The Movie Sleuth recently had the chance to talk with Glenn Douglas Packard, who was the co-writer and director of the recently released horror film Pitchfork. We were also able to speak with actor Daniel Wilkinson, who portrays the monster Pitchfork in the film.
We had some time to discuss their backgrounds, the making of Pitchfork, and future projects. First we spoke with director Glenn Douglas Packard.
TMS: First off Glenn, can you provide us with a little bit of background information. Did you always want to be involved in filmmaking? What type of training or schooling did you have, and your career up to this point?
GDP: I went to Michigan State University on a full scholarship for dairy management to be a farmer (laughs) and actually an incident happened where I got into a really bad accident and was supposed to have my leg amputated, it was completely shattered and the doctor basically put it back together. The doctors said that I wouldn’t walk again and I was always very athletic in high school and always had a passion for the entertainment business, but it wasn’t around where I was from. So it was kind of something that I always thought about. I loved going to the movies and watching filmmaking and I’d always tell my parents when they’d get up to leave at the end, no this is the best part we got to see who made the movie and who do this and who did that. I ended up basically getting my walk back to normal again and I told myself that if I got through it I would go into the entertainment business and I did. I got into choreography and dance and switched my major in college to a dance major and took some film classes as well. After that, I moved to New York City and had a great career as a choreographer and received an Emmy nomination working with Michael Jackson. Being inspired by working with all the artists that I worked with in my career has basically led me to the confidence that I need to start directing. It’s something that I always wanted to do since I was probably around 13 when I saw The Evil Dead, which was a Michigan State student as well, Sam Raimi. I think that’s one of the reasons that I wanted to go to Michigan State so bad. I ended up being so inspired by him and I just loved the horror genre from that moment on. Right now I go around doing a lot of lectures, workshops, and master classes as a renowned choreographer and I’m always giving these speeches about going after your passions, do what you love. Everything else will fall into place if you’re surrounded by the people you need to be, your people. I thought to myself, you know, it’s time for me to go after this dream I’ve always had which was to make horror films. So I did at the top of 2015 and it’s been an amazing year and a half.
TMS: So your career history doesn’t exactly scream horror. Was the horror genre something that you were always interested in and you just were just finally able to reach that part of your career?
GDP: Yeah, you know my closest friends and family they all know that part of me. I’ve done a lot of reality TV and I’ve been in the spotlight before and I never really talked about it, I guess you could say that I was a closeted horror guy at one time. But my family and my friends knew. I’d been talking about it since I first started in this business. I was always saying that I wanted to be a filmmaker and that I wanted to do horror movies. It’s something that I have always been really passionate and wanted to do. So I knew it was time, I’d had enough experience and made enough relationships in the industry and knew that I could get a horror movie done. I knew I could.
TMS: What’s up with Pitchfork? Where can people see it? And what do you want them to know about the movie?
GDP: Pitchfork is available on iTunes and VOD. The Pitchfork Facebook page lists the locations that it’s available at. It’s a story about a group of friends from a performing school of arts supporting a friend that has a big secret as he’s on his way to their family farm, it’s close to my coming out story actually as a young twenty year old. Basically, they end up there at the wrong time. In the meantime, there is a beast that is loose and he’s lost and confused and that beast is Pitchfork. He is out in the world for the first time and becoming the monster that he is soon to be.
TMS: What was the inspiration behind Pitchfork?
GDP: Pitchfork has been in my head for probably eight years now. I saw a rerun of an Oprah Winfrey episode about a young man who had written a book about his child abuse, who as a young boy had been treated like an animal underneath like a kitchen table with his parents abusing him. He became this great inspiration to people and wrote a book, I think it was a best seller. After I had watched the episode, I was like wow what if this man had gone the other way and gone mad, which you would have thought that he would have. I started to create this character in my head, this feral type of young man that was treated like an animal, like a dog growing up. So that’s kind of where Pitchfork came from.
TMS: Was Daniel Wilkinson your first choice for the monster character or did it go through a casting process?
