I recently had the opportunity to interview my friend Ritchie Steven Filippi, director of the horror/thriller “The Eve,” along with his associates, producer Angel L. Acevedo III and writer/producer/actor Evan Bass about this upcoming feature film.
Terri: How did the idea for this script come about?
Evan: One thing about a lot of horror/thrillers is that they follow very similar themes — there is a summer cabin, girls in bikinis, people get slaughtered, and they make really bad decisions that end poorly for them, etc. There have been movies that mock this, like “Scary Movie,” and others that do a play on it like “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil.” Most horror/thrillers these days have tended towards gore-porn: the more gory, the more it is “scary,” and yet “Grey’s Anatomy” is equally as graphic visually. I didn’t want to make a stereotypical movie or one that fell into the same traps. I got access to a beautiful location and thought of flipping the summer horror genre to instead setting it in the dead of winter. I also wanted to craft a script that played into the concept of having the audience follow the action of the main characters, see the characters do exactly as they themselves would do, and yet then watch things still go for the worse. If I was going to write horror/thriller, I wanted to play with the genre: in the film, characters sometimes do things that are stereotypical in other films and yet the outcome surprises the audience as it turns out differently than what they are expecting.
Terri: How did you get involved, Angel?
Angel: While I was living in LA, Evan had told me he wanted to write a low-budget feature, a horror-thriller to be exact, and that he had the perfect location for it. So I said “cool, send it to me.” Once he heard I was moving back to NY, he banged out a script, which I believe I first read on the airplane to NY.
Terri: And Ritchie and Angel were fellow students at Hofstra University.
Ritchie: We were. Angel and I were both members of the Hofstra Filmmakers Club and have worked together a few times over the years.
Angel: He’s (Ritchie) also made a lot of films on his own outside of the classroom. He has the chops. He knows where to put the camera, how to talk actors and direct them. And I wanted someone with experience for this. Plus I knew Ritchie loves this genre and could do some good work with the material.
Terri: How surprising was it to receive a phone call from Angel all these years later, asking you to read a script with the possibility of directing?
Ritchie: Angel and I have kept in touch over the years and last worked together on a web series he produced, “My Future Girlfriend,” in Los Angeles. After that, he moved back to New York. I knew he had been doing early prep on a horror feature, but I didn’t expect the call. I’m happy and grateful that he thought of me and threw my name in the mix. A few conference calls later with writer/producer Evan Bass and I was part of the team.
Terri: What was it about the story that piqued your interest?
Ritchie: I’m a big fan of classic horror and slasher movies. “The Eve” script blended the two different sub-genres well. The story is very much inspired by Hitchcock, but does not feel old fashion or dated.
Angel: I like the smallness of the film. It makes it feel more real, which I think heightens the conflicts the characters are going through, both externally and internally. The tension between the characters is also great. The setting also grabbed me. The cold, dreary, almost desolate place of Martha’s Vineyard in the dead of winter is a character on its own, and I knew visually it would just work. I’m also a fan of twists and the genre, so I thought, this would be a good first feature for me.
Terri: I’ve read in other articles that the film is an homage to some horror/thriller classics. How did you give a nod to these other films?
Ritchie: Some of our homages are very noticeable, while others are a bit more subtle. We have a shower scene that is stylistically right out of “Psycho.” One of our locations in Martha’s Vineyard was also used in “Jaws,” so our score in that particular scene pays our respect to one of the greatest scores of all time. There are other moments from horror classics to keep an eye out for.
Evan: Each nod is a show of respect for all those audiences who love the genre.
Terri: Why did you choose the films that you did to reference in the script?
Evan: There are films that are “classics” and hold true regardless of what year it is, which are part of the genre zeitgeist and will never be forgotten. They are also the movies that affected the genre and are tentpoles for turns in the evolution of horror/thrillers; they were on the tip of the tongue –Psycho, Jaws, The Shining, etc.
Terri: Evan is not only the writer of the script, but also an actor and producer in “The Eve.” Was it a more collaborative experience than you would have had if the writer was not in the cast?
Ritchie: Yes and no. When I was brought onto the project, Evan gave me the script and said that nothing was unchangeable. We were able to go back and forth and make changes that blended both of our visions. On set, writer Evan turned into actor Evan and he was 100% focused on his character. He pulled back from the creative role and trusted my decisions.
Terri: Evan, how did you keep track of wearing so many hats?
Evan: With difficulty. Writer Evan came out between the day’s shooting end and the beginning of the next day of filming; Actor Evan was present during filming; and then any time I wasn’t filming, I was Producer Evan working alongside Angel, putting out fires and helping solve each problem as they came up … which they did in droves on this shoot.
Terri: Tell us a bit about the other actors. Were these people you’ve worked with before? Traditional audition/casting experience?
Evan: Casting was a mix of offers and traditional casting. Al Thompson I have known for a while and have seen much of his work. We had a meeting prior to the concept of this film coming, about and I knew he was a strong actor with whom I wanted to work. As “Scott,” who is the leader of the group, I knew Al could take command and draw the audience’s eyes. Miranda Noelle Wilson, the part of “Lacey” was written for her. I had seen her opus of stage work and knew she was a great fit. With the role of “Jenn,” we went the traditional audition route, callbacks, and even held an additional casting session. We had a very strong number of actresses we considered for the role and ended up choosing Maria DiDomenico for a number of reasons. I was familiar with some of her stage and film work prior to her audition. But the role of “Jenn” came down to three very strong candidates and was a hard decision to make, though we are very happy with the decision we made.
