1/15/06

INTERVIEW: SCREEN ACTORS GUILD



An interview with Death Tunnel’s Booth Brothers Christopher Saint (Writer/ Producer) Philip Adrian (Writer/Director)

It’s October again, a time for spooks, ghouls and creatures of all shapes and sizes. In the world of independent film, ‘tis the season to promote your horror film, a time to enter horror film festivals and push for the release of your spook show. One of the biggest success stories of this year is a dark indie tale called Death Tunnel. The ghostly film of is based on the actual accounts of the haunting of the Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky. This film was shot entirely on location in this legendary spot, which is listed as one of the Top Ten Scariest Places on Earth. The story follows five college girls, dared to spend the night in a haunted hospital; will they make it through the night?

SI: How did you guys become filmmakers?

CSB: We had a record contract when we arrived here as musicians and that kind of fizzled out. So we took a different route, we became water boys on a movie called Dreamscape. Eventually we moved up to the art department.

PAB: We moved billboards for the final explosion scene in Dreamscape. We made about thirty-five bucks a day. We were very passionate about it, we would call our mother back in England and tell her that we were working in the movie business. We never told her how much we were making or exactly what we did. Whenever there was a shitty job they would always say call the Booth brothers. And we got such a good reputation that we started meeting people. One day we found a script on a coffee table, which had a breakdown attached, we looked at it and we said, hell, we could be doing that.

CSB: We made our own film company and started shooting films. Phillip directs them and I produce and compose the music for them. It’s worked out really well, he’s the eyes and I am the ears.

SI: And how did Death Tunnel happen?

CSB: Shane Taylor, of DAX productions our Executive Producer had lived in Kentucky. And he came out to Los Angeles to do his movie The Grey. He told us about this haunted sanatorium that he used to break into as a teenager, and all of the ghost stories that came out of there. He said here’s the idea, do you two want to help me put it together. So we all wrote the script that ended up being Death Tunnel.

SI: Did he supply the funding?

CSB: His company is funded by his dad. And we were having dinner talking about the film and he said, “If you need any money, let me know.” And right after dessert I said, “ Yeah, I do.” Basically, we left Kentucky with a suitcase full of money.

PAB: On a handshake, that’s how they do things in Kentucky.

SI: Where did you find your talent for the film?

CSB: We wanted the best actors we could find, so of course we went SAG. They are somewhat unknown, but great performers. That is one thing that is really important to us and we stand by it.

PAB: The story is based on true events. The suicides, the hauntings, the tragedies of the past are all part of the history of the hospital. So when we came back to Los Angeles we knew we needed some serious acting to make this story believable. When we went SAG, it helped us so much in casting. It really got the word out to the right people.

SI: Was the whole film shot on location?

CSB: I have been an art director for several years now. We had three weeks to shoot film and we were going to shoot for a week on location and then shoot for two weeks here in Los Angeles. We had the set from the Steven King mini series Red Rose all lined up. We shot for a week and the place had such a beautiful aura about it, I mean no one had been in the place for sixty years, the paint is peeling off the walls, and the doors are warped, the ceilings were buckling. There would be no way to recreate it. So we canned the whole shoot back in L.A. And people tried to convince us to shoot in L.A., they said no one will ever know. And I said, we’ll know. So we made our crew drive through the rain and the mud all the way down to the end of this five hundred foot tunnel, to run cable so we could shoot in this actual location. And we actual dug up a lot of our props.

PAB: Bottles and the props in the laboratory scenes.

CSB: The 1910 glasses. And there was no power, so lighting the place became a problem. A good percentage of our shooting budget went to lighting. We had three five-ton grip trucks, we had 80 k of lighting. We had three 12k’s lighting at one time lighting the whole hospital so no matter where we put the camera the light would come through all the old windows. And in the death tunnel itself we had to rig lights in the vents so beams of light would come down from the ceiling.

PAB: And of course it rained and we lost all power. But the Cine Alta camera is so phenomenal in low light. We shot with no light until the power came back on. And it’s all real scary and moody. The owners of the hospital wanted us to tear everything down every night because there was no way to secure the place. They thought if people knew that there was a movie shooting that they would come in and steal all of our stuff.

