Saturday, February 25, 2012

Interview with HAUNTED screenwriter Brad McHargue

Javi here with a very special first for WDYMS. I bring to you a really insightful interview with screenwriter Brad McHargue. This will be the first of many interviews we hope to have with filmmakers that are crowd-funding their projects. This is a really exciting and new way of making movies and democratizing the system, and we want to do our part in helping highlight this.

Brad is here to talk to us about his found footage horror movie, HAUNTED, that he is trying to get funding for through the crowd funding site, Kickstarter which you can find here. So come, check out this interview, and maybe throw a few bucks towards the project!

Check out the interview after the jump.

Javi: Maybe give a little background about yourself and the director, Dan Weissenberger. Maybe what inspired you to become a writer and subsequently a screenwriter?

Brad McHargue:  About a month before I got my Master's in Classics at Florida State, I decided to start a horror blog because I wanted to practice my writing. And I loved horror, so why the hell not? It just kind of snowballed from there, but I didn't think anything would come of it. However, Peter Hall (editor at and owner of, actually caught sight of it. He and I became friends, and he ended up helping me with the lay out of it and cross promotion of the site.

Javi: Just a side note, it's really nice whenever somebody that is more established takes notices of the stuff you do.

Brad: Yeah, I started to talk to him online back in 2008, and I don't even know if he had moved to Austin back then. I credited him with a position in Horror Squad and convincing me to go to Fantastic Fest where I met everyone. Things just took off from there. To segue way into the screenwriting aspect, Dan and Rachel (Katz), the HAUNTED script consultant/editor/producers, run a podcast called the Avod Horror Uncultured. They wanted me to come on the show to talk about movies I had seen during Fantastic Fest 2009. That's when PARANORMAL ACTIVITY played before it made its big splash, when it was coming to individual cities, and became the huge phenomenon. I absolutely loved it, and Dan was not too fond of it. And it kind of snowballed from there.

We just started throwing around ideas about how we could make a better found footage movie, and we came up with this idea about four cameras and ghost hunters. And I said, "I've never written a script before. I'd like to try, and I'll write the first draft, send it to you, and you write the second draft" Because Dan is professional screenwriter in Ottowa, he mostly does stuff for hire. I kind of started working on it, and I stopped mostly because of work.

Then when I lost my job, I figured this would be the best time if any to finish the script. So for the next three to four months, Dan and I hammered it back and forth. We had discussions about it constantly. We got it where we wanted it to be, and finally decided to buckle down and make a trailer, and here we are.

Javi: The trailer that you guys have on the Kickstarter page is not footage that will at all factor in the ending, correct? That's just some test footage?

Brad: Yeah, with Kickstarter, you need a video (for your page). It's not imperative, but it's definitely helpful. Our first idea was going to be just about Dan and I talking, but he's a private person and doesn't want his face out there. So we decided to do the trailer.

He shot one based on a group idea. However, it just didn't turn out as well as we had hoped. It was good, but it's not the movie we wanted to present. I was going to reshoot it as is. However, another friend of mine suggested that I show the four camera conceit of the film, and maybe film a bit of a speaking role. So my buddy, who is an editor here in Denver, loaned me a camera, and then we went someone's house to film in. I actually put up an ad in the Denver SubReddit, and someone let us use his house. It looked pretty creepy too, so we thought, "Hell, we could probably film the movie there." But, my buddy and I spent about a month editing it in stages, getting sounds the way we wanted and all of that. We admit it's not perfect, but the point was to show the potential of what you could do with the conceit, and what we wanted to do with it. I hope we made that clear on the Kickstarter page. And in a perfect world, we would have footage from the movie, but we are doing this from the ground up. As soon as we get funding, that's when we'll be doing everything.

Javi: I really like the conceit of the movie and the approach that you guys are taking. You mentioned you guys talked about doing this movie during the time that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY first came out. Ever since then, we 've gotten PARNORMAL ACTIVITY 2, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3,  THE LAST EXORCISM, more recently CHRONICLE, which did you see that one?

Brad: No, I haven't seen many in movies in the theater lately.

Javi: Have you seen any of the more recent PARANONRMAL ACTIVITY movies or THE LAST EXORCISM?

Brad: Oh yeah.

Javi: So, how has seeing those movies made you re-think your approach to these movies? I'm thinking more specifically of PARANORMAL ACVTIVITY 3 where they tried to do VHS tape and older cameras.

