Interview with Brad Dourif and Brian Metcalf from Fading of the Cries
I had a chance to interview Brad Dourif, the main force of evil in the upcoming film Fading of the Cries, and Brian Metcalf, the film's writer and director, so of course I took it. The film also stars Thomas Ian Nicholas, Elaine Hendrix, and Mackenzie Rossman, among others. It's a story about an evil magician raising hordes of demonic undead in pursuit of a young woman with an artifact he wants. Her only protection is a young man with a samurai sword. Here's the conversation between Brian, Brad, and myself:
Me: Why did you pick horror as the way to tell the story?
Brian: I don't consider this a straight-up horror film to be honest with you. It definitely has a lot of horror elements, but it's a very fantastical film. I call it a fantasy/horror, more or less. I certainly feel that the use of horror is a great way to get out emotions, and for people to go on this exciting, roller coaster ride. And people like to be scared a lot of times, too; it plays on our primal fears.
Brad: Well, I think it is about monsters; there's no way to tell this story without it being horror. The story is pushed by someone who is absolutely and completely consumed with the need to avenge some injustice. And that's horror. That makes him a monster, and horror films are about monsters.
Me: Was there anything you wanted to avoid in the movie to avoid classification into one thing or another?
Brian: We wanted to avoid a lot of stereotypes. We wanted to try to give something that viewers hadn't seen before, and hopefully we're achieving that. We've taken the story with different twists and turns to it than what is typical in certain ways. And we didn't want the monster, which is actually Brad's character...what's so frightening about his character is not only is he a frightening creature, but he's very intelligent. And I think a lot of creatures that are not intelligent aren't as scary in certain ways because they can be outwitted.
Brad: Yeah, I think that nails it.
Me: Brad, when you're playing a character like that, is it possible to identify with the character? Or do you just have fun with it?
Brad: Of course. Absolutely. I mean, you can't identify with being absolutely consumed by revenge, but I at have at least three or four times a day a revenge fantasy. (laughs)
Brian: And the thing with Brad is that he's such an intense actor, he was actually the first pick for this character when I first came up with it years ago. I was really happy to have him. And I had a certain idea for what I wanted with this character, but Brad took it to a whole new level that I couldn't even imagine, which was really impressive to me.
Me: Brad, did you bring that higher level from past characters you've played, or out of your head?
Brad: I think what's Brian's talking about is that I've raised a family, I'm a grandfather, I really like children...you know, I've certainly dealt with a lot of teenagers, heartbreaks, and all the slings and arrows that young people have to deal with as a father. And there's an aspect of that character that I was able to fill in a way that I don't think Brian really had anticipated. Which kind of made him a little bit...you don't see much of it, but you do see it in flashes that he really knows how to talk very directly to people, and he has a surprising amount of empathy, which he uses. But only in the way that he chooses to deal with people; he's not actually empathetic. There's no bargaining with this guy, that's why he's a monster. He is going to destroy you.
Brian: And another thing about that: one thing I was really impressed with is that I've seen Brad in so many movies, and I had an idea of how he would play this character, and I thought, OK, he's going to do this or this or that. But he added in certain subtleties to the acting that I didn't expect, and certain tweaks and personality traits that this character has that I was really excited about and impressed with, that he followed continuously throughout the film.
Me: So what does the title mean?
Brad: "Fading of the Cries" refers to the cries that are dying out in the town around them. It's got a poetic feel to it, and it's actually used in the film.
Me: Brian, you said the story was based on your own personal experiences. Do you identify with both Michael and Jill, or both, or neither? (My note: I meant to be talking about the two main protagonists, but I was confusing character names. I should have been referring to Jacob and Jill.)
Brian: What I was saying was that there are certain characters based off of people that I know. I can't say that I've known people running around from a bunch of...(breaks off laughing)
Me: (laughing) Well, yeah.
Brian: But certainly, the ways in which people that I know would act in certain situations, I tried to follow that through as much as possible.
Me: So you're basing your characters on real people in those situations.
Brian: Real situations and their personalities for sure. Again, most of the characters I based on different people that I've known throughout my life, and from knowing them so well when they were having problems with stress, or this or that, I always took note of how they acted, and thought, OK, how would this person act in this situation?
Me: How would you characterize your style as a director?
Brian: I'm very hands-on, but at the same time I think the actors came up with a lot of great ideas themselves. Filmmaking in a lot of ways is a very collaborative effort, and what I was just talking about with Brad is a perfect example. Brad and I had a number of conversations beforehand on what I wanted for his character, and he was able to do that, but he was also able to give it his own life and his feel to it. So for me, as long as I'm getting my main vision across, that's what's most important. But I had to act on the visual side very much so, because this is a visual-effects-intensive film. So I had to act on both fronts: on the directing and making sure that not only visually it was working right, but also storywise and emotionally.
Brad: You know, the film has a thousand visual effects. The budget was really weighted toward CGI, so that when we went in and shot, we had to shoot very, very quickly, because our shooting budget was bare-bones. So once we got a rhythym, it was all about getting it done as quickly and as well as we possibly could. And, you know, what we couldn't do, or couldn't get, or would have liked to have done on a slower shoot, just fell out.
