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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Grave Questions: Jonathan Chance

Not too long ago, I watched and reviewed "The Timeslip"- a short film by the indie film group, Chance Encounters.  Jonathan chance of the Chance Brothers was kind enough to agree to answer some questions" as part of my new regular feature- "Grave Questions". 

TCoT:  What inspired you to become a film maker in the first place?

John:   First and foremost - original ideas of our own to make!  Since we were little, we were into horror and SCI-FI.  Growing up in the 80's, full of movie icon's it was an inspiring time like no other. Around 10 and 14 we saw heroes like Peter Jackson, John Carpenter, etc show what a person could accomplish with a camera and some friends. That was inspiring.  Anyone can do it nowadays - so with strong competition you have to make yours stand out.  Among the crowd I definitely feel we have something to offer.  With every film, we want to make an exciting entry.  To give that feeling you have as a kid - when you'd say 'Oh Carpenter has a new movie out!' and for people to come back and enjoy a Chance Brothers movie knowing the quality of film to expect from us, and anticipate what project we'll cook up next!  That's what I want.  Shorts are our playground; smaller scale - with features we'd be cooking with gas - stories put to screen even more incredible and innovative.
TCoTHow old were you when you realized that you could actually be a film maker, and how did that realization come to you?

JohnRichard and I were 23 and 19 when we began working on "The Veil" (it will finally get a much long awaited release shortly), that movie would span some years to make while we were holding down jobs.  From the first few scenes we shot - I feel we knew we were onto something.  This was our thing.  Although when we began, the Zombie feature film wasn't en vogue.  We just wanted to make our dark black and white low budget film.  Then it all of a sudden, two years into the project, was undergoing a new revitalization to what we all know it has become today. Somehow though, as many as there are out there now it still stands out as something of our own.  It's claustrophobic, and raw, and seems like a throwback - yet in a time of it's own.  Among so many they are trying for the cheap laugh - but ours has that spirit of the more older horror films in the hey day.

TCoTHow did you go about making "The Timeslip"?
John:  We are very honest with each other and very picky.  So we know what shots we want and go for them each shoot - and if Richard were acting, I'd push him to deliver in his performance the way I know he'd do the same for me.  Of course, I know things can be fixed in the edit bay later - but the realism to characters in our films are always key.

TCoTHow did it feel to have it shown at its first film festival?
John:  It was great to see it's premiere at the Action On Film Festival.  Unfortunately, Richard couldn't make it but I did enjoy watching it with my wife.  Then doing a Q and A afterward.  Ours was of course the lowest budgeted film showing in that block.  There were thesis films that had big cash behind them and yet there we stood nestled with larger film fare.  That's what we're out to prove - quality isn't always budget bound, creative ideas can be used to overcome restrictions.  With each festival it enters I feel we prove that more and more.
TCoTAre you currently working on another short film- or are you going feature length soon?
John:  We have a few things on!

"The Veil Unmasked Edition" will be released soon - it' was completed in 2005, our first feature and we're pleased to release it in a form that we always wanted and with a distribution we trust.  This version is for the attention deficit too - it's just 104 min as opposed to the original 150 min.  We feel it's still as epic as it was (albeit on a micro budget).  But there isn't a moment to get bored there's always something happening!  I feel this really shows the true spirit of independent film.  If you have a ten plus crew and you're on a million dollar budget it's not exactly slumming it.  This was a bunch of kids making a movie true guerrilla film making style.  So if you enjoy a good indie horror film or if nothing else, to support original independent film maybe this is for you.  When a film is distributed, Film Makers are treated so badly - from their masters getting wrecked and being released in poor quality to not even getting paid - let's just say - it happened to a friend of mine.

"The Last War" is currently building momentum - a project gathering artists from all corners of the globe to participate in making a SCI-FI documentary feature.  It's going to be made up of Voice Over Artists, Photographers, Models, Animators, and Graphic Artists from all over to build the film with us.  The story is based on an alien invasion set in the future.  There are still some spots left for people to get involved.

On top of that we're working on some exciting screenplays, both me and Rich gearing to try and get funding for our 2nd feature film.  I'm really excited about what I'm writing at the moment.  When I was a kid growing up there were stories of something unexplained (No hints yet!) that were fascinating to me.  I've spent some years putting this together and now it's really beginning to make fruition!

