In “Living With the Dead,” filmmaker Ed Brisson tells a horrific tale of invasion of personal space as a corpse magically appears in a man’s apartment one morning and proceeds to take over his life. With his newest film, “Graveyard,” Brisson mixes “Clerks” with Lovecraft. Yeah, it can be done. It also stars legendary rocker Jon Mikl Thor and Joe Keithley, otherwise known as Joey Shithead from DOA. Sounds like must see indie to me.
Ed took some time to speak with us a bit about his creepy shorts.
How long have you been making films?
I haven’t been doing it long. My first short film, “Living With The Dead,” was filmed early in 2002. Before that, I volunteered on independent film sets, took as many filmmaking courses as I could afford and read every filmmaking book I could get my hands on.
What made you want to get into filmmaking?
I’ve always wanted to get into filmmaking. In 1997, after spending a year traveling across the country trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I decided to move to Vancouver and get into film. The problem was that in Kelowna, a city of 100,000 people, not many people wanted to be a filmmaker, but in Vancouver, EVERYBODY wants to be a filmmaker. I found this to be very discouraging, so I didn’t really follow up on it until four years later – even if I did talk about filmmaking all of the time.
I volunteered on independent film sets, which was even more discouraging. When I moved to Vancouver, I had no concept of the amount of money it actually took to make a film. Working part-time in a bookstore did not pay enough for me to seriously pursue it.
After a few years, I met other people who also wanted to get into filmmaking. Often we would meet at pubs and try to get together a script that we could shoot. We would talk about it for a few months and then it would all fall apart. This happened often. Eventually I got fed up with it. I was becoming annoyed with all of the people who I met who talked about one day making a film, but never did anything about it – until I realized that I was one of them.
I had been reading a lot about digital filmmaking and knew that I had the money to do it. I called a rental house and booked camera and lighting equipment two months in advance and then used that as a deadline. I sat down and wrote a 20 page script (“Living With The Dead”), cast the film and forced myself to go through with it. I was sick of just sitting around and talking about it.
What was your inspiration for “Graveyard”?
About 10 years ago, Nick Sheehan (the screenwriter) and I worked together at a fast food restaurant in Kelowna. We had what was probably the cruelest boss that either of us has ever had. Many of the situations in the film are based on things that happened when we worked there. “Graveyard” is our revenge.
How did you hook up with Joe Keithley and Jon Mikl Thor?
I wish that there was a good story behind this, but there isn’t. I e-mailed Thor while Nick was still working on the script. His manager e-mailed me back and a couple weeks later, Thor and I met at a bar and I gave him a copy of my first short film and the just finished script. Thor read the script and agreed to be in the film on two conditions:
1) He gets to write a song for the film, and
2) I direct a video for that song.
How could I refuse?
As for Joe Keithley, it was a similar experience. I e-mailed him to see if he’d be interested in being in the film. He called me the next morning and we talked about it. I mailed him a script, and he agreed to be in the film.
Are you pleased with their performances?
Yes. I had seen Jon in “Rock N Roll Nightmare,” “Zombie Nightmare” and “Recruits,” so I knew what to expect – a larger than life performance. And that’s what I got.
As for Joe Keithley, I had seen him act in “Terminal City Ricochet” and “The Widower.” He’s a great actor. Super nice guy, too.
What are your favorite DOA and Thor songs?
For Thor it would have to be “Anger” – especially the version from the 2002 release of Triumphant.
As for DOA, if I had to pick one song, it would probably have to be “General Strike”.
Were there any major problems in getting “Graveyard” made?
A few. One of the actors, who was supposed to play a major role, bailed four days before we started filming. Luckily, Toren Atkinson, who originally had a smaller role in the film, was available to fill in. He did an amazing job.
On the third day of filming, our first scene was one where the store gets robbed. The actor who was cast as the robber was late. We set up for the shot and waited. Over an hour went by and still he didn’t show.
Earlier that night, he had been hosting an open mic night at a bar a few blocks away, so I ran over to see if he was still there. The bar was packed and it took me about 15 minutes to find him. When I did, he was totally hammered. Because time was tight, I needed to shoot that scene that day. I convinced him to come back to the set and film his scene (it was a pretty small part, but integral to the film/story). It took about half an hour to get him back to the set.
At this point, we were about two hours behind schedule. When we started filming, the actor couldn’t remember his lines. He’d screw up and then stop dead. We tried to convince him to just keep going through, but he would just stop. After about fifty takes, we were able to get all of the footage that we needed. Somehow, we still finished on time that night.
Surprisingly, the scenes with the drunk actor came out nicely. Unless you were told, you probably couldn’t tell that the actor is drunk. Which is a miracle, because he was so drunk he could barely stand.
Any major lessons learned?
Have back up actors ready.
What has the response been like towards “Graveyard”?
So far it has been good. “Graveyard” won the “Best Short Film” award at the 2003 Cinemuerte International Horror Film Festival and Toren Atkinson (the lead actor who stepped in at the last minute) has been nominated for the “Best Actor in a Short Film” category at Fright-Fest.
The “Graveyard” DVD was released two weeks ago and is selling more copies than I would have ever expected.
Any screenings coming up?
Both “Graveyard” and “Living With The Dead” will be screening this October at Fright-Fest (October 11-12, Gainesville, GA), where I’m also up for an award in the “Best Director of a Short Film” category. “Graveyard” will be screening again at Zombiefest (Oct 25, Victoria, BC). With any luck, I hope to be at both festivals.
Other than that, I am sending it out to festivals and waiting to hear back.
What is “Film #3”?
“Film #3” is a 2-minute short film that I shot one day before “Graveyard” (we were filming “Graveyard” at nights). It’s based on a comic strip by Brian Fukushima, who also stars in the film. To go into anymore detail would mean giving away the punch line. I’ll just say that it involves sex and microwave ovens.
Any upcoming projects?
I’m presently writing the script for “Rock N Roll Nightmare 2: The Intercessor,” which Jon Mikl Thor is trying to secure funds for. I’ll also be directing it. We will hopefully go into production on that sometime in early 2004.
Between now and then we are doing a short “Rock N Roll Nightmare” film. It’ll be a bridge between part one and two. Sort of a 1.5.
In addition to that, I am working on a script that I started before filming “Graveyard.” It’s a feature. A very serious and creepy script. I’m really happy with the direction it’s taking.