CSB: That wasn’t going to work so we hired four security guards.

PAB: But nobody wanted to spend the night inside the building. They wanted to stay in the trailer. If you’re sleeping inside the trailer, how is that going to help?

SI: The film was shot on HD?

PAB: I should mention AC Inc. out of Nashville. They were phenomenal. They gave us all of our camera equipment. They gave us everything that Lucas used on the latest Star Wars film.

SI: Was it difficult working in a remote location?

CSB: When they built the hospital, they had to put it on the top of a hill because of the disease. It’s like a leper’s island.

PAB: We trucked everything in from Tennessee. The crew came from the surrounding areas.

CSB: We had to break the shooting schedule down into floors. We had to shoot a floor every two days, because it takes forever to move everything up a floor without an elevator.

SI: It looks like you did a lot of work in post on this film, what is your process?

CSB: It’s an old Hollywood saying, a film is made three times. First when you write it, second when you shoot it and third when you edit it.

PAB: We had a shooting ratio of three to one, which is great for editing. When you are directing the film you should be editing in your head. We ended up with forty or so tapes. And like the Scott brothers, we cut to music to help us set the pace of the scene.

CSB: We often shoot a scene to music to help the actors with intensity.

PAB: If it’s going to be a creepy scene we give it a drone or rock and roll part for action. We add music right away, I can’timagine working without music. Then we do something that most people don’t, we online the film as we go. It’s something that studios can’t do, but since we own the studio, it’s not a cost factor. We put the special effects in right away. We match the lighting, add clouds or rain in, add smoke to a shot or whatever. The last stage for us is to add special effects that really don’t look like special effects. The shots of the pictures on the wall, they were never there because we didn’t have them. When we got back to Los Angeles, we took stills of the girls in old-fashioned nurse outfits and then added digitally. We also lengthened the death tunnel. We had a screening for some big studios and they told us they wanted the villain to be in the film more. So, we talked to our investor about reshoots and he told us it’s just too expensive to do. So we added more of him in post, flipped him, shrunk him down. All in all we spent about six months in post.

SI: You did the post sound work yourself?

CSB: I’ve been doing sound for about twenty years now, everything from being a DJ to a rock and roller. I’ve done plenty of soundtracks and sound effects for them. We did the whole thing in pro tools 5.1, ready to rock. I was mixing like crazy. There are no real rules to 5.1.

PAB: I think with low budget films you shouldn’t be cramped because you don’t have this or that. Your imagination shouldn’t be crippled by budget. Robert Rodriguez is a prime example of that. There should be no more rules in filmmaking. Tony Scott thinks of it as a license, if you don’t have any money maybe that’s a good thing.

CSB: All the good directors will tell you, people get lazy when they have a big budget. You don’t need fifty million dollars to make a movie. You’ve just got to have passion. Because you’re independent, you have license to be different.

SI: How did you come up with the make up design for the film?

CSB: A lot came from pictures and accounts of ghosts in the hospital.

PAB: I actually saw the ghost of the little girl that through the ball. And we made the make up look like what I saw and a collection of stories. The zombies and the draining room, all that came from what people told us, and the history of the place. And we downloaded a weeks worth of pictures to be accurate.

CAB: And then we wanted the teenage element, girls in nighties.

PAB: We just tried to put ourselves in our audiences’ shoes. We made a film with scantily clad girls in it.

CSB: We got a review on the IMDb saying that there was too much nudity in the film, too many boobs, and we were like, what’s wrong with you?

SI: And the Internet has been helpful?

CSB: If you are tired of banging on all the doors, the Internet is a great place come up with an angle and get out your idea the next day. We had fifty thousand hits on our site in three months. We’ve got sixty thousand hits from Asia alone.

PAB: It’s the fastest turn around of anything you can do. I was talking to our guy at Sony and he told us the web presence on our film is so huge that we need to get this out as soon as possible.

SI: What’s next for the Booth Brothers?

CSB: Shadow Box is a project we made a couple of years ago. It stars Matthew McGrory the late giant from Big Fish and The Devil’s Rejects. He passed away just recently and we have dedicated our film to him.

Death Tunnel is currently playing at film festivals including 2005 Screamfest L.A. and will be released through Sony Pictures.

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