Recently I reviewed a low budget movie entitled Redwood Massacre. Spoiler alert – although I didn’t expect much I loved it! Following my viewing I was lucky enough to locate (stalker alert!) and chat with the mind behind its story and creation, David Ryan Keith. To my astonishment he agreed to answer a few questions regarding the Indy scene, his influence and the filmmaking scene in general. Without further ado here is how it all went down.
DIAG: Can you tell us what got you first interested in making film? What seemed so appealing about it as opposed to working a regular 9 to 5?
David Ryan Keith – I’ve loved watching movies since I was a small child. I was about twelve years old when I first picked up a camera and started to try and emulate what I was watching on the screen. I lucked in and secured a job with a small local film production company when I was twenty, they really forced you to learn every aspect of film making which has been invaluable when making low budget movies. I’m lucky in the sense I’ve been involved in the industry from a very young age and never had to do what I would regard as a “real job”.
DIAG: Of your cinematic output thus far, I’ve experienced both the darkly comedic laced Attack of the Herbals and a homage to the slasher arena entitled The Redwood Massacre. Each vastly different from the other. I look forward to delving into more of your work. Is there a particular genre in which you feel more comfortable?
DRK: The horror genre has always been a good fit for low budget indie filmmakers, it’s a great place to start and experiment with the actual nuts & bolts of making movies. Hiring professional actors & crew is really expensive, but horror seems to be more forgiving when working with lower budgets, it forces you to work on the visual side of things to try and make up for what you don’t have behind the camera (and sometimes in front).
DIAG: I’ve always been interested in Independent film and the restraints/difficulties the film makers must navigate in order to bring their vision to fruition. What kind of budget have you worked within in the past?
DRK: We made our first film Attack of the Herbals for £12k, the actual shooting budget was only £1k which is ridiculous when you think about it. Attack of the Herbals is exactly what you’d expect from a movie shot on a thousand-pound budget, I’m still amazed it found a distribution deal if I’m honest, but it allowed us to make contacts within the direct to DVD/VOD market which made it somewhat worthwhile.
We raised £35k of our own money to make The Redwood Massacre; it’s still a ridiculously low amount of money to produce a movie, especially when you don’t really have that kind of disposable finances to throw into a production that might not make anything back. We kept getting told that slasher films didn’t sell, but I was convinced the horror community would at least give this kind of movie a chance if produced & marketed in the correct way.
Uncork’d Entertainment took a risk on us and slapped together a great poster and advertising campaign, the movie went on to sell to all the big retailers, exceeding expectations on Redbox & Hulu. The reviews for The Redwood Massacre have been mixed at best, (*I liked it – Cult) but the success of the film was enough for us to secure a budget to make Ghosts of Darkness that came out last year in the U.S. Since then we have just recently completed The Dark Within on a budget of $125k, so we’re slowly making progress on the financing side of things, doors are defiantly slowly starting to open for us.
DIAG: What has been the toughest part of producing within these kinds of budgetary constraints? I’d that imagine ‘cutting corners’ is sometimes necessary. Are there areas in which you refuse to do so?
DRK: It can be a very frustrating experience; the first draft of the script always reads like a big Hollywood movie with big ideas and cool scenes you know deep down will be impossible to film. Eventually you have to conform the script to something that will be actually possible to shoot, which unfortunately means losing most of the good stuff. The next depressing part is when you finally turn up on location and realize even the simple stuff is going to be hard to execute. Even when I was given a slightly larger budget to make The Dark Within, it was still hard to shake off that way of approaching films even though I had more resources at my disposal.
DIAG: Regarding influence. Are there any specific directors, films, or works (in a different medium) that you deem guilty of steering you a certain direction down the filmmaking path?
DRK: I’m a victim of my childhood, I still look back to directors like John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, etc. I think once you get comfortable knowing you can deliver a movie without any major problems on the technical side of things; it really frees you up to develop your own directing/shooting style and take more risks. I’m still always surprised when a scene cuts together the way I envisioned it visually, I don’t think I’ll ever lose that slight doubt while shooting, but I’ve got hundreds of old school classic movies engraved in my head I can always think back to when I get stuck creatively.
DIAG: The person who portrayed the farmer (hearing voices) in ‘Redwood’ (whose name escapes me) was also utilized in ‘Attack’ to great effect. Might we get to see his talent shine in any of your future endeavors?
DRK: Liam Matheson has been making movies with me since we were in school, it’s so important to surround yourself with people that love the process of making films as much as you do, otherwise it would be very easy to become frustrated with the process and just give up. You also need someone to bounce ideas off. Many cool moments in our movies have come from suggestions from actors and crew. I think it’s important that making a film is a collaborative experience, it’s a lot of hard work and extremely time consuming, getting a fresh perspective from time to time really helps when you’re in the low budget trenches fighting what seems like a never-ending battle. Liam will always be in my movies and makes an appearance in both Ghosts of Darkness & The Dark Within, but as the budgets go up and more producers get involved the pressure to hire known actors is increasing.
DIAG: Remakes and reboots are huge. I blame Hollywood’s laziness, utter lack of originality and unwillingness to take a gamble. Is there a film or franchise you’d like to tackle or add to, or any iconic figure you’d enjoy exploring further?
DRKL I’d love to make a Hellraiser film, it’s heart-breaking to see what they’ve done with that franchise. (I agree, I don’t think I’ve seen one past the fourth installment that’s been to my liking – Cult) Me directing a film can’t be any worse than what’s been coming out (or can it?), at least I’d try and get Doug Bradley back.
DIAG: What does the future hold in store for you? What might we expect to see you turn your attentions to in the near future? Is there anything you’re especially excited about that you wish to tease?
DRK: I’ve just been hired to do post-production on a U.S action movie called Army of One starring one of the lead actors from the last Saw film. The Dark Within was an extremely hard production for me, so locking myself away for a couple of months working on someone else’s film will feel like a welcomed holiday. I also have a few directing projects coming up which could be fun, something different.
Ghosts of Darkness TRAILER
The Dark Within TRAILER
DIAG: I’m intrigued, when you aren’t creating celluloid, editing, working on scouting new locations or on a script what might one catch you doing?
DRK: Our company Clean Focus Movies does corporate video work 50% of the year, it’s really our bread & butter and pays the bills which in turn frees me up to make all these crazy movies. One week I’m filming pipes for the Oil & Gas industry and the next I’ll be filming someone getting attacked by an actor in a monster suit. It certainly keeps things interesting.
DIAG: If it’s anything as interesting as your cinematic output color me jealous. Thanks for your time and honesty David and all the best in your future endeavors, no matter where they may lead.
A summary of David’s work can be found on IMDB
David’s numerous features can be found where ever great films are showcased, tell them Cult sent you for a strange look and your face to be forever digitally imbedded in a secure database for future reference.
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