Early next month, the world premiere of Exhumed, a horror film by director Richard Griffin, and produced by Scorpio Film Releasing will make its debut at the Orpheum Theatre in Foxboro, MA. The film stars Debbie Rochon, Sarah Nicklin, Michael Reed, Michael Thurber, Rich Tretheway, Evalena Marie, and Jonathan Thomson. The movie follows the eerie tale of a twisted family that is seemingly trapped in their own home. This confined existence creates an escalating amount of stress and panic, finally resulting in violence. Griffin talked to HEC about the origins of the projects, what it took to get it off the ground, and why he thinks horror movies appeal to our most human side.
HEC: What was the inspiration for this project?
The origins of Exhumed go back to around 2008 when I came up with basic seed of the story. Over the next year or two I worked with a couple of writers trying to flesh out the story, but it never seemed to work out. Around 2010 I spoke to my friend Guy Benoit, who had just written Atomic Brain Invasion for me, about possibly writing a draft of the screenplay. Guy was excited about it, and took my rough treatment for the story and really fleshed it out and brought it to life. Without Guy’s involvement, and just the sheer quality of his screenplay, Exhumed never would have been made.
HEC: What was the most challenging aspect of making this movie?
The most challenging aspect was the fact the movie had to be made in 11 days. There was just a perfect window of time when the cast and crew I were going to be free… so we had to take advantage of that. So, we just hunkered down and worked around the clock — typically 14 hour days — to finish the movie. But when everything was said and done, it was finished…. No second unit shots were needed. That’s an amazing testament to an extremely talented and dedicated cast and crew.
HEC: What makes your movie special?
I don’t know what makes it special per say, but I will say it was made from the heart. Everyone approached this movie with a great deal of passion, knowing what we were going to end up with would be quality. But if I had to give an answer, I would say what makes it special is that it’s a plot/character driven movie in an age where those things seem to be secondary. Visually, it’s elegant in an age of shaky camera moves and other annoying gimmicks. In Exhumed there are no tricks or gimmick… just classic storytelling techniques.
HEC: What do you feel is the most unique aspect of making movies in New England?
I’ve never really made movies anywhere else, nor do I really wish to… I do know there is a magnificent community of filmmakers out here, everyone doing their thing and I believe that over the past five years the quality of the films have just gotten better and better. I hope it continues.
HEC: Why do you feel audiences love horror movies so much?
I think on a very basic level we love to be frightened as long as there is a safety net underneath us. It’s why people love roller coaster rides and the like. It’s a thrill, a way of getting amped up. It’s also, on a much deeper level, a way of facing our fears and anxieties in a way no other genre of film allows. We’re all basically frightened of the same things… death, madness, disease, isolation. I think there is something very cathartic about going into a darkened theater to share those fears with other people in the audience.
Watch the Exhumed trailer below:
Check out Exhumed during it’s world premiere at the Orpheum Theatre in Foxboro on November 11th. That evening there will be two showings, one at 7 p.m. and one at 9 p.m. You can find more information at the event’s Facebook page here.
Locally based actress Sarah Nicklin has always had her sights set on becoming a star. Through hard work, perseverance, and dedication, she’s gone from small plays at her high school in Connecticut, to starring in dozens of indie films as well as attaining parts in big budget films. She shared with us some of her favorite (and least favorite) experiences of life as a New England actor.
HEC: How did you become an actor?
I’ve wanted to be an actor since middle school when I first became obsessed with Jonathan Taylor Thomas and decided that the best way to meet him would be to become an actor. I did a bunch of school plays and then once I graduated high school, I started looking for films. I was living in CT at the time, but got cast as the lead in a short film north of Boston called La Bolsa, which was my first introduction to film. I then went to Emerson College, and figuring that there has to be more films to find in Boston, started looking around for local projects. I did a few student films, then a few short independent films before getting my “first real movie role” as the lead in Splatter Disco (which stars Kens Foree, Lynn Lowry, Debbie Rochan, and Trent Haaga). After that I basically auditioned for anything else I could find everywhere from Maine to New Jersey.
HEC: What are the best/worst parts of your job?
The best parts are meeting so many great people, the chance to play and explore with being someone else, and seeing the final product. I can’t imagine living a “normal” life where all you do is go to work, go home, maybe go out to a bar, and that’s really the only people you get to meet. Being an actor, every production is a whole new group of people, and you all automatically have something in common already. Of course you get along better with some more than others, but I’ve had very few experience where I’ve met someone I didn’t like – and everyone always has such great stories to share!
I also love being able to play with being someone else – thinking how they would think, acting how they would act. It’s like a permanent make-believe game from when you’re little. I’m pretty shy in real life, so it give me the opportunity to go beyond myself and try out other personality traits with it still being “safe”.
And then of course seeing the final product is always one of the highlights. Unlike stage, in film there is so much more that it outside the control of the actor. There are so many different pieces and people that come together to make a film work. You can be made to have a good or bad performance simply by the choice of the editor. Film is such a collaboration, and I love seeing how each piece makes up the whole.
The worst parts would be some of the travel time – driving 5 hours in a car one way just to get to an audition or to a set is no fun, but it does give you time to go over your lines! The other big negative is when you get stuck on a set where the crew doesn’t really know what they’re doing – everyone is sitting around wasting time and you know that the end product isn’t going to be good. But you of course can’t back out since you’ve already committed, so you just have to soldier through and finish it.
HEC: Most memorable experience thus far?
I have so many great memories, it’s hard to just pick a few…
One would be on Splatter Disco when I was 20 and there was a somewhat “naughty” scene between one of the other actors and myself, so, to loosen us up, the director bought us shots of tequila even though I was underage.
