Friday, April 22, 2016

TVSO INTERVIEW: Steve Parker and Jody Wheeler on The Dark Place

Steve Parker and Jody Wheeler crafted a terrific little thriller called The Dark Place  - which you can now find on VOD. The duo are now working on the upcoming horror project WTF!... 
TVSO: How did you both get into producing? Is that a bit of a loaded question? Will we need to stretch that out over 10 questions?
Parker: I produce to get projects to happen.  It’s the best way to get a chance to edit and direct, especially narrative features.
Jody: How does the adage go? If you want something done right you have to do it yourself? Somewhere along the way, I figured out that if I was going to go to all the effort to write stuff, then if I wanted to see it on the screen, I’d have to make the effort to produce it as well. That led me on some great adventures, I learned a lot, figured out the business a bit better, and upped my writing game to better deal with budgets. I ran into Steve on another project, hit it off, and decided to produce together.
TVSO: What came first – the film-making or the producing? Does anyone ever set out to become a producer - - it would seem to be something filmmakers do to remain involved in films without having to wear the filmmaker’s cap?
The Dark Place (2015)
Parker: Film-making came first, for sure.  On my first short was Gregg Araki-style: written/directed/shot/edited by me. Some producers I’ve met are just that—they just want to produce.  However making a film is a huge undertaking, so sometimes producing helps your creative partner focus on directing for example.  All movies are unique.

Jody: I think you produce out of necessity. A long time ago, you could just be a writer and that was enough to get your projects made, be they big projects, medium projects, or really small projects. Writers wrote and producers produced. Now,  all of the competition across so many platforms, and the narrowing of studio opportunities, you can’t just be a writer. You have to produce as well. Plus, it is kind of fun. 

TVSO: Are most of your projects self-financed or are studios backing you?

Parker: We’ve self-financed, or at least raised from angels we’ve located.

Jody: Our two newest films,  one a horror comedy and the other a fantasy adventure series, are both going to have some kind of larger dollar financing be it studio or tax incentives or film funds. These are large dollar projects, so the challenge is getting them funded at that dollar level.

TVSO: What’s the meaning behind your company name?

Still from upcoming WTF!
Parker: Cthulhu Crush Productions--Our love of H.P. Lovecraft, and crushing it!

Jody:  One of Lovecraft’s big contributions to Sci-fi was Mr. Tentacle-Face-Doom-From-The-Deep himself, Cthulhu. When it came time to come up with a name for the company, somewhere in bouncing possible names around, we added something sweet — “crush” — to something crazy — “Cthulhu” — and realized we had a pretty unique name. Sure, no one can spell it or say it, but those are just details.

TVSO: WTF! Sounds intriguing. Is it, as the marketing material suggests, similar in tone to other horror fare like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer?

Parker: Yes, and a bit like Cabin In The Woods, but with the killer amongst them. But who?
Jody: Yes! WTF! is totally in the spirit of those films. Director and co-writer Peter Herro is a big fan of Scream-type films. He came to us with the script ready, the locations set up, and his production team in place.  We decided it was a good film to cut our company’s teeth (sharpen its tentacles?) on while we were setting-up our other projects. Steve was able to arrange the financing and we were off to a cabin in the woods to kill people. Not literally. Or maybe….

TVSO: As producers, were you on the set  a lot?

Parker: I was on set for only a few days, due to my schedule.  I was focusing on the edit, where we got almost to picture lock in 6 weeks.

Still from upcoming film, WTF!
Jody: We kept in mind that you don’t want to be there to the point that  the director thinks you have no confidence in him. Nor do you want to be absent when a first time director could really use your help. This film was a great opportunity to get that balance right. For the most part, I think we did.
TVSO: Is it hard to produce a film that neither of you are directing? Lots of compromises have to be made?
Parker: Actually director Peter Herro was line producing, so our producer duties were primarily fairly high level.

Jody: The goal is to figure out how you can best serve the new production. What can you do as producers to make sure the director achieves his vision within whatever realities they’re forced to work under!

TVSO: What are your hopes for WTF!?
 Parker: Besides riches and fame?!? It’s a chance to do something in the classic horror genre...
Jody:  That the fun, fears, humor, and blood is fantastic enough that they download the movie multiple times for friends, family, and strangers on the street, and that they then come back for the sequel. Sequels. Lots of sequels.

TVSO: Can you tell us what else you have coming up?

Parker: We have a delightful “creature feature” set in Beverly Hills.  What happens when you extend the L.A. subway into Beverly Hills?  The creatures come out from underneath to get you!

Jody: Steve modestly forgets that he also directed  a short film. That movie, entitled Love, Colin, has exited post and will be playing in film festivals this summer.  I’m typically chained to my desk writing. It seems to work best that way.