Actor/writer/director Jeremiah Sayys has been working on a slew of ambitious genre films. Just completing post-production for release in 2010 is his first self-directed film, a horror thriller — Of Silence (US-2010; dir. Jeremiah Sayys):
After returning home, a scuba diver/musician, Colby Van Poe, a man suffering from an inner-ear medical condition, tries to cope with his wife’s suicide. The guilt of him feeling responsible for her death causes him to slip into a familiar world of silence inhabited by strange shadows and menacing voices. His friends and family try to cheer him up, but seem to only scratch the surface. Could the shadows within the silence mean he is finally losing his mind, or is it possible that his ghoulish visions really exist?
On the writing and production side is The Legends of Nethiah: The Nameless (US-2010/2011; dir. Russ Emanuel and Tomax Aponte). Still in production, The Legends of Nethiah is a scifi thriller, in which an intergalactic warrior must fight for his life on an alien planet while under psychic bombardment from powerful opponents.
But today Undead Backbrain brings you news of Sayys’ second directing job, DeadLands Cry — a monster movie still in the planning stages, being made under the production umbrella of Sayys’ own company WorldsLastHero Productions. In it a young father, Tristan, and his fifteen-year-old daughter, Sydney, move to a new town to start a new life, only to find themselves suddenly trapped inside a schoolhouse with six others, struggling to survive an attack by a vicious twenty-foot-tall, thirty-foot-long monster.
Sounds typical of the genre? Well, not according to Sayys. Elsewhere he has commented on the film’s less typical attributes:
I’m extremely excited about DeadLands Cry. It’s a straight-up monster movie, but not your typical monster movie. We have all seen the basic premise of ‘a group of innocent victims trapped and slaughtered by a creature or beast’ many times in horror films, and yes, DeadLands Cry does have that element, but it also has deeper, emotional elements in it that few, if not any, monster movies have.
The monster is a metaphor and metaphysical to what the story is really about. The drama incorporated into the story is like no other in a monster movie. It breathes new life into the horror genre and captivates you with it before the blood and gore start flying. The story also has a strong action component and a unique backstory, as well as a universal message that will resonate long after the viewing experience. (Shocktillyoudrop)
Keen to known more, our intrepid Search-Robot, Avery Battles, secured himself an interview with Jeremiah Sayys (pictured below discussing Of Silence with Suzanne Ford).
Jeremiah Sayys: It’s a mutated monster, but more along the lines of having evolved from the mutation and its living conditions than anything else. It exists as a local legend, a myth, in the [fictional] town of Friendville, a story passed on generation after generation, often used to frighten children into obeying curfew and avoiding the old abandoned school.
UB: What is the estimated budget?
JS: It will be up in the eight digits.
UB: When do you expect to start production?
JS: We are still in the financing stages, and as of now we don’t have an exact start date. It just depends on how long it takes to get the money together. But I’m confident it won’t take us too long to find the money. The script really stands out and it’s being received very well. That is HUGE.
UB: Any estimated release or completion date?
JS: We are anticipating that it will be released in 2012.
UB: Any cast set for the film yet?
JS: We’re in talks with Raquel Castro right now to play the role of Sydney, the fifteen year old daughter. You and most other people will know her from Jersey Girl. As for Tristan, Sydney’s father, I will be playing that role. And Hanieh Jodat will play the role of Marcy Wade, a math school teacher. Hanieh is an up-and-comer like myself. She’s a tremendous actress. She was the lead in the short film Rabia and has won several film festival awards for her role in that film. I encourage you to check out Rabia. But once the New Year rolls around we will start trying to attach more talent to the film.
UB: Who will be handling FX?
JS: We are in talks with a few special effects companies, in particular KNB Effects.
UB: Are you aiming for a theatrical, television/cable or a direct-to-DVD release for the film?
JS: Theatrical all the way, my friend.
UB: Why the name “Deadlands Cry”? What significance does it have to the film?
JS: Because the townspeople in Friendville, a fictional town where the school is located, believe they can hear strange and creepy cries coming from the school and the surrounding area every now and then. And because the majority of the townspeople never think about taking one step into the area. So for those two reasons, they’ve nicknamed the area DeadLands Cry.
UB: Can you give us a little background history about yourself and your films?
JS: Well, I started out as an actor and eventually transitioned into filmmaking. As I studied acting I fell in love with directing and studied those skills alongside acting. After a year of training I began going to auditions. I went to audition after audition and finally decided the only way I was going to make it in this industry was to give my ownself a chance. So I formed my own production company and spent three years educating myself in the filmmaking process and the business of it all before I wrote, directed, produced and starred in my first feature film, Of Silence.
