Poisoning Michigan: Interview with filmmaker Daniel D. Smith

Poisoning Michigan: Interview with filmmaker Daniel D. Smith

Ever wondered what it would be like to drop everything and pursue the career you really wanted? Daniel D. Smith, co-creator of Poison Apple Entertainment, found himself leaving behind a forklift and picking up a camera. Situated in Michigan, home of Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi, this up-and-coming production company is staffed by passionate Mid-West filmmakers with a love of the horror genre. Now with three short horror films under their belt, Poison Apple is quickly expanding with some projects to watch out for. If you are interested in checking out some new talent or want to hear an inspiring story, then you’ll enjoy this interview with Dan.

Dan Smith, co-creator of Poison Apple Entertainment

The Blood Sprayer (TBS): What types of films and filmmakers inspired you growing up? What inspires you now?

Daniel Smith (DS): When I was growing up films like Evil Dead, Frankenstein, The Shining or any of the Friday the 13th films, basically never left the VCR. I had always dreamed of making films like these. My role models back then were guys like Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, Stanley Kubrick, and Tim Burton. My inspirations haven’t changed much but now I understand how a film is made and all the hard work that is put into making a piece of art. So I have a whole new respect for these films and filmmakers.

TBS: Did you make home movies as a kid? What were they like?

DS: When we were younger, my friends and I made dozens of home movies. They were all generally horror or science fiction. We would come up with these crazy ideas like rabid kittens eating people and would just film my cat walking around the house. Or a possessed friend obsessed with killing his friends in ridiculous ways. (We made like 5 sequels). Yep, filmmaking has always been in my life.

TBS: What led to your decision to attend film school? Were you concerned that it might not be the most practical career?

DS: I use to work for a General Motors distribution center. I worked there for 8 years, driving a forklift, 12+ hours a day. It was the greatest example of a dead end job. Every year we were laid off 2 weeks in the winter and 2 weeks in the summer. This job was killing me mentally and physically. I thought I was stuck there forever. In the summer of 2009, we were facing a much longer lay off period because General Motors was basically bankrupt. I took the time I had off to figure out what to do with my life. I began looking into going back to school. With the encouragement and support from my girlfriend, I finally decided to leave my job and go to film school. At this point I didn’t care if it was a practical career choice. I would make it work. I was ready to make sacrifices to be happy again.

TBS: How did you and David, co-owner of Poison Apple, meet?

DS: I met David in film school. We were in the same video editing class. Mitch, Adam, and Dan also attended the same school. Nicole, my girlfriend for 8 years, and I work well together so I asked her to join as well.

From horror-comedy "Hallowed End"

TBS: Where did the name “Poison Apple” come from?

DS: David, Nicole, and I were sitting in some 24 hour restaurant. We were trying to come up with a company name so we could finally get our LLC. David was looking at a ketchup bottle and said, “Hey how about Rotten Tomatoes?”. I told him that was already taken. Then I blurted out Poison Apple. Right there, the three of us agreed on the name and Poison Apple Entertainment was born.

TBS: Describe the process of putting together Poison Apple’s first film, A Night of Malice?

DS: Motor City Nightmares, a horror convention in Michigan, was coming up. I got word that they had a few contests, one being the Indie Short Contest. The rules were the short film had to be 10 minutes or less and you had to pick a word from a list provided by Motor City Nightmares. Whether the word was in the title of the film, spoken in the film, etc. the word had to be apart of the film. David pick the word, “Malice”, and wrote a story based around the word. We put together a very small crew and filmed it at David’s house. “A Night of Malice” was a winner of the Indie Short Contest.

TBS: How has your company grown since its first production?

DS: The company has grown immensely. One rule that I set in this company was that each production must be better than the previous. We went from a crew of six people, cheap handle held camcorders, and a flood light to a crew of thirty people, HD cameras, and professional lights. We have hosted our own film festival and showcased some of Michigan’s best short films. In April, we will have our own table at this year’s Motor City Nightmares. Poison Apple is growing every day.

The set of "The Lumberjack"

TBS: How do you find cast and crew for your productions? Is this a challenge in Michigan?

DS: Most of the crew I’ve worked with have been graduates from my film school. We are all willing to scratch each other’s back. Sometimes I can just post on Poison Apple’s facebook page or craigslist. There are usually four or five new faces on each film we make. We treat our cast and crew like kings and queens and in return we have worked with some of the greatest people in the industry. I’ve heard we have the best craft services in Michigan. Hahaha. My goal is to make Poison Apple unlike any other film company.

For the cast, Poison Apple’s Nicole Truett is our Casting Director. I leave all auditions, call backs, and casting to her. She has found some of the most talented people in Michigan and I could not thank her enough for all her hard work.

I definitely do not find it a challenge to find cast and crew in Michigan. This state is becoming the new Hollywood more and more every day.

TBS: Do you feel that it is a limitation or a blessing to be located so far from Hollywood

DS: I think it’s a blessing. Hollywood seems overcrowded with so many people trying to get in the industry. You don’t have much of a chance out there. I think Michigan’s film industry is very new and we have a chance to make it a better place to film.

TBS: You wrote, directed, produced, and edited “The Lumberjack.” Could you describe the experience of taking on all these roles?

DS: I loved every minute of it. Getting the chance to see something I wrote come to life was incredible. I knew exactly how this film should look and feel to get my point across. Being the director and editor helped that goal. Producing the film was insane. Trying to find the money, catering, location, crew, etc. was a great experience for me. It gave me the chance to see what I could do and I would love to keep it that way.

Poison Apple's upcoming late-night horror show

TBS: What is Poison Apple currently working on? What’s Horror Theatre with Stoney K all about?

DS: We currently have a ton of projects in the works. Poison Apple has been hired by Main Attraction Pictures to film a short film in February. We are getting our comedy/horror variety show, Horror Theatre with Stoney K off the ground. The pilot episode is finished and we are currently looking for a network to air late at night. The Lumberjack DVD will be for sale on amazon.com in a matter of weeks. A Night of Malice and Hallowed End will be on DVD shortly after. We also already have submissions for this year’s second annual Poison Apple Film Festival.

TBS: Any other major plans for the future? A feature film perhaps?

DS: You bet! This year we will be making our first and second feature films. We are currently looking for investors to help fund the two films. We have our own table at Motor City Nightmares and planning for the Poison Apple Film Festival will begin soon. Poison Apple will have one hell of a busy year.

If you’d like to learn more about Poison Apple Entertainment, then take a look at their website: www.poisontheapple.com. You can get updates on their latest films, view trailers for their shorts, and if you’re in the Michigan area, you can even apply for crew positions! If you’d like to check out the DVD for The Lumberjack, you can pick it up here.

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