Interview with Gary Michael Schultz, Director of Devil in my Ride
by Ruben R. Rosario
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Gary Michael Schultz: Thank You.
RR: Can you give a us a little bit of the history between the short and the feature length versions of Devil in My Ride?
GMS: What happened was Mike Dozier, my co-writer had this really crappy van and he had just bought a new car and I thought I could somehow convince him to let me destroy it. So I had decided to use that van to make a film, something simple and low-fi but with the skill level and the crew that I have today. Not only that, but to have fun and make a festival piece that horror audiences would enjoy. I made a short film called Hellcat and Tala, that was playing at horror festivals and there were elements in that film that people were really feeling and so I wanted to make a film for that audience. So we all got back together and in two and a half days, shot the Devil in My Ride short film in a warehouse. It was kind of a vulgar little film but it has a genuine heart, the acting’s really good and it’s really funny. For the 14 minutes that it’s on the screen, audiences really seemed to like it and it’s a good time, it’s gross and it’s just that kinda movie.
RR: How did that lead into the feature?
GMS: I was gearing up to make a different feature and I had gotten sick and tired of going to these investor meetings, with these shirt and tie wearing big shots, that talked about what they were gonna do, but never did anything. I had a future business partner named Jim Alvarez that I made a commercial for and he really liked the Devil in My Ride short and he said that he’d put down some money for it. I went to LA and I got a sales agent ahead of time through a great company called Unified Pictures, but I had to cash in a lot of favors after 10 years of working in film and just ask people to help. I showed people what we had and explained to them what we wanted to do with the film.
GMS: I feel like I didn’t have much of a choice. I shot on the DSLR because of the budget and if we had a much bigger budget, like in the high six figures or a million dollars, we would’ve just shot it on a bigger HD rig, or whatever the new hype is. Since we had a non-union crew, I had access to these camera’s and that’s what I decided to use. So the very first step towards making it look good and the rule that I wanted to live by was to get really good glass. The lenses were gonna help a ton, so we went and rented several different lenses. We got a lot of zoom lenses, which weren’t in our original idea, but once we started mapping out the look of the film, I had decided that I really liked the Canon zooms.
RR: How many shooting days were there and did you get everything you wanted out of them?
GMS: Well, we shot for 16 days and you know, you never get everything you want. I mean, I got a lot of it but the fact of the matter was that we had a really ambitious script here. I hope that when people see what we did that they really embrace it. Ultimately, the audience doesn’t give a shit what your budget is, they just wanna see something special. I hope that 20 years from now, some kid can see Devil in My Ride and just go “That’s it, I wanna make a film, just like that one”, that seemed really ambitious, but not impossible to make. I mean look at a film like “Evil Dead”, it’s not a perfect movie and it has a lot of flaws, but there’s an energy about it that’s just infectious and that’s what people relate to. I mean if you’re at a party there’s gonna be people there that know Citizen Kane is a much better film, but they’re not gonna watch that, they’re gonna watch “Evil Dead” because it’s more entertaining (Laughs).
GMS: I’ve been working with Frank Zieger and Joey Bicicchi for years. They are some of my best friends and my filmmaking family and I wanted the world to see them be great together. Frank is really funny and both are multi-talented and I wanted to showcase that especially. Big Llou Johnson is a SAG voice actor and blues musician and probably the only person that could honestly play Johnny Priest. Erin Breen beat out about 50 other potential Doreen’s to be our devil bride. I knew I needed someone that wasn’t going to be intimidated by the role and Erin was it and we completed our main cast with cult icon Sid Haig as an eccentric character named Iggy.
RR: How as it working with Sid Haig?
GMS: Dream come true. Sid has been in so many films I love and to get to be the 69th film of his career and get to work with him was a pleasure and a thrill. His fans will freak out to see him do a horror comedy.
RR: How hard was trying to balance the horror and comedy aspects of the film?
GMS: That was one of the hardest things to tackle from a directing and storytelling point of view. The movie is a comedy, but when it’s scary, I really want it to be scary. So many horror comedies don’t walk that line properly and it’s really, really hard. “Shaun of the Dead” is the last film that comes to mind that really killed it. Because when that film gets scary in the third act, it gets really scary. That movie helped us a lot in terms of how we were approaching tone. We’d constantly ask ourselves if the characters are supposed to be scared, what would make them really scared at this point. We approached that with the Erin’s character, Doreen and how she would play with the demons and played with the notion that every time she would wake up from sedation, she’d pick up another trait or characteristic and play off that. Few actresses ever get to play a role like this and this is the first time that Erin had done anything ever like this and my god…she’s amazing.
GMS: Oh yeah! I’m my own boss and I have complete creative and financial control of the film. So ultimately, it may be the only single time in my life that I’ll be able to make a film like this, with this kind of freedom. With that said, I’m also taking all of the risk. I mean I still have a few investors and if the film fails, then they won’t be too happy with me. The major restrictions in that kind of situation are money but because you’re working with the people that you want to work with, you can change anything you want and do anything that you want. You can work in the way that you wanna work and be very comfortable in the way you want to get things done. I really like working with that small crew, that 15 to 20 crew that turns into a real family unit. On some of the big days, we still brought in some extra help and got a few other people on board, but I like that intimate style of filmmaking, I like that run and gun style of filmmaking to get shit done. I like shooting nights, I like being up all night and I like not sleeping when I’m shooting a film (Laughs), that’s sick isn’t it. I dunno, I’m a masochist (Laughs).
RR:That’s horrible (Laughs). So what’s next as far as the film is concerned?
GMS: A lot of post-production with some green screen and visual effects stuff to wrap up. The final edit should be done by March and we can begin visual FX and sound. We’ll hit up a few festivals and then just take it to our sales agent to get the best distribution deal we can for it. I know for our investors, I want them to make their money back but for me, I just want as many people to see the film and in a way that looks the best. A few years ago, I would have been against streaming a movie in someone’s home to experience a film. Nowadays, everyone’s got a 50-inch TV in their house and streaming doesn’t look that bad (Laughs). My dream though is to get even a small theatrical release, in the way that it was intended and I hope that people really dig the film and it inspires other filmmakers to follow suit. I hope that people get to see what we had to work with on very little and my cast and crew just get more work out of it.
RR: Cool man, well thanks for giving me this opportunity to interview you.
GMS: Thank You.
Ruben R. Rosario is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio for Visual Media. He works as a freelance location sound mixer, boom operator, sound designer, and writer in his native Chicago. He’s an avid collector of films, comics, and anime.
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