An Interview with Geno McGahee

I’ve gotten to know Geno McGahee over the past five years and I’ve watched him evolve into the filmmaker that he is today. I was always impressed with what he had done with a small budget and small crew, so it’s exciting to see him achieve his goals as a filmmaker. He honestly cares about what his fans want, he’s a really nice guy, and I hear that he hates weekend rainstorms. Anyway, you can find Geno at Scared Stiff Reviews or on Facebook at the XPosse Productions and Geno McGahee pages. Now, its time for me to hand the grindstone over to him and let the readers get to know Geno McGahee.      

PS: Geno, thanks for the interview. It’s always great to hear your thoughts on the horror genre and independent filmmaking. It seems like a lot has been going on at XPosse Productions over the past year or so. As a starting point, could you bring us up to speed on XPosse and your upcoming projects?

GM: Thank you for the interview!  XPosse Productions has gone through drastic changes over the course of the last couple of years.  In 2009, I made the leap away from backyard filmmaking and brought in people that knew the art, understood the game, and have taught me the stuff that I didn’t know. I have always been a writer and a storyteller and that was my contribution to EVIL AWAKENING (2001) and RISE OF THE SCARECROWS (2003), but I really didn’t know the rest and I was put into that group of ‘micro budget, backyard filmmakers’ and rightfully so.

FAMILY SECRET was my first attempt to make something that was professional-looking, better acted, and complete.  I still made some mistakes with the casting and some other elements, but the jump in quality and learning experience really was great.

My projects on the horizon are SCARY TALES, a reshoot of a 2008 film that I didn’t release, SICKLE, a supernatural monster movie, and I’m currently directing a film called “THE COWBOY AND THE TAVERN,” which is a non-horror flick.  It was the first time that I have directed something that I didn’t write and it has been a great experience.   In 2013, I plan to shoot HEAD HUNTER, another horror film, and am currently co-writing a project with a talented writer and great actress by the name of Charlotte Lewis.   I’m trying to grow as much as I can as a filmmaker.  Directing THE COWBOY AND THE TAVERN and co-writing a screenplay are steps in that direction.

Geno McGahee, Charlotte Lewis (center), Savanah Gauthier

PS: I’d like to go into more detail about your upcoming release of the newly-filmed “Scary Tales”. Why did you decide to completely re-shoot the film?

GM: With FAMILY SECRET, I had learned so much and the first version of SCARY TALES paled so much in comparison that I couldn’t really release it.  People would have saw regression if they were released in the order that they would have had to been.  I also had access to some very good actors and actresses now and thought that I should take advantage of that.  The acting is very good across the board in SCARY TALES with Tim Pieciak, Charlotte Lewis, Crystal Aya, Jaki Valensi-Lauper, Mike Lauper, Forris Day, JR., Savanah Lee Gauthier, Martin DuPlessis, Logan Lopez, Sarah Surprenant, Scott Day, Ray Surprenant, Kate Lago, Dave Sauriol, Brent Northup, Richard Smith, and the list goes on and on.  I am VERY fortunate to have and maintain a cast like this. They have brought the movie to life.

SCARY TALES has five tales, all together.  We have four high school friends, reuniting after over 20 years of not seeing each other and they all recall a strange experience that they have had in their lives…a Scary Tale apiece.  The movie features Zombies, Satanists, Ghosts, Monsters and the Devil himself.  There are some twists and turns and overall, there is something for everyone.  I also have a great CGI guy named Chris Dias that did some wonderful work with it and Greg Kozlowski, a talented musician that did the official score.

PS: Are there any changes to the stories or the organization of the film?

GM: In the original, the wraparound story was “The Movers,” which really wasn’t that good.  I removed it and replaced it with “The Cabin,” which is where the four old friends meet up.

Each story is relatively the same from the first, but there have been changes.  “The Bridge” is totally different.  The others are about the same, but with more to them.  The character development in the first take on this film wasn’t as good as it is now.  I have grown as a writer and storyteller and people will witness it here.

PS: Will we see any of the original cast members reprising their roles?

GM: Steven Joseph Adams has a role in “Majority Rules,” the zombie card game story and Leeann Aubuchon and Josh Tienson did return to their original roles in “Curiosity Kills,” but, other than that, it’s a new world.  I had to get away from my old crowd and hire real actors that could deliver the lines in a believable way and a knowledgeable crew.  The people are the best critics and when they emailed me after watching my first two films and tore into me, they were mostly right. I want to create good films and be respected and if the acting sucks, then the movie sucks.   There are so many great actors and actresses in the area and I would be foolish not to take advantage of that fact.

