THE MIND'S EYE is the latest film from director Joe Begos and to get ready for it's release on August 5, Abigail sat down with actor Graham Skipper (ALMOST HUMAN) to discuss his role, telekinesis, and what it's like to work in negative 27 degree weather.
Abigail Braman: Hi Graham! Thanks so much for talking with me today. For those who are unfamiliar, could you please tell us a little about your character and the premise of your newest film THE MIND'S EYE?
Graham Skipper: Zack Connors is a loner - he's a drifter with telekinetic abilities that, at the start of the film, finds himself harassed by a couple of small-town cops and is forced into demonstrating these powerful telekinetic abilities that he's trying to keep secret, and trying to subdue. Ultimately, he fears his own powers because he can't control them and that's why he goes to the Slovak Institute for Psychokinetic's, not only to try and harness his abilities but also to reconnect with his love, Rachel, who appears to be at the same institute.
AB: Was there anything in particular you had to do to prepare for a role such as this one?
GS: On the one hand, I watched a lot of movies that Joe recommended: I watched FIRST BLOOD, and of course I watched SCANNERS, DEATH WISH, ROLLING THUNDER, THE FURY (which I had never seen), which is really amazing. On the other end of it I got in really good shape and tried to get into a physical shape that would fit such an action-heavy movie.
AB: There's a vast amount of amazing death scenes in THE MIND'S EYE - what was the overall experience like working on set with such great traditional special effects?
GS: Oh, it's amazing. Brian Spears and Pete Gerner were the special effects guys. They're true artists and total magic workers. You read the stuff on the script and you go, "Ok, we'll see what actually ends up happening" and then you get on set and you go, "Holy shit, these guys really did it and they made this come to life." Just learning how that process works and how you shoot it correctly, and then taking the time to really get it right is impressive. It was just really amazing to watch, especially because Joe (Begos) considers that to be such an important part of his films that he doesn't skimp on that time. I think that that's an important thing about Joe as a filmmaker - I feel like so many times people want to save the special effects until the end and Joe doesn't ever do that. Joe really takes the time and puts the effort into it and it totally pays off on screen.
AB: Was there a death scene in particular that was the most fun for you to work with?
GS: I think maybe my most specific memory was the head explosion scene. I was already wrapped up, I didn't even really need to be on set, but if there's a head exploding, ya gotta go see it. We shot the damn thing with a shotgun, SCANNERS-style, and did it out in a rock quarry. So there we are, hanging out in a cold rock quarry in the middle of the night, shooting a bloody head with a shotgun, and you're just thinking, "This is my life. This is amazing."
AB: (Laughs) That's awesome. Another aspect I loved about this movie was that it had such a great cast, and I recognized almost everyone in THE MIND'S EYE. Is it a better and more comfortable experience for you as an actor to work with people that you know?
GS: I think it's just a different experience - I wouldn't say it is better or worse. I mean obviously, if you know someone already there's sort of an instant comradery, and you're able to fall into that more quickly. But, at the same time, when you meet somebody for the first time, and you're on screen with them, there's a spontaneity to it - where your characters are meeting each other for the first time, and I think that's an interesting quality in terms of figuring out who this other person is. But, most everyone on the set I already knew pretty well, and being a pretty big horror fan myself, I knew all of their work already. I kind of fan-boyed out. I met Jeremy Gardner (and I love THE BATTERY so much) and it turns out he's an amazing guy. So then we become instant friends. Same with all of these folks: Lauren Ashley Carter, John Speredakos, and I had already known Matt Mercer. It was just a great experience. I think Joe really knows how to cast his films well, and he puts an army together of like-minded people who are all going after the same goal.
AB: I know you guys were shooting in a pretty cold location - was that challenging at all?
GS: Pretty cold does not even begin to describe the frigidness of the shoot. It was really horrendously cold. There was three feet of snow on the ground. There was one night where we were filming outside and it was the middle of the night, and not including the wind chill, the thermometer read negative 27 degrees. It was insane, but on the other hand, as cold and miserable as it was, it becomes a character itself - it forces you to stop acting and to really start doing. Which, for me is always the ultimate goal - you don't want to be pretending, you want to be really doing this stuff, and that night, we're outside and I'm wearing a jean jacket in negative 27 degrees, you just gotta shut your brain off, trust your instincts and go for it. I'm just really glad that was how it all turned out, even if at the time we were all going, "Oh my God, my toes are numb", and by the time the coffee gets from the trailer to me, it's already frozen. But whatever, let's do it!
AB: (Laughs) definitely. As a whole, what was your overall experience like working on this film?
GS: It was amazing - one of the absolute best experiences of my life. I didn't mention it before, but working with Larry Fessenden was just really incredible. Not only because I'm a big fan of his work, but also to see somebody like that, and see their acting work that I admire so much, and to get to learn from him. It was really a gift. Plus, I get to fly around in the air, throw stuff with my mind, and get covered in blood and that's all I want to do. How could I not love it?
AB: Well thank you so much Graham for taking the time out today to speak with me. THE MIND'S EYE is definitely a film that shouldn't be missed so make sure you look for it in theaters and on VOD and iTunes on August 5!