After graduating from Emerson college in Boston Adam Deyoe moved to Los Angeles to work on film. His most recent work Dead Season,
released by Image Entertainment on July 31st of 2012, represents a major step on his rise up the Hollywood success ladder. Adam takes time out of his busy schedule to conduct this exclusive detailed interview with Dan's Movie Report, and describes some of the highs and lows of independent filmmaking focusing on Dead Season.
How did the idea of Dead Season materialize?
The idea for “Dead Season” came about (as many ideas do) in a bar. I was in Puerto Rico with Loren Semmens, the other producer of the film, scouting locations for a completely different movie that we had written together, a comedy titled “Boat Island.” In the script for “Boat Island” it called for a deserted tropical island. We planned on making that particular film but didn’t have quite enough money to do it right. Our idea was to go see the island and then adapt the script to what we found there to cut costs.
The island of Vieques is located off the east coast of Puerto Rico and nestled nicely within the Bermuda triangle. We went to that particular island because we had a free place to stay thanks to the generous filmmaker John Cameron Mitchell. It also sounded as if it had exactly what we were looking for - deserted beaches. What we didn’t know until we arrived was what else it had… Abandoned hotels engulfed in jungle, underground tunnels, military bunkers, rusted trains, an abandoned coliseum, cliffs and extremely helpful locals.
One night after spending the day at the beach and going over the script for “Boat Island” we went to the local bar and started a conversation with a few new friends we had made over the last few days. Loren and I mentioned how bummed we were that if we made “Boat Island” we wouldn’t have been able to utilize all of the amazing military locations and abandoned buildings due to the fact it takes place on a deserted island. That’s when I said, “Too bad we’re not making a zombie movie.” Then we all started talking. “There can be military guys… and they use the bunkers… and then they go to the tunnels… then there can be a crashed boat…” and it went on and on.
We decided then and there that we would make a zombie film instead and put off “Boat Island” for another day. It was also the moment the title “Dead Season” was born. One of the guys we had made friends with mentioned how we needed to make the film during “dead season” when no tourists were on the island. Dead season is another term for the off peak season, but for a zombie film it has many meanings.
How about the screenplay? There were two other writers, how did the writing process transpire? How was the collective effort?
We had a very narrow window of time to make the film. We didn’t have the money to postpone the movie and do pre production a second time after setting up “Boat Island” so we had to just go! The location scout of Vieques was only a little more than a month before we were to ship out for principle photography, so in that time we had to write the script, gather the crew, get most of the financing and cast it, among about ten-thousand other things. This is where having three writers came in handy.
Did you have a location idea as the screenplay was written?
The entire screenplay was based on what we saw on our location scout. We literally wrote out ideas for scenes as we drove and hiked around the island. It was all very practical and “producery.” I would say, “…if we shot in this particular location we wouldn’t be able to get the truck in.” Then Loren would say, “OK, fuck it… lets write the scene to take place in the jungle over there instead.” It was all based on the island!
How long did the screenplay take to write?
We wrote it primarily in one month as we did pre production. As we shot we were re-writing every night and even on set with the actors. Since we had no leeway in our schedule we had to do it like this. It was not ideal by any means! Since Loren and I were also producing we brought on our friend Josh Klausner to work on it with us. We presented him our idea and basically stayed up for a month straight working on it forty hours a day between us. We love writing with each other, but if I had to do it again I would never rush the way we did. We all went insane from lack of sleep.
Did you have a specific company in mind to send the completed Dead Season final draft to, or was the process more arduous?
We had no specific plans on what we were going to do with the film when we were done with it. We mainly wanted to go the festival route and see where that took us, but after our first screening of the film for buyers we got offers right away. It usually doesn’t happen like that, so I guess we really lucked out. The process though was very difficult and time consuming setting everything up on our own. We were completely new to this and had no money to have people help us. It was quite a learning experience. Now Image Entertainment has it and we really like what they’ve done!
Above Pic: Adam (far right) at 2010 AFM being presented an award by lovely actress Tara Cardinal.
Above Pic: Adam (far right) at 2010 AFM being presented an award by lovely actress Tara Cardinal.
How about the casting, chat at length about the casting process, how you found the various leads for Dead Season?
We didn’t have much time to get the casting done nor did we have the money. We relied mainly on recommendations from friends and using casting websites as quickly as possible… even Craigslist.
Corsica Wilson who played Rachel Conrad was the first person cast. I had met her six months prior on another movie I worked on doing sound called “Clair”. We hit it off and became friends. The part was not written with her in mind but as soon as we started the casting process I knew I wanted her. She lived in Florida at the time and had to do her audition over skype. It was convenient though since Puerto Rico is so close to Florida so we saved some money on plane tickets. That was the main reason she was cast… Just kidding!
James C. Burns who played Kurt Conrad came in to audition and we also hit it off right away. On his resume I noticed he had been in a film called “My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?” by one of my favorite filmmakers Werner Herzog. I asked James what it was like to do the film and gushed about my love for Herzog. After he left we knew we had to have him. I could direct a man that was directed by Herzog!
