Hello ladies and gentlemen, Muldoon here with a quick chat with the creative team behind THE VISITANT. I think what these guys are putting together sounds pretty damn interesting, so I jumped at the chance to pick their brains for a little bit. With SATURDAY SHORTS I've been able to screen a ton of awesome films from some incredible filmmakers and one of those films, Nick Peterson's DRAINED, stood out in all sorts of ways. It's a trippy, dark, and uniquely stylized short that had me scratching my head when I heard "Oh yeah, Jon Heder produced this." I'm sorry, but that was a lovely splash of water to the face with "Muldoon, you should know better than to mentally pigeonhole anyone. Not cool, man. Tsk Tsk."
Then I heard they had another project lined up, this time with the ever-so-awesome Doug Jones as a creepy demon with a costume designed by Steve Wang (a creature feature king amongst men). Their new endeavor, THE VISITANT just launched a Kickstarter campaign and while I do recieve more than my fair share of Kickstarter/IndieGoGo emails from folks, this is a project I hands down know I want to get behind. I feel, given their previous work, the individuals involved, and the artwork they're putting out there - this is going to be a fun film that I'd love to see. Below is a quick chat we had about a week ago, and fair warning - my interview skills are no where near as sharp as Capone's or Quint's, I'm just a fan talking to some guys who make really cool stuff. So let's dive in, shall we?
Muldoon: Hey guys, how are you all doing today?
Doug Jones: Good.
Nick Peterson: Mike, we really appreciate you taking the time to help us promote this little short; we are really excited to get started. It’s a short that really comes from our hearts.
Muldoon: Yeah, well it sure seems like it. First off, Nick, Jon, and Doug, thank you very much for talking with me today, it’s pretty cool of you guys to slice out some time for us here. Before we get going, Nick and Jon, I did want to shoot a giant “congrats” at you with your short: DRAINED.
Nick Peterson: Thank you.
Muldoon: You guys have probably lived with it for a good while, but it just kind of hit my door step I think a few weeks back when Nick sent it my way for SATURDAY SHORTS. It’s pretty damn awesome, which makes me incredibly excited for THE VISITANT. So what can you guys tell me about THE VISITANT and your Kickstarter campaign?
Nick Peterson: Well DRAINED came about because Jon and I had done a few projects. To make a long story short, we made DRAINED as a sense of “Here’s Kickstarter…” Look at this two years ago when Kickstarter was barely known, nobody really knew about it and I saw it as this really great opportunity to make something that a studio would never fund. I could never go to someone and say “Hey, give me thirty thousand dollars for a short film” and we knew it would be very different to do this. Now fast forward to today or six months ago and DRAINED turned out great, but I still thought we should do something that’s more conventional to an audience and make it a lot more mainstream, but still put in elements that are similar to my short MUM and DRAINED, so people who are looking for something different, they will find it in THE VISITANT for sure and I knew Steve Wang from a previous project and Jon knows Doug from previous projects, so after I wrote the story, Jon went, “Doug has to play the demon!” I was like “Yeah! And I’ll get Steve to do the makeup for Doug! Yeah!” They had worked together and everybody at the same time, without even knowing it, Doug and Steve in their respective homes were like “Yeah, why did I just agree to that?” (Laughs)
Muldoon: Just looking at the info from your Kickstarter page, you guys have quite an incredible amount of talent ready to make this short. Obviously Doug is known all around the world as “the go-to guy” for strange creature and extreme monster roles. Steve Wang… come on, PREDATOR… GUYVER… That’s a true artist, a legit monster maker magician. I was going to ask how you guys all got together for the project. Jon, you’re pretty well-known for your comedies, in fact THE BENCH WARMERS has a special place in my DVD library. It's just unapologetic fun.
Nick Peterson: That’s the one Doug was in. The robot, right?
Doug Jones: Yeah, that’s how Jon and I met. I played the robot. “Number Seven” was my name and I was Jon Lovitz’s butler robot.
Muldoon: Holy hell, I did not make that connection.
Doug Jones: That’s where Jon and I first met.
Jon Heder: Yeah, and a few years later… (Pauses) I can’t remember how you knew Doug TenNapel. He’s a comic book artist and a number of his books turned into TV shows. He did EARTHWORM JIM… Anyways, he’s done some awesome stuff and my brother and I had worked with him on a project. He has this popular internet series called SOCKBABY and we did a SOCKBABY episode that Doug was in. I’m trying to remember, Doug, how you know Doug?
Doug Jones: I attended a thing called THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO COMIC BOOKS once, about comic books and how their lore and Christianity morph together often, so there are parallels and things like that. I thought he was hilarious and afterwards I went “I want to know you!” So when he and his friend John Soares put this SOCKBABY series together and they wanted me for part four and I heard Jon Heder and his brother, Dan, were going to be in it and I’m like “Get out of here. Of course I’m doing this.” So I got to play an evil version of myself. I play “Doug Jones” in the thing, but I was the one who killed John Soares in the series. So it was good fun and I got to do kicks and jabs and had a good time. I think that’s what web series are all about, doing things you could never do on film.
