Sunday, March 11, 2012

Getting Out Alive: New Independent Horror Film

An Exclusive Interview with Director Clay DuMaw

What with assorted cryptozoological monsters and an endless supply of psychopathic lunatics, the US backwoods is a place well worth avoiding. Go there and you may not get out alive.

Get Out Alive is a new independent film that takes the standard cryptid horror ethos a few steps further into darkness -- bringing into play not only the dark of the unknown that lurks all around us but the darkness that exists within humanity as well. Written and directed by Clay DuMaw, Get Out Alive begins with the stranding of a pair of innocents -- a brother and sister -- at a sinister truck-stop, and proceeds to drag them through hell. Take a look at the rather lengthy trailer, which incorporates a long sequence from the film.

Extended Trailer:

While driving home from their summer vacation, siblings Paul and Marilyn find themselves stranded at a desolate truck-stop when their car breaks down along the back roads of upstate New York. Before long, they discover a strange creature in a cage behind the local auto shop, to which the shop's mechanic, along with his assistant, plan on feeding them. In their attempt to escape, Paul and Marilyn fall prey to a pair of homicidal locals bent on preserving the secret of their bloodthirsty pet monster.

 On set: David Fichtenmayer and Tyler Sutton

The Brainspasm's news-gathering crypto-hunter, Avery Guerra, tracked down director DuMaw (pictured below, with camera) to get the inside story of Get Out Alive!

According to DuMaw, the film began as something rather different:
It [originated as] a thirty-page screenplay about several people trapped in a motel during an alien invasion. A lot of changes were made since then. The sci-fi idea was dropped in favor of monsters, murderers, bear traps, and of course, a chainsaw.
I'm a big fan of horror films from the late '70s and early '80s, so I tried to incorporate as many influences from that era as I could. Get Out Alive is like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, mixed with Friday the 13th, with a dash of Basket Case and Tremors, sprinkled with some modern influences like Jeepers Creepers. The funny thing about this movie is that we couldn't afford to make our original version of the script because the monster was in almost every scene. So instead, I re-wrote it as a sequel, which takes place after the monster has been captured and the guy who spent his whole life chasing this thing has gone mad and is now the bad guy. Who knows, maybe someday I'll film the original version of the script and make it a prequel!

Stylistically, DuMaw had a distinct vision for what he wanted to achieve:
A number of techniques were implemented in this film in order to amplify the intensity of certain scenes. Most sequences were shot from several extra angles, setting a faster pace when necessary and allowing greater editing options. Action scenes were shot in twenty-four frames-per-second (cinema frame rate), contrasting the look and feel of the rest of the film, which was shot in the standard thirty frames-per-second. And because of the project’s tight schedule, I was forced to shoot many scenes in a handheld style which ultimately complemented the film’s esthetic. 
I also wanted to differentiate the look of the film from the ones typically shown in theaters. To accomplish this, high definition cameras were used without the aid of 35mm lenses or depth-of-field adapters, resulting in a deeper image with a greater focal range. This gave the film an appearance similar to footage shown on the news. There’s something beautiful about video, a sort of gritty realism that you just can’t get with 35mm film.

