Support Indie Flix speaks with Filmmaker Erica Summers about her horror thriller OBSIDIAN.
Support Indie Flix~ Thank you Erica for taking the time to do this interview with Support Indie Flix. Kindly introduce yourself to our audience...
Erica ~ Hailing from Casper, Wyoming, I began my filmmaking career at 16 with a short film called "The Stalker." Shortly after the Stalker, I moved to Ocala Florida where I wrote, directed, and produced her first feature film, "Sins of the Flesh," shot mostly in the storage room of the Hollywood video myself and a lot of the cast and crew worked in at the time. Soon after, I produced a goofy mob-comedy called "For Kevin's Sake" and then a tragically dramatic feature a year later called "Rag Doll" which I later used to raise money for a charity for abused children in Sanford, FL. Desperately longing to return to my roots in horror, I then made a thriller/horror feature, "Loverboy" and, following that, a really creepy creature feature based loosely on a Louisiana slave account called "Mister White." After Mister White, I moved to southern Louisiana were I became a grip on various local films and TV shows like NCIS: New Orleans, Claws, Scream: the TV show, Eat Brains Love, Preacher, etc. Before leaving Louisiana, I produced the gory body-horror film, "Obsidian".
I now reside in southern Connecticut and I am working on the scripts to two horror films right now. One of which I’m hoping to option or sell to make enough money to fund the second one.
Support Indie Flix -What made you want to get involved in the film industry and which particular filmmaker influenced you the most?
Erica ~ I’d have to say David Lynch is my most influential filmmaker. I wouldn’t say he’s my favorite to watch now that my horizons have been expanded but he was the most influential to me when I started out and there were a few times thinking of him kept me from quitting altogether. I scrimped and saved and even took a summer job at a laboratory to try to earn enough to afford the Sony DCR-VX-2100 camera. At the time, they were $4K apiece (Feels like it might as well have been $20K back then) but I found out that that’s what David Lynch had shot one of his recent films with and saved until I had one.
Support Indie Flix -How did you come up with the concept for OBSIDIAN?
Erica ~ I went back to central Florida to visit my friends and film a wedding, and I stayed for the weekend with my friend of many years, Nic Wilder. Nic was in a wheelchair after a pond diving accident years before I met him. Nic was a wild card. He was hilarious, salty, often grumpy, but loved his friends fiercely. There isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for us. So, when Nic offered to let me stay the weekend, I was excited to spend some quality time with him. Throughout that weekend, I realized even simple, mundane tasks were huge undertakings due to the disability. It never stopped him, though!
On my long drive back to Louisiana where I lived at the time, my heart really hurt for his situation and his pain and his struggles and I thought, “I’d give anything if there were just a pill or something that would give him the ability to walk again.” He so deserved it, because at his core, he was truly a wonderful, warm, hilarious person that left such an indelible mark on all of us. During the drive, I kept thinking about how unlucky I am and how even if there were a pill, it would probably work TOO well, and then he would end up having a whole new set of problems or subsequent deformations. As the drive went on, I kept thinking about how that hypothetical pill could actually make for a great horror movie, and by the time I arrived home 11 hours later, I had the outline all figured out in my head. I started working on the script immediately. And the story really transformed over the years into my own narrative on vanity and body image in addition to the whole idea that Nic sparked in me.
Support Indie Flix ~ How rigorously did you stick to the script while shooting and/or did it turn out differently than what you originally envisioned?
Erica ~ The most difficult artistic choice were certainly the location choices. When I had tried to produce this film the first time, years ago, the Women’s Hospital in Baton Rouge was available for crews to shoot in and they were offering for indie filmmakers to sometimes used the facility for free (with past references etc) and I had worked on a larger budget film the year prior that filmed there called , JUNE, as a grip. I wrote the script tailored to that hospital because half looked like it was in fully working order and the other half looked ravaged by the elements and lights flickered and it was super creepy. At the time, like 90% of the film was slated to be shot there. Then we got involved with a producer and the film fell into development and fundraising limbo for quite a few years. By the time our contract was up and I had my film back to film as I pleased, that hospital had been turned into a SWAT training facility for the Baton Rouge officers and was no longer available. I tried talking with all of the other hospitals and doctors offices (even vet clinics) for months and no one wanted to allow us to film in their facilities for the $1500 I had budgeted for locations. So I redrafted the film several times to take place at other locations, and kept having to make alterations to the story for how it would be plausible. I pitched to all of the cabin owners in a two hour radius and was turned down due to the content of the film. No one wanted monsters chasing people around their campgrounds. Louisiana is a very religious state and some people don’t take kindly to horror. So with time running out, I chose an Airbnb that was huge and secluded and booked it for two consecutive weekends and re-altered the script again to fit that location. So it wasn’t ideal but it also turned out very nice because we had enough room to sleep there, room to bbq meals on the patio, the water nearby for the lake and stream scenes. It was great. And the majority of the rest of the film Marc and Desiree Shiadaee (parents of our young actress Rainey Moone) graciously provided for us including the dilapidated cabin, and tons of wooded property to run around and scream on.
