We here at The Watcher’s Council, as well as over at The Watcher’s Council Film Society, have been big fans of Drew Daywalt for quite some time. Every chance we get, we make an effort to screen his short films and it always ends up producing new fans to his horror creations. After mostly conducting business with Daywalt Fear Factory through his wife Marichelle, who is a great filmmaker in her own right, we were finally able to get Drew to slow down long enough to answer some of our questions.
JGH – You are very active online with your fan base and come across as a very down to earth, humble guy; willing to offer advice and answer questions honestly and freely. As a community, horror and sci-fi seem to thrive on that personal connection more so than some other genres of film. With that in mind, do you think that mentality has essentially hindered or helped the industry more, especially in regards to its perception of being a small, insignificant, “oh, it’s just horror” genre?
Drew – I actually think that the friendly team-oriented, fellow-fan, attitude among everyone in the community has been its saving grace because it’s been so looked down upon. The odd kids get picked on by the popular kids, and suddenly the odd kids find solace in each other. Same thing here. I love the community that exists in horror. When I wrote action films and comedy there was nothing like this. As a matter of fact it was exactly the opposite. Comedy was bitter, brutal, unfriendly and overly competitive. The Horror community, on the other hand, is incredibly accommodating.
JGH – I read about your recent frustrations with the industry that you posted on Facebook and you being deemed “too horror” among other things. Is the movie industry side of the film making equation really that fickle to think that horror has to be formulated to be successful? Will the truly great storytellers ever get the recognition they deserve by the majors or will initial greatness in horror always be harvested with the indies?
Drew – I think it will be born almost exclusively through the indies. We do our own thing here, unfettered by people who don’t know what they’re talking about, and we do it for love and not money. Eventually, studios pick up those indie filmmakers and give them budgets for bigger films, but the best is almost always harvested from the indie world. Look at the modern classic artists like Carpenter, Hooper, Romero, Craven, Cronenberg… they made their marks in low budget indie filmmaking and that’s my plan as well.
JGH – On that note, do you think that sometimes the overall success of the horror genre and the fact that even a bad film can make a profit has lead things to the current, disappointing state of affairs more than anything else? A lot of people want to blame remakes, myself included, but like you have stated many times, remakes have and always will be a reality. Is it more the fact that the industry is still the driving force behind film and what does and doesn’t get made and true creativity sometimes gets left in the dust of profit margins?
Drew – If you offer a starving man a hunk of rotten meat, he’ll take it. He’ll eat it. And he’ll thank you for feeding him. That’s what the studios are doing with horror right now. They’re making rotten meat, they’re feeding it to starving fans, and the fans are thanking them for it (by buying movie tickets). The disappointment after the fans realize they’ve been sold garbage can equate to the starving man, who, after eating the rotten meat, throws it up and feels even worse. I think it’s a cyclical thing. Sadly, studios don’t ever really know why a horror film works because they’re not sophisticated enough thinkers. They see horror = money and the thought process ends there. If horror is making money, then we need to make some horror. And they don’t know how to make it. And they don’t trust the guys who do know how to make it because the guys who can do it are considered dangerous filmmakers. Risky. That’s where the fault lies.
JGH – With the emergence in technology, the internet and the accessibility that the modern horror, and general film, fan has at their disposal nowadays; does it overwhelm you knowing that anyone can make a film? Or because of this, does it simply become increasingly difficult and challenging to stand out in a sea of entries and make you more focused to be great?
Drew – Most people can’t make a film. That’s the basic truth. But with the new technology, everyone can now attempt to make one. The hard part now is, yes, standing out in the haystack is much harder because the haystack just got a lot bigger. But the talent will still rise.
JGH – You’ve received the Inanna Partnership Award from the Bleedfest Film Festival for your positive, impactful portrayals of women in your films. Other than Marichelle and your obvious love and support for each other, what is it about your past that has led you to do so many projects with strong women leads?
Drew – I love women. Strong ones. Smart ones. I love that they solve problems in ways that a man wouldn’t think of. I admire them. And I never consciously set out to honor women in my film. I just wrote characters I liked, and it turned out I was writing a lot of strong women in tough situations, solving (sometimes successfully and sometimes not) problems in really interesting ways to me. When I found out I was getting that award, it surprised me. I had no idea I was doing it. But now that I’ve thought about it. It makes sense. I’ve had great experiences with many of the women in my life.
JGH – With your writing background and love of great storytelling, is it frustrating witnessing the rapid decline of proper grammar that seems to be so prevalent in the world today?
Drew – Haha… not really. I’ve been watching people butcher our language for years now. I turn a blind eye. lol
JGH – It seems to some people that you sprang up as an overnight internet sensation. Having a diverse career that is well over ten years in the industry, is it odd to be treated by some as the “It” director in horror?
Drew – It’s strange, but I knew it’d happen that way, if it ever happened at all. I stumbled into comedy and action and animation right out of college and spent years just following paychecks and struggling along as a working screenwriter. It was during the WGA strike in 2007-2008 that I decided I’d get to what really mattered to me. Genre and horror writing. My first and true creative love. And once I started doing the thing I loved, the attention came. And it makes sense. My love of my craft came through in the results. I wish I’d done it earlier, but then again, I would never have the experience then that I do now and can lend my work the gravitas that it needs.
JGH – Is there a topic or genre in film that you absolutely won’t touch?
Drew – I won’t go near insect movies. Bugs don’t horrify me, they repulse me. And being on set for months with live insects would drive me fucking crazy.
JGH – I’ve read about your love and appreciation for classic horror, including Hammer Horror. If you had the opportunity to head up a Hammer-like Studio (like the classic version, not the current distributor of Newmarket Films – where you previously worked with Chris Nolan), or one very similar, would you do it? Why or why wouldn’t it work?
Drew – I’d run a horror mini studio in a heartbeat. And I’d do it just like Val Lewton did. Get great scripts, talented directors who aren’t being appreciated buy the studios and make awesome, cheap films that scare the hell out of people for very little money. It’s all in the story and the acting. Rod Serling, Richard Matheson, Jack Arnold… these guys could run great shows on limited budgets. I’d love to take a crack at it.
JGH – How are Death Valley, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, and The Talisman coming along? How was your SXSW experience? In other projects you can talk about in the works?
Drew – Death Valley was a blast and I think we were able to make the horror and the comedy work. It debuts in August and I’m looking forward to people seeing my three episodes. It’s incredibly violent, incredibly crude and ass-kicking fun. CSPWDT is in George Romero’s hands now. He’s happy with the script and we’re shopping for a distribution model that works for him, for Fangoria and for me.
JGH – Do you have any advice for someone in my position (mid-thirties, plethora of job diversity and experience, about to graduate then head to grad school, love to write) who absolutely loves films but lives in a small town in Mississippi with his family and can’t really afford to move to make it in NY or LA but wants to contribute to the magic that is film in marketing, media relations, publicity or simply just writing about films?
Drew – Save some money. Buy a Canon 7D and a Zune H4N sound recorder. Some lights. And start filming. Treat it the way other guys treat golf or football. If you can manage to do that, you can post your films online, get into the community and find yourself incredibly happy. Write all the time. Film all the time. Enjoy a creative life.
Find Drew online: