Indie Horror Online had the pleasure of talking to Douglas A. Ewen, the director of the upcoming short horror film Harmonized Combustion. Here’s what he had to say about his movie…
Q: Tell us a little about your first short film Harmonized Combustion…
A: Harmonized Combustion is a story about a young woman, Rae, who finds herself in an incredible life-altering situation. Whenever music is heard, by another person around her, cherry pie is sprayed across the walls. It was not the shock value I was going for or unique ways in which I can send people to their grave. Music is meant to make you feel emotional, lift you up when you are down, or make you feel joy when you’re at a party. Music is everything to Rae. She is never seen without her ‘phones on and is dating the frontman of the most popular local band. So, when she finds herself in a position that turns her one true love into a weapon of musical destruction, she may have to blow up a couple heads and break a few hearts to find out why this happened. This horrific short is wrapped up in a glamorous neon 80’s background and has all original music from pop to dark 80’s synth.
Q: How will your project be distinctly Canadian?
A: It was not my intention to be “distinctly Canadian”. I want everyone to watch it and have as much intense fun as I had bringing it to life. A lot of people who live in Northern, Ontario know a few things. 1) You either learn an instrument or a sport. 2) You learn to fish and hunt or 3) learn how to drink and reproduce at a level that does not take a 9 month period to birth your spawn. I was what you would consider an “indoor kid.” I grew up on Cronenberg, a lot of his films were shot in Canadian locations and as a Canadian viewer, and you can see the film from a different perspective. Take the movie Rabid for example, primarily shot in Canada, now if you were to shoot a film with the same content but, a different director or location you would end up with an entirely different result. “Of course you would, you just said different directors” If the same plot was shot in Pittsburgh you may end up with a more Night of the Living Dead feel or if it was filmed in London, England you would get a 28 Days Later vibe. That is what I am referring to as Canadian, not the lumberjack, nice guy, who runs around apologizing for every person they murder. I wanted to feel comfortable with this piece and film in my own backyard, not literally, to give it a Canadian feel and let audiences know where I am coming from. When Quentin Tarantino made Pulp Fiction how many heavily dialogue mash up crime story movies followed? Hundreds and those films fell flat because the audience can smell when a director is lying to them, not staying true to their roots or style, and I want to start off with my audience knowing they can trust that when my name is on a film, they will get the experience they expect.
Q: How will independent music be a part of your independent film?
A: The original music used in Harmonized Combustion was produced by The Far Removed and the film was scored by Jupiter Marvelous. Both are extremely talented and added their own special touch to each beat. The music is used as a prop or even a character in the film. You do not hold your breath while the organ goes quiet as the lead looks up in the mirror and “oh, shit” there is the bad guy. The audience can actually move with the music and watch the characters dance to it and slide from scene to scene. No, it is not a musical. No one breaks out in song. Well, that is not true, Parker does perform a single in the honour of his late mate, Charlie. Music is the reason for death, love, pleasure, and destruction in the film. It will touch the audience in a different way, it may even have them leave the screening while repeating a catchy hook in their head. When I was listening to it and cutting, the little footage I already shot, I kept singing that damn Voodoo song over and over in my head. Luckily, my head didn’t explode.
Q: Who will you be working with on Harmonized Combustion?
A: A lot of great freelance professionals. First, you have the wonderful Hannah Grace Rooney, who is a gifted graduate of the School of Professional Makeup. She has been in the industry for a while now and has worked with great actors including Laurie Holden of The Walking Dead and Burt Reynolds on her last feature. She volunteered her expertise based on the script and my drive. The music team of Jupiter Marvelous and The Far Removed has been nothing short of amazing. Helping develop, edit, and produce original music for the film. It gives it an edge knowing it is professionally done and not me playing a keytar on Garage Band. They are also helping in post mixing and perfecting the sound as I was incredibly anal about having it done exactly how I wanted it. The community support and love has been incredibly overwhelming, everyone pitching in here and there, making sure we have enough hands on deck. Local businesses and online businesses have even donated wicked perks for future funders and have helped with anything they can. The locations we used were given to us, on the one reasonable expectation: that we clean up. Every business owner has been great to work with. It is hard to pitch someone on using their establishment when you know you are going to kill over two dozen people and use gallons of blood. They look at you for a second thinking “You’re serious” then laugh it off. It is great!
Q: Two dozen deaths! What can you tell us about the effects?
A: It is in the scene that I am currently running the crowdfunding campaign for. Since Hannah worked on a lot of features that had a tremendous amount of leftover props including, ears, fingers, and other body parts, the effects will be a beautiful demonstration, the equivalent of a person dying and opening their eyes for the first time… in hell. Rae has to find Parker, he’s the front man for a local band who is putting on a show the night after his best friend and bandmates death. So, let us do the math. Harmonized Combustion + Concert + Rae = A whole bunch of people redecorating the walls and floor.
