Interview With DJ Perry on Darkest Night & Beyond
Interviewer: Michael Tay, Assistant to the Producer, Gothic Pictures International
It's great to interview you, DJ. Thanks a lot for doing this. I mainly want to talk with you about your work on the film Darkest Night.
Q: A good place to start is always the beginning. When and how did you find out about the film in the first place?
A: The wonderful Internet. I have a film cast site www.Mandy.com that I often watch because in the past I have discovered some wonderful projects on there. You do have to vet stuff out but it also has many international projects listed. I found Darkest Night on there, and once Russ Williams (writer/producer) started talking he was aware of some of my other work, The 8th Plague in particular. It was just a good fit from the first couple of Skype talks.
Q: Obviously you like the script. What were your original thoughts about it?
A: I’ve always liked the idea of the “fish out of water” situation. I’ve referenced Michael Douglas in Black Rain whereas his detective travels to Japan. I liked that element of the script because as you experience the character experiences and it feels real because it is. I’m also a fan of horror films that have Gothic atmosphere – meaning I love old black-and-white horror films with subtle happenings that build an uncomfortable feeling in audiences. Now this film is color, but it has those same “builds,” and so classic horror fans should enjoy this film.
Q: I understand this was your first “found footage” horror film. What was your approach to it in terms of acting? Was it any different from acting in a traditional-type shoot?
A: Yes. This was my first STAB (pun intended) at the “found-footage” genre. It is different in that you have to do an almost perfect master shot both technically and via performance because you don’t CUT IN for other coverage. Also speaking a few times “at the camera” goes against some basic film acting but in our case it worked very well. Also the conditions are just much more real in terms of lighting, overlap in dialogue and more hand-held footage. I really wanted to do a “found footage” film, and this was the perfect project for that.
Q: Tell us your thoughts about Asian horror films in general and putting eastern and western horror together into a single, film tradition.
A: Asian-Americans are underrated as a minority in politics and other aspects in America. Because of both soccer and the martial arts I’ve always had close friends that are Asian. Many came here from war-torn countries and had to learn a new language and way of life. Now we are a few generations in and more of these American-born children are finding their way into places of power in the U.S. Just like the explosion of Latin programming and Black before that with television networks like BET, the Asian demographic is growing. Not only do many Asians here like to explore their roots, they are also adapted to the U.S., and so a new, merged tradition is happening for the future. The days of remaking everything great coming out of Asia are receding. This process started in America with the one and only Bruce Lee. There was no way to REMAKE Bruce Lee so they released his films here and guess what? … CULT CLASSICS. I want to be that John Saxon who can play into an Asian film and be that bridge.
Q: What were your thoughts on working in the Philippines and eastern Asia, beforehand? What do you think about it now?
A: Again as a martial artist I was well aware of the Philippines because they have a rich tradition of that there. I really didn’t have any advanced thoughts on the idea of shooting there. I’m a very grounded person who deeply embraces the differences between us as human beings. I love traditions maybe because collectively so many have been lost in America to our own new commercialized “traditions.” I also know how alike we all are in our hopes, dreams and fears. I want to represent the best of what America is, and I so appreciate what we have in America when I do see other places striving to be their best. We have our own flaws in America, but we should be very grateful because it does provide freedom and opportunity. After the trip I can say I loved the adventure of it all. By far the best part of the trip was the people themselves. I can say I truly loved my cast and crew mates. We shared deep talks on everything from world politics to foods and music. The only negative – the HEAT! I was hot from the time I stepped off the plane to getting back on the plane. This Celtic warrior is better suited for the slight chill of the mountains versus the blazing heat. It's a good place to visit, but I could not like it there, only because of the heat.
Q: How long was the shoot? Tell us something about how the film was made and your time in the Philippines. How did you like it?
A: I was there roughly two weeks with the shoot being 10 days, which is fast for a film, BUT the “found footage” style allowed us to move quicker. It was also mainly shot at one mango estate, and so it was mostly shooting around this manor house and gardens. My favorite thing to tell people is that, while we were making a dark film about demons and consuming evil, the real experience was 180 degrees opposite. Mornings were music, food, laughter and just bright happy exchanges between this big group of artists.
Q: How were the people you worked with? Tell us about them.
A: All my co-stars were just wonderful to work with, and I mean all of them. There was not one hint of the negative traits that sometimes inflict American actors. By that I mean some actors who are insecure and spend time on sets bragging to one another or putting on airs of authority – sorry, but I’ve seen it. These Philippine artists were all just passionate about what they do, and they sincerely were happy for one another. It was just very refreshing and pure. I will give special kudos to Anne, Issa and Nic, my co-stars, but I encourage any producers and directors to look at the cast list. Many of the cast have been over to America and so if a script calls for it – these folks would be great in your future productions.