Scott Peat who played Elvis was a recommendation from Loren’s friend. We saw Scott audition and he did it unlike anyone else. He surprised us after seeing so much of the same. We brought him in to read with a few other people as well and he seemed to always bring something fun and new to the lines. We needed that!
Marissa Merrill who played Tweeter had probably the most bizarre casting process of all. It is a long story that will seem like it is going nowhere, but please bear with me. The first day of the shoot was drawing near and we still hadn’t found our girl. Loren and I were starting to worry. We had seen so many people for Tweeter and no one was working out. After he put up one more desperate Craigslist ad we decided to take a break and look at funny videos on-line to lighten the mood. After watching cats and corgis do silly things for a bit we started talking about a filmmaker we knew of from back in Boston (where we went to school) who made some really odd stuff and decided to look them up. We found their website and started clicking around on their videos. One video in particular made us laugh so hard we thought we were going to die. It was a fan video of Friday the 13th… and it was ridiculous. It started with girls kissing, getting naked, standing by a white van, and then getting killed by Jason. One of the actresses was hilariously bad and had a very silly fake name (I’ll call her Red Rosey Petal for now, since that is similar enough) and we watched her scenes over and over again until our eyes bled tears of joy. I can’t express in writing how amazingly awful it was. After that we moved on to a trailer to another film. This one looked really bad as well but the girl in the trailer caught my eye. I turned to Loren and said, “That girl there. She is the type of girl I want for Tweeter. I want someone exactly like that. She is perfect!” Loren agreed but we couldn’t figure out what her name was and we went back to writing.
The next morning I woke up on Loren’s couch with the laptop next to me after about an hour of sleep. Loren and I had to run an errand over at the SAG office, so we got up and headed out the door. As we drove back from SAG to Loren’s apartment I noticed a white van heading towards me in the other lane. I said, “That looks just like the van from the awful Friday the 13th video we watched last night.” As it got closer I said, “Hey the girl in that van looks like the girl from the awful Friday the 13th video we watched last night too.” Loren said, “I think it IS her!” We both stopped in traffic right next to each other. I rolled down my window and made her roll down hers and asked, ‘Hey, were you in a Friday the 13th fan video?” Shocked, she replied, “Yes…” I said back, “Is your name Red Rosey Petal?” She replied, “I am! You are the first person ever to recognize me in my entire life!” Then the light changed and we drove away as she watched us dumbfounded. Loren and I laughed like crazy at the odds that the girl from the random video we watched the night before would happen to pull up next to us the next day. We drove back to the apartment.
Once inside, Loren sat down and checked his e-mail. We had received only one reply from any of the ads we put up the night before. The girl who responded was named Marissa Merrill and she had seen our post on Craigslist. We clicked on her resume and a link to some of the things she was in. It brought us directly to the website we had been looking at the night before. She was the girl I had randomly pointed to and said, “She is the type of girl I want for Tweeter. She is perfect!” Out of all the people in the entire world… I pointed at ONE and the next day that ONE girl whose name I didn’t even know was the only person to respond to our ad. AND the other girl whose video we watched pulled up next to us in her van. Needless to say Marissa got the part.
Were there any Dead Season casting nightmares? Bizarre stories?
No real nightmares, but the oddest thing was something I did while auditioning Marissa for Tweeter. Meeting with her was quite last minute and we didn’t have an office anymore to cast out of so we agreed to meet at her apartment and I would bring a video camera to record her audition. Originally her character didn’t have a machete but instead a shotgun. During all the auditions we had an actual shotgun on hand that we would give to the girls to see how they looked with it. It was Loren’s shotgun but he wasn’t able to come to the audition of Marissa so I took it from his apartment as I left to meet her. I went to the address, met with her, talked and started the audition. We read lines and then I gave her the shotgun and so forth. Now nothing bad happened (it wasn’t loaded and she didn't blow my hand off or anything) but afterwards we thought about it a bit. I had taken a shotgun, which I have no permit for in any way, to a complete strangers house and took it out.
When you finally got to the island location were there any surprises, things you had to adjust the filming of, or change entirely?
We had gotten permission to shoot at a beautiful abandoned lighthouse, which was to be the action centerpiece of the film. It was going to be the biggest day of shooting and the one we were most excited for. The morning we got to the location to shoot there was a gate up with a lock on it and we couldn’t get the cube truck past. Loren rushed off to government building to get the guy with the keys. He luckily found him and he told us everything would be all set. Then right before we were about to go unlock the gate a phone call from an actual military compound on the island came through. They said that they owned that property, not Puerto Rico, and that we could not go through. We asked them why and they responded with, “Because the area is covered in land mines and you could all blow up.” I know that sounds far fetched but it was true. The island was used as a military testing site for bombs, depleted uranium, land mines and many other things. On Fridays during our shoot we always had to stop due to the sounds of explosions ruining our takes. The military would sweep through the jungle, gather up all the bombs and mines and on Fridays put them all together and blow them up. The lighthouse scene had to be scrapped. We spent the next few hours re writing it and adapting it to a different location, which we were not thrilled about and was very underwhelming in comparison.
