We go behind-the-scenes of the recent festival favorite, Pitchfork, and learn what it was like on the set for the cast and crew of this smart and sexy modern slasher.
We recently heaped a ton of praise on to Glenn Douglas Packard’s feature film debut, the slasher Pitchfork, now widely available on VOD. Pitchfork is a loving homage to the great slasher franchises of the 80s, but it remains refreshingly unique — creating an interesting and compelling killer worthy of his own iconic franchise. We were impressed both by how damn good this film looks giving its very limited budget and tight shooting schedule, as well as how impressive this cast of relative newcomers was. First-time director Packard excels at bringing out the best from his perfectly cast leads.
We had the pleasure of talking with Creator/Director Packard and several members of the Pitchfork cast, including Rachel Carter (Judy Holister/Ma), Andrew Dawe-Collins (Ben Holister Sr/Pa), Lindsey Nicole (Clare), and Keith Webb (Rocky).
INTERVIEW WITH THE TALENTED TEAM BEHIND PITCHFORK
Glenn, can you start off by telling us about the inspiration for this film and what it was like making your directorial debut?
Glenn: The inspiration started with a rerun episode of OPRAH I had seen. She was interviewing a guest about his ordeal with very brutal parents that had treated him like a dog. He had turned his life around, wrote a book to help inspire others who had been involved in child abuse. I thought what if he had gone the other direction, insane, mad, that he had gone total feral. I have always been inspired by the 80s slasher films, and if I was gonna direct my first feature it was gonna have to be in the horror genre. What’s it like making your directorial debut…can I say F*CKING FANTASTIC? lol
Were there specific films you drew direct inspiration from when creating these characters and this world?
Glenn: The ending looks similar to TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE for sure, I can tell you the one film that inspired the sound design and score was the 2007 foreign film INSIDE. Watch that film now, and you will hear much inspiration in the sound of PITCHFORK surprisingly. I didn’t have a huge budget and a big studio behind me. This is a film started from scratch. I had my hands in every single department, from script writing to editing to the score. I wanted to give it that raw feel of the first FRIDAYs, NIGHTMAREs, HALLOWEENs, and the slasher films before that.
PITCHFORK the character was that to me. If it’s a success in the horror community, then we would go deeper into the character as well as darker. Part one was the character getting to know who he is…he is becoming PITCHFORK. If there is more, he knows now the monster he is. This was supposed to be a horror movie for the first time teen horror watcher, as well as slasher lovers.
See, we shot this with one camera in just twenty one short days on my family farm in Michigan with a group of my friends I had made in my twenty five years in the music/choreography industry and a skeleton crew. It was intended as a love letter to the horror slasher films of the 70s and 80s. But with big studio films like THE BYE BYE MAN, RINGS, & SPLIT, I had to make sure our visuals looked like a multi-million dollar film to compete. But we are the small indie horror engine that could.
How did each of you become involved in this film?
Rachel: Glenn and I were roommates in NYC in the 90s where I trained/worked as a professional actor. I relocated to Michigan in 2002. Since Pitchfork was shot in Michigan and Glenn knew of my work as an actor, he cast me in the film.
Lindsey: Our director Glenn has been a key player in my life for almost 15 years. I’ve known him since I was his tiny dancer in his dance production company called “The Untouchables.” He’s been guiding me and inspiring me in and out of the studio since. Glenn asked me to audition for the role of “Clare” with the direction of “just be yourself. That statement alone paints the kind of role model Glenn is. He is a dreamer but the firmest believer I have ever met. Glenn makes me not only feel but know that I can do anything.
Andrew: I answered a casting call on a Backstage.com, a casting website. Honestly I had just that morning signed up on the site. There was a fee attached to it, but I was desperate to find a new level of projects to work on here in Michigan. Other than knowing that it was for a horror film, I knew nothing about the role or film. But I had a few discussions with Glenn, and the more we talked, the more I wanted the role of Pa (Ben Holister Sr). When Glenn called and offered me the role…wow, it was better than Christmas!
