Director Jeremy Craig Kasten was born in Baltimore, Maryland, where he honed his craft at Emerson College. He came to Hollywood as a film editor cutting over 12 features including low budget genre films such as Fraternity Demon, Skinner and Legion of the Night. He served as Associate Producer on Witchcraft IV including a performance with Julie Strain. In addition to that he was also a personal assistant to director William Friedkin and first made his mark with Mindfire Entertainment as editor of the super hero spoof The Specials. His first film, The Attic Expeditions was made with former Emerson College classmates Dan Gold, Dan Griffiths and Rogan Marshall.
We had time to chat with this busy director as he is in post production on his latest film a remake of the horror film The Wizard of Gore. His second project with Mindfire Entertainment The Thirst is expected to be released in 2007 and his scarefest All Souls Day: Dia De Los Muertos is available now on DVD from Anchorbay.
EZ: What first brought you to this project? (All Souls Day)
JK: Mark Altman called and told me he had a script that he was hoping to get financed and asked if I was interested in attaching myself. I loved the concept and said “yes” right away.
EZ: Would you say that the horror genre is your favorite to work in and why.
JK: Horror allows for experimentation and fun in the film making. Of course you can get off track by “playing” too much or getting into show-offy student film territory but in the best case scenario it can allow for healthy experimentation and risk taking. Plus, I’ve always loved horror movies the best. I just do.
I’ve always wanted to make horror films. Something about the way they gave me nightmare as a kid that haven’t to this day let go of me completely, I wanna do that for someone else, I suppose. Get my creative tentacles caught up in their developing, unconscious mind.
EZ: How does being a film editor help or hinder the film making process.
JK: I would say it really only helps. It allows me to anticipate EXACTLY what I might need out of a scene and hopefully not overshoot.
EZ: Can you recall what was your best and worse experience during filming
JK: My best experience was when I was without a supervising producer on the set (I was ahead of schedule that night) and actually added some gore to the film. There was no scene where the undead actually eat anyone but I was ahead, and feeling inspired, so I asked the fx guys if they had any extra body parts on their truck (they ALWAYS do) and we dressed them as the characters and had the undead go to town. It’s brief in the film but it was utterly unplanned and those few precious moments in the movie are my favorites. The worst was when it rained. And ruined all of our sets. And our schedule. That sucked.
EZ: What can be the most challenging circumstance about working on a low budget film
JK: The schedule. Everything else. But that’s the fun of it, too, really. When movies have unlimited financial resources I think it makes bloated, poopy expensive movies.
EZ: Can you talk about working with such an eclectic cast
JK: It was a joy and a pleasure to mix a cast of veterans of the genre and some totally new faces. That seems to be the mode of most horror films but I enjoyed that, as well, on this one. Obviously having Danny Trejo, Jeff Combs and David Keith in a film is cool from the standpoint that they are all such pros. Plus I just LOVE working with Jeffrey. He is such a smart, interesting, instinctual AND intellectual actor. Both Mircea Monroe and Marissa Ramirez were dreams to work with, In a business where actors, often young, attractive female actors are encouraged to behave poorly and cause problems, I was so lucky to work with both of those lovely actresses who really wanted to make the film right on a very tight schedule.
EZ: What makes your film different from all the other zombie flicks?
JK: I think the Dia De Los Muertos theme hadn’t been explored in a zombie film, or, really, any horror film. In my opinion this is a huge shame as there is so much there to explore. Plus, the Latin market is huge and so untapped. It seems weird. I’ve take a lot of critical heat for the film from the zombie-loving horror crowd (criticism, by the way, that I do understand as I love Romero’s films as much as they do) but frankly, screening the movie at a horror film festival in Mexico City and THAT audience embracing it, THAT felt really good. I was, needless to say, quite relieved.
EZ: How much input did you have in the creating of the undead?
JK: I worked with Almost Human to design undead that really looked undead. They did incredible work in a very short amount of time.
EZ: What can you say about working with Almost Human and how did you go about picking them over other effects houses
JK: I met with Jason Collins over there and our enthusiasm to do something different (or try to) matched one another’s.
EZ: Can you list some inspirations you had while making the film
JK: Joderowski, Polanski, Coffin Joe, J.L. Moctezuma.
EZ: What do you look for in an actors performance
JK: Truth if I can get it. Dynamicism otherwise. Both is best.
EZ: For some people not associated in film work can you describe the role of the director on a film.
JK: The director sets the tone and is a filter in a sense for everyone’s ideas because everyone has ’em. Some directors do not want to hear what others think, others are very open to it. It just depends. In essence, the director decides what shots, or pieces of a scene to shoot within an allotted time. Also, he communicates with the actors to decide on the way to “play” a scene, what the blocking should be, etc. In preproduction the director has to answer a billion questions about the movie that will be made – everything from casting to color of someone’s clothing, etc. There is a lot of question answering throughout so clarity of communication and vision is really important. In post production the director works with the editor, the composer, the sound mixer, etc., to design the way the movie actually plays to the audience.
EZ: What has been your favorite project to date and why?
JK: “The Wizard of Gore” so far. I am incredibly excited about it. It just fulfilled every fantasy of what realizing a vision of my film could feel like.
EZ: Favorite films of 2005?
JK: “The Constant Gardener”
EZ: What are you currently reading?
JK: A book on sleazy sex paperback in the sixties called “Sin-A-Rama”. Nonfiction. Lots of pretty pictures.
EZ: Whats on you Ipod?
JK: Movies. Lots of short films. Mine and other peoples.
EZ: What are you currently working on that we can look forward to?
JK: The Wizard of Gore remake with Crispin Glover, Kip Pardue, Bijou Phillips, Brad Dourif, Jeffrey Combs and Josh Miller.
EZ: What currently on television holds your interest.
JK: I don’t have cable. I’ve been working my way down a list of the 100 most disturbing films of all time – using netflix. Just saw “Combat Shock” for the first time. Spectacular.
EZ: Can you comment on the current state of the genre.
JK: I am terrified too many crappy movies are gonna kill it again like in the early 90’s. I am praying that doesn’t happen. I think my best work is forthcoming and I wanna keep making horror movies forever.
EZ: If you had the opportunity to work with anyone in the business who would it be and why?
JK: Jesus. Or L. Ron Hubbard. For kicks.
EZ: Can you name any childhood heroes you have?
JK: Beethoven. Jim Henson. L. Frank Baum. Crowley. Again, so many.
EZ: What is something about you that we would never guess?
JK: I have a 33 lb. cat.
EZ: Can you name a guilty pleasure?
EZ: If you had one wish what would it be?
JK: To fly.
EZ: Favorite Midnite snack.
EZ: What television show would you like to see comeback.
JK: “Soap” or “The Prisoner”.
EZ: If you were given the chance to revamp a show which would it be.
JK: “The Prisoner”.
EZ: Lastly, with or without butter? (popcorn)
JK: With butter. Layered.