In March 2017, Seraph Films will be releasing GAMES OF CHANCE, a quirky thriller about two questionably skilled hit-men, who discover that their profession comes with unexpected challenges. GAMES OF CHANCE stars Jonathan Erickson Eisley and David Fraioli.
Finally, Seraph plans to release THE BETWIXT KILLER in April. This bizarre, mysterious crime thriller features an off-beat reporter on the hunt for a major scoop, only to discover that he’s become a part of the crime he was investigating. THE BETWIXT KILLER stars John C. Epperson, Nicholas Jacqua, Bob Mclean, and Lyle Kanouse. All three short films are directed by Gene Blalock, owner of Seraph Films.
We had a chance to speak with Gene Blalock about directing! Check the interview below.
Your films are mostly based in the horror genre. You’ve created several shorts that have a strong emphasis on character and storytelling. Tell us about your love for horror.
While horror certainly isn’t all that I do, it has been a big part of my filmmaking career. I never set out to be a horror director; in fact most of my favorite films are not horror at all. I grew up watching shows, like THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE OUTER LIMITS, old DR. WHO reruns, and the universal monster movies. I was always attracted to those stories, even when they would scare the hell out of me.
Halloween was always the biggest holiday at our house growing up. I think my father had a fondness for the obscure and he would go all out for the holiday. He would spend weeks converting our house into a haunted graveyard and my mother would dress up as a witch and serve hot chocolate out of an iron caldron, to all the neighborhood trick-or-treaters. You couldn’t get away with that today, but those are some of my favorite childhood memories.
When I started making films, it was just natural that I would want to make the type of films that intrigued me when I was younger. I think horror, like any other genre, without story or character does not really work. If you do not care for the character or the situation they are in, then you cannot have empathy for them – you can’t be scared for them in any real, meaningful way. So I think it’s important to have strong characters in a compelling story, regardless of genre.
Horror, because it relies on empathy, is suited to indie filmmaking in a way that a period drama or a science fiction film could never be. You don’t need extravagant sets or expensive special effects, necessarily, to tell a good horror tale. You need characters that people can believe and sympathize with. To me, that makes it accessible. Beyond this, horror is expected to be a bit “outside the lines” – which really appeals to my quirky side and lets me explore as a film maker. In many ways, it makes horror films an ideal medium for my creativity.
I had recently met Jhan, the writer of INDICTMENT and we wanted to do a project together. He mentioned that he had this idea for a short Vampire film. Since I had not really directed a true vampire story, yet, I was intrigued. After Jhan mentioned that the film would address current social issues, I got even more excited. I like films that make you think or help raise awareness within the story.
We held a casting call for talent and we were really fortunate to find the cast we did. Derrick Scott really brought sincerity to the role to play opposite Robert Starr’s crass character. After working with Andrew Adams, Jhan and I liked what he brought to his character so much that we decided to add the prologue scene just to see more of him.
Can you discuss the processes and influences of working on a horror film?
We (Seraph Films) are a bit unconventional in how we approach our films, especially our shorts. We tend to write the scripts knowing our limitations. In opposition to how it’s normally done, where you write the script, figure out how much it will cost to make the film, raise money, and so on, we will look at what we have available, our number of days to shoot, locations, budgets, gear, and crew. Then, we will craft the story to work within those constraints. We try to tell the best story we can, knowing that we can’t always tell as large of a story as we might otherwise. This dynamic has allowed us to make as many films as we have and has certainly challenged us as filmmakers and story tellers.
You prefer the psychological side of horror, not just the gore. Talk to us about this.
I am not the traditional horror fan. I don’t mind blood and such, but it can’t be gratuitous. It has to be earned. To me psychological terror is far more effective than any gore we can throw at the audience. Fear is such a primal and genuine emotion. As a director, it allows me great latitude to not show something and let the audience create it in their minds. Think back to Jaws. You only needed to hear those two notes of the score to start getting uncomfortable. It was far more scary not seeing the shark, but just knowing he was there lurking and waiting.
As I mentioned before, having a compelling story with characters you care about allows the audience to be even more terrified than they normally would.
Let’s talk the famous Horror Haiku series. Tell us how it started.
Horror Haiku is a web series where viewers submit creepy haikus for the chance to have them produced into a short horror vignette. A haiku is a Japanese poem of seventeen syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five.
A few years back, we were hired to do a web series for a popular YouTube channel based on a short action film I wrote and directed. When that series concluded, we realized we had learned a lot about delivering weekly content and thought it may be something fun to do for our own channel. Naturally we gravitated towards the macabre. After we discussed it with James Boring, he came back with the concept for HORROR HAIKU. It’s a fun way for us to interact with our audience. We took a break from the series after four seasons, but the timing seems right to start it up, again, this time with a connected universe to the feature we are producing.
I’ve always found an odd connect between horror and comedy, so this seemed to be the perfect balance of the two. You can find out more at www.horrorhaiku.com.
It’s obvious you prefer films that have something to say, films that make you feel and think. Are there any projects you’re working on that we should look out for?
Apart from Horror Haiku, we are in pre-production on a feature we will announce soon. It’s more of a drama or thriller than straight horror. As most of our more recent work, it has a deeper message than just the story being told on the screen. It should be shot and ready to take to theaters by the end of the year.
What drives your passion to keep making films?
I don’t really see it as a choice. I have to be creative. I could not survive, if I had to get up every day and go to work in a cubicle for 8 hours a day. I’d lose my mind. I’ve been fortunate enough to not have to do that and to be able to be creative for a living. The world is a pretty bleak place at times, so it’s important to try to find the beauty in it, and create things that leave a legacy that hopefully help make other people’s lives a little more entertaining and perhaps even provoke them to consider new ideas.
If there was a story you could tell, what would it be?
There are countless stories I want to tell. Many which will have to wait until we have larger budgets. A while back, we shot a teaser for a film called, THE SHADOW GUIDE. Even though it’s a sci-fi / horror film on the surface, the main character has to overcome her shortcomings in order to save humanity. She has to find self-worth and see the good in the world – many of the same issues I struggle with quite regularly. I hope to one day make that into a feature.
What’s next in your career?
As I mentioned, right now, it’s our feature film. Hopefully that will allow new opportunities to make bigger films. As for accomplishments in the next five years, as long as I can keep making films, I will be mostly happy.
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