DuMaw remembers two moments in his life very clearly, moments critical to getting where he is today:
When I was about seven years old, my parents took me to see Jurassic Park, and it sparked an obsession with dinosaurs. I was convinced that I wanted to be a paleontologist just like the character of Dr Grant in the film. However, the more movies I saw, the more I changed my mind on what I wanted to be when I grew up. Then one day when I was twelve or thirteen, I realized that I was basing all my career choices around my obsession with movies. So I thought, "I could pretend to be all of these things, if I just became a movie director!" As years went by, I went down a path that a lot of teenagers who weren't popular in high school went down: I joined a rock band, played the drums and thought I was going to be a rock star. Eventually I decided I wasn't exactly living the dream, so I quit the band to study art in college. It was after I finished my first semester that I was struck by an epiphany: "What the hell am I doing?" I was living in a crappy apartment with a bunch of sketchy roommates, working a job that I hated with a passion, and I was going to school in pursuit of something that definitely wasn't going to give me a career. My life sucked! That realization dawned on me while I was straightening a rack of tee-shirts at my job. A few seconds later, I went to my boss and told him that I was leaving and that I wasn't coming back. I went straight from work to my apartment, packed up all my things and moved out. I was so happy that I didn't even realize I was driving 88mph on an interstate highway and got pulled over for speeding. It was somewhere between when I started driving and when I got pulled over that I thought to myself, "I've already got this screenplay that I've been working on. This is the perfect time. I should just go for it!" Other than the ticket, it was a pretty awesome day.
Like many filmmakers working with fantastical subjects, DuMaw gained initial inspiration from the Big Box-office Names in the field:
When I was younger, I used to look up to a lot of mainstream filmmakers like George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, M. Night Shyamalan, etc... Then one day when I was looking through a bargain bin full of DVDs with my dad, I found a copy of Night of the Living Dead. All I can say is that George A. Romero changed my life. A few years later, when I watched a "making of" video on Dawn of the Dead, I figured out that there was actually a community of independent filmmakers out there who scraped together money to make their own movies. I loved Dawn of the Dead so much that my first tattoo was the zombie-head logo from the poster. Eventually I became more and more interested in independent filmmakers, who were like the "underdogs" of the movie industry. Right now I'm really into filmmakers like Gareth Edwards, Steven Soderbergh and Adam Green. Those guys are doing the films that they want to make, and I really respect that.
Don't ask me what my favourite films are or I'll give you a list longer than you'll ever be willing to read. It's always my goal to watch at least two movies every day that I haven't seen before. I guess instead of my favorite films, it’d be easier to tell you what I've been watching lately. I just saw a film called Chop, which was an independent horror/comedy. I think that combination of genres is really great. I finally got around to seeing 50/50 and The Lookout. I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a very underrated actor with a lot of potential. I also just watched We Bought a Zoo, which I thought was an extremely well-constructed film. I mean you can tell that my tastes in movies are kind of scattered, but I just love really great stories, and I'm not picky about it. I think that if I watch a movie and I got some form of amusement out of it, then that film did its job.
From left:  David Fichtenmayer, Clay DuMaw and Jesse Maner

Though DuMaw has made a few shorts before this, Get Out Alive is his first feature and he found the experience "stressful, annoying, lonesome, exhausting, scary, exciting, fun, and just all around amazing."
It was everything that I hoped it would be, and I can’t wait to do it again!  During production there were plenty of hardships, just like any other film, yet somehow everything fell into place. I’ve always been the type of person who learns something by trying it, and making Get Out Alive has been one of the greatest learning experiences of my life.
Currently finishing up a rough cut of the film, which means he's about to undertake "the 100+ FX shots that need CGI work done to them", he remains undaunted. "The CGI work isn't a very difficult thing for me to do by myself," he commented. "So it should only take a couple of months. Meanwhile, I have a guy scoring the music for the film. After that, all I'll have left to do is redub a few lines, do the Foley recordings and then mix the sound. We hope to have the film done and entered in festivals by late spring / early summer."

Get Out Alive stars David Fichtenmayer, Rhiannon Roberts, David Iannotti, Tyler Sutton, Jesse Maner and Jay Storey, and is written, directed produced and edited by Clay DuMaw, with Tyler Sutton as Assistant Director, and Lighting and Sound by Jesse Maner. Produced by Clay Pigeon Studios and filmed in Cathage, NY, the film had a budget of an estimated $10,000, most of which came from Clay himself -- though an appeal for additional funding on Kickstarter saw $1,443 pledged toward a $500 goal.

Source: Chris Brock and Clay DuMaw via Avery Guerra; Press release.
For more information: Official website; Facebook page; Clay DuMaw's website; video updates; Kickstarter page.

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