Another would be on the set of Nun of That when we were running out of time to get one final shot and we had just shot the big fight scene of the movie, so to keep continuity I would need to at least have some sort of marks on my face from getting hit. We didn’t have time to get out the makeup kit and do an effect, so the director turned to me and said, “Do you trust me?”, and I immediately knew what he had in mind from a story he had told me about shooting The Exorcist, and I said “yes, do it.” So he somewhat gently slapped me to get my cheek red, but he was too nice about it and it wasn’t enough, so he did it again, a little harder this time, and still it wasn’t enough for the shot. Then from across the room comes the producer and wham! Hard slap across the face – face was red and ready to go!
A bit of a “nicer” memory would be on the set of Missing William – I had a very small day-player part in a scene with Brandon Routh and Courtney Ford, and I was so nervous even for this small part because it was my first speaking role in a “big movie.” The thing that made me relax was that I noticed that Brandon Routh wore a hearing aid in one of his ears. I know that’s just a random little thing, but for whatever reason seeing that even Superman isn’t perfect and is a “real person” made me feel much more comfortable being in the scene with them.
And then also on the webseries I’ve been working on -” The Salinger Spies” – this set has been a blast every day I’ve been on it, but especially the days we did all the fight scenes and rehearsals. Getting flung and flipped around – reminds me of the days when I was little and did gymnastics. I love opportunities to be physical and use your whole body to its full extent and not just your face or voice.
HEC: Any advice for fellow actors?
Don’t go SAG too early. I think this is a BIG mistake that many actors fall into, especially in New England. They get their waivers doing extra work and then jump into SAG as soon as they can thinking that now they’re “real” actors and that they’ll be able to get parts in the studio films that come through here. 99.99% of the time, this is not the case. More often than not what happens is the only work they can get is background work. Most of the roles for the studio films, even the small ones, are cast out of NY and LA, and the only actors they are hiring locally are extras. So then you end up with a resume full of extra work, but little to no speaking roles because most of the local indie’s don’t cast SAG actors because they can’t afford them. And then you’re pretty much stuck since you don’t have the experience to land a speaking role, but you can’t get the experience because the indies won’t hire SAG. I think a far better thing is to wait as long as you possibly can before joining SAG- until you are forced to – that way you can build up your resume with speaking roles in legitimate indie films and have a reel that will show off what you can do.
My husband and I recently had parts in an LA based webseries that shot here in Rhode Island and one of the things that the production company was impressed with was the size of our resumes. According to them, even many actors in LA don’t have the experience we do simply because it’s hard to get speaking roles when you’re a “no-name” and SAG- so you need to have them before you join to prove that you can do them once you are. I’ve been SAG eligible for about 3 years now and in that time I’ve had speaking roles in around 50 films – of course a lot of those films are crap and will never see the light of day, but there are a lot of them that are also really good, and they have given me good material for a reel and the invaluable gift of experience. I think one of the hardest thing in this industry is to get people to take you seriously, and one of the best ways to do that is to have a big resume that proves you are dedicated to doing this.
HEC: What do you like best about working in New England in the entertainment industry?
The close community. Everyone knows everyone here, which is really nice. Word travels fast if there is a production happening or if there is one falling apart, so that you then know who to stay away from in the future. Its great going to auditions and running into 5 familiar, smiling faces. Or working on a set where you run into the same crew members again and again. It’s almost like having a really big extended family – you see each other every now and then, but when you do, its like you just saw them yesterday – there are no awkward moments, you have lots to talk about and stories to share and you get along great. Then once it’s done, you go your separate ways until the next time your paths cross.
The Rhode Island Film Acting Meetup Group (RIFAMG) isn’t just one of the hippest ways to network with other actors from the New England area but the freshest way for actors to keep their craft fit for free. Not only does the monthly meet up work on off-the-cuff exercises, reading scripts together, but the two organizers of the group Michael Reed and his wife Sarah Nicklin also bring in sassy biz NE directors to shoot scenes with the actors and give them the opportunity to showcase themselves to active filmmakers in the area.
“This aspect is very enticing to many of the actors in the area, because they are in a sense killing two birds with one stone: they get to work directly with the camera and learn useful techniques, and at the same time they are showcasing their talent for working professionals who are continually working on projects,” Reed tells us.
Reed decided to start the RIFAMG due to his previous experience hosting a similar group in Manhattan. “For three years I hosted the NYC Film Actors Meetup Group, and it was such a great success, that when I moved to Rhode Island, I decided to revive it here with my wife (actress) Sarah Nicklin”.
The duo gush about how great it feels to know that they have created a safe hands-on environment for individuals of all experience levels to come and play, learn about the craft and the business of acting, as well as meet other actors with similar interests and goals. “We believe the best way to learn, is by doing,” Reed adds.
Reed also wants everyone to know that no one in the group pretends to be acting coaches. “Typically, we do not impart our ideals or techniques on the members of the group,” Reed tells us. “Sometimes if the group unanimously agrees, we will discuss specifics openly with one another, but for the most part we do not want the group to fall into a ‘class’ mentality, nor do Sarah and I feel we are qualified to ‘teach’ the craft of acting,” Reed adds.
The group has no fee for being involved and fills up fast. The RSVP count is limited to 12, so they do ask that you RSVP right away. This month the crew will be meeting up Wednesday, September 29th. This meet up repeats on the 4th Wednesday of every month. “For this month’s meet up, we are going to get a guest DP in and shoot two-person scenes–this time we will all be using the same script, and we will be focusing on continuity,” Reed adds. Check out the site for more information and to see what others are saying about the Rhode Island Film Actors Meetup Group.
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