For my second Ghost Lake
interview, I chatted to actor Damian Maffei about his role in the
production and I don't just mean as a fisherman. Damian went above and
beyond the call of duty during production as those of you with the DVD
will be able to witness. Read on for a chat with the guy who is currently
staring at you from the shelves of Blockbuster video everywhere.
When did you first become
interested in acting?
Well, from about the age of 5 up until I was 6, I pretty much thought I
was Godzilla. So I would stomp around, fight stuffed animals and bushes,
and do the Godzilla roar. I received many impression requests from people,
and I rarely let them down. I was a film fanatic since I can remember,
watched everything I could, and probably shouldn't have seen most of what
I did when I did. I just became fascinated with horror movies at an early
age (without my parents knowing) and I remember sitting down one Halloween
when I was about 9 and watching The Return of the Living Dead. Now
generally the horror films I had gotten my eyes on up to that point
featured more or less untalented actors to be generous. This horror movie
was different. These people were doing something, and I knew it. I became
a big fan of Clu Gulager. Even bigger when I asked my mother if she knew
of him (mom is a big movie buff) and she gave me a run down on his work,
and explained what an underrated actor he was. So I had to get everything
Clu had done. I had always read well in class, being able to make sense of
what I was reading as I was reading it. Teachers would often tell me that
I should be on the radio or that I should be an "actor." Of course neither
of us knew that acting was more than just reading. Most of Hollywood is
still in the dark on that subject, but whatever.
How did you go about pursuing
an acting career?
It wasn't until High School where I would take my first theater class.
Everyone soon found out I was a big fan of the spotlight. I tried out for
the school musical, Little Shop of Horrors, and got the part of the voice
of Audrey 2. I was to no longer play baseball...I was now a thespian. It
took some time to live down the "so you're trading in your cleats for
tights, eh?" Little Shop was a rousing success and no one knew I had it in
me. I could hold a note? I went on to do the rest of the plays in High
School, grabbing the lead in every one of them. Haha.
Did you do any formal
I graduated High School, finally, (seriously) and went off to Nassau
Community College to start things off. I wasn't all that hot on the idea
of doing theater there, but I saw there was an audition, so I went for it.
The play was Raft of the Medusa, which centers on an aids discussion
group. I busted my ass looking over the script for a week, and I had
myself a pretty good audition. I got the part of Alec Quinn, a soap opera
star who is entering the group for the first time. I was pretty high on
myself figuring that my high school theater dominance was not going to end
anytime soon. I got set to coast through another play, with my wonderful
reading skills. I was sadly mistaken. The director, Victor Abravaya, a man
who I can never really repay for what he has taught me, was not going to
let my little tricks and habits go on any longer. The rehearsal period for
this production was basically life changing for me. All of a sudden my
high school acting days were a crock. It wasn't acting. This was. It
actually takes work. And a lot of it. Victor, a student and teacher of the
Sanford Misner technique, pushed me every which way. I would literally get
light headed during rehearsal. I'd go home and everyone thought I was
doing some fantastic drugs. I just wasn't used to doing actual work, and
it was a lot all at once. By the time the production was over, everything
still wasn't clicking for me, but I was well on my way. I went on to do a
whole hell of a lot of theater at Nassau (and not doing any school work,
whoops), and there's no finer stepping ground for a beginning actor.
Victor suggested (demanded?) that I go to William Esper Studios in
Manhattan, and so I did. A brilliant, brilliant school that teaches the
Misner technique, and requires serious hard work and dedication. I was up
to the task this time though, and my time and money there was well spent.
How did you first hear about
My friend Marcus Koch told me that he had just been hired to do the
special f/x for this film Ghost Lake, and that the director was a friend
of one of our mutual friends, director/writer/singer/all around good guy
and nice to animals Dave Parker. I told Marcus that I wanted in, and he
told me that it had been mostly cast, and I told him bad words which in
retrospect I guess he didn't deserve.
"I just never expected to have such a
great time in a town of like 5 people.".
I believe you got your mother
Mary to tape you and read with you, and then mailed in your audition?
I certainly did. I was strapped for time, as I've said my mother is a film
buff, and she was more than happy to do it. She started to add some
character stuff to her parts and began giving me some direction too. None
of which was helpful and had to be immediately nixed. Maybe I want to add
too that in my audition for "sexy guy" which is on the DVD, that is not my
mother. So let's not go there.
Was Jay expecting a tape or
was it a pleasant surprise?
Through my attempts to weasel my way into an audition I finally contacted
Jay and found that he had been briefed by Marcus and Dave as to my
situation. As he was in California and I in New York, I suggested that I
tape some auditions of still open parts, and send them his way.
Are you surprised that you got
a role from Jay purely watching you on tape?
Actually I think they saw something in me, but I didn't have a part right
away. Knowing that they were considering me for something, and that it was
pretty clear I wasn't a psychopath (suckers), I met up with the f/x guy
and we took a bus from NYC to Alfred NY, which turned out to be a decent 8
hour trip. I showed up there, looking to do a final audition, and got the
For those who haven't yet seen
the making of, can you try and sum up how much fun you all had on location?
It was the best experience I've had doing anything of that sort.
Generally, if you stick that many strangers in a house for an extended
period of time, fights and arguments are going to come up. But that was
never really a problem there. It still boggles my mind how well everyone
got along up there considering the amount of time we spent side to side
and a lot of the situations we found ourselves in. I probably had too much
fun, which I attribute mostly to Johnnie Young the producer, who had a
habit of egging me on. I just never expected to have such a great time in
a town of like 5 people.
