WHH: You both co-directed Mortal Remains, documenting your journey to finding out about the legend of Karl Atticus. How did you first stumble upon the legend?
Christian Stavrakis: We had heard for years – both in fiction and by word-of-mouth – the legends of the horror film that supposedly drove its audience into a frenzy. Many East-Coast filmmakers (particularly in the mid-Atlantic region and the Maryland film community, specifically) are familiar with the name Karl Atticus, though very few of them remember why or are willing to speak about the man himself. Almost anyone who is familiar with the name, will simply refuse to discuss him, while others display a more pointed or vehement response. So it was with no small amount of determination and perseverance that we were able to get people to share their memories with us.
WHH: What motivated you guys to picking up the camera and going on this voyage of discovery?
CS: The promise of fabulous wealth and riches! (both laugh).
Seriously though, like us - when people hear the story of Atticus and his film, they are intrigued about the legend of Karl Atticus. We heard the story about this guy from Maryland who made a movie that provoked some kind of a violent outburst, and then he disappeared afterwards. It was fascinating, so we sort of went from there.
WHH: Mortal Remains has been described as a "shockumentary"; a "meta-thriller"; a "docu-thriller.” What would you call the film?
Mark Ricche: Let’s forget labels for a moment. Instead, just go to our Kickstarter page and watch the first five minutes of the film. This prelude will provide you insight into the legend of Karl Atticus and will also leave you hungry for more.
By that point, you shouldn't much care what genre or label the film is coined under. You'll just want to learn more about this apparent madman whose films may have inspired a generation of movie makers.
Exclusive Interview: Cryptic Pictures' Christian Stavrakis and Mark Ricche
By Andreas Charalambous - 2nd January 2014
The driving forces behind Cryptic Pictures, Mark Ricche (left) and Christian Stavrakis (right) speak exclusively about their award-winning film, Mortal Remains, and their close collaboration with WeHeartHorror.com in bringing Mortal Remains to London for its international premiere.
WHH: In your quest to uncover the details of Atticus’ life, do you believe that his creative legacy has been truly suppressed somehow?
CS: That’s a difficult question to answer, mainly because there was so little information available to begin with. What bits and pieces we were able to ascertain, we shared online in an effort to build a coherent body of information on this man and his accomplishments. Inevitably, this information ended up on certain non-profit websites, where a sort of shadowy outline began to take shape - a timeline began to coalesce. And then, whoosh – someone, somewhere, pulled the plug and the information was deleted.
It has happened more than once, with what appears to be several people taking part in the suppression of information relating to Karl Atticus, taking it to such extremes as
decrying the whole thing as a “blatant hoax” or “viral marketing.” It’s become apparent that the only way to maintain any sort of active database of this information is to set up our own archive at karlatticus.com, where it will hopefully be safe from any interference short of outright hacking.
WHH: You mention the influence of the internet - How has the film industry changed with the advent of the internet, social media and such advances in technology?
MR: The very first step in making a movie is making a movie. Forget social media, the internet, etc. It all boils down to actually making a film. That hasn't changed since the birth of the industry.
Chris and I foolishly convinced ourselves years ago that it was virtually impossible to break into the “old boys’ club” known as Hollywood, unless you, (A) lived in Los Angeles, and (B) knew the right people. So we kind of gave up on our dreams. Then, we saw the creators of The Blair Witch Project reach worldwide success, and that changed the game for us. We realised that the only difference between them and us was that they did it - they made a movie. And we said, "Well, we can do that." And so we did. "Build it and they will come." That is always step one.
Then there is step two - reaching your audience. When you don't have the likes of a Hollywood-sized, multi-million-dollar advertising campaign, how do you reach the masses? Then along came social media which is a force to be reckoned with. I mean, it has been known to be the driving force behind toppling governments.
These sites are fantastic marketing tools. Combined with a little ingenuity, they can truly help to propel a good film. But in the end, you are still going to need a strong product worthy of building a fan base. So artists should still focus on the same basics that the forefathers of the industry always have. Create a strong story, appropriately execute it and be clever in your advertising campaign. Regardless of whether it’s 1974 or 2014, the principles are the same. Social media is merely a conduit. We all still need to produce a worthwhile product. When you look at it that way, not much has changed.
WHH: The film has won several awards - What has been the general reaction from audiences in the United States?
CS: Thankfully, the response to our film has been overwhelmingly positive, and has received its share of accolades.
It has certainly been warmly received at the (US) festivals we went to – primarily I guess, because they were horror-themed festivals. However, one of the festivals - The Three Rivers Festival (in Pittsburgh) - is not. They typically go out of their way to present foreign art-house features or low-key, character-driven Hollywood stuff, not the next summer blockbuster. For us to get in there as an independent horror movie, was kind of a big deal, and everyone there seemed to have enjoyed it. We had people coming in from as far as New York to see this film. One guy in particular said that it was clear how much care went into the making of it, and he’s right. It was as fun for us to make, as it was for them to watch.
People are gratified and pleased to see an “old-school” horror film – made by people who are passionate about and respectful of the genre – make its way onto the screen amid the usual, nonstop glut of derivative, corporate studio fare.
What’s even more gratifying is that many people who saw the film “cold” – and by that I mean, with no prior knowledge of its subject - came away with extremely encouraging comments, indicating that we had hit the story on the head, so to speak, that we had really produced a satisfying picture, which is the highest compliment. If we’ve succeeded in satisfying such discerning horror fans, then we’ve really accomplished what we set out to do.
WHH: Mark, you mentioned “building it and they will come” and reaching out to a fan base - tell our readers a little more about this new campaign we have begun, which will bring Mortal Remains overseas to London audiences.
MR: There is a rather long and interesting story behind the genesis of the campaign. Our collaboration with WeHeartHorror.com in getting this project off the ground, was months in the making. It’s important to point out that we are aware that there is foreign interest in Mortal Remains. We have many Twitter followers who keep asking us, "When are you going to share this film with audiences overseas?" and London is our first attempt at trying to satisfy that demand. They’ve expressed great interest in the legend of Karl Atticus, and so we devised a way to bring his story to them.
WHH: Finally, what does the future hold for both Cryptic Pictures and Mortal Remains?
MR: As Chris mentioned earlier, we are jazzed by the response we have received so far. It has been the fans that have carried us on this journey and it will be the fans that decide our next move.
Following our London pilot Kickstarter campaign with WeheartHorror.com, we are looking at implementing similar campaigns that will enable us to take Mortal Remains to a variety of other markets - both within and outside of the United States - and we hope that the word about the film spreads from there. Ultimately, the fans will decide where we go next…and those willing to contribute to this historic Kickstarter campaign will be the first to have their say!