PS: Did the same crew members from “Family Secret” (effects, cinematography, editing, etc.) work with you on the new “Scary Tales”?

GM: Yes, for the most part.  I am now behind the camera mostly.  John Golden, my cinematographer from FAMILY SECRET taught me a great deal and my editor, Forris Day, JR., knows how to run a camera and has also shown me the way.  The effects are now done by Jamie Swimm and Leeann Abuchon as far as the gore, and Chris Dias does the CGI.  Collectively, they are amazing and have helped me so much in making SCARY TALES a winner.

PS: The original “Scary Tales” was your third film, which was a few years back. What was it like revisiting the film and making those changes?

GM: It was neat!  Doing it again gave me the opportunity to really focus on how I would film it and what I would do to make it better.  The near rape scene in “Curiosity Kills” was one that I spent the time to do right.  I wanted the audience to see this scene as larger than life and with the way that I shot it, they will.  I am so proud of what this film has become.

PS: The upcoming film “Sickle” sounds interesting, from the name alone. Could you give us a glimpse of the storyline?

GM: Michael, played by Logan Lopez, was accused of killing his babysitter when he was 12 years old but claimed that a monster had done it.  He was sent away for 15 years and is now back out in the public and the monster is returning into his life.  Ghost Hunters take a special interest in him because they think he was one of the few that saw the Grim Reaper and want to recreate a situation to make him appear again, using Michael to do so.  Sickle is a monster that sort of lives in another dimension and has found a way into our world.  He has many secrets that will be revealed and there are plenty of twists and turns that will surprise.  This is the best film I have ever shot, ever wrote, and SICKLE is going to surprise a lot of people.

I have always wanted to make a paranormal monster movie and SICKLE is it.  It’s an original idea and I am really looking forward to unleashing it on the public in 2013.

PS: You always write an in-depth story and your films naturally bring forth your influences without having that deliberate, “manufactured” feel. As fans of the slasher subgenre, we both know that it sometimes becomes oversaturated. How do you keep a story fresh and original when you have experienced so many similar types of films?

GM: I think that I’m strange by nature.  I’m different and my odd personality has helped immensely with my storytelling and original ideas.   I have many strange thoughts and I tend to think that I am in the vast minority that has those thoughts enter their minds.   I have influences but never want to ‘re-create’ anything.  I don’t want people walking away saying ‘SAW rip off,’ or anything like that.

I guess that the overall lack of originality across the board has helped me.  Indie filmmakers and Hollywood seem to love the SAW movies, torture-porn, and found footage flicks.  I’m old school. I’m a 1970’s horror nut and that’s when the films were dialogue driven and story-based.  What’s the point in making something like SAW, unless you are just in it for the money?  I’m not in this for the money. I’m an artist and I want to create something that people enjoy … I hope that they enjoy.

PS: I watched “Family Secret” recently and I saw that you did the musical score. Will you be doing more composing for other films?

GM: No.  I actually had a musician for FAMILY SECRET and we sort of differed on the amount of compensation, and it led me to try my hand as doing the score myself.  I bought the equivalent of Garage Band or whatever it is that they call it and started messing around with the different instruments and began coming up with tunes.  I am not a musician and have a total respect for what they do…even more so now, after trying my hand at it.  Greg Kozlowski will be doing the score for SICKLE as he did for SCARY TALES, and I hope to remain out of that realm.  I would do it out of necessity but I don’t think that I will have to do so again.  I have met so many talented musicians over the last several years and they are always willing to help me out.

PS: What’s your process for pairing a specific piece of music with a scene?

GM: It’s instinctual for me.  With FAMILY SECRET, I watched it over and over again with different tunes I had created and eventually dropped them in when I felt it was right and thankfully, people seemed to have liked it.  As I said, now, with Greg Kozlowski, it’s simple.  He is amazing and has this sense of how to match a scene’s feel with his music, and it turned SCARY TALES into a really scary flick.  The impact music can have on a film is something that I have full respect for and Greg has proven to me the power of a good score.

PS: I’ve been meaning to ask you about the external locations in “Family Secret”, such as the bowling alley and the Italian restaurant. Compared to your previous films, “Family Secret” included more scenes in public settings. Are you planning to do more location work in your upcoming films? Has the community been supportive of your productions?

GM: The community has been more than supportive.  I am very introverted and it was a major leap out of my comfort zone to film in places like Pazzos and the bowling alley, but in order to make a believable film, I can’t stay in my house and the woods all of the time.  With SICKLE, we were once again at local establishments and we keep on growing a local following that are ready to help the indie guy trying to make it.  I can’t say enough great things about the local business owners that have come forward for indie film.

