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Q&A with Don Swaynos, Director of “Don’t Ever Change”

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Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Horror spirit animal?
In all honesty I’d probably be the guy whose glasses fog up when he’s walking through the woods and he stops to clean them and when he puts them back on he’s lost track of his friends and Jason is standing over him and he get impaled on a tree or whatever. The sort of thing that happens in the first ten minutes so the audience understand what kind of movie they’re watching. I wear contacts and have a lot of allergies (both food and airborne) so I’ve accepted the reality that I would not do well in a horror movie situation, but the suspension of disbelief that I could survive, even just into act 2, is what makes horror films so thrilling.
Oh, also, I guess I do kind of relate to Carrie, but without the psychic abilities or the strict religious upbringing. Just, like, a kid who had a bad time at prom.

You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
I’ve had a lot of stupid ideas, the important thing is to tell yourself that the idea you’re currently writing/getting ready to shoot/shooting/editing ISN’T one of them. There are times when I’ve written something down then come back to it later and realized “oh this is dumb,” and then I delete the file and move on. But if there’s an idea that sticks with you and you find yourself being drawn to it again and again, trying different things until it clicks and then willing to do all the work that’s required to make that idea into a movie, then there’s something there.

Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
I’d like to think so. I’ve always loved horror films and I think Don’t Ever Change is a horror movie- even if it’s also a comedy. I’d hope the horror kids would let me sit at their table at lunch because 98% of my wardrobe is black t-shirts and honestly I’m not sure who else is going to want to hang out with me.

When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
With things like Serial and Making a Murderer there was a sudden rise in pop culture based on true-crime. It’s weird because it’s considered taboo to be into true crime but it’s always been really popular. People can’t look away but they’re ashamed about that. I thought it would be fun to explore the way we feel about this by writing about a true-crime superfan, someone who feels absolutely no shame about their obsession and is willing to do what it takes for the ultimate fan experience- which in this case is getting murdered.

What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
If I heard about what happened to Jason, I would become obsessed with the case of the guy who got his favorite murderer to murder him. I would read the book about it, listen to the podcasts about it, and binge the eight episode Netflix docs-series about it.

Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
Can I do a horror movie antihero squad instead? Lefty from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Erin from You’re Next, Tina from Friday the 13th Part VII, that kid and his grandpa from Terror Vision, Duane and Belial from Basket Case (they’re the good guys, those doctors were bad). I think a lot of people might say Ash would be good on a squad like this, but that’s ridiculous. Ash is not a team player and one weak-link could bring down the whole group dynamic, so no thank you. But both Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis’ characters from Bubba Ho-Tep are welcome to join.
I don’t know how the mechanics of a team like this would work. I guess they’d all hang out at a clubhouse until something comes up? Anyway, I mostly think it would just be fun to hear them argue about who ate what out of the refrigerator and what they’re going to watch on TV.
This is one of those bad ideas you asked about earlier.

How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film?
The set was an AirBnB we found. We told them we would be shooting a movie there , we didn’t tell them how much blood was in the movie, but they knew what we were doing and were very accommodating. Our art director Caroline Karlen dressed it all. I wanted it to look like Karen had just gotten out of prison and just moved into this place. We figured she’d want things that were bright and colorful, and everything is new. There are no memories associated with anything in the house other than a few photos. It’s what she pictured a happy home to be.
A great VFX artist named Eric Zapata created all the blood gags as well as all the “weapons.” We had a foam candlestick and a real candlestick (which we treated like it was a gun with live ammunition). We also had a real knife, a rubber knife, a retractable knife, and a wearable knife, then we used a small amount of CGI clean up a few of the stabs.

And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and I’m not just saying that as a Texan. It’s a relentless movie that is so much scarier than everything it inspired. The score is so effective at getting under your skin, the way it captures insanity and amplifies it, especially in the last act, and as terrifying as it is, it’s shot so beautifully. Also, it has the best cut from the end of the movie to the beginning of the end credits in cinema history.