Cary Hill is currently filming Scream Park, his homage to 80's slasher films featuring Doug Bradley and Skinny Puppy lead singer Ogre. He was able to take some time away from filming to answer my questions about getting Doug Bradley on board, funding the project, and challenges faced during filming. We also have a brand new photo from the movie for you to check out:
Thank you for taking the time to talk with Daily Dead. What was your inspiration behind the setting and story of Scream Park?
Cary Hill: Inspiration struck as it always does: suddenly and in the strangest place. I was at a Great America Amusement Park in California for their Halloween Haunt when a friend mentioned how great a setting it would be for a horror movie. I agreed, but waved him off as "it had been done before." I couldn't shake the idea so I looked it up and could not find a single horror film (especially in the 80s) that had a setting as an amusement park. People are quick to bring up Hooper's "Funhouse," but it really doesn't count as it's not really an amusement park. A week later I had an 80s-esque title. I just needed a script.
How did the project come together? Was it difficult to raise the funds needed to make the movie you wanted to make?
Cary Hill: This week will officially be one year since the script was finished and pre-production started. I had my core crew from the very beginning but everything else had to be pieced together. It's been a slow, steady process. Once word got out, more people became attracted to the project. The first budget looked daunting, so it had to be chiseled down. Our revised budget was rather shoe-string and held together with favors and promises. I think I've pre-emptively called in every favor for the next 20 years. Funds were always tough, but it's gotten better. Our recent Kickstarter campaign yielded 2 times our goal and that has really helped.
How did Doug Bradley become involved in the project? What has your experience been like working with him on the set?
Cary Hill: Doug was a blast to work with. I'm sorry it was only a day's worth of filming. It was great to break the scene down with him, rehearse and see him dissolve into character. He was always the first choice for Mr. Hyde, the park owner, and wrote it with him in mind. I met Doug at Texas Frightmare in 2011. I stood in line like everyone else and when it got to me I asked him if he was interested in a day's work. He gave me his info and I sent him the script. It was very gracious of him to take a chance on us.
You had a successful crowd funding effort on Kickstarter to help with post-production and raised more than double your goal. Can you tell me what the extra funds went into and how it's helping to create a better film?
Cary Hill: The extra funds allowed us to pace a little more in filming. Knowing you have that sort of financial backstop, we could keep the actors an extra day or two during principle photography. Hitting our goal early also allowed us to move forward to get our score composed as we knew we'd have at least our goal to pay for it. We've also been able to cover small costs that have surfaced in using the park or with needing to purchase more media to record onto. By slowing down and not having to cut back on little things it's kept the shoot smooth and allowed us those extra takes to really get the performances right.
You're currently in the middle of production. When do you expect to wrap-up filming? Do you have a target release date in mind?
Cary Hill: All photography should be done and in the can by mid-June. This gives us a summer of editing, post-production, digital clean up, and sound mixing. The target has always been mid-October with our premiere happening at Conneaut Lake Park, where we filmed. Coincidentally, we've already been invited to the Eerie Horror Film Festival to screen the film, and the date is in mid-October as well.
What challenges have you faced during filming and how did you overcome them?
Cary Hill: Time and the human body. We shot nights and there's always a struggle to get as much in before the sun shows up. We'd use the sunset as much as possible for magic hour then go into setups throughout the night. By the time the sun came up, we'd have to stop. The first several days were tough switching the body schedule over, and I had a few 20 hour days to start principle photography. It's tough, but on a tight schedule you have to keep moving. We also had every time of weather at the park. It's sits on a lake shore, so the weather pattern changes. We had a day where the temperature literally swung 50 degrees in 6 hours.
What can slasher fans look forward to in terms of deaths and gore? What are you doing to make the deaths/gore in this film stand out?
Cary Hill: In writing it, I felt the deaths had to be memorable and certainly on screen. People go into a low budget slasher film and expect to be grossed out or see blood on screen. With this film, the deaths are part of the plot: the employees are being killed in the park as part of publicity stunt, so the deaths have to be tied to the park itself. If you've ever been in an amusement park, I'm sure you can imagine what we had to play with in terms of murder weapons. On top of that, there was also some on-set improv with the blood and gore. The goal was to shoot these scenes chronologically for continuity, so when the blood's on the walls or floor, it becomes part of the environment. The actors can interact with it more. Ogre and I had some great moments of on-set brainstorming with blood...
Can you tell me more about your release plans? Will Scream Park hit the festival circuit first? Do you plan to release this independently, or will you be talking to distributors?
Cary Hill: The goal was always to have the widest release possible. Whether theatrical (even if just locally), DVD, on-demand, or iTunes, we just wanted to get it out there as far as possible. I've been getting emails from folks in the UK wanting to know when a Region 2 disk will be available. So there's demand! I've talked to several distributors but I expect things to pick up when we have a final package. The Steeltown Entertainment Group here in Pittsburgh have been very helpful and hopeful towards getting distribution. The festival circuit was always an option and we would love to submit the film to festivals over the next year.
As a fan of 80's slashers, what are some of your favorite films? What movies have the biggest influence on your directing/writing?
Cary Hill: So many choices! It's not a cop out by any means, but when I look at those films I love the genre itself. Looking over the decade, you can see the transition from serious and scary to self-parodying by the end. For the 80s slasher group, one of my favorites is "Chopping Mall," which had a big influence on Scream Park. The over the top premise with killer robots and Barbara Crampton! How can you go wrong? The hokiest ones are sometimes the most enjoyable. The original Friday the 13th is fantastic, of course, and I would also say "The Burning," which was a great little film.
The second question is much tougher. I feel everything I watch or read has an influence -- whether it's what to do or NOT to do. "Aliens" is a big influence from a production standpoint as it was made on a relatively low budget and all the money went on screen. It looks like it cost three or four times the amount it actually did. The film also shows the power of not showing the monster but alluding to it and building suspense. So when I write, I always have to keep budget in mind and how to get the most on screen. Shooting in an amusement park is great considering our budget, as the location alone drives up production value!
Being involved as a writer, producer, and director, do you prefer one job to the other?
Cary Hill: I've done all three on this film, and I've come to appreciate them all in different ways. I definitely appreciate the writing process much more. It's just you alone in a room. No schedule. No other people to coordinate. When the director hat comes on it's a great feeling because you've actually gotten to the point where you can direct! The actors are cast, the location is secured, you have money to be here filming. It's nice! Producing I've come to respect very much -- both in what I've done by myself and how other producers do it. It is not an easy job and it takes a certain skill set. Most of all, it takes persistence, patience, and not taking no for an answer. I would love to produce again, perhaps for someone else, as it brings a big sense of accomplishment when you get to the first day of filming.
When Scream Park is wrapped up, what are your future plans? Do you have another horror movie in mind?
Cary Hill: Scream Park 2? Ha! Coincidentally, there is a kernel of an idea for a sequel... But that might be cart before the horse. I have a small pile of notebooks plus ideas floating around in my head. I'm looking forward to writing again but I may need a small vacation first.
Thank you again for taking the time to talk to us. Is there anything else you'd like to say to our readers?
Cary Hill: Just thanks to everybody out there who has followed us, supported us, or just rooted for us from the beginning. I consider this a horror film for fans, by fans.
"Scream Park is a retro 80s-style slasher film about an amusement park closing for the last time. The owner, played by Doug Bradley (Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II), devises a scheme to have a pair of killers commit gruesome murders in the park as a publicity stunt to sell tickets. The victims are a group of employees partying in the park after hours."