Jeff Bassetti

SHRIEKFEST INTERVIEW

Jeff Bassetti
2015 Semi Finalist Screenwriter with “Children of the Dead”

DG: What is your name and company URL?

JB: Jeff Bassetti and my company is “Omega Tots”, which was the original title for CHILDREN OF THE DEAD a few years back. A buddy convinced me that it was a silly name for a horror film … tonally, more comical than serious so I changed it and kept it for my company name. www.omega-tots.com … although, the site is currently under construction, so there isn’t much to see right now I’m afraid. The facebook page has a few photos from our concept trailer shoot.

DG: What is your specialty…filmmaking or screenwriting?

JB: I am still figuring that out. Both, screenwriting and filmmaking [directing]. I was fortunate to have worked as an intern at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light and Magic [back in the analog days] I’ve co-written, co-produced and directed the indie feature, F-STOPS [2001], which was an incredible learning experience for me. We made all sorts of mistakes… the biggest was rushing the edit to make a film festival deadline for the Houston World Fest where we did win the Silver Remy for Best Thriller. The biggest success on F-STOPS was being able to go back in and recut it thanks to Mike Cavanaugh and David Sconyers at Key Code Media. Since then I have been spending time writing, perfecting story craft, but I am looking forward to getting back on set soon.

DG: Wow! Very cool What are you currently working on?

JB: I’m writing several projects actually, although CHILDREN OF THE DEAD is my primary focus right now. My compadres in the craziness, Fiana Feldman, Roland Feldman, Lawrence Kim, and Brian Hillard are all working really hard to raise financing to shoot COTD; ideally in the spring or summer of 2017. Beyond that we are spending time figuring out how do we deliver a high dollar value project on a lower budget without it looking like a lower budget. Aside from that I am tinkering around with the second chapter to the COTD story.

DG: ooh! That is great! I can’t wait to see it. Who do you consider your mentor and why?

JB: I admire quite a few filmmakers… David Fincher, Ridley Scott, James Cameron, Guillermo del Toro, Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino, Tyler Perry, Lucas, Spielberg, Kubrick and Scorsese… Yeah, there are a lot of them actually. To this day, I still am finding nuances in all of their work.

DG: Why do you think the horror/sci-fi genres have such a large following?

JB: It’s a safe place to explore and experience the thrills and terrors of “what if?” Digging into the sinners and saints of the human condition. I think we simply like a good scare every once in a while. Especially now, with everything going on in the world… You would think people would gravitate more towards comedy [and they are], but I think this cathartically is backwards… I think that when we get stressed out, we seek out something to analyze it. Look at the Blumhouse Purge series of films… they’re reflecting our fears of what America is and could become. That we are incapable of keeping our inner beast contained and controlled. With election season upon us… we’re fearing both sides probably pretty equally about what is going to happen if either Hillary or Trump get into office.

DG: LOL very true! What do you love most about this business?

JB: I’ll let you know when I think I’ve really gotten into it. Maybe in 2017 I will know more. Standing in the back of a theater gripping your hands tightly until you hear the first laugh at a legitimately intended joke was the biggest thrill for me during F-STOPS screenings.

DG: I’m sure! All those nerves! What do you dislike most about this business?

JB: I’ll let you know when I think I’ve really gotten in. The difficulty in piercing the veil. Some people seem to be fortunate or skilled at getting in… I probably just made a few wrong turns on my path and I won’t realize the value of that until later on. Either way, I’ve been writing, so it’s been time well spent.

DG: What career accomplishment are you most proud of?

JB: F-STOPS was my first. Good or bad… the film has a manic passion within it that audiences [the few who have seen it] have connected with. From standing in the back of a theater, you can tell when they [audiences] are genuinely laughing or gasping. That’s the end-game, the thrill you hope to experience as a filmmaker. I think CHILDREN OF THE DEAD will be my next.

DG: Any advice you’d like to give newbies?

JB: It’s a marathon, not a sprint… unless your path turns out to be a sprint and then in that case, run your ass off! Rewrite your first draft and be happy about doing it. Sorry to say that no one’s first draft is genius. Hemingway said “The first draft of anything is shit.” And it hurts when you come to this realization… if you are fortunate to have this realization, but it is something you need to come to grips with. COTD was not well received in the festival circuit when I started out… but I’ve been rewriting it, taking in and considering opinions as I go and a lot of the critiques have helped. It also helps a lot when people are diplomatic about telling you what you’ve written sucks and has problems. In kind, you have to take it in and then consider what they’ve said. I struggle with that one a bit still. If you do have the luxury of time, walk away from your story for a while and start another one, spend time with your family, go camping, do a job which frustrates the hell out of you, anything to clear you head so that when you come back to your story, you can see the mistakes. My festival acceptance rate has gone up ever since, so I must be headed in the right direction. The really funny thing is when you look at it and ask yourself, “Why didn’t I just do that in the first place?” And, Filmmakers can get myopic if they are the writer, director, editor blah blah blah… I don’t like to actually edit myself. I want that objective perspective to challenge me and bring something new to the table with the material I’ve written and shot. If this really is a collaborative medium… find people who are smarter than you and collaborate. If people are bringing you solutions as they point out the problems / issues / mistakes… they are worth their weight in gold [IMO]. You may not like what they are telling you, but give it a listen, and you might find clarity from their perspective … unless they are just hateful trolls.

DG: Great advice! Anything else you’d like to say?

JB: I’d like to thank my wife, Elizabeth for putting up with me when my mind goes elsewhere. Thank you!

DG: Thank you Jeff! It was great chatting!

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