Earlier last month, Melinda Stang had the chance to cover the red carpet for the premiere of the horror film COLD MOON. While there she had the chance to speak with director Griff Furst and actor Josh Stewart, as well as everyone in between, about what it was like to make this film.
Nightmarish Conjurings: As a horror website it seems important to ask first, is COLD MOON a horror movie?
Griff Furst: Yeah, I definitely think so. If you know the source material, it was written by Michael McDowell and he only wrote horror. It’s Southern Gothic horror and it mixes a lot of different genres within that. Without a doubt, though, it’s a horror movie. I mean, I’m a huge horror fan.
NC: Sometimes filmmakers like to skirt making pure horror a bit and, instead, try to make a fusion between different genres with horror being one of them.
GF: I don’t think you can have the elements that exist in this movie and have it not be a horror film. Then I don’t know what you’d call it! When you’re dealing with the subjects and the visuals that you’re dealing with in this movie, I don’t see how it couldn’t be a horror film. That’s not to say that if someone enjoyed thrillers or dramas, they wouldn’t enjoy this movie. I think it crosses lines, but if I had to pick one genre, it would definitely be horror.
NC: In making a horror movie, what made it into your lookbook? How did you determine the visual style for COLD MOON?
GF: I’m super familiar with all horror movies. My library is extensive, so it’s pretty much baked into my brain. I usually study the scene and then when I get to the location, I’ll spend days upon days there by myself with the production designer just thinking about the scene and marrying those visuals to the story. It’s not strenuous at all, I just hang out there and then just go through the shot list.
NC: You’ve done a lot of acting in the past. You were in THE FOUNDER and THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN in 2016. How do you bring your acting to your filmmaking as a director, producer and writer?
GF: At least at first, the process for me is super similar. When I’m acting in something I just look at the script and I don’t act it. I just read it and try to figure out what’s not on the page or what’s not being said. When I’m directing, I try to figure it out from the actor’s standpoint so then I know what it’s actually about. It’s never about what the scene says it’s about on paper. Then I hire great actors.
NC: Do you like to be hands-on with your actors while on set or do you like to see where they’ll take it?
GF: I’m very hands on, but I think it is important to have that collaboration. Before I put in any input, I like to see what they do first. Sometimes it’s perfect and sometimes we tweak it. If we have time, which we rarely have time on these schedules, we’ll spend as much time as we have. I think the longest we got to spend on a scene was an hour. A lot of the time we just have great actors. They show up and you’re like, “wow, that’s fantastic, let’s shoot it.”
NC: Then how long was principal photography on this shoot?
GF: It ended up being about 24 days. It started off as 18 and then it kinda blew up into 24. We liked what we were seeing and we wanted to spend some more time on the more intricate stuff.
NC: What was it like collaborating with a sibling on such a large creative project?
GF: I love it. We did a horror movie called MASK MAKER before. That was about seven years ago. It was so good to be back with him. He went on and he started doing bigger studio movies and I couldn’t afford him anymore. I caught him for this movie when it was good for his schedule.
NC: Was there anything else I was supposed to ask you?
GF: What happened to the bodies?
NC: What did happen to them?
GF: You’ll have to watch the movie and tell me!
Next we had the chance to speak with composer Nathan Furst.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What was your source material and what inspired the score for you on this project?
Nathan Furst: Well definitely trying not to start from necessarily anything you’ve heard before. There are certainly elements that you could maybe recognize or sort of hear, but to merge those things in a very unexpected way to create a very uncomfortable energy. I really tried to not have any inspiration except for what Griff (Furst) wanted to do and sort of where he was and what he wanted to say.
NC: What were some ways you intentionally tried to structure anxiety in the score?
NF: Oh, lots of cool stuff. We take things like let’s say a quartet which we actually recorded and then sometimes run it through a distortion pedal. We also recorded the screaming, just raw screaming not a note, and sometimes distorting that a certain way. A couple times we just did long, heavy breathing and then played that backwards to create these bizarre textures and energies where it’s creating an emotion we want you to feel, but in a somewhat visceral, unexpected way.
NC: Should I take it that Britlin Lee is the vocalist for the screaming?
NF: Well, she did some of the screaming, but there’s also some really cool ethereal vocalization that is almost like the voice of one of our characters so I don’t want to give it away. She almost represents that character in the score as she is sort of singing. It is actually almost a dark disturbing lullaby sort of effect.
NC: What was it like to work with your sibling on this project?
NF: Well, we’re brothers so we try not to fight. You leave a lot at the door. Like, I try not to turn in a terrible piece of music just to get back at him for what he did me when I was ten. If I can put that aside, then we’re off to a good start; that’s pretty much it.
Following Nathan Furst, we had the chance to speak with actor Josh Stewart who is no stranger to working within the horror genre.
Nightmarish Conjurings: COLD MOON is a horror film and you have worked in horror before, what prepared you for a new horror role?
Josh Stewart: There’s nothing to prepare you. It’s character for me. A lot of people see horror as two-dimensional, but, to me, that’s just lazy filmmaking, lazy acting, lazy everything. When I see a character, I want to get into it. I want to see the complexities that make these humans who they are. When I see a cool story and then a cool character within this puzzle, I jump at it. I don’t care what it is. I don’t care if it’s horror, comedy, drama, or whatever. To me, it’s another character.
