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April 07, 2017 | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
Mitch Altieri has been going non-stop.
When he brought “A Beginner’s Guide to Snuff” to last year’s CIFF, he was already launching into pre-production on this year’s entry: “The Night Watchmen.”
“I’ve been shooting a movie a year for quite some time,” he says, “and I literally was going into post[-production] on one movie and starting pre-production on another. I had a stretch there for six years when I did not have a moment. I was just going from film to film to film to film.”
Altieri, one half of the legendary horror duo The Butcher Brothers, ended up flying solo as he geared up for “The Night Watchmen,” as fellow Butcher Brother Phil Flores took a little time out for a new addition to his family: a baby girl.
The Butcher Brothers have a strong, recognizable signature. “We’ve always had little droplets of comedy and little pieces here and there,” Altieri says. “People would pick up on that. They knew the Butcher Brothers style—where we’d have these little moments that were just really odd, almost that David Lynch comedy vibe.”
This time out, the comedy took over.
Producer Jeff Allard, a long time associate, “gave me a call and said, ‘Hey look, I got this script, what do you think of it?’ I read it and I immediately visualized and felt this vibe of ’80s popcorn horror movies, a la ‘Fright Night’ (1985), or ‘Night of the Comet’ (1984), or ‘Killer Klowns From Outer Space’ (1988).”
Such films were staples for Altieri when he was growing up, evoking the days of going to Blockbuster, selecting a pulpy horror film from the racks based on its cover, and then popping it into his VCR to see if it was any good. “They were just fun!” he says. “And that’s what I really wanted to do with ‘The Night Watchmen.’ I really enjoyed the script, and it was a dream to be able to go back to those movies that really helped mold me into the filmmaker that I am.”
While inserting comedy was familiar ground, balancing this much comedic material was a new challenge. “Horror is a lot easier because you don’t have to rely on acting all the time, although obviously I want all my movies to be well-acted,” he explains.“You can get help from your director of photography, you can get help from your special effects people, you can get help from your lighting, from your music. Everyone can add to a horror environment. In comedy, it’s really the actors’ field. They have to really deliver. You can put in a couple little sound effects, but that’s not going to do much.”
With “The Night Watchmen” wrapped, Altieri is taking a beat or two to develop new projects. “I’m enjoying my time just relaxing a little bit, and not running around on set. Don’t get me wrong, I love being on set, and hopefully that will happen soon. But I’ve really been enjoying my time just creating.”
“It really starts in the writing process,” he explains. For new filmmakers, coming up with a story worth telling is key. “Every story’s been told, but what is still available is your own unique twist on it. You’ve got to try to be a step above the rest, and put your unique spin on it, and that happens when you’re putting pen to paper as well.”
Filmmaking has changed a lot since he entered the field. “When I started, there wasn’t YouTube, there wasn’t Vimeo, there weren’t avenues to let the world see your work and whatnot,” he explains. Production equipment was also prohibitively expensive. “It was really difficult to get stuff done, it was very expensive, and you just didn’t have that many outlets. There was theater, and then there was DVD, and that was about it.”
Altieri’s advice to new filmmakers is to take full advantage of the easy access to equipment and distribution platforms. “You have no excuse now. You can shoot it on your phone, you can edit it on your laptop, you can design it with pro-tools off your laptop, you can really get a movie made, but the thing is, you have massive competition now because everybody can do it!”
This, he says, is why a compelling and distinctive story is so important. “My agency has people looking through YouTube, and they’re looking for the next (generation of directors). People come off of these small videos and go on to shoot massive feature films, like the guy who did ‘District 9’ (2009). So it’s a great time, it’s just a very competitive time.”
Still, Altieri stresses that the most important thing is just getting out there. “My advice to anybody doing anything--regardless of what you’re doing—if it’s horror, comedy, or drama, or a sci-fi picture, is just really going out there, number one, just doing it.”
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