GDP: I was doing the E Men of the Strip at the time and I had just got finished that up, which was like a Magic Mike TV event on the E network. I was kind of thinking of going the big, strong 6’ 5” character like Jason Voorhees. So I did have some other guys that I had photos done. I kept going back and forth in my head on whether I wanted to go that route or do I want to find someone that could be a little more frail and lean, that kind of starving type of feel to him. I had hired one of the actresses, Nicole Dambro, and she said that she had this guy who liked to play freaky and oddball characters and so she got me hooked up with Daniel. We actually just talked on the phone and just talking with him for hours and hours I knew he was the one for Pitchfork. I knew right then. The passion that he had toward the character that he had from reading the script and the passion that I could tell he was going to put into the project, that’s the type of people I like to surround myself with.
TMS: Yeah, you really see the level of commitment that Daniel put in when watching the behind-the-scenes featurette that was released online.
GDP: And that’s only five minutes, we have like 36 hours of behind-the-scenes stuff. We shot it in 21 days with one camera and you get to see a little taste of how Daniel was as Pitchfork. I love that behind-the-scenes featurette.
TMS: How much pre-production and direction was put into his portrayal?
GDP: We spent a lot of time talking on the phone; we really did before he arrived. It was so nice, because that’s all I wanted to talk about, for pretty much a year and a half that’s all that I wanted to talk about. I actually apologized to my family because I always feel like I haven’t been present in the last year and a half at family functions, or summers in Michigan. I’m just not present because I’m just so lost and obsessed with the Pitchfork project and Daniel deserved that and gave that as well. We would talk and go back and forth for hours and hours, I don’t think there was anything else that we wanted to talk about. To this day, me just saying his name even in this interview seems weird to me because I just call him Pitch. I don’t call him Daniel. I don’t see him as Daniel, I see him as Pitch. On set was very interesting, because his character doesn’t speak and he’s a method actor. To help him with that, I didn’t really want him to be communicating too much with the crew or the cast. He kept himself very isolated. I got him a hotel room in town, while the rest of the cast stayed at my family farm the stone house in the movie. They all stayed there and we’re bonding and having fun, having the time of their lives for 21 days. He was by himself, alone most of the time. Even when we communicated, he would talk with a very low voice, very monotone, if we communicated at all. I almost talked to him very much like an animal or a dog, I would say “come” and he would come to me and we would have a conversation. I called him boy a lot, like “go boy” and “come boy,” using common commands for a dog. So it was a way of communicating and also helping the character, because it would stink if you were doing all of this character work as Pitchfork, a slasher character, and all of a sudden you break character and you start talking normal. It just wouldn’t work.
TMS: Definitely. I know that there are various styles of acting and some actors just can’t switch it off in between takes. It’s something that you really see in the featurette.
GDP: Yeah, and we had lots of talks about that too. When you work with a cast and crew and you’re with them for 24 hours a day, you fall in love with the actors and by the end of this project I really cared about this man. So, we had lots of talks about when you leave here that you have to go back to your life, to who you are and know that the project is done and you can turn it off. It was a hard thing; he had some adjusting to do when he got back. That’s how much he committed to the role. It was such a commitment and I was so impressed with his commitment to the character.
TMS: This film looks gorgeous; vibrant colors, great camera angles, cool lighting. I mean it looks like a film with a higher production budget. How much of this was pre-production versus planned out during shooting? How where you able to make it look visually better than the typical low budget horror film?
GDP: Luckily, I had an extremely talented DP in Rey Gutierrez. I may have been doing days and months of planning before we got there, but he’s the one that came up with the angles. We collaborated on some things, with the overhead shots and things like that sometimes. But, he was really good at those angles and we had previously worked on a lot of projects and music videos, so it had this very music video kind of feel to it with the shots, angles, and the colors. I have to give him props for all of that for sure, he really nailed that.
TMS: How where you able to make it look visually better than the typical low budget horror film?
GDP: It had a lot to do with the camera, the Sony A7S and it was also shot on 4K. And the setting was such a gorgeous setting; the location was really one of the co-stars I feel. When writing the script, that was great because I knew the location. So, when writing the specific scenes in the movie, I knew where they were going to be shot at. It was easier for me and the writers to do and put onto paper, because I knew the locations. And that’s what I was always saying to myself over the 8 years of this being in my head, my family farm is the perfect location for a horror movie. There’s just so much beauty. I know horror movies so well, that I knew that it was such a perfect location with the bloodshed that Pitchfork takes his victims to. That’s something that’s right across the street from the house that I grew up in as a kid and I couldn’t wait to tell something there. To just the setting of the stone house, the fields, the barn, the barn dance. The perfect red barn for a barn dance, all of this is what helped make the film beautiful. And then Rey and I have a good eye for trying to create something different, not something that’s always seen. That’s important to us when we are working together on projects. We wanted to be different, not so much like everyone else. We like to break the rules a little bit.
