I truly do have an exclusive for our readers this week, as I have had the pleasure of chatting to Lennie Overgaard, writer of the forthcoming horror film 'Rip Cage'. I am so excited about this movie as it promises to be something very special, not to mention that those of you with good vision will be able to see yours truly in it. Read on for all the details on this groundbreaking project, with an exclusive look at the set which has so far never been seen anywhere online!!
When did you first become interested in film?
I've been a movie lover for as long as I can remember. I loved going to the theatre to see all the latest movies. I'm not sure if there was a particular film that made me interested in the entire film thing, I believe it was film as a medium that was the most interesting thing about it all, mostly because some of the films I saw as a kid were incredibly real. Movies could almost pass for another world one could escape into. Movies have always had a very special place in my heart. I doubt that I will ever stop watching them.
How did you get started in the business?
Every filmmaker out there has made amateur films when they were younger. Some of those films are easily forgotten and some films turn out really well. I made amateur films also. The first notable one was a short film called "The Metal Cage", an animated cartoon I made with friends, it was meant as a project to be submitted for an animation competition. We were never able to finish it on time, but "The Metal Cage" stirred up quite some interest and I guess that's where it all started. Time passed by and I got to see a movie called "Cube" - I fell in love with it at once. When I found out that there was going to be a sequel to "Cube" I didn't hesitate one second to create a website, which was meant to provide other Cube fans with all the latest news on the sequel. Well, Lions Gate, who had bought out Trimark Pictures and therefore owned the rights to the Cube franchise, came upon my site - it even won a couple of awards for "Movie Site of the Month". They proposed the idea of letting me design the official "Cube 2: Hypercube" website and that was kind of my ticket to Lions Gate. I have had regular contact with them ever since. Through this project I got to know a lot of other filmmakers and I learned a lot from them. There's no way I can ever thank them enough. I'll be forever grateful.
Do you feel that it is important for people to go to film school or should they just start making movies if they wish to succeed?
You've seen a lot of people break into the film industry without having studied film or without having been to film school. Film schools aren't something you have got to attend to have a chance in this business, but they will always be helpful. Film schools can give you something you can't learn by working on your own - at least not in the beginning. It's all a matter of learning new techniques and being willing to improve. I guess filmmaking has always had a touch of luck to it - I was lucky to get to work for Lions Gate. The directors, the producers, the distributors; they are the industry professionals. If you are good, you'll be discovered. If you'd be a worthy addition to a crew, you'll be hired. But don't sit back and expect them to come to you. Filmmaking is hard work and they'll prefer people who are hardworking and passionate about what they do - of course. Let people know who you are and what you are capable of doing. Some filmmakers like working with new faces; they like to hear new ideas and they do know that everybody has to start somewhere.
Are you a fan of the horror genre?
I'm a huge fan of horror films. There's nothing better than blood and gore - nothing better than a nice horror film with guts and stuff flying around. I'm an even bigger fan of horror with a meaning; I'm really into the more psychological stuff out there. Films like "Se7en", "Signs" and especially the whole Cube franchise; you won't find a bigger Cube fan out there than me and I am really looking forward to "Cube Zero". "Rip Cage" is a bit like "Se7en", a bit like "Cube" and it also references bits and pieces of other films now and then. Those films have made such a big impression on me and they are hard to forget - very hard. Still, there's nothing you can say "Rip Cage" is really like; at least that I know of.
How did Rip Cage come about?
"Rip Cage" is, to some extent, a continuation and deeper version of "The Metal Cage" I wrote when I was younger. I just wanted it to be darker, dirtier and more horrible than anything you'd ever seen before. It was also an opportunity for me to become a philosopher. The part of "Rip Cage" that I'm particularly proud of is the philosophy that is being discussed and used in the film. It was a chance for me to try out some theories about life and death. The philosophy in "Rip Cage" is on the same, if not an even more advanced, level as "The Matrix". Also, I've always had a keen interest in music and art and that is something you'll notice fairly easily.
You wrote the script. Where did your ideas come from and can you tell us a little about the story?
I've always had in mind that I wanted to write something new. There are a lot of similar comedies, remakes and horror films nowadays. I decided not to make something like that. So, that's sort of where it all began. Another thing I thought could be interesting to do, was to involve religious aspects. I've always been fascinated by religious fanatics, they can truly be some of the scariest people you'll get to know. I did a lot of research on various religions and it's strange that something that involves so many different religions and religious theories comes from a writer, who doesn't believe in any gods or religions. That's sort of why I decided to show my script to Vanessa Mason who's more into that stuff than I am. The script was almost completely finished by then, but Vanessa added some tremendous stuff and together we wrote a final draft, which is absolutely amazing. The story centres on Mary Hart as we follow her in her attempt to get out of the cage. In the story she'll be taken to some really crazy places; nobody has ever proved that hell is all fire and brimstone. Mary will experience that hell can be far more painful than she had ever imagined. She'll be facing a lot of horrifying incidents including murdering of young girls. Vanessa and I tried to push the envelope without pushing it too far. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against kids; I'm even a UNICEF member, but the violence is just there to make sure the film is as different as possible.
