The first lesson I learnt as a freelancer was to be consistent, the second was to be enthusiastic and the third was to be surprising. Consistency gets you return business, which is literally your bread and butter, enthusiasm gets you noticed when other, more reticent writers aren’t and surprise gets you remembered. The most disheartening thing any freelancer has to do from time to time is reintroduce themselves to editors and publishers they’ve already worked with multiple times and that sense of writing your name in sand, of being faceless as well as well as transient, is one of the most depressing things we can experience.
So, don’t experience it. Be surprising, take a risk, go outside your comfort zone. Trust me, you will fail, and fail badly, from time to time. But you’ll do so on your terms and a failure of over-extension is based in effort. A failure to show up is based in fear and like no less a luminary than Peter Puppy, once said, fear is the little death, fear is the mind killer that leads to total oblivion. And total oblivion is a bitch to deal with come invoice day.
So be surprising. Jerry Pyle was, and now he’s here. Jerry contacted me out of the blue on Twitter, because I work for Pseudopod and he’d just put together a short horror movie. He asked me to watch it, I did and it’s great. ‘Burn’ is a single scene, which like a lot of the very best horror on the planet, takes a common domestic dynamic and, literally in this case, puts the screws to it. Here, it’s a double header between Tim Abell as the father of a young woman and Andrew Sheffield as her boyfriend, Emory. Whether or not Dad’s happy about Emory’s status is something you find out over the course of the movie and trust me, it’s worth finding out. I’m a sucker for a good short movie, and this is a great one, implying an awful lot about what’s gone on prior to these five minutes and contrasting Dad’s relaxed, amiable dialogue with the deeply horrible things happening on screen. This is not even a little safe for work by the way, but it is absolutely worth your time. Oh also? No gore, other than a little dried blood. Here’s the movie, and beneath that, is my interview with Jerry.
What led you to film making?
I spent some time in Denmark in college and the European films I saw during my time there, starting with La Jetee and barrelling out in all directions from there, helped me realize there were other ways to use the medium than the Hollywood blockbusters I grew up watching. So I’ve always strived to make movies here in LA a little differently.
What opportunities does short film making have over longform?
I can speak to one opportunity specifically and that’s having people discover it on the web. It’s been great traveling around to festivals and meeting everyone and watching some amazing movies. But the thrill of people happening on to my film on a blog or a web site and having them react to it has been amazing. Making features has always been my goal and I think creating shorts is a great way to showcase your capability as a director.
The disadvantages to making shorts is, it’s hard to get people to truly care about them. They are so bite-sized, they’re sort of disposable. It’s both a good thing and a bad thing. It makes it easy to digest it on YouTube and Vimeo but it also makes it pretty forgettable. Which is why I tried to make my film as visually striking as possible. (Wait for it.) I’m proud of my film and how short it is. But at a festival, people are going to leave talking about that amazing feature they saw, because it took them on a journey. It’s hard to accomplish that with a short.
Which do you prefer?
Having never made a feature, I can’t say which I prefer. But since my dream is to make something feature-length, I have to think it’s way better. I would love to take the reactions people have had to my 5-minute film and repeat them fifteen or twenty times to make a feature.
Who are your influences?
Being that I spent so much time in Denmark, a lot of my influences are scandinavian. I love Ingmar Bergman movies. And Lars Von Trier is an unappreciated horror director. One of my biggest influences has been The Shining. And I love the weird retro movement that’s happening now with directors like Ti West. I don’t know if any of that is visible in my movie but I really tried to make the dialogue counterpoint to the visuals to add tension. And point to a story outside the film a la Bergman.
Burn has a nasty sense of humor. Is that something that’s important to your work?
Humor is pretty important to any work of horror I think. A good sense of what tickles people. Some of my favorite moments in horror are the ones that make me smile because I’m sick to my stomach. The best reactions to my film are the moans mixed with laughter. It’s music to my ears.
Horror’s had a hell of a couple of years, What’s stood out for you on the screen in 2012?
2012 was a good year if you like horror. On the festival circuit, I caught Dead Weight, Found, and Nailbiter by Patrick Rea out of Kansas City, a great monster movie. I also had a lot of fun with VHS and Citadel.
What are you looking forward to in 2013?
In 2013, I’m looking forward to seeing Texas Chainsaw this weekend. And the Evil Dead remake. And Carrie. I also hope to make it back to Horror Hound Indy this fall for their great festival.
What’s your next project?
I have a few projects in the works including some exciting collaborations with some prominent writers here in Los Angeles. But my first project will be another short, a haunted house movie. I’m very excited to unleash it on the world.
Drop by and say hi, he’s a great guy. Just don’t ask to borrow his vice…
Now for the fun part. I really enjoyed seeing this movie, and getting to chat to Jerry about it, so let’s make this a regular thing. Here’s how it’ll work:
If you’re a short, or indeed long, film maker and you have something that you think would work if shared here? And you’d like me to interview you about it? Let me know. I can’t promise to do this for everything I get, but things which I like and which are fun, I’ll shout from the rooftops I promise. So if you’re interested, get in touch at the contact details below. You bring the movies, I’ll bring the talk. It’ll be fun.