I was delighted to get the chance to talk with filmaker Chris Morrissey. Hard at work on his next horror/thriller feature length Heavy Makeup, I have been extremely interested in his previous film Trick of the Witch for some time. Trick of the Witch sees a group of fashion models succumbing to a supernatural evil while holing up at a luxurious, yet dangerous mansion and Chris has kindly shared all about the movie, other projects and horror in general. Please read our interview below and be sure to check out the official facebook pages for both Trick of the Witch and Heavy Makeup! Also look for a future review of Trick of the Witch SOON!
Hacked in the Head: Hi Chris! Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. I am looking forward to watching your upcoming feature length horror film Trick of the Witch . Firstly can you elaborate a bit about the film?
Chris: Trick of the Witch came together out of the blue but seemed to very much have a fate of its own. The film came together very easily and almost on its own. . I had taken some time off after completing my last film "Fashion Murder Groove" I'm a control freak when it comes to my films and had financed the first three films I made myself. When it came time to edit Fashion Murder Groove the first cut of the film turned out to be 3 hours long. I needed to figure out a way to cut out a whole hour. There are so many fun/crazy characters in that film that it was torture to have to creatively cut away at all these fun scenes I shot just to make sure that the audience watching wasn't upset at having to sit through a 3 hour film. All of my films are geared towards a THEATER audience. I don't want any of my films going straight to DVD. I want people to experience them in a dark air conditioned movie theater. David Lynch put out "Inland Empire" which was 3 hours and that gave me the kick I needed to realize that you don't have to always follow the rules.
I was able to put together a rough 2 hour 30 minute cut of Fashion Murder Groove and was ready to prep the theater release but then ran into music rights issues because the film is set in the late 70's and has a disco Donna Summer type soundtrack. All of the songs I wanted in it were thousands of dollars to license. I could have compromised my creative vision and used library music or mock 70's disco music from a musician friend but I felt that I would be compromising too much. I ended up putting Fashion Murder Groove on "hold" and began to start writing out new film ideas until I could come up with a solution to release Fashion Murder Groove the way i want to. The film will finally see the light of day in 2013 after my new film Heavy Makeup comes out.
As for Trick of the Witch.... one day, out of the blue, Share Cherrie (an actress that has been a part of all of my earlier films) approached me saying she wanted to get involved in the production end of making movies. She said "Let's make another movie! I want to produce and I have this amount of money to invest towards the budget! let's do this! I want to learn everything that takes place behind the scenes!" -- I had many ideas brewing at that point and I really wanted to make a suspense film. I said "ok! let's make a movie about witches!" -- she was game and the rest is history. I wrote the script over the course of a week and we jumped right into Production. We started filming within a month.
Chris: The location we ended up film at was a total fluke! We originally locked down a tiny secluded house in the middle of the desert to film in. The owner of the house had health problems and was admitted into the hospital 2 weeks before filming and had to pull out. We found a similar house in the woods a few days later but then L.A. had a huge week long storm and flooded the 2nd house. We had to find a new location quick. I called a bunch of friends to no avail but then out of the blue was given the chance to shoot at this amazing mansion in Whittier -- which is on the outskirts of L.A. -- it was meant to be. The script was written around the smaller houses but this mansion fit in perfectly. I didn't have to change a thing. The film and location came together on it's own. In a fated sort of way.
Trick of the Witch still
HitH: I love it when a plan comes together, the location does indeed look perfect! Are you also able to talk about the budget for the film and any particular challenges you may have faced while making it?
Chris:The budget was low but I knew what we were working with as I wrote the script. If you know what you can play with ahead of time then you can make the most of it creatively. I think the results came out above and beyond of what we originally envisioned.
HitH: How about the casting process for the film - how did you go about this? Are there any memorable performances you want to share with us?
Trick of the Witch still featuring 'anti-heroine' Krista (Share Cherrie)
Chris: When Share Cherrie came to me with the producing idea i knew she would be the star of the film from the get-go. The rest of the actors consisted of people we auditioned in L.A. and i brought in some actors i had worked with in the past on other films of mine -- Gia Franzia and Devon Todd were in Fashion Murder Groove so i knew right off the bat that I wanted to work with them again. Share Cherrie does an amazing job as Krista. The whole film centers around her character trying to pull herself and everything around her together. She's very much an anti-heroine. She goes through Hell but always tries to stay on top of the chaos that everything is going through.