Keith: Great first question! Glenn had the idea of Pitchfork almost his whole life, and throughout his career as choreographer he hand-picked almost all of us from each chapter of Glenn’s life. And he made sure we all would blend really good as actors and friends. Glenn needs to get into casting out here in Hollywood.
Are all of your die hard horror fans or were you just drawn to this particular film? What was it like being a part of a film that could easily become the next iconic slasher franchise?
Rachel: I cannot say that I am a “die hard” horror fan, but I do love the 80s slasher films and I enjoy “horror-crime thrillers” (e.g., The Devils Rejects). What drew me to Pitchfork was the sense of paying tribute to the 80s slasher, being a part of a new horror franchise, and most of all, participating in a passion project … helping to make Glenn’s dream come true! The experience was so rewarding. For me personally, it came at a time when I desperately needed a creative outlet — and what better character to play than “Ma”.
Andrew: I love all movies really. But horror is my favorite. It is pretty damn cool to think about the direction this franchise is going. Easily to date the best role, the best cast, the best production that I have worked on. The reception from fans who know and love horror has been amazing. And it feels like just the beginning.
Lindsey: Since filming, horror has become a passion of mine. But I do need a physical, living being next to me when watching a horror film. In our living room while filming Pitchfork there was a TV without cable, just a DVD player. Glenn being the horror guru that he is so generously provided us with horror films to watch on our downtime. I say generous because he has a mere 800 FILMS. Besides the fact that this wimp couldn’t escape horror off set, that number alone intimidated and terrified me! Ultimately, after many hours glued to the TV and blankets bit into, horror found its way into my bloodstream.
Being a part of a film that could easily become the next iconic slasher franchise is a dream. I’m in complete awe. I’m so humbled that this passion project is the beginning of my acting career. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Keith: I’m just a die hard movie fan period. Horror in particular holds a very special dark place in my heart. There’s nothing like it and it’s the only genre thats constantly evolving and demands originality. After doing this movie I can die happy to say I’ve been in a horror.
What attracted you most to this script and these roles?
Rachel: When Glenn called to discuss casting me as “Ma” I had to go back and read the script since I was originally cast at Mrs. Killian. I have always been drawn to characters that are more complex. When I was younger, I was often type cast as the girl next door, but over time, and particularly in theatre, I was able to delve into roles that were three-dimensional. I have been fascinated by psychology since high school and have a B.S. in psychology. I find the nature versus nurture argument compelling. When Glenn offered me the role of “Ma”, it provided the opportunity to delve into this age-old debate. I also have an acting “bucket list” and one was to play a villain. So I can check that off my list!
Andrew: Well, the more I talked with Glenn and the more I learned about Ben Sr., I really wanted to be the one to bring him to life. Such a Fucked (can I say that?) up guy was going to be a big challenge and huge amounts of fun. When I finally got to read the script, I began to understand this was a very detailed world and Pa has a terrible dark side to him…wow, I was GEEKED to be a part of this world. I still am!
Lindsey: Glenn is the reason I so believed in the script and project. Any time you work with him, you will undoubtedly meet the greatest community of people and will learn the necessary, constructive directions any performer unknowingly craves. I also couldn’t wait to push myself in scenes like the one with Ma and Pa.
Keith: Honestly it wasn’t the script. It was the fact I get to be in a slasher directed by Glenn and get to leave Hollywood and spend a month in the lovely country side of Michigan.
There’s a great energy in this film, and it truly looks like you were all having fun while making it. What was your favorite part about making this film?
Rachel: I was trained in the Meisner Method (William Esper Studio, NYC), so I thrive when I am interacting and playing off other actors in the moment. But I show up on the set with some very clear choices about the character. So, my favorite part was getting into costume, make-up, being able to manifest the work I had done solo while feeding off the other actors, and finally bringing “Ma” to life.
Lindsey: The instantaneous relationships. The infectious energy between us happened so quickly on and off set. I can wholeheartedly say that Pitchfork’s cast and crew will forever be my family. They are the ones I’m most in contact with and the ones I wish to spend my time with. Learning and growing from this group of humans was and continues to be the greatest experience of my life.
