Interview with Damien Leone

El Gore is very proud to tell you that we did an interview with the awesome director/FX artist Damien Leone. Luc just recently saw his movie: Terrifier (2011) and reviewed it on this site (check it out here). But we have to tell you that we weren’t quite satisfied and we wanted to know more about the person behind this amazing horror short. We decided to contact Damien, who immediately answered the mail and agreed on doing an interview. So be prepared for some interesting Q/A and have fun reading.

ElGore: Hello Damien. First of all I want to thank you for taking your time to answer a few questions. How are you?

Damien L. : I’m doing very well. This is my first interview so I’m very excited!

E.G.: When I first saw Terrifier I was speechless. I did some research on the director but couldn’t find any satisfying information. For all the El Gore readers who do not know you yet, can you introduce yourself?

D.L.: Wow. I’m really thrilled to hear you enjoyed it so much! I’m 28 years old and I’m from Staten Island, NY. In case you couldn’t tell from Terrifier, I’m a huge horror fan. I’ve been making short films and creating monsters since I’m about twelve years old and I’ve never stopped.

E.G.: Do you have a clown obsession or even Coulrophobia? (A/N Art the clown is the main character in The 9th Circle short, in Terrifier and in the new The 9th Cirle movie)

D.L.: No, I don’t have coulrophobia or any particular obsession  with clowns but I totally get why they’re so horrifying!  Everything about a clown is unnatural, from the way they dress to their exaggerated gestures but I think the creepiest aspect is the white face make-up. For one, you don’t know who’s really hiding behind the make-up and two, a white face is truly haunting because I think, subconsciously, it’s synonymous with death. Terrifying even without a hacksaw.

E.G. Is there a dvd release planned for Terrifier?

D.L.: There are no definitive plans yet. I made it with the intention of throwing it right on Youtube after the festival run and it’s been gaining a really awesome fanbase out there. Maybe when my upcoming feature is released on dvd, I’ll include it with the extras.

E.L.: Speaking about your new project: The 9th Circle is a full-length movie, am I right? What can you tell us about it? Any release Date?

D.L.: Yes, it will be my first full-length feature. We are still in pre-production and trying to secure funding. It’s sort of a spin-off from Terrifier but the only real correlation is the clown. I think a film like Terrifier only works as a short. It’s a simple and direct cat and mouse tale that works great in twenty minutes. To expand that into a full length would be doing it a disservice in my opinion so I’ve come up with a completely new story. As far as The 9th Circle plot, I can’t go into too many details without revealing some secrets but it does involve a trio of demons on a mission from hell and a young woman who may be the only person who can stop them.
This film has a much more intricate plot than Terrifier and a much more complex protagonist. There are also two new villains who are as sick and twisted as Art the Clown. All I can say is, fans of Terrifier will not be disappointed. There will be plenty of scares, a great story and tons of gore. I can promise you kills that you’ve never seen before. Since we’re still in pre-production, we don’t have a release date but I’m hoping to have it finished by fall of 2013.

E.G: You already did a short called The 9th Circle. How are both films related?

D.L.: Well aside from Art the clown, there is a satanic element in the short film which will be an integral part of the feature as well. That’s where the title comes into play. Other than that, there are no real similarities. I’ve basically just taken elements from both shorts and incorporated them into an entirely new idea.

E.G.: You are a special effect (makeup) artist and director, what do you like doing more. Do you see the two jobs as separated things or do you always want to do both on your (future) movies?

D.L.: That’s a great question. I look at it this way, if I’m making a super low budget film, I don’t mind doing the fx as well as directing because I’m pretty good and I won’t charge myself. But if I ever get to work on a Hollywood film, I would insist that a crew handle the fx. It’s too much work to do both and ultimately I prefer directing. It’s more rewarding, especially when it’s your own story.

E.G.: What are your influences as a director and as a special effect (makeup) artist?

