SEA OF DUST director Scott Bunt is readying for the DVD release of his debut feature on August 10th. You can read my review of the film here. Scott took time to answer some questions and supply the Blood Sprayer with some exclusive behind the scenes photographs of the cast & crew.
You can get your DVD copy through Amazon by clicking here.
SEA OF DUST is a revisit to Hammer Horror films of almost 50+ years ago. What do you feel is the appeal for today’s audiences?
There’s a sense of visual style and adventure to the films of the sixties that doesn’t seem to exist anymore. But it’s important that people know we didn’t just recreate a Gothic horror film. For all its wacky flights of fancy, SEA is about timeless issues.
Your wife Pauline served as co-producer of the film and you even killed her daughter on screen in a memorable opening sequence. How was it working so closely on this film? Would you do it again?
It’s not often you get to torture or kill your family on set, unless you’re Dario Argento. Megan actually saved the film by coming in at the last minute, after we had to fire a well-known soap actress who was supposed to do the part. But having Megan there, having Pauline there, was a great source of comfort and emotional support. Unlike a lot of sets, we strove to create a family atmosphere for everyone we dealt with. It was the way Hammer did things and we wanted to pay more than just stylistic lip service to their memory.
How did this film gain its financing? What plans did you have to maximize your budget? What elements would you change if you had a larger budget for this film?
Every filmmaker would enjoy having more money, if only because it allows them more time. That’s the key, really. I will tell you, however, that advances in technology would have enabled us to finish the picture now for much less than what it cost then. The only plan we had to maximize the budget was to put every cent on the screen.
There are scenes of explicit violence in your film, but no nudity. Isn’t that half the fun of Hammer Horror? What gives?
It’s hard to believe that the violence in Hammer’s early films was once considered an affront to decency. Today’s kids would find that laughable. And although nudity has come to be associated with Gothic cinema, it really didn’t become prominent until the latter half of the sixties. There’s more skin in your average music video than in Hammer’s entire oeuvre. So, the lack of nudity was a conscious decision. We felt that there was so much exploitation of women in low-budget horror films that it had reached ludicrous proportions and we didn’t want to be part of it.
Parts of the film were shot out of sequence, such as much of the beach scenes in a later season. What challenges did this present?
The main problems with the beach scenes involved the weather. We were plagued by tropical storms and tornadoes for the duration of the shoot, but this was something else altogether.
The sand had literally been scoured away by the time we got our first shot off and there were concerns about dangerous currents and hypothermia (this was October). I can still remember Celina Murk (the Siren) rushing about, seeing to the comfort of our crew, drying their feet with towels, which was incredible because her costume was nothing more than a few pieces of fabric and she had been standing in the cold for hours.
What were some of the on-set lessons you learned that can’t be offered in any film school?
Never underestimate the physical toll. I made the mistake of trying to be superman, more out of low-budget necessity than choice, and my health suffered accordingly. You can only go so many days without sleep in ninety degree heat before fatigue begins to cloud your judgment. Someone once told me that the most important thing about being a director was making sure you had a comfortable chair and they were probably right.
How did the casting of your film come about? What stories can you offer from working with Ingrid Pitt and Tom Savini?
It was important for us to have ties to the original Gothic horror films we were paying tribute to, which is how Ingrid became involved. Tom and I really developed a relationship after the shoot.
You have some amazing locations and sets in your film. How were they chosen?
Pauline and I spent months scouting and securing locations before production began, but even the best laid plans don’t always come to fruition. We were still looking for several on our off-days. We’d literally spend six days shooting, with only a couple hours of sleep a night, and then spend the seventh driving all over New York and New Jersey searching for missing locations. I vividly remember spending four hours stuck in a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge during one of these expeditions. Our only day off and there we were, completely exhausted, nearly delirious, stuck breathing fumes when we could have been catching up on precious sleep.
SEA OF DUST has a different approach on organized religion, to say the least. What was the genesis for the characters besides Prester John? Is there an underlying message to walk away with after viewing this or am I over-thinking with my popcorn?
I get asked about this a lot. In retrospect, there’s no doubt that we were a bit heavy-handed, but SEA was never intended to be mean spirited. It’s actually a spiritual film that asks how religion can be subverted for such evil purpose? I never looked at Prester John as a bad guy. He was just the embodiment of a judgmental belief system. As Troy (Holland) nicely put it, any time you blindly accept an ideology, political or otherwise, you’re sanctioning abuse.
Of all the death scenes in the movie, what’s your favorite?
My personal favorite was the head explosion that opens the film, because I was told that it was impossible to achieve in the fashion I designed it. It cost us a car window, that effect. A junkie smashed it out to get to Pauline’s purse while we were shooting the test footage.
As an independent filmmaker, what can you share about the process of post production and distribution?
Both have changed exponentially in the last two years, which was part of what took SEA so long to get to market. Post-production has become more affordable, if you know where you can cut the proper corners. But distribution has become a nightmare. With the collapse of the world markets came the collapse of the distribution system. It’s going to be interesting to see where things go from here, especially with direct delivery.
Are there plans for a sequel?
Good god, no.
What’s the next project you are involved in?
As I’ve previously indicated, these are unpredictable times for the film industry. Investors are scared. MGM has gone bankrupt. Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro can’t even get the financing to make THE HOBBIT, so what kind of chance does that give the independent filmmaker? I spent two years working with Worlds Away on this amazing, scary-fun monster movie, populating it with genre stars like Tom and Cerina Vincent, talking with WETA about the creature effects, only to have the financing repeatedly evaporate. I then spent months developing the next installment in a long-running horror franchise, only to have that collapse because of issues with the rights. It was frustrating, because both would have been financial winners. But I’m in a better place now. I just started a cool little project that has been able to bypass these pitfalls.