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Interview - Marcus Dunstan & Patrick Melton Interview - Hershell Gordon Lewis

Marcus Dunstan & Patrick Melton:

Marcus Dunstan (born September 19, 1975) and Patrick Melton (born June 18, 1975) have teamed together to write films in the horror genre since they made their big debut. After winning Season Three of Project Greenlight with their screenplay, Feast, they caught the attention of horror fans worldwide. However, this was only the beginning. The pair were soon writing for Lionsgate's Saw IV. From that entry of the franchise on, Dunstan and Melton wrote the remaining entries within the Saw series. These weren't the only projects being focused on by them.

The film Feast received sequel discussion.This duo of writers returned to pen the next two entries in the series, known as Feast II:: Sloppy Seconds and Feast III: The Happy Finish. Even though they were writing quite a few sequels to ongoing franchises, they had an evolving concept of their own waiting to be released. This film is known as The Collector, which received a limited release in theaters. Melton and Dunstan are still working together on popular upcoming projects. Through the past few years alone, Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan have created a very memorable impact on the horror genre.

Jeff: How did you two come up with the idea for The Collector?

Marcus and Patrick: It actually came from when we were trying to come up with a few ideas for this project in film school. And we had to brainstorm the idea of...we were doing a short film...it was called The Thief. What if a thief broke into the home of a serial killer, so that's where it began. And then, subsequently, a few years later we were going to...Marcus was going to direct it and we were going to make it as a short film. It was a very simple, just the concept of a thief breaking into this house and realize it's a serial killer's house. Then a cat and mouse game towards the end, like 10 minutes long. We were going to make it for a couple thousand dollars. Then we did Project Greenlight and went on the back burner. And that's where it sorta started.

Jeff: I heard this was supposed to be a SAW prequel, what happened to that idea?

Marcus and Patrick: Well, it was never supposed to be a SAW prequel. What happened was, after SAW 3 the producers knew that Leigh Whannell (writer of SAW 1 and actor playing Adam) was not going to come back and write another one, so they were sort of looking for new writers, new stories, and stuff like that. They ended up reading the script and one of the people over there thought it could be a good prequel, if they wanted to go that way. In the sense that the little girl was chained to John Kramer (Jigsaw) and is a traumatic event from his childhood. Sort of shaped his mind in the direction that it did, that idea was squashed pretty quickly. Based on the script that we written, the producers hired us to write another original idea for the sequels SAW 4, 5, and 6. Cause if you remember, After the first SAW it was so successful, the producers were scrambling to come up with an idea to do it. They found Darren Lynn Bousman's (writer and director of SAWs 2 and 3 and director of SAW 4) which was called The Desperate. They just adapted that into what became SAW 2. They were sort of thinking about doing the same thing in this case, but they ended up not doing that. But it was not perceived as a prequel at all, at a moment we were just like, "Maybe we should, maybe we shouldn't".

Jeff: I saw The Collector twice and the first time I saw it, I saw two seven year olds sneaking in. Throughout the movie, they seemed fine, but then the cat died they just started balling and screaming. So what was your exact intention with this movie's gore level? Was it to shock the audience, scare them, or surprise them?

Marcus and Patrick: It's all about escalation at that point. And at the first act, there's literally one drop of blood. It seems very innocent, there's boo. Or something shifting unexpectedly in the frame. Then, when the thief breaks into the home and we know that he has an adversary, we sort of calculated it so it was always getting more serious, a little bigger, a little bigger, a little bigger, a little bigger, little more intense, little more drawn up. The mass equation is just to gain a larger, larger, larger, hopefully more, impactful suspenseful moments that just builds up on itself. So by the end, wow, it's about as savage as what people can be to each other.

Jeff: I saw on the internet it was listed as a wide released film, but last moment it seemed to be limited released.

Marcus and Patrick: Well, technically, they say that anything above 1000 screens is wide release, but that definition is kind of outdated when there are movies like Transformers opening in 4500 screens and ours was only 1300, and most considered wide. Very wide and ridiculously wide to be added to that equation. We are on 1300 screens which is a good amount of screens, but it's just not enough really to make a huge impact at the box office. You just do the math in terms of how much a theater has to make for it to make an impactful number. We were always going to be at 800 to 1300 and we ended up going to 1300. Compared to most independent movies, it was on the high side of screen numbers, certainly.

Jeff: Were there problems at the MPAA?

Marcus and Patrick: Well, that issue came about if we were to take every note we were given, we would of had to of eliminated 15 minutes of the movie. It was pretty broad, so with the help of actually, the SAW 6 director worked with the MPAA before. He helped us work with them and find a way to maintain our impact, but address their issues. A few minutes became 7 seconds and those 7 seconds were fine. It actually helped the movie, it took some things out that were just flat out excessive and brought them back to a more realistic vibe and only upped the impact. It was fine, it was a pretty good experience. It's a bit of trickery, we were only trying to protect something, but also make it better with their input and that was the case.

Jeff: You two have been doing quite a few films together, how did you two meet and what started you two to team up on film?

Marcus and Patrick: Well, we met at the University of Iowa. We both went there and we happened to be in the same fraternity and that's how we met. I was more of the writing side, and Marcus was simply the film guy in Iowa. Then, when we graduated, I moved out in '97, out to L.A. and Marcus moved out in '99 and then the movie didn't come by, the whole department. We just had this idea to do this low budget horror movie that could be done in one location with limited characters and that would be the idea that was Feast. Which was the first screenplay we had produced project Greenlight.

Jeff: Is there a 4th Feast to be planned?

