February 8, 2019
by Philip Rogers
No Solicitors is a new dark horror comedy from writer and director John Callas, which has been selected to play at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival on Saturday 27th January. I got chance to ask John about the inspiration for writing the film, making it a dark comedy and working with the talented cast.
A fun night of entertainment – a laugh here and there – and a taste of blood for those who expect it in a horror film. There is a statement about consumerism as well. I started out to write an intelligent horror film and I hope I am giving the audience memorable moments.
I was having lunch with a friend from Warner Bros. and he asked why I seemed upset. I explained that over my door bell is a sign “No Soliciting” (In the States Soliciting is a term for someone who is selling something and doesn’t mean an attorney) but they keep on ringing my door bell. “They read the sign but chose to ignore the warning.” He sits back and then says – why not write a story and kill them. I liked that idea and took it from there.
I looked at a lot of horror films and came to the conclusion I didn’t want to do “another” guy chasing half naked women through the woods with an axe. I came up with the idea of making this family model citizens of their community. Then it hit me to style the family after a Norman Rockwell type of family but in this case with dark secrets – The comedy aspect came from my studies (Master Degree in directing from Occidental College in California) in literature. Drama plays far better when the audience is given some type of relief in the curve of the story – Meaning you can’t just keep doing drama or the audience will lose concentration – I decided that a modulation of sprinkling some dark comedy into the dark side of the film would be interesting.
They were all amazing to work with – I must give credit to Felissa who brought Eric and Beverly in on the project. At a table reading we had, Beverly started reading her part and I immediately knew I was casting her. On set she was relaxed and focused but always having a good time – She was kind to all – cast/crew – As far as directing her – I only needed to point her in a direction and as a talented actor she would take it and make it her own – She brought a lot of subtleness to her role that I didn’t plan but loved. The same night of the reading, Kim Poirier and Jason Maxim were reading and I knew I had the making of a great cast. Kim and Jason worked very well together and played the brother/sister relationship perfectly – I have to share a funny moment at the table reading – After we all met and sat down, Kim and Jason asked if they could inquire about their characters – Of course I was interested – (Now before I go on, what came out was nothing that I had expected nor did I intentionally add in the writing but after reviewing the script I completely saw it – even writers get gifts at times) – Okay so Kim says to me – Even though they are brother and sister, they are screwing right? – Well I almost fell off my chair – Then the rest of the readers all chimed in agreeing with her comment – They all looked at me so I had to come clean and told them I didn’t intend it that way but I see their point – THEN the challenge hit me – Now that that is in the air, it is essential that we “tell” the story and not play the effect of them having sex together – So when certain lines or action came about I had decisions to make to assure that we weren’t over playing their intimate relationship.
Eric turned out to be not only a consummate pro but intelligent and fun on the set. He never stops working but is so full of love of acting that it is infectious. He also engaged with the crew which made the set a happy place to be. Felissa – Well, she is a horror icon and needed very little direction – She brought tons of laughter and joy to the set – Always laughing and making all feel part of something special. When it was time to act – then the pro in her leaped out and off we went.
My script supervisor would have a lot to say about that – I’ll just say that my pencil was constantly re-writing as we shot – Sometimes as a writer I set down a line of dialog that works on paper but not for the actor – So instead of forcing the actor to say my line I let them use whatever they want as long as the content is the same – I think that way you get honest performances from an actor and not a forced line.
Boy that is a hard one – There are several scenes that I love so I think this question I will leave up to each audience member.
It follows the film but with some additional material –
Yes – I just released a novel called Christmas Voice which I am seeking financing to produce into a film (script, schedule, and budget are all completed along with an investor power point). I am also involved in a project that I adapted from New York Times Best Selling author William H. LaBarge. After I adapted the novel Bill and I went to the Navy and after 5 months got the script approved – meaning that once financing is in place we will have access to Naval assets. It is a high-powered action movie that I also turned into a series, so we are looking at either approach for this film. I am also releasing my next book early winter called When The Rain Stops. Lastly, I am writing a Sci-Fi novel called The Myth which redefines our mythology on Earth.
Always start with a great script – that is the foundation – here are a few things I also would mention: The first thing you say to an actor is the most important thing they will hear – speak wisely. For me every element is a character – An example would be that wardrobe must be to the actors liking or it will not feel good to them and the performance will show. Don’t over direct – Keep it simple – I want you to cross to the window because… Trust your actors. Come prepared – Do storyboards on important or complex scenes and always know what your blocking is so you can explain it to the actors. ALWAYS: Block the actor (then send to makeup and wardrobe), light the scene then shoots. Seems obvious but you’d be shocked at so many directors not doing it the correct way and costing the production company valuable time and money.