Q: What did you do before you created “Jacob?”
A: I did a film called “Game Over: The Secret Life of Game Store Clerks,” which I hope no one ever sees and then I did a short film called “Done” that won some awards. After that I joined forces with Stacy Davidson, who had already done “Domain of the Damned” and “Sweatshop” and “Jacob” was our first project together.
Q: How did you raise the money to shoot this movie?
A: It was privately funded through investors. We showed them what we had done and what sold them was the passion and belief in the project. They saw what we were trying to do and could see the end and didn’t have a problem putting the money up?
Q: How did you put your cast together for the film?
A: I was acting in a lot of projects all over [Houston] and a lot of the cast I had worked with in other projects. I knew that I wanted them and they wanted to work with me. I was actually able to write for the characters based on the actors involved. Dylan [Horne] came in to my day job at Game Stop and I was like ‘you could so be Jacob.’ I found out he had done come acting in college and I hired him then to be in “Jacob.”
Q: Grace Powell was spectacular as Sissy.
A; Had I not found Grace Powell, I probably wouldn’t have even tried to make this movie. I was searching everywhere for the perfect kid and I hadn’t found anyone that I had that little warm and fuzzy feeling about. I was shooting a public service announcement about terrorism. There were probably 200 people in the Houston Astro Hall and I looked around at the kids and didn’t see anyone promising and I was helping the casting director organize headshots and one fell out and it was Grace. I felt something inside and asked if she was here and I talked to her mom to set up a screen test and that was it.
Q: How hard was it to convince her mom based on the subject matter of the film?
A: I was honest up front. I told her it was a horror movie and there was some strong subject matter but there would be no nudity and it would be handled very respectfully. I sent it to them, they loved the story and believed in it. We were very respectful with Grace. We tried not to curse on the set which is like telling a bunch of sailors not to cuss so we came up with a swear jar and put money in it. She made a fortune.
Q: She showed a lot of emotion in the movie just with her eyes. Was that coaching or is she just that good?
A; A lot of it is natural. There is one scene with the tea party where Jacob gets upset and breaks the table. There were lines there but I told her not to say it with the lines but to say it with her eyes. Just think it and it was beautiful.
Q: You played twin brothers in the movie. Talk about how you went about creating the two distinctly different characters in the movie.
A: One of the things when I started doing Jacob before I knew how big it was going to get was to challenge myself. I wanted to see if I could get an audience to believe I was a scumbag character and hate me but at the same time buy me as a cop and a good guy. I guess I am a method actor so I will stand here and close my eyes and then imagine Otis is standing here and then just step into him, his walk and talk. I imagine his brother Billy is standing there and he doesn’t like Otis and how he treats women.
Q: You bounced back and forth between the two characters during shooting?
A: Yeah, I had to unfortunately. With the low budget, we would have to shoot at a location where both characters were there. I had to be Otis for one half of the day and Billy the other half.
Q: Talk about the old house.
A: We went into the town and I talked to the local newspapers and chamber of commerce and if they could help to call us. A guy came up and told us about an old house that was perfect. I drove by and was worried we would never get it. As I was working up the courage to walk up and ask about it, a guy leaned over the rails and asked what I was doing there. I said I was making a movie. He came down and asked if there was any money in it. I said I could pay him $100 a day and he said yes. He asked if we could shoot it that night but I told him we had a plan. It was fishy. We still made a deal and shot part of the movie there.
To make a long story short, we were having one of the worst nights of the shoot where anything that could go wrong did. We were supposed to start shooting at 7 p.m. and it was now 1 a.m. Our police car broke down so people were pushing it into the shot and called action. A car pulled up in the middle of the scene and stopped everything. An old man gets out, looking scared because there were two fire trucks, all these policemen around. Stacy asked who that guy was and I guessed it was the real owner of the house.
It turns out that somebody called him. They asked if something was wrong at his house and whether someone died. He came in from out of town to see what was going on. The guy we were paying the money to was just a wino that was renting a room. We thought we were about to go to jail for trespassing but my first AD, without missing a beat, came up and said “oh, good! You are here for your close-up. Do you need makeup? They said you would be so excited.” He was like wow, a movie. He let us finish our film and was very supportive.
Q: Talk about getting Michael Biehn for the movie.
A: There was another name we approached for the movie and it didn’t work out but as I was writing the story to bring the name actor in I felt the actor was too old. I said that I would love to bring Michael Biehn in for the role. Stacy said that would be great. I was like, Michael is one of those actors who is very well known and very good but when he comes in you still see the character. I wrote the part for Michael but Stacy said there was no way we could get him.
Well, I got on Facebook and became close friends with Jennifer [Blanc] on Facebook and I asked what it would cost. I said this is what I have got. What if I could do something else for you like get you a screening for ‘The Victim” and get you some press. She finally went to Michael and said there was this guy down in Texas who is really passionate. He asked how much money and said no. He finally got on the phone with me to shut her up. He said he was going to be nice to me but basically tell me to piss off. I started talking, knowing it was a once in a lifetime chance. He asked if I only wanted to put his name on the box and make a buck. I told him I wrote this part for him and I know no one could be Jacob’s dad like Michael Biehn. He said he didn’t want to come down only to be in my movie for five minutes. I told him that if he came down and gave me a day I could spread him out through the movie and told him how.
He said that he immediately picked up on my passion. We talked for an hour. He said after 15 minutes he liked me and after 30 minutes he had a really bad feeling he was going to be coming to Texas. By 45 minutes he knew he was going to do it. It was really a blessing. The reason I knew I could do it was by watching the behind-the-scenes video from “The Victim” and say Michael Biehn doing the same things I was doing, fighting the same battles. I knew if I could talk to him, I could convince him to help me out.
Q: Michael told me that one of his biggest influences is Robert Rodriguez. Don’t wait around. Go pick up a camera and shoot a movie and be a director.
A: I am very used to making something out of nothing. I’ve decorated haunted houses with stuff found in trash dumpsters. I am used to doing that, making props out of cardboard. It never was about my skills as a director and I knew what emotion I wanted to share with the audience and I knew how I was going to go about getting it. My dad always told me to surround myself with the best and most talented people I can to bring myself up. So, I did that and the combination of the two actually wound up working.
Q: Talk about the score.
A: Iain Kelso is a composer from Bogata Columbia and he worked with Stacey prior on “Domain of the Damned.” He didn’t end up doing the score on that movie but he was a connection. When I told Stacey what I wanted for the film, with a Johnny Williams score, he said he knew the guy. I talked to Iain and he was perfect, gave me everything I wanted. He met and exceeded my expectations every time. He could have made this movie on his computer but he rented a studio and brought in studio musicians and they watched “Jacob” while playing the score.
Q: What is left for “Jacob?”
A: It needs one more sound mix and the film is at market at Cannes. It is pretty much done now except for distribution.
Q: What is next after “Jacob?”
A: My next personal project is another film set in Melvin Falls.
Q: That is part of the trilogy you told me about with the old witch woman trying the movies together?
A: The back story behind that old witch is that she has been alive for over a hundred years, back to the 1800’s, and she is connected to the book and has a spell she is working. She used Jacob and Sissy’s blood to help her regain her youth and power. Each film is a different set of characters and a different story but she is the one constant thread.