Brian Metcalf Interview

Brian MetcalfBrian Metcalf is the director, writer, producer, editor and visual effects supervisor on fantasy-horror film Fading of the Cries. Not released anywhere yet and having only just finished the post production on it, Gorepress’s Boston Haverhill had the pleasure of talking to Brian before Fading of the Cries hits the big screen… or any screen, for that matter.

Talking from California, Brian comes across as affable, enthusiastic, smart and a genuine lover of the medium he’s committed himself to work in.

As Fading of the Cries might be a large number of months away from a UK release, here’s the awesome trailer below to tease and excite you – and also help understand what Brian and Boston are talking about!

See below as Brian Metcalf discusses zombies, schedule-raping fires, the nightmare of funding, using CGI, his film addiction, UK distribution and a very angry Brad Dourif

GOREPRESS: How did you get the idea for Fading of the Cries?

BRIAN METCALF: Well, the idea came about because I’ve always been a huge fan of zombies and the undead and horror films and fantasy movies and everything like that, so the idea came about when I was really young – I remember being a huge fan of George Romero and Lucio Fulci and all the undead films, and also being a fan of superheroes, so I wanted to combine and mix around the different genres.

GP: Why is it called Fading of the Cries?

BM: It relates to a scene in the film. Fading of the Cries refers to the cries of the townspeople as they’re fading out, as they’re dying.

GP: This is your first feature film, correct?

BM: Yes it is.

GP: Your previous work includes directing 24: The Board Game, is that right?

BM: Yeah.

GP: How did you go from directing a board game to creating Fading of the Cries?

BM: I’d been a creative director, working on a lot of films, and I’ve been a visual effects supervisor on a lot of things. I had always wanted to do film myself, and get my hand in and learn about all the different genres and fields and so forth. I wrote my script and showed it to investors and eventually they bid on it.

GP: Is that how it normally goes? You have to fight for it?

BM: Honestly, we had been fighting to get this movie made since 1999. I’d actually made a trailer for the film in 2002 with Thomas Ian Nicholas, who’s also in the film. We were showing it around to investors and around that time we actually came close a few times to getting funding, and then – for whatever reason – they dropped out.

GP: That must have been frustrating.

BM: Yeah, it’s been very frustrating. It’s been an off and on and off and on and finally, back in 2007, investors said they’d love to do it and we started production in 2008.

GP: What have you found that’s the toughest part of the film industry, for you personally?

BM: Apart from funding? [Laughs] Everything else has been a cakewalk. I’m assuming the whole distribution thing will be it’s own difficult task, but now we have sales agents for that, who are working on that for us. I think the funding is always the most difficult part of all.

GP: The fact you actually received funding is an achievement itself.

BM: It is, certainly. It’s an achievement to make a film at all. There are so many scraps and so many tasks – we had fires on location and we had to rearrange our schedule, and had to rearrange actors around it. There were all kinds of challenges we had to face, but we got through them all, thank goodness, and pretty well.

GP: Where was the shoot – with these fires?

BM: There were fires over in Santa Clarita area [in California]. We were planning to shoot over at Disney’s Golden Oak Ranch and Sable Ranch, but we had to rearrange our schedules because the roads were literally blocked off by the fires over there. So we had to switch around different days and had to rush the actors in at different points throughout the rest of the shoot, and thank goodness their schedules were free to accommodate that.

GP: So what advice would you give to any writers / directors trying to get funding?

BM: Have a solid pitch and have a solid idea. Really know what you’re doing. Don’t suddenly think “Okay, I’m gonna be a writer” and then write your entire script on Word or whatever. Use the correct tools, like Final Draft, and make sure it’s formatted correctly and you’ve had plenty of people check over the script to make sure it’s – you might understand it very well, but your viewers might not understand it. Or more importantly, the investors might not understand it. I would say just really think things through.

GP: When it came to the directing side of Fading of the Cries, there’s a lot of choreography involved – sword fights, lots and lots of people running across fields – how did you find that?

BM: I had help from a great fight choreographer, called Luke LaFontaine, who’d worked on a lot of films like Master & Commander and Beowulf. He was a great choreographer to help with the sword fighting and training. A lot of the other stuff, I had people doing animatics and I was able to do storyboards, and I actually had a great storyboard artist who helped out, by the name of Patrick Barrett. I had this movie so much in my mind that I pretty much knew every shot of the film I wanted to make before actually going in and doing it. And then, being on set and things changing rapidly around me, I had to make compromises on the spot.