How long did it take you to write?
I began writing the very first draft back in July 2001, it was even called "Rip Cage" back then, and it was about a number of people stuck in basically two places. One of which was a forest environment and the other one was hell. It was just a very rough draft with a lot of plot holes in it - it only took me like one week to write that one though. With a first draft having been written I instantly began brainstorming the idea and I began to realize that this was going to be hard to make, it would be too different; people were going to hate it so the story changed from being chaos and religion to strange sci-fi concepts. It was about that time "Cube 2: Hypercube" was green lit and unfortunately, that premise was a bit too similar to the draft I had now finished. I felt as if I had just written a huge rip-off, which it really wasn't - so I decided to go back to the original concept. The script was put on stand-by for a year and I had now been researching various religious ideas and been reading about a lot of religious societies and tribal religions. I decided that this shouldn't be about one religion as such, it should be about discussing various theories and ideas; what afterlife was - where would we all go once we died. It took me one and a half years before I was satisfied with the story and decided to make a final draft I could give out to various production companies. So, the script has been underway for more than two years - I've had a lot of time to consider things and concepts - I didn't want my first feature length script to be an entire waste of time.
Confusion in 2002's 'Hypercube: Cube 2'.
Who did you submit it to, in order to get it green lighted, or had you been asked to write it?
As an indie screenwriter you're going to take some beatings and so did I. Just don't expect your material to be accepted for production by the very first company you submit it to. I submitted "Rip Cage" to some medium-sized production companies. Given the way "Rip Cage" is written I wanted to get in touch with some smaller, more artistic companies. The script was returned quite some times. Then one day I came to see a short film called "In the Attic", which was made by Zombie House, our indie co-producers. The film wasn't particularly well-written, but it had some amazing cinematic moments and some really cool ideas, and best of all - they focused on creating weird horror. I took a shot, sent them the script and they said they'd do it! All the way through the process of finding a production company I never thought about sending it to the film production part of Savage Dog. The idea has always been that Savage Dog Digitals would be providing the visual effects and then another company would be producing it, but it just felt natural that this production should be indie co-operation. Who else would do something as crazy as this? You have more freedom when you work with smaller companies and we needed freedom for this.
What have you worked on previously?
I've been working on a bunch of digital short films. Projects like "Crib" and "Box", both of which I also wrote, and most recently I helped in creating some of the digital magic for another of our films coming up, "Zero-Z". I also did a lot of publicity work on the Lions Gate Films title, "Cube 2: Hypercube", and it was a whole new side of the film business I got to see. I worked very closely with the key crew of the film and it was an amazing time where I learned a lot of stuff. It was a tremendous experience that I would love to do over again. It began at the time Lions Gate hired me to do the official "Cube 2: Hypercube" website and then it sort of evolved from that. It was pretty cool ending up as one of the publicists on the projects it was just a little bit sad that the website ended up being something I wasn't too happy with. That's how it is with large film companies; they have a lot to say. In this case it cost the site its quality and a lot of pictures had to be replaced. The MPAA controls all the movie websites also. With a Lions Gate request of taking the site down to a maximum of 1 Megs total it was obvious that the final result wouldn't be as satisfying as the one I aimed for and the original site is now on my computer only. After a little while it was too much for me and I launched Uncubed.com, a site centering on everything Cube related, mostly about the upcoming "Cube Zero" though. The site gets as many as 500,000 hits each month so I'd say it's reasonably popular. As for "Cube Zero", if you're good you'll be able to spot me in the film for a frame or two.
Can you tell us a bit about the casting process, you recently got Vincenzo Natali onboard?
It's a huge honour to have written the first film ever where Vincenzo Natali is on the other side of the camera than he's used to. As far as I remember I talked to him twice about the project before he said he'd do it - that's how much he trusted in the production and the people involved with it. I wanted to involve Vincenzo from the very first draft, but as the script evolved I sort of forgot about the idea. In the original script his character was named Marcus Fiehls and though his character doesn't have a name in the final draft we'll continue to call him Marcus Fiehls. The only problem is that his role, unfortunately, ended up not being very big, but if there's ever a sequel to "Rip Cage" I'll yet again ask Vincenzo to return and hopefully for a much bigger part of the film.
Our co-producers, Zombie House Films, had an audition once and it was quite popular. A lot of people were interested in being a part of this project and that's very positive. As it looks right now, more auditions will be coming up as we haven't finally decided on actors for the remaining parts.
You recently asked the horror community for headshots to appear in the film (myself included) can you tell the participants what they can expect to happen to their photo?
As I also talked about when I asked for people to send in their headshots I said that it was going to be in the opening title sequence of the film. We have already cut that part and the headshots will appear after just 1 minute. A lot of people sent in their headshots. The interest in the project was phenomenal and we even got to answer some really great questions that the lads asked us. Unfortunately, we also became the victim of spam mail because of that; things seem to have been worked out by now, thank God. Well, the headshots have all been edited, cropped, colour corrected and resized separately and that took an awful lot of time, but we're over that now and nobody says filmmaking is easy. In the film, we'll start off as they do in "Resident Evil", sort of. We'll start off with a quote about death by the brilliant philosopher Khalil Gibran who was an incredible source of inspiration when writing this script. We then see a TV far away, there's noise on the screen, and we zoom in further and further until we are deep in the pixels that then turn out to be pictures of people. As we travel deeper into the pixels that'll take us to the Savage Dog Films opening logo. As we play this first part, this is where Vincenzo is introduced also, at least his voice is. Vincenzo talks about death and that death comes to all of us so that sort of ties the pictures together with the rest of the film.
