Owen: Hi Jeff, let me say right off the
bat that '13 Seconds' is
absolutely fantastic! People who haven't
seen this horror flick - go run and rent this
movie! You've deservedly won a number of
film festival awards with it, has that helped a
lot with PR and with getting picked up and
Jeff: Thank you so
much Owen, I cannot tell you how much I enjoy
your site, so it is an honor to hear that. You're
absolutely right about the festivals and awards.
If you're an independent filmmaker they are very
essential. After completing post on "13
Seconds" I realized one thing: I
knew how to make a movie, but I knew nothing
about the film business or distribution. No other
medium walks the fine line between commerce and
art like film, so it is very important that all
future directors know everything about producing
and marketing. After final cut, I must have sent
out thousands of dollars in screeners to agents,
distributors, and international agents-and all to
no avail. I never heard one word back. From there
I devised an online marketing campaign and the
strategy to hit almost every film festival out
there. Essentially, I just wanted the screenings
to help with the advertising campaign and for
something I could tell a distributor. I never
imagined winning any awards and when "13
Seconds" did it was incredible. I
am so thankful for all the support for the film,
especially in light of its low budget. Obviously
there are factors that strain the viability of
the project because of the budget, but so many
people have embraced the film on other merits:
the story, the twists, the effects, the lighting,
etc. And because of that I am so grateful. But
with the awards and festivals came recognition
and then distributors and agents started
contacting me. Which was funny since all of them
already had received screeners about 10 months
ago. Without any recognition and due to the high
volume of films out there, unless there is
something attached to your project, more likely
than not, it won't get watched. At this point, I
had 13 offers on the table for distribution and
it was nice to have the luxury to actually make
my choice. Ultimately, I signed with Amy Steuer
at Integration Entertainment who is a fantastic
agent. She has been so instrumental in our DVD
and television deals that have been successful,
but she is also a very honest and down to earth
person. I'd recommend every filmmaker that is
looking for distribution to contact her. And the
only reason we met was because of the awards.
You have filmed weddings and dozens of
commercials and infomercials Through your film
company, Rainstorm Productions, prior to shooting
'13 Seconds'. What were the main
things you learned from that experience that
proved helpful prior to making a feature?
Jeff: The biggest thing I learned from my "day
job" was how to shoot in a guerilla style to
keep things on time and on budget. Also, with
doing commercials and infomercials, you are
conditioned to shoot images and edit in a style
that will grab people's attention, since you have
a very short time to communicate a product or
service. Filmmaking is the same in that there is
so much product out there for consumers and that
you are competing with the major Hollywood
releases. So work like that helped to formulate a
style and even with low budgets, style will shine
through. You want something that will help your
film stand out and my shooting and editing style
definitely helped "13 Seconds"
and without the commercials that would never have
what was different or unexpected?
As for what was different or unexpected, the
special effects was the most difficult because I
had never worked so intricately with the level of
effects that we were trying to pull off. We had
effects problems on a moment by moment basis.
Some took a day just to prepare, then another
full day to shoot. Plus, our effects were
ambitious for our budget, so it was a constant
battle to figure out how to pull those off.
Owen: So while you were making those other types of
films was a feature film always the ultimate goal
of your company?
Absolutely, my goal was always to do a feature
length horror film. I knew back in high school
that I wanted to do a film, but I realized that I
could never afford to shoot an independent film.
Video was the most obvious choice, but you still
need the best toys. I pretty much started the
business to help buy bigger video equipment to
shoot a movie.
Owen: And was that movie always going to be
horror? If not what prompted the decision
to make '13 Seconds'?
Yes, without a doubt, the movie was always going
to be horror. I love the genre and I am a life
long fan. Plus, I feel there is so much a
director and writer can do with the genre that
has not been done before. So I was really up for
the challenge of offering to the genre my own
You wrote, directed, and also starred in '13
Seconds' - which of those (or
combination) was the most challenging for you?
