02nd Aug2018

Interview: ‘Dead Celebrities’ director Michael Fausti

by Philip Rogers

With the short Dead Celebrities now playing at the film festivals and his debut feature film Exit now in post-production, I got a chance to chat with director Michael Fausti about what we can expect from the two films, blurring the line between fiction and reality and some of the future projects we can expect from Fausti Films.

Photo courtesy of J.Douglas Imagery

Photo courtesy of J.Douglas Imagery

What inspired you to get into film making originally?

I have always been a fan, particularly of British cinema and it was almost that kind of thing where the more I watched, the more I started to see and recognised the effective use of camera and things like that. I have always been a story teller, but I have never been able to draw, and I am not musical, so filmmaking was the next logical step to tell stories to people. I was inspired by what I saw and wanted to make my own films and that’s what inspired me on the road to becoming a filmmaker.

You have made a few short films and your latest is Dead Celebrities which is doing the festival circuits at the moment. Can you tell us a bit about the film itself?

When I am on a project I always have to sit down and have a look at what we have access to. One day I was thinking I really need a location to do a film, as I always have three or four projects on the go. Then it just came to me, the location that everyone pretty much has access to is a bathroom! So I thought what kind of movie can I make around a bathroom or bathrooms? Bathrooms always featured very heavily in the work of Hitchcock who I am a big fan of, but I was thinking murders in bathrooms, it’s all been done before. I am a big fan of all sorts of music and two of my heroes did in fact die in the bathroom; Jim Morrison and Elvis Pressley. It then led me to kind think, Whitney Huston died in the bathroom as well, so I started researching famous people that died in the bathroom. There is an incredibly long list of famous people who did die in the bathroom, but not all have been included in Dead Celebrities. There was quite a number of early Hollywood stars whose names are no longer remembered died in bathrooms. Judy Garland who we mention in Dead celebrities but doesn’t make an appearance again died in a bathroom. That occurred from what I actually have access to and obviously I know other people who have bathrooms in their houses, so we would be able to get different looks to different bathrooms.

Dead Celebrities is essentially a story told by a guy who believes that he should be famous, even though he has no discernible qualities that would cause him to be famous. But he believes he should be famous and he discovers a secret which relates to dead celebrities in bathrooms.

Having watched the film there does seem to be a blurred line between fact and fiction in the way the stories told.

Yes, I always start off looking at the real-life kind of material and yes, I do blur the line between fact and fiction, many of the stars suggested knew each other in Dead Celebrities didn’t. There are some quite series discrepancies in regard to dates and so forth which means that some of these people could not in fact have known each other. All of the celebrities that are mentioned did die in the bathroom and some of the details such as Tod Browning’s wake was also true. He set aside a certain amount of money in his will for an individual known as lucky, nobody knows who he was or has been able to trace him since. One of the other characters mentioned Claude François, there is a certain amount of conspiracy theories on line as to whether he did in fact die in a bathroom, or this was something to cover up something a bit darker. I do take liberties with the truth because it is a work of fiction.

The character all have a different look and style what were your influences?

As far as possible I wanted each look to reflect the time of the character. With Tdod Browning, he’s famous for being the 1930’s Universal Studio horror director and I really wanted to capture that 1930’s Universal horror look, so it’s done with a grainy black and white look. As we go through the ages we try to capture the look as much as possible to the period, but I also wanted an overall arching look and feel to the film, almost like a grindhouse movie. I wanted it to feel a little sleazy and a little grimy around the edges because after all it is very sleazy material concentrating on a very private area. The bathroom and what people do in the bathrooms.

It is being distributed at the festivals at moment, can you tell us where it will be playing this year?

Yes, it is playing on Saturday 1st September at an American film festival The GenreBlast. We have already been approached by a number of festivals who have already said yes and given some positive feedback by a number of film makers and festival directors which is exciting. We have half a dozen lined up for the foreseeable, but we are just waiting on the festivals. It is encouraging because it hasn’t been that long since we finished post production, but its generating a lot of interest.

You are currently working on your first feature film ‘Exit’ which was written by Mathew Bayliss can you tell us a bit about what we can expect from the film?