Is the film still set for premiere in November?
If we can follow the schedule we'll have a finished copy of the film that we can give out to festivals at the end of October this year and since we have been invited along for a German horror film festival at the beginning of November, this is where we'll screen the film for the very first time. If we haven't had the time to finish all of the visual effects by then we'll give the organizers a copy with some temp effects. No matter what comes in our way, we're going to make this happen.
What are your hopes for release?
The plan is to let the film travel the festival circuit before we decide to get in touch with any distributors at all. And it's not because the interest isn't there. A Portuguese and a Finnish distributor have shown major interest in the project so far. We want to be able to control most of the releases around the world at the beginning, make sure the film comes the way we made it without disturbing cuts that have been requested by the festival organizers. There'll simply be too much stuff in the film in terms of gore, violence and language that would have to be cut out then and that isn't exactly what we want for this film.
What certificate are you aiming for?
It would be absolutely crazy to get the film rated as soon as we have finished it, because there's no doubt that it would get an NC-17 rating and in the U.S. that isn't actually very good - at least not if you want your film to be shown in theatres. The MPAA can really be hard nowadays and that forces filmmakers to re-cut their pictures so they can go for an R rating, Naturally, nobody wants a rating to kill potential success from the very beginning so that's why we rarely see NC-17 ratings. Today, the key to success is, to some extent, to get some publicity out and spread the word. Since "Rip Cage" was green lit on January 1st 2004 and the press release was given out on January 4th, I'd say things have been moving nicely.
Visual effects to be coolest thing in Rip Cage.
You also handle the visual effects. Can you tell us about the shoots ambitious effects?
This is one of the coolest parts of Rip Cage. Never before has a film been shot on as much green screen as we'll be using. Don't get me wrong, it's not a 100% CGI movie, but as soon as we're in the cage it'll be all CGI. And because the set consists of four walls, a ceiling and a floor which are all green, the actors have nothing to react to. In other films where a digital object will be added in post, the actors at least have the environment they can relate to - in Rip Cage there's nothing at all. Obviously, this is going to be hard and we'll be needing actors who are more than up to the task. I'll be supervising the visual effects on this project and they'll be taking a long time to create. Thank God we decided to go all CGI with the set. That means we can develop a lot of the action before shooting even starts. We can go in and make all the changes to the set we want to and we can decide all the camera movements also. We have been underway for a long, long time and it's looking awesome right now. In terms of filmmaking, there's no tool that even comes close to CGI.
Our job in the film, besides placing the actors in the CGI set will be to add some gore. We'll be decapitating people, we'll be throwing axes at people, we'll cut out people's guts - the rest is up to the special effects and make-up department and Priscilla Gonzalez who's in charge of it.
I hear that there will be a lot of publicity for the film; can you tell us a bit more?
Publicity and promotional material always help sell a film, so we've decided to focus quite a lot on that. The music, which is composed by the brilliant band Catonium, will most likely be released on a CD soundtrack by the label that Catonium works with. We'll be releasing teaser trailers, regular trailers and we've even hired pro editors just to create trailers that have never been seen before. Smaller things will be an official website as well as posters. And speaking of the posters, the upcoming ones as well as the DVD cover will be rotated. So whenever you grab this DVD you'll have to turn it 90 degrees to read what it says on it. It's a very small thing, but we always said that if this movie was going to be really different, so should the DVD.
The project really seems to be breaking new ground. In terms of success, do you feel that the film could tap into something and repeat the success of a film such as 'The Blair Witch Project' or 'My Little Eye'?
"Blair Witch" and "My Little Eye" are movies you can't compare anything to. I don't know how popular "Rip Cage" will be, but I hope it'll go on to become a classic. It all depends on whether people are interested in seeing something that is completely new or not. We know some people will hate it, but we also expect that some people will love it. It's a mixed world and we're not aiming for the general public, "Rip Cage" is made especially for the hardcore horror lovers. If we can please them, then we've done what we wanted to.
What do you hope to do next? Do you have more stories to tell?
I am currently writing a script similar to "Rip Cage" and I'll also be supervising visual effects on two upcoming films. One of which is the sequel to a hugely popular comedy flick so I'm really looking forward to that. It could be really interesting to be working on a really big Hollywood project so that's also something I'd hope to be doing in the future. It's been a really awesome process of writing the screenplay for "Rip Cage" and I'd love to do that again, so maybe one day you'll get to see a "Rip Cage 2".
"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview Lennie.
We wish you the best of luck in the future."
You can find more 'Rip Cage' information and other Savage Dog productions at their official web site: http://www.savagedogfilms.com/