Talking horror and indie filmmaking with promising newcomer Troy Escamilla, the talented writer/director of “Stirring” and “Party Night”.
Last year, my film “Waffles” was selected as a finalist at Motor City Nightmares Film Festival. It allowed me the chance to go to a director meet and greet with the other directors that had been selected as finalists. Not many of the directors really talked to Jake Phipps (my buddy) and myself, but one guy did take the time to introduce himself. That person was first-time horror director Troy Escamilla.
I did not really know his story at first, but after doing a little research I found out he was a bit of a success story based on money he had raised from crowdfunding for his film Party Night. Once I found out we came from similar backgrounds with our movie making, it prompted me to contact him so I could pick his brain.
The following interview with Troy Escamilla was an attempt to give future or upcoming writers/directors a little insight to the process from a successful indie movie maker.
INTERVIEW WITH INDIE FILMMAKER TROY ESCAMILLA
What are your three favorite horror movies?
This is tough because, besides my number one choice, which will always remain the same, the list changes frequently and really depends on my mood. But for today, I’ll say: 1. Black Christmas, 2. Poltergeist, and 3. Suspiria.
Who is your favorite horror movie director?
Ugh…another tough choice. I absolutely love Hitchcock and how he was able to so skillfully craft suspense. However, I am huge fan of Dario Argento. His attention to detail and use of lighting and color to create mood and atmosphere is masterful. And Suspiria remains the most beautiful horror film ever made.
Who is your favorite villain/killer?
Gotta go with the slow, stealthy and silent Michael Myers!
What made you want to do movies?
I’ve always loved to tell stories. I started writing short stories when I was in second or third grade and would beg my teachers to let me read them to my classmates. It goes without saying that I’m also a big lover of film. (Little known fact — I’m am Oscar buff! Ask me anything about the Oscars…..for real. Do it!)
In high school, I learned screenwriting and wrote my first feature script. I quickly realized that I loved the craft of screenwriting. It suited my writing style very well, so it became a passion. Ten…heck even five years ago, I would have never imagined that I would actually make a film.
Seeing so many talented and driven indie filmmakers that I follow on social media jumping in and getting their films made any way possible inspired me.
I honestly felt like the Party Night script was something special. Being a massive 80’s slasher fan myself, I believe I effectively injected the script with many nods and homages to other films and that other slasher fans would have a blast with it. So, I guess the direct answer to your question is that I want to make movies and tell stories that other genre fans will enjoy.
You didn’t go to school for film, so how did you figure out how to make a movie?
My first day on the set of Party Night was actually my first time ever being on a film set. The interesting thing is I wasn’t initially supposed to direct the film. I hired a director because I was well aware of my lack of experience. However, after two days, it was clear this person was not going to work out at all. So with the cast and crew on set and a very tight shooting schedule, I pretty much had no other choice than to step into the director role.
Come to discover, I actually enjoyed it! I wrote these characters, so it felt very natural and “right” to work with the actors to bring them to life in the manner in which I envisioned while writing the script. But to more to your question — I learned a ton from my cast and crew.
Everyone on set was passionate about the project. My cinematographer was extremely patient with me and had no issue taking time to explain his process. The cast, who were each AMAZING, were also patient and very comfortable offering suggestions and stepping into other roles when needed. I also learned a lot about practical effects from my special effects make up artist.
I guess what I’m saying is that I learned to make a movie (A) by doing it and more importantly (B) by bringing on people who had the experience, passion, drive, and patience to assist me achieving my vision for the film. You’re definitely only as good as the people you surround yourself with, and I lucked out. I’ll always be grateful to the cast and crew of PARTY NIGHT for what they taught me.
Once your script is written, what is the next step in your movie making process?
Revisions. And even more revisions. When I complete the first draft of a script, I step away from it for at least two weeks. I then revisit with with a fresh perspective and begin the revision process. I made revisions to the Party Night script for about a full year before settling the final draft that we used to shoot the film. Stirring went through about five revisions in the course of about two months.
With a final draft, I then begin to estimate budget and think about funding, etc. Both of my films so far were successfully crowdfunded, which is an awesome tool for indie filmmakers to raise funds, but is a