Scott Schirmer on the set of ‘Headless’, October 2014.

by Chris Crum, Modern Horrors (see original posting here)

Last time I interviewed Scott Schirmer, he was preparing for a DVD release for his film, Found and for a Kickstarter campaign to fund a spin off of that film – Headless – which he would co-produce and co-edit, turning over writing duties to Nathan Erdel and the director’s chair to Arthur Cullipher, who did the gore effects on Found.

I had a chance to catch up with Schirmer now that Headless is getting in front of some audiences and he takes on a multitude of other projects. Check out the Q&A below.

Found has been out on DVD for a while now, and it recently became available on Hulu. I’d imagine a whole lot more people have seen it since our last interview. In what ways have you felt the effects of this increased exposure?

More and more people are rating it on IMDb and more and more people find me on social media and contact me about the movie after they see it. It’s all very gratifying. And every time I think the festival run is over, we get solicited by another festival, even though the movie is a few years old now. It’s coming out in Germany on DVD, VOD, and Blu-ray this month and there’s a screening in Spain later this summer. It also appears that sales are pretty steady, so who knows? Maybe Found has legs and will be around a while. I couldn’t be happier with how it has panned out.
We always felt that Headless was for a niche audience that would probably appreciate what we were doing with it. And I think that’s exactly what has happened. It’s a ‘con’ film more than a festival movie, unlike Found. And unlike Found, everybody knows exactly what they’re about to get when they go into Headless. With Found, you’re fighting against people’s conceptions of what is or isn’t a horror movie, and those preconceived notions seem to have colored many people’s opinions of that movie. Those who hate graphic horror wanted Found to be more of a drama, and those who love graphic horror wanted Found to be more like Headless. So Headless is more pure horror, I would say. It wears its heart on its sleeve, and to that effect, it’s kind of critic proof. At least more than Found was, I think. But I’m just speculating. Either way, Headless really does seem to have hit the mark. We sold out of 1000 dvds, 300 Blu-rays, and 100 VHS in one week’s time and feedback from the horror community has been really solid.
While Todd Rigney’s book was really the source material for Headless in the beginning, you brought it to life in the film adaptation of Found. I know you were very hands-on in the making of Headless, but talk about what it was like to turn your creation over to other people in the writing/directing departments?
Headless didn’t feel right as my second movie as director. After Found, Arthur and I had several conversations about career trajectories and audience expectations, brand building — that sort of stuff. And Found is such a weird movie to try and build a trajectory from. People appreciate it for such different reasons, it’s almost like some sort of Rorschach. I don’t think you can generalize very much about the audience Found has connected with — it’s quite diverse. And that makes it harder to know what audiences in general might want to see next from me. Am I over-thinking it? Probably. And ultimately, I will do whatever my heart and imagination dictate. But at the time we decided to make Headless, my heart was into directing a family-friendly horror comedy movie that I am still trying to get made. And I felt like, if I followed Found with Headless, and then tried to pull a family-friendly horror comedy out of my hat, I’d risk alienating whatever audience I’ve been able to grow. So that was one concern — and maybe it’s a silly one, but I know I’m not the only filmmaker who obsesses about this ‘career trajectory’ stuff. I think it really does matter, and the order in which you make films really does have an impact on growing your audience and how people perceive you as a creative talent. The other concern was what is best for the movie — Headless, that is. The fact is that Nathan (Erdel) and Arthur (Cullipher) both have infinitely more appreciation and knowledge of that sort of movie than I do. I’m only a casual fan of the slasher movie, but my friends are much more passionate about them, and it was such an effects-heavy movie that I thought Arthur would be better suited for that reason, too. It was fun to watch other people make Headless into something I never imagined it could be. I think it ended up far more interesting than if I had written or directed it, because I simply didn’t have a vision for it as a feature. I didn’t quite have the passion for it. And Arthur and Nathan did, so I’m just happy to have helped facilitate that.
Headless was definitely already sick and nasty enough. It just didn’t need racism thrown into the mix. Found, I feel, was more intentionally thoughtful and, hopefully, thought-provoking — it felt right to keep it in Found. But in Headless, both the short version in Found and the feature version, it was too much. I don’t think any subject or topic is off limits in creative expression, but racism in an exploitation film made today just didn’t feel right to us.
That is a project that is taking longer to shoot than we ever expected, but it’s still on the table and I hope to shoot it this year. It’s an anthology horror film executive produced by Lony Ruhman, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, and Michael Biehn, and I’m directing one of the segments called “Tear.”
We have about a dozen projects in various stages of development right now — it’s truly a crazy time and we’re thrilled to have so many projects to be excited about. The Forbidden Films team has been hired to shoot a new movie in April and May that will be released this Fall. It’s more mainstream than Headless or Found, but we’re looking forward to having a lot of fun with it and hopefully connecting with an even wider audience. I’m producing that one for the next few months. After that, I plan to move forward with directing The Bad Man, which I announced last month — I’m extremely excited about that one. I think it will leave quite a mark if we can pull it off. Visceral, haunting, sadistic, heartbreaking stuff that I can’t wait to shoot. Meanwhile, we’re looking for investors for Leya’s directorial debut and making strides toward that goal — it’s a dark drama written by Dustin LaValley. We think that could shoot later this year or in 2016. Arthur is gearing up for an epic underground horror film that will blow everyone’s minds away in a year or two. It’s so full of puppetry and production design, the pre-production on it is immense — but we’ve got that simmering in the background. One of the creatures is already sitting in our living room, actually. Damien Wesner, who co-produced Found, is developing a schlocky Headless-type monster movie that we intend to shoot, and my dear friend Heidi Griffin has written a dark, romantic script I plan to shoot, and is also now writing the script for that family-friendly horror-comedy I mentioned earlier. Todd and I are still developing a horror anthology together, and just this week I was contacted about another project that I like the sounds of and might possibly direct this Fall. It’s a crazy time! But in the most wonderful way imaginable.
The responsibility you have to the crowd-funders is not something we take lightly. It is not easy, and if you think it’s easy, you’re doing it wrong. It’s a little bit daunting to have three or four hundred people looking over your shoulders, watching your deadlines, waiting for everything you promised to deliver. The pressure is on! With Headless, we had about four hundred packages to deliver for our Kickstarter backers and took about a whole week to package and mail them all. But, man, do they ever appreciate it when you’re on time and deliver the goods. In a way, it’s terrific to crowdfund, because when the movie is finished, you have a few hundred automatic supporters ready to spread word of mouth about the movie. The downside, I would say, is just the pressure of all those people… watching. And waiting! We are waiting a little while longer to find an investor for The Bad Man, but if it doesn’t happen soon, we plan to launch a Kickstarter campaign for it. Hopefully, now that Headless has been a success, fans will want to help us make another one.
We have screenings in Shelbyville, Indiana; Charleston, South Carolina; and Syracuse, New York over the next few months. We also have our Spanish premiere at the Nocturna Film Festival in Madrid in late May. We’ve been solicited by several other festivals, so I’m sure we’ll have more screenings to announce in the near future. We’ve sold out of all our limited edition DVDs, blu-rays, and VHS, but we’re discussing a 2nd edition release later this year.

You can check out the ModernHorrors review of Headless  here. If you’re a fan of Found, you definitely won’t want to miss it. I’d also recommend seeing Found first just so you have the proper context for what you’re actually seeing in Headless. I do think it’s good enough to stand on its own, but even still, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by skipping the former.

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