Saturday, March 21, 2015

Interview with Indie Horror Producer Matt Medisch of The October People

*Matt Medisch is the producer of such fare as The Invoking and the recently released The Device.  He is part of the development team for The October People, a Seattle-based production company focused on making indie horror - one of our favorite things here at Fascination with Fear.
I recently got a chance to chat with this lifelong horror fan who has turned his obsession into his career. 

First off, what made you want to get into movie production and why this genre?
I’m a lifelong fan of films and I was always drawn specifically to horror films.  I grew up on serial slashers like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street.  I was haunted for years by films like The Shining and The Changeling and shows like Unsolved Mysteries and the Time Life books on the paranormal just fascinated me.  I even loved to read King and Lovecraft so I guess when it was time to make our first film, horror just seemed like the natural first step.   As far as making movies in the first place I more so fell into it with the guys.  Me and Jeremy Berg (director of The Invoking and The Device) had known each other for years and collaborated off and on over writing.  One night we just decided that it was time to make a feature film, and let nothing stop us.  We soon brought the ideas to John and The October People came to life.

  How do you think THE DEVICE differs from other sci-fi fare? 
Unlike the DVD box art might suggest The Device was never meant to rely on big special effects.  It was a classic horror story that we knew could rely on the characters and most of the horror being implied or happening off screen.  I think that flies in the face of much larger sci-fi films that can often rely on complex visuals, set decoration or monster FX. Jeremy has a very classic approach to film making that blends modern ideas with classic elements that I love. That also means that it won’t cost us an arm and a leg to tell the story.  We can let the actors take the lead not the FX.  In some ways shooting independent films this small forces you to be creative and make a film you want to see with the tools that you have.  As a producer I do love the challenge.

  In my mind, what you don't see in a horror film is much more frightening than what is thrown out in front of you. THE DEVICE employs this tactic throughout most of its running time. Do you think that is more effective for the audience of a sci-fi film? 
I have come to learn that it’s very hard to say what an audience will or won’t like.  There is a huge audience segment out there for in your face FX driven Sci-fi and honestly the slow pace of films requiring the audience to use its imagination drives them crazy.  That being said we tend to make films for ourselves and we are long time Sci-fi and horror fans, film fans.  I believe pretty strongly in the fact that the horrors someone can imagine are always more powerful than what we can show you.  You could give me 10 times the budget to work with and I would still push for the type of filmmaking that includes the audience, makes them think, imagine and not just view.

           As in THE INVOKING, this film develops the characters right away, giving way to emotional upheavals and particularly in THE DEVICE, a whole lot of stress. Though trying to stay a "family unit", the baggage that everyone brings really dredges up a lot of bad memories and unforgiven mistakes. Was it difficult to merge the family drama with the impending doom of the alien aspect? 
I don’t feel like it was, for us it goes hand in hand.  With a well written character life happens before and after the inciting incident of a film.  It only makes sense that that life would continue to play out and effect the characters reactions and judgments to the wild forces and events of the film.  If you make your characters as real as possible, with history, baggage and issues then you can toss them into almost any situation no matter how unreal and they will react in a natural way.  The actors bring a lot of this to the forefront.  You can’t always shoot enough of the drama to explain the characters so often it’s done in small reactions, looks and unspoken moments.

The lack of action does set this movie apart from many others, though it is refreshing to have a different perspective in this sub-genre. What is not shown ends up being scarier than what we do see. Do you wish you'd have showed more, or are you satisfied with the end result?
In a film like The Device, a truly independent film with a very small budget, you do always wish you could do more.  At the core, fundamentally “what is not shown ends up being scarier” is something we do live by to a degree.  That being said in script there is a little bit “more” of everything.  We had huge time constraints on this shoot and the director was forced to cut pages and thin out some of the action elements.  Original ideas for the film did have a bit more alien interaction, more with The Device and more detail surrounding the unborn child story line.  These are things that you lose to restrictive budgets and shooting schedules but I was always impressed with how the team could flex around this and make the most of each of the scenes.  I’m a realist and I know as well as anyone the challenges we faced in getting this film done. Because of that I am happy with the end result and proud of this little Alien horror film.  Our cast was just fantastic and I will always enjoy watching them go to work on screen.

