Paul J. Porter is from Kansas. He served in the US Marine Corps for 13 years. He received his BA in Film from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He received his MFA in Film Producing from New York Film Academy Los Angeles. He started Rogue Taurus Productions in 2008 and since then has produced 18 short films, 6 of which he directed. Rabid Love is his first feature film as a producer and director. Paul and Hayley met at a wrap party in Santa Fe in 2008 and were married in May 2011. Hayley Derryberry is originally from Tennessee and began acting in theatre at the age of 10. She made her transition to film after moving to New Mexico in 2007. She has starred in a dozen short and feature films, and co-starred in a dozen more. They both currently live in Los Angeles.
1. “When Heather Ross and her lifelong friends take one final trip out to a cabin in the woods before they go their separate ways after graduating from college, the weekend takes an unexpected turn when people start disappearing. Is one of their own responsible? How about the killer bear that’s rumored to be in the woods? Maybe one of the seemingly unstable hunters that have been drawn to the area and are out to get the bear? Join Heather and the gang as they find out where their loyalties truly lie and discover the secrets of the forest that might become a grave for all of them!” Just reading that gave me the vibe of 80’s horror. Where did you come up with the concept Rabid Love and did you always envision yourself in the role of Heather Ross in the film?
Hayley: Paul wrote the original screenplay a couple years ago just as a tragic love story with no real actors in mind. Of course then once we started developing it for production, it was understood that I was going to play Heather and so then her character developed with me in mind.
Paul: The original concept started with a brainstorming session for either the 48 Hour Film Project or the National Film Challenge, both are timed filmmaking competitions. We always start by coming up with possible story ideas that would be easy to shoot with our resources and the Rabid Love concept was never used. When I was working on my MFA in producing, one of our projects was a short film and I was tired of doing shorts, so if I was going to do another one, it was going to build to something bigger. So we shot a 12 minute version of the movie that we used footage from to create the initial trailer that we then used to help raise funds for the feature. Being our first feature, we wanted to keep things simple (and cheap) so we used our experiences at the 48 and NFC to guide our development. Horror is the most marketable genre and easiest to break into for new filmmakers, so we knew that was our genre from the very start. Then we started researching and thought about our favorites horror films, which guided us through all phases of the project. The story concept itself is really just a variation of one of the most used setups in horror- throw a bunch of kids out in the middle of nowhere and start chopping them up!
2. Even watching the trailer for the film, you could see the influences from the 80’s. From the lettering in the trailer looking similar to what was used in Friday the 13th, the remote camping location similar to The Burning and even the clothing styles seen in films like Rabid and Sleepaway Camp. Was it always a given that the film was going to be in the 80’s and what (if any) influences did these films have on your screenplay and vision?
Hayley: Paul is very much in love with the ’70’s and ’80’s eras of filmmaking, so it was decided very early on that the movie would take place at that time. I didn’t grow up in a “horror family” so I wasn’t introduced to the genre until my teens. I didn’t know that I liked horror until I saw “Evil Dead 2” for the first time. It was so fun that I immediately became a fan. I think what appealed to me the most is that it looked like it was fun to make; it wasn’t put out by a big studio with the main intention to sell tickets, it was made by people who loved what they did. We wanted our first feature film to reflect that same passion from us, and I think it comes across when you watch “Rabid Love”.
Paul: There were times during development when we toyed with the idea of making the film set in present day, but that just wouldn’t have been as fun. I was born in 1980 and the horror films I saw during that decade made a lasting impression, so I knew that Rabid Love had to be set then. We got really lucky and found Lance L. Ziesch, who is a distant cousin of mine and ended up being our production designer and a producer. Lance lives in the area where we shot and organized, found, or created all the period correct props, wardrobe, vehicles, locations, and set dressing you see in the film. We set up a private group for the art department on Facebook to share inspirational images to guide the look and there were many from ‘The Burning’, the first few ‘Friday the 13th’ films, ‘The Initiation’, ‘The Howling’, ‘An American Werewolf in London’, ‘House of the Devil’, ‘Grizzly’, and lots of other horror films from or set in the era and some non-horror inspiration like ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’, ‘Dukes of Hazzard’, ‘Dazed and Confused’, and ‘Scotland, PA’. Whenever we hit a block while writing the story, we looked to some of these films to see how they moved the story forward.
3. Jessica Sonneborn, Brandon Stacy, Josh Hammond, Hannah Landberg and Noel Thurman help to round out the cast of Rabid Love. All of them have appeared in other horror fare. How did you go about getting them for the film and what attracted you to each one of them for their roles?
