McDonald previously worked on a Channing Tatum film “Son of No One”, as a production assistant. Today’s he’s standing behind the wheel, making his very own “Lucifer’s Angels” – “a smart, refreshing horror film that pays homage to classic horror”.
The story of the film goes like this: A group of friends go on their first camping trip together in the Catskill Mountains. Also, a ghost hunter from New York City and his fiance, travel to the same mountains hoping to research and record any paranormal phenomenon. All of them unknowingly entering into a world of evil. Meanwhile, a father and son who live in the eerie woods are forced to make life or death decisions. The story progresses as some of the friends start mysteriously disappearing, and wind up tortured and murdered in horrifying ways.
“I wanted to create a story with depth, something that had meaning. I wanted the audience to watch the film and feel for the characters, and come away with something after leaving the theater. That’s when you know you did your job,” McDonald told BZFilm.
McDonald noted that there are “too many cheesy, typical b-horror films with lackluster plots”, where no one cares for the characters.
“That’s what I wanted to stay away from. Even with practically no-budget, I knew with todays technology and the right story, it’s still possible to make a good film that people will want to watch,” he said.
There were of course influences. McDonald revealed his, which were: John Carpenter’s “Halloween”, “The Exorcist”, Rob Zombies “Devils Rejects”, and classic Vincent Price films.
“And I know it doesn’t fit the genre, but Peter Jackson’s “The Two Towers”. I love the editing and storytelling in that film. The cross cutting between the three storylines is perfect,” he added.
“We also pay homage to various horror icons throughout the film. They are subtly sprinkled in. I won’t reveal the exact locations just yet, but true horror fans will be able to spot them,” he smiled.
“The film was made on a very micro budget basically out of whatever we had in our pockets between four principal crew members whom are all family and four friends,” McDonald said, speaking about the production of “Lucifer’s angels.”
“We all wore multiple hats, most actors played 2 roles, while being PA’s. When someone was done shooting their take, they would jump in to hold the boom pole, or help move a light, and so on,” he said. “A lot of heart and soul was put into the production, everyone was very dedicated.”
Regarding post-production, everything was the same – using all the available resources to the maximum.
“In the editing room the post production team has basically consisted of myself. I also had a friend come by to assist and be my “second eye” but that’s about it. I’ve been, editing, recording foleys, and ADR, sound editing, color correcting, and doing visual FX myself,” McDonald said.
He said because of the film, everyone involved have grown much closer, as a family.
“We originally wrote the script in 2009, shot some scenes in 2009 and the majority in 2010. Then we looked at what we had and were unsatisfied, so we went back and rewrote 80 percent of the script, and scrapped all the footage,” McDonald said. “We began re-shooting in Summer of 2011 and finished principal photography in June 2012. All this with everyone working full time jobs, so we’d shoot mostly on weekends here and there.”
So what about promotion once the film is ready? McDonald says he plans to promote the film at as many festivals as possible throughout 2014.
“Of course in the coming weeks we plan to carefully prepare a plan of action for the top festivals we are gunning for. We have already submitted a rough cut to Sundance, but are very excited for the horror festivals in October 2014. Toronto After Dark, and the NYC Horror Film Festival, to name a few,” he said.
McDonald admitted that social media platforms helped him a lot, while working on “Lucifer angels”. In particular he was able to get people to work on his production, without even meeting with them.
“Throughout the post production process I have met some wonderful talent and collaborators through the use of social media. We found our composer, audio engineer and mixer, original bands who want to donate music, all through social media sites,” he said.
“All these new members of the production have never met, nor have I met them in person. We have been able to utilize the power of new technologies like Facetime to set up spotting sessions, meetings, and interviews.”
“We also just recently recorded a 15 year old girl with a brilliant voice to provide some vocals on a piece our composer wrote. The composer (John DelVento) wasn’t there in person, but he was able to direct our singer (Emilee) through a FaceTime session,” McDonald said.
McDonald shared how he worked on “Son of No One”, and one conclusion that can be made here is that hard work is the key to success, one way or another.
“The biggest thing I learned was how much hard work goes into every shot, and every take. I remember one take in particular. We just had to get a shot of the great Al Pacino walking up to the entrance of a building and looking up at the window. The shot in the film may have lasted 3-5 seconds, yet it took us 3 hours to get the shot,” McDonald said.
“The same thing went for “Lucifer’s Angels”, we did take after take for every shot. I wanted as much coverage as possible.”
Speaking of tips and advices for starting filmmakers, McDonald said one doesn’t need to look amateur – instead focus on going the other way.
“I would tell amateur filmmakers this. Don’t shoot to be amateur, make something as professional as possible with the resources you have. When you do that, you are not an amateur, you are an independent filmmaker,” he explained.
He said that the “hardest part in making a real film is the fact that you do need more than just yourself to complete it”.
“It starts with a core group of friends and family that share the same passion as you. They may never have the same passion as you for the project, but you need people with passion and dedication. If I didn’t have that core group of dedicated friends and family, the film never would have been made,” he said. “And never give up on your project.”
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