Ginger Nuts of Horror
Gabriel, how did you get into producing?
I think it was mostly a natural progression of making movies, something I started doing as a kid. I was 8 years old when Star Wars came out, and I found my father’s Super8mm film camera around the same time. I started shooting short films with my siblings and cousins, and the projects got more elaborate over the years.
By the time I was 15, I was winning film festivals across the nation, and I began working professional in the industry around that time as well. Making movies is a business, so the older I got, I just started to take the reins and make things happen.
I’m one of the owners of Traplight Pictures, along with my two amazing partners, Jared Cohn and Demtrius Stear. A big shout out to them!
And was it a given that you’d go into doing horror?
I love genre filmmaking. Horror, science-fiction and fantasy. There was never a plan to do so much horror. It’s just the way things worked out over the years, and all the pieces fell into place. It’s funny how things come together sometimes.
As a producer, I might pitch a slate of movies to an investor, and it’s always a coin toss which movie or movies they’ll agree to finance. I’ve had the most elaborate projects I believed in get rejected, and my least preferred get greenlit. That’s just the way things out sometimes. You can never second-guess an audience’s reaction.
Where does Death Pool fall – it is a straight-up horror or something more of a psychological thriller?
I think it’s definitely a combination of the two. It’s not a straight-up horror film by any means. It’s more a study of the character Johnny Taylor and how he becomes a serial killer. So it’s also very much a psychological thriller, in that regard.
The audience is literally there the first time he commits a crime, and we stay with him as he commits more and more, until he becomes famous on social media.
How would you describe the tone?
The tone of the movie is dark and ominous. There’s something very twisted about our main character, and then things become even more sinister when his thoughts and actions rub off on his best friend.
When you think about it, there’s nothing fun about what the main character does. But like with any dark comedy or dark drama, audiences will resonate with the anti-hero of the story. As much as you dislike this type of character, audiences are still engaged with his or her malevolence, and you want to see where his twisted psyche will take him.
Think of the movies American Psycho, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Natural Born Killers or even Silence of the Lambs. Audiences loved those movies, and Death Pool is similar in nature to all of them.
What kind of direction did Jared Cohn give Randy Wayne? Guess he had to make sure he didn’t play things too over the top?
Randy brought the character of Johnny Taylor to life. He knew the character and his motivations very well before we began shooting, and he knew exactly how much to bring to the surface, and how much to hold back. I can’t say enough how talented Randy is.
Jared of course gave direction, but the collaboration between them was very smooth and the result very convincing. Randy comes across as a truly psychotic serial killer. Hats off to both actor and director!
The ‘shock factor’ seems to be a big thing with the film. Did you intentionally want to push the boundaries on this one?
It was definitely something we did on purpose. The scenes were already written in the screenplay, and we tried to make the death scenes as believable as possible, as well as the party scenes with all the drug abuse. If we held back on that stuff, the movie wouldn’t have looked as real and gritty as it came out.
We had not only amazing actors in the starring roles, but some amazing supporting actors as well, who helped flesh everything out. Jordan Preston, Shawn Philips, Delpaneaux Wills, Walker Mintz and Jessica Lousie Long, for example, gave amazing performances.
I should mention as much as we pushed the drownings to look real, we pushed even more for safety at all times. As executive producer, that was definitely something that was always on my mind.
The film is getting great reviews. Why do you think audiences are taking to it?
I’ll be honest and say I’m surprised in a good way that there are such great reviews of the movie coming out. I think it has a lot to do with the realism that Randy and all the other actors brought to the characters. There’s a very real feel to the movie, and it comes across as very gritty and ominous.
The locations we shot on were all real, and our production designer Richard Calderon made everything else look so legitimate and realistic. The sets and the props were carefully designed and assembled, but you could never tell. I mean, even the beer bottles were fake! I walked on the set one day, and Richard was putting fake labels on bottles filled with water, but they looked like something he just bought from the liquor store.