Thanks to Chattanooga Film Festival I had the chance to speak to Chad Crawford Kinkle to talk about his excellent slow-burn atmospheric horror movie. One of the best films at the festival. Hope you all enjoy this interview and if it interests you please check it out.
AJ: Thank you for joining me today at infamoushorrors.com. First off, congratulations on how “Dementer” turned out. I thought it was so fantastic that [inaudible 00:00:26] was really moody and ominous and the acting was terrific. How did you become involved with Dementer?
Chad: Well, it was an idea that I had. I’m trying to remember exactly when I thought about it. It was… I guess I’d gone to Sundance one year and I had seen a movie called “The Tribe” and it’s a movie that I think, I don’t know, Yugoslavian or something like that, but it takes place in a school for the deaf and all the actors are death and there’s no subtitles. It’s all sign language.
AJ: Oh, wow.
Chad: And I was just re… Yeah, and I was just re… And it won Con that year. So I was really just blown away by that movie particularly, and what he could do in that environment. And I’d always thought about doing a project with my sister. So, the main girl or the down syndrome girl that the main character trying to protect in the movie is my own sister. I’m not sure if you realize that or not.
AJ: Oh, no, I did not realize that. That’s very cool.
Chad: Yeah. Yeah. So, I had… So that’s my sister. So, when I first went to film school, I kind of always thought about, “Oh, I should do a story or short on my sister,” but then I was always like, “Well, what would I be saying? Or what would be the purpose?” Because I didn’t just want to make something to make people feel sorry for her or something because that’s just not how I feel about her.
Chad: So I just never thought of anything that would work until I saw that “The Tribe” and I thought, “Oh man, what if I can go into my sister’s world and make a story there? And what would that be like?” I was like, “What would a horror movie be like with my sister in it?” And I was like, “Okay.”
I was like, “So how would I even approach that?” And for a little bit, I was thinking of doing more of a mock documentary and then I thought, “No.” And then I thought, “Okay,” I would follow her in her normal day and then try to then craft a story into the footage I had of her and recreate some things. And I was like, “That could work, but it’s going to take a long time and I need to… I only have so much money to do it.”
Chad: Because I paid for the movie as well. But so anyway, so I just came with the idea of this of doing a normal sheet and my sister would be the secondary character, not the main character, but a secondary character. And we would just shoot it normally and I’d come up with this idea. And just a little bit of backstory about where I am and where I was. I’d made “Jug Face” and it came out, I guess 2013.
And after that, I wrote many scripts and I had still been trying to get those movies made, but things just haven’t worked out. And about three years ago, or two years ago, actually about three, my wife and I decided to move to LA because I felt that’s one of the reasons why I wasn’t getting these opportunities that kind of happen was because I wasn’t present enough in Los Angeles.
Chad: Even though I was going out there and doing meetings quite a lot. And so anyway, we moved out there. It didn’t really work for my wife and my daughter as our family situation, so we ended up moving back. And I was pretty devastated at that time because I felt like, “Oh, okay, now I understand how to get a movie made within the system here in LA,” but I needed to be out there to do that. So then when I came back to Tennessee, I was like, “Okay, well what can I do here by myself, practically, and that people will pay attention to?” Not just do some sort of haunted house movie. I needed something that really has some teeth behind it. And I kind of had remembered my idea with my sister. And I was like, “Oh crap. Well maybe now is the time to try to do this idea.”
AJ: And myself, I’m on the spectrum of autism, so I really appreciated how you intertwined all these characters with real life disabilities, I’m assuming. So how was it like casting the actors and actresses you had in this movie? How did you go about with casting and did you have any difficulties in that perspective?
Chad: Oh yeah. Well, when I started thinking about how the movie would feel, I always knew that it needed to feel realistic.
Chad: And so I wanted to use… Everyone’s is a non-actor, almost, in the movie. The main lead, she’s an actress. Larry Fessenden, who’s the leader of the Cult, he’s of course an actor. And then there’s a very small role where the guy who runs the meat processing place, he’s an actual actor because there was a supply in the script that involved the guy at the meat place that I ended up cutting out completely. But so, 90… So much of the movie and everyone else in it is, they’re all non-actors and I wanted that just to make it authentic.