HitH: Finally on Trick of the Witch, I understand it has screened already...what are further screening plans for the film and are there any plans for a wider DVD release in place at this point?
Trick of the Witch still
Chris: The film made its debut at the NY Independent Film Festival and won two awards -- Best Horror Film and the Audience Choice Award. We opened and closed the festival and the screening was "standing room only" -- we had people sitting on the floor in the back of the full theater which was amazing to experience! The audience embraced the film and it had a very Rocky Horror Picture Show vibe to it because the audience interacted and yelled back to the screen to the characters during the whole film. It was amazing to experience as a director and fan of cult films.
HitH: That must have been a unique and rewarding experience for all involved I bet! I understand you are hard at work on your next horror/thriller feature Heavy Makeup. It sounds like a great film. Are you able to share any early plot details with us and also share how is the film coming along so far?
Chris: Heavy Makeup is a horror thriller -- very much a mystery with a bunch of twists. It's about a group of girls living in the Hollywood Hills try to uncover a serial killer stalking actresses in their neighborhood. None of the actors have read or been given a whole copy of the script. Everything is very secret. I am the only one that knows who the killer is and I am the only one that knows about all the twists and turns in the film. It's been a very fun way of filming a movie. I've only been giving out specific scenes to each actors a few days before we shoot their scenes. Very much like a soap opera. All will be revealed when the film premieres in 2013!
HitH: Cannot wait to hear more and eventually see the flick, cant beat a good murder mystery! I also wondered if you are a horror fan in general? If so what are some of your all time favourites and why?
Chris: i LOVE horror films! I grew up on all genres of film! Foreign films, exploitation films, classic dramas, and of course, horror! My parents were divorced early on so after school, instead of babysitters, we had movie theaters.... my dad would take my sister and I to a different film each day -- and each day would be something different. I grew up in Hollywood and spent many days at Graumans's Chinese Theater and then on the weekends the Drive-In's in the Valley. I saw anything and everything and loved it all!
HitH: What kind of things to you absolutely hate in a horror film? For me personally its most entries in the horribly named 'torture porn' sub genre. I find it extremely hard to find viewing pleasure in some helpless person strapped to a chair being de-limbed!
Chris: The problem these days is that everything seems very predictable. Remakes disappoint me a lot. I liked the remake to Hills Have Eyes but most of the other remakes have been terrible... My Bloody Valentine's remake was awful... The Fog remake was terrible.... Don't Be Afraid of the Dark -- i fell asleep.... if you are going to do a remake at least keep the spirit of the original but add a thrilling new twist or something....
HitH: I couldnt agree more about the remakes you have mentioned. I actually fell asleep watching both The Fog AND Dont be Afraid of the Dark remakes! Moving on from films best left unmentioned, what would Chris Morrissey be doing with himself if he wasn't making films? Is it something you have always wanted to do from a young age?
Chris: I grew up always wanting to act. My mother is an actress and did a lot of 60's television like Gidget and My Three Sons. I always focused on acting early on but as i grew older I really enjoyed all the behind the scenes and the creative aspects of making movies. So if i wasn't making movies i would act. I still act here and there actually. I just don't pursue it. If people ask me to be a part of their projects i jump in. But i love creating. I can't stop creating.
HitH: Finally Chris - is there anything else you would like to tell readers?
Chris: We are planning to do Trick of the Witch 2 which will focus on the aftermath of Trick of the Witch and explore more of the history of the witches. This could very much be a trilogy. In the meantime -- Heavy Makeup comes out March 2013 and we are shooting a film called Stateless which is an L.A. docudrama -- and also Hollywood Reject which is a comedy/reality type project that i'm really excited about. It's about an up and coming actress that is too lazy to follow through on all the opportunities coming her way..... keep an eye out! We have a lot of fun stuff in store!!!
HitH: That all sounds superb...I for one cannot wait! Thank you so much for your time Chris!
SNEAK PREVIEW still from upcoming NEW feature, Heavy Makeup