Director Josh Eisenstadt is a man with a lot of strings to his bow. Along with directing, Josh has been an actor, writer, producer, editor and even found time to do a little sound work on the side.
We talked to Josh about his latest feature Dark Reel, a comedy horror which stars Edward Furlong, Lance Henricksen and Candyman himself, Tony Todd, as well as cult actress Rena Riffell, interviewed elsewhere by EatmyBrains.
First off we asked Josh to clarify whether this was in fact his first feature film as a director, as other websites have it listed as such.
Josh It actually was my third feature as a director. I did two before that were extremely low budget called Specter's Rock and Red Lightning I feel that those really trained me for my work on Dark Reel.
I also shot an opening scene as a demo for the next feature I am doing called Inner Balance which also stars Rena Riffel. All these led me to Dark Reel. I love directing feature films. I have known I wanted to do this professionally since I was six and I am beyond happy when I am working on a film.
EMB Looking on Imdb.com you have a lot of strings to your bow? Which aspect of film work to date have you found the most rewarding?
Josh Definitely directing. I have done some acting work mainly for friends and to learn the craft of directing from the other side. But I am not an actor. I do a lot of editing and also love it. But there is nothing like seeing your vision come to life on the big screen as a director.
EMB What lead to the involvement of Edward Furlong, Lance Henricksen and Tony Todd? Was it a conscious casting choice or did they hear about the project and seek you out?
Josh Lance and Tony I knew I wanted to cast early on. The producers and casting director secured them by contacted their agents. They got the script and my Inner Balance, demo and wanted to do it. Ed was a suggestion of the Casting Director, Joe Lorenzo and he was able to secure him for the project.
EMB What horror movies have influenced your work and which do you consider to be your favourites?
Josh I have seen many horror films and love the classics such as Halloween and Psycho but I am more influenced by works that are more psychological, edgy, noirish and/or off beat by directors such as Lynch, Kubrick, Polanski, Hitchcock, Wilder and the Coen Brothers.
EMB Is it correct to think that the events that play out at the start were based on actual events? If this is the case how much of that was changed to fit the plot?
Josh It actually wasn't based on real events. However, in the 40's and 50's there were several unsolved murders of actresses in Hollywood, some famous and some not so famous. Many of these crimes remain unsolved today. This definitely was an influence on the Scarlett May story line.
EMB Are characters, such as the onion eating Rhett Johnson, played with debonair aplomb by Jake Grace, based on people you have come across, as well as the sound guy who goes ballistic with enthusiasm every time he gets the sound recorded right on set?
Josh These characters are not based on any specific person but you definitely run into extremes while working on a film. There is such a time crunch and so much is at stake. It definitely brings out extremes in many people. These characters are only slightly exaggerated from what really goes on.
As far as Bandanna Man (the sound guy) goes, it actually is very exciting when you get the sound recorded and mixed properly. It is such a key and often overlooked element of film production, but when you are tuned into it, it is very thrilling when you keep the audio from distorting. I have literally cheered good sound before myself!
EMB What’s the story with the movie within the movie Gnome Killer?
JoshGnome Killer is one of my favourites. I had to have a cheesy movie within a movie to establish Connor Pritchett's (Lance Henriksen's character's) company and just had the idea for this shrine of Gnomes. There would be a 6 foot tall man with a white beard pasted on who believes he is a gnome and attacks anybody with a garden gnome on their front lawn. It all came out of that.
Then for the DVD release we shot The Making of Gnome Killer 2 where we see Rena Riffel's character Detective LaRue having a role in Gnome Killer 2 alongside Cassie Blue (Tiffany Shepis). We see that Cassie's character has taken quite a change. It takes place two years after the events of Dark Reel and is a Spinal-tappish, Christopher Guest style mockumentary. I am very happy with this short!
EMB The scenes between Lance Henriksen and his lady assistant feel very Twin Peaks in tone with her repeating everything he says without much of a trace of emotion. Was this intentional?
Josh Being Twin Peaks in tone was not intentional, but I do love Twin Peaks so it likely could be an unconscious influence.
EMB What led to make-up legend Rick Baker's appearance as a pirate?
Josh Rick was a friend of David Forline, the producer who is also a blacksmith and made swords for many big films. One day I met him with David while he was looking at Dragon Dronet's (who plays the Gnome Killer) armour collection and David Forline's swords. Rick asked out of nowhere "Do you have a part for an old guy like me?" and I jumped up and shouted "Yes!!!!" It was a very exciting moment. Rick is a great guy, very humble and low key which is amazing I mean the guy has I think seven Oscars!!
EMB Where did you find THAT mask for the killer?
Josh The mask was made by Mel Tooker, head of our Special Effects Department. It was modelled off the face of Scarlett May and was supposed to have a rotting flesh look to it. Then we added the blond wig to match Scarlett's hair.
EMB You worked on Trasharella in the Sound Department and as a Producer. Is this when you approached Rena Riffel for the role of Detective LaRue?
Josh Actually, Trasharella was shot while Dark Reel was being mixed. Rena directed, shot, starred in, scored and edited the film! She did an amazing job! It is a horror musical and extremely fun and original! The music is great and Rena's performance is amazing.
I was very happy to be involved in this great project. We had a lot of fun working on the post sound and putting in the 70's style film look. The film is available at www.renariffel.com and amazon.com and also at amoeba records. I highly recommend it!
EMB The movie has been very well received at festivals winning the Best Actress award for Tiffany Shepis at the Chicago Horror Film Festival and the 'Best of the Fest' at the Arizona Underground Film Festival. Is there any particular award won so far that means the most to you?
Josh Just seeing Dark Reel on the big screen at a festival with an audience is always a treat and an honour onto it itself. Winning an award is the icing on the cake. The most fun award was probably the Best Picture one at Dark Carnival in Indianapolis because it was the first one we won!
EMB Will there be a sequel? And if so what direction would the plot take?
Josh There may be a sequel. It won't be next, but I do have it outlined. It is a totally different type of film. It is not so much a horror film as it is a thriller in the style of James Ellroy. It would go back and forth from a prequel where you find out what really happened to Scarlett May and a sequel where Detectives Shields and LaRue are on the case. LaRue, Shields, Scarlett, Cassie and Tanya along with two new characters would be the main cast. Scarlett May may not have been killed by Connor Pritchett as most assume from watching Dark Reel......
EMB What can you tell us about your next feature Inner Balance?
JoshInner Balance is a very soulful, noirish psychological mystery in the middle of an off-the map Desert town called Aroma Vista. Rena will be starring in this along with some Dark Reel alums such as Tony Todd and Tiffany Shepis. We are currently seeking out some other big name actors also and will have updates soon.
Also, Rena Riffel and I have started the Rena Riffel Josh Eisenstadt Movie Company, and will be working on another project together tentatively called Magic Hour which has to do with a film critic who takes a trip to Spain for a film festival and wakes up on a beach in Italy with no idea how she got there. But first up is Inner Balance. We will be shooting this year and gearing up for pre-production soon. I am very excited about this project!
EMB Thanks Josh! The best of luck for the future and here’s looking forward to Inner Balance.