Madison County was released this week on DVD and I had a chance to speak with director/writer Eric England and co-star/producer Ace Marrero. During our talk, I learned about the inspiration for the film, the difficulties of financing an indie horror film, and their next project:
How did this project come together and what was your inspiration?
Eric: I grew up in Arkansas and visited Madison County because my grandfather lived there. Based on my experiences and little encounters with people, I decided to embellish them for a horror film. The more I wrote, the more people identified with it. Ace was the first person I sent the script to in early 2009. From there we just tried to get it made and it came together in 2010.
Ace, what was your relationship with Eric before you worked on the project together?
Ace: I auditioned for Eric's thesis film when he was working on his final project at film school and we stayed in touch. He let me read the first copy of the film and was trying to get it made. It kept falling through and he decided to film his own microbudget film, which he wrote with me in mind. He asked if I'd come out to Arkansas and we did this film. Our director of photography on the project later approached Eric about producing Madison County.
Eric, you mentioned that you initially had issues getting Madison County funded. What was the process like and what did it take to get a deal in place?
Eric: We tried everything. I think the tally was 9 producers before we got the film financed. Daniel came to me during a birthday party for our now executive producer James Cotton. We were talking together and he tossed out a number. It was about the price of a Range Rover, but I said "I think I can get a movie made for that". Daniel started making the phone calls to get the money raised right after that talk.
Until we were finally on set, we didn't really think the movie was going to get made. There had been so many ups and downs, and to realize that it was actually happening was one of the greatest moments of my life.
You both held many hats on the project, working as writer/director and producer/actor. Which do you prefer?
Eric: I really like writing, because I write really fast and I don't stick to the normal structure of screenplays. However, I love directing more than anything. I am a more insecure writer than director, when it comes to notes, critiques, and criticisms. As a writer, I don't have the stomach for that, but really enjoy directing and the production process of it all.
Ace: I love producing and have more projects, but acting is my passion. I'm not a very organized person, but acting is the one area where I'm really good at just controlling that. Everything I did with acting at the start was done on my own perseverance and I applied that drive to producing. It's teaching me to be a filmmaker and I have an interest in directing down the road.
This movie taught us so much about the business. As Eric says, it's called show BUSINESS, so you need to be able to play both sides of the table. That understanding is really helping us out a lot.
Eric, I know you had a tight budget, but were you happy with the overall product? Was there anything that you cut out of the film or couldn't include for budgetary reasons?
Eric: I always like to say that no one loves or hates this movie more than I do. There are a lot of scenes that we couldn't do for budgetary reasons, but I stand behind the movie 100 percent. I'm very proud of it and I love it. I look at every film as a stepping stone. A movie is never going to be 100 percent of what you had in your head. I'm really proud of what we were able to accomplish with very little time and very little money.
I've heard that the next project for the two of you is called Roadside. Can you tell me more about the film?
Eric: I started writing it the Christmas after we finished Madison County and we were very fortunate to receive financing in January. I cast Ace in the lead role, and we just went to Virginia to shoot it. It's more of a Hitchcockian thriller about a man and his pregnant wife who heads to his sister's house for Christmas. They stop at an obstruction in the road and he gets out of his car to move it. As he's walking back, he is stopped by a gunman in the woods who holds them hostage. It's a tight, single location thriller and I'm really excited about it.