Andrew Shafer is a filmmaker who grew up in Leavenworth and Lansing.
1. Andrew why did you decide to become a film writer, director and cinematographer?
I've always been fascinated with movies and the wonder/magic behind making them. My parents used to let me watch all sorts of movies and they practically went in debt taking me to Blockbuster. It really wasn't until middle school that I got fascinated in photography which grew into a desire to tell stories visually.
My friends and I in high school used to make little experimental short films in our spare time for fun. We made them so frequently and I had such a good time creating them that I knew that's what I wanted to do with my life. In college I started honing in on my skills and learned how to make movies on a professional level. The rest is history. I read that Confucius once said "choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life" — and now I live by that quote.
2. What have been the general themes of your short films and documentaries which have included Born in Blood, Pass the Dutch and Of Little Convenience and what sorts of stories are you most interested in telling?
I don't like to necessarily stick to one theme when I work on my films. Generally I'm interested in people and their relationships with one another —most often than not it's misunderstood people in our society. My documentaries tend to delve into taboo subjects but they're never meant to be politically driven from my perspective — I just want to force people to see it from the subject's perspective.
With my short films I often draw my inspiration from my own emotional experiences and apply them to the characters. I'm fascinated by psychology and mental health and I use what I've studied to make these characters multilayered.
After creating a generalized plot, I let my characters interact in my head and then a story emerges. In essence, I am most interested in character-driven stories.
3. Your new project is an independent film called Bad Romance. What is the film about and why have you described this film as the culmination of all your interests as a filmmaker?
Bad Romance has been a movie that I've been churning in my head for years now. With my culminated interest in horror films and psychology, I'm intrigued on a conceptual level by serial killers. I find the idea of that pure evil much more frightening than any kind of a monster movie, because it can happen in real life. I also feel like the psychology of serial killers hasn't been fully explored in movies.
Page 2 of 3 - I realized that if I was going to make a film where the serial killer is the main character, that character would have to be likable. An audience member is not going to want to sit through a movie, especially a feature film, where they despise the lead. Ever since the show Dexter came out, it proved that it's possible to make serial killers not only interesting but likable and relatable.
So I decided to tell a story about a "serial killer" who's only interested in killing those he falls in love with...which creates an inner conflict because once they're dead he can no longer go on loving them. This short film version of what will later lead to a feature film also deals on a thematic level with the idea of a failed relationship and how you can grow from it and accept yourself--it's a theme that means a lot to me. All these elements put together makes for a movie that I'd not only want to make, but a movie I'd want to watch.
4. As a long-time fan of horror films, what in your opinion are the five best scary movies every made and what's the secret to making a horror film that goes beyond blood and gore and makes the audience relate to individual characters? Which horror film directors have most influenced you?
My five favorite horror films of all time are:
Evil Dead II (1987)
The Mist (2007)
The Shining (1980)
Let The Right One In (2008)
The Thing (1982)
I think the secret to making a successful horror film that achieves something more than cheap scares and makes the characters engaging is to put it all in a real-life context. What I mean is that when an audience has the perception that this could really happen or this did really happen, it's much more disconcerting.
For instance, when The Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out it had a title card saying it was based on a true story...which it really wasn't. But the fact they added it to the film suggested to the audience as they watched it that it could happen to them, which is frightening.
To make the characters more relatable you have to make them interact and feel things and do things that a normal person would do. You can imagine yourself watching a horror film where a character illogically goes down into a basement where death surely awaits. Immediately you're taken out of it and you remember you're watching a movie. My job as a filmmaker is to avoid that, I want you to be glued to it until the credits roll. So then I look at human interaction to be the basis for the horror, because I don't necessarily want you to be scared by jumps but I want you scared by your own thoughts--you'll think about the movie long after the film is over and it makes you uneasy.
Page 3 of 3 - As for which horror film directors have most influenced me, I can't say many. I find that most directors who focus primarily on making horror films are one-trick ponies. The best horror movies I've seen are done by those who only did maybe one or two. Stanley Kubrick directed The Shining, probably the best horror film ever made, but he never made another horror film. I feel that if a director can prove himself able to work in many different genres he can achieve something more extraordinary within each genre. I love horror but I also want to branch out.
5. If someone were to give you a large amount of money to make any film you wanted anywhere in the world and with your choice of actors and actresses, what would the film be about and who would you choose to star in it?
If I had the money, I'd be very interested in making a period film of some sort. I have one idea for a post-apocalyptic film that would take place in 1920's rural Kansas about two sisters trying to survive as they go from house to house scavenging. I'm not exactly sure who I'd like to cast in the film, one of the girls is a teenager and the other is in her early 20s. I've been really impressed by Jennifer Lawrence and she'd probably be good in a role like this considering her performance in Winter's Bone. But in all honesty I wouldn't care one way or another to have a star in the film. I guess I only desire finding the right person for each particular role, and that means lots and lots of casting calls.
Go to indiegogo.com/BadRomance for more information.