You were noted as probably the
hardest working member of the cast/crew as you worked you ass off!! Where do you get your drive and ambition from and what keeps you focused?
Well, when I got there I told them I was ready to pretty much to whatever
needed be done, so I had to keep my word. If I could help out with
something, I wanted to. I'll shake that branch, whatever. By the way, I
was the best at that. Working on a set like that can be a great
experience, either way. If it's an awful time or a wonderful one, you're
going to take away something that you can use down the road. You have an
opportunity to help out with various aspects of the film making process
and it's invaluable. If you want to go out and make it big and sit in
your trailer on your fat ass for most of the shoot complaining about
whatever you can, that's fine. I'm all for an actors focus. If you're in
every scene, you've got one coming up, whatever...that's where your focus
should be. But I had days there where I had nothing to shoot, and I wasn't
going to go home, so I'm going to help out. If I can somehow make it
easier for someone, somehow make the film better, then I'm all for it.
Simple as that.
You shot much of the extra
materials, did you initially just intend it to be
for personal reflection, or did you plan to turn the tapes over for the
A couple of days in I found out the sound guy was going to be doing the
behind the scenes stuff. Now I asked how much behind the scenes stuff he
could get, if whenever there's a scene, he needs to be doing sound, and
therefore cannot get behind it with a camera. So I more than happily
volunteered. Unfortunately, for the people editing it, it hadn't dawned on
me that someone would need to go through all the stuff I was filming, so I
just shot away. I don't know how many hours. I heard 6. One hour of this
great little cat that kept following me around. Exciting stuff, for
another DVD maybe.
"Complaining and talking about
yourself......that is what makes one
How long did it take to apply
your zombie/ghost make-up and was it very uncomfortable? I know you had problems keeping your mouth open constantly.
It didn't take all that long, maybe a half an hour to re-apply it to my
face every time. It was pretty comfortable. Once you get over the feeling
that it's constantly falling off, it's no bother. I did complain about
keeping my mouth open constantly, and at the same time never shut my mouth
during the entire shoot. Complaining and talking about yourself......that
is what makes one an actor.
How did you enjoy working with Jay and what did you learn from him?
I loved working with Jay; he's a rare treat as a director. He's very
patient and knows exactly what he wants. I learned more from him than he
probably knows. Most of my experience to that point had been in theater,
and there needed to be an adjustment made for me. Jay works with the
actors, which may not seem like a big deal, but there are a lot of them
out there that don't take the time, or don't know how to. I really
appreciated it, and took a great deal away from it. I actually learned a
good deal after viewing the film for the first time. I generally can't
stand to look at myself, but I really needed to see what I was doing, and
what mistakes needed fixing. I certainly feel that I have come along way
in a short time, and have brought it to all projects since.
Are you pleased with the
reaction to the film so far?
I actually don't know much about the reactions the film has gotten to this
point. Occasionally my attention is brought to a review, and I've been
very happy with what's being said. I'm sure I'll see plenty when it's
released over here.
What are your hopes for the
film when it is released in the US and Canada?
I just want as many people to see it as possible. I think it'll do well,
especially since its cover just draws you in. I think people will really
appreciate it, as it's a nice getaway from the mindless gore fests (not
that there's anything wrong with that) the mindless horror films without
gore (what the hell is that about?) and PG-13 remakes of films starring
your favorite TV teenies and just have no hope of being anywhere near as
good as the originals.
Genre fans may also have seen
your appearance in Nikos the Impaler. How did you get involved with that
Uh...no, that wasn't me. Aye, fine. Yeah, that's me. I had befriended
Marcus Koch who did the f/x for it. He told me he was doing an Andreas
Schnaas film, they were coming to New York, and I said that I just had to
see this. Somewhere, somehow I ended up as a cop in the film, and doing a
great deal amount of crew work for the thing. I found Felissa Rose, we
found out that we were the only mildly sane people involved, and banded
together. Welcome to amateur night on Long Island. It was a nightmare
Phil, that's about it.
What's next for you?
Coming up on May 20-22, Jay and I will be guests at the 3rd Monster Mania
convention in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. That should be a great time, and
we're really looking forward to it. There's a lot of great guests (then
there's me), they're screening a heap of fantastic films, including Ghost
Lake, and there will be dealer tables galore. After that I hope to get
involved in the next Jay Woelfel project which is slated for this summer.
After that I'll tackle some theater projects which have been long in
waiting and are now being readied to go.
I finished shooting a feature length comedy called Couches in October, in which I was the lead. I loved the script immediately upon reading and wanted
in right away. It's about a down on his luck guy that has a fight with his
girlfriend and must then move out of their apartment. He winds up on the
various couches of some wild and or eccentric characters all the while
trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life from there. I logged
a heap of hours on the production, and I loved every minute. There was a lot
of very talented people involved, and I truly feel it will turn out
Finally, how does it feel to
be front and centre on the cover art?
That cover was pretty damn cool by itself, and now it's VERY damn cool
with your quote floating on top of it. Everyone I know is in love with
that cover. Some people take it to bed with them. And I personally don't
think I've ever looked better.
"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."
Ghost Lake gets its USA DVD premiere on 17 May 2005.
You can read Phil's review of Ghost Lake here.