Filmmakers Holden Andrews, Ivan Asen, and Victor Mathieu have collaborated to bring us Dead List, a horror movie that basks in its name and creative freedoms. The trio truly put their hearts into it, and despite what we may think about too many cooks in one kitchen, their chemistry and creative ability allowed them to create a truly captivating film. I had the pleasure of speaking with Holden Andrews about their work and got some answers to my burning questions. Keep in mind, there are some detailed discussions of scenes and deaths from the film.
ANA: Tell me a bit about the making of Dead List.
HOLDEN: Well, Ivan Asen and I had the idea of making sort of an anthology film, and once we really started gestating on that idea we thought it would be good for us to bring in another creative and so we reached out to Victor Mathieu, who at the time had just finished writing and directing The Monster Project, and we teamed up together to kind of do a new take on anthology films and why it’s a new take is its different stories that are all singularly connected to tell a narrative so it’s not standalone pieces- each piece is a- an actual fragmentation of the overall story. So, we wanted to traditionally tell a beginning-to-end narrative but do it with a feeling of it being an anthology film.
I think that comes across. You really understand the lives of each actor that dies- their faults, their personality, the way that they die- I thought that was very interesting.
Yeah see we wanted to, you know- we broke out each death segment and we wanted each segment to have why what’s happening is happening to them and what is it about their character that would cause something this monster to come and ultimately kill them all while staying true to the over-arching narrative and message that Hollywood is a really seedy place and who can you trust-n are your friends really your friends?
One of the first questions I had here that came out of these really creative deaths was “what came first, the deaths, or the story?”
Ooh that’s a great idea- so, the story came first. We’re true filmmakers in that respect we knew that in making this horror film we didn’t want to make a monster film or like a slasher film. We knew that we wanted like a) to tell a really interesting, creative story, and then kind of fill that in and heighten that story with how we were going to kill the characters that we had to kill. So the story came first and then because we had the story and we knew the character’s intentions, their motives and their quirks, we built certain ways- the monsters, the death segments specifically for each character.
After the first death- Zander- I was left trying to think of any kind of character death in recent films that even comes close to that.
Specifically the scene where Zander turns into a black man? That specifically was a segment I directed- and I wanted the film to have some social commentary. For me, making a film, I feel like you have a duty as a filmmaker to try to at least say something about what’s going on, whether its geo-political, cultural, whatnot, and this is obviously a huge issue in our country specifically so you know we need to have a scene and we didn’t have a scene that was realistically grounded in reality so I was like you know what? Why don’t we have the entity change his skin color and his look and have him pulled over and we’ll have him die that way as a nod to kind of the shitty treatment by police officers, especially to ethnic men and I think it came off- I don’t want to say it’s fun but I think its an interesting way to start the film out and to do it a little different from the way we did the other segments and I feel like people have responded pretty well to that, because it helps make the movie as fun and interesting as it is because you get a little bit of everything. It was a very interesting way to queue up the film and I think for the best.
Definitely jarring at the outset of the film. I also wanted to know what the decision making process is like among three filmmakers.
Oh that’s actually a great question and it’s so rare that you see three filmmakers or eve two really and usually a partnership is someone more creative, then someone else is more kind of like on the business side or dealing with something like a creative producer where someone like is working with the actors and we worked so well as a team because we all knew when to step up and when to take a backseat and let someone else kind of drive and since each segment had a different director- I directed two of the segments, Victor directed two of the segments, and Ivan directed one of the segments, and then we all shared that responsibility for the over-arching narrative- so, it really meshed very well, out creative process was seamless, we never had any tough times figuring out a creative solution. We really were able to come together as creative filmmakers and really have no ego and really ultimately do the best we could do at the time for the film and it was really a special and amazing opportunity for the film to be able to work together in that aspect and I know that we would happily work together again, given the opportunity.
When I first saw that there were three filmmakers, I first thought that it would be an interesting call, and an even more interesting movie.
Yeah and I mean I’m super bummed they couldn’t be on the call because they’re super great and it would be super nice for you to get to know them and really hear our chemistry but yeah like you were saying “what’s that gonna be like?” I think we did a really good job and like I said we work really well together. Working with Ivan and Victor was an absolute pleasure.
Well, that’s alright- I expect you’ll have more films and subsequent interviews down the line where I can talk to all three of you!
Absolutely, I hope so. If things go well as we hope then hopefully we’ll be able to get a sequel- which, then we would all be able to work together again.
One of my questions was actually “can we expect a sequel?”
