Five Across The Eyes is the terrifying debut picture from directors Greg Swinson and Ryan Thiessen. In between working the International festival circuit, receiving awards and, uh, getting their mom’s van cleaned, they found time to answer some questions from Den of Geek:
Den of Geek: Is it true that Five Across The Eyes was originally a different screenplay called Chased and how did it morph into what it became?
Greg Swinson: Yes, Chased was a script written by our friend Marshall Hicks. It called for a much higher budget and was more in the vein of Duel. Really, the only things that are the same with Chased and Five Across the Eyes are the fender bender setup and the character names. We pretty much rewrote everything else so that it would fit our budget constraints.
DoG: Do you feel that the low budget forced you to explore ideas that you wouldn’t perhaps previously have considered? The editing and photography, in particular, feel fresh and unusual (which, in my opinion, makes the film a damn sight more interesting to watch than a lot of its glossier peers).
Ryan Thiessen: Absolutely. The look of the film is a perfect example. We had very limited resources on the cameras available to us, so we just embraced a rougher look for the picture. Plus, it really fit with the story we were trying to tell. Another example is the fact that the camera never leaves the interior of the van for the entire movie. This was basically a way for us to make this movie doable on such a low budget. We really only had to focus on the action that takes place within sight of the van itself.
DoG: Where the Hell did you find Veronica Garcia? She’s terrifying. I had to take the trash out shortly after watching the film and was terrified that a lunatic in a floppy white shirt was going to come charging at me with a gun!
RT: We found her through an online casting website. She was asked to submit an audition tape for us to review. So, she put on a dress shirt, got a rifle, and used her own SUV to stage the scene as close as she could to the script. It was great! I can also tell you that she really pushed herself in this film. She really had to dig deep to unleash that character. Working with her is not something I’ll soon forget.
DoG: Was it difficult to elicit such hi-octane frenzied performances from the cast, how far did you have to push them and was there a lot of tea drank on set (let’s face it, a good half the running time is taken up with screaming)?
GS: Actually, no. There were more problems with the ‘acting normal’ scenes. When it came to being terrified or crying or whathaveyou, they all just snapped right into it. Eventually, it did drain them, which benefited us since we shot the movie chronologically. So, near the end when they look like hell, they really did look like hell.
DoG: Is there a particular place in Morristown that inspired ‘The Eyes’ and what’s the creepiest thing you’ve seen out on the back roads?
RT: ‘The Eyes’ is really more of a local folklore type thing. There is an area outside of town that used to be called that, but I don’t think it’s used a whole lot anymore. It was something I heard a long time a go and it just kind-of stuck with me.
GS: I don’t know if I’ve really ever come across anything creepy on the back roads. Then again, I’m from the back roads. It’s on the city streets that I’ve seen some scary stuff.
DoG: To whom did the van belong (please say it was someone’s mom) and how badly was it messed up by the end of the shoot?
RT: As a matter of fact, it belonged to Greg’s mom.
GS: It wasn’t in too bad of shape after the shoot. Just a lot of fake blood everywhere. But, when we took the van to get clean, the guy at the detailing place suggested to us that next time we might try not to ‘glob’ the blood and instead spread it out more evenly. It makes it easier to clean. So, there’s a tip to other low budget filmmakers, for whatever it’s worth.
DoG: The film has been incredibly well received on the festival circuit, which I’m sure must be a pleasure for you. How are you finding the promotional activity and are you drawing inspiration from the experience?
RT: The fact that it has played in some awesome festivals and is now being released by Lionsgate UK is just unreal for us. Of course, if it wasn’t for the incredible efforts of our sales agency, Imagination Worldwide, the film would still be sitting on our editing computer hard drive. At this point, we’re just soaking it all in. And yes, it is very inspiring and motivating. If you liked what we did in FATE, then you’ll love what we have in store for you next.
DoG: How did you split the directorial duties between the two of you and are you planning on working together again in the future?
RT: Greg and I worked out most of the creative stuff before we even started shooting. So, when we got on “set”, Greg would go over the scene with the actors and I would take care of the technical aspects. Then we’d run through the scene a couple of time to make final tweaks and then shoot it. Greg and I have been trying to make movies together since we were in high school and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
DoG: So what’s in the pipeline and how do you feel it will differ from making Five Across The Eyes?
RT: The only thing I can really say is that there is more horror is on the horizon for us and we can’t wait. And making our next project should be a night vs. day difference. The biggest thing is we should actually have a budget this time, so we can try some things that we couldn’t even think about doing in the past.