Sunday, June 18, 2023

Writer/ Director Anthony Ferraro Talks About The Making of Horror Sci-fi Short Film Wakener

Horror sci-fi short film WAKENER is a laudable contribution to the enduring Cthulhu Mythos that originated from iconic American writer H.P. Lovecraft. The indie piece, starring Rhomeyn Johnson, Nimo Purcell, Sapna Gandhi, Anthony Di Petro and Jonathan Castile, is the brainchild of writer-director Anthony Ferraro. Ferraro is best known as the creator and host of the popular Create Scifi Youtube channel.

WAKENER tells the story of an impromptu mission to investigate the sudden appearance of a mysterious ghost ship that carries ancient tech. Despite budget constraints, the cinematography look sleek and very well-executed. Ferraro is undoubtedly a skilled scriptwriter and world builder. He manages to set up each of the character's individual motivations that propel towards the unfortunate events at the finale.

It is also impressive how Ferraro and his team were able to visually capture the audience's attention through artful lighting of the cast, accompanied by detailed self-built costumes, props and sets. Some of the acting was not as nuanced as Red Dot Diva would have preferred, however, the atmospheric feel of the film as a whole, was a haunting and memorable experience.

After watching WAKENER a few times, Red Dot Diva wanted to find out more about what goes behind the scenes. She had the pleasure of chatting with Anthony Ferraro about the production process.

Red Dot Diva: Hi Anthony, WAKENER looks stunning! I know it takes creativity and skill to craft a short story. For WAKENER, how do you ensure that you are able to capture the essence of what you wanted to convey in terms of the script? (The phrase “I don't speak helmet.” is so catchy, by the way!) How many versions did you go through?
Anthony: You bring up an important question. Many years ago, when I first started writing, I found it so difficult that when I finally finished something, it was such a relief that I'd resist changing anything. However, I quickly learned that the writing process is never over, and if you really want to capture something, you need to write and rewrite it. With WAKENER, by the time we shot the film, there were about 24 revisions of the script. There was approximately a three-week gap between filming the main story on the ship and the supporting story at the Satellite Station, and the script for the station scenes underwent a few more revisions right up until we shot it. However, it's worth noting that I do readings with the actors to see how things are working. The line about the helmet was in an early draft, and when the actor spoke that line during rehearsal, I knew it was a keeper.

Red Dot Diva: Have you worked with the actors in WAKENER before?
Anthony: I do make an effort to collaborate with actors repeatedly. Coming from a theater background, my mindset has always been to create a theatrical company. In the case of WAKENER, I specifically wrote the film with Rhomeyn Johnson in mind for the lead role of Zee, the Space Ship Mechanic. Rhomeyn had previously worked with me on a few of my other projects in supporting roles, and his exceptional talent made me want to create a film that showcased his abilities. Jonathan Castile, who played the lead Mandalorian character in my Star Wars fan film, takes on the role of the Mummy character in WAKENER. As for the other actors, it was my first time collaborating with them, but I am confident that I will work with them again in the future.

Red Dot Diva: Any interesting anecdotes that happened on set?
Anthony: In the scene of the satellite station, there are a few background actors walking around. Since I create the costumes myself, similar to rewriting a script, I experiment with different versions. I had a few extra costumes, so at the last minute, I realized the space station appeared too sparse. In the eleventh hour, I decided to dress the two Production Assistants (PAs) on set in my backup costumes and include them in the scene. This type of situation truly adds to the fun and lightens the mood for me.

Red Dot Diva: Other than the small budget, what was the most challenging aspect of filming and producing WAKENER?
Anthony: The most challenging aspect I always encounter in ultra-low-budget productions is the multitude of hats I need to wear. If we're only two days away from shooting and I require a new set piece, I can't simply pick up the phone and hire someone; I have to make it myself. If an actor or crew member drops out, it's up to me to find a replacement and adjust the schedule accordingly. And even in the midst of directing, if catering is late, I have to handle the situation. It's what I sign up for every time I embark on one of these ultra-low-budget films, and while I know what I'm getting myself into, it's always a challenge.

Red Dot Diva: What is your favourite Lovecraftian story or film?
Anthony: That's an easy one: “The Call of Cthulhu” by H.P. Lovecraft. For me, it has an Indiana Jones-like quality, and when I read it, the story unfolds cinematically in my mind's eye. As someone who adores world-building, the entire Cthulhu mythology is incredibly inspiring for me and my work. It's something I strive for, even though it surpasses my abilities because it keeps me constantly pushing myself to improve.

Red Dot Diva: Do you think a filmmaker should always try to make something original or work with classic and established styles and tropes.
Anthony: That is not for me to say. Personally, I believe that everything has been said, and what's truly intriguing is how you choose to express it and filter it through your own unique experiences.

Red Dot Diva: Are you already working on your next short film project?
Anthony: I have three feature films that I am currently trying to get made. As for the short films, I create them myself as a way to improve my film-making skills. The goal is to eventually make feature films. The main difference is that with shorts, I have the ability to will them into existence, regardless of the budget. Some shorts have budgets under a thousand dollars, while others have reached thirty thousand. I hold the destiny of those films in my hands. However, with features, it's all about convincing someone to invest the necessary funds. One interesting observation I've made during my journey to raise money for a feature is that in the film-making business, it's more viable for someone to invest in a low-budget feature if it falls within the horror genre. Consequently, I recently wrote my first horror film titled “Tatters”.
Red Dot Diva: Oooh! I am a big baby when it comes to scary movies, but I'll definitely be looking forward to your next film!

Watch WAKENER on Create Scifi's Youtube channel, and maybe you will be inspired to make your own indie short film too!


Check out my previous interview with Anthony Ferraro about his Star Wars short film, FORSAKEN MANDALORIAN AND THE DRUNKEN JEDI MASTER!

Forsaken Mandalorian and the Drunken Jedi Master Star Wars Fan Film - Q&A with Create Sci-fi's Anthony Ferraro

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