Q: I heard that some scary things happened during the shoot, like haunted-house type stuff. Tell us about all that.
A: WOW! Okay, I won't give any BS or PR stunts here, and I can say that I’m no stranger to “haunted” happenings, but this film added some new experiences. As I said before, we did most of our shooting in a vacant, really old but well kept house. To start with on my first night when I arrived I caught a glimpse of a small boy, and in an instant he was gone. I had been up about 28 hours, and so I wrote if off. I did hear a tale that a maid had fallen and died on the staircase, but nothing on a little boy. There was one room that had a doorknob bashed in as if someone had tried to force open the door some time ago. We went to film a scene at that door and in that room. The setup was screaming girls in the room with the door jammed, and I force it open. The door did not lock so it was to be a fake hold until I force it open. CAMERA, SOUND, ACTION – Lights came on in the stairwell hall! CUT! Did sound hit the light? No? Take 2 – CAMERA, SOUND, ACTION! Screaming girls, approach the door – Lights on! CUT! Who touched the light switch? Nobody. We hear excited talk from the PAs on the ground level. Translate please! Some folks saw a little boy or girl outside the window that just vanished. I also heard something being said about a woman walking through a wall. OK. BACK TO ONE. They have someone holding the light switch down now. ACTION! Screams from the room, and we race up the stairs to the rescue. I go to the door and “act” like it is stuck, but when I push – it is stuck. I push harder and harder, and it will not open. I’m living it now – girls screaming, and I step back and KICK the door open. When I moved to kick the door, I felt a yank on my shoulder, but my kung fu was strong. The door is open, and the scene plays. CUT. My shoulder is burning and upon looking, I have fingernail scratches on my shoulder. Now I’ve seen ghost shows with others making that claim, and I was always a bit questioning, but this did happen. There were many witnesses. We had oddly timed blackouts and freak storms, and I do think we had some other inhabitants. We found out that the owners used to live in the big house but moved into a nearby guest house because of the hauntings. So I do think it was a perfect setting to capture this film. There was lots more going on behind the scenes, so feel free to check out our BTS documentary, The Demons Behind Darkest Night, and the movie website, www.darkestnightmovie.com.
Q: What were your thoughts when you saw the final cut of the film, after post-production was over? Did you like it? Did it meet your expectations? Explain your feelings about the final film to us now.
A: The release cut made me very happy. A longer rough directors cut was shown in the Philippines and I do wish that had not happened. It did not reflect the final product that now it is tight and tense, and our first U.S. public screening left people applauding and commenting on the quality of the film. Some people don’t really enjoy the “found footage” style, but I hope those people (especially my fans) will give this a go. Others like myself who do enjoy this style should love the exotic location, actors and unique story. It's not a slap-dash, bandwagon film like many other found-footage films. I’ve seen a dozen films about ghost-hunter and other “stock” situations gone bad out there. But Darkest Night is unique, and that is what I strive to bring to my fans. I’m very proud of this film, and it's the first CDI-associated international film.
Q: Do you have any additional thoughts now that the film has been released? Is there anything else you would like to say about it?
A: I think this is a film that you have to watch twice (at least). There are many interesting things unfolding. Russ Williams weaves a tale that even in editing had to be streamlined some. This is an intelligent film where the fiction is built upon fact. Much like the style of H.P. Lovecraft, one of my favorites, you are getting actual information when watching. An immense amount of work went into Darkest Night, and so I do hope that the fans embrace this film.
Q: OK, I'm done with Darkest Night. I'm sure you've worked on other films since then, including horror, and have some present and future plans for film work. Feel free to say some things about some of your other horror films recently released. Also, tell us something about current films and plans that you're working on, especially horror films.
A: It has been a busy season for me with the horror/thriller genre. Deadly Renovations rolled out at the end of 2012, and foreign sales are happening. Locked in a Room released recently and was No. 12 Best Horror on Google Play. It has stayed active in the charts since. Now Darkest Night is releasing in mid July, and in a few months, I have Donors coming out. On deck is The Beast , which is once again working with Russ Williams. It will be directed in the U.S. by Peter Dukes and will co-star Gabrielle Stone and Jessica Cameron. I’ve also committed to reprise my role of Mason in the prequel to The 8th Plague entitled Soul Eater. I’m in hopes cameras will roll this fall or winter.
Thanks, DJ. I appreciate your taking the time to do this interview. I look forward to talking with you again sometime.
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