Drew Daywalt is a director and writer for his own company Daywalt Fear Factory, which produces several shorts a year. Daywalt has actually produced dozens of horror shorts while travelling to film festivals and promoting his films at conventions. As well, Daywalt has finalized a sale of his short film “Polydeus” to the internet’s largest horror themed website FEARnet. Other projects are in the works and here Daywalt talks about one of his upcoming vampire feature film the Ringbearer. Have a listen as Daywalt chats about immortality, religious themes in horror and 600 year old vampire hunters!
(Michael Ross Allen): Drew, I primarily know you from your work in independent shorts, which you often feature on your Youtube Channel. Some of my favourties are “The Tale of Haunted Mike,” “Dinner Date,” and “5 Minutes Earlier.” However, you seem to be transitioning from smaller features to full length films, with your upcoming film Ringbearer. Is your goal to work in feature length films, or will you continue to use shorts as a creative medium?
(Drew Daywalt): “My first goal is to scare with my films, so whether that is in short form or long, I do not have a preference. My personal goals are to move my horror into the feature realm, but I will always make short films. Features can take a year or more of your life to create – an insane amount of work! Then, in two hours, you are judged by the public. It is a long walk to the altar on that one, no matter what the outcome. It is great when it works and it is heartbreaking when it does not. And that is a lot of eggs in one basket.
Short films, by comparison, are short bursts of creative energy. You can go from concept to final cut in a month or two, post it online or sell it and it is up to be enjoyed by everyone. I love that instant gratification and I love being able to go from one concept to another that quickly. The connectivity with an online audience is the greatest thing ever for an artist.
Features allow you to fully explore a concept, and a TV series allows you to fully explore a character. Short films allow you to fully explore one emotion and in my case that emotion is fear. Short form horror is one of the greatest art forms in the world. The short story is really America’s greatest contribution to world literary forms. It’s the one form of writing that is really ours, culturally speaking. The same can be said for short films, which are just an extension of the short story.
I have never felt so at home in a genre than I do horror, and in short form so I’ll always make short horror films!”
(MRA): I find from watching your short films that they have a lot of emotional impact, whether that be darkly comedic or horror. I think this is why short films are also a good start for independent filmmakers.
Now, from what I have heard on the project from interviews and press, Ringbearer is a about a group of vampire hunters who are immortal. They are enlisted by the church to fight off these notorious bloodsuckers until the vampire-hunters are reduced to less than two. In your opinion, would vampire hunting be a bad career choice in your film? Or are there perks?
(DD) “There is lots of ghastly vampire fun to be had. As far as a career choice, in my mythology, vampire-hunting would be a rough emotional road. My hunters are all 600 years old when my story picks up. They have lived a dozen full lives each, lost everyone they have known many times over… all the usual problems we give to vampires. I think the most interesting thing about vampires is their immortality, so I gave that to the hunters too.”
(MRA) This project is really sounding interesting; I think the concept of 600 year old vampire-hunters is a unique feature. The immortality aside, can you tell me and fans a little more about the plot behind Ringbearer?
“The hunters do not want for money, or resources because they have had so much time to amass wealth and learn to hide it in the shadowy corners of the world. So on the upside, you are rich, you do not age. On the downside, if your ring comes off, you age instantly and die. You are also hunting and being hunted by the greatest predators in the history of storytelling. And the thing about my vampires is that they are surreal, demonic, hideous and obscene to deal with. Profane is a good word. If you do not mind dealing with that every day, then I think yeah, vampire-hunting could be a lot of fun.”
(MRA): One of my favourite hunters are the Predators from the sci-fi films, but these creatures do not have the mythology nor the history of vampires.
One of the protagonists in your film is a “street kid” (SDCC) who comes in contact with the last of the vampire-hunters. You call him the “chosen one” in a 2010 interview at the Comic Con in San Diego. Are there some deeply religious tones in the film? The use of the words chosen one seems to connect with the Messiah in Christianity or Catholicism and I am wondering if you are bringing some of your own religious beliefs to the material.
(DD): “I am a Christian, not a good one, mind you, but that is my belief. I do not like dogma and hypocrisy and judgmentalness, so I tend to avoid a lot of churches. That said, I did not want my film to be overly churchy, and it’s not preachy in the least. As a mater of fact it’s pretty humanistic in its idealogy and would get a big fat frown from most religious organizations.
One thing I think has lost its power in the vampire film, though, is the crucifix. So my hunters each get a custom made unique silver crucifix which is their main and most powerful weapon against the vampires. They treat their crucifixes like a Jedi might treat their lightsaber. My hunters are philosophers and warriors, like the samurai. The story I am telling is classic Joseph Campbell man-and-myth stuff. It is the hero’s journey. I loved Frank Herbert’s Dune and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, because of their religious undertones. I think giving your fictitious world its own religion is the greatest thing you can give it, in order for it to breathe and live in your characters.”
(MRA): Dune is still one of my all time favourites and this film definitely had its own religion and Messiah type themes. That aside, can you give horror fans an insight into who you are hoping to cast for Ringbearers or who you have cast already?
(DD): “I cannot talk casting yet, but the creature design is being done by spfx artist Jeff Farley. Each of my vampires is completely unique from the others and has a whole different physique and look, and biology. Jeff is designing all of them. One has this gigantic fleshy mosquito style proboscis with a nasty blade on the end that he plunges into people to suck them dry. Another is a beautiful woman, who, when she drops her clothes, is covered in sucking, snapping fanged mouths… So while we are just starting to think about casting at this point, design is in full swing.”
(MRA): This is sounding good Drew – unique. Now, what is your goal for a release date on this feature?
(DD): “No release date is in place yet, but as soon as we get the official green light on the project, we will announce production dates and keep everyone up to date.”
*Drew would like to send out a special message to his fans and horror fans in general:
“It has been a great year this year with the recent sale of my latest short film “Polydeus,” a mindbending horror about a haunted video game, to FEARnet. But the rest of my team and I are not waiting around. We have launched four shorts into production for the fall to keep the horror coming. I am just super grateful to all the fans and supporters we’ve gained along the way.
One of the films, “Naked” is our most ambitious production yet. It’s a six minute short, and it is set in the New World in 1736. Two German hunters and their Mohawk guide hunt for a hideous demon who murdered one of the German pioneer children. The production will involve major physical and digital fx, location shooting in the mountain forests here in California, period costumes. Sounds funny to say it, but it’s an epic short. We are all really putting our hearts into this one because the story is so good and it’s a real chance to show what we can do.
Because it’s so big for us, we’re raising money on Indiegogo.com for it here:
Naked at Indiegogo
If all goes well that’s what we’ll be shooting by year’s end!”
(MRA) I get the feeling that you are going to be very busy this year with lots of projects. Congratulations on securing distribution of “Polydeus.” Thanks for doing this interview Drew and best of luck with the Ringbearer!
(DD) You are welcome and I will keep you up to date on my upcoming projects. All the best.
*A recent note: Bill Oberst Jr. has been cast for Daywalt’s “Naked.”
More info’ on the Ringbearer at the SDCC:
Drew Daywalt Interview at Youtube
Several of Daywalt’s horror shorts can be seen on his Youtube channel here:
The Daywalt Fear Factory
Drew Daywalt. Interview. 31 Aug. 2010.
Drew Daywalt Picture Courtesy of Fearnet