If the film CAPTIVITY, coming out July 13th, is synonymous with any word, I would have to go with "controversial." Chances are, you've read about the dust-ups between distributor After Dark Films and the MPAA (the folks who tell us that two "f*cks" in one movie gets you an R) regarding a certain "offensive" ad campaign that led to the suspension of the movie's ratings process - an unprecedented punishment that was more than a slap on the wrist for releasing a few gruesome images of star Elisha Cuthbert being tortured (not that I condone such a thing).
After Dark's CEO Courtney Solomon (also known as the director of DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS and AN AMERICAN HAUNTING) has not been tight-lipped about his displeasure with the entire business - which among other things led to more than one release date change and a muzzling of advertising abilities. I spent about 20 minutes talking to the very-talkative man during an exclusive 1:1 at FANGORIA'S WEEKEND OF HORRORS, and his displeasure and frustration was, eventually, fully evident.
Do you think all of the controversy surrounding CAPTIVITY ultimately helps the movie?
It definitely helps, I don't think it hurts our audience, I mean, why would our audience care? It's good, it's a nasty movie.
How long has it been in development?
The movie itself was in development probably a couple of years. It got finished in 2006, and they put it on the market for people to buy and we picked it up early 2007.
So After Dark wasn't actually involved with the making of it?
Well, I reshot some scenes myself. So that part of it I was definitely involved with, although trying to run After Dark these days, I'm not supposed to be off directing films at the same time.
Was that your decision? Was [CAPTIVITY director] Roland Joffe not available?
Roland was there for a bit of it, but he's shooting another movie in Russia, so it was my decision because I didn't want to let the audience down, I wanted to give them what they wanted. We do that with some of the films we get, we take them and say "Okay it's missing this, it's missing that" and we don't do hack reshoots like the studios do, if we're gonna do it, we do it looking at the whole story, front to end. So we actually did alot of building of her [Cuthbert] character, and letting the audience get to know who she was, and how she gets in, because they didn't even show HOW she was abducted - we did.
So it's a different movie in a way.
It's a totally different movie. And it's a totally different movie than the Unrated version. Unrated DVD's always do really well, and in the case of CAPTIVITY, it isn't just something you're gonna put on the DVD - it's the real goods, because the MPAA has been so tough on us. My biggest frustration is I can't show the audience all the stuff that makes you go "Oh my God I've got to see this movie!" because I'm not allowed to.
I've got a whole other slate of movies and I have to put everything through the MPAA, so even being as defiant as I am, I have to find some kind of middle - some sort of safe ground.
Do you think they're going to give you shit when dealing with your future movies because of the CAPTIVITY situation?
They gave us a bit of shit for our movies already, but they have to lay off because they're supposed to be "impartial."
I read that there was a mistake, that someone sent the wrong files to the printers, and that's how the billboards and advertisements in question found their way all over the place.
That's the story. I mean, what can I tell you, they were unapproved, they weren't supposed to go up, and all these files are attached. I mean, how do you put billboards like that in 40 locations Los Angelas?
I guess people were traumatized after seeing them.
I heard they might've caused alot of car accidents. I had women's groups threatening me, saying if we didn't pull them down, they were going to climb up and pull them down themselves.
I don't get that HOSTEL 2's teaser posters were so nasty and yet they were all approved and you didn't hear much complaining about them.
It's amazing, because there is no regulation as to why a poster gets approved or why a trailer gets approved; it's completely arbitrary. There should be a standard and there's not a standard, instead it's these people established themselves, and they've been there for a long time and now we all have to work within their system and what they want us to do. I looked at some of the HOSTEL 2 materials and I was like "They give us this problem with CAPTIVITY and they approve this stuff and it's up everywhere?"
Eli Roth thought HOSTEL 2 was going to be affected by CAPTIVITY's problems?
Yeah, because he didn't think he could market it as nasty as he wanted to, because the MPAA was also down on him. They were down on everybody after that. I mean- Why do you think HOSTEL 2 didn't do well?
