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Interview with D.M. Cunningham, writer and director of The Spore
By James Whittington, Saturday 16th October 2021
DMC_SetPic copy

If you like your horror with a huge lashing of gruesome effects and a strong story then The Spore is for. Showing at Grimmfest Online, the movie from D.M. Cunningham is a smart take on the body horror genre. Here he chats about this movie which is guaranteed to get under your skin.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a director?

DM: I started out wanting to be a makeup effects artist. After seeing Night of the Living Dead and discovering Fangoria magazine I was hooked. Tom Savini was a huge influence on my trajectory toward becoming a filmmaker. It wasn't until later that I discovered that you could boss the monsters around on set being the director. That's when I was like, oh, that's what I want to do!

HC: Where did the idea for the movie come from?

DM: Originally I had this idea to have a cleaning lady get infected while cleaning some old house. Then I heard this news report (might have been on NPR) about the melting ice in places like Antarctica and the possibility of toxic spores getting released into the air from millions of years ago that had been frozen. That sent me into a spiral of ideas.

HC: Did it take long to write?

DM: It was written in a few months. The segments of the movie presented themselves in waves. And we actually started filming before the last segment was fully written. We took a page out of Roger Corman's book there. Let's just go and figure it out!

HC: Was it all shot on location?

DM: Yes. It was shot in Lowell, Michigan. 90% of it was shot on Keith Golinski's (Producing partner and DoP) property. He has these wonderful 20+ acres of land with cabins and roads. It's like our own personal back lot. We wrapped the movie a week before we were shut down in the US. Mid march of 2020.

HC: Were you limited by budget at all?

DM: We're independent filmmakers, so that would be a resounding yes! But, those limitations really force you to be creative and use your resources. It's challenging and fun and always keeps you on your toes.

HC: The first half an hour has little dialogue but is such a thrilling section of the movie, were you nervous that that set up wouldn't work at all?

DM: Thank you for saying that! If this were a studio movie I would have been fired for doing that! When you make independent films you have a lot of space to experiment. Since we were producing this film and it was a bit of a Hail Mary pass we just went for it. Some people may not like it at all, but the response to it so far has been very positive.

HC: The cast go through some rough moments, what was the atmosphere like on set?

DM: The filming of the movie was a riot. Everyone was in great spirits and really had a good time. It was tough at times because of the heat in the summer and the bitter cold in the early winter while filming, but everyone was a trooper and made it a great filming experience.

HC: There's some incredible SFX here, which one was the most complicated to realise?

DM: Thank you! All those years doing makeup effects on films and TV shows really prepped Brian and I to do these effects. I would say the Wendy piece (Laura Golinski in the cabin) was the most work. That had the most parts. Appliances, puppet stomach piece, spore goobers attached to the floor and walls and Brian trapped in the corner behind Laura working the mouth.

HC: Do you prefer writing or directing?

DM: I prefer both for different reasons. Writing is awesome. I love creating a story. I often listen to soundtracks and drink lots of coffee in the early morning to write. That's my time of day. But after you've spent months in solitary confinement writing, you really need to get out and socialize and realize that vision. Directing lets me work out all those ideas from the page and bring it to life. And if I may add, the post-production process for me is something I really enjoy as I edit and compose music (with my band mate Chad Cherry in Dreaming In Neon). The movies take on a whole other life then. I always say you make a movie three times. Write, Direct, and Edit.

HC: So, what are you up to at the moment?

DM: I'm finishing up our latest feature 3 Demons (that we shot during the pandemic) and prepping it for delivery to the distributor. That one should be out in the first half of 2022.

HC: D.M Cunningham, thank you very much.

DM: Thank you so much! I greatly appreciate it.


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