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SXSW '06 Interview: 'Behind the Mask' Director Scott Glosserman

by Scott Weinberg

The 'Behind the Mask' Pitch: Leslie Vernon, the great psycho-slasher upstart, has given a documentary crew exclusive access to his life as he plans his reign of terror over the next unfortunate little town.

Is this your first trip to SXSW? Got any other film festival experience? If you’re a festival veteran, let us know your favorite and least-favorite parts of the ride.
Yes! And I can't wait to go as a filmmaker! My first festival experience was going to Cannes in '97 with my University. We had a study abroad program in Cannes. Some went for the nude beaches, but I got to see 25 films and crash a ton of parties, while I lived out of a youth hostel and a rented tuxedo for two weeks. While there, I saw, perhaps the most disturbing film there that I've ever seen: Funny Games (Director Michael Haneke).

Back when you were a little kid, and you were asked that inevitable question, your answer would always be “When I grow up I want to be a …” what?
When I was a little kid I wanted to be a rock star. I cajoled my older brother into putting on air guitar concerts for my parents. I drew tickets for them and everything. It was serious business.

Not including your backyard and your Dad’s Handycam, how did you get your real “start” in filmmaking?
As a senior at the The University of Pennsylvania, there was a professor named Paul Messaris, who was offering for the first time a course in which the entire class collaborated on making a film. The students made up the entire cast and crew of the picture, with the exception of our professor, who was the writer/director. I was cast as one of the leads. That was my first experience around filmmaking; if that's what you'd call it (we were using these strange new devices called "DV Cameras"). I don't think the film's done yet.

Do you feel any differently about your film now that you know it’s on “the festival circuit?”
I am thrilled that my film has been given the opportunity to premiere at such a substantial and well respected film festival. Geoffrey Gilmore (Director, Sundance Film Festival), who is an alumnus of my University, told me not too long ago that publicity for films is like yesterday's news - it goes away, rather than builds. So, to answer your question, I feel as hopeful as ever about selling my film because it is debuting at SXSW. I don't think there is a more appropriate venue for Behind the Mask than SXSW, so I'm confident that I won't have any regrets no matter what happens, because I provided my film a great platform from which to launch.

Of all the Muppets, which one do you most relate to?
Of all the Muppets I most relate to The Swedish Chef. I have a tendency to speak in my own language.

During production did you ever find yourself thinking ahead to film festivals, paying customers, good & bad reviews, etc?
During production I didn't have enough time to think, much less direct. Wait, that didn't come out the right way...

If you could share one massive lesson that you learned while making this movie, what would it be?
I keep thinking of massive lessons, but they all have an even greater, colossal, lesson in common. If it's okay to stray from your "massive" question and share with you one "colossal" lesson, then I learned that the cliché, "It's better to be a penny wise than a pound foolish", is almost worth tattooing on my forehead.

What films and filmmakers have acted as your inspirations, be they a lifelong love or a very specific scene composition? Did you watch any movies in pre-production and yell “This! I want something JUST like this …only different.”?
My bedroom suite at the Residence Inn doubled as the production office. I was on a crusade to insert some sort of reference or homage from as many slasher films as I could into my film, so I had a constant rotation of Netflix coming in and out. When a batch of, say, six movies would arrive, I’d call everyone’s attention in the office and I’d have them guess which films I’d received. If any got four of them right, I’d buy them a six-pack. As far as what references I culled, you’re going to have to try to guess!

Say you landed a big studio contract tomorrow, and they offered you a semi-huge budget to remake, adapt, or sequelize something. What projects would you tackle?
As far as epics go, I'd love to do a modern-day retelling of The Fountainhead. But, more down to earth (not really, though) I want to remake The Party at a killer Hollywood Hills home with Hank Azaria playing Peter Sellers playing an Indian. If someone reads this and goes and makes either of those movies I'm going to be soooo bummed out.

Name an actor in your film that’s absolutely destined for the big-time. And why, of course.
If lightning strikes and Behind the Mask gets seen by more people than my immediate family, Nathan Baesel is going to become a movie star. He's already on a major network show - Invasion - I'm confident he'll be a star, regardless. It just won't take so long if Behind the Mask gets distribution.

Nathan is absolutely incredible. He's truthful and he's committed and he's versatile and he’s grounded. He's got Jim Carrey's face with Harrison Ford's jaw and John Malkovich's disposition. That's really good, by the way. I gave him an "Introducing Nathan Baesel" credit, not only because I wanted to parallel Wes Craven's "Introducing Johnny Depp" credit in A Nightmare on Elm Street, but also because I will one day be able to definitively say, "I told you so".

Finish this sentence: If I weren’t a filmmaker, I’d almost definitely be...
I can't finish that sentence for so many reasons.

Who’s an actor you’d kill a small dog to work with? (Don’t worry; nobody would know.)
Does the dog already have cancer? Did it just eat a baby? Would the actor and I be building a new house, working on someone's campaign, investing in a trendy Hollywood bar? I need more to go on here.

Have you “made it” yet? If not, what would have to happen for you to be able to say “Yes, wow. I have totally made it!”
I "made it" a long time ago when I decided exactly what it was that I wanted to do. Every moment I spend progressively pursuing that goal is "making it".

Honestly, how important are film critics nowadays?
I wouldn't know for sure, since this is my first film, but I'd assume they play an integral part in determining the future for my film.

You’re told that your next movie must have one “product placement” on board, but you can pick the product. What would it be?
Now that I've put Kreuz Market in my film (my favorite BBQ) I'm off of food. If I had to place another product in a film and I got to choose, I'd throw a nod to the Washington Redskins. Dan Snyder would definitely consider his team a product, so that counts.

You’re contractually obligated to deliver an R-rated film to your producers. The MPAA says you have to delete a sex scene that’s absolutely integral to the film or you’re getting an NC-17. How do you handle it?
It doesn't seem as though I'd have much choice, but to comply. However, because I'd anticipated something like this happening, I negotiated with my producers a DVD "Director's Cut" for which I had final edit and a far more substantial cut of the backend.

What’s your take on the whole “a film by DIRECTOR” issue? Do you feel it’s tacky, because hundreds (or at least dozens) of people collaborate to make a film – or do you think it’s cool, because ultimately the director is the final word on pretty much everything?
I think one has a case for that credit if one is both the director and the producer (and certainly, if one is also the writer, editor, or both, as well). However, if one has only directed the film, I think it's ridiculous to give that person a "film by" credit.


Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, starring Nathan Baesal, Angela Goethals, Robert Englund, Scott Wilson, and Zelda Rubinstein, will premiere at the 2006 South By Southwest Film Festival. Click here for festival information, and be sure to check out the official Behind the Mask website.

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originally posted: 02/24/06 18:44:30
last updated: 02/24/06 18:45:43
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