TMS: So is that one of the reasons that you didn’t go the grindhouse route or try to make it look grainy?
GDP: Yeah. I know horror and the horror industry well and that’s it’s all about the visuals. The visuals going out there made it look like it was a multi-million dollar production. Even though we are all proud of the result, it was a lot of work, a lot of hard work. And we wanted to make sure that it looked like a million bucks went into it. I don’t think people realize that we shot it with one camera. We didn’t have a big huge multi-million dollar production company behind us or studio house. This was grabbing a bunch of talented friends, the camera, a skeleton crew, other resources I have had in my career, and showing and highlighting what they could do. Even the score and the music, my friend Christie Beu is part of this Disney act and I knew that she had a passion for horror and I was like “you can do this.” And we just sat for months working on these sounds that would be good for when Pitchfork appeared and showed up, little things like that. He had to have a sound. Everybody involved had these great things to bring to the table; I knew how talented they were. From the makeup, to the producers, the actors, some of them brand new, I could just go on and on about this stuff. (Laughs)
TMS: Low budget film productions have been historically known for being difficult and demanding. How was this production on the cast and crew? Any challenges or funny stories?
GDP: Ok, everyone gets in and we had two days of table readings out on the farm lawn. Pitchfork would be separate in a corner, watching under a tree or something. Then the day before we started to shoot, my line producer gets in a terrible car accident and isn’t able to come onto the set. She was only able to show up on the last day of the shoot, so she could at least say that she was on set one of the days. That was really nice that she was able to show up on the last day. So we had that to deal with. So my major momma bitch that was in charge couldn’t be there on set, so that was a little scary. My assistant, David Mayorga, stepped it up and took her position as well and I think he may have gotten twelve hours of total sleep during the production, the poor guy. And he’s one of my best friends. Again, everyone was a friend or a best friend that I had worked with in the past. But, we had a pretty intense schedule. A 21 day shoot and most out it was in the night. We shoot pretty much from 6 in the afternoon until the sun came out. It was intense, but for me I was on an adrenaline rush. I had to get stuff done, so I was just in work mode. And I don’t think I got any complaints from anybody, they were ready to commit to this dream and they all did. I didn’t have any attitudes from actors. I think because they’ve worked for me in the past as a choreographer or dancer, they knew how I worked and were just excited about this project for me and gave me a 110 percent of their time and attention.
TMS: Having a low budget and having to shoot mostly at night, did you have to try and keep the crew in good spirits and from things imploding?
GDP: Again, the eight years that I had this story in my head I was pretty much casting my crew and my cast of who could handle something like this for my first movie. I was going to make sure that those people were involved in my project. That was a part of it, putting that dream team together. There may have been some issues and challenges, but it was a near perfect 21 days.
TMS: So was Daniel pretty much the only one that you hadn’t worked with before?
GDP: No, actually there were some of the actors from Michigan. I wanted a Michigan actor to play the role of Hunter Killian, so Brian Raetz was cast for that part. There were a total of five actors that were Michigan based that I didn’t know, everyone else I knew and had worked with before.
TMS: Traditionally, most horror films tend to contain nudity and yours doesn’t. Did you have to wrestle with the fact that you didn’t use any nudity?
GDP: That was something that I struggled with too and actually there was a specific scene (any more details would spoil plot points) that originally called for the actress to be topless. So it was something that I went back and forth about and we were able to shoot the film in chronological order, because it was our family farm, from beginning to end. By the time we got to that day, I felt that the movie didn’t need nipples, at least female nipples. I just felt like we didn’t need to see them, it wasn’t important. I didn’t feel like we needed it even though it is a traditional thing in a horror movie. So it was a decision that I made on that day of the scene, because in the script it did have her topless. The actress was ready and I just said we don’t need it.
TMS: I agree, that specific scene probably would have been a little over the top with nudity.
