Interview with directing team behind Five Across the Eyes
5th May 08
Five Across The Eyes is the relentless and in-your-face shocker that confounds expectations and delivers the chills that our present world of PG-13 horror and dodgy remakes can only hope for. Eatmybrains had the honour of chatting with the two talented directors Ryan Thiessen and Greg Swinson about their debut feature.
EatmyBrains: First of all fellas I have to say I really enjoyed the movie. I liked the way it took the genre convention of teenagers lost in the middle of nowhere and then subverted our expectations.
Ryan Thiessen (RT) : Very cool. Glad you dug it!
EMB: What were your inspirations in terms of coming up with the storyline for Five across the Eyes?
Greg Swinson (GS) : The original story was taken from an old script written by a film school buddy of mine named Marshall Hicks. His version was more of a Hollywood budget horror film along the lines of Duel, where you never see the driver of the car chasing them. We took the concept and rewrote it to fit our vision and budget constraints.
EMB: In terms of the horror genre what movies got you interested in picking up a camera and making your own?
RT : Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original), Halloween (original), and Evil Dead probably had the biggest impact. They are all really great films that were made from very little resources.
GS : Tourist Trap. I saw it when I was really young, and it scared the crap out of me. The slasher genre in general has always intrigued me. The story can be so simple, but when done right, extremely effective.
EMB: I read that you worked together in a Tennessee college video department. Is this how you guys first met?
RT: Greg and I have been friends since high school. We were both in Boy Scouts and Greg was looking for people to help him make a movie based on the video game Mortal Kombat to be shot on his parents’ VHS camera. I was asked to help and we’ve been working together ever since.
EMB: How did you go about raising the money to produce the flick?
RT: It was really just as simple as Greg and I going to the bank and withdrawing money from our own savings accounts. For the principle photography, we only spent about $4000.00 USD. None of the actors were paid a salary and the entire crew consisted of 3 people, Greg, a sound/camera guy, and myself. We had some friends help us here and there, but it we pretty much begged, borrowed, and stole everything we needed. It’s not a tactic that I recommend to any filmmaker.
EMB: The movie was shot in nine days and obviously involved a lot of location work at night. With all the screaming were there complaints from residents in the locality or were you really out in the sticks?
GS: Uhh… we were in the sticks.
RT: Actually, one night we filmed for several hours in front of a house that we took to be abandoned. Then, we found out the next night that there was a couple that lived in the house. Apparently, they get pretty drunk every night, so any amount of noise didn’t bother them.
EMB: How were the roles cast? Given your limited budget were the actors friends or were the roles auditioned for?
GS: We did some casting calls online and some local auditions and filled the roles. Then, 24 hours before we were set to shoot, one of the actresses dropped out so we asked a friend of ours, Sandra Paduch, to fill the final role.
RT: Yeah, we actually had a total of 3 actresses drop out of the project after reading the script. So, that was a bit of an issue for us.
EMB: In terms of directing did you each take on specific aspects in terms of calling the shots?
RT: Well, yes and no. We pretty much discussed everything and figured out all the creative stuff beforehand. Then on set, Greg would work more closely with the actors and I would work more on the technical aspects.
EMB: Was the movie entirely scripted or were the cast allowed to improvise based on a given scenario?
GS: It was entirely scripted. The only thing that might be ad lib was the amount of screaming.
EMB: When Caroline spits out a couple of teeth I have read these are in fact not only real but were pulled from one of your sisters by a dentist prior to shooting. Was the scene of Caroline seen spitting these out actually in the script or did you guys write this in to make good on this and were there other incidents where you made good on situations by incorporating them into your picture?
GS: It was actually in the script.
RT: We were trying to figure out how to make or buy some fake teeth, but then it just so happened Greg’s sister had to get some pulled. So, we made sure she asked the dentist if she could keep them. Problem solved.
Although Angela, who played Caroline, had a bad habit of chewing on the teeth in between takes, which almost made me vomit for some reason.
EMB: In this day and age when anything goes in terms of screen violence was your choice of having the more shocking moments play off screen a reaction to this?
RT: Sort-of. Personally, I feel that on screen violence can be very effective. As long as it serves a great story. The reason we steered away from it in FATE was partially due to budget constraints. Plus, it seemed much more effective to let the audience’s imagination run with some of the more horrific moments in the story.
EMB: On the DVD extras there is a clip of police turning up as you were filming and asking what was going on. Allegedly the officers pulled their guns on Veronica Garcia as she was covered in blood that they wouldn’t have known at the time was fake. How did that situation resolve itself?
RT: Greg and I were almost arrested, but then we just explained that we were making a movie and they let us go. Apparently, there had been some break-ins in the area and that’s why the police were called in the first place. When they realized that we weren’t stealing things or killing people, they just wanted to hang out and watch us shoot.
GS: Of course, having a van full of charming young ladies certainly helped things out. I’m just glad they didn’t show up during the scene where the villain makes the girls take off their clothes…
EMB: I understand that the white van driven by the villain belongs to one of your mothers. How did she react upon seeing the finished movie and finally saw what you guys were getting up to in her van?
RT: The van was owned by Greg’s mom and part of raising Greg was putting up with us making movies in her house which resulted in holes being put in walls, the garage being set on fire (a couple of times), windows being broken and all kinds of countless “accidents”.
GS: So really, a blood soaked van was nothing.
EMB: And finally guys, what’s next?
GS: Something with a lot less screaming.
RT: Another horror film for sure, but that’s all I can say for now!