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Damian Maffei

Damian: "Everyone soon found out I was
a big fan of the spotlight".

Conducted by Phil Davies Brown
May 18th, 2005

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 training?
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 Ghost Lake?
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.

Damian: "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 part.

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 DVD?
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.

Damian: "Complaining and talking about
yourself......that is what makes one an actor.".

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 project?
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 terrific.

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 Damian.
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.

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