Another story that involves our sound on the island had to do with the CONSTANT barking of dogs and crowing of roosters. We had to stop every ten seconds, sometimes only getting a few words of a line at a time. It was dreadful… and editing around all that wasn’t fun. The entire island was like this… nowhere we went was quiet. We found out later that when “Lord of the Flies” shot there 50 years earlier they had the exact same problem. It is why that entire film is dubbed.
Also, I have a little story from Loren: “We hired a LA based guy to do location sound. He requested that we fly his new wife out to the island, and in turn she would be a production assistant on our film. Sounded like a fair trade to us.
On the first day, before we shot anything, they took us aside and complained that we hadn't supplied them with any weed. They were really pissed off. Seeing as though it was our first day and I didn't want to get behind, I asked a local production assistant to see if they could find some for the newlyweds.
Over the next couple hours, we began shooting on a beach. It was a beautiful sunny day and aside from the sound guy incessantly asking me about when his drugs would arrive, things were great. Then I get called on walkie to rush back to our base camp (about 100 yards from the beach).
I arrived to find his wife acting like she was about to die. She was "passed out" in a chair with a towel over her head and two production assistants fanning her. Despite the fact that she was born in Africa and grew up in the south, she claimed to have gotten heat stroke and demanded to be brought back to the hotel (a.k.a upgraded to the actor's lodging instead of the crew house). I complied and sent her up there. (by the way everyone else on the crew was absolutely fine)
Over the course of the day, the sound guy eventually left set to be with his wife where they ordered room service on our bill, and smoked tons of weed and cigarettes in the hotel room.
After we wrapped for the day, I went to check in on them. In short, they blackmailed me into flying them back to LA on the first available flight the next morning. They held the sound recordings hostage until we returned to LA a month later. Furthermore, she threatened to contact the unions and lie to them about our working conditions. Seeing as though I really wasn't in the mood to get shut down on false pretenses, I did as they requested and sent them on their way.
It cost us probably about $4k, and I (Loren) had to take over sound recording duties for the duration of the shoot. And to add insult to injury, I actually got a call from a union about poor working conditions. When I inquired as to who filed the grievance and told him the story, the union rep laughed and said "don't worry about it." If our rep hadn't have been levelheaded when dealing with this woman, it could have resulted in us getting shut down. Dodged a bullet there.”
It was also very difficult to get equipment to the island. We had to rent a ferry to get the grip truck over which was expensive and a pain. And when our generator broke we couldn’t get one until the next day, also by ferry. During the time there we also blacked out the entire island twice due to the power we were pulling. I really could go on and on. It all reminded me of the documentary about the making of “Apocalypse Now” called “Hearts of Darkness” but on a much smaller scale.
How about post production work on Dead Season, was there a lot of ADR, or additional pickup shots after the final shooting process?
There were a lot of pickups. When we shot on the island we planned on all the interiors and the entire beginning of the film to be shot in LA to save money and time on the island. When we got back we started editing before we did those extra scenes. In total, after coming back from Puerto Rico, we probably shot an additional ten days. One of which was an overnight shoot in Compton at a metal recycling factory. We shot the whole sequence (which you can see edited roughly on the DVD) and then after putting it in the film, almost completely scrapped it. We then went back and re wrote the opening and shot a majority of it a second time with a completely different feel. Originally it was an action scene but then we turned it into something much simpler and talky.
As for ADR, we only had one session that took care of most of our problems. Lucky for us we had a great mixer and sound designer.
If magically your budget was doubled, describe the changes you would have made on Dead Season?
We would have pushed the shoot back so we had more time to prep and work on the script. We also would have added more days to the shoot in Puerto Rico and paid people better. We also would have had a cook from the beginning to make people decent meals! Really once a movie is done you look back and want to change everything. It’s done now though and we are happy to move on! It’s been a very long ride.
Now the question, how about a Sequel, my readers will stand up an cheer for more Marissa and Corsica, haha, any new ideas formulating?
We have sail-boat-loads of ideas! We have written out treatments for everything you can imagine. Prequels, sequels, series, you name it. But we have to see how the film does first and if anyone will fund it for us! Any takers?
How about additional future films for Adam?
I just finished directing a new feature that I am editing now titled “1 Chance 2 Dance”. If you haven’t guessed it’s a dance movie. I’m really excited about it because it’s the first thing I’ve done that isn’t horror. Also, I am doing a movie about a friend of mine with Down’s Syndrome. It’s not a doc, but it has that kind of feel. It’s about what happens when someone who needs constant care loses their caregiver and how they deal with it. Also, I have an animated film I am working on in Budapest at a friend’s studio and a bunch of other horror films that we are trying to get off the ground!
Thank you Adam for taking your time to conduct this insightful interview
For more information on Dead Season chop your browsers to: www.deadseasonmovie.com
Slice your browsers to the official facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/DeadSeasonMovie
The IMDB page for Adam is http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1951858/
Order Dead Season by following the Amazon link below.
Order Dead Season by following the Amazon link below.