Muldoon: Yeah. “Doing things you could never do” seems kind of like what you guys are trying to do with THE VISITANT. I still can’t imagine what you guys are going to be creating with this short. I’m still wrapping my head around all persons involved. It’s not just a short? It’s a video game, too? Nick, can you tell me a little bit about why you’re doing a videogame? I mean I think it’s cool, just not too many filmmakers do that.
Nick Peterson: Jon and I are huge gamers. We play games often. Games… BIOSHOCK: INFINITE is just so unbelievably ground breaking. I truly believe it’s now a staple of that genre of videogames. I’m not saying “All video games should be like BIOSCHOCK,” but it’s tied into the story so tightly. Really, with BIOSHOCK: INFINITE you’re more a viewer. It’s a much more passive game than, say SKYRIM. SKYRIM has a really, really great story, but you have to find that story for yourself and it’s a different genre of video game, but even still, these newer games are all about pushing a story and pushing the characters through somewhere and you become that character as a viable participant. Which CALL OF DUTY was it, two or three years ago, where you became part of the Russian mob and you were shooting civilians in an airport. In a movie, if you saw the good guy doing that, you kind of distance yourself from that. “That’s a character and I’m just going to watch,” right? But with a video game, you’re the guy holding the gun and you are the good guy. You are the protagonist who is fighting for the right side, but since you’re an undercover agent, you’re now with these Russian guys shooting civilians and you need to blend in, so you make a choice on whether to blend in and play your part. As soon as you’re in the scene and you’re shooting people, you feel really guilty, but then afterwards you kind of get used to it.
The whole point of all of this is entertainment. Entertainment, whether it’s a movie or a video game or a book, it’s almost going through the experience of a great story with interesting characters and we are using it in this project to tell the origin stories of the demon. The short is all about this mother and a demon inside her home and the story is the mother protecting her children from the demon, but the video game explains the origin story of this demon and how it came about in the dust bowl era of all things with this character who is desperate to save his family and he meets this demon who promises him water if he works this one night for the demon and does a series of tasks for the demon. It gets really crazy, but it’s a story about moral choices.
Jon Heder: Yeah, and without giving too much away, with the origin story, it’s not just about the demon, but about building a mythology and a world that can really turn into something way bigger. We’re hoping if we can pull off the short and the video game and get interest there, then we’re kind of creating a backstory for possibly even more stories and bigger things, like a feature. It’s a really cool backstory and again, we don’t want to give too much away, but that’s certainly what the game allowed us to do, explore that world that could exist. It’s bringing a whole gigantic backstory to was is simply a three minute short film where it’s about a mother and her children, you know?
Jon Heder: We are trying to make it different than what you’ve seen in recent horror, where it’s just… (Laughs) I wouldn’t say “a slice of life,” but a regular viewer could just see the short and think “Okay, she’s a mother and she’s protecting her kids, but it’s this one time event in her life,” but really with this videogame, we are trying to build this world that you don’t necessarily need to see in order to understand the short, but it really fleshes it out and makes it more exciting.
Muldoon: It sounds like you are building a universe rather than just putting out a short film. You mentioned that you are thinking or hoping that a feature is in the future maybe. I would definitely want to check that out, just based on DRAINED alone. As far as your Kickstarter, you’re not just going a short and a game, you’re also trying to involve the “backers” into the filmmaking process? I noticed folks can submit drawings of their idea of a creature that might help shape your creature design. Obviously with an artist like Steve Wang… you don’t really tell that guy what to do, you kind of let him just do his thing. But it’s really cool that you’re not just asking for money, you’re asking for participation and I think that’s kind of cool.
Nick Peterson: Oh, you’re absolutely right. I’m a firm believer that there are good ideas everywhere and as a director and as a writer, my job is to create, but part of that creative process is taking in a lot of information, knowing what the story you’re trying to tell is, and then sifting through all of that information to find the best pieces to tell the story you’re trying to tell. By opening it up, I mean there are so many creative people out there and this allows us to open it up to them and new ideas that I wouldn’t think of and we can pick out the best parts. I’m sure we will find some really great ideas out there with these people, and that’s why we made it on the very lowest level on Kickstarter. Anyone can submit or post to the Tumblr or the Facebook site to share their ideas with everyone.
Muldoon: I five hundred percent can dig on that ideology. Sometimes the best idea isn’t necessarily yours, you’ve just got to think outside of yourself and find what’s best for your project. So say you guys hit your goal, how quickly are you planning to shoot this and when do you think both projects will be out there for all to see?
Nick Peterson: The plan of delivery is October 1st, but we will shoot and finish it much, much sooner before then. I really want to have people to have this to pass around for Halloween.
Muldoon: That’s the perfect season for horror.
Nick Peterson: Some people celebrate the Christmas season, we celebrate the horror season. (Laughs)
Muldoon: I think most of us here at Ain’t It Cool are right there with you. It’s certainly my favorite.
