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Q&A with Zach Madden, Director of “Phototron 69′

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Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual/personal level?
The nerd who almost makes it to the end, but dies just before the climax. Almost one step ahead, but never quite quick enough!

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 strongly believe that part of telling good stories is telling many many really bad ones and seeing what sticks. The best answer I can give is that there are aspects of all of my works that have bad ideas and some things that may work in some. I am lucky to still be learning every day and my hope is that the more bad ideas I get out, the less will be there in my future work. I’m grateful for all my ideas, bad and good.

Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
Not particularly a horror community, but I do consider myself very lucky to be surrounded by creators that I am immensely inspired by and am truly a fan of as people and the work they produce. Being inspired and fueled by the work of my friends has been one of the best things that has happened to me in my creative career.

When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
I usually start with tone and go from there. There are a few directors that I’m drawn to at the moment that I think have really strong tone and style that I really envy. Some of these directors are The Daniels, The Safdie Brothers, Darren Aronofsky and Bong Joon-ho.

What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
Probably call into work sick for a few days until the new printer arrives.

Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
Would honestly want my squad to be the kids the horror villains torment. Seems like a much more relaxed group to hang with…before the inciting incident kicks off at least.

Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Jason, Stephen King, always always practical if possible, pre apocalypse.

How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
One of the most challenging parts of this project was creating a practical set piece with the Phototron 69 that could act as a fully functioning character. The story needed the machine to act as a lead and in order to do so, had to be able to communicate with our other lead character Ashton. I wanted the printer’s scanning bed lighting to be fully adjustable and programmable on the fly in order to make small adjustments during filming to help the scenes progress naturally. With cost and size constraints in the internal section of the printer, and the added hurdle of wanting the light to be bright enough to act as a key light without additional sources, we knew we wanted either a DMX controllable light setup inside or a similar pre-made light console installed. We found no solution that would fit and give us enough nuanced control with this approach. We then transitioned into looking into daylight rated flexi-screens used for conventions and concerts. It ended up being cost prohibitive and the final result would have been identical to a high bright daylight rated screen doing normal video playback. Upon realizing this we were able to find a military grade, case-less monitor screen panel with correct wiring to attach to a laptop far out of frame. After getting past the size, brightness and price hurdle, we were able to preprogram a number of light effects and scene cues that could be altered on the fly while shooting. Overall it took about a month and a half to fully construct and program the machine in my garage.

What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?
I grew up constantly scared, and have since have become less so with age. But some of my earliest memories involve me being terrified of the house I grew up in and the woods surrounding it. Since then I have always had a strong urge to set horror projects in highly location oriented worlds, having the location and environment itself become a character in the narrative.

And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
Usually the last really good one I watch. Currently Hereditary I think was the most recent brilliant character drama disguised as a horror flick I can think of.