What are your earliest recollections of the horror genre? What was the
first movie you remember really having an impact on you or scaring you?
|I saw ALIEN in the
theater when I was seven and needless to say I wasn't going to
be an astronaut after that. Then about two years later I saw THE
THING and that did even more damage. (Laughs) So you can
blame Scott and Carpenter! But I also loved THE TWILIGHT ZONE,
the work of LON CHANEY and the Monster Machine out of Universal.
At what point did you decide that you wanted to pursue filmmaking?
Didn't you initially start out as a screenwriter?
a beer) I slugged it out as a Studio messenger. I had written
a book but, didn't scratch together a screenplay until about
2002 when I wrote this piece about RENEGADE GI's in Vietnam,
working with Kumar Rouge, to traffic narcotics---in the bodies
and body bags of dead GIs---and the Military Police Agents who
have to put a stop to it. That was the script that got me out
of the Studio Messenger Service and served as a work sample
for other Production Companies, allowing me to write full time.
(Laughs) Thank God!
|Now, where did
the idea for 'Sin-Jin Smyth' truly originate?
I had been kicking around the idea of a midnight prisoner transfer
for sometime... I had also optioned a script about the Devil living
in a little boys attic that was dismantled into a fairy tale so,
disappointed in the way that turned out, I dusted this story off,
wrote a very, very rough draft over a weekend and started to develop
the script with a dark, mean element to it. Welcome to SIN-JIN
I had read that you wrote the script and you were unhappy with the
various changes that studios and director's wanted to make -
That's right --
And this prompted you to direct it yourself. How difficult is it
for an independent filmmaker to really get their vision from script
to the screen? And could you take us through this process?
It's NOT impossible! And even though you may see the film frame-by-frame
in your head you still have to bridge the art with a business plan
in order to acquire the resources you need. With SIN-JIN SMYTH---Once
we decided to remain independent---we built the film out into an investment
and retained a Securities Attorney out of New York to draw up a Production
LLC. At the same time I had to develop the film by re-structuring
the script, obtaining letters of commitment from the cast and working
out the "look" with a Storyboard Artist... Then, I hired
the best production staff available knowing that if anyone was going
to be the weak link in this production chain---IT WAS GONNA BE ME!!!
So we brought in a qualified UPM (Production Manager) to design a
budget and an AD (Assistant Director) to put together an effective
schedule (Jonathan Zimmerman off of TOOL BOX MURDERS, MORTUARY). Then
pulled together a Production Designer (Rob Howeth off of Tobe Hooper's
Mortuary) to get to work on the landscape and sets and a DP (Denis
Maloney, of the Academy Award winning film, The Contender), to help
map out the shooting style as well as: An Editor, a Sound Designer
(Wade Wilson off of Shrek) to invent a MEAN SOUND PACKAGE, a Costume
Designer, Make-up FX, FX, Production Sound, Stunt Coordinator (Chris
Doyle, who worked for Sam Raimi) Weapons Professionals, everything
and put them to work developing every aspect of the film. Then I grabbed
a camera and took about two weeks to scout and walk the locations
and designed an A, B and C shot list with a clear cut plan of which
shots could be omitted once time started to work against me on the
Once I had the list mapped out, I
circulated those lists to all the department heads so I could get
their opinion on it and this way there were no surprises... After
that, we---with Producer Lota Hadley---retained a marketing expert
to plan a strategy that would explain to any investors just how the
film would be sold to the public so they could get their money back!
At the same time, we sourced out Product Placement opportunities,
worked out the soundtrack, and ran after a Lit Deal that would feature
three pieces of literature---providing this stunt worked---the publication
of the screenplay, the novelization of the screenplay and production
journal in print for the off chance someone would actually find any
of this interesting!
Then I hired
a local kid to create the comic book, looked into the video
game, built a web site and stuffed all the facts and figures
into a book with the script, boards and synopsis and everything
else and ran down every distributor in town hoping to build
interest in a possible partnership... After that, we took any
meeting we could with any possible investors and sold the film
off block-by-block. Welcome to independent filmmaking! (Laughs)
Now... it's time to take this development and step out onto
the set and see what we can do! You're synopsis for 'Sin-Jin
Smyth' is that on Halloween night at midnight, the devil simultaneously
appears in two spots; the highlands of India and a cemetery
Why Kansas? Any personal significance?
Because Kansas is a quiet section of the Bible belt! No one is safe
from the Devil!
|There's a series
of some pretty cool conceptual art & storyboard art on the
movie's official website. How much preparation is going into the
look of the film?
Just about everything is geared towards the look of the film,
the Production Design, Cinematography, Costumes, Weather Effects,
all of it is designed to texture each shot and add to the atmosphere.
making a lot of the storyboards readily available on the site.
I get the feeling you're really trying to show horror fans what
you have in mind for your film. Is the website a way to make
the production a bit more interactive with the fans?
WE ARE FANS! The more we can interact with other fans, the
better for us! And the MIDNIGHT PRISONER TRANSFER SEQUENCE was
carefully selected as an example of what we are trying to transmit
to the audience in terms of mood... without giving too much
of the film away!
