He's induced laughter and chills in previous projects like ThanksKilling, Critters: Bounty Hunter, and Red Weather, but in his latest short film, director Jordan Downey channels the nostalgia of Stranger Things and combines it with the coming-of-age poignancy of early Stephen King stories in Techno Western, which you can watch right now on Daily Dead.

In addition to Techno Western, which you can watch below, we also have a Q&A with Downey that offers more insights into the making of the short film.

"What was the genesis and inspiration for this project?

Jordan Downey: The idea, really, is drawn from my childhood. When I was a kid I would always take my squirt guns and spray paint them to look like some cannon or prop from Star Wars. I’d duct tape flashlights and pocket knives to the barrel and pretend to go “hunting” in the woods for bad guys. At the same time I was really into bounty hunters, especially Boba Fett. I always used to imagine “what if a bad guy was loose in our small town” and how could I solve the crime and capture him for a reward? It was a combination of those elements that when I became a filmmaker I always liked the idea of exploring. Then about six or seven years ago I started filling out a notebook on what would become “Techno Western”.

Talk a little about evolving from making a movie like ThanksKilling to this?

Jordan Downey: ThanksKilling was the one project I felt the least committed to going into it, the least prepared for and the least attached to. It was a joke between Kevin and I that actually got made! And I’m sure that because I was a little unattached, it allowed us to totally ransack the filmmaking process and let lose and just make fun of anything and everything. We didn’t care what anyone thought and we had a ton of fun on set. It was a throwback to the guilty pleasure cheesy movies we loved as kids but it was never the route we wanted to stay on for too long. So what’s funny is that ThanksKilling came first, yes, but I honestly always felt that something like Techno Western or the fan film I did, Critters: Bounty Hunter are much more in line with what I’m interested in. There’s very little correlation between Techno Western and ThanksKilling or ThanksKilling 3, but we learned to hone our craft on those movies and that’s where we really developed our “do-it-yourself” sense of filmmaking. And now again, with this film, we’re editing the trailer and designing the poster and running the social media campaign and all those things. The stories we’re choosing to tell have evolved but how we’re executing them isn’t all that different.

What were some of your influences for the soundtrack to the film?

Jordan Downey: From the start, I always imagined the soundtrack would have a very creepy ambient vibe. I didn’t want to be able to recognize a lot of instruments or sounds in particular; it was about putting together a mood more than anything. Dark ambient music on YouTube, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or The X-Files were the biggest references I sent to composer Nick Soole when we first started talking about the score. At one point I came across a recording of a 60,000 Neanderthal bone flute, which is one of the oldest known instruments on Earth, and I thought it was really creepy and primal. So I contacted Ljuben Dimkaroski in Slovenia, who performed the recording, and asked if we could use it for our film and he was kind enough to give us permission. Nick ended up taking that bone flute instrumental and working it into the score as sort of the theme for the bad guy and it worked out great. I give Nick a ton of credit for finding ways to work a theme into the ambient drones of the film. I’m a huge fan of movie music and theme songs and miss that our industry has shy’d away from recognizable melodies lately.

The ending of this film is kind of a bold choice. What led you to the decision to end the film in this manner?

Jordan Downey: The ending is definitely an anti-ending and not the ‘safe’ way to go, which is exactly why we wanted to do it. Not out of spite or just to make a splash, but because we felt like the way we handled it was the most realistic ending and the most honest way to go for the characters. We did try a number of different endings but, without giving away anything, I feel like how it ends now was the most powerful way to go.

This is neither a film about electronic music or a western, so why the title “Techno Western?”

Jordan Downey: “Techno Western” is the name of a fictitious cartoon show in the movie that the young boy is obsessed with. The animated show stars the Techno Cowboy, a bounty hunter in an intergalactic world known as the ‘new west’. Naming our movie after the cartoon was important to us because it pushes you to think about the show and how its themes play a part in our movie. I felt like the cartoon, while just in the background, provided a real soul to the movie that I didn’t want people to miss. It also doesn’t hurt that we felt like our title stands out and peaks interest a little more than other options we considered.

How did you work with child actor Dylan McDonald to prepare him for being in front of the camera for the first time ever?

Jordan Downey: Honestly being a director, for me at least, isn’t about whispering some miracles to the actors - it’s about making them and everyone on set feel comfortable in their roles. So with Dylan, I just wanted him to be himself and to feel comfortable around Kevin and I. We had breakfast with he and his family before the shoot and got to know each other a little bit before that. He didn’t have to play a character, he just had to be himself. But I will say that Dylan also has a lot of natural talent and a great understanding of filmmaking. He’s just as obsessed with movies as we are! He was incredibly subtle, hit his mark from take to take without being asked and never looked in the lens. He just ‘got it’ from the start and did such an incredible job.

Describe the casting process for the film.

Jordan Downey: For casting the film’s two leads, we turned to local casting agencies in Ohio, theater groups, contacts of friends and Craigslist. We were having a really hard time finding a 10 year old child actor. I always kind of felt drawn to that role being played by a non actor, but we were casting from Los Angeles so running into the perfect kid on the street wasn’t an option. We just wanted a natural kid who had goofy kid mannerisms like we all used to. I was on the phone with my mom telling her we couldn’t find the right person when she suggested I look at pictures of her friend’s son, Dylan. In one of the first pictures I saw, he was wearing a Godzilla t-shirt and I immediately had a good feeling about him! I spoke with his mom and she sent me a cell phone video of him describing everything he knew about Boba Fett, which was more than I could remember. It showed me that on camera he could still be himself and that he was into the material.

Justin Rose, who plays Dylan’s older brother in the film, actually responded to a casting notice on Craigslist and was head and shoulders above the rest. He read the script and sent an audition the next day and nailed it right from the start. I called him and offered him the part immediately. I can’t say enough about Justin - he’s one of those rare actors that just has some magical aura around him. What’s crazy is that Dylan and Justin both lived in the same part of town! So we got very lucky f… See more

What was the process of getting the film made?

Jordan Downey: “Techno Western” actually started as a feature that Kevin Stewart and I intended to shoot for $10,000 in Ohio. We’d been working on the script and had the energy and drive to do it. The only problem? We didn’t have ten grand. So we decided to sell a bunch of movie props from ThanksKilling (previous b-movie we made) on eBay to raise the money. That turned out to be a success and we had our budget. Unfortunately we got a few weeks into pre-production when we realized we just couldn’t pull it off for that price, which was hard to admit because we pride ourselves in being able to do a lot for so little. So we decided to simplify and put all resources toward making “Techno Western” the best short possible."

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.