GDP: Yeah, and you know what? The movie is about Pitchfork, you know, it’s not about hey look at those girls’ tits. And that’s what the dudes would have been focusing on and I wanted everyone to focus on this character that was going through what he’s going through. You know, the depth of this character. It was important for everybody to be focusing on that, even though it was uncomfortable and awkward (the specific scene that cannot be spoiled) it still was important to really be thinking about the character of Pitchfork at this moment. Our back story and what I want these Pitchfork films to be about has to do with the relationships between families, between kids and their parents. It’s about children and their relationships with their parents, that’s the whole psychological thing here about Pitchfork. It’s not about the sexuality or sex, it’s about relationships. We all have those things, whether they are good or bad with our parents. And that’s what this is all about and I’m trying to get this message out to people. And even with the young teens, that this is something about your relationship with your parents. That’s what the underlining of Pitchfork is.
TMS: Can you tell us anything about the other projects that you are working on or planning on working on? You did say Pitchfork films, so are there plans for a sequel?
GDP: Oh yeah, for sure. When I was created this in my head for the last 8 years, there never was just a part one. No, it’s a franchise. It’s a trilogy. I’m excited this summer to get started on part two, which is going to take place five years later. I do have two other scripts that have been sent to me as well, one is a male review and the other is a werewolf horror film. I’m currently looking at both of those right now. There is also a future project that is a Pioneer Motion Picture production titled The Millionaire, which is an Irish drama.
TMS: First off Daniel, can you provide us with a little bit of background information. Did you always want to be involved in filmmaking? What type of training or schooling did you have?
DW: As a kid you always want to play in a world. I remember as a kid seeing Dick Tracy and I wanted to make people feel that way and feel what I felt about the camera. It was something I felt at one point, but as a kid I dreamed about everything. I wanted to be everything as a kid. So acting wasn’t always at the forefront, but I definitely loved the creative aspect and I played music as well. Having that being said, it came to the point when I went to New York when I was twenty-one that I really wanted to do something more seriously. I had done theater in high school and college, but never really took it serious and then had my first taste on set and absolutely loved it and said I could do this for the rest of my life. So yeah, I trained in New York. Penny Templeton and Susan Batson were two of the biggest influences on me. I absolutely loved Susan, especially with creating this character. Having a little child (referencing Pitchfork) inside and creating his persona, his tragic flaws, and his needs, there’s a whole bunch of things that I used. I do martial arts as well and one of the things that my teacher always told me was that you learn a style; you learn it 100 percent and take what works for you out of it. And I think that’s kind of what I’ve done in the acting world, I’ll study with a whole bunch of people and learn what works for me and what works best that way I can bring it to life. It also helps to communicate with a director, because the more styles you know the better you are at communicating it in as an actor. Glen was amazing on the set communicating directing with, but I’ve had other directors that barely speak and you’re trying to figure out what they are trying to say. Your job as an actor is to make the writer’s concept come alive and to make the director’s vision come alive, if you can’t do that you’re failing at your job. There are definitely animal qualities that were pulled into this that were very specific, the building of this character was like an onion and there were so many layers. Whether you see it all in the film or the final edit, there are so many nuances and there are some things that were added in that may not make sense until the second and third film. When you see those, then things that may have been left unsaid will make sense. To me this was the journey of Pitchfork becoming Pitchfork, I don’t think that he’s fully Pitchfork yet. He starts to at one point and you’re like there he is, that’s the person that we want to see.
TMS: Are you a big horror fan? Was this the type of role that you would normally seek out?