Brad: Not really, basically Dan and I are super critical of movies. I don't know if you've followed me on Twitter long enough, but I get ragged on for hating movies.

Javi: Oh I get that too. My friend Devin Pike calls me the Armond White of Dallas. (I'm not)

Brad: I have high expectation for horror. Dan is worse than me though. He finds so many flaws with movies. And we thought, "We like found footage. It's cheap to make, so why not see what we can do with?" As we are plotting it out, the main thing we're thinking about is how do we make it so the audience doesn't have the opportunity to say "Why don't they do this?" or "Why does this have to happen?" Given the four camera conceit, we didn't want the same basic set up of a bunch of different kids going on a road trip and getting stalked by someone or seeing ghosts. Because that seems to be the default. And I know there are lots of ghost found footage movies coming out, so we are late to the party on that one. But we just wanted to throwing a couple of things that would be more unique than normal ones.

The film basically opens up with the kids setting up the cameras. They leave, go back to the hotel, and then they come back to the house. Once they get into the house, that's when things really pick up.

Javi: So will it be different from PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, and I hate to make these comparisons, but where, instead of having lots of quiet scenes, will you guys be picking up the pace from the get go?

Brad: The final two thirds of the movies are all in the house. The first third of the movie is to set up the characters, the explanation of why they are there, the history of the ghost hunting team, and their respective belief structure when it comes to ghosts, which will help inform their decisions later on in the movie. It's not like anything scary happens all of the sudden. We play with some typical conventions like when you see the door closing on its own like in the trailer. But that is such a minor part of what we have planned for this movie.

It's basically a team of ghost hunters doing their things, but you get an idea that when you are watching the movie is that you know what is going to happen before the characters do. For example, you'll see all of the characters doing something in the attic, and there will be something going on in the basement. Something is going to happen, but you don't know what. At least that is our intention, that is what we hope to accomplish.

Javi: That goes well with my next question. You said that you are a big movie fan critic, that goes for both Dan and yourself, do you feel that it's more of a challenge now than it was back when people were not as familiar with horror tropes?

Brad: Fear is incredibly subjective. I've watched movies that I thought were laughable that people got terrified by. So if you judge a horror movie by how much it scares you, you'll never come to a consensus whether it's any good. You can still use tropes in horror movies and have it be a good film. You don't have to be "original" because so many aspects go into making into making a good horror movie. I mean originality doesn't hurt. That's like my favorite movie is PONTYPOOL.

Javi: You know, I still haven't seen this movie. I think I heard of it first from Jeremy Kirk from the Golden Briefcase and I thought it sounded really unique.

Brad: Yeah the writer is insane, but he's absolutely brilliant. I think when it comes to contemporary horror, if you grab 100  movies from now until the end of the year, you're going to find maybe 10 are worth a damn. The rest are incredible low budget garbage, and that's something I hate when people fall back on that excuse that it was low budget.

Javi: That's a horrible excuse. It's not like writing a better script is going to cost THAT much more.

Brad: Exactly, I understand that maybe your actors are not the best, but THE SIGNAL was made for $250,000 and it looks amazing. Amazingly, it had amazing actors, direction, and script. Most of this stuff is made by fans, but a lot of it is low budget zombie stuff that's overdone. Go try something else. I understand that HAUNTED might not be original necessarily, but we are trying to do something different. Whether you want to give us a pass for that or not it's up to you. I love found footage movies, and I think they're interesting and I want to make one with a unique twist.

Javi:  There's a quote I always come back to, but I can't remember who said it. In reference to SHUTTER ISLAND, someone said that it was a good version of a story we had seen before, and there's nothing wrong with that. And at least personally, I liked SHUTTER ISLAND quite a bit.

Brad: SHUTTER ISLAND employs an ending that is so popular with horror movies nowadays. I hated it.

Javi: That's true, and I kind of agree with you about the ending, but I still really liked the movie.

Brad: Yeah, it looked pretty.

Javi: This was just an example to illustrate the point you were making. But moving along to Kickstarteras a way to fund your project, was there a particular project or movie that made you think that this was the way to go for your project's funding?

Brad: Yeah, I'm poor as hell. I imagine Dan is poor as hell just by the virtue that he's a professional writer. We didn't know how to get funding. It's hard as hell to get funding when you don't know people. I mean, Dan knows people, but Kickstarter has become popular, found footage has become popular, we believe we have something unique, so why not see if we can get this funded? We chose Kickstarter over IndideGoGo because they have more clout, and you have to reach your goal to receive all of the money, which we think is good.

