Scott Swan is mostly known for being the co-writer of both of John Carpenter's "Masters of Horror" episodes, "Cigarette Burns" and "Pro-Life". Even though "Cigarette Burns" has reached huge success in the horror community and the fans of the show, it's not what Scott Swan will be known for in 10 years. I'm almost positive that when people talk of Scott Swan then, it will be because of "Maskhead", his directorial debut. With Fred Vogel and Toetag Pictures as producers on the film, it's bound to be something not-of-this-earth. Scott Swan was nice enough to agree on a small interview with us, and a few secrets might or might not have been revealed.
Hello and thank you for agreeing on doing this small interview.
Not a problem. I almost never pass up an opportunity to discuss my two favorite subjects: horror movies and me.
How is the production of "Maskhead" going?
Shooting is over. We might still have a few quick insert shots to get while editing, but that's it. I still can't believe it's over. I described the production recently as long and quick, if that makes any sense.
How did this project end up with Fred Vogel and Toetag Pictures as producers?
I first heard about Fred and Toetag from a friend, Jed Strahm (who just directing his first feature, "Knife Point"). He's a horror nut like me, owns thousands of movies, mostly genre stuff, and he mentioned "August Underground" one evening. We watched it and I was blown away. I googled Fred, found his website, and wrote him a brief e-mail to say how much I enjoyed his film. He wrote back, thanked me for the kind words, and also explained that he's a big fan of John Carpenter's "Cigarette Burns" (which I co-authored). And that was that. A few months later I wrote him again and suggested we collaborate on a movie. My phone number was at the bottom of the email and within twenty minutes I got a call. He said, "Let's do it."
So you're a fan of their previous films?
I'm absolutely a fan. Fred, Shelby Vogel, and Jerami Cruise are true underground/independent filmmakers... artists. They work 24/7 (atleast that's how it seems) and put everything they have into their movies: heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, you name it.
What do you hope to achieve with the movie "Maskhead"?
I hope it appeals to as many horror fans as possible. Going into it, I expected it would be a learning experience, and it was. I also hope it's well liked enough for us to go back to the well and make "Maskhead 2".
Are there any movies or directors that you've taken great influence from on this and other projects of yours?
I wear my influences fairly nakedly, at least in this particular case: John Waters, Tobe Hooper, Federico Fellini, François Truffaut, Sam Fuller, Rob Zombie. It's difficult for me not to show it.
What is it like transitioning from writer to director?
Writing is always a challenge, but directing, I found out, is a real proving ground. But hey, I didn't go to medical school, so what else am I gonna do? The thing I've learned this time out is to surround yourself with a cast and crew you enjoy hanging out with for long, frustrating hours. If the people around you are cool and are all about the art, then it makes things go a whole lot easier. Ultimately, Fred and I will share directing credit for this one (I think I'm breaking some "Maskhead" news by announcing this). He directed a number of the heavy effects driven shots and also directed some additional scenes I wrote after departing the set. I called him the other day and said, "I want you to share the directing credit with me. It's only fair." He seemed happy I felt this way. And to be totally honest, it is a Swan/Vogel collaboration in every way possible.
How has it been going from a big project like "Masters of Horror" to an independent feature?
As far as the writing goes, budget-wise, I needed to write even tighter than Masters. Yes, that is possible, no matter how impossible it might sound. But incredibly, Toetag is very resourceful and can pull off some pretty miraculous feats for very little. I'm shocked by how much we pulled off.
How do you know John Carpenter? Seeing how you worked with him on both of his episodes in "Masters of Horror".
I originally met "The Maestro" while he was scoring "Ghosts of Mars". A few years later, in 2005, he agreed to direct "Cigarette Burns". Drew McWeeny, my longtime screenwriting partner and co-author on "Cigarette Burns", has been fortunate to have quite a history with him. We did a couple production drafts of the script, then were then invited by John to the set to observe filmming, which was a real treat. Then we made "Pro-Life" together and repeated the whole process, and this time working even closer with him. We're friendly, but most of our time together has been spent professionally. John's a wonderful human being, genuine and nurturing. There isn't a false bone in his body. He's also a hell of a filmmaker, as we all know.
Do you have any bits of information that you would be willing to leak to tease the fans a little more?
This movie contains transvestites, fisting, and genital mutilation. So be sure to bring the kids.
Do you have any plans at all what you are gonna do after "Maskhead"?
I told Fred and the gang I want to come back to Pittsburgh and direct another. No objections were raised. I have a few ideas, but haven't settled on which one yet.
Final question, will there be any of the famous Toetag Pictures' gore?
There's an incredible amount of gore in this film. Some of the images are shocking, actually. There's about 8 or 9 deaths, each one dramatically different. There's a lot of variety. From my perscpective, purely as a fan, Toe Tag does gore like no other. They go that extra mile. There were a few instances during prep when I said, "We can just cheat it. We don't need to go the extra mile." The response was always a resounding, "No, we will go the extra mile. We will deliver the goods. It's got to be the best." We may not have had a lot of money on this one, but nothing was ever half-assed, and everybody gave it their all. That's what underground/independent filmmaking is all about, right?
Thanks again for taking your time with us!
For more info about Scott Swan, go here.
For info regarding Toetag Pictures, go here.