Hayley: We hate casting! If you’ve ever cast a movie, you know that it is absolute torture. I personally don’t feel like you can ever tell if someone’s right for the part in those 10 minutes that you get from an audition. Also, we were making this film very gorilla style so we needed to know that we could live with these actors for a month in a remote cabin in Kansas. So we didn’t audition anyone for Rabid Love. Brandon is a friend of ours so we brought him on in the beginning. Then he hooked us up with most of our other actors. He’s done a lot of horror and so it was just organic that the actors he knew and had worked with had also come from there. From a producer’s point of view it was also smart to bring on people who already have a fan base in horror, that way we can cross-promote. We also like to work with actors who aren’t just actors; Brandon, Jessica, Noel, Brian Reece, Chris Bylsma, and Alexandra Boylan are all producers themselves so they understand all of the aspects of filmmaking outside of just what happens during production?
Paul: What she said ! Our main cast of Hayley, Josh, Hannah, and Brandon had all appeared in the short version, so we brought them back for their roles, except Brandon, who we switched and I actually ended up playing his role of John from the short, and he played David; who wasn’t in the short but is a major character in the feature. Almost everyone else that appears in the film was also a crew member, just check out IMDB and you’ll see how many were behind the camera as well.
4. You will be having Rabid Love’s Los Angeles Premiere April 19, 6:30 PM at the Arena Cinema Hollywood 1625 N Las Palmas Ave. All with red carpet, free screening, q&a with filmmakers and cast, and a private concert afterwords! How excited are you for the LA premiere and are you looking to promote the film with more of a grassroots tour approach, similar to how Tyler Mane and Renae Geerlings are promoting Compound Fracture, or is there major distribution on the horizon?
Hayley: I am unbelievably excited about the LA premiere. From editing, I’ve seen the film so many times and I know every line by heart, but for most of our cast and crew this will be their first time seeing it. And of course everyone else who’s coming. When you show in front of a fresh audience, its like you get to see it again for the first time yourself, so that makes it scary and exciting. There are going to be a lot of people from the film and horror industries there, so this is the real test to see if the film is as good as we think it is, or if anyone will even like it so… We screened it a month ago back in Kansas and it was very well received. We’ve gotten some more interest from theaters in the midwest so we may decide to take it on the road for a while before selling it. We’ll see what reactions we get from distributors.
Paul: I don’t know if we can support something as ambitious as the guys at Compound Fracture are doing, but yes, we are trying to have some more single screenings at theaters in the midwest and southwest as well as submitting to lots of film festivals. We were just accepted to screen at the Calgary Horror Con and will also be at AMFM in Palm Springs and the Albuquerque International Film Festival, both this summer.
5. The movie poster for the film is the closest thing I have seen to the 80’s style of poster since then. Can you tell us about how the concept for the poster came about, who made it, how it was made and how we can go about ordering one?
Hayley: I absolutely love the poster! It is so very important with any film, indie and horror especially to capture your audience with one image and I think the poster does it perfectly. Paul actually made that himself. He knew the style that he wanted and rather than hire it out to someone not knowing exactly what he’d get in return, he just taught himself how to do it with a computer drawing program.
Paul: We really got into poster design and learned from filmmaker friends with distribution just how critical the poster is- sometimes all you need to sell your movie is a great poster. I had some of our friends that are graphic designers come up with some early concept posters before we went into production and they all turned out great, but none of them felt completely right to me. I did a lot of research on horror posters and 80’s posters in general and was naturally drawn to the work of Drew Struzan (believe me, you’ve seen his stuff), so that’s the style I ended up trying to emulate. Getting the composition right was the hardest part and I used screen grabs or production stills for that. Once all the elements were in place I just used Photoshop and a Wacom tablet to digitally draw and paint over the images to give it an organic feel and get close to the not-quite-photo-but-very-realistic style that Struzan has. The digital painting took a solid week of working from the time I woke to the time I went to bed working everyday. We’ll have a storefront up on our official site soon and will be selling all kinds of cool merchandise like posters, a yearbook style behind the scenes production book, t-shirts, DVDs (eventually), and all kinds of other cool stuff!
6. You made Rabid Love with Open Wound Films and Rogue Taurus Productions. How did you come to make the film with these two companies, and what was it about them that made you think they could bring something to the project that no one else could?
Hayley: Rogue Taurus Productions is Paul’s production company and Open Wound Films is owned by our friend and horror enthusiast Mark Furini. I think with any independent film, and it was certainly the case with us, you just seek out people who are as excited as you are about your project and really believe in it. That was the case with Mark and all of the investors that we were able to get.