This actually goes back a couple of years, Matt and I set ourselves a deadline which we could come up with a scenario for a feature we would like to make. I have always worked closely with Matt in terms of writing and producing films and we were both trying to come up with a single location idea. Matt’s was essentially more workable than mine, so we decided to go with that. It is set in the early 90’s, but really it’s about the contemporary situation which is happening in the UK with Brexit, hence why it’s called Exit. I don’t want to give too much away just yet, but it’s a tense thriller set in a single location and we have gone for a very strong visual look and it should prove to be quite intense.

You don’t actually appear in this film, was this a deliberate decision so you could concentrate on the directing?

Really, I am not an actor by trade and I have a very brief cameo in it, it’s a case of if blink you will miss it. We actually approached a number of professional actors, some which you may have heard of. We’ve got Tony Denham who has done a lot of British films and we also have a lot of younger actors who will be quite familiar because they have done a lot of tv work. Really there is a fair amount of energy required for all of the roles in Exit, so I am stepping away from being in front of the camera, to concentrate behind the camera. I have appeared in a number of my films up until now but that was borne out of necessity, partly budget, but partly because I was available.

How difficult has the transition been going from directing shorts to directing a feature film?

In some respects, it’s very much the same process, you go through pre -production with the script, story boards, but everything is essentially bigger. Directing a much larger crew and cast again was something which you eventually get used to, it wasn’t something more difficult it was just a more prolonged experience. We had a good year of pre-production with Exit, where with a short the most we had on pre-production was four months. But pre-production was a lot more tense for Exit as was the process of casting. Just working with agents, sourcing locations and all the paperwork that goes with that, insurance and so forth, which on shorts you don’t really tend too. You just use found locations and grab the footage where you can, with feature you have to be a bit more legitimate shall we say, to make sure it is all done correctly. The directing we shot Exit in eight days, which was pretty intense from start to finish to get the whole thing in. The directing I done with shorts we done in blocks of weekends or done it other a couple of days. I think with the transition it is just ramped up a couple of notches and it does require a bit more organisation and a bit more time to secure the vision you have.

And when do you think Exit will be finished?

We are hoping to have it finished by the middle of next year, we are definitely looking at a 2019 release. March 22nd would be a good date as that is our Exit for the EU. We have just started the early stages of pre-production and for the music, I am working quite closely with a musician call Nicholas Burns. We are trying to create a very definite soundscape to have a very strong sonic feel throughout. The music is going to prove to be very important to Exit, so that will incur time spent in post-production.

Do you have any projects which you are working on?

I am always writing, and I do have a number of projects, one I hope one day will become a feature. Many of my characters are about a guy who has outlived their time and a bit like the narrator of The Ingress Tapes (2017), might be a complete fantasist or what he tells you may be true and this could be a man who has lived quite a long time. I am also working on a period piece that is set just after the end of the second world war. I envision both of these films actually being shot in black and white. We are always trying to use Super8 wherever we can, and it will be good to use it in either of them projects, but unfortunately the cost of film is still beyond independent filmmakers. Essentially, I think from now onwards features is what we will be producing at Fausti Films, we’ve cut our teeth now with shorts and I think we understand the process. I think features are a way in which we are going. As soon as Exit is completed in post-production, we will be starting production on out next feature. Matt Bayliss is already about half way through writing a very female centre narrative, although I can’t say too much about that because it’s not been completed.

What advice would you give to someone who is looking to direct their first film?

In terms of directing your first feature, one of the best pieces of advice someone gave me having looked at some of my early stuff, “Your friends cannot act!” and I think that is really true. When you do employ professional actors, you realise that they are worth their pay. In terms of advice I would go with professional actors and also build yourself an amazing crew. We had an amazing crew on Exit, many of whom were just giving up their time for free. These guys were incredible (we had males and females on set, I am using guys in a non-gendered way) if you’ve got a strong crew behind you, you can do almost anything. Don’t get bogged down with what equipment you are using. Don’t think to yourself I can’t make a movie until you can hire a Red Camera, just go out and make it with whatever you’ve got. There is an obsession at the moment with what camera you have and what centre it’s got in it, but really that’s not important, it’s a good story as well. So professional actors, strong crew and make it with whatever camera you’ve got. I think good films start with good writing. Matt is a great writer and I think that is the strength of Exit, because we started with a really strong script. Start with a strong script and build up from that.
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You can also read our interview with Michael Fausti from this years Horror-On-Sea Festival right here, along with our review of Dead Celebrities here.

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