Andrew: My favorite part of the film was working with the other actors. This was my first time working on a set with method actors, daaaaang, what a trip! Daniel (Wilkinson) was always, I mean ALWAYS in character as Pitchfork. I kept waiting to see Glenn feed him from a dog bowl…probably happened man. Brian (Raetz) as Hunter Killian…Oh my god, the first night of shooting the scene where Hunter and Clare come running up and bang on the Holister door was so damn cool. Brian would come up and get in my face and try and stare me down. Once, when I refused to blink, he actually pushed me. So cool, I loved every second of that atmosphere. I actually tried to do the method acting thing, but I’m not good at it. I decided it was better to leave Pa in the basement than it was to take him to bed with me.
Keith: Has to be the barn dance scene. Like I said before, Glenn choreographed most of all of us before at different times in his life so it was so cool to all come together and do what we do best…DANCE! It was second nature for all of us.
While we’re on the subject, let’s talk about that epic barn dance scene! Was it as much fun to film as it was to watch? How long did it take to rehearse and film that scene?
Lindsey: Epic right! That’s Glenn. It was so much fun and completely nostalgic. We rehearsed for two days. There’s no better feeling than being in a studio with Glenn, Celina, David Mayorga (first assistant director) and fellow dancers. That was my childhood. Then to put it on film… the best! Definitely my mom’s favorite scene.
Glenn: The barn dance for so many reasons was really special to me. Family is in there, locals that I grew up with are there. Dance was a big part of my life and these character are based off of me and my real life friends so it was important to show this side of these characters in a GLEE-LIKE-FOOTLOOSE moment. Pretty much dance is what lead me to this moment of filming a horror film called PITCHFORK.
Keith: Believe it or not, I think that was the easiest thing to shoot cause our DP has done commercials and Glenn had directed music videos numerous times and most of us actors have danced in them. So that was cake and so much fun. I wish we could all come back from the dead so we can all do a dance scene again!
Any other favorite scenes?
Rachel: I loved performing the monologue. It is so bizarre and disjointed and yet reveals her sexual perversity and psychopathic perspective of the world.
Lindsey: So many favorites. Definitely the barn dance scene makes me the happiest. Celina’s death scene kills me EVERY time I watch it. So good. Lastly, the basement scene makes me so proud of my own personal growth throughout the film.
Glenn: The tear that fell out of Flo’s eye after her encounter with Pitchfork in the cornfield and the sound design of the hanging of Pitchfork. I’m in loveeeeeeeee with. It has this rapture feeling, scares the shit out of me. If you listen real close, you can hear all the screams of the victims of the Holisters.
Andrew: Honestly, every actor in this film is amazing. Glen gave each character a chance to shine, and oh my god they all did it fantastically. Rachel Carter is brilliant as Ma. People may think they have seen batshit crazy, but when Ma first walks out from the hallway into the living room, that expression on her face tells them they ain’t seen nothin’ yet! My favorite Ma scene is in the basement, when she gives her true love, walking on shit stained grass speech and then stuffs her hands down Pitch’s pants. And my favorite Pitchfork scene is right after he kills the jock in the barn. He just screams and screams, drool running out of his mouth and veins popping in his neck…I loved that moment from Daniel.
Any fun behind-the-scenes stories you’d like to share?
Rachel: One of our first takes of my monologue I messed my lines up because I could not get my hands down “Pitchfork’s” pants … they were tied with rope. I should have practiced first!
Andrew: My death scene, the blades were props, but very pointy props. The prop sticking out of Hunter’s left hand brushed my eyelash as he slapped my head. Darn near lost an eye…FUN!
What was the most challenging part of making this film?
Rachel: The basement scenes were tough because so much was going on and we had to shoot so many scenes with different angles and with only one camera. There were breaks, but brief ones due to a tight 21-day filming schedule. After shooting my scenes, there is a heightened state of emotions that requires some time to decompress, then emotional exhaustion.
Andrew: The schedule. We shot some very long, intense, hot and exhausting scenes in that basement. But so worth every second of it!
Keith: The first day was the toughest. It was all very new to us actors and production team. We’ve all dabbled in the entertainment industry — commercials, music videos, etc. — but a lot of us have never done a full feature. I think once we got through the first day, everyone found their flow and everything was gelling perfectly.
