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Stevan Mena

Stevan: "So far everything I've done
has been on my own".

Conducted by Phil Davies Brown
October 16th, 2004

I'm sure that by now, many of you will have heard of the award winning horror film 'Malevolence', as it is getting much critical acclaim and huge positive word of mouth everywhere it is shown.

With comparisons being made to 'Halloween' and 'The Texas Chain Saw Massacre' amongst others, I thought it was time for a chat with Director Stevan Mena.

When did you first become interested in the medium of film?
I became interested in film at a very early age. My father's idea of time well spent with his kids was a day at the movies. I originally wanted to be a film composer. I had records of all my favorite film soundtracks. I carried them around in this red box; I wanted to be John Williams. I was a real geek.

Did you attend film school?
Tried it, hated it. I did however attend a film class with American Blue Note Director Ralph Toporoff in 1998. It was a month long class where you were instructed on the business end of filmmaking. It taught me a great deal about how to finance, cast actors, hire crew, plan and schedule. It really helped a lot. Ralph was a great teacher; it was rare to get a one on one with a working director.

How did you get started in the industry?
I don't consider myself an industry person yet. So far everything I've done has been on my own. But I'm hoping that now Malevolence has been picked up by legendary horror distributor Anchor Bay, I will soon get to make more films, and maybe pay off my mountain of debt from this one. Still looking forward to getting out of my 1 bedroom apartment, maybe even getting my own washer and dryer...I hate Laundromats.

Where did the idea for Malevolence stem from originally?
The idea came from the desire to write a horror film that really scared you the way they did when I was a kid. I think a lot of new films are self referential and try to be funny because they are afraid of seeming too retro or derivative. But what they don't seem to realize is by making a slasher film in general, you're inherently beginning with derivative material. So I say if it isn't broke...and I embrace the past, even throwing in small homage’s to my favorite horror films. I also love the idea of there being something at stake other than just the killer. Weaving plotlines that twist around character priorities as the film goes on.

Are you a fan of the horror genre?
HUGE fan. Criterion laserdisc special edition "insert horror title here" buying fan.

If so what are some of your favourite horror movies?
Texas Chainsaw (1974) "I've heard they made others, but I'm sure that's just a rumor..." Halloween (1978) "Greatest movie soundtrack period." Psycho Alien "Scott is one of my favorite directors" Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) Dawn of the Dead (1979) "Goblins score still rules" The Shining The Exorcist Evil Dead 1 Evil Dead 2 Phantasm 2 "Forget Ash...Reg!!!" The Burning Jaws 4 "Michael Caine still makes me laugh till soda shoots out my nose" Poltergeist

Stevan: "It was the only part that I could pull off with no money".

I understand that it is the middle section of a trilogy?
The script eventually mutated into 500 pages, so I had to break it up into 3 movies. So at least if they do a sequel, the story has somewhere to go, there's more to tell, more to reveal.

Why do the middle section first?
It was the only part that I could pull off with no money. The prequel requires elaborate sets, since it will focus on Martin's kidnapping, and his descent into madness, and will intricately detail the origins of the slaughterhouse. Can't do that with a credit card...And the sequel has car chases and elaborate stunts, which again I couldn't afford. But the middle takes place mostly in an abandoned house, which we found for next to free...

I take it you plan to film the other two parts?
If they'll let me. If it was just there to make money and rip people off with a cheap retread of the original, no, but since there's actually a reason to go forward with the story, I would of course be interested. There's still a lot to be explained and revealed. I think the ending kind of makes you wonder what will happen next, but also, how did it come to this? So it sort of sets up both the prequel and sequel.

How long did it take to write?
2 years.

How did you go about finding your cast and were you surprised by anyone?
We cast in NY using backstage and some web sites. It took a long time, but eventually we found the right people. Brandon was discovered only 2 weeks before principal photography.

Similarly, how did you find the locations?
1 year, and 10,000 miles logged of driving around..driving around...asking people if they'd let us put them in a hotel while we wrecked their house. Finally the planets aligned, and someone actually said yes. Crazy...

Stevan: "There's more, but I'm getting depressed now..".

How long did the shoot last, and did it go mostly to plan?
It was filmed over a 2 year period. My plan was shredded within minutes of the first day. Everything went wrong, from lost locations, to car crashes (7 total, still in litigation on one of them), to crew mutinies (one time, they actually stole the negative from a day's shoot and ransomed it back because they thought they weren't going to get paid. So much for crew camaraderie). I got arrested once because one of the people who "agreed" to let us use his house said we could do whatever we want, age the walls, even knock them down because he was going to tear it down and rebuild in the spring. So we wrecked the place. Turns out, He USED to own it, but the bank foreclosed on him a year ago. So it was his revenge on the bank. Luckily the bank decided not to press charges, and all we had to do was repair the damage. Also, one of the actors had a brain aneurism, fortunately he fully recovered. Just the tip of the iceberg. You name it, it happened to us.

Have you encountered any huge problems along the way?
You want more? Entire days shooting ruined by the lab, in fact the lab we were using got sued by someone and we couldn't get our negative out for a while. I also got arrested for not returning a U-haul truck the day it was due (they're strict in PA). I had a mini heart attack while shooting what would eventually become the opening scene. There's more, but I'm getting depressed now...

How long did it take to edit?
6 months.

Has the success of the film surpassed your expectations?
Just finishing it surpassed my expectations. So at this point, I'm totally amazed.

How does it feel to have an award winning feature under your belt?
I never thought it would happen on my first film, so it's a real validation of hard work. I'm still surprised.

How have fans of the genre reacted to the film?
We've gotten a real positive response from audiences. They've been screaming in all the right places, and very loudly at times.

What are your hopes for the theatrical run and eventual DVD & Video release?
I'm not sure what to expect, so I don't know, but I hope for the best.

When can we expect the other parts of the trilogy?
Well, they'll only happen if audiences want it to. So I guess it depends how well the film is received. But I do know I'd like to tell more of the story.

Is that what you will be working on next?
I have a lot of other projects I'm working on, so I'm not sure, but probably.

"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview Stevan.
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."

Check out his official site here: http://www.malevolencemovie.com/

Below are streams for the Malevolence trailer:


Windows Media
Smaller stream - http://tiimes.com/malevolence/mtrailer100.asx
Larger stream - http://tiimes.com/malevolence/mtrailer430.asx

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