Banshee Chapter - First trailer and Interview

Here's the trailer for new horror film 'The Banshee Chapter', produced by Zachary Quinto's company Before The Door Pictures. You know, Spock in Star Trek. That guy.

The story follows journalist Anne Roland as she explores the disturbing links behind her friend's sudden disappearance, an ominous government research chemical, and a disturbing radio broadcast of unknown origin. And the trailer looks pretty damn good 

It'll be shown at London's Film4 Frightfest in August, a horror film festival designed to showