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Amanda Gusack

Director - "In Memorium"
Interview by: 
Catwalk

One of the creepier films I’ve had the chance to review in the past year is the indy film, In Memorium.  Using creative camera work, sweeping differences in sound and a minimal cast, the film provided a number of great jumps while keeping me locked in to find out what was going to happen to the characters.  I decided to needle the film’s director/writer Amanda Gusack for some more in-depth discussion on how it came to be, and what the future holds for the film and her other projects.

HV: Amanda, welcome!  First of all thanks for taking the time to banter with us here at Horrorview.com, where we take your stuff seriously, just not ourselves!  For starters, tell me a little bit about how the story came about for the film.

The house provided a nice, cozy setting, with the exception of that completely wacked out sitting room.  I instantly thought of the room in my Italian grandmother’s house we could never go in,with the plastic on the furniture.  How did you decide on that setting and come across that set in particular?

AG: Thanks so much for having me! The set is actually my house, and I wrote the script to shoot within it, which gave us insta-location. Fortunately it no longer resembles your Italian Grandmother’s place,though that’s exactly what we were going for.

Our production designer patterned the walls with the “old style” type of dreariness. We striped down the hallway to make it look delicious when you stare from one end to the other (also a little “we’re not worthy” bow to Wes Craven’s stripey Freddy Kreuger shirt).

I read that during filming you had an episode yourself where it finally got to you.  Not in a stressful way, but in a frightening way.  Care to talk about it?

Our sound guy, for reasons still not known to me, liked to listen to his recordings backwards during breaks in the shoot day. He played one for me that literally stood my hair on end. Forward, Lily’s line was “Dennis, no!” Backward, in Johanna’s spine tingling scream was, “I wanted it!”

Not only did I slap the headphones off, but I was curled in fetal position the entire night.

The site really shows your pride in your cast.  Erik and Johanna performed a huge variety of emotions as the writing called for it.  Any stories from the set, highlights or otherwise, you’d care to share.

Thank you so much for that compliment. Erik and Johanna are incredible and they were awesome to work with.

I guess the sweetest thing to me (although this might be really lame to others) is that my cat kept climbing on Erik and Johanna when they were rehearsing the bedroom scenes. The cat, Dreebner, who looks like a cross between Marlon Brando in “The Godfather” and Falcor the Luck Dragon, likes to stick his whiskers in people’s eyes. Erik and Johanna were totally unfazed. They just petted him and ran their lines. 

Erik, I might add, is a troublemaker, who likes to jump out of closets. One day, when we couldn’t find him, Johanna and I spent about ten minutes avoiding every closed door in the house. Turns out, he was just outside, on the phone. Thought we were nuts when he saw us looking for him.

Anything printable you’d like to say to the folks unable to resist comparisons to some other unmentionable movies shot with a similar style?

Go for it! We love that unmentionable movie.

There are a number of different styles used in the film to invoke unnatural events.  The makeup work on Erik is flawless.  The moving shadows and constant creepiness of the house as facts are revealed slowly really drew me in.  Talk about some of the work that went into the living shadows, and how the cast had to deal with those.

Thank you for those compliments.  Our makeup artist, Kirsten McKune, was not only one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, but also incredibly talented. Her work is so natural that it looks real off-camera as well.

For “the shadows,” each frame in question was filmed a few times with different combinations of elements (thanks to the delicious brilliance of our DP Mike Testin), so we could play with the timing of everything separately in post. It was actually very simple, b/c the shots were so stark. The tricky thing for the cast was timing, but they’re so professional, that for them, it was a no-brainer.  

Now that the film is finished, you’re starting to generate quite a buzz with the festival circuit.  Tell us about a few that you’ve been to so far, as well as what’s coming up.

Waterfront in Michigan was absolutely killer. I’d make another film just to go there again. We just had a full-house as Sidewalk in Birmingham, with full-on “girlie screams” that tickled me to no end.

We’ll be playing at Shriekfest Saturday, September 30th at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, and at the Phoenix International Horror & Sci-Fi festival the weekend of October 27th to 29th.

If distribution plans come through for you, are you hoping to make any changes to the film itself or to add features, extras or commentary to the DVD?

In a perfect world, I’d love not to change the film, with the exception of some technical passes. Of course, it really depends on what distributors want, etc.. I’d love to add some special features, including one of my favorite moments in outtakes, where Erik suggested that the entire cast do a pivotal scene in Irish accents. I lose my S*** every time I watch it. Especially since Levi Powell (who plays Frank) chose a thick, raspy Brogue.

What’s next on tap for you personally and for your production company?

We’re about to embark on a money-raising journey for a suspense-thriller, which I’m totally excited about. I’ll let you know more when it’s finished. 

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. 

Viewers can follow Amanda and the film at www.inmemoriumthemovie.com.