Support Indie Flix ~ You cast a group of talented actors, how was it working with them and what scene did you enjoy directing the most?
Erica ~This cast was phenomenal. I got VERY lucky with them, especially because I cast almost exclusively off their resumes and reels and did not actually host any formal auditions. I remember Frank R. Wilson, Henry Frost, and David McMahon’s reels being the most impressive. David’s especially. Olivia was amazing too. I believe she came recommended by Henry because none of the women that had applied for the part looked or sounded anything like what I wanted. When I saw her I knew she was the one I had been searching for and we were so blessed that she was available. Not only that, but she turned out to be SUCH an amazing person and I think she was incredible in this. Hick was amazing too. He actually did a ton of research on his own time on Nic Wilder (my late friend who the character is based off of) and he did such a good job at putting some little Nic touches in there that a few times I actually wept on set. It was so nice to see Nic honored in such a way. Nic even knew about the film and the role of Mick and was so ecstatic that he was going to be immortalized like that so I know the extra effort Hick put in really would have made Nic smile and say “F&%$ yeah!” This whole cast was really phenomenal and so much fun to work with.
Support Indie Flix ~ Did you ever feel like you were treated differently in the film industry because you are a female film director?
Erica ~ As a director/producer, not so much. I’ve been treated with a lot of respect and equality since I had my first public film premiere for “Rag Doll,” my third feature (Obsidian being my sixth) However I also work in the film industry as a grip, which is predominantly a male job on set and there I’ve definitely encountered and overcome a LOT of sexism over the years. I’m very think-skinned though and usually try to prove through my work ethic, dependability, and my ability to not get too riled over it that eventually it goes away and I got hired more and more. Some of the key grips down south will tell you that I can work circles around some of the boys.
Support Indie Flix ~ Can you tell us about the greatest moment in your film career and do you have any advice for female filmmakers like yourself?
Erica ~ My advice for female filmmakers is don’t stop making films if you’re passionate about them. You have a voice and if you keep at it, you will be heard eventually. This world, and this country specifically, are rapidly changing and its becoming more and more commonplace for women to be treated as equals so if you’re just starting out, you can do this because its only going to get better I think. As for the greatest moments in my film career, I’d say my number one most favorite moment is winning an award at The Freakshow Film Festival for Mister White years ago. I cried both on-stage and off because I had really never won any awards in my life. Mister White was my fifth feature so it was a long losing streak prior to that. It felt like it opened up a new world for me and filled me with pride and really gave me a second wind to keep at it. I’ve won some incredible awards since then and I’m so grateful for every one. Another greatest moment would be the moment I declared Obsidian finished. It had been about 8 years in the making and there were times when I really wanted to give up on it so it was one of the greatest moments of my career when I knew the job had finally gotten done.
Support Indie Flix ~ Can you tell us more about upcoming projects you may have in development?
Erica ~ Right now I’m working on two horror scripts. One is more of a slow burn gory thriller, the other is a very gruesome surrealistic film based on an old short story of mine that I’ve always loved. Ideally I’d love to sell or option the surrealistic feature script to a larger company and take the money from that sale to fund the gory thriller as my next independent feature.
Thank you very much Erica for taking the time to speak with us and giving such great advice to our readers. Excited to see what you create next.
OBSIDIAN is now available from Midnight Releasing.
Attention bloggers, horror magazines, and freelance writers, for follow up interviews with the cast and crew, be sure to contact Sharry Flaherty of Samera Entertainment at: SameraEntertainment@Gmail.com or AcortAcquistions@Gmail.com
Founded in 2009 by Darrin Ramage, Midnight Releasing is a premiere home entertainment distributor of quality independent genre films released only in the North America Region. With a following of thousands on social media outlets, Midnight Releasing continues to draw attention with each release.
Sharry Flaherty CEO and Founder of Samera Entertainment is a seasoned and well known film producer and Acquisitions Executive for Midnight Releasing. Samera consults with filmmakers on their projects that are either in development, pre-production or post-production. Filmmakers are welcome to submit their horror and thriller titles to: SameraEntertainment@Gmail.com or AcortAcquistions@Gmail.com