I think maybe because it looked just like the first one and people probably said "that's enough." I don't think it was piracy-
Nooo. I mean, so few people are spending the time to download these things, and half the time you download them they're fakes or the quality is poor. I think it was more of the same. I think we all - on our side - have to come up with more creative, interesting stuff, so that when the audience comes to see a new horror movie they go "wow, that was fresh and that was new." There's always going to be some overlap with movies that we've seen before- in any genre. I mean, it doesn't mean you can't have a really cool and a really fresh idea.
Are you going to do another Horror Fest: "8 Films to Die For" or was that a one-shot deal?
Yeah, 8 More Films to Die For happens this year. Higher quality- I mean the biggest thing we're doing is that the product level is going up 100% Last year there were 22 horror movies theatrical. This year there's 44. Horror is doing well, so the studios go out and make a ton of horror movies. What happens is the independent filmmakers go out and make a ton of horror movies as well, thinking they're going to sell them to the studios and that's what everybody wants. Then the curve starts to fall a bit: HOSTEL 2 doesn't do as well as it's supposed to, 28 WEEKS LATER doesn't do as well as it's supposed to- so then everyone starts saying "No more horror, no more horror." Which is great because it brings it back to the people who really know how to do it. It opens up the playing field. What it did for Horror Fest is there were really good movies that under normal circumstances, if there's just 18 releases in the market place, those movies would be getting a theatrical release on their own. They can't, so we get them for Horror Fest. And the audience gets to enjoy them, not just as movies, but as an event.They did really well on DVD too, right?
They did fantastic on DVD. When it came out, Best Buy was sold out of it in 3 hours. To give you an example, usually a movie will do about 120% of its gross box office on DVD. Horror Fest was 1000%. Keep in mind though, that Horror Fest is only in theaters for a couple of days, and then we unnaturally pull it, so you either go that weekend or you miss it and see it on DVD or pay-per-view. We've also got a ton of extras and things like that that we purposely didn't put on the DVDs so we can add them in the next year's package - an extras of Horror Fest DVD that's two hours that covers all the films in there.
You could probably make a five hour documentary on the whole CAPTIVITY thing.
I've been in captivity for a couple of months. Seriously, I felt like I was locked behind bars, because for a month and a half there, there was nothing we could do. It was just the most frustrating thing in the world, and it's stupid because it's censorship. And censorship is uncool. At the end of the day, this country is based on the fact that we can say what we want, see what we want, do what we want - within the realms of the law. So how can some group stop us and all horror fans from seeing what we want to see? Do we stop them from going and cooking in the kitchen? Maybe we don't like what they cook, maybe we don't want them to cook in the kitchen, maybe they should order out. But is it alright to tell them they can't? No. Is it their right to go the other way toward us? No, but that's what's happened here. And that's a sad statement. So I'll be as bold to say that we as the horror community have a statement to make here because of what's happened. Guess what: CAPTIVITY is the statement of today, what's the example tomorrow? If they can get away with it now, they're going to keep being able to get away with it.
You're using it to your advantage in a way, the new ads are making use of the situation with the MPAA...
I can't use it entirely to my advantage. The thing was, everyone thought it was a publicity stunt, but it wasn't a publicity stunt. We were putting up nasty images so we could tell you, the horror consumer, "Hey this is your cup of tea." We didn't think it would get as much of a response as it got, or as much of a public outcry- there's no way you could predict something like that, I'd love to take the credit for it, for designing it and putting it up there, but no, that just went beyond the realm of anything - it caused us a lot of problems.
Are you going to continue to focus just on producing, or will you be directing sometime in the near future?
I'll be directing in about a year, but I have to get After Dark firmly entrenched first. We've got CAPTIVITY, then we have SKINWALKERS, then we've got WRISTCUTTERS: A LOVE STORY, which is a dark comedy, but there's a controversy with that too. I have a thousand letters from suicide groups who don't want us to do it because we did a marketing campaign with little street signs that showed little cartoon images of people committing suicide. The guy from Defamer.com actually said "I know what Solomon's gonna do, he's going to get all these dummies and put the date on them and dump them off bridges across the country." You know what, that's one of the best ideas I've heard in a long time. So I think I might just do that.
A very special thanks to Courtney Solomon for taking the time - well, a LOT of time - to talk with me... CAPTIVITY opens Friday, July 13th.