Paul: I like to think of RTP as a group of friends that we’ve had since about 2008 that come together on projects. We did a lot of short films and other random projects since then and a lot of the team had a hand in RL like Mark Furini (Open Wound Films), Brian Reece (BAR Productions), Morgan Estill, Arya Moghaddam, and Rob Thorpe. Bringing together a crew is a lot like casting- you’re always taking a risk when you work with someone new, so we only bring new people on if we don’t have a friend or recommendation from a friend available, which is a common philosophy among producers and why it’s so hard to break into the industry sometimes.
7. Rabid Love is not your first venture into the horror realm. In 2012, you also starred in Martin Andersen’s 100 Ghost Street: The Return of Richard Speck, playing the role of Sarah. What can you tell us about Sarah, what drew you to the role, and how did you role this experience into your roles in Rabid Love?
Hayley: 100 Ghost shot right before Rabid Love. I think it was just a couple weeks. The way I found out about it was that Brandon Stacy came by our apartment in Burbank and he was headed over to Asylum to audition for it, and he just told me that I should go by there and see if they’d let me audition. Because it was found footage, they were doing improv scenes so I wouldn’t need a script or anything. So I did, I just drove up there and they let me do it. They told me to act scared and stuff and that’s what I did and I guess they liked it because they cast me. It was a great film to work on. Even though it was very low budget, all of the actors really gave it their all, and I think they movie turned out to be very scary. I also made some really great connections and I’ve ended up doing two more features with the same producer: 500 MPH Storm and Dead of Night.
Paul: The producer of 100 Ghost Street is Nancy Leopardi and I visited set a couple times while Hayley was shooting and got to meet her, she later hired me to be her production manager on 500 MPH Storm, Dead of Night, and two more films that we’re getting ready to shoot. I’m trying to get her to let me direct one too… Maybe after she sees Rabid Love! The really great thing about making that connection is that I’ve been able to hire lots of friends to work on all those movies.
8. Most of your career to this point has been in shorts and comedy. How much differently do you have to prepare for feature length film as opposed to shorts, and how did the progression go from comedy to horror for you?
Hayley: When you get started in this business, as a filmmaker or an actor, it’s a very good idea to do some short films. You will learn very quickly about yourself, more so than I think you can in a classroom. I started acting in theater and I remember the first time I ever did any acting on camera. It was actually a short comedy zombie thing back in like 2004. I hope no one will ever see it. I learned the very hard way how totally different acting on camera was. Before that movie, I thought I was a good actor, and I’ve spent every year since then teaching myself how to be an actor again. I’m very thankful for all of the shorts that I did and every job that put me on a film set, because each one has made me just a little bit better at my job. When you act in a feature film, there is so little time actually spent acting. Most of the time is waiting for things to get set up, so when you step in front of the camera you have to be 100% ready to do your job and move on so that the crew can start setting up for the next two minutes you’ll get to act. I don’t think I’ve transitioned from comedy to horror, because I still do both of them in addition to other genres as well.
Paul: I’m not an actor, but I’m married to one!
9. You have worn many hats in your film career so far, including ADR sound, seamstress, second AD, Make-up artist, writer, producer, stand in and actor! Having done so many different things so far, including producing and acting in the same project, what would you say is the most difficult aspect of making film, which is the easiest, and which one is your favorite?
Hayley: Just because you’re an actor, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything else. I say any chance to get on a movie set is a chance to make yourself better at your job, so do it. It’s hard for me to look at these as totally separate jobs. On Rabid Love I was a producer, actor, AD, makeup artist, hair stylist, and special FX so its not like I could ever clock out of one job and clock into the next one, I was just always all of them. That’s the awesome fun of indie filmmaking! Of course, acting is the most fun because its been my passion since I was a kid, but sometimes on set I have to remind myself of that because it can often be disguised as torture. I got into doing makeup and special effects because I worked on so many small productions and I was often the only girl around so the boys just put me in charge of makeup, and FX isn’t far off from that. After I realized that would again and again be my fate, I decided to actually learn how to do it. So I just read some books and blogs and talked to some people in the industry and learned a few tricks. I’m certainly no effects expert, but it is really a fun job to do and I enjoy it.
Paul: My thoughts on this are that the best way to be an actor (or director) is to be a producer. If you focus on only being an actor and disregard the rest of the filmmaking process and crew, you’re really limiting yourself and your career. Sure, there are the lucky ones that break in and can make it only as actors, but why limit yourself? I greatly appreciate actors that have experience behind the camera and tend to not really enjoy being around people who only consider themselves actors. Get out there on set as an extra, stand-in, grip, electric, cameraman, makeup artist, sound, whatever- your future employers and crew members will thank you for it and you’ll make many more connections that will lead to more acting jobs!
10. Reading comments on Facebook, one of the things that everyone seems to love about Rabid Love is its soundtrack. Who is on the soundtrack and what influenced you to use the artists and songs that you did?
