The Arrow interviews Anthony C. Ferrante
Writer/Director Anthony C. Ferrante has been in the genre game for a while now, having written for Fangoria and Cinescape while also having acted as Special Make-Up FX Supervisor and Second Unit Director on a variety of horror projects. His feature length directorial debut BOO will soon be upon us (It hits the DVD shelves on October 25Th 2005), coming just in time for Halloween. Mr. Ferrante stepped into the arena with yours truly and here's how the battle was fought!
What’s your favorite horror movie?
I’ve always loved Halloween, but I think John Carpenter’s The Thing has taken over that slot for me. It’s very hard to make a suspenseful horror movie where a bunch of guys are in danger. You just figure they’d gang up on whoever it was and beat the crap out of them. But Carpenter made a horror film with that kind of concept work exceptionally. That and the effects – aside from the two minutes or so of stop motion work – hold up better than most visual effects you see today.
You’ve been multitasking for a while now. From working at Fango to being an editor at Cinescape, to doing makeup effects in films, producing and now writing/directing your first feature. Did you ever feel that you had to pick “one” trade to succeed as opposed to working them all at the same time?
Unfortunately, in order to make a living, you some times have to multi-task and do many jobs. When I first moved to L.A., I think I was writing for eight or nine magazines and newspapers at the same time. I added up how many articles I wrote one month and I think it exceeded 40 – but at least I was able to pay the bills that month. At the end of the day though, every job I have had has always been about learning everything I can about what I love the most, which is making movies.
In some ways, being a journalist has been an unofficial film school. Where else can I go out to movie sets and watch directors I admire do their job or get to interview them about their craft. And doing make-up effects really taught me how to work within very tight budgets to make something look more expensive than it actually was.
On to BOO, what was the initial spark that inspired you to come up with the storyline and write the screenplay?
It takes me awhile to feel ready to write a script. I have notepads filled with ideas, story strands, characters and dialogue, some of them more fully formed than others. Prior to Boo, I was writing a comedy script and a film noir action script, and knew I wanted to get back to horror. I had two supernatural ghost story scripts floating around in my head and I wrote the first few pages of each. Boo won out at the end of the day because it was the most budget-conscious of the two. I knew if someone was going to fund my first feature, it had to be something that could be done for a price and not a $40 million dollar epic which the other script was.
Both scripts were also a response to the Scream mentality that was going on at the time which were these self-referential slasher/horror movies starring WB actors. I wanted to see a really old-fashioned, scary horror movie that got under your skin and so I wrote a script that used every trick in the book I could think of. I had also shot at the hospital where we ended up filming Boo for another film – Progeny – and the story really came to life during the shooting of that movie. The underground tunnel, the third floor and the wheelchair were all things that came out of exploring the hospital and realizing what a truly creepy and terrifying place it was. I also liked the notion of people realizing that at any moment, they could be a ghost and not realize it. It’s sort of The Thing with a little Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
How arduous was the development process on the film and what was the toughest challenge to overcome to enter pre-production?
Once Kismet wanted to do the movie, there was very little development. Prior to Kismet signing on, I think I was already up to Draft 10 or 11 on the script over a five or six year period. Most of the revisions prior to Kismet were streamlining the story, taking out expensive set pieces and making the movie scarier. When we knew we were heading into pre-production, the same process continued. I knew the parameters that we had (shooting schedule, budget) and I had to streamline the script even more to make some of the complicated things more manageable. I think we lost a sequence at a supermarket that introduced the Freddy and Marie characters.
Most of that was consolidated into a shorter scene at the house. I also stripped tons of superfluous dialogue out of the script. The ending had the biggest tweaks because it originally ended in the hospital being quasi-destroyed and on fire – things that we really couldn’t do with our budget. So I went a little art-house with the ending, and in post-production we hired a really great visual effects artist – Michael Shelton – who was able to give us a little bit more bang to the ending that we would not have got if we didn’t have him on board.
You had a competent cast on your hands; how would you describe the casting of the picture? Hell on wheels or smooth surfing?
We really lucked out, because we found some great people who we knew the moment they walked in that they were it. Jessie was the hardest role to cast. Trish Coren who got the part originally came in to read for Meg, and I had her go out and reread for Jessie and she really was our frontrunner from that point on. The same thing happened with Rachel Melvin who played Meg. She came in to read for Jessie, but she was a perfect Meg. So casting was a quick two or three week process.
