NEXT question!

James – It’s called kismet, my friend.

Given that COLDWATER CANYON takes place mostly in one sole location, and given that many of the great suspense and horror films take place in one location (a hospital, a house, a hotel), name for me one film that falls into that category that left its mark on each of you.

Ivan – Largely because I watched it after we shot the movie and really having experienced what that’s like and also just a lot of respect for the difficulty in how they shot the movie, is BURIED.  You know, doing a movie solely on your own as an artist in one location.  It really was interesting how they used it to their advantage and how they played scenarios.  It definitely was kind of an inspiration to what the next way would be to go beyond the boundaries and find a new way to tell a story and get the people to the edge of their seats.

James – It’s probably almost cliche to say this especially since he’s a really good friend of theirs and an acquaintance of mine, but the first thing that came to my mind when you asked the question, something that really worked and changed horror on that level, was the first SAW.  That’s just one room.  That thing is creepy, it’s weird, it’s uncomfortable and it opened the door for an entire series of SAW films and other types of films of that genre.  James Wan really wanted to write a story in one location and that really worked to high effect.

Ivan – Or even one of my other favorite films, James’ INSIDIOUS.  I have enormous amounts of respect for him.  He visited us while we were shooting.  Anyway, it’s the way he was able to take something and use the different aspects of film making to scare people and get under their skin.

Dave – He also had the help of fucking creepy Joe Bishara!

James – That works to high effect, man!  At the end of the day, being able to take something…you’re in the whole entire universe yet you’re still trapped.

Dave – I’ve got two.  INSIDIOUS is obviously a great film and in a lot of ways I think that James is, out of the contemporaries, working on a different level.  The other film shot in one location that was terrifying to me was THE DESCENT.   THE DESCENT, before INSIDIOUS, to me was the scariest film I had seen in like ten years.  Before that, as far as one location, it HAS to be John Carpenter’s THE THING! Forget all the special effects and everything, you’d still have an amazing film filled with tension and suspense.

James – It’s still amazing to this day.

Dave –  And both THE DESCENT and THE THING, to me, as far as that goes, are incredible with that.  You don’t think of them as one location shoots, but they are.  It’s a cave.  It’s just masterfully done.

Right.  You’re mentioning a movie here that does leave it up to the audience, to a certain extent, to fill in the blanks.

Dave – Especially if you see the original ending of it. What’s really great is, here you have these scenarios which are all, in a way, similar.  That’s inspiring to me.  It’s what I’m striving for and trying to learn to do as a film maker….you know, bring those things to a different level.  When you do it and even when you achieve just a little bit of the scares like that, you realize how hard that is.  Doing gore and great splatter effects is easier because that really is up to the technicians.  To really build the characters, the suspense, the tension and stuff like that, that is the fine art, the finesse and that’s the stuff that’s always excited me over the blood and guts.  If you don’t have that feeling before that moment happens, then you’re lost.

Like that one scene in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE…

Dave – Like EVERY SCENE in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE! And you can say that’s a one location movie too but that’s just the greatest horror film that’s ever been made.  Along with THE EXORCIST which you can also say is a one location film too!  You can go on and on but there’s a reason.  These are the pillars.  But look at THE EXORCIST.  It’s about normal people and it’s instantly relatable.  In CHAINSAW, the people are normal people that you can relate to and to me, that’s where they succeed at fear.  What we strive to do is, if the audience doesn’t like Andre, then what we’ve done won’t work.  That’s what we really worked so hard on.  Luckily, Ivan is really likeable anyway but it’s always a challenge.  And, you know, the biggest challenge when you’re doing genre work is that so much has come before.  So to keep people on their toes and to keep them guessing is a very tricky thing that we really think about.

Ivan – Dave comes from a genre background but I don’t so much.  I have come to love and respect everyone in the genre community.  They’ve been very welcoming to me as a newcomer.  Working together was unique because it was a complete collaboration.  We brought different ends of the table together.  Where he would go in one direction, I would be kind of the general audience side of it and we’d find a happy medium to find a new way to get under people’s skin.  A new way to get them scared and keep them motivated to continue watching.

Dave – In that sense, we were really fortunate.  We compliment each other.  However, everyone involved from the cast and crew brought something to it that really changed the movie for the better.  They enhanced it and made it better with their ideas and their collaboration. With myself being the director, acting as the filter, I’d keep it on track with where everything needed to be.  We were so fortunate to have people that were so collaborative and so creative.

James – And extremely talented.

Dave – Yes. You are very extremely talented. But you know, everyone, from Will Barratt to our composer Freddy Wiedmann who scored HILLS for me, our sound designer Justin Cruse…all these people at different stages of this process have brought things that have really elevated the movie.

Ivan – It was a constant evolution.

James – Will’s excitement on set and his happiness in the work carried over.  I was happy to be there but Will’s energy was spilling onto me! He’s so fun to work with and he’s so excited.

I believe I first heard about COLDWATER in 2011.

Dave – We’ve been taking our time.

James – We serve no wine before its time.

Are there any set plans for the film? Distribution?

Dave – Not yet. The plan is to screen it and see.  We’re not putting that pressure on this right now.

Ivan – We never did during the entire process and we don’t plan on changing that now.  We more-so want to see what people think and what people want it to do and where they want it to go.

Well that being said, you’re included in Hall H this year for the Virtual Drive-In panel.  You’ve been there before for THE HILLS RUN RED.  What’s that experience like?

Dave – The first time was a blur.  It was crazy because I couldn’t believe we were in front of this massive audience showing stuff but it was for a very limited time.  We were presenting HILLS as part of a panel for several other films.  It was like, bring these people on and take these people off.  Then Robert Downey Jr. comes on with Guy Ritchie and talks about SHERLOCK HOLMES and it was surreal in a lot of ways.  I predict this experience is going to be even more surreal but what’s great about it is we are on a panel with two other films that are completely different from ours.  It’s called “Virtual Drive-In” and it’s ALL about independent film making on very different levels in very different genres.  I think that’s really exciting and, to me, the most exciting thing is how the independent film market is changing so quickly.  The bottom line is, we set out to do this movie by our own rules and the thing we’ve always said in interviews and what we want to impart on people is, if you have the passion for it…

Ivan – …whatever it is…

Dave – Go do it!  And you can do it because at the end of the day, you put this in, you work hard and everything else, look what happens!  We’re in Hall H as a small independent movie! When does that ever happen? It’s just a testament of that independent spirit.  To me, that’s the most inspirational thing.

Ivan – And staying true to the art.  From the get go, we didn’t set limitations.  We just set our minds to making the best product we could and remaining passionate about it while not worrying about anything else except for that.  Now, we’re at the fun part where we get to see where it goes.

James – No wine…before its time?

Dave –  Exactly.  We’ve been fermenting.

COLDWATER was directed by Dave Parker and stars Ivan Djuvoric, Rick Irwin, Sanny Van Heteran and James Duval.
For further information about the film, check out the Official Facebook Page!

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