Yeah absolutely, as soon as we finished production we had ideas gestating on what the sequel would be, and we pitched to each other a few of the concepts so we kind of have a roughly fleshed out idea so we would just need to sit down and uh write it out and then figure out how to make it but like I said id dead list does as well as we’ve been predicting it will then we should, have no problem getting the financing to go into production on a sequel.
What inspired the murders of struggling actors?
So, we live in Los Angeles and we’re very connected to it, obviously, so we thought you know- we wanted to make something unique, something we’re close to so we can kind of tell it as best as possible. So, we were drawn to having the underlying message of the film be Hollywood as a front is really glamorous and people have the ideology of the Oscars and you know high society but there is a seediness to Hollywood there is you know a really shitty part to it and not everyone is super nice and big smiles so we thought why don’t we tell a story about a group of actors who are not successful yet, kind of up-and-coming, and what would these guys do to get that role that would be the catalyst for their career and not have to take a second job and do this and that to make ends meet, to be able to survive off of acting alone. We put that together with the occult and conjuring an entity that takes the form of multiple monsters that ultimately kills off each of the characters and you know has the specific tie into the characters traits and when we were writing that’s what we kept returning to is to make sure that we are vising and telling the story about the underbelly of Hollywood and not the façade of it.
Would you say that these actors are then being punished for their vanity and sort of contributing to the façade?
Absolutely! For sure, most definitely. And uh that certainly comes through at the end when we realize that the main character, Cal (Deane Sullivan), is no better than the rest of them. He wrote his roommate and his friend’s name on the list, and even though they had good intention, they still had bad intentions and ended up getting punished for it. But that makes it kind of fun, right? You need to kind of show these faults and have a set-up and resolution to them so we wanted to I guess punish these actors for their shortcomings.
On some level people can relate to their struggles, but on another they’re made villains for the things that they do. So, you’re not exactly rooting for them but at the end you realize that they should probably die.
Absolutely yeah we wanted this to be a film where for 80+ minutes you’re on kind of a rollercoaster- we’re kind of a nonstop, full speed ahead you know- we wanted there to be comedic relief parts and horrifying parts and thrilling parts and sad parts so we kind of peppered all of that in so regardless of how much of a horror film fan you are and if you’re really into monsters or ghosts or psychological horrors there’s a bit of that or all those for everyone. We tried to make something that was truly entertaining and specifically for horror fans regardless of the utmost horror fan or just kind of the casual fan- it would be a really great ride for any of those watchers.
Definitely a great addition to any collection- I’m excited about it. One of my favorite things about the entire movie was really the camera work- especially the scene with the death of Scott where he kept entering and exiting the same room over and over.
Yes, well Ivan directed that scene and I can tell you a little bit about it. Ivan has always been a big fan of psychological horrors like The Twilight Zone, which is one of his favorite TV series so that segment is kind of rooted or has a lot of nostalgia and an homage to a Twilight Zone scenario where he is stuck inside of a loop and its ever closing until he kills himself. We did a lot of fun camera tricks to get those shots and that was a really fun shoot sequence when we shot that segment.
You can see that throughout the film, it make it really interesting to watch. A lot of time I felt like I was right there with them, watching.
Awesome that’s great. It makes us happy to hear that. When we are able to hear feedback when people had a positive experience that it’s so awesome to us because that is ultimately our goal. We know that we make a film that we’ll enjoy, with the goal being that everyone else watching it enjoys it as much as we do watching it or s much as we did when we made it.
Are there any other films for this year or maybe for the next year?
Ok so that is a great question- so, Victor finished the monster project before Dead List and he is working on another project right now, I don’t think it has a title Ivan is working on a few things- so he wrote a television series called McGuffins Ambition, I know that he’s got some other stuff in the works. And I’m currently working with Victor on a television series that is in postproduction finishing called scary nights. We shot that all in 360 VR so that will be an immersive experience for the viewer. It’s a kind of really trippy really awesome concept. It’s Tales From The Crypt meets Goosebumps, so we have a Cryptkeeper type character that does intros and outros each episode, and the episodes are like terrifying bedtime stories. It should be done soon, out this year for sure. In addition to that we are working on a sequel to Dead List, and I’m also in the process of pitching a few concepts for features that hopefully gain traction and will get into production mid-year.
Thank you to October Coast and Holden Andrews for granting Sinful Celluloid this interview.
Dead List is coming soon to VOD May 1st of this year, and on DVD July 3rd.
You can read my review of Dead List here.