Scott was recently interviewed by Amanda Crum for Yahoo!’s Contributor Network. The conversation includes his next movie, Found, and how Bloomington, Indiana, is becoming a burgeoning community of horror filmmakers.
Indiana Filmmaker Creating a Name for Himself
By Amanda Crum | Yahoo! Contributor Network Fri, Jan 14, 2011 4:27 PM EST
It’s refreshing (and somewhat rare) to find a talented, working director/screenwriter outside of Hollywood, and that’s exactly what Indiana-based Scott Schirmer is.
Having the talent is one thing, but Scott also has a passion for his work that was evident as far back as grade school, when he made his own filmstrip presentations. Today he has an impressive resume and is working on the film adaptation of the fascinating, strange, and wholly terrifying novel “Found” by Todd Rigney. Scott recently took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for me.
Where are you from?
I was born in Madison, Indiana, and grew up in the nearby town of Hanover. I moved to Bloomington, Indiana, for college in 1992 and have lived here ever since (except for a two-year stint in L.A.).
How old were you when you first thought directing was for you? Did you do anything with it in school?
I’ve wanted to make movies since I was six years old. “The Empire Strikes Back” pretty much sealed the deal. I’ve never even considered anything else. I started getting passionate about it in elementary school, where I wrote short stories and made filmstrip presentations with accompanying audio narration. We didn’t have access to camcorders or PCs back then, so I made do. In high school, I finally got to make my first short video. In college, I took a lot of film theory and film history classes, and also took some very cool classes in screenwriting and video art. They didn’t have a viable major in film, so I ended up with a BA in Sociology.
How many screenplays have you written?
I have written a number of screenplays. Most of them were for movies I later directed myself, but there are a couple of unproduced ones buried on old CD-ROMs. I’m as interested in screenwriting as I am in directing and editing — so I tend to do all 3.
What is your favorite movie? Genre? Director?
I have three absolute favorites: “Ordinary People,” “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (1974), and “The Empire Strikes Back.” I love all kinds of genres. Musicals and romantic comedies rarely impress me, though. Horror has become my favorite over the last ten or fifteen years. I haven’t written off making movies in other genres, but everything in the foreseeable future will probably be horror. I like a lot of different directors, but the ones that most consistently impress and inspire me are Peter Weir, David O. Russell, and Julie Taymor. But I also love some films by Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, David Lynch, Paul Verhoeven, and David Fincher.
How many film projects have you done to date?
Since college, I’ve written and directed 6 movies, a few of them shorts, a few of them features ranging between 45 and 60 minutes. I’ve also helped my friend, Arthur Cullipher, shoot a couple of shorts over the past few years. There were also some shorts and a feature I made in college, and some multi-media projects I made in high school.
If you could do a remake of any film–ever–which would it be and why? Would you make big changes to it or keep it along the same lines as the original?
I’m generally opposed to remakes of any sort, especially when the original is a successful, well-loved film. But if you held a gun to my head and forced me to choose, I might like to take a stab at “The Island of Dr Moreau,” “Dune,” or “Nightbreed.” I’d always want to be as faithful to the source material as possible. If you have to change the material too much, why bother adapting it in the first place?
If you could take any book ever written and adapt it for the silver screen, which would it be?
I haven’t read the whole series, but I’d be interested in a film version of “Y: The Last Man.” I hear it’s in development already. Generally, I don’t think most books should be made into movies. People only ever scrutinize the adaptation and bemoan what the filmmaker has done to the source material. Films have to be short and crisp, and novels just don’t shrink and dehydrate that well. Earlier this year, I was tasked with adapting a trilogy of books into one feature-length screenplay. It was a fascinating exercise, but a painful one, too. The author was deeply involved in the script’s evolution, and as the material deviated more and more from what he had originally written, I could tell it was hurting him. I learned a lot about the art of adaptation, but I also learned how difficult the experience can be for the person who wrote the original material. Funny enough, though, I read “Found” and immediately wanted to make it into a movie.
How did you meet Todd Rigney?
I work for the company that Todd published “Found” through. I was browsing our selection of titles one day, looking for interesting covers to include in a video I was working on. (I am the video producer for the company’s marketing department.) His cover immediately caught my attention, and then I read the first line of the book: “My brother keeps a human head in his closet.” I was instantly hooked. I read the galley that night — I read it in one sitting, without even getting up to go to the bathroom. When I finished it, my heart was racing and I was breathless. I loved it SO much. It hits on so many themes and subjects that fascinate me — coming of age, bullying, gender codes, male violence, and of course, the horror. I said earlier that two of my favorite movies are “Ordinary People” and “Texas Chain Saw Massacre.” Well, “Found” reminded me of both of those completely different kinds of movies, and I found the combination to be so unexpected, exciting, and original. I was just floored. I hadn’t made a movie in a few years, and I was beginning to wonder at that point if I would ever feel passionate enough about any story to ever make a movie again. “Found” reinvigorated me, called me back into action. I’ve never been more sure of a movie than I am about this one. I’ve written all of my previous six movies, but Todd’s story is more appealing and provocative than all of them combined. I was immediately terrified of the possibility that he might not let me make it into a movie. I wrote him an email, he wrote me back, and we decided to meet face to face down in Lexington (Kentucky). When he gave me his blessing, I was so relieved. Now we just have to make this masterpiece come to life.
Can you give me tentative dates on “Found”?
Right now, we’re in the process of approving the screenplay. Once that’s finished, we’re moving immediately into pre-production, which will involve location scouting, casting, storyboarding, and scheduling. Since the main character is a grade school boy, I think we’re going to have to wait until school is out to begin shooting. So, if we find the right cast in time, I’d like to begin production in May or June, whenever school lets out. The shoot will probably last two or three months, and then editing/sound/scoring will take about as long. Ideally, I’d like to have the first public screening of the movie in December of this year. But I’m not going to rush any aspect of this movie. Everything is going to be done to the absolute best of our abilities, because “Found” is completely worth the time and effort.
What sort of competition is there in your area as far as other indie directors?
We have a lot. Since Indiana University is in Bloomington, the town has a constant influx of talented artists, musicians, actors, etc. It makes a great place to make indie movies since students are always eager to work for free and put together resumes and portfolios. Some of them, like me, become townies. Right now, there are a handful of prolific filmmakers who have been working in Bloomington for a while. I have friends at Muscle Wolf Productions, Darkrider Studios, and Clockwerk Pictures. All these guys and gals are committed to the horror genre in particular. We don’t feel a sense of competition, though. In fact, everyone tends to get together and help each otherwhen one group is filming. We put out bulletins when we need extras and stuff ; everyone’s just trying to make the best movies they can, and each group definitely has their own style and sensibilities. It’s really the best time to be a filmmaker, and if you ask me, Bloomington, Indiana, is the best place to be one.