Scott Schirmer is one of the most exciting directors in horror in the past decade. Having directed Found, Harvest Lake, and Plank Face, his films could be categorized as dark, sexual, and spooky. His newest film, The Bad Man is set to release later this year. I am a massive fan of his and it was truly an honor to be granted this interview. Without further ado, Scott Schirmer.
What’s your origin story? For me, it was watching Night of the Living Dead on the floor of the living room when I was four or five.
I fell in love with movies when I saw The Empire Strikes Back. I never fell in love with horror, though, until I saw Texas Chain Saw Massacre in college. That, along with Evil Dead really got me thinking — shit, anyone could have made those two movies if they were properly inspired and motivated. They don’t have huge production values — they’re just genius.
You are currently working on The Bad Man, which met its kickstarter goal in just two days if I’m not mistaken! What is it like to receive that level of support?
I was not sure what to expect from this Kickstarter. I tried to raise money for this project before and failed, and this is my first movie without a producing partner in over ten years, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was hoping to make 1K in the first day, so when it made over 4K, I was just so, so grateful that people still support me and what I’m doing. I take nothing for granted anymore.
Speaking of The Bad Man, it looks like it will be an absolutely harrowing film. How does it differ from your previous films?
The Bad Man features the most dramatic performances from anything I’ve ever done, and I think it is the most psychologically disturbing story I’ve ever told. My hope is that the audience will be heavily invested in the protagonists and really be on the edge of their seats to see them escape their situation and find a better life. I’m going for horrifying and heartbreaking. I was nervous about the script after I wrote it — afraid that maybe I was going too far or revealing too much. But it got great feedback from my circle of trusted friends and that gave me the courage to proceed with it.
I can’t wait to see it! I know you’ve been kicking around the idea of doing this one for a while now and you’ve finally gone through with it. What was your inspiration for doing so?
It deals with the dark side of human sexuality, like all my stuff does. How do we reconcile our base urges with our noble pursuit of becoming good human beings? Does sex free or enslave us? Does it empower us or bring us shame? I think everyone’s relationship with sex and sexuality is very fascinating or I wouldn’t keep making movies about it. But this might end up being the exclamation point at the end of that thematic exploration. After The Bad Man, I don’t know how much else I’ll have to say on the subject.
Being from the midwest myself, I wonder, how does someone from the midwest end up making something like Harvest Lake?
I’m not sure the midwest has anything to do about it, except it makes it easier to find beautiful locations. Brian K. Williams and I wanted to make a movie together so we spitballed ideas for a few days and I eventually came up with the script for Harvest Lake. I wish it was more magical than that, but we willed Harvest Lake and Plank Face, both, into creation, and they both happened. Like great trips down a ski slope, I guess.
You’ve definitely found a niche and a following. What do your goals look like? Are you looking to keep making films the way you are now or do you have aspirations of a different scale?
As a kid, I always wanted to break into Hollywood, but when I moved to L.A. in 2002 and lived there for a few years, I met so many people and talked with them, and I learned one thing: Hollywood is nuts. Completely insane, bonkers, unfair, chaotic and cruel. It is a game. And I knew — and still know — so many people who are just wasting their time waiting for Hollywood to give them a big break or greenlight a project. I say, just get off your fuckin’ ass and make a movie. Screw Hollywood. You don’t need permission from anyone to make a movie. If my work ever gets Hollywood’s attention and allows me to make bigger projects with bigger production values and budgets, that’d be great. But I’m not sitting around waiting for that impossible dream to come true. If I only ever keep making my teeny-weeny budget movies until I die or get tired of doing it, that’s good enough for me. I won’t die with any regrets about that. I’d rather spend my time and energy actually making movies than playing the big stupid game.
How has making movies changed, if at all, since you first hit the scene with Found?
I had hoped that Found would change things — make it easier to make more movies, at least. But that didn’t really happen. Every single movie still needs to be financed and willed into creation. Nothing comes easy. And distributors are still shady sharks and distribution companies are still thieves. The best thing that happened was that my own direct fan base grew. Found got out there like no other movie of mine has, and it’s done a lot to get people interested in whatever I might do next. So for that, I’ll always be grateful.
What is your relationship with fellow director Brian Williams?
Brian and I worked on The Legend of Wasco together and just really got along on that challenging project. We talked a lot and decided to try and make a movie together, just the two of us. And that movie was Harvest Lake, and it was an absolute joy producing a movie with Brian. And he’s such a good DP. And so smart about so many things — he’s just a truly wonderful filmmaking partner, and I got to enjoy his company on three movies so far. I don’t know if we’ll make another movie or if our interests will overlap again, but I do hope we’ll stay friends. Or at the very least, I hope he can be my DP again some time. Of everyone I have ever met, and I mean EVER, there are only two or maybe three people that I feel are consummate filmmakers, and who are willing to work as hard or harder than me not just to make the movie, but to make it the best goddamned movie it can possibly be — and Brian is one of those rare precious few people.
What is your proudest accomplishment to date?
I typically ask filmmakers for their inspirations, but instead of that, I think it would be great to hear some recommendations.
See Jimmy Screamerclauz’s stuff. It’s animation, very disturbing, original stuff. Jonathan Straiton is an excellent director — see Night of Something Strange. If I were a studio, I’d be hiring his ass. I’d like to be more like him. Justin Seaman made an excellent movie called The Barn that you should check out. Brooklyn Ewing came out of nowhere a year or two ago with She Was So Pretty — she has a beautiful eye and interesting instincts. Drew Bolduc’s The Taint and Science Team are hilarious and provocative. Daniel DelPurgatorio in Chicago, Arthur Vincie in New York, James Feeney down in Florida, Matt Medisch and the October People are out on the west coast, Dustin Wade Mills is in Ohio, my God then there’s Video Diary of a Lost Girl by Lindsay Denniberg in Chicago that’s so fresh and original, and Jason Tostevin is working to make the world a better place for everyone, and Stephen Biro and Marcus Koch are still delivering the gore for the gorehounds… and there are absolutely some people I love and who I’m leaving out. It’s a big scene and everyone needs support to make the magic happen.
Thank you so much for your time, is there anything you’d like to add?
I’ll plug my shit! The Bad Man Kickstarter is on through Friday, April 13th! We’ve met our goal and there are now stretch goals in place, so check it out at http://kck.st/2HzcA3m! And you can learn about the other movies I’ve worked on at http://www.scottschirmer.com/!