The chances of getting an independently funded film made and released is literally more difficult than winning the lottery. If you manage to beat the odds and some how secure a budget for the script you’ve put together, and then, again, bucking the odds, come away from the shoot unscathed and with enough budget left for post-production, you then have to get enough quality in that finished product to confidently sell it to distributors (a tougher job than securing a budget) who may or may not promote it with enough fervour so that people actually want to watch the thing. Writer/director, James Cullen Bressack, was able to navigate this particular minefield to the point where his film, Pernicious, an Asian shot horror film that skirts multiple horror sub-genres through the course of it’s folklore-ish cautionary tale, now has an international release via Netflix, and James was good enough to talk to us on the subject of independent cinema as well as his film, Pernicious.
Fanboy Confidential: Funding an independent film is no mean task, how much of a chore was it securing a budget and is that a road you’d recommend taking to budding filmmakers?
James Cullen Bressack: The hardest part about getting a film made is getting it financed. It’s always a difficult task, however on this project in particular I was brought on to write and direct and wasn’t on the producing side. Daemon Hillin and Kulthep and Rachvin Narula were the producers and they worked on getting Pernicious financed. So I’m not sure what road they took.
From my experience the best way to get a film financed is to follow the market trends and find something that is considered saleable world wide. Then get sales projections based on concept and possible cast and finance based on your bottom line that you would pull in.
Fanboy Confidential: How much of the film was shot on location in Asia and how much more difficult was shooting with a foreign crew?
James Cullen Bressack: All of the film was shot on location in Thailand, we brought over a lot of our own crew (all the keys) but also had a large Thai crew as well. Language barriers were difficult, I had a translator for my translator. That said the Thai crew was very happy and hard working. Another challenge we faced was we shot during monsoon season. Our set ended up getting flooded. So the awesome river that the girls ride up to the house on a boat in the beginning of the film was actually the front lawn. We were that flooded.
Fanboy Confidential: As a short filmmaker myself I know firsthand how much a finished film can differ from the original written script. How close is Pernicious to that original concept?
James Cullen Bressack: Well, though that is true in many cases, since I co-wrote and of course directing, I am happy with the changes we made and would say that the end result is fairly close to what I had originally envisioned, although originally a bit more violent. I feel that a script is the blueprint for which you build the house, but you may find magic that you didn’t know was there while building.
Fanboy Confidential: What kind of changes were made in production and what drove those changes?
James Cullen Bressack: The main change was that we got flooded so we now had a house that was on the water. Originally it was suppose to be rural and the girls would ride up in a taxi. I think mother nature ended up giving the film a possitive though, because the water added to the isolation.
Fanboy Confidential: Pernicious is a boiling pot of numerous horror styles; cursed artefacts, J-horror, torture, and possession all make an appearance. Was this a by-product of the story you wanted to tell or was the horror content your jumping off point?
James Cullen Bressack: Well, I have always been a fan of these sub-genres, and have been hugely influenced by 80s and 90s horror films as well as the works of Eli Roth. I wanted to combine all my favourite sub-generes of horror into one movie. I hadent seen that done before. Like a horror greatest hits mashup. I like to make entertaining horror, something less mundane and predictable. I think this mix helps keeps the viewers on the edge of their seats, engaged, interested. It’s taking something familiar and then turning it on it’s head.
Fanboy Confidential: What are your favourite horror movies?
James Cullen Bressack: The films of Eli Roth and Wes Craven, I have a particular bias for their films. But I would have to say that Oldboy by Park Chan-Wook is my all time favourite movie, though not specifically horror, it is genre bending and has some horror elements. I am also a fan of the J-horror classic Audition by Takashi Miike.
Fanboy Confidential: And which films or stories directly influenced Pernicious?
James Cullen Bressack: Pernicious has a combination of inspiration from the word itself, and traditional Thai folklore and black magic practices. Asian horror is more about morals, less about the actual scare, they have a tendency to build on fear and guilt, I feel like these concepts worked really well together and had a hand in the development of this film.
The practice of creating a golden statue with a child, usually a baby, trapped inside is a real Thai dark arts tradition, though not practiced today (except in rare illegal occasions). When I read that, I realized I had to make a movie about it.
Fanboy Confidential: What territories can we expect to see Pernicious in the near future and what is next for you?
James Cullen Bressack: Pernicious should be released periodically though out the world! I’m excited for people to see it. My new movie , starring Tom Green, Shannen Doherty, Zack Ward, and Stefanie Estes comes out early next year. I feel that it’s the scariest thing I have made. It’s a very crazy ghost story unlike anything I’ve done before. It’s very cerebral.