We have a wonderful actor from Martha’s Vineyard who plays the role of “Joey,” the caretaker of Scott’s family’s house. For that role, I sent out emails to the various theaters on the Vineyard and through word of mouth during our pre-production phase, we received a number of video submissions. This role ended up being a complex casting, and we did not get to meet the actor in person until filming. For “Joey” we ended up with the on-island actor Rick Estabrook, who did a fantastic job.
Ritchie: By the time I was brought onto the project they had actually finished casting. I met three of our four key players the night of our first rehearsal.
Al Thompson is a complete professional. His confidence and raw skill brought everyone up a notch. Maria DiDomenico brought a light hardheartedness to the set. Between takes we were able to laugh; which is important when you are shooting a horror movie. Miranda Wilson is one of the toughest actors I have ever met. The crew was all bundled up shooting outside in the freezing cold, while she was in a t-shirt. We would call cut and instead of running off set, Miranda would ask for another take.
Terri: This is a pretty small cast. Does it help to work with a tight-knit group? Is it easier to build trust and get everyone on “the same page”
Evan: Yes, working in a small group of actors you get very close. Our HMU (hair and makeup) was one small room and Talia Favale, our hair and makeup talent, juggled the actors superbly and was the keystone of the social circle of the actors. Plus, the HMU room was often the only non-hot set location in the house we filmed and so became the hangout area for non-filming actors. Since we lived in two rented houses on the island, next to each other, for the duration of the shoot — actors and crew — and had all our meals together, bonding was fast. This helped in creating the tight bond between actors that leads to great moments on camera where you have two actors really connecting because even though they may have not known each other long, they still had already formed great bonds and connections behind the scenes.
Ritchie: We would have a long day of shooting, then would all go back to the house and then rehearse and block for the next day. There is something about subzero degree temperatures and unpredictable weather that helps you bond quicker.
Terri: One of the things in your marketing campaign was to do a special movie poster homage. How did this idea come about? Which movie posters did you choose to use as inspiration and why?
Evan: We pitched different ideas and ended on the very fun idea of doing homages to classic films that had great posters. We knew that we wanted to do a homage to “Friday the 13th” because it is so visually affecting and recognizable, and with the other posters we aimed for similar effect. We also knew we wanted one Hitchcock homage poster so worked hard to find one that was visual enough to work in the proper respectful nod. We ended up on a more obscure “Psycho” poster, but one that we could involve our main actors and create our affecting visuals.
The “Friday the 13th” poster, by artist Taylor Armstrong, is a brilliant meld of a nod to the original poster while also having so many subtle references to the film. After watching, audience who return to the posters will notice additional features that may have not had their full meaning before. Similarly, the “The Evil Dead“(photography by Jeremy Bales and designed by PJ Filippi) and “Poltergeist” (designed by PJ Filippi) homage posters, have meaning beyond the film, and you’ll have to watch to fully understand.
Ritchie: I have always loved horror movies. We thought this could be a really cool way to pay our respect to some of our favorite movies, movies that both inspired “The Eve” and inspired us as filmmakers. Included in the mix are “Friday the 13th,” “Scream,” “The Evil Dead,” “Poltergeist,” and “Psycho.”
The “Psycho” poster, in particular, was a very obscure foreign movie poster. It was just too cool of an image not to use. The “Scream” poster is just one of those iconic posters. Plus, “Scream” is one of three movies that helped shape me as a filmmaker (the other two being “North by Northwest” and “The Usual Suspects“).
Terri: I understand that you went to crowdsourcing for some funding of the project. Which website did you use? Had you used crowdsourcing before? How was the experience?
Evan: We used the site IndieGoGo. I am not sure how I feel about crowdsourcing, unfortunately. Oftentimes is seems like an artistic project needs a large initial fan base to really get its funding (see the “Veronica Mars” movie, Zach Braff‘s indie film funding, or the Nintendo programmer creating a new game). I have found it difficult to crowdfund to the extent that a real indie film (or large artistic project) needs. It is still a very tough job to get a budget funded, and near impossible to keep in that original budget, but every source helps!
Angel: I produced a web series in LA that used crowdsourcing, but I got attached to the project after the funding completed. “The Eve” was my first time being on a project at the beginning of fundraising. The experience was okay. Evan had taken the lead on it before I moved back to NY by setting up the page and shooting a video that I edited for him. It was somewhat tough fundraising because not only were we trying to raise money, we were also in the thick of pre-production and rewrites on the script. We couldn’t focus on one thing, so I think that hurt our fundraising efforts. So trying to continually get the word out to friends, family, anyone to help support, while working on the film itself, made us fall short in terms of our monetary goals.
Terri: What’s next for “The Eve?” Has the film been in any festivals yet? Are you submitting?
Ritchie: We are currently pitching the finished film to various distribution companies and are looking for the right partner for the movie. It really is a very exciting time. We’re open to showing the movie at a festival, but are not actively looking. We want to be able to have a clean slate when we do sign up a partner and to see what ideas they have for getting the movie out there.
Keep up with all the latest news about “The Eve” at the following websites:
Official website: http://theevemovie.com/
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/TheEveMovie