Meantime you never know, we might make another short!
TCoTIf you could direct a big name Hollywood movie, which three stars would you love to have in it?
John:  Good question! Christopher Lee would be an honor.  I always mention "Horror of Dracula" was the first horror film I ever saw.  That guy is such a great actor he could make a bad script good!  Except "Howling 2".  No one could save that to be honest. But, seriously he had so many great films to his name and continues to.

William Dafoe - an amazing actor, he can truly do anything.  He can play a bad guy as good as a nice guy.  Funny, scary just incredible.  Gary Cole or Eric Roberts too.  That caliber of artistry is inspiring - to be able to become that role.  With Cole to drift between serious acting and comedy is talent in itself.
TCoTWhat movie scared you the most growing up- and what scene do you remember most from that movie?
John:  "Horror of Dracula" - I was four.  I dreamed he was by my window peering in - only after my Mum told me I'd get nightmares watching that horror film!  I said for her not to say that again.  Then I never did.   I think she got that I was somehow more intrigued by them.  "Deathship" was another early one.  Later on horror films were more just unsettling.  "House on the Edge of the Park", "Last House on the Left" - just films so real it left you feeling disgusted for watching it.  They weren't scary - just a side of human nature you know is real and that is truly scary.

TCoTWhat do you think of the rash of remakes and reboots that have been flooding the theatres over the recent years?
John:  Always a good debate.  Sometimes rarely a remake will surpass the original - but that was mainly in the past when it was more of a fandom for the filmmaker to make one.  Not necessarily about the market, money and "let's make a remake with a strong solid fan base but make it apply to young teens that don't have a clue there was an original."

Recent remakes I feel were as good or surpassed them were: "Battlestar Galactica", "The Hills Have Eyes". BG was definitely better.

Back when I feel it wasn't all about studios desperate for every classic to be reproduced - "The Thing" (82') "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (78') they completely surpassed the original classics. 
I feel original film making will be back at one point in studios more.  It's just a phase at the moment of playing safe making sure they make much more back.  But it's a shame no great film of the past is safe!

TCoTIf you could do a remake, which movie would you remake- and why?
John:   Uh oh - I have to play this?  It definitely wouldn't be something that was only out five - ten years ago - what's that about?  Just purely because I love the characters I'd want to play Will Graham in "Manhunter" or Snake Pliskin in "Escape From New York" - then I'd simultaneously direct them.  Then destroy them.  Because they are perfect and shouldn't be remade by anyone.  "Red Dragon", shame on you.  I truly believe that a directors film is his/her vision and they shouldn't want to remake someone else's film.  I just want to be given the opportunity to make mine.  I'm confident we have a lot of great ideas and stories.  I understand people have to put food on the table though and some folks just want to make a movie and they're not the type that have a stylization or simply will do whatever script is offered their way.

BUT If someone forced me to make one - "Shockwaves" because that was bad ass.  Or "Garbage Pail Kids" - it was pretty bad but the puppets looked good.  I think this is already being considered to be made already, so whoever makes it - consider great puppets again (please no CGI it won't work!) That can be remade - the film never really captured the atmosphere and story behind all those interesting characters.  The concept was interesting - but it was lacking the wonder of those cards - the story sort of locked into a typical 80's standard kid up against bullies/wants the girl format.

TCoTWhat advice would you offer new indie film makers in regards to making a movie?
John:  Watch alot of movies.  Ask yourself what makes your favorites so good and appealing to you?  Be the original film maker you want to become.  We definitely need more of them.  Be careful - if you have something of a good idea there's always somehow else who wants to profit from it.  These are the vermin of the film world.  There are as many thieves out there as there are hungry artists.  After completing a film you'll probably want to sell it - don't just look up to see if a company is legit, investigate and ask a couple of filmmakers who have sold their film with that company what they are like to work with.

Lastly, stay inspired!  There's too much trash out there to clean up as it is.
So, there you have it- ten "Grave Questions" answered by Jonathan Chance.  I want to give him a big "Thank You" for the willingness to sit down and take the time to type out his responses to my questions- it's greatly appreciated!

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