DW: Funny, that you say that. I was never really a big horror fan, but found out in the process of making this that some of the movies that I loved were horror movies and didn’t realize. They always scared me and really freaked me out. But part of the process was talking horror movies with Glen, who is a big, big fan. So, I was getting educated twenty four seven about horror. I’d have to watch this horror movie and then we’d talk about it. To me, doing a horror movie is no different than doing a drama movie; you’re just playing it truthfully, you’re given circumstances and making them come alive. In this movie, sometimes I didn’t feel like I was being scary and in a horror movie. But, then you see it later and you’re like holy shit, that’s just because you were in the moment and not really looking at it from an outsider’s perspective. I’m a big fan of The Shining; I think that was the first scary movie that I ever watched. Talking to horror fans and making this movie has made a huge interest where there wasn’t one before, I think it was more of a fear than anything else. I wanted to do this movie because I wanted to play a Charlie Chaplin type of character and I knew that it’s helped a lot of actors out in the past and I saw that in this. And I was like gosh, this dude’s really an opportunity to be that character and take it to that level. It’s one thing to be able to say some lines on a paper and deliver it to the camera, it’s another thing to take all of those lines and communicate it to you physically and let you try and meet him on this journey as you go with this character. And I was really looking for that, so it was kind of funny that I found it in a horror movie. Just reading the script and all of a sudden I just fell for the character, we can really tell a story without words. There’s a true art form to that and that’s what really wanted me to play this. And then as I talked to Glen, I realized that this was a passion project. This is just two kids that want to make a horror movie, not a big budget production where people are jumping on board saying hey we’re going to make the next big horror movie. This is two kids saying that we want to make our dreams come alive; this is an homage to horror movies. This is what we grew up on and we just want to say thank you to those people who made them. So there are probably five or six movies that are paid homage to in this. If you’re a real horror fanatic, you realize that he’s blended them together and made his own movie. For me when I first saw it, I told Glenn that this was this generation’s horror movie. To me, some people may not get it at the beginning because of some of the subject matter and language, but a lot of it is what this generation thrives on right now. And Glenn is the perfect person for that based on his prior experience, so it speaks to that new generation that were afraid to watch horror movies and bring new fans in, while also saying to horror fans lets share the love. I know the second one is going to be completely different. I’m really excited to shoot the second one. People are going to take a step back and say holy shit you thought this one was crazy, this one is like the high octane version.
TMS: How did you go about preparing for this role?
DW: I stopped work and ran up my credit cards. For me, the first thing I do in prepping for a role is read the script and break it apart, you read it and read it and read it. You just mine it for gold as much as possible, because you’ll find more and more stuff as you read it. And then just coming up with ideas. I pitched some ideas back and forth with Glen; this is what I’m thinking and then ask what his thoughts on it are. Normally I wouldn’t do that with a director, I would just say this is what it is. I went to the zoo and there was this very specific animal that I wanted to watch and really bring to life with this character. So to me, how do you communicate without words? One way is through breathing and I’m not breathing like a human being. That was scary for me, because it’s like hey listen I’m going to change my breathing pattern for this character so that I can communicate better. And so you can see it in my breath, when I’m excited, and when I’m scared. It was a risk that I did and I think that it paid off, because I haven’t had anyone say that I didn’t believe you. I’ve had interesting reactions and it’s so awesome to hear what everyone has to say. I think that’s part of the joy of horror movies, its people’s different takes on it. I had one girl come up to me after a screening and she said that she felt so sorry for you in this specific scene. And I was like, holy shit I did my job. I did exactly what I had wanted to do in this. Because it wasn’t just about scaring people at this point, it was about the character and his arc. I knew that this was a passion project and that more would get made. Hopefully it will catch on to where there’s a bigger following and it gets more money behind it and we can make a bigger production, because this was made on a shoestring budget. How it came out and what we had is kind of magic, it’s like holy crap you could watch this in the theaters oh this is a movie. It wouldn’t have been that way if there weren’t so many people wanting to make the best movie possible. It became a very positive thing on the set. It was one of the most positive sets that I’ve been on, especially considering I was in such a negative, dark, and scary place with this character. I definitely lived and went somewhere. It’s funny because in the featurette that you can watch, that was probably the most that I spoke. When I spoke to Glen, I spoke to him as a little boy. Because when you tell me to do something, I’m going to do it truthful. That’s how I’ve always been, no I want to play the truth of this and sometimes it’s finding how I can play the truth. If I can’t find the reasoning, I have to find a reasoning. And Susan Batson really imparted a huge part on me while studying with her; I have to give her a huge shout out for that. I mean what other profession do you get to be a kid again, doing what you were doing when you five years old. I can talk about training all day long, but at the end of the day you did this when you were a little kid and the life experiences that you’ve had. It’s just learning to say hear I am cutting my wrists and bleed, showing the world and it’s just that no fear and wanting to portray the character truthfully. It was amazing being on the set, I literally checked out pretty much every scene. And so when the director would call cut, I was like “what” because I was living in the moment. It was fun. I say it was fun now, in the moment, doing it, and living it was horrible. I haven’t seen it yet, but there is enough behind-the-scenes footage for a making of Pitchfork and it wasn’t all babies and roses for me. It was really hard; long hours, torture, and I was living it. When you’re living something, you’re not going to be like “oh, I’m having a great time.” Everything about the character and his back story is in play and he’s a tormented sole, so when you’re living it it’s not fun in the moment because you’re living someone else’s life. It’s fun afterwards. Christian Bale said something interesting in a GQ interview, he said something to the effect that “if I’m having fun, then I’m not acting.” I really hung onto that. He strives to be uncomfortable, because if he has a contrived performance then how much of that is really real. And there’s something thrilling and amazing about it, there’s a big high when you do a scene. It’s awesome to know that you can go to that point that the character would and then be able to pull back, you have to trust yourself enough to know that you actually won’t go there. But you’re pushing the levels, just not actually doing it.
