Remington Smith is an award-winning filmmaker whose work has been distributed by PBS Reel South and screened at film festivals around the world. His feature documentary Rubbertown is now available on Amazon Prime and his film, Our Half Acre, screened in Paris after winning best film, best script and best directing at the Louisville 48 Hour Film Festival. He teaches at the University of Louisville as a film production professor and is currently developing his first narrative feature film, Land Lord.
Q & A
Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Horror spirit animal?
Oh, that’s a good one. This is a deep cut, but Sean, the leader of The Monster Squad comes to mind. I’m always organizing people (which you kinda have to do if you’re making movies) and we both love monster movies. There’s a reason I fell in love with that film as a kid.
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?
This feature I’m developing now was originally going to be a straight political revenge film – an unarmed black man is killed by a police officer and after the cop isn’t charged, the girlfriend goes after him to get justice. A lot of times my fiction work starts with something political that’s really gotten under my skin and then I try to strip it away so it’s not a MESSAGE film. You might feel some of that in later revisions, but it’s not front and center, which I think helps keep a film from becoming dated while also being approachable for any audience. I find once I’m talking to people about an idea, I’ve worked it over in my head enough to stand on its own. So when I’m bored or trying to go to sleep, I’ll run film ideas in my head and see what seems most interesting to me. I usually do that until I think of something that makes me get excited or giddy and actually say, “Ah ha!” Boredom and daydreaming are vital to coming up with the good ones.
Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
Definitely. I grew up on horror, my first short films were horror films, and I continue to work in horror when I’m not doing documentary work. I like to work in lots of different spheres.
When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
Going on long walks, exploring abandoned places, just getting out into the world really helps me. Especially when you’re a no budget filmmaker, you need free stuff, and most of the time you’re not going to find those things or make those connections on your phone or through social media. You need to talk to people, get lost, discover things. I also look for new music or artwork to come up with new ideas or find ways to build on current projects.
What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
Seek shelter, find better clothing to keep warm, and start looking for food. We shot all exteriors for The Woods, 16 hour days, so some of our survival tricks while shooting would hopefully help me survive if I had to live it.
Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
The Thing, Freddy Krueger, Dracula from The Monster Squad (he’s so uncanny), and I can’t help myself here, but the CEOs who caused the mortgage crisis and saw no jail time. Someone once said, in a robbery you might lose your wallet, but with Wall St, these people steal your future. That’s some Hellraiser stuff right there.
Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Freddy, Stephen King, Practical, 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?
For sets I tend to use the world around me a lot without doing many alterations. With The Woods I knew Iowa’s winter would create this isolation if we filmed in the right places, we’d just have to survive filming it. It was so cold our camera froze on the first day, so the threat of frost bite was serious. On the second location we used an RV for holding and a complete stranger had given us the keys – I was terrified I’d get it stuck or wreck it. As far as props, one of the few items we needed was a baby skeleton, so I bought this plastic one online and our makeup guy Jesse Walker did a great job adding weird sinew and flesh to it. After we we burned it a little it was quite unsettling. Most of the film’s budget went to that skeleton.
And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
It’s so unfair to ask for just one favorite horror film, but The Fog is pretty high up there for me these days.