Javi: What are some of your feelings in regards to crowd funding film projects and how viable do you think that is for indie filmmaking?

Brad: Well if you take a look at the the Kickstarter homepage, you see that there are 31 movies going to South By Southwest that were funded because of Kickstarter. The way I see it, there are some people that hate the idea of Kickstarter, but I'm a fan of digital distribution, and I think that the model needs to reevaluated. This idea of Kickstarter is great because if you see a project you like, then you can throw 50 bucks their way. It's fine that people that are against Kickstarter because you just don't donate.

Javi: To me, if you donate to a Kickstarter project, how is that different from going out and supporting a band while they're on tour, you know?

Brad: Exactly, you are helping something get created, and it's not everyone has business contacts or is wealthy or can take out a lot of loans. So what, you're going to take away their chance to create something? No, they don't have a right?, but thanks to Kickstarter they at least have a chance. I think it's a great service and it will help a lot of people's dreams come true, as cheesy as it sounds.

Javi: I know it's not movie related, but I've personally have donated to a few indie toy projects. There are these dudes that are trying to bring back their own version of the Battle Beasts.

Brad: Oh my God, I was just thinking about those. I love Battle Beasts

Javi: I love it. They give little incentives, but at least it's getting made. How else would something like that get made? I definitely agree that it's great way for people to have a voice.  Now switching gears, how do you feel about distribution and what you hope to achieve with this project?

Brad: In regards to my own movie, I want it to be seen. I don't care about the money. If I made a good product and if I know how to promote it, I'll make my money back.

Javi: What will your plans be for a distribution model for this movie? I know that for me, I enjoy when movies are available digitally. For example, I'll be renting KILL LIST on iTunes because I can't make the one screening of it that's in my area.

Brad: Our original plan for HAUNTED was to release it online for free immediately. And then, as soon as good reviews come in, eventually we offer it buy or offer a DVD. At that point, we would make the DVD be worth buying.

Javi: I was thinking of the whole Louis C.K. movie where he put it up online for $5. Or like with music, you had Radiohead's In Rainbows. Both of these instances show a good way to profit of online distribution. Mind you, they all had huge built-in fan bases, but it shows people are willing top pay money for stuff online.

Brad: If they like something truly enough, they will buy it. To give an example, all of the perks that we give on KickStarter will be available on the DVD: behind-the-scenes, commentary, and four alternate endings. There is the one ending that we will use and then the other ones are just really cool ideas that we want to have in the movie. We just decided to go with the one with the best reception. We are going to give people an incentive to buy.

Javi: I like that. it really seems to be the way to go when you're basically competing for free. Now, are you going to be trying show off the movie in the festival circuit?

Brad: That's definitely something we're interested in. We'll show it around and give people downloads of the movie. We definitely want to see what happens in the circuit and hope for the best. If that doesn't work out, then we'll release it free online or float us a couple of bucks or buy the DVD. We'll give people options. We're not going to hoard the movie that we put all of our time and effort just for a few bucks.

Javi: Since you're doing such a generous distribution, then in the end it might give you enough clout or enough attention to do something else another project should the movie not do as well. Speaking of other projects, is there something else that you're working on? Or is this HAUNTED too much of a primary concern?

Brad: I got a couple of ideas that I've tossed around in my head. I wrote a story about a bunch of kids that go out and get trapped in a mine in Colorado, and then they're stalked by Lovecraftian monsters. It's very straightforward. And I've gotten a few complaints on that because it's my first real script, so I need to play with that one. And there's also another project that I want to develop about sleep paralysis, but right now HAUNTED is the way for us to get our name out there. If it completely flops, then it completely flops.

Javi: At least you can say you've made a movie.

Brad: Exactly, I have no experience making movies; no film classes under my belt, so this will kind of be an exercise.

Javi: Obviously best of luck with this project. Just as a final question, apart from the KickStarter, is there another project or website that you want to plug, maybe one for Dan as well?

Brad: My website is, it's small and modest, but I'm working on it. Dan's web site is And Rachel's is And of course, there's the Avod Horror Uncultured podcast.

Javi: Fantastic! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today and once again, and best of luck with HAUNTED.

That's it folks! Thanks again to Brad for taking the time to talk us. Once again, for those that want to donate something to the project, the Kickstarter page for HAUNTED can be found here. Look for more interviews with filmmakers trying to get their start through Kickstarter or Indie Go Go or any other services in the near future.

No comments:

Post a Comment