Then a couple of months later I produced and starred in the family sci-fi film, The Legends of Nethiah. Both of these films are expected to be released next year. Of Silence was my directorial debut. It’s a psychological thriller about an ailing scuba diver facing extremely tough times, who begins to experience otherworldly incidents. It’s a challenging film for the audience, a real mindbender and very metaphorical in its storytelling. It doesn’t give you answers. You have to answer every question yourself. It was a fun story to tell and a challenging shoot. I had so much fun playing the main character, Colby. I was able to go to many depths with him and show my acting abilities. All of the other actors — Masiela Lusha, Muse Watson, Ashlee Gillespie, Matthew Lawrence, Suzzanne Ford, Najarra Townsend and Paul Cuneo — were so great to work with as an actor and director. I was very fortunate to have such a wonderful cast. I have big hopes for Of Silence.
As for The Legends of Nethiah, it was a fun film to be a part of. I play Tully and Nethiah in the film. It’s about a young boy whose parents are going through a bitter divorce, and he’s given hope and courage through the powerful stories embellished by his grandfather. The stories give the boy the inner strength and resolve to confront the inevitable challenges that lie ahead. It’s based on of a short story I wrote and a character I created. I have already written three scripts based on the Nethiah character. Hopefully Legends will take off next year and be a big hit so that we can produce one of the follow-up scripts I have already written. I have always seen Legends as a franchise and hopefully we can get a chance to make another Nethiah film, one that is the true vision of the Nethiah character.
UB: Why a giant monster movie now?
JS: I’ve always been a big fan of horror movies, especially monster movies. I remember when I was eleven years old, I was at the house of one of my cousins. We stayed up one night and watched Predator and Alien. I was scared to death, but at the same time I loved it. He was a lot older than I was and could watch those movies. Once my mom found out we watched them, I got into big trouble. Anyway, those two films became my number one and number two favorite films — and still are. I was fascinated with monster movies from then on.
UB: What films are you using for inspiration for DeadLands Cry, or what creatures from other movies are being used as an inspiration for its main creature?
JS: As far as films, Alien is a big inspiration. I would also have to say the The Relic is an inspiration as well. I thought they could have done a lot more with The Relic, but it’s still a good monster movie in my opinion. As far as monsters go, I don’t think it’s a good idea to compare the monster in DeadLands Cry to any other monster that’s already on film, because it could take away the originality and uniqueness of DeadLands Cry’s monster.
UB: What of the film’s other characters? Are there any other film performances that are being used as inspiration for these parts? Or were they written after/inspired by any others?
JS: When you write characters after other characters in other films then that makes your characters unoriginal. I do everything in my power to be as original as I can with my stories and characters. The characters in DeadLands Cry are original creations.
UB: What made you want to write this story?
JS: I wanted to write the kind of monster movie that I wanted to see. A different kind of monster movie. One that has deep meaning to it, with something more than just some monster killing innocent victims. I wanted to create a certain kind of world in the beginning and slowly have that world change to a completely different world as the story went along. I wanted it to be like life. Everyone lives day after day, never expecting bad things to happen, but then one day as you are living your life something bad happens unexpectedly and you have to get out of it. Everybody has had a situation like that. My approach with the story was to question how I could make something different of it, what I could do to breath new life in the horror genre that can make this story unique and stand out. I always wanted to tell a story about a father raising his daughter on his own from a young age. So I thought: why not use that concept and incorporate it into a monster movie? Have the sacrifice, struggle, fight and protection against the monster be a metaphor for what the father went through while raising his daughter. The father and daughter relationship is humble, emotional and very sweet. All of the characters are strong, real and engaging. Just thinking about them and the whole story makes me so excited.
UB: Will the monster’s design be something we’re familiar with or something altogether different/original?
JS: The monster is very original. Its design, movements and expressions will make it a very different type of monster from anything that has ever been seen before on screen.
UB: You say that the monster is a metaphor and metaphysical to what the story is really about. Can you expand on this?
JS: It deals with kids being conceived by an accident. Some are raised by a parent or parents who love and cherish them, others are raised by a parent or parents who hate and despise them or just don’t care for them. Some kids in those situations grow up and turn out to be good people. Others turn out the opposite, which could eventually turn them into monsters. In DeadLands Cry’s case, the monster is mentally a monster at first then later on becomes a monster physically.
UB: What FX technique will be used to bring the creature to life on the screen or should I say what preferred FX technique: CGI, practical, animatronics, etc….?
JS: The Monster and all of the blood and gore will be created through practical FX, because I want the Monster and the blood and gore to look real to the audience. The Monster will be completely built from head to toe. It will be animatronic. I’m staying away from visual effects as much as I possibly can. The only visual effects we will use is for touch-ups or to enhance the special effects. Visual effects, if not done right and perfect, look fake, cartoonish and laughable and can take an audience out of a movie. For a horror film, especially a monster movie, the audience pays attention to the effects. Audiences are very smart, they aren’t ignorant about these things. They will roll their eyes, laugh and be taken out of the movie completely if they can tell the Monster and blood and gore are CGI. The majority of horror fans hate CGI. So using real, practical effects is always the best and smartest way to go, because it will never take an audience out of the movie. What they see will look physically present, hence making the Monster and blood and gore seem real.
- Thanks to Jeremiah Sayys and Avery Battles.
Addendum: Trailer for Of Silence
Addendum 2:The Legends of Nethiah Teaser Trailer: