Interview by Joshua T. Gravel
Paige Davis, Head of Business Development for POPcinema and Camp Motion Pictures and Co-Producer of STEPHEN ROMANO PRESENTS SHOCK FESTIVAL, talks about her obsession with classic (and not-so-classic) possession films, and how they inspired DEVIL SISTER
Paige Davis and Ed Douglas, director of “The Dead Matter” and founder of the dark music band, Midnight Syndicate
Would you give the Alternative Cinema audience some background information on your career in film or the arts in general?
I have a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Maryland, and for the better part of 15 years worked in traditional sales and marketing positions. The opportunity to come on board with POP / Camp some 6 years ago couldn’t have come at a better time – I’d been working as an outside sales rep for a national company and was a) creatively frustrated, b) stressed out and c) bored to death. New technologies had made producing and directing my own projects an option and I briefly considered starting my own company. Ultimately, the financial and logistical hurdles convinced me I would be better served by learning all aspects of the business from inside an established company.
As for my interest in cult and horror films, John Stanley’s “Creature Feature” is firmly entrenched in my childhood memories. My grandmother belonged to the Redington Beach “Beach Club,” and each summer I would accompany her to the club to swim, then watch GODZILLA, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON or similar horror- sci-fi films while she played bridge and gossiped with her friends. When I was 7, we moved to Oahu and “Creature Feature” was replaced by “Ultra Man” and “Denjin Zaboga” (and on rare occasions a classic Universal Monsters film). It wasn’t until my late teens that I rediscovered my love for dark and obscure cinema after taking a class in which we watched POSSESSION and The MAFU CAGE.
How did you meet Stephen, and what was the genesis of the DVD?
I met Stephen as the result of a poster he created for Richard Griffin’s 2008 feature film, BEYOND THE DUNWICH HORROR. I initially called Stephen to gage his interest and availability in creating original art for one or more of our upcoming DVD releases; however, we soon got off-topic and embroiled in a discussion of exploitation and horror genres, our favorite films, trailers, his background and book…apparently, he’d always wanted to put out a trailer compilation, and the concept of tying in the DVD to his book and brand grew from there.
What was your production or direction experience before undertaking DEVIL SISTER? And, why did that particular faux film interest you?
Prior to DEVIL SISTER, I’d produced several “mini-docs” (short form supplemental media shot and edited in documentary fashion to “flesh out” a DVD release), but I’d never undertaken a project remotely like this one.
Los Angeles SHOCK-A-GO-GO FESTIVAL video produced by Paige Davis
The moment I stumbled across Stephen’s description for DEVIL SISTER, I knew I wanted to produce and direct the faux trailer for it…the qualities I found exciting about the project were the same ones that proved the most challenging: how to effectively convey dread, suspense and horror while maintaining ambiguity (regarding the “possession” of the main character). Of course, several contemporary films have done this effectively (THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, REQUIEM) over the period of an hour or so…but I had to convey this in less than 4 minutes. Frankly, it’s unlikely I would have attempted the project if I hadn’t recently produced a highly exploitative piece of key art for a 2009 Bloody Earth Films release, STASH, in which young women are kidnapped, tortured and raped by a back-woods drug dealer. The model, Erin Russ, was absolutely amazing – when she first arrived on set, I gave her a brief run-down of the film’s plot and asked her to try to convey a near-catatonic state – she immediately “got it” (and was so convincing I was a bit freaked out), and I knew I had the lead for DEVIL SISTER, should I move forward.
Erin Russ as the Devil Sister
Justin Wingenfeld, who plays her brother (and is an amazing character actor and experienced director), stepped in to assist in a variety of ways; and Joe Kolbek (also an experienced director) shot, lit, edited, bought worms, and explained how the vomiting scene in the EXORCIST was achieved.
Editor Joseph Kolbek, “Devil Sister” Erin Russ and “Brother” Justin Wingenfeld
Luckily, my favorite possession films are THE CHILD, BEYOND THE DOOR, THE NIGHT CHILD, THE TEMPTER and THE SENTINEL…so I felt confident that if I could capture the off-beat, low-tech ‘vibe’ of these trailers my project would succeed, regardless of exercising restraint. Honestly, I would have loved to explore the psychosis of the priest – but there’s only so much footage I could justify shooting when the end result is a trailer! In the end, we cut at least 30% of the edited footage out of the trailer – it was simply too long and unnecessary.
above: Scenes from “Devil Sister”
Any upcoming projects you’d like to discuss?
I’m currently finishing two feature-length scripts: an extremely dark, surreal, fantasy-horror project and an exploitation-horror film with a nearly all-female cast. However, if I can make the time to direct something again soon, it’s likely to be another short – a dark fantasy inspired by VIY and Russian folklore, featuring Baba Yaga.
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