Marcus and Patrick: Well, I don't know about that. What would happen when we were writing the sequels for Feast 2 and 3, we wrote two separate scripts. 2 and 3. When it came to make them, the studio wasn't going to give us enough money to really make two. We were filming them back to back, but we really couldn't make two separate movies. So instead, we extended the 2nd script into something longer. Made it one story, two parts. So, in fact, there is a script that is in the Feast series that has yet to be shot. That could be the 4th, but I don't know if Dimension will do that.

Jeff: Out of all the traps from The Collector, which are both your favorite and why?

Marcus and Patrick: Wow. I would go with the cat, because it was such a dog on victory to execute. Literally and figuratively. That took 4 separate reshoots, all the special effects we could muster. It took everything all the way up until the last round of color timing, was to cut the scene entirely. No way, it's the one moment where it goes from the normal horror world to straight up bizarre. And you need something completely original or we join another pile and that was it. Our traps are kind of point minimal compared to SAW movies. We saw them as a series of deadly traps, if one doesn't get you, the other one will. The series of traps I liked were the sex scene, when the teen daughter comes home with her boyfriend in there about to have sex in the kitchen. They're almost going to set off like 3 other traps. The bear trap eventually, the boyfriend in the end, so I like that because the trap ending with the bear traps. Pretty impactful. It was a challenging one to shoot. More than anything, just because there is so much stuff going on in that scene. Just have to remember everything and get it all. There are a lot of pieces that went into that, like a puzzle.

Jeff: What was it like filming in almost pitch black? The whole first 5 minutes, the characters were just shadows.

Marcus and Patrick: Fortunately, we actually had a lot of lights on. The trick was always saving that for our DI (Digital Intermediate) process, where everything could be brought down to create the shadow where we needed to. The colors was big, big in depicting night, that was really the challenge too. You got two guys dressed in black in a fight at night. You have to see them, but you have to depict it as they can't see each other that was a big ol' challenge. The director of photography figured out and it was a blast to work with him. If you looked at the original image versus what you saw finally. It looks like we have all the lights on or shot during the day. When you see what's created from that, you feel the real flexibility of shooting on film and what you can do in the color timing process and what you can do in a DI process , it's really miraculous.

Jeff: What exactly the mask was that The Collector wears, it looks like a wrestling mask, but I can't tell.

Marcus and Patrick: It was kind of a concoction of different ideas, hopefully coming across as a smirking demon, in a way. They created a really, really cool mask. Bits of hair in there, yet it has that smiling that looks like a smear. That was the ultimate joy of it, we wanted something that could come from darkness. But, any detail shed on the mask gave you another layer of information, via layer, texture, the look of it, and the face the killer makes.

Jeff: Any big complications with any of the traps going off at the wrong time?

Marcus and Patrick: Not on this one, because a lot of it was so, almost working with magic. Sometimes we'd only have 15 minutes to work on 3 complex special effects and he got them every single time. He's such a pro and a practice hand, that plays the hands of the killer for when he had to do things really, really up close. He did it so wonderfully. We were lucky we had a team of awesome folks.

Jeff: What was the exact budget for The Collector? Did you have a decent amount of money to work with?

Marcus and Patrick: It started as 2.5 and by the time we were shooting, it was 3. We made an agreement with Dimension to get a little bit more money. Cause 3 million dollars, it seems like a good amount of money, but it doesn't go quite as far as you think it will. You're trying to make a movie that can kind of compare with what people see every week when they go to a theater. The average is like 65 million dollars for a movie. People don't generally understand the differences between movie budgets. So they expect every movie to look like Transformers, in a way. Or it comes off as cheesy or just not effective. We were trying to compete with those films, which was tricky on the budget. That was another challenge we had, but pretty good considering.

Jeff: Where was The Collector shot? Marcus and Patrick: Shreveport, Louisiana. The house was comprised of 4 separate locations. The basement was a law firm and it was the only thing we could track down in all of Shreveport, because of the high water. We had to find a specific spot. The interior of the house was shot in a home downtown, right in the middle, if you were to look out the windows there's a whole neighborhood. Across the street, on the other side, was a church so we didn't feel too moral about doing all the nasty stuff there. However, when you see the exterior, when Josh (Arkin a.k.a. thief) frees himself from the home and sees the girl. That's at a doctor's house pretty near the middle of nowhere. All of that was together to create the one location and then the fourth element was we were able to build one hallway. We would exploit the hell out of that hallway. You can look down on the characters like a bird and see them scramble about. We were very fortunate to find the location, we were actually looking for Illinois, in Louisiana. We did our hardest to find that, but I think we were able to catch it in glimpse with finding the right place. And we were also shooting in a nice, cool time of year. So in the morning, there'd be a little frost. We had some snow. It was nice because it changed itself, the leaves, made it a bit more of a fall vibe that was welcome. What kept us in the country had a nice tax break. It made it possible to get more bang for our buck and we went for it.

Jeff: On imdb, it says you have a new project coming up called The Tingler. What can you release about that?

Marcus and Patrick: That's an old project. It's an old William Castle movie with Vincent Price from the '50's. It's at Columbia, and they wanted to do a monster movie. They hired us to write a draft of the monster movie. When they got it, I think that it was a little bit too intense for what Columbia is comfortable doing. I don't know if it is ever going to happen. It is a really good script. It is like Alien meets The Thing, but it was an R rated horror movie. It was right around when Prom Night came out and said, "Let's make them young, like medical school, make it fun." We weren't really into that very much so we're not really involved in the project anymore. I have no clue what's going on with it.