PS: I also wanted to ask you about nighttime shots. You have really progressed with the quality, clarity, and lighting. Could you tell us about some of the challenges of a nighttime shoot?

GM: Thankfully, Forris Day, JR., knows a great deal about lighting and has helped making the night scenes look very sharp.  In fact, there are some night scenes in SCARY TALES that are just wonderful.  The challenges are with the lighting itself and sometimes finding the juice to run the lights.  There were some great locations where we could have shot, but there was no electricity to run the lights.

Shooting outside, day or night, can be tricky due to our crazy New England weather.  With both SICKLE and SCARY TALES, I dealt with heavy rain on weekends and it drove me crazy!  Actually, SICKLE was created in the year when we were hit with tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes.  I was wondering if SICKLE was a doomed production because of all the delays in filming because of weather.

PS: Aside from filmmaking, you also operate the website Scared Stiff Reviews. What do you see as the future of the horror genre?

GM: I’m hoping the future is the past.  I would love to see some dialogue driven, atmospheric horror films.  Hollywood has such a lack of respect for the viewer.  If it’s not loaded with CGI every 10 seconds and blood and gore every 2 minutes, then they think that the audience cannot enjoy it.  TRANSFORMERS being successful may be some good evidence in their favor.

There are certainly good filmmakers in the horror genre and what’s good about Hollywood is that horror finds a way and it will dictate the direction.  THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT came out and was a hit and that was a low budget horror flick.  PARANORMAL ACTIVITY is another.  Low budget is where the heart is and if you have a flick that is popular and quality, sometimes, Hollywood will mass produce them and you’ll get some good ones out of it.

The 1980s had the slasher and it was a great time.  We have SAW and it’s just garbage.   Because the 1980s are frowned upon for style and overall entertainment, the slasher has been down and out.  I would love to see it return.  So, I am hoping that we will stray away from the remakes, re-imaginings, and mutants, and get back to filmmakers that love and understand the genre.

PS: You are still involved in the boxing world with your other website, The Ringside Report. What’s new at the site?

GM: Not much. Unfortunately, boxing has lost a lot of its luster due to the MMA coming on so strong and zero American heavyweights that can give a challenge to the Klitschko brothers.  Then you have the Floyd Mayweather JR – Manny Pacquiao fight not materializing, but the UFC continues to put on matches that the fans want to see.  RingsideReport.com covers wrestling, boxing, and the MMA now, which is something new, and we had to out of necessity.   Boxing isn’t what it was when you had guys like Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield in the ring.

I did start a new site with my friend, Brad Berkwitt, called “NewzBreaker.com,” and it covers entertainment and world news.  It has really gained popularity quick and it’s not really a surprise considering the topics we cover and our group of charismatic writers.

PS: Speaking of boxing, how did you cast Jose Antonio Rivera in Family Secret?

GM: Jose and I go way back.  I have covered his career for years and produced a show called “THE BOXING SHOW,” where he was a panelist.  He had done some film work in an Adam Sandler movie and THE FIGHTER, and figured that it would be rather neat to get him into the film.  He is a great guy and was great to work with.  FAMILY SECRET was sort of my new introduction to the horror fans and I wanted to just make it a celebration of sorts and that is why Jose is in it and Crazy Carl Robinson from DEMON SUMMER and MIDNIGHT SKATER is in it.  I love boxing and I love horror films and both Jose and Carl represented that and it was great to include them.

PS: Last but not least – I want to thank you again, Geno. What are some important dates for 2012 and where can people buy/view your films?

GM: I hope that everyone looks for SCARY TALES in the near future.  We just completed the editing and are now planning to run the festival route and seek a distributor.  SICKLE will be out in 2013, I believe, and I have HEAD HUNTER for probable production in the spring/summer of 2013.  FAMILY SECRET can be seen, streaming at Amazon.com and the DVD can be purchased there as well.

I want to also personally thank you, Peter, for the interview and the horror fans that have given FAMILY SECRET a chance and have stuck with me.  I will continue to make better and better productions as I go and am always here if somebody wants to email me with a question or comment.  They can find me on Facebook.  The critiques of my first two films have helped me improve and I want to give the people a good and professional scare.  You can view the trailers for all three of my new films (FAMILY SECRET, SCARY TALES, SICKLE) on Youtube.

 

Interview by Peter Syslo

2 Responses to “An Interview with Geno McGahee”

  1. […] Click Here to Read the Interview AKPC_IDS += "1721,";Popularity: unranked Geno May 3, 2012 Horror Reviews family secret, geno mcgahee, horror, interview, scary tales Facebookfacebook TwitterTwitter stumbleuponstumbleupon del.icio.usdel.icio.us Buzz […]

  2. Great interview……

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