Q: How will you be using mise-en-scène and cinematography in the film?
A: I am a huge Stanley Kubrick fan, I believe that is a statement every filmmaker uses in an interview, given that, you will be seeing a lot of wide angle shots and I agree with him, that a film should be more like music; a progression of emotions and moods as the audience takes something from the scene only to be rewarded for their patience with the next scene. Instead, in a lot of current cinema, you just wait for the next scene because that is exactly the point. Waiting for something to unravel in front of you that you’re trapped in, not addicted to. The film is set in an 80’s noir background, with dull neon colours, everything from the dark clothes to the candle holders on the bar tables was planned. Not one detail of the frame was unplanned, even though sometimes in design your best success may be your greatest mistake. I have been working on this for as long as I can remember. The stillness, the mood, the expression, the way the characters move, everything you see on screen will function as an illusion in your head but run as one on the screen. You see it but, do you really see it? 97% of the time when you’re looking for something, it could be right in front of you but, you miss it over and over again.’
Q: You recently had a traffic accident that changed your life. What happened there?
A: I am one of the few who can use the phrase “I feel like I have been hit by a truck” in the literal sense. I was in a traffic accident last year. I was walking to work and while blasting some Bowie I was blindsided by a driver who was going a little too fast and not paying attention. The truck struck me on the side of my body and rolled my rag doll body across the pavement. It sounds worse than it actually was. A nurse ran out of nowhere, luckily, grabbed my head and held me down and started to explain everything that just happened to me. I laughed, as I was still listening to Let’s Dance, and she was trying to tell me I was in shock. I may have been, I was hit by a truck, but, I remember laughing and telling her I am fine and she said “Good, because, that guy who hit you is freaking out and I better check on him” I am still alive with all limbs intact. I developed nerve damage in the lower half of my body and some muscle and joint problems. It has caused me to be less mobile and I cannot move like I once use to. As long as I am sitting I can move, I happen to be a “hand” talker, but, moving is not easy. For example, my girlfriend brought me to go see A Quiet Place last night and it was nice out, and I needed exercise so we decided to walk. Now, I am typing sitting on a cushion and thinking that was not such a good idea. But, I am alive and it allowed me to slow down for a bit. I enrolled in film school and have been doing more writing. Everyone always says “You don’t need film school to be a filmmaker” and I agree but, it is not a bad place to start. I won’t let college get in the way of my education but, I may just learn a thing or two.
Q: What other creative pursuits have lead you to filmmaking?
A: I have been making films ever since I was old enough to hold a camera. I have written many short stories and screenplays, sold some off and have won multiple competitions with my short stories. My childhood best friend and I would make “films” every day, from Star Wars to Seinfeld, no one was safe. We made a lot of original material and were known for it. It has always been my passion and now a reality. I am a huge comic nerd and I love to be creative. I finally just came to the point where I was tired of giving my material away only to see it be changed. So, I decided to do something about it.
Q: Give us a little background on RadAnimation…
A: Oh, man. RadAnimation is a great story. My father is a huge gamer nerd. From League of Legends to anything VR, he jams it. He is about to retire from his day job, he works for a tech company, and is about to launch some of his own stuff. But, he and his partner, and a few others that work with him are treading into unknown waters. So, I just help him along as he gets into social media and begins to grow. It hasn’t officially been launched. It is more of an independent animation and gaming platform/creative outlet that will be launched soon. My dad and his affiliates have just been kind enough to help with a large part of the production for Harmonized Combustion and helped me purchase equipment. RadAnimation, this year, will take off. They have a great team and eventually will be running it full time as he goes into retirement. He is a great guy and loves his vids.
Q: Which films from the horror genre have interested or influenced you the most?
A: All and anything Cronenberg. I will have to credit Scanners and Videodrome as they have been consistent throughout my life, I watched Videodrome last night actually. Also, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Clockwork Orange have influenced my actual technique rather than my approach. I love all the classic horror movies and a lot of the current ones. From the “stillness” of Lynch’s shots in Twin Peaks to the POV’s in all my favourite slashers, I take a little bit of everything. There is too much out there to just learn from a single source. I believe you need to learn from it all; the good, the bad and the ugly, otherwise you don’t know what will work for you.
Q: Thanks for talking with us! Any last words…
A: In the wise words of Hunter S. Thompson “No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride.” Thank you and thank you to all the great indie filmmakers who are doing everything they can to keep film alive. Hollywood was dead the day it was born. It is the independent hustlers of film that keep cinema alive and I salute you all.
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