Let's talk casting. Already set for the leads are actor's Jason Hildebrandt
& Richard Tyson. How'd these two come about being cast as the leads
for 'Sin-Jin Smyth'? I know we're BOTH openly big fans of 80's classic,
'3 O'Clock High'.
|Tyson is just classic
in that! You know Barry Sonnenfeld was the DP on that shoot?
Wow. I had NO idea. That's awesome. (laughs)
I was familiar with the casts work. I had just seen Black Hawk
Down and I think both actors---combined---hold the world's record
for getting shot at on a movie set (laughs) But in addition to
them being solid players, I knew them both personally and was
well aware of what they were made of and when you make a movie
like this, at night, in the elements, with a tornado closing in,
you better know who your people are!
got some guys heavily involved in music taking part in the film.
First up, why Jonathan Davis from Korn? How'd you convince him
to make the leap from music to acting?
|As we worked through
the casting process Davis became an option, suggested by my partner
Lota Hadley so we forwarded him the synopsis--- just the synopsis---because
the primary content of the script was under wraps (The script
is circulating with dummy pages in it) and he jumped on the idea.
We took a meeting and talked the film out over lunch and he was
all about doing the best job possible. He allowed me to get my
ideas across and he listened to how we planned to execute the
piece and from a character stand point, he was solid. He is the
right guy for the part.
Second, can you elaborate on the rumored involvement of The Cult's
Billy Duffy at this point?
Duffy is one
of the smartest people I've met! Very impressive person! You
may know that MIDNIGHT SYNDICATE is composing the orchestration
of the score and we were talking about the opportunity to revolutionize
the "sound" that they had become known for so we---as
a fans of the Leone Westerns where each gunfighter seemed to
operate with a certain theme--discussed the possibility of adding
a guitar player to get loud and put some power behind it. They
(Midnight Syndicate) don't do guitar work so I said if we're
gonna get a guitar player let me go out and try to get one of
the best, ya' know---let one of the best say no to us first---But
Duffy liked the idea and even hit me with some great ideas of
his own... We discussed the soundtrack work of Ry Cooder (Southern
Comfort, The Long Riders) we talked about what Neil Young did
with Dead Man, he was just loaded with inventive ideas and I
need all the help I can get on this thing (laughs)! But he grasped
the impression we wanted to make! We are in the process of working
out a contract now.
|What's your connection
to make-up effects company 'Make-up & Monsters'? What convinced
you that these were the right guys to tackle 'Sin-Jin Smyth'?
Their design work is the connection. We tried to develop a project
a year or two back so I knew they could invent! They---like just
about everybody else---were sick of seeing shit at the theatre!
before, the music & score for 'Sin-Jin Smyth' will be provided
by 'Midnight Syndicate'. What's your connection to them and
how'd they hook up on your project?
The connection was made over this film. I had heard their music
and made an inquiry. At first Edward (Of Syndicate) did not
want any part of a soundtrack, he had been hit with offers before
but didn't want to step away from what his fans expected from
him. So I asked him to take a few minutes out to hear some ideas
and look at some of the material and once he saw it, he got
me on the phone and said "Damn! This could be great!"
so we talked more about the possibilities and they signed up!
I read that you film is going to be one of the first movies in 7.1
surround sound. Explain what your intentions are, how this is possible,
and how your going to pull that off?!
I want to hit the audience with a 7.1 sound package. What it takes on
a technical front to achieve that is a little too much to get into here
but, the plan is to deliver one of the best sound packages ever!
With the horror genre constantly in flux, what are your thoughts
of the current state of horror movies? We're starting to see a slow
shift back to rated R horror material. Was that always your intent with
The current state of horror movies is pretty sad. There are some people
who can still step out and execute but, for the most part, the budgets
jump through the roof and the scripts---most of which are developed
by committee---are weak re-treads from the past! Most Directors don't
have any creative authority within the studio system, they're job now
is to take notes and implement the demands of the execs---most of which
lack imagination! It's sad because the audience deserves better, they're
smart and they don't need to put up with this shit! And SIN-JIN SMYTH,
this material is R. We had talks with different potential partners about
making the film PG-13 in an effort to suck more money out of a teenage
audience but, this was the type of movie I thought thirteen year olds
should stay away from!!! And I don't want to compromise content in the
hope that we may be able to steal from a young audience! I leave that
to the concession stand!
If a 13 year old really wants to see it, he'll sneak in like I did
at that age! Have there been any recent films that as a fan have really
impressed you or gotten you excited about horror again?
|I haven't seen too
much lately and it's rare, these days, that I pay to see anything
'cause I'm almost guaranteed to ask for it (the money) back when
the film is over. But the excitement for good horror never dies!
The classic films by all these masters who have givin' us all
this great work is enough to get me excited!
You need to
take a peak at the up and coming guys from the East Coast! Being
an independent release, I assume you'll be accumulating a lot
of cool behind the scenes stuff for the eventual DVD release?
I more we can give back the better! I mean, WE WORK FOR THE
FANS and want to give the audience as much as possible and that
goes for the DVD as well. Hopefully someone finds it interesting!
We're all excited for this film and wish ya the best, Ethan!
Thank you for taking the time, Robert. Good to talk to you.