Doug Jones: I put witch stockings on my fireplace.
Muldoon: Another one of your rewards for backers is the online hangout thing where fans and backers can chit chat with all three of you?
Nick Peterson: Yeah.
Muldoon: That’s kind of badass.
Nick Peterson: The best part about DVD’s and modern technology for entertainment is the director’s commentary, but the problem is you can’t talk back to the director. You can learn a lot from commentaries, but if you have a question you’re on your own. So after each phase of production, pre-production, shooting, post-production, we will do these Google hangouts where it’s the key players. We will tell you how we did it and what we did and we can talk and answer questions. It’s a great learning tool straight from the horse’s mouth of how to make a film. If certain people are interested in preproduction, being a producer, a DP, or learn what a gaffer does, there’s the production one. If you’re into post and music, there’s the post one. Or if you’re a creature guy and you want to learn about how the makeup was done, sit in on the preproduction and sit in on the shooting one and Doug can talk about what it’s like to explore makeup and how it feels to be an actor who stays in that makeup for a character.
Muldoon: Doug, if I had an hour, that wouldn’t be enough time for me to pick your brain, so I’ve made a point to try and stay on THE VISITANT for the time being.
Doug Jones: Not to worry. Let me tell you about this project and why I’m looking forward to it.
Doug Jones: Being an actor who wears a lot of makeup in my career, people tend to think that I really want to be in that standard typical horror film like “There’s a bunch of half naked teenagers running around the woods smoking pot and having sex with each other and Oh no! Here comes Doug Jones to kill every one of them one by one.” That’s the script I absolutely hate and will always turn down, but this one… In ten pages I was riveted, I was terrified, and it had a twist to it that was different. It really interested me and entertained me and moved me. So that’s a demon I’m happy to play.
Muldoon: You’ve played your fair share of monsters. You’re all over the place, in fact a friend of mine was able to catch LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONSTERS a few days ago and reminded me you’ve got a part in it.
Doug Jones: I’m seeing it tonight for the first time, so how was it?
Muldoon: He had nothing but high praises and said that you rocked it even without any makeup at all, just pure skill. I’m excited to see it.
Doug Jones: I play the camp doctor while all of the killing is going on, yeah. (Laughs) I break down the DNA problem of why people are turning into zombies, you know, the thing a camp doctor would do.
Muldoon: That makes sense… okay, maybe not at all, but it sounds like fun. On that note, what do each of you have coming up, aside from THE VISITANT?
Jon Heder: I am just writing some stuff. I have a couple of films in the can right now, independent films, so I’m not sure if they have any release dates set or anything. I did one with Quentin Dupieux, who did RUBBER and he’s just finishing up WRONG COPS and he has a film that just now is hitting theaters called WRONG.
Muldoon: I just caught that about two weeks ago, fun film.
Jon Heder: And then another film called KILLING WINSTON JONES, directed by Joel David Moore. That was a ton of fun and that’s kind of a weird dramedy. So that’s what’s going on with me.
Muldoon: That sounds like quite a bit. Doug?
Doug Jones: Let’s see. The thing that just came out recently on DVD and BluRay would be JOHN DIES AT THE END by Don Coscarelli. It’s with Paul Giamatti and Clancy Brown and I play “Roger North” in that. I had a great time. The next thing coming up is a movie called RAZE with female action star Zoe Bell and I play the main nemesis bad guy against of the movie who’s with Sherilyn Fenn. Honestly when I met her for the first time on set, I said, “Honey, you could have done much better than me.” (Laughs) She still looks just as beautiful to this day, and so RAZE is playing at Tribecca. It’s premiering there this coming Sunday night, so I’m very excited about that. I’ll be there. Then the next thing coming up for me on television is I’m a new series regular on FALLING SKIES, the TNT show with Noah Wyle. I’m an alien on the show with the full rubber makeup for the whole thing done by Todd Masters and my name is [gibberish]… (Laughs) Yeah, don’t try to write that down…
Doug Jones: They call me “Cochise” for short. I am sort of a Spock-like character I think. I’m an alien, but I also speak English. I’m witty and knowledgeable and every time I come on screen you can’t shut me up, so season three starts June 9th on TNT and you will see a lot of me throughout the season.
Muldoon: Cool, and Nick?
Nick Peterson: I’ve got a bunch of commercial work coming up, but I’ll be super busy making THE VISITANT for the next couple of months. I’ll be balancing it with the commercial work.
Muldoon: Well it sounds like you are all super busy and somewhat all over the place right now, which is exciting. I guess I won’t try to keep you any longer than I already have. Thanks again for taking the time to talk with me today, guys. I really appreciate it.
Nick Peterson: Thanks for talking to us.
Doug Jones: Thank you so much.
Muldoon: I’ll talk to you all later!
Nick Peterson: Thanks, Mike.
And there we have it, folks - a glimpse into the world of THE VISITANT. I want to see this film happen, how about you?