Interviews: Director Ryan Lightbourn Talks About His Horror Film All The Devils Are Here

Ryan Lightbourn is the writer and director of B-Movie creature feature homage About All The Devils Are Here, available now on iTunes, Amazon, Xbox, Sony PlayStation Network, Windows Store, VUDU, and Google Play. 

Set in the deepest corners of Florida's woods, five college students attempt to enjoy a festive spring break getaway when they encounter a deadly, nocturnal presence. As horrific events unfold, the group joins forces with a local convenience store owner & a prison escapee. With night time approaching, they must set aside their differences and use their wits to survive. The film stars Ansley Gordon, Tommy Goodman, Ben Owen, Amanda Phillips, Ben Evans, Doo Doo Brown, Dale Dabone, J. LaRose, John Russo, and Christian Kelty. You can read our review here

We caught up with the screenwriter and filmmaker to talk about the film.

TMSFirst off, 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? 

RL: You hear a lot of directors saying they made films as a 9 year-old on grandpa’s 8mm Bolex or mom’s VHS soccer cam, but filmmaking came to me in my 20’s. 

Ten years ago, my college friends & I had recently graduated & were living, unemployed in Winter Park, Florida. Out of sheer boredom we entered the first (and last) Apple Insomnia Film Festival, where you’re given a number of requirements & have 24 hours to write, shoot & edit a film. We had no experience as filmmakers, but had so much fun crafting our horribly bad action film The Contractor, that it became a hobby of ours over the next year or so. In 2008 I entered the film program at Full Sail University and dropped out a few months later because I felt like the program focused too much on the [now outdated] Hollywood big-budget “lights, camera, action” 35mm film methodology, and it was taking away from the time I could’ve been spending making actual films. I quickly landed a few gigs directing music videos & DP’ing narrative projects, and from there it turned into a full fledged career. 

TMS: What’s up with All the Devils Are Here? Where can people see it? And what do you want them to know about the movie? 

RL: We’re currently live on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, VUDU, Xbox/Windows Store and Sony PlayStation Network. We’re also coming soon to PopcornFlix (a streaming service on VUDU players & smart TVs), and working on a few other deals for 2018. 

The movie is a love letter to 80’s & early 90’s b-horror, covering the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you enjoy everything from Troll 2 to Evil Dead II, this movie should be right up your alley. 

TMS: What was the inspiration behind this story? 

RL: The original idea for All The Devils Are Here was a post-apocalyptic film where gateways to hell have opened up across the globe, unleashing a variety of nasty creatures who’ve torn humanity to shreds, but since there was no way in hell I could’ve afforded this, I wrote a prequel instead. 

TMS: Would you label this a vampire movie? What's your favorite vampire movie?

RL: I consider it a demon movie, since the concept of demons who infect with a bite was borrowed from Evil Dead II & Lamberto Bava’s Demons. The creatures’ look, however, is closely related to the vampire hordes you see in the final act of From Dusk ‘Till Dawn; and they only surface at night, so there are definitely parallels. 

TMS: Are you a horror fan? If so, some favorites? 

RL: I’m a huge horror fan. I’ve felt like I’ve been out of the loop for a few years, because my wife & I had a child and rarely have time to watch movies, but I recently joined a horror fan group on Facebook to catch up, and it seems like all anyone talks about is the classics. 

Some favorites off the top of my head are Alien, Predator, Jaws, Psycho, Evil Dead II, From Dusk ‘Till Dawn, Shaun of the Dead, Drag Me To Hell, Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Jurassic Park, The Exorcist, The Hills Have Eyes (possibly the only remake I’ve ever enjoyed), Planet Terror, Demons, Dog Soldiers, and I could probably keep listing for days! 

TMS: The film looks outstanding. Can you tell us what equipment you used to shoot with? Also, why did you choose to handle the directing and cinematography? 

RL: Thank you; I mostly shot on a Red Scarlet MX, with a 5D Mark III mounted to a Glidecam 4000HD for B-cam. I occasionally had a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera mounted to the Scarlet to grab wides & close-ups in the same take (to save time & money).

In order to fund second unit and post-production, I sold my Scarlet kit & bought a Blackmagic Cinema Camera as a replacement A-cam.

I handled cinematography simply because we couldn’t afford a separate DP. However, I’ve since become so nitpicky as a director that I don’t think I’ll be able to DP my future films myself. With Devils, I spent 75% of my time handling equipment, so by the time I was ready to work with actors my brain was cooked. Luckily, our A.D’s Aviva Christie and Ben Evans did an amazing job with initiating rehearsals & lining up actors for their scenes, so I usually had minimal notes by the time camera was ready to roll.

