SXSW 2010: Chad Feehan Talks WAKE

Founder and Editor; Toronto, Canada (@AnarchistTodd)
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SXSW 2010: Chad Feehan Talks WAKE
Best known in horror circles as a producer on All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, Chad Feehan is doing it all on upcoming psychological horror film Wake.  Serving as writer-director-producer on the film, Feehan is currently prepping for his big debut at SXSW but he took some time out to answer a few of our questions.

TB: You've done a few films as producer before, but not as director. How imposing for you was it to go into something like this where so much was riding on you not just producing, but also as writer and director?

Unlike my previous experiences, there is no veil to hide behind as the writer, director and producer. The film and its success, sits squarely on my shoulders, which was initially intimidating. But as the cameras began to roll and I found myself working with the cast and crew, that feeling quickly subsided. I began to really appreciate my position, having the ability to dictate the creative choices while fully understanding the budget, an independent production and the limitations associated with it. Plus, I had an amazing team to work with. In essence, I will always value my producing background, but directing is in my gut and I'm grateful for the opportunity.

TB: I know you probably want to keep people guessing before the premiere, but what are you willing to tell us about the story?

From the outset, I wanted to do something different with WAKE. The goal was to take an easily recognizable genre and flip it on its head. Thus, we took your traditional, eerie Motel backdrop with unsettling characters similar to PSYCHO or IDENTITY, then infused it with the drama and emotions often found in traditional independents. The result is a convincing hybrid of both. At one minute, you're fearful for the protagonist's physical safety, of the creepy manager lurking around the corner. The next, your heart is breaking as our characters begin to deal with substantial emotional turmoil and betrayal. In my opinion, it's the best of these two opposing worlds. A story about losing love, love lost, all the while ratcheting the audience's level of tension about what looms ahead.

TB: On a film maker level, what sort of lessons did you learn on Mandy Lane that you were able to bring to the table here?

You are only as good as your collaborators. Luckily, I had access on both ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE and WAKE to an amazing group of filmmakers, fostered through my experience at the American Film Institute. Thus, when it came time to hire our cinematographer, production designer, editor, etc., I called my classmates who, like me, were anxious for an opportunity to step up in their career. That being said, I believe the quality of our film is incredibly strong. Furthermore, when making an independent feature, you must squeeze every penny onto the screen. Often times, I've witnessed producers spend frivolously. You don't have that luxury. If you don't always make the decision to spend money where it counts, on the screen, then the product will suffer.

TB:  On a business level, what did you learn from Mandy Lane in terms of what to avoid?

MANDY LANE was unique in its incredible success at the Toronto International Film Festival; we sold worldwide distribution rights immediately following our premiere for a substantial amount of money. And despite being released in dozens of international territories, the film has failed to find its way in the U.S marketplace. This is what I hope to avoid. In order to do so, I think we have to manage the process a little better. Educate ourselves in the ever-changing landscape of distribution and use that knowledge to maximize our potential of reaching an audience not only overseas, but here at home.

TB:  You told me earlier that while this is a violent movie you're taking an unusual approach to it. How do you feel about violence on screen? Do you prefer the mental / emotional or gut level / adrenaline approach to horror?

For me, violence on screen should be dictated by the tone of your film and the headspace of your protagonist. Like I said earlier, WAKE is a hybrid of two genres. Thus, we have a bit of both. For example, I looked at IN THE BEDROOM and admired how palpable the off-screen violence was. When Frank Fowler is murdered, you hear it but don't see it. This was incredibly effective and influenced some of my decisions. On the other hand, I grew up loving traditional horror and everything associated with it. So when Paul, our lead, is pushed to the brink of his emotions, we get in his face to witness the unraveling. 
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