I had my top choices and our producer David Allen got all the tapes and came back with his top choices and it was really weird, but we were in agreement on everyone. That never happens in this town where the producer and director are on the exact same page. We were really fortunate with our actors as well. For some of them, this was their first film and you wouldn’t even know it – they really did a phenomenal job and I had a blast working with them.
Being that you are a horror fan, how much of a trip was it to direct Miss Dee Wallace Stone?
The first day she was there, it really hit me that all my favorite directors had directed her at one point – Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, Peter Jackson – and here’s this nobody first-timer getting a chance to work with her. But she was great, and she really blessed the production by being in it.
You shot the film in an old hospital. Did you experience any real spooky occurrences while you were there?
Some people claim things happened, but nothing supernatural, in the obvious sense, happened when I was around or alone in the hospital. And if it did, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed it since I was so focused on what we had to do with Boo. A ghost could have been standing there going “look at me, look at me,” and I would have probably thought, “hey, if you’re not busy, any chance you can give the art department a hand?”
What would you say was the rougher obstacle you had to surmount while shooting the picture?
Even though we were shooting in one location, most of the scenes in the movie are literally 1/8th pages. There were so many different types of set-ups and strange dream-like interludes, that there was ton of stuff we had to shoot and very little time to shoot it in. There was also a specific kind of connectiveness in terms of geography about the hospital that I wanted to convey to an audience and a connectivness in terms of the way scenes flowed into other scenes. You have to really keep the whole movie very clear in your head to make that stuff come off properly and work … especially when things are shot out of sequence.
I have to say though, aside from one gag which we edited together differently than what I was thinking when we shot it – and it ended up even better when we reworked it in editing – all the connective things really came together and cut seamlessly into the movie. So the obstacle was being overly ambitious, but in being overly ambitious, I think we ended up with a much cooler horror movie.
Did you have to make any compromises during the shoot due to lack of either time or money?
In some cases, you don’t get the coverage you need because of time. There are some clever “master shots” without close-ups that I think worked pretty well, and others that I cringe at. There are some close-ups of certain things I would have liked. And I think there are a few moments during the climax where additional coverage could have made it more suspenseful. I also wish we could have had a stuntman on fire in the basement at the end. Because of safety issues – i.e., if we set someone on fire in the basement, the whole hospital would have really burned down – we had to rework our plans. But when you consider what our budget was, and what we pulled off with it, I’m very proud of the end result.
Looking back at the shoot, if you could change one thing, what would it be?
There are things as a director that you will always want to change. George Lucas can’t leave his films alone either, but BOO would not be the movie it is without what it took to make it. If anything, I would have liked to have more time in the editing room. My editor Chris Conlee did an amazing job and only after we started screening it for audiences after the final sound mix was locked, did we really start going, “hey, if we trimmed 10 frames there, that scene would be so much tighter.”
Where is BOO now in terms distribution? Any territories locked? When/where can we expect it to hit North America?
BOO comes out October 25 on DVD from Ventura Distributors. We also will be screening at Screamfest in Los Angeles at Universal City Walk on October 17 at 7:30 and I believe we’re at the International Horror Festival in Phoenix, AZ on October 22. The past week we had two showings in Northern California where I’m from and those went really well. We have a 35mm print with Dolby Digital, so it’s great getting the movie out to the die-hard horror crowd so they can see the movie the way it was meant to be seen before it exists exclusively in the DVD realm.
What’s next on your plate work wise? What will you tackle next?
I’m attached to a couple of projects right now. Both are in the horror genre. There’s also a film noir thriller someone is talking to me about that would be really nice to do if that came together. I just want to be able to tell interesting stories whether they’re horror movies, comedies, action or drama. I love horror, so I’ll always be drawn to that genre, but I definitely would step outside of horror on occasion if there was a great story to tell.
Any chance of BOO Part 2 to ever surface? Would you be interested in re-visiting the material if it came down to it?
David has said he really wants to do a sequel, but there’s nothing official happening yet. I have a few ideas that I think would be cool, but we would really have to find another hook to make it interesting. If it was about “more kids go into the abandoned hospital and find ghosts,” I don’t know what I could do with that. I already told that story. But if we go in the direction that we’ve been discussing it could be a really great second movie, while still keeping what makes this first movie so moody and atmospheric intact.
What was the first beverage that you consumed at the Wrap Party?
Ice water, then it got real dangerous when I asked for a Coke with a lime.
I'd like to thank Anthony for checking into the site and giving us the boo's up on BOO! Now I didn't care for the film much (Although I will give it another watch, since my first watch wasn't ideal) but on October 25Th you make up your mind on it!