The most difficult part was directing and acting.
On low budgets it is difficult enough working
with skeleton crews, but to combine additional
roles makes everything even more restrictive.
Many times it was a matter of establishing a shot
then literally jumping in front of the lens.
Plus, you have to not only monitor your own
performance but also all the performances from
every one else, from lighting to camera movement
to other actors. With that in mind, writing is
when you get compliments regarding the film, and
I'm sure you've received hundreds, what does it
warm your heart the most to hear praised
your acting, directing, or writing?
What warms my heart the most are the compliments
for my directing. To me, that is the heart and
soul of the film. Not to undermine writers, but
film is a visual medium and it has to communicate
to the audience in that way. And ultimately that
is dictated by the director's vision and handling
of the script.
Owen: Was it hard to direct yourself? Was
Actually, directing myself was not the most
difficult portion of the shoot. Since I was the
writer as well, I already had the character
firmly established in my mind, which made the
process all the more organic. Objectivity with
yourself is always difficult, especially with low
budgets, but it comes down to what will better
impact the narrative.
Owen: The film contains such a myriad, such a delicious
onslaught of crazy disturbing images and
horrors. What was the toughest effect or
camera shot to get in the can?
Thank you so much. The most difficult was one of
the last shots, actually the last death scene.
This was the denouement of the film, which was a
tough shot to get as a director but I was in
there as well as an actor. Acting wise, it was
very arduous, physically and emotionally, and
directing wise it contained a lot of crucial
elements from actors to lighting. It was not fun
at all and I couldn't wait for it to be
and in the film the Band and their CD (or maybe
one or the other, I'm not sure) was called 'Night
Gallery' and there are other touches from the Rod
Serling series as well...were you or are you a
big fan of the show?
Jeff: Thanks for picking up on that, from the name of
the band to the name of the academy and
everything in between, plays a direct homage to
the Rod Serling series and the Ambrose Pearce
"Occurrence at Owlcreek Bridge"
short story. I am a huge fan of both writers and
the series in particular, including the "Twilight
Zone," are still riveting to this
day. It all boils down to great storytelling and
many filmmakers could learn a lot from that,
Whose work has influenced you the most
significantly when it comes to style and
Actually, I have to split this answer between two
great talents. Stylistically, my biggest
influence is Dario Argento. His use of palette,
composition, and lighting are truly under
appreciated. He has such a bold cinematic vision
that I wish it would move into the mainstream and
receive the acclaim he deserves. As for narrative
influences, I have to say Steven Spielberg. Say
what you will about him, but his visual flair for
telling a story and communicating to an audience
Owen: Everybody who has seen this film is asking,
"What is this guy going to do
next?" And the answer to that question
Thank you, and actually I can drop a couple
hints. The next film looks like its going to be a
new feature with an all star horror line-up, both
in front of and behind the camera. It will be
shot on film, it has a larger budget, and it will
be a very hard R. I'm so tired of water downed
PG-13 horror, and this film will transcend that
by being completely subversive, brutal, and
violent. And there will be no CGI, all
old-fashioned mechanical and hands on special
effects with a complete menagerie of creatures.
me about this upcoming collaboration with R.A.
Mihailoff, star of Texas Chainsaw
Massacre III'. Is that the project?
and I are collaborating on the aforementioned
project. He has been very influential in helping
to line up our all star horror cast and crew, but
he will also be performing as another icon
So does the success of '13 Seconds'
mean you are closing the book on filming
commercials and such or is it a good balance and
source of revenue?
have been very blessed by my commercial work and
I have some great clients that have been with me
for awhile, so I could never completely shut the
door. Also, filmmaking is so volatile and I would
definitely want something to fall back on.
What scares you in real life?
scares me the most is creatively if the well even
ran dry. Whether it is in writing or directing, I
am constantly afraid of becoming a total hack.
And, I totally hate with a passion, airplanes and
man, great chatting with you.
thank you so much for the opportunity.