Lindsey: Sounds funny but the most challenging scenes for me were the opening scenes and the basement scene. Total opposites of one another. Campy and lighthearted vs. excruciating disturbance. The nerves kicked in with the first scenes since we filmed them first. However, what was challenging about the basement scene was remembering we were acting. Ma and Pa’s performances were so remarkable, I thought I would never get out of that chair alive. Their commitment made the cameras and crew disappear.
Lindsey, this is your debut acting role. And you get to be the iconic, kick ass final girl in a great slasher film, which is the dream come true of most actresses in the genre. What was this experience like for you, and would you like to do more horror films?
Lindsey: Thank you! My heart is exploding. Pitchfork not only makes me so proud and brings back the best memories but it ultimately stands as a turning point in my life. Filming Pitchfork drove me to follow my passions ruthlessly and unapologetically as I continue acting and auditioning. I am so grateful to be Pitchfork’s kick ass final girl and already dying to be cast again in other horror films. Without a doubt, there was enormous pressure filming because this was my first acting gig ever. However the combination of positive pressure and unremitting support from the cast and crew kept me going and loving every second. My ultimate dream is to be on American Horror Story. I will never get over the fact that the first role in my acting career was THE final girl in Pitchfork. So badass.
How did you all prepare to play your characters? Did you draw any inspiration from any other characters/films?
Lindsey: Since Glenn told me that his character “Clare” reminded him so much of me to begin with, I simply tried to stay as grounded and honest as possible. How would I actually react in those circumstances? I watched Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wrong Turn before arriving on set.
Keith: My inspiration for Rocky was a mix between Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Donald Glover.
Rachel: I start by analyzing the text and creating a history for the character. Then I build the emotional life required by the text and the screenwriter(s) ideas, which required conversations with both Glenn and Darryl. I also wanted to create some physical characteristics (e.g., use of eyes, mouth, laugh, etc.) and I spent hours working on mannerisms and incorporating them into the scenes. Glenn provided a list of movies to watch for inspiration, but I wanted to create my own vision for “Ma” so I was careful not to watch to many.
Andrew: No, not really. Like I said I love horror, I’m very familiar with a lot of the iconic horror families. Most of those families had a member or two who would lure in the unsuspecting victims. I wanted Pa to be…less inviting…if that’s the right description. It was obvious from the get go that entering the Holister home was a very bad idea, so I just went with that, the kids had nowhere else to go and Pa knew it.
Andrew and Rachel, your characters in this film (Ma and Pa Holister) are absolutely brilliant. How much fun is it to play the psychotic villains?
Rachel: I cannot express how much fun it was to play “Ma”. You can get creative, let go of inhibitions, and take risks when performing a psychotic villain. I love the physicality of Ma. If you notice both she and Pitchfork can be very still, instinctive, then become very aggressive. It is an interesting dichotomy and demonstrative of their animalistic tendencies.
Andrew: OMG, I had so much fun playing Pa. Pa is such a horrible human being how could an actor not enjoy playing him. And the reaction I get from people who have seen the film just makes me want to climb back inside Pa and bring him out to play in future installments!
There were some extremely memorable death scenes in the film. What was it like filming those scenes?
Rachel. We had been shooting all night when we finally got to my death scene. We had to move quickly to stay on schedule and there was some tension due to issues with special effects/make-up, but it all worked out. I just had to be in the moment and react. By the last shot, I was drenched in blood, sweaty, bruised, and filthy…awesome!
Andrew: EYE POPPING…almost! I die horrible deaths in a lot of projects I film, it comes with playing the bad guy. But this is my best death yet! The length of it and how it comes about, Pa never saw it coming. And GDP kept yelling at me because when I’d fall backwards on the table my legs would keep flying up and I would boot hunter in one of the knives in his hands. Picture it, GDP yells “Cut! Back to ones, Pa stop kicking Hunter!” Great fun to look back on.
Keith: My death scene in the woods. We actually had to film that twice on two different days. It was really early in the morning around 5 am so we were racing the sun. The pressure was on and the process had to be very tedious because of the blood and special effects. But in the end we pulled it off.