TMS: You partially answered one of my questions about your style of acting. In this, you took on a method acting approach. Was this different than how you would normally take on a role? It seemed challenging to go in and out of character between takes. How difficult was that?
DW: Oh, I was 100 percent living it. This was something Glen had asked; he really wanted the stakes to be high on his first movie. He had some inspirations and he really wanted to create that energy and fell on set. He didn’t just want to call cut and take a coffee break and have this fabricated thing, he wanted the real feeling of the movie on there. He asked if I was comfortable doing method. I think method is a very interesting term because people classify it as a certain thing, for me I think of it as living the character. Some think I’m a method actor, but when you spend sixteen hours a day prepping, going through the scripts, finding animals, finding whatever it is that you’re using to create that character and creating an onion effect, you don’t know what’s going to happen when the cameras roll. I remember the first time on the set when they said roll, I was like “fuck, I don’t know what I’m doing.” And it wasn’t that I didn’t know what I was doing, it was that I had created all of these layers and I was saying “OK, go play.” Do what you need to do, this is where you’re coming from, and this is where you’re going. And the nuances that come in between, for me that’s why I’ll stay in character and why I research so much. It’s not so that I can deliver a line perfectly, it’s the unknown things, the mannerisms that I didn’t mean to come out and it happens on set because I’m reacting. You’re reacting to the person. To me the more that you prep, the more fun you can have on the set. In the scripts, I run, I kill, I run, I kill. It was very cut and dry and I was like what was the reasoning behind the kills, why am I doing this. These are the questions that you ask; who, what, when, where, and why. You play detective and pull it apart and pull it apart. You know I guess I did live, I just wasn’t intending to live it. When I was on set though, I didn’t break character. I played a little child when communicating with Glen, because he needed to be able to talk to me. And when they called cut, they would tell me to go to my corner and say “Ok, good boy.” Since I brought that intensity, Glen loved it and was getting involved with it. In another interview, I talked about how some of the other actors were complaining about being cold and so Glen took off his shirt and said we’re all in this together. It was weird; I got to a weird place in my head where I wasn’t cold. It wasn’t until the very end (shown in the featurette) that I had actually put on a blanket in between takes, which was the first time I had felt cold during the shoot. I think it was around 40 degrees most of the time and I didn’t even feel it. Sometimes they had to come find me for a scene because I was off in my imaginative world that the character exists in. Its fun to play with your imagination and it’s useful in achieving the truth of the character, because you don’t have those specific memories that exist with the character. I may cry differently when my dog dies, or when I win the lottery and having your imagination there enable you to be truthful to the situation. For me, I lived that character no different than I lived my parent’s divorce or my brother saying that he’s proud of me. It’s as strong as any of those events.
TMS: You had a lot to deal with; extensive makeup and prosthetics prep, acting without a shirt, and the physicality. Can you talk about the physical demand of the production?