NC: Since Griff (Furst) is an actor first by trade, what was it like being directed by another actor?
JS: Any time you have an actor who is directing, he understands the process. He caters to that. He builds an environment where you can run wild. When you have an actor that’s a director, you speak the same language. It’s easy to get to that place where you need to be. Any time a director has a great understanding of where an actor is coming from, that’s ideally what you want. Whether you are an actor beforehand or just a great filmmaker, if you understand the process and you set the environment where they can do what you need them to do, you just run any play at that point.
NC: To follow up… You both created this character together by building on the source material, were there any roles or famous performances that helped you build it?
JS: There are plenty of roles and characters that I look at. I try to put that all away. I believe my job as an actor is to service the author’s words within the picture of the director. My job is just to be truthful to the story. I try not to lay on someone else’s performance and steal from that. Yeah, you may take technique or ideas from those sorts of things, but every character is so specific, distinctive, and individual. You can’t do that if you don’t understand the story. If you don’t understand how your character fits into that story and affects the story, you are just treading water. You’re going to drown sooner or later.
NC: How would you characterize your acting style?
JS: I’m not a method actor. Whatever you need to do to tell the story, by all means do it. What role or piece of the puzzle do I play? Any time a movie gets made in this town, it’s a miracle. It’s a damn miracle. We’ve already painted the picture and, at this point, what we think doesn’t really matter anymore. At this point, just let people consume it. Let people look at the picture and decide what they think about.
Following Josh Stewart, we had the chance to talk with actress Candy Clark about what interested her in COLD MOON.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What brought you on board for this project?
Candy Clark: It was a great script and it was sudden. I don’t know how many people turned it down before it got to me, but it was from one minute to the next. It was around Christmastime and it was a trip to Louisiana. And I had a major part! I play the protagonist opposite the bad guy. It was really fun to be a grandma. Are you going to watch the movie?
NC: Oh yes, we are!
CC: You’re going to be like, “where’s Candy? I don’t see her! Oh, she’s the grandma? Oh my god! Holy cow!”
NC: Did they have to do any make-up or prosthetic work?
CC: Well, I’ll let you look for the seams. It was a lot of fun playing this character and being a grandma. But, yeah, it was a difficult part because the story takes place within a few days, so my character has to stay in deep despair. We shot for two or three weeks, but I had to keep this mood because it is so hard to bring it back. It was real tricky. I didn’t think I would be able to stay that sad for that long, but I just thought, “okay! Let’s see if we can even conjure up a tear or two.” I was impressed with myself being able to do those scenes.
NC: You were excited to be in Louisiana, did you have any awesome experiences there?
CC: It was only a few miles from New Orleans. You can see my excitement. They had rented a car for me, so any time I had time off, I went over the bridge and into New Orleans! You would do the same!
NC: What was your favorite thing to do in New Orleans?
CC: Eat! I had a nice per diem and I had a friend living there. I’d pick her up and we’d just eat. It was really fun and it was around Christmas.
Last but not least, we spoke with actor Han Soto about his role in the film.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Since you have been in a lot of action films in the past and this is slightly different, what did you watch or what you think about when you are bringing your character life for this production?
Han Soto: I was brought on this project by Griff (Furst) and Isaiah (LaBorde) and whenever those guys call, I trust them. I trust them so much that I signed up for the job before I had even read the script. Once I started diving into it, they give me free reign to create whatever character I wanted to create. To me this character was (cannot tell word) in college and he’s a single guy with no kids. I actually lived in this character about three weeks before I started filming and that’s pretty much what I did.
NC: Since you lived in the character, would you consider yourself to have gone method?
HS: I do method when I can do method.
NC: Since Griff is an actor first and foremost what was it like, for you, being directed by an actor?
HS: Being directed by Griff is very easy; he would look at me and just kind of do this little finger movement which kind of indicated exactly what he wanted. From there we would just go right into the takes so our takes went really quick and we didn’t often have to reset. I’ve done a Cajun, redneck for Griff before and I was sure it wasn’t going to make it into the movie but sure enough I get a text from my friends that says, “Hey, what’s up redneck hick (indiscernible).” Griff just allows me to play and I really like that.
NC: What’s your favorite way to celebrate Halloween?
HS: I have this tradition that I turn my daughter’s stroller into something grand every year and last year I turned it into an X-Wing and she was Yoda flying in an X-Wing. This year she wants to be Batman so I think I am going to have to do the Batwing or the Batmobile. That’s my biggest tradition; well that and the neighborhood party
NC: So you guys do a neighborhood party, not trick-or-treating?
HS: Neighborhood party, trick-or-treating, Jell-O shots, and scary movies in black and white on a projector. What’s your favorite scary movie?
NC: I actually like Class of Nuke ‘Em High, Part II: Sub-Humanoid Meldown. Yes, I’m a Troma film kind of lady. One last question, what was something awesome or strange that happened on set?
HS: One night they were shooting for like sixteen hours so to help out the crew I actually drove Frank Whaley home. On the way, we had a very very deep conversation, he’s a super (indiscernible) guy. It’s nice to see him being very successful.