When you’re young, it can sometimes be difficult to be taken seriously. Adults within certain industries may look down upon you and assume that you have nothing to offer. In my opinion, the younger you are, the fresher your ideas are. One area that seems to embrace youth is Hollywood and young filmmakers are on the verge of taking over. Upcoming director, Jason Christopher, didn’t let his age or inexperience hold him back from making his very first feature. The new director took the time to talk to me about his upcoming horror flick, Down the Road, and what it’s been like to complete his debut horror project.
The 24 year-old New Jersey native fell in love with film the moment he viewed the Spielberg classic, Jurassic Park, but didn’t begin his artistic journey until the age of 17 when he began making short films with friends. Christopher quickly learned that his love for the art could get him in trouble if seen by the wrong eyes when he had his first bout of controversy while in high school.
The filmmaker explains,” [in 11th grade] My film study teacher asked me to make a short for a film festival in North Jersey. I was all for it, shot it, turned it in a week later. By the end of the day, I got a call down to the guidance counselor–I walk into a room filled with 3 police officers, all of the assistant principals, a bunch of other people. I was like, ‘Oh shit, what did I do?!’ Turns out my film study teacher turned me in, saying the video was very controversial.”
Christopher was scolded for his use of blood and the adult nature that filled the short film and even insisted that he be expelled. The worst of the situation was that the aspiring director never got to send his film into the festival for which it was made for.
Although he faced his first bit of negative criticism, the young man continued forward with his filmmaking aspirations, studying up on as many films as possible to teach himself the craft. It wasn’t until a family tragedy occurred in 2006 that he was prompted to actually write his first feature, the horror, Down the Road.
Christopher explains that “freak accident” that took his father’s life filled him with so much anger and frustration, which he took out on his keyboard as he penned his first screenplay. The combination of his anger and sadness along with his love for the genre, made writing the film a breeze.
He explains why he chose horror, “I love everything about horror movies. I’m the only one in my family who really likes them too. I remember going to Blockbuster when I was a kid and [I] would be so intrigued by the VHS box designs. My parents were real lenient too; they would let me watch Halloween, Friday The 13th, all sorts of horror flicks….There’s just a certain feeling when watching horror movies. It excites me more than watching any other genre.”
The newbie describes Down the Road as a revenge horror, inspired by horror classics such as Friday the 13th, The Prowler, Halloween, and Sleepaway Camp. He said,”I wanted to do a horror movie with a real person. Michael isn’t real, Jason isn’t, Freddy isn’t. I wanted to do a real person, [a] real story.”
He continued, “After doing the festival circuit, a lot of people loved that idea but there were definitely a couple that were like, ‘This is why some villains don’t talk, cause it comes off silly.’ I’m just like, ‘He’s a REAL person! Of course he talks!'”
The “talking villain” that Christopher happily refers to is named Hunter Isth, who hunts down a group of teens in the woods. However, the director insists that audiences should not expect to find the stereotypical characters often seen throughout slasher horror films–his characters have serious depth. He insisted, “There are characters you actually care about. We got the one comedic goofball in the flick, the main character just got out of an extensive stay at the hospital, [and] the other girl has a daughter. They’re all played just right though. The annoying comedic character is loved so much from the audience.”
Not only did the young director get to film his first feature, he also got the chance to work with veteran actor, Clint Howard. With a little extra money leftover, Christopher and his producer, Deven Lobascio, decided to get a known actor for a small role in the film. Their minds immediately went to Howard and with a call to his agent, the actor was on board for the project.
Christopher praises working with the actor, “It was really awesome, he was helping out. He was telling me his experiences with working with his brother, Ron [and] telling me stories about Rob Zombie and those experiences. It was really cool of him to go through those stories with me. He was really open to suggestions. He wasn’t one of those named actors that would be like, ‘I’m not gonna let some 22 year old kid boss me around.’ He wanted to do a couple takes his own way, and I really liked those better then what I wrote so I went with them. It was great.”
The film, which took about 12 days to make, quickly made the horror festival rounds, scoring some awards along the way. Down the Road screened at ShockFest in LA where it took home Best Feature. The film followed up that success by playing at Horror Quest in Atlanta where Christopher took home Best Director and the film’s villain, played by Brian Gallagher, took home the award for Best Actor.
He stated,”It’s a great feeling that people see this movie and get it. That’s all I was asking for, was for people to understand what I was trying to do.”
Next, the horror film will screen at The World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City and the young director is hoping that the film will be available on DVD by this Summer. For more information on Christopher and his feature debut, follow the film on Twitter @Downtheroadfilm or find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/downtheroadfil.