TMS: I didn't go into great detail in my review, but there are many cool and unique shots that make for some memorable scenes. For example, the two convicts talking in the swampy wilderness and the camera is circling around. It's a beautiful looking scene, with innovative camerawork. Did you storyboard everything beforehand or block out the shots and angles while you were shooting? 

RL: The only scene which was storyboarded was the opening scene, which in my opinion feels more sterile and unnatural versus the rest of the movie. Everything else was imagined on set once the actors showed up, since there were no rehearsals at all. I ended up preferring the grittiness of the impromptu camerawork & plan to shoot my future films that way for the most part (minus complex action sequences; those definitely need planning).

I do however, like to open and close scenes with something more cinematic; an aerial or a tracking shot, and for my wides of dialogue I don’t mind them being on a slow moving dolly. 

The shots you mention ended up working really well, because the field we were in was so vast; swirling 360 degrees around the actors seemed like a great way to capture how deep in the woods we really were. Our “cell phones have no service” line later in the film was thrown in as a tongue-in-cheek eyeroll piece; but our phones literally DID NOT WORK out there. 

When I watch a good film, there are always specific shot setups that permanently stay in my mind. For example; in Empire Strikes Back – there’s a scene where the doors close at the Rebel base on Hoth, while Han & Luke are lost in the blizzard outside. The camera does a perfectly timed dolly push into Leia’s expression to emphasize her sense of dread. The camera operator is doing as much work as Carrie Fisher in that shot. If the camera moved too fast or too slow, it wouldn’t have nailed the mood as effectively. There are hundreds of shots like that which come back to me on set. I hate to say it, but I’m pretty sure I saw that 360 degree spinning shit in Twilight

TMS: How did you come about finding and securing your filming locations?

RL: Tim Story, one of our producers found the awesome cabin which was home base for the 2 weeks we shot. He really knows the backwoods areas of Central Florida, and was a godsend when it came to tracking down cool-looking locations. It was surprisingly easy to secure a permit for the surrounding state park, and the employees sent us a permit for free. They were extremely supportive. Jesse Fox, another producer, works in event planning, so was really good at tracking down odds & ends such as the mini-golf course which we used for the cave, and the yellow Jeep. 

TMS: How were the main actors selected? 

RL: Owen (Ben Owen) and Kyle (Ben Evans) are college buddies, Amy (Amanda Dela Cruz) is my sister-in-law, and the rest were actors I’ve either worked with in the past, or discovered via We also held a casting call in Thornton Park, Orlando, where a few others read for us. 

I’m currently using Actor’s Access for my latest features, but most of the actors I’ve been securing are still coming from Backstage (many of them use both services). I also have to recommend Craigslist, since that’s where you’ll find the real characters (who may or may not murder your cast & crew and defecate on their corpses). 

TMS: Was there any rehearsals prior to the shoot? Did you adjust any of the script after the actors were there? 

RL: As mentioned above, there were no rehearsals at all. There was quite a bit of improv on set, partially due to a rushed screenplay, but also because one of our actors left the production, and his character was merged into Dale DaBone’s Kenny character. For the entire second half of the film, we were literally re-writing as we shot. 

TMS: How much of the effects were done in-camera? 

RL: Almost all of the effects were done in camera, minus gun muzzle flashes, some underwear removal on the creatures, and a few blood splatter enhancements. There’s nothing that takes me out of a horror flick more than CGI gore, so I wanted to avoid this like the plague. 

TMS: There are tons of monsters. How were you able to achieve what you did on such a small budget? How involved were you in the design of the monsters? 

RL: Teri & Carson Griffin, who at the time were SPFX artists at Universal Orlando, were responsible for the epic-looking creatures. I ordered a few vampire & demon foam latex appliances that I liked & sent them images of the creatures from Devil’s Pass & The Descent to use as inspiration. They came up with their own airbrushing/paint designs and absolutely nailed the look I was hoping for. 

TMS: In terms of directing choices, anyone that you try to emulate? Or ones that have influenced you? 

RL: Sam Raimi, Robert Rodriguez, Kubrick, Tarantino, James Cameron, Hitchcock, Sergio Leone, the Coen Brothers, Luc Besson, Ridley Scott, Chris Nolan, Spielberg, Argento, and the list goes on… I really just love watching movies from the 60’s-90’s era. 

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? 

RL: Despite the typical hardships of a micro-budget production, we were literally and figuratively one big happy family on set. So many of us were friends, or family, or had worked with one-another in the past, so it really was a blast shooting the movie despite the workload & occasional gruelling hours. I say occasional because our producer Aviva is a scheduling wizard & knows how to keep things on track. We only had a handful of late nights & generally wrapped at a time where we could show up with a clear head the next day. 