D.L.: I’m influenced by so many things and so many people. I can go on and on mentioning names and films but the thrill I get when someone is emotionally affected by a film I direct or a special effect I create is what really inspires me to keep going and to keep improving.

E.G.: Gregory Nicotero or Tom Savini?

D.L.: I love Greg Nicotero. The man’s a living legend in the industry but I would be lying if I didn’t say Tom Savini is single-handedly responsible for my being in this field. When I was really young, I discovered a VHS called Scream Greats. It’s an hour documentary on Tom Savini’s fx work. Funny thing is, Greg Nicotero is in the documentary as well because he was Savini’s assistant! This was the first time I saw someone create the monsters. It blew my mind and from then on, I was experimenting with make-up and blood pumps. This led to making short films in order to showcase the make-up which ultimately led to a love of filmmaking in general.

E.G.: 1 remake, 1 perfect cast, all the money you want. What movie would it be, who would you cast and what would be your job?

D.L.: Honesty, that’s a tough one. I am not a fan of remakes at all so nothing really comes to mind but I would literally chop my finger off for the opportunity to direct the third Conan movie they’ve just announced in which Arnold will reprise the role. The original Conan the Barbarian is one of my favorite movies and fans have been dying to see this chapter in Conan’s life. The problem is, I really don’t think they’re going to capture that raw power of the original. But I could! Oh, well. I will remain cautiously optimistic.

E.G.: What is your opinion on the current idea of remaking every single cult movie? I recently read that there is a new Night of the Living Dead remake planned.

D.L.: Oh, I’m sure they are and it wouldn’t be the first, although I really do like Night ’90. Like I said before, I’m not a fan of remakes. I think this current trend is insulting and disrespectful to everyone who poured their heart and soul into the originals. These are classic films being remade. Is anything sacred? I’ve yet to see a current remake even come close to surpassing the original. It’s all about money. Bottom line. I honestly think Hollywood is at an all time low. When you look at the ratio of good films to bad it’s really disheartening.
I hear they’re already remaking American Psycho! That movie isn’t even fifteen years old! It’s a cult classic that’s still finding an audience. Give these movies a chance and the respect they deserve. As you can see, you hit a nerve.

E.G.: Is it horror you want to do all your life? Or do you also want to work on other movies or do you simply do not care?

D.L.: I wouldn’t have a problem making horror films for the rest of my life but I would love to work in many different genres. I’m a big fan of science fiction and action films. I also love movies that deal with crime and antiheros. You can be sure that anything I do will be intense, violent or insane.

E.G.: What are your plans for the future?

D.L.: Make movies! Luckily we’re in a time when filmmaking can be done for very little money and filmmakers can self distribute on the internet, so even if I don’t break into Hollywood, I’ll keep making my dreams a reality on a shoestring budget.

E.G.: What can you tell us about the equipment you use?

D.L.: Whatever the budget allows. Right now the budgets I work with are super low so we’ve been using the canon 5d & 7d. I have no problem with them and I fully embrace digital. It’s at a point now where audiences accept that HD look which is a blessing for an indie filmmaker.

E.G.: Damien Leone the movie fan: CGI or Claymation?

D.L.: I certainly appreciate the artistry that goes into claymation but CGI hands down! Even though I’m a practical fx make-up artist, I love CGI when it’s used properly. I think when you use practicals and CGI together, you get the best result. Just look at Jurassic Park. That film was made twenty years ago and the CGI mixed with Stan Winston’s animatronics look as good as ever.

E.G.: Any last words?

D.L.: Well, I want to thank you for such a terrific interview! Really great questions. I want to thank your El Gore readers and the fans of Terrifier for supporting it and leaving so many awesome comments. If you want updates on The 9th Circle, check out the Terrifier Youtube page or follow me on twitter @damienleone and @9thCircleMovie.

Thank you for the interview Damien and we wish you all the best for your future. We are looking forward to seeing The 9th Circle!

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