      The music was one of my favorite parts of the film. It was both chilling and subtle. Joseph Molner brought something extra in scoring this movie- the music became a character itself. What led to your collaboration? 
I’m a big fan of scores in films so as a producer I’m always willing to support the team in this area.  We had collaborated with Joseph on our first film The Invoking and when it came time for Jeremy’s second film he wanted to work with him again.  They understood each other and with a compressed production timeline that is invaluable.  Jeremy had already spent the time collaborating with Joseph so we could really let him run with the device score and he nailed it.  Jeremy was able to give minimal direction and still get what he wanted from the score.  They seem to be a great fit and we hope to work with him again.

    Production seemed bare-bones but really commanded a creepy feel. Was it just convenience that led you to that location? It had an eerie, early-X-Files feel to it.
Production was bare-bones and we got really lucky when it came to locations.  Often times you don’t have a lot of options but when you scout for a film like The Device you know you only get what’s there.  You have minimal time and budget for set decoration.  Using homes and locations with built in character helps.  I will also give a lot of credit to Jeremy here as the Cinematographer and Chris our Gaffer.  You give someone like that a place with character and he/she can bend it visually to support the feel you want.  I know everyone is glad for the X-Files comparison.    

        Ok, so what WAS The Device? Someone's old Magic 8 ball??
Wow where were you when we were prepping to film?  An old Magic 8 ball would have been a great idea!
This was so much harder that it seemed and hours were spent in a Seattle basement just days before the shoot making about 6 “Devices” for shooting.
Let’s just say this Producer, our Grip and a very nice experienced Painter/Employee at Michael’s helped make it a reality.
That’s the official story for insurance purposes anyway.  The real origin is strictly off the record.

       I was really impressed with THE INVOKING - it was a real slice of slow-burning horror that was both thought-provoking and creepy.  The atmosphere is what I loved best about the film, it's such a rare thing in horror these days.  Is that what The October People is striving for?  Because both THE INVOKING and THE DEVICE have it in droves.
Thank you, it’s great that so many people like yourself have seen and felt that.  For years we would talk about, “where did the atmosphere go in films” - especially in horror.  Did it come from film grain, the locations, the score?  We do strive for that, I know as a director it’s a huge element Jeremy wants his films to be rich in.  So yes we strive to have as much as possible.  It will always be an important element in our films, though admittedly it can be elusive at times.

FOUND was one of my favorites last year.  What led to your acquiring the film and getting it released?
The same thing that probably made this one of your favorite films of that year.  Found was special, low budget and as far away from Hollywood as you could ever imagine yet Scott and team made some indie horror movie magic!  We were lucky enough to play side by side with Found in the 2013 International Horror and Sci-fi film festival at the Phoenix film festival.  Found snatched the best horror feature award and rocked my world on the big screen.  It was here I met Scott, Leya and some of the key team behind the film.  They are a great group of filmmakers and we kept in close contact.  This was one of the classic stories of independent filmmakers sticking together and helping each other.  We acquired Found because I believed we could use our experience and connections in the business side of the game to help and save the guys from running the gauntlet of domestic films sales alone.  I personally just feel lucky and honored that we could help and continue to work together to this date.

 Okay, I'll admit - I'm a Bigfoot fan.  How is production on VALLEY OF THE SASQUATCH coming along?  What is the predicted release date - or when will it start at festivals?   

As am I!  I’m really excited for everyone to see Valley of the Sasquatch.  Valley went though it’s final stages of post-production late last year and is just starting it’s festival run.  We premiered at the Nevermore Film festival at the end of February and just got word we will be going to The Crimson Screen Horror Film Fest alongside Headless.  We will be releasing more festival announcements soon.  People interested can follow along on our Facebook page or at

 What else do we have to look forward to from The October People?
It’s been a wild ride for us from when we decided to get together and make our first film, once called Sader Ridge, but we have a packed 2015 and hope to get the team behind the cameras again on a few projects soon.  Late last year we teamed up with GUT writer/director Elias for his next feature, currently entitled A.  It’s a toughly creepy, seductive, dark and disturbing story about obsession and loss.  We are also looking into a few ideas to reach back to the community of horror film makers and get involved with bringing more great indie film work to light.  More information on our projects will always show up on our webpage and via Facebook. 

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