Chad: And then I also knew that you can’t have a bunch of actors come and play opposite, like my sister and other people at her house or had the skill center where she goes in the daytime, because there was no repertoire. They’re not going to… My sister’s not going to respond to them because she doesn’t know them. And so I just knew I had to get the people who work there to be in it, even though they were like, “Are you serious?” And I’m like, “Trust me, you’ll be fine.” It’s just…
And then working with non… It’s obviously difficult because they don’t know how to act and we’re on a very limited shooting schedule too. But, I mean, it’s all about getting the best out of them and however you have to do that is what you have to do. But I guess what I didn’t anticipate was like with my sister and some of the other clients that work, that live with her, I didn’t really… because normally when you shoot, you can do a scene 10 times if you need too, right?
Chad: But, with them their nobility was so limited. I didn’t really think about that. Even with my sister, I couldn’t really ask them to come inside from outside more than twice because at that point it was just cruel.
Chad: Because they move slowly anyway, it’s so hard for them. It was just wouldn’t be right because I’m just making a movie, so. So, I didn’t anticipate that, but it was cool. I mean, it’s intense because you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get. And when I was writing the script, it was very strange too because I wrote every scene thinking, “Well, I’m not sure if it’s going to actually turn out like this,” but I at least need the essence of the scene to happen and how I can make that work is how I’m going to make it work on the set.
And so I didn’t use any storyboards or anything like that. Once I got to set, I just changed the script. And really, like I said, the essential part of the scene was what I was always trying to get and pretty much I could do that. I was able to accomplish that, but it was definitely a different sort of challenge than I had worked with before. But, on the flip side, there was no drama.
Chad: Where you have drama on a normal set with egos and stuff like that. There was none of that. They were just also happy to be doing it and just loving every minute of it. That was really easy and same thing with the crew. I mean, none of them, to my knowledge, was really exposed to people who have disabilities like this. They may have seen a few in real life, but they’re not like… They don’t live around them or they’re not exposed to them like this.
And so for them, it was eye opening, but I think they really just loved that experience too. But the first day that we shot in what’s the center, they call it the skill center where my sister goes in that daytime. And that scenario with that many people, that [inaudible 00:09:33] that many people. Once we got through shooting, I looked at my DP later and I was like, “That was absolutely crazy.” And he laughed and he was like, “Yeah, it was,” just because it’s just not the way a normal set works where everything is controlled. This is almost nothing that’s controlled and you-
Chad: And you’re just having to go off of whatever’s happening, which is exciting, but also nerve wracking.
AJ: I’m wanting to talk to you a little bit about the score on the movie because the score almost acting like a character of its own too, which I think really helped in terms of the atmosphere and how moody it felt. Did you have any input about how you wanted the score for the film to sound or did the composer just kind of give you ideas of how he thought, or she thought, it should sound?
Chad: Right. It’s Sean Spillane did the music and I’d worked with him before on “Jug Face” and so I got him to do this and of course I was barely paying him anything to do the music. And it took a really long time for me to communicate what I wanted to him, but once I did, it was like a light bulb went off.
Chad: Same thing happened, happened with “Jug Face” even though we got there a little bit quicker. But what normally happens is, he comes up with the theme, the theme track, right?
Chad: And so then he starts basing all the other pieces of music off of that one, off the theme and we’ll come up with whatever fits the certain scene. And with this, since it was taking him so long to come to music, he basically just gave me the theme track. Well, there was three variants of that theme track and gave me the stems, which are just the parts of the song.
Chad: So like the drums is a stem, the synths would be a steam, a guitar or a piano or whatever, or bells or whatever, they’re all separate stems. And so I basically came up with… I used his three songs and his basic arrangement of the theme track and made a new theme track. Okay? And then I took the stems and did the score of the movie basically. It’s his music, but it’s me manipulating it for when I wanted it to come in, what pieces, and how. So in the beginning, I have a little bit of experience with a dance music, electronic music.
Chad: So I wasn’t completely not familiar with what to do, but it was definitely daunting in the beginning because I was like, “Oh my gosh. How do I put this together? Come up with a theme that I like with what he’s done and make it work.” And then it was just… It felt insanely daunting in the beginning because I was just like, “I don’t know how I’m going to make it to the end of the movie,” but it was just for me creatively, another way I could put exactly the emotion into the scenes that I wanted it to be there. So, on that sense, it was really great, but it took me like a month to do.
AJ: Well, Chad, thank you so much for joining us at Infamous Horrors today. It’s been really fun talking to you.