Brian: And I think another part of that was that the scenes were so action-based, there was a lot of fighting in the movie. A lot action and running around with multiple characters where we had to choreograph those types of scenes. They weren't just simple talking scenes or things like that, that's part of the complexity behind it. So there would be visual-effects intensive scenes with a lot of fighting choreography with multiple people. That's why we wouldn't have as much time as if it were a normal talking scene.
Me: So I saw a couple scenes in the trailer where the heroes are being chased by a large mob. What was the highest number of extras you had in a scene at once?
Brian: Whoah, well, we had a lot, but I don't have an actual number.
Brad: We didn't have a crowd of thousands, but you know, you use people and then fill in with CGI, and that's what you can do. You have to have the reports for the day to figure out how many people there really were.
Brian: This is a shout out to the great people that volunteered for this movie. We had a lot of great zombies come in for a day or whatever, and all we did was feed them. And they waited around the whole day, and they were just fantastic. You know, they waited around in heavy makeup, and I know it was uncomfortable for them. There were long shoots, and they were really go-getters, wanting to make it as cool as possible.
Me: I'm sure they were having a blast.
Brad: Yeah, some people really like being zombies.
Me: What moments from the making of the film stick out in your mind?
Brian: Oh, there are so many great moments. There were a lot of really great scenes, and I thought a great scene was when our lead actos, Brad and this other actor, Jordan Matthews, were doing sword fighting in the attic. I thought that was a really fun scene to watch, and I enjoyed it a lot.
Brad: Yeah, we rehearsed a lot with swords, but when we shot, we had to choreograph very, very quickly. We learned things by numbers: he would say "5", you know, he would shout out these mysterious numbers, and we would do that, and then we would do it again, and shoot it. And what shocked my was how quickly that went. I wasn't expecting it to be that easy. And nobody got hurt!
Brian: What's great is...you can't say this when you're seeing it on camera, but when you're seeing it right there, I had known that the two of them had been rehearsing, and some of our other actors had been rehearsing for a long time on the choreography, but when you actually got to physically see it when we called "action," it's just really exciting, because they used real swords. You know, they weren't sharp or anything, but they used real swords and they really went at it with each other. It was just really cool to see it. They really had their craft down, and it's like, Hey, you're not just flinging swords, and you can see a real pace to it and choreography to it. They were real sword experts by the time the film was ready to shoot. (laughs)
Brad: Not really, but we were certainly able to do the choreography.
Me: How much experience had you had with sword fighting, Brad?
Brad: (laughs) Zero. I've done a lot of fight scenes, God knows.
Me: But not with swords?
Brad: I've never taken a martial arts course, and I've never fought with swords, for some reason, I don't know why. But it's just never happened. I've fired a lot of weapons. Killed a lot of people. (laughs)
Brian: I think you enjoyed walking around with your cane sword too, didn't you? It looked like you had fun.
Brad: Yeah, that was fun, that was fun. All that was kind of fun.
Brian: I would see Brad after we called "cut," still walking around...
Brad: (laughs) That's what I do, I always walk around in character.
Me: You do that just while you're on the set?
Brad: Yeah, you know, if I'm doing an English accent, I keep the accent a lot of times. Not on this one, because I've done the English accent enough, but for instance when I was doing Lord of the Rings and I was just learning it, I spoke with an English accent 100% of the time. When I was talking to my girlfriend on the phone, ordering something, you know, there was never a moment until I finished when I didn't have the accent. And that's just the way I do it. And for that character I had to, because there's something very English about the way he thinks. And the way the English speak, and their emphasis on words, is very different than we Americans. We care much more about the functionality of speaking, and they care a lot more about use of language.
Me: Does the movie borrow at all from any kind of mythology, or is it completely from imagination?
Brian: A lot of it is made up, but I did a lot of research on demonology and necromancy, because Brad plays a necromancer, and so I wanted to make it based on some real history or some true mythology so I did do a lot of research on that.
Me: What do you have coming up?
Brian: We're going to be working on another project, coincidentally enough, called Black Lands, because we worked so well off this movie together, and we both have a love for anime. In Fading you'll see that there's a strong anime influence in that as well, in certain ways.
Me: I know that Michael has a samurai sword, right?
Brian: The Jacob character has a sword, and there are certain shots that are very fantasy-esque, like the characters walking with a giant Moon behind them, and things like that.
Me: So when's the movie coming out?
Brian: Well, we're still trying to determine that. It's coming out internationally in different places, in regions that we've already pre-sold, but we have yet to show it to domestic distributers because we have yet to finish it. We are at the very end of finsihing it now; all post-production is color-timed and finished. So hopefully soon!
Me: That's all the questions I had, do you have anything you want to add?
Brian: They just released a brand-new trailer out on iTunes, and I wanted to thank a few of the bands who have allowed us to use their music, for different reasons. We have a new music video with Helmet coming out here soon, and the actors that are in the film are in the video as well. And I wanted to thank Sarah McLachlan and Conjure One as well; Conjure One's song is used on the new trailer.
Me: OK, thanks a lot guys.
Brad and Brian: Thank you.
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