GP: Did Fading of the Cries turn out how you’d hoped?

BM: I feel that it’s turned out about 70% of what I’d actually imagined. I like how it turned out, and we’ve had some great critiques from the people who’ve viewed it so far. I hope the general audience feel the same about that. You know, you have hopes and aspirations about how it’ll turn out and it turns out slightly differently, but I’m still happy with the end result.

GP: On hindsight, is there anything you’d change?

BM: We had to change a few things around, and for pacing we had to cut a few scenes to make it quicker. I certainly wanted to move around a few things, but I’m not going too heavily into details… [Laughs]

GP: You wrote it, you directed it, you produced it and you even worked on the visual effects. Were you not tempted to do a bit of acting on it?

BM: [Laughs] No… I’m more behind-the-scenes, a more of a behind-the-camera kind of person. I like to see the whole scene as it is. The reason why I wanted to write it and direct it and edit it and so forth is because they say you make a film three times. In order to have complete control on the vision I wanted to write it, direct it, edit it… and then if it sucks, I’m the only one to blame for it. But if I’d had a really bad editor and they took all my shots and they took the wrong shots, I’d be a totally different film, so that’s why I was so tempted to do it all myself.

GP: What genre would you put Fading of the Cries into?

BM: Oh jeez, I never really think of specific genres. It does have zombies in it, so it does have an element of Horror to it, but it also has a strong element of Fantasy to it. It’s not a straight up Horror film, per se, and it’s not a straight up Fantasy or Action film. It’s got elements of everything.

GP: From the trailer it appears to be largely Fantasy – regarding funding, do you think it was quite hard to get it off the ground because Fading of the Cries didn’t have wand-wielding children or wistful blood-suckers, like Harry Potter and Twilight? Is it hard to get a Fantasy film noticed when it doesn’t contain wizards and vampires?

BM: I’m honestly not sure. I would think that Fantasy would be easier to fund in some ways, only for the fact that they sell better. According to my sales agent, he was saying one of the hardest things to sell nowadays is Drama. Straight-up Dramas.

GP: Why do you think that is?

BM: I can only assume that the general public prefers Fantasy because it’s something to escape from their normal, everyday life, and something to lose yourself in and imagine things out. Just have a good time with. I’m not 100% certain as to why, but that’s my own best guess for it.

GP: You had to deal with quite a lot of CGI in Fading of the Cries. How’d you find dealing with that?

BM: Because I’ve worked in the visual effects industry previously, that’s the one thing I really had no doubts about. I had a lot of friends I could pull in to help, and it was really intense. We’d been working on the effects for over a year and a half. We have over 1000 effects shots in the film – it’s quite intensive stuff. We have lots of set extension and other things as well. Oddly enough, we had people saying that the scenes that weren’t CGI-touched just weren’t as spectacular as those with CG, because the CG ones were expansive.

GP: Were there any difficulties?

BM: Oh, well, it’s only difficult when mixing live action with the CG. We have to set the proper tracking points on, so we could get the set extensions and the tracking correct. Then you have to make it look realistic and have it match with the live action stuff. It can always be difficult – we had a lot of crowd simulation and a lot of CGI birds. They all have their own challenges and a lot of planning. There’s a tremendous amount of planning involved with it.

GP: What do you think of all the other CG heavy films out there at the moment? Are you a fan?

BM: I like them. I really like a lot of the films that are out there at the moment. I have always had a fascination with Fantasy. It’s fun to get lost in other worlds. I saw the movie Inception recently and thought that was a really fun, imaginative world.

GP: It was excellent.

BM: Very well done, and I think it was great what he [Christopher Nolan] had done. Without being able to use CGI it just wouldn’t have had the same effect.

GP: How’d you find working with the non-CG elements – the actors? How was Brad Dourif?

BM: Brad was fantastic. The interesting thing is that, back when I came up with the idea for this film, I already knew I wanted him for this because I’d watched the Exorcist 3. Brad plays the Gemini Killer in it and I thought “Who is this actor?”, because he was so intense and violent and I wanted that type of character. It was a dream come true to actually get him on board the film. He read he script, said he liked it, and said “yeah, I’ll do it” and was like, “Yes!”. I was really excited to be working with him. He did a fantastic job. He took the character to a whole new level that even I hadn’t imagined. All the other actors were fantastic – they all really got behind the project and worked hard and understood their characters really well.

