Exclusive Interview: Cut! director David Rountree
By Andreas Charalambous - 31st March 2015
Following our recent film review of the impressive Cut!, we caught up with David Rountree to discuss his experience of writing, directing and starring in this refreshing horror outing.
We Heart Horror: What were some of your film influences, growing up?
David Rountree: I have quite a range of movies that served as a horror influence, but I think my taste may have been formulated by what was going on in my life when I first saw it. Growing up, I loved Savage Steve Holland’s comedy One Crazy Summer. That movie gives me fond memories of hanging out with my younger brother as we used to quote it all the time. The nostalgia of movies Bull Durham, Major League, and Stallone’s Over the Top remind me of my best friend, as we would imitate key scenes on the baseball field or arm wrestling with each other. As I got older, I began to appreciate other movies like A Few Good Men and Shawshank Redemption.
Once I began writing, I enjoyed smart stories that were peppered throughout with clues like some of Alfred Hitchcock’s films or Seven and 12 Monkeys. Now that I have a 3 year old daughter, I find myself watching and getting hooked into movies like Frozen, although I’m not sure if I should admit that here.
When writing something in the horror genre, I think that all of those genres combined have influenced my style. I like the rawness of movies like Rob Zombie’s Halloween and Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which Cut! has at times, but it also has quite a bit of dark comedy throughout the journey.
WHH: How did you come develop the concept of Cut!?
DR: Cut! originally began when a major studio was showing interest in a comedy film David Banks (Cut! co-writer/lead actor) and I had written. Instead of waiting to see if that film would go, Banks and I decided to just go for it and shoot this one in the meantime.
It proved to be a good decision as the other film ended up not moving forward at that time.
The origin was mostly an outline of plot points and conceptual ideas, but the more time we spent, the more developed things became. It was an extremely fun time of unlimited creativity. Of course, some of the earlier ideas were better than others. If someone is expecting a gore-fest of a horror film, I don’t think this is the right movie, but if they are into a dark, twisted satirical journey into the independent world of making a scary movie, where the intelligence sneaks up on you, then it might be right up their ally.
WHH: In an age where the horror genre is saturated with ‘found footage’ films, Cut! could so easily have gone down the same path. Were you consciously ensuring that Cut! wouldn’t turn out to be yet another 'found footage' film?
DR: The first idea was to shoot a quickly produced 'found footage' film. We were going to have one very well-polished opening scene where the pair decide to make a fake 'found footage'-type of movie then shift to an all hand-held POV camera; however, after showing our distributor the opening scene and receiving such solid feedback, we were asked if the entire movie was going to look this good.
Banks and I then decided that, if we actually took time to do this right, we may have something special. This of course, changed our first idea of “knocking it out in a week or so” to something that ended up taking a couple of years. We actually scrapped the completed opening scene and began from the top again… a true “take two.”
WHH: The casting for Cut! was very interesting. We mentioned in our review that it was a nice blend of choices - including a nod to classic horror nostalgia with the casting of Suze Lanier-Bramlett and Dee Wallace’s daughter, Gabrielle Stone. Was this intentional?
DR: David Banks and I were huge fans of The Hills Have Eyes when we were younger and having the opportunity to play off of that was so much fun and a terrific experience. Suze Lanier-Bramlett was our first choice. Her manager, Eileen O’Farrell, also rep’d myself and David Banks, which opened up the connection. This led to the idea of teaming her up with Dee Wallace as a true homage to their prior Hills Have Eyes teamwork.
Dee was working on another film at the time and was not available, but her daughter was. I was not familiar with Gabrielle’s work prior to Cut! but she came in a did a great job in front of the camera.
WHH: How did you find the challenge of balancing acting and directorial duties simultaneously?
DR: Coming from a personal acting background, I feel that, when directing, I empathise with the actors. To me, that is very important because as every student in school learns in different ways, every actor should be approached differently to get the best performance possible. Film is the visual art of story-telling and without being able to find a way to have chemistry within your cast, the story will be a hard sell. That was my main focus. I wanted to, first and foremost, make sure our actors could work well together. Knowing Banks so well really helped our personal chemistry, making my job in front of the camera much easier. I think that we completely trust each other on set and do everything we can to make the other shine in a scene. I also had complete trust in the crew, which gave an allowance of comfortability when in front of the camera.
WHH: Could you give us an update on how Cut! is doing right now?
DR: Cut! won the Award of Excellence for Best Film, Best Director, Best Leading Actor (David Banks) and the Award of Merit for Audio at the 2014 Indie Fest Film Festival and was named by mrankings.com (Movie Rankings) as one of the Top 5 Horror Films of the year. It has also just been accepted into the 2015 FANtastic Horror Film Festival in San Diego and is already out on several US VOD sight including Comcast, Verizon Fios, and Xfinitity. The DVD, which has tons of extras including deleted scenes, bonus footage, and commentary, is available through Amazon and many of the remaining local DVD rental stores in the US.
WHH: What is next for Psycho Rock Productions - Are you involved in any exciting upcoming projects?
DR: I am set to direct the psychological thriller Impure and the fantasy/thriller The Inn at the Mist in 2016, but am currently working on the paranormal thriller Garrett Manor for the late Spring of 2015. Garrett Manor will be set in the same plantation house where the movie Deadline was filmed, which was, unfortunately, Brittany Murphy’s final film. I am also Executive Producing The Body Defenders, which is an incredibly fun and original Sci-Fi, 3D Animated feature being put together by Patrick Garcia out of South Africa.