On some of the more exhausting nights, we'd completely lose our train of thought & ability to communicate, but it never resulted in arguments; just nonsensical laughing fits. There was one night where I'd lost my mind and instructed Virgie, our associate producer to hand craft a turd for the wildlife patrol officers to find in the woods. She spent about 45 minutes crafting the most realistic pile of shit I'd ever seen outside of a toilet bowl, but I established it so poorly on camera, viewers have been mistaking it for a random pile of guts. So the next time you watch the film, you’ll know that demon squeezed one out on the way to his cave.

TMS: You filmed in 2013. Why did it take so long to finally be released?

RL: I had my first kid almost immediately after production wrapped, plus I was working on commercial spots, music videos, real estate videos & DP’ing other films almost full time. We premiered the rough cut at the Bahamas International Film Festival, but I didn’t complete the film until October 2015, which is when we had our film festival run. I spent 2016 pitching it to film studios, and all of the major studios who watched it decided to pass unfortunately. We had some interest from mid-tier distributors, and some which are known in the horror community, but I’ve heard nothing but horror stories from my filmmaking peers, so ended up using Distribber, which is a self-distribution aggregator who pitches your film to a wide range of services for a fee. So far they’ve landed me on every service they’ve pitched to, so it was worth the wait.

TMS: Is there anything that you learned from filming Devils

RL: I learned a hell of a lot! I could probably write three novels around my experiences with pre-production, production, and post; but in order to keep it concise, here are some of the most important takeaways;

Do your editing in pre-production. If there are any scenes that may possibly end up on the cutting room floor, get rid of them. I cut around 20 minutes out of the first draft of Devils, and that time & money could’ve ramped up other areas that needed it.

I learned a ton about little nuances that occur on set with shot setups, or lighting, or actors, that I can improve upon with simple director’s notes. This is why directors recommend that you get your first feature in the can by any means necessary. I would especially recommend editing your own feature, because I’m constantly having flashbacks on set where I think “oh wait...I remember something like this from the Devils edit”. All of the things that worked & didn’t work hit you like a 6th sense on set for the rest of your career.

Don't release your trailer four years before your film comes out, doh! As exciting as it is, it's best to hold on to that bad boy until you actually have a product to sell. Teasers are a much safer bet.

TMS: If you had a choice to remake a genre movie, what movie would you like to remake?

RL: I would absolutely love to make a hard R-rated version of Masters of the Universe, and make a film as cool as the poster was back in 1987. I’d even consider bringing Dolph back as an aged Adam/He-Man with some inspiration from Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns.

Unfortunately, the reboot is already in pre-production. I might cry when the trailer premieres. I can already smell the bad CGI, mass-scale destruction, re-designed costumes stripped of color & magic, someone like Chris Hemsworth as the lead, and a gross misunderstanding of why Masters Of The Universe was so cool to kids in the 80’s. David Goyer, who’s attached to direct, was born in 1965 for fuck’s sake. There is no possible way he has an emotional attachment to the source material.

TMS: The score and soundtrack are a terrific homage to the wonderful sounds of the '80s. What inspiration did you draw from in composing it? And, how did you go about selecting the songs that also appear in the film?

RL: Thank you; when I wrote the script and was working on pre-production, I was listening to a lot of John Carpenter tracks alongside a slew of Italio Disco songs. Italio Disco is essentially European 80’s pop music where the songs were written & recorded in English to crossover into a larger market. A handful of the bands did have well known worldwide chart toppers, but the majority fell into obscurity, so there’s an endless well of lost 80’s gems that most people haven’t heard. It was hell tracking down some of the copyright holders, but I did manage to secure about 25% of the tracks I was hoping for. I’d love to some day release a cut of the film with all of the Italio Disco tracks I initially wanted. Tonally, that version was perfect, so we lost some of that when I had to re-edit scenes to suit replacement tracks.

The film score that I made was 100% Carpenter homage. I almost exclusively used a VST called Zebra 2 in Ableton Live. Zebra 2 is possibly the greatest software synth ever made.

TMS: Can you tell us anything about the other projects that you are working on or planning on working on? Or, anything else that you would like to plug?

RL: Right now I’m working on my next feature; Bigfoot Bachelor Party Massacre, a bat shit crazy comedy-horror flick, and plan to follow it up with a sci-fi-horror film called The Vanguard. If those two films do well, I’ll go out with a bang with an ultra-violent, colorful, fantasy film called Black Thunder. Many of the actors from Devils will return in those movies, so despite falling under different sub-genres, they’ll feel like a collection of sister films. There’s already so much growth with the cast & crew with what I’ve done so far with Bigfoot, so I’d love to continue down this path. I don’t ever plan on making a studio film. Maybe a live-action Thundercats, if I was given an offer (with a heavy dose of creative control).