DG: What is your name and company URL?
JS: My name is Jeffrey Stackhouse. I used to have something url-viable, but let’s just maybe direct folk to Shadowland. — If you want a place to hang and by-chance learn something about Genre Filmmaking while cheering on your fellow Creators, I mod a kept-small little waystation on Facebook where politics and bullying and mossssst snark is left outside the door. I try to just provide the background so that others can ask questions and discuss nuance in a movement or film, so even if this interview rubs ya the wrong way, you might still find it a good fit. “Enter freely and of your own free will.” https://www.facebook.com/groups/1039881919387602/
DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting?
JS: I only screenwrite now, having gone through 5-10-year spurts as DJ and stage director and Baroque Opera Baritone and Anime Voicework and helping folk workshop New Music and then film acting. I always made enough to survive and was mentored and written-for by people in the history books. But I’ve been Horror Screenwriting for 6 years now with one filmed work, two Options, 5 Awards, 23 Finalists. All the Pros tell me that it takes ten years to make The Dent. Hoping I’m on track.
DG: wow, that’s a lot of wonderful things! congrats! What are you currently working on?
JS: I usually write in the contained $1 – 5M range, but had a story that was always burnin’ at me about clever kids in a small college who decide they need to create a new God to retool the World. It involves prayer wheels and fallacies in your concept of God and Holographic Universe Theory and the true nature of Sacrifice (you didn’t think a God who sees the sparrow fall really wants a dead lamb on their altar, did you? That might be you not understanding what the lamb was really for …). And blood; lots of blood. So after 7 scripts and a few Shorts, I’m writin’ in the $20M+ range this time. And then a Santa story, I’m thinkin’.
DG: Wow, you are busy! Who do you consider your mentor and why?
JS: Tom O’Horgan, the original director of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR and HAIR and LENNY was a mentor of mine, and taught me that trying to surround oneself with clever and kind folk — and then listening to them — was about the best “active” goal there could be. He was less of a conflicted person than I, and so was just naturally nicer, but I shoot-for that element, as well.
Who am I influenced by? Cronenberg’s an enormous influence on my work, and S. Craig Zahler of BONE TOMAHAWK is the one screenwriter whose work I seek out and learn from: terse and poetic. Beyond that, Jack (King) Kirby and Rod Serling shaped my life more than anyone but family. Bent it the heck into current form.
DG: Why do you think the horror/sci-fi genres have such a large following?
JS: I think all storytelling is about Resonance, and Horror at least begins from a standpoint of “what do we share?” It starts from communal experience and then tells a story that uses those things to strike the bell inside you. “What do we share that I can use to manipulate you” perhaps, but hey. I think also that Horror, and Genre work in general, has a much wider range it can cover. Dramas have pretty set strictures or they become Comedies or Tragedies, Thrillers or Rom-Com. Horror can range from visceral in-your-face Splatter to explorations of what it is to be human (hell, what it is to be The Universe). When you accept a genre that includes everything from TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE to THE DEVILS, from MOTEL HELL to MOTHER! you find yourself wit’ some latitude. Only Monty Python has taken it as far as Horror can choose-to every demn time in showers of blood leading one towards the meaning of life. — You premiered THE EVIL WITHIN at Shriekfest last year; I think it’s a good example as it explored quite far into both ends of that spectrum. So: large following? That’s a gimmee when you have audiences for both CLOWN MOTEL and BLOOD OF THE TRIBADES built into the paradigm. And I’m a “both please” kinda guy.
DG: What do you love most about this business?
JS: I love Creatives; I love to see the spark. I impose upon my peeps in Shadowland every year with this short video exploring the glorious flame and sudden loss of Zina Lahr at age 23. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJnwTDv0748 I’ve worked in literal-arms-of singers and actors and directors, laughed in heady debate with poets and writers, and that flame is there at the core of all the best of them. It’s a madness that, when it’s assured that it’s safe until the vessel can mature, becomes glorious. Not being hyperbolic or romantic or even indulging myself. There is no cooler thing than The Gift held within a confident and kind human being.
DG: That is so very true! What do you dislike most about this business?
JS: I think it’s pretty evident in our current world: there are people who would rather Score Points than Come To Honest Understanding; there are people with no problem stepping on a spark simply in order to feel they themselves are somehow elevated. There are, moreover, Creators who believe they’re a moral human being yet deal differently with someone who is “above” them, than they do with those “below.”
DG: What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
JS: Oh dear. Everything I’ve career-accomplished is ephemeral. I had the creator of YOU’RE A GOOD MAN CHARLE BROWN laud my stage work? Tom commissioned a jazz/rock opera for me. — Actually, final answer Alex: I’ve had Creators more talented than I cast me over and over again to premiere their work because they knew I could turn pigs’ ears into silk purses and they wanted to see what I could do with silk. In writing? It’s actually part of my modus: I write really really bloody stuff. — If, in the aftermath or midst of terror, I can make someone cry entirely because I’ve touched something in them, that’s my favorite accomplishment.
DG: Any advice you’d like to give newbies?
JS: Learn formatting (I’m a Trottier baby) and then Tell Your Story. The only storytelling tool you need is having read Joseph Campbell or Frazer, and damn your Education System if you haven’t already. Generalized Beat Sheets create generalized pap; how many great Screenplays have those gurus actually written? Bradbury and King have good short books on Writing effective prose. Sam Delany, too, though he won’t wait for you to catch up. On that, realize that all of the filmmakers of the 30s–60s had a storytelling vocabulary built upon what they had read. Even those great visuals that our filmmakers imitate today originated from a lifetime of sharing worlds with great authors. Maybe get yerself a couple of good novels this month. Be unafraid. Stop asking permission. Many folk before me have said you can’t edit what isn’t on the page, so write. And it’s alright to have written crap; silk purses from sow’s ears, right? Don’t suffer fools (“waves”) and surround yourselves with those who are kind. But also, be kinder to yourself. You’re opening your veins for the ink; be aware that makes you vulnerable even after you close the cut. Realize you’re not alone. If you’re down, reach out to people who might help. Those thoughts are more common than you think.
DG: Great advice! Anything else you’d like to say?
JS: My thanks to you for this sixth season of my participation in Shriekfest; I’ve made no bones about it being my fave. As usual, my co-writers make me shine, and this time it’s with 2 Finalist scripts where there’s remarkably little blood. — Renfield Rasputin invited me aboard his thrilling concept which we wrote as a trial-balloon for a Feature, and Wendy Lashbrook was there to hone and build and support with one of mine, a Pilot-forSeries. And Gentlefolk: all that this should be is “was there ONE thing here that I can steal from this derp to corral my own views of how to get my Story on the Page.” — Everyone reading this knows things I don’t, and most of them more important. Don’t let the silliness and shallowness – and thought-out manipulating — of what I had to say keep you from taking what you can. It’s all fodder for the mill. Make better bread than mine from one ingredient you found here. Be safe.
DG: Thank you Jeffrey! It was great chatting!