GP: What’s the one thing that gets you up in the morning? Apart from this interview, of course…

BM: I love the whole film making process and post-production, and I really mean that. Having worked on this for so long – I mean, we just finished it last week! The entire film, in terms of post production. All the effects, the music and composition and everything has finally been put in place. The whole process is really really fun, I really have enjoyed it. I have loved movies my entire life, watched them around the clock, so being able to do it for my own film – it’s just so exciting for me.

GP: What inspires you?

BM: A lot of things inspire me. Definitely other feature films inspire me, books inspire me, comics inspire me, music is a huge inspiration as well. All kinds of entertainment inspires me. They’re huge inspirations to me. I’m constantly watching films. During the whole post-production process and while working on the visual effects I went through five or six movies a day.

GP: Wow – a day?

BM: Yeah. I’d be watching a tonne of films I’d seen before, a tonne of new movies, because you’d be working 12 / 14 hours a day in post production, so you have movies playing in the background. I think I got through the whole of the Lord of the Rings trilogy about thirty times!

GP: [Laughs] So what’s the last film you watched?

BM: I watched one yesterday. I was watching Prince of Persia.

GP: Oh, blimey… erm… what did you think of it?

BM: [Laughs] I thought it was fun. It was adapted from a videogame and had a lot of fantasy mixed in with it. It’s kind of a fun, mindless entertainment type thing…

GP: It wasn’t trying to be cerebral.

BM: [Laughs] No, I don’t expect it to win any Oscars!

GP: So what would you like people to take from your film?

BM: I’d like people to be entertained with it and really be able to escape from reality for an hour and a half. You know, just enjoy themselves, and go on a rollercoaster ride and have a lot of fun – I think the movie has a tremendous amount of action in it. It’s very fast paced, so I really hope people are entertained and their intelligence isn’t insulted.

GP: As this is an interview, I’ll ask the traditional job interview question – where would you like to be in five years time?

BM: In five years? Strangely, I’d like to be doing what I’m doing now – making films and being in the process and writing and directing. Right now I’m working in post production for a music video, which we shot for the film. It’s with the band Helmet, and we actually got most of the actors in to be in the music video as well.

GP: That’s an exciting idea.

BM: It’s exciting stuff. I’m very thankful for Helmet for letting me have their music to do this, and working with me on this.

GP: You mentioned distribution earlier. Does Fading the Cries have a release date in the UK yet?

BM: I’m not exactly sure about the full details of distribution over there. We have a number of different distribution places around the world, but I don’t think the UK is listed as one of them yet. As for the U.S., we are going to show it to distributors next. We have not shown it to anyone yet, in the United States, because we have wanted to wait until it’s completely finished. But we’re having the screening up here at the end of the month.

GP: I’m really interested in seeing it in the UK. The trailer is certainly exciting, and it’s always good to see Brad Dourif.

BM: There’s a lot of Brad. He’s in full, angry, rage mode.

GP: [Laughs] That’s good news.

BM: [Laughs] He’s really an evil character in this film – it’s really great to see. I’ve loved him in movies like Halloween 2, but I really missed him from the days of Chucky and all of that. It’s really exciting to see him angry again – and he’s full-on rage in this film.

GP: Apart from his role in Fading of the Cries, what’s your favourite performance of Brad’s?

BM: Oh gosh… well I mentioned the Exorcist 3 as certainly one of them. That probably is the strongest of his, as he’s so intense in that and has an extremely large amount of dialogue and you give it to a certain type of actor and it could go really wrong, but he really made it interesting. I’d definitely say the Exorcist 3.

GP: Finally, what’s your favourite horror film of all time?

BM: [Laugh] Oh no – I have so many horror films that I love! I’m a huge Lucio Fulci fan, a George Romero fan – Day of the Dead and Martin. I love Frank Darabont’s work. I really like Let the Right One In, the film by Tomas Alfredson. There are so many movies, I can’t just pick one.

GP: How about your favourite zombie film…?

BM: [Laughs] There are so many favourite zombie films I can’t – I mean, I really have to say The Evil Dead ranks as one of the top ones for me. And Day of the Dead is one of my favourites. A lot of people prefer Dawn of the Dead, but I like Day of the Dead better. It’s difficult to choose! [Laughs]

GP: Thanks for talking to Gorepress, Brian. It’s been a pleasure.

BM: Thank you very much.

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