After all your hard work, what was like seeing the final cut of Pitchfork? And have you been surprised at all by the incredible reception of the film so far?
Rachel: I was blown away the first time I saw the film. I have been around filmmakers a long time, and I know what it takes to make a movie. To dream it is one thing, but to actually make it and finish it on such a small budget and then get distribution is no small feat.
Lindsey: Seeing the final cut of Pitchfork was the craziest most exciting experience ever! A reunion watching our film in a theater… wow. I’ll never forget it. I remember beaming throughout the whole hour and 34 minutes while squeezing the hands of my mom and friends next to me. I’m in constant awe of the response to our passion project. So honored, proud and humbled.
Andrew: Seeing the final cut was almost like seeing the movie for the first time. Just about all of us had seen the film at various film festivals; we would attend them in support of the movie. Each time the film was tweaked a little bit from the time before. But at the LA premier, it was a new streamlined cut — and wow did that baby POP! I’m not surprised at the reception of the film. I was lucky enough to see a very early unpolished cut of the film. Even then it was easy to see how gorgeous this film is. And how many horror films can go bragging about being SLASHER GORGEOUS…only PITCHFORK.
Keith: Seeing the final cut surprised me a lot. I was only there for half the time, but by the time I saw the movie the second half of the film felt like a different movie entirely. The first half that I was a part of was very Friday the 13th meets Footloose. By the time I left and saw the last half, it became Devils Rejects and Texas Chainsaw, which blew my mind.
What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects we should know about? How can fans stay connected with you and your projects?
Lindsey: I’m just busy taking classes and auditioning, so I will keep you posted! Loving every minute of it. Fans can stay connected with me on Instagram @lindsdbach.
Andrew: I’m on FACEBOOK, just search Andrew Dawe-Collins, I’m pretty sure that I’m the only one. So look me up and and let’s hook up. I’d love to hear from fans…an AGENT would be great, too! I’d love to hear from one of those!
I have been extremely busy. In addition to PITCHFORK I have worked on the Internationally acclaimed film TRAIN STATION which is just finishing up it’s award winning festival run. A very, very, cool crime drama called HALT in which I have a rare nice guy role. Gearing up to work this spring on Michael James Alexander’s horror film THE LEGEND of DOG LADY ISLAND and hopefully a couple of PITCHFORK sequels!
And if you want to see something almost as full of awesomeness as PITCHFORK? Go to LIVINGDEADPRESS.com or Amazon and check out some of the children’s horror books I have illustrated. I know…children’s horror books sounds ungodly, but they are just cool fun for the little one. Stuff like “The Zombie in the Basement”, “10 Little Zombies Jumping on a Bed”, and my favorite, “The Lonely Zombie”. I get to a few comic conventions now and then, and the kids just love them. So check ’em out!
Keith: I will be on Discovery ID in an episode of “Murder Among Friends” coming out in Spring. I will also be in a TV series produced by Kevin Hart called Living with the Dead. It’s funny how I can’t get out of the thriller/horror genre, and that’s OK!
Any last thoughts or anything you’d like to add?
Glenn: I enjoyed so much working with these actors, and it isn’t the last time your going to see them. There is something really special that happened on that set. It was inspiring, and they are all going to push for their dreams no matter what it is — as you all should that are reading this. What’s stopping you? Life is short. Get out there while you’re above ground and do what you’re passionate about.
I had to stay quite about Ryan Moore, who played Matt in Pitchfork, getting one of the lead roles in JEEPER CREEPERS 3. I knew they were casting, and the director would take notice to Ryan. There is another something I have to keep secret that I’m itching to tell as well, but we will have to wait. But don’t be surprised if you don’t see much more of these cast and the character PITCHFORK in the future.
Andrew: The PITCHFORK journey has been just unbelievable. Glenn calls it the Pitchfork family, and it truly feels that way. Thank you so much everyone at Pioneer and all my fellow Pitchfork family members for letting me share in this adventure. I would not change or trade a second of it.
Stay Connected with Pitchfork:
WHERE YOU CAN WATCH THE FILM:
Time Warner: http://bit.ly/2itkba9