DW: I wore that prosthetic one day for sixteen hours one day. I had a sixteen hour day and then a five hour makeup day, so I think I had two 21 hour days back to back. My hand did atrophy; I would have to take it out and soak it in warm water and massage it for an hour. But that was my choice; they were a little concerned about potential psychical problems. And I said, “Hey listen, I don’t want people to look at that hand and go there’s a hand beneath that.” And so it was awesome that the Effects team was totally on board and said cool, let’s make it the best way possible. If I had the best time ever, I’d be lying. I was in the makeup chair for 3-5 hours and that was once we got the hand done. The first time I was in the chair for 16 hours, then 10 hours, then 8 hours, and 3-5 hours, everyday was different. I was in the makeup chair a lot and then I was also doing long days, sometimes they would have me ready so that they could pull me at a moment’s notice. So sometimes I was ready and there was a scene that I wasn’t in, I was like Glen I really need to be in this scene in order to establish the character and his motivations. I was glad that they allowed that and it adds a creepiness factor, because I’m watching. It gets into the mindset of the character. But yeah, I had really long hours. I had a one hour turnaround time one day. I had a 21 hour day where I had to be back in four hours. Plus, it takes an hour to get out of makeup. So often, I was only getting around 1-2 hours of sleep a night. So it was finally towards the end of the shoot when I told Glen that I was cold and asked for a blanket. Originally, I didn’t want a blanket because I wanted to feel the environment just like the cast not talking with me.
TMS: I typically ask about low budget film productions and there demanding schedules and you pretty much answered that already, plus you were mostly isolated from the cast. But, were there any other challenges or funny stories about this shoot?
DW: Yeah, there definitely was that isolation and Glen had the rest of the crew living at his farm house, plus he pretty much knew most of the crew and how they worked. He also shot it chronologically because we had all the locations at our disposal. So it was a blessing to shoot that way, it was like doing theater. You didn’t have to recall how I did something in a previous scene. The isolation really had an effect on me; it took me a couple of months after I was done. My ex-girlfriend will say that’s not the reason that we broke up, but it caused problems when I came back because I really wasn’t Daniel. I really threw myself into this role and I think it affected my relationship, but you make choices and I knew that this is what I wanted. That’s why I lived off of my credit cards, so I could give this movie the best possible performance and give 100 percent. And if it failed, then it failed. But if I made it, then I had no excuse. And it can be contagious. There is one specific pivotal scene that didn’t have much in the script and what you end up seeing is mostly improve and I was scared that Glen would think that it went overboard. There was no judgment on the set and everyone was really on your side. And then Glen jumped on board and was offering up more suggestions for this scene, and it was like yes let’s do it because it’s not set in stone. Everyone was putting in a ton of time and effort jumping in wherever was needed, the producer was even helping out where needed. Chris the makeup guy had to be there before me and after I left in order to clean and prep the mask for the next day, so he was getting less sleep then I was. In the end, it doesn’t matter what you do behind the scenes, it matters what you put up. You really have to be aware that you have to give a 100 percent when you’re on camera, because that’s what lives. When your concentration is focused on one thing, you end up blocking out the other things. The long hours eventually wears on you. There was one funny scene where I was supposed to jump into the van and the characters are supposed to run out. I jumped in so quickly they weren’t expecting it and didn’t know what to do and I launched into the Pitchfork character and said “Get the fuck out of the van.” I did scare some of the cast because they weren’t sure of how I was going to behave. There was a lot of hysteria on the set because the cast didn’t know where I was most of the time or if I was watching them, and the rest of the crew really played that up to mess with them. Because your mind can really mess with you, when you think that something’s there that really isn’t. I wrote “bad girl, she tried to see me” on a plate with fake blood, because she kept trying to see me during a scene. I knew before I got to the set that I had to make things uneasy and do things that would typically be uncool on a set, but Glen gave me permission to do weird things. It rained one night and there were frogs everywhere, so I caught a bunch of frogs and released them on the set one day. One of the girls was screaming and one of the guys was super pissed, but I was just playing Pitchfork catching frogs in the rain. It terrified the girl and she was ready to leave the shoot, then she woke up the next day to find a frog in her bed. And she told Glen that she had it and was going to leave, but it kept the energy and hysteria up.
TMS: There are some critics calling your character the new slasher icon, how do you feel about being considered alongside other famous horror characters?
DW: That’s a good question. It’s weird. It was never my intent. It was about how I can make this character the best character possible. You feel honored. I’ll wait and see where it goes. Jack Nicholson said that “you never stop learning; you never stop trying to be better.” If you’re going to steal, then steal from the greats. There’s so much that these amazing actors have said before me, that all you can do is give your best and hope that people receive it. It’s an honor, but it’s only the first movie. I need to push more, I need to get better, and I need to make this world stronger.