LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Interview with Josh Stifter director of Greywood's Plot
By James Whittington, Sunday 5th September 2021
There are a number of monochrome movies at FrightFest this year and one of the stand out ones is Josh Stifter's Greywood's Plot so we had a quick chat with him about it.
HC: Was there one movie you saw when you were younger that made you want to be in the filmmaking business?
JS: Beetlejuice. I saw it when I was 5 years old. My family all got the flu and my mom went and rented it. This was back in the day when you didn't have access as easily to movies so if you rented a movie, it often would get watched a couple times before it was returned. Since we had nothing else to do, we all just laid around sick watching Beetlejuice over and over. I became obsessed. It was the first time I saw a movie and thought, "wait, you can just DO that? You can just come up with crazy stuff in your brain and then put it out there? No facts needed? Just pure imagination!!?" After that I was hooked on the idea of making movies. I'd steal my dad's video camera whenever I could and just go film wild ideas that popped into my head.
HC: Where did the story come from and did it take you and co-star Daniel Degnan long to write?
JS: I always thought it would be fun to make a movie where a person got turned into a monster - like Terror is a Man, The Metamorphosis, or Island of Dr. Moreau. Originally the idea was a spider man, since I have a pretty bad case of arachnopobia. I always enjoy stories with that theme of a character becoming the thing they fear the most. But as we started to film and really dove deep into the screenplay, that evolved and changed into what it eventually is now. The theme of friendship really took over and mixing that "man's best friend" idea with el chupacabra just naturally came out in the script. I wrote 75% of the script over a long weekend. Just vomit drafted the pages out and then I sent it to Daniel and he put the next 20% together (and then 5% or so was written on the fly during production).
HC: Was it difficult to balance the comedy and horror?
JS: I think for Dan and I, it often is more difficult to really go all in on the horror. I love horror movies. I probably watch horror more than any other genre. But we have so much fun on set and enjoy doing silly dialogue and offbeat "dreamy sequences", and I think our silliness shows naturally in our movies. I love a good jump scare, but it's just not something I've really done in my films. I'm far more into feeling the moment out and just doing what comes naturally to us. I think all of this is why the throwback style to the old black and white campy movies I loved growing up was so crucial. It allowed us to go gory and creepy, but also let us have a lot of fun in that world of the B-Movie.
HC: What's it like directing yourself?
JS: It really depended on the sequence. If it was a scene I was literally filming 100% by myself (like the bathroom scene or anything in Dom's basement), those moments were really challenging. Generally though, I had Daniel, Strauss, and Keith there helping me through my takes. They understood that I'm not an actor and it might take me a little longer to figure out my performance and let the "behind the camera" stuff go to get into character. Even though we were a small team, we were all dedicated and wanted to make the best movie we could together, so that went a long way toward getting everything I needed to make the movie work.
HC: It's incredibly inventive with some cool animation and amazing practical effects, is this where the budget went?
JS: Nope. I did all the visual effects myself and Nathan Strauss (the flyman in the film) learned how to create the "monster" practical mask himself for as inexpensive as we could. I think most of the budget, if you can call it that, went to the score and the hotel room we stayed in. And the booze. We definitely threw some fun parties after we'd wrapped filming each evening. But I appreciate it when people enjoy the animation and effects. They were all A LOT of work. Sleepless nights, weekends working 15 hours straight. Not having a budget makes you really have to figure out what you can do and roll with it. Early on I learned how I could digital flies and enhance the flies that were in the movie -- So that's one of the reasons there are so many buzzing creatures in the flick.
HC: Did you need a "fly wrangler" on set?
JS: Hahaha! Well, many of them were digital, but many of them were not... The opening sequence where Doug is sitting and crying in the chair, that shot is mostly real flies. While we were filming the "Greywood's cabin", it got really hot. Apparently that heat inside the tiny shack enticed the flies to come out. We walked in and I instantly decided we were NOT going to be filming in there that day... but Daniel had other plans. He went and sat in the chair and was like, "Dude! This is nasty. Film me sitting here with flies all around me." So that scene that opens the movie was just made up in that moment because Daniel wanted to be surrounded by nasty flies.
HC: Will the fab score get a release?
JS: Between Curtis Allen Hager's score, the three wonderful reimaginings of public domain folk songs by my friends, and Matthew Greve and Joe Kahnke's acoustic guitar songs - I seriously love our music. Everyone put there own something into the mix and sent me wonderful cues to work with, and I just got to do whatever I wanted with them in the edit. I would LOVE to release a vinyl of it all someday.
HC: Do you believe that creatures such as Bigfoot etc exist?
JS: A few years ago, I had the pleasure of going to Loch Ness. I stood over looking out and there was this thing in my brain that just went, "Why not!? A sheep eating creature could easily live somewhere in here!" I can't say that I'm going to actually going out hunting for any cryptids, but I love the idea of keeping our imagination open to the possibility of anything.
HC: So, what are you working on at the moment?
JS: Right now I'm hoping to find time to edit my third feature, Scumbag. It was a script I wrote about a year before quarantine hit for a concept that I wanted to try to do 100% by myself. No one else in the credits. So I wrote the screenplay, turned my basement into a bunker, bought a gasmask, and grew my fingernails out for 6 months... Then I sent the script to Daniel. He read it and basically said, 'Don't do this. I want to work on this too.' I set it aside and we tried to plan to film it ourselves... then Covid hit. After a few months of trying to figure it out, I decided why not give it a shot. So I spent the last year and half filming myself in my underwear and a gasmask in my basement. I'm really happy with the footage I have and am hoping I can find time after the Greywood's Plot fest run and The Good Exorcist gets its distribution to sit down and edit the heck outta' Scumbag.
HC: Josh Stifter, thank you very much.
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