Hayley: I’ll let Paul answer that, but I can tell you, I love the soundtrack! It really makes the movie. Some of the songs, I was skeptical of when I first heard them, but Paul had a vision and it really came together. I remember that even when we were shooting, Paul had in mind what song or what kind of song would be playing in the scene.
Paul: The soundtrack of a movie is so important. I love movies with great soundtracks like ‘Dazed and Confused’, ‘Scotland, PA’, and most Tarantino films. All of our soundtrack artists are listed on their own page at our official site along with the tracks we have from them, but all of them have a very 80’s vibe and fit the mood of the film perfectly. They’re all independent artists and we’re so happy to have them as a part of the film. In addition to the soundtrack, we also have a great original score by Nick Nielsen that is heavily influenced by the ‘Drive’ score and Tangerine Dream, who did lots of great original scores for 80’s movies like ‘Near Dark’ and ‘Legend’.
11. Comedy and horror are the two doors that you have come through so far in the industry. Do you have a preference to either genre and have you given any consideration to doing a throwback style horror comedy in the vein of Evil Dead 2 or Terrorvision?
Hayley: Comedy is actually something very recent for me. For the longest time, I only saw myself as a dramatic actress because that’s what I was good at. I never thought I could do comedy. A couple of years ago a good friend of mine and amazing director Tantri Wija convinced me to act in her mockumentary style web series. She told me that it wasn’t about being funny, it was about being real and honest in a situation that’s funny. And so began my dry comedy career. Since then I’ve been studying improv at UCB theatre and acting in a few comedy shorts, but I don’t feel like there’s been a transition from comedy to horror. Its just that sometimes I do comedy, sometimes I do horror, sometimes I do sappy love stories… My real passion is sci fi and I hope that I’ll get to do more of that down the line. For me, I think its important as an actor not to really think about the genre when you’re doing a role, because in the end you just need to play it like a real person. And then either funny or horrific things happen to that person and you react to them honestly. I’m not opposed to doing any genre, to me what really matters is a good script and a good group of filmmakers to work with.
Paul: Horror and sci-fi all the way, maybe a thriller too. But regardless of what we do, there will always be comedy elements because I don’t like movies that take themselves too seriously. I think some of the funniest stuff out there is in movies that aren’t comedies.
12. Rabid Love looks like it could be a genre favorite for years to come. Are there any plans to show the film in any other locations in the coming months, will we see a sequel, and either way, what can we expect next from you?
Hayley: We just started submitting to film festivals. We’re confirmed to be at Albuquerque Film Fest, AMFM Fest, and Calgary Horror Con. I’m sure there will be more soon. I have a few films that will be coming out this year. 500 MPH storm just released and Dead of Night which I just finished should be premiering Halloween on the SyFy channel. I also did a movie called Frank starring Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, and Maggie Gyllenhaal. That one should be premiering later this year. And hopefully I’ll be shooting something else very soon, but I don’t have anything else confirmed yet.
Paul: There have been a surprising number of people asking about a sequel to Rabid Love already, which is something we have been thinking about more and more. I would definitely like to go back to Kansas and shoot something very soon. Right now I’m booked up as a production manager and line producer through July, but I’d like to produce/direct another project before the end of the year.
13. Thank you so much for your time! What advice can you give to anyone who wants to work in the industry, and is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
Hayley: I have fans?! What?! Something like that is so insane to me. When you put it down on paper, I think my career sounds much more glamorous than it actually is. Most days I’m just sitting at home in my pajamas watching re-runs and submitting to projects online (I never get called in to audition). I guess the thing about this industry is that 1: There’s no roadmap or one way to be successful, you have to make your own way 2: You haven’t failed until you’ve stopped trying (quote from Paul) and 3: It takes a lot of time and a huge commitment to do this, its not something you just “try out” for 6 months to a year. Thank you, Michael for the interview and thanks to Horror Society for all of the support they’ve given us. They were one of the first websites to post about Rabid Love a year ago, and now its finally finished. I hope we don’t let you down ;-)
Paul: I’d like to quote our good friend Colin Cunningham (John Pope on ‘Falling Skies’) and say ‘Never ask for permission, only ask for help.’ For me that just means that you make your own way and nobody can stop you- get out there and make it happen however you can, be creative, be tenacious, don’t accept the word ‘no’ and if somebody wants to help, then great, but don’t expect other people to be as passionate as you are about your projects- you have to be the driving force and have the endurance to see a project through to the end, which for a feature film can be several years. Never turn down an opportunity and never rest! This business isn’t for the lazy or easily discouraged, so commit and live the dream but understand that it’ll be harder than anything you’ve ever done- and I was in the Marine Corps for 13 years! Thanks Michael and Horror Society!!!
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