First of all Jon thank you for doing this interview with Terrorhook.com
- I'd Like to ask you, How long have you been in the entertainment business, and what inspired you to direct?
I began working as an entertainment journalist around 1996. I was doing that for several years while working on my own screenplays. It was around 1999 when Brinke Stevens urged me to take my American Nightmare screenplay and direct it. I've always wanted to make movies but found myself near 30 and not seeing that happening. With Brinke motivating me on, I decided to head that direction and haven't looked back.
- Growing up in Texas, who were your influences as far as entertainment and film goes?
Actually, I grew up in Los Angeles. I didn't move to Texas until 1994, so moving into the entertainment business happened more my chance. My grandfather was a bit player in the old black and whites, so I grew up in a family of movie lovers. I was definitely influenced by the old movies, in particular Alfred Hitchcock. My whole family watched horror movies and thrillers, so I was heavily influenced by John Carpenter, Brian DePalma and all the horror flicks of the late seventies and early eighties.
- Explain to us the difficulties you face when making one of your independent films, as opposed to a mainstream picture. I'd imagine it to be extremely challenging...
The first and greatest hurdle any filmmaker has to face is financing. In the studio system, they are putting up the money but you are also bound by their rules and what they want. In the indie world, you have to also be a business person in order to get the funding. That's always a nightmare and 90% of the challenge we face. From there, the challenges vary depending on the budget. Often, you are faced with no money, short shooting schedules and a crew working for very little money. These all create their own set of obstacles that have to be overcome. I was helping some friends on a movie recently and the director was talking about indie filmmaking. He felt that often, on a low budget shoot, things are so tight and moving so fast, a Director often ends up spending more time putting out fires than being able to focus on directing. I agree to a point with him. You hope on a studio film to have such a large crew and support personnel that you can focus just on directing. Unfortunately, that luxury is not always true in the indie world.
- Is auditioning for one of your films in any way the same as that of a high budget one? If not what are its differences?
I believe it is very similar. On some productions, I have also been the casting director and in others I didn't have to show up until the callbacks. However, I think the process is basically the same. The actors get called in for an audition, they get sides, they have a set period of time to audition before the camera, etc. It's all roughly the same.
- I noticed that most of the cast in your movies, are repeat casts, meaning they have worked for you previously...... is this strictly by choice?
Most of the time, these have been conscience choices. When you find a good actor, it's nice to bring them back for other productions. You already know each other, know what to expect and it makes the process easier. This is especially helpful when working with ensembles. Having some actors you have worked with previously reduces the number of people you have to get to know. Each actor has their own way of approaching a movie, a character and the director. I believe a good director needs to learn all of this - for every actor - to help get the best performance. When you work with some of the same people, it becomes an extension of that learning process, allowing the actor and the director to push each other further creatively.
- Is it at all true that your cast and workers get paid little to no money? If yes, than what do you think that their motivation seems to be?
It's very true. The world of low budget indies isn't one of riches. In Texas, the majority of film work tends to be commercial. Up until recently, there weren't a lot of feature films going on. Many actors would take roles in movies for little pay just to get some features onto their resume. For the crew, it is an excuse to do a movie instead of a commercial. But, the big motivation for all of us is the love of movies. We are more in love with making movies than making a fortune.
- Based on your experiences, do you have a favorite person to work with?
That's a tricky question that can get a person in trouble. I try to build a family environment of people that love making movies, have great demeanors and you want to spend time with. I don't have any favorites, but I have a lot of good actors and crew members that I like to keep bringing back.
- Horror seems to be the main focus in your career right now..... any truth to that?
Yes. I've always said that if I made a career out of horror movies, I would die a happy man. That's not to say that I don't want to make other types of movies you I do. I have directed a dramatic thriller that is in post production and I'm getting ready to direct a crime thriller this summer. But the majority of projects I'm involved in do tend to be horror, which always makes me happy.
- What is the first horror film you saw.....when did you see it? And which is your favorite?
It's funny. I can remember watching tons of the old classics when I was littleā stuff like Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy. But when I think of horror, I think of the ones that really had a horrifying effect on me. When I was a kid, my Aunt Wendie had the early version of cable. I think it was called ON Tv. I can remember watching Halloween, Friday the 13th Parts 1 and 2, and The Exorcist. They scared the shit out of me and that impressed me. That drew me to my love of horror. I have to say that of all the movies, Halloween still tends to be my favorite.
- You Mentioned Brian De Palma, director of such classics like "Carrie" had influenced your shooting style in "Suburban Nightmare." You called it something, but I can't remember the name for it. Can you explain this and just how the technique works? In my opinion it looked amazing!
Thank you. The process was a split diopter. It's almost a trademark technique used by De Palma. Basically, it is a device placed over the camera lens that allows varying depths of field to stay in focus simultaneously. Usually, if you have a person close to the camera and a person in the background, one or the other will not be in focus. A split diopter allows you to put both people into focus.
- I ask, what was your favorite scene/set in "Suburban Nightmare"....mine has to be the torture room!
I really liked them all. Eric Whitney did a fantastic job of capturing my vision for the sets and bringing them to life. The torture room is harsh and gritty. The kitchen and living room were orderly and presentable to reflect Charles' ordered world. The bedroom was cluttered and disarrayed to reflect Deborah's inner turmoil. And the theme of body art throughout the house was an excellent touch. I really liked them all for what they brought to each scene. Of course, Brad Walker's great lighting only enhanced all of that.
- What's next for Jon Keeyes?
I have a few projects in the works. I'm supposed to be filming a theatrical crime thriller this summer in Winnipeg. It's called Living & Dying. We are also working on getting American Nightmare 2 off the ground along with a vampire action flick called The Bloodwalkers. I'm constantly juggling multiple projects but it seems like Living & Dying will be the next one.
- Lastly, what are your views on sites such as Terrorhook.com? And how do reviews affect your judgment/career?
The internet has emerged as one of the great bastions for fans of horror movies and independent film. It used to be that fans really had only a handful of publications they could go to for movies that they liked. But the internet has really broadened that and brought the fans more in touch with the movies that are out there. I think that's what I love the most. I can go to places like Terrorhook.com to find out about movies that I might not have ever heard of otherwise.
As for reviews, I have a love/hate relationship with them. I always love good reviews. I think anyone would. But the internet is filled with people with heavy opinions. Everyone wants to be a critic and unfortunately it's mainly the negative people that want to be heard. I love Kevin Smith's rant about the internet in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. I tend to not read reviews and rarely go searching for them. I have to trust my own judgment as a filmmaker and reading reviews can sway that judgment in a negative way. I try to make movies I would like to see and hope there are enough people out there that like them to keeping making more.
- Once again, thank you for agreeing to this interview with us, It's been a pleasure, as I do see you as being one of the next big filmmakers to emerge onto the scene....good luck to you Jon!