22nd Jan2018

Horror-On-Sea 2018 Interview: Actor Brian Raetz talks ‘Pitchfork’

by Philip Rogers

With the new slasher style horror Pitchfork selected to play at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival on Friday 19th January. I got chance to ask actor Brian Raetz about; his character, how he got involved in the film and what makes Pitchfork stand out in the horror genre.

Brian-Raetz

What can we expect from the film Pitchfork?

You can expect a satisfying blend of homages to all your classic horror film favourites with a kind hearted and authentic twist originating from our director Glenn Douglas Packard’s personal experience of coming out to his parents in rural conservative Michigan. This film is powered by the love of friendship and the will to survive amidst a world filled with characters that do not accept you. Some characters in this film would like to see Hunter change, to no longer be gay, and others would like to see him dead.

Can you tell me a little bit about your character?

During the experience of filming this movie, I went for a run every day before getting into makeup. On my run, I repeated to myself, “save Jenny, save Mom, save Dad, save Clare, save Lenox, save Gordon, save Rocky, save Janelle, save Matt, save Jenny, save Mom, save Dad…” We shot the film in order, so I got to experience that list getting shorter and shorter in real time. Hunter is filled with love for his friends and for his family members even when they reject him. His struggle is to fight a force stronger than he is, rage against a power that is greater than his. While disheartening to experience failing each person that falls off of that list, the will to continue on, to try and save who he can, to take action against this great force of opposition is Hunter’s gift to the world.

How did you become involved in the film?

I was living and working in Chicago and travelling home to visit my Family in Traverse City. On my way through Michigan I checked it’s local casting calls and saw the opportunity to audition for Pitchfork. I submitted myself to the film with a headshot, and Demo Reel. Glenn called me and shared his vision for the character and gave me three days to prepare an audition tape. I sent the tape in three days later. I was woken up the next morning by a call from New York with Glenn telling me how I’d gotten the part and talking logistics as the film was set to begin shooting nine days later! I put the phone down and got to work immediately on immersing myself into the world of the film. I found out later that Hunter had originally been cast by another actor from LA who had to drop from the film at the last minute because of SAG-Regulations. That’s why the casting call was up in the first place. Had that not happened, I never would have even heard about the opportunity!

What preparation did you do for the role?

I began dancing and training for the barn dance immediately, I learned my lines of course, all on the car ride back from Michigan to Chicago actually! I watched a lot of Glenn’s YouTube videos and blogs where I saw his huge heart for helping people and spreading the message that, “it gets better.” I did a lot of mask work at first to begin dropping deeper and deeper into character and allowing myself the freedoms of imaginative living. Then I began bathing in the world of Hunter and collecting experiences, living through moments in my day as I imagined he would. Then once on set, I stayed in Character connecting to my best friends and quickly learning the social dynamic that bound us all together. We lived on location for a whole month together, so this process was especially creatively fulfilling. I think my fellow actors were not sure which parts of me were real and which parts were inspired by the character, but that was the fun of it. Blending the two worlds together like that really made the experience while shooting the movie that much more alive. I can remember one night, midway through shooting that I felt I had to face my fear of Pitchfork. So, I ran out into the barn in the middle of the night where I imagined he was hiding and gave him a challenge. I ran around for at least 30-40 minutes in the night like that, me challenging him, me chasing him, and by the end of the experience, my fear was gone, and I felt I was on top. That’s what launched me into the axe scene with the belief that I actually could defeat this guy, that I actually could survive the night and save my friends.

What was it like working on set of a slasher film like Pitchfork?

It was great fun, a true experience that I will cherish forever. We started every day with breakfast provided by local restaurants who sponsored the film’s catering. For me, I’d either have eggs or a banana-peanut butter shake. Then, it was off to the gym for me, Ryan, and a couple of the girls who would usually either join us or head out for a coffee. Then a protein shake and back to the farm for some lunch, usually a salad catered from another restaurant. Then we’d play games of ping pong and start winding in to our prep before filming began which was usually just around sun-down. AND Then we would film in the dark for as long as we could until we either got all the shots we needed or until the light came up. On our days off we would drive to Mt. Pleasant and go to the bars, or we would stay up late watching horror films or looking at the stars together. It was really all very sweet and surreal.

What do you think makes Pitchfork stand out in the slasher genre?

I think there is an indie-filmmaking authenticity that breathes life into the film. It’s quirks and unique moments like the barn dance and the way Jenny’s mom calls her from the barn, those aren’t moments we usually get to see in a horror/slasher films. Also, Glenn’s decision to write the story around a gay son coming out to his parents definitely stands out in the slasher genre.

What was your favourite scene to film in the movie?

My favourite scene to film was the torture scene at the end of the movie. It felt without a doubt the most real to me. I was all tied up in the chair for hours and that duct tape kept ripping the hairs off the back of my neck, seeing what they were doing to Clare felt so truly messed up too. At one point, everything just clicked at how tragic the whole thing really was, what it felt like for a murderer to needlessly kill all of my friends and family members, it was pretty heavy, and I felt like I really understood what this whole process was leading me to. In my final moment, was I going to give up and roll over or fight and do WHATEVER it takes to live?

Do you have any other projects which you are working on at the moment?

Yes, I am currently in pre-production on a film called Guitar Slayers that follows four kids in a heavy metal band as they run from and eventually confront the oppressive nature of good conservative society. It should be totally and completely epic by the time we are through with it. I also have a short film releasing soon that centres around a deadly fight scene and explores the visual and narrative permissions of indie film. Anyone can keep up with these projects and more by following me on social media @b.raetz on Instagram and @brianraetz on twitter! You can also find more updates and blog posts on my website at www.brianraetz.com.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get into acting?

Start with all the things you already have. Rather than trying to run off to a different city or into an expensive program where the grass seams greener because it is on the other side, try instead to live where you are and do what you can with what you already have. Grab a script and jump into a character or write a script and create a short film. Learn by doing and if you like it, don’t stop doing it. Also, get footage and build your demo reel. Show your talent and the rest will follow. AND watch the actors that inspire you, their energy is fuel for yours.

Pitchfork screened at the Horror-on-Sea Festival on Friday 19th January at 12:30pm.
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For more information on the event and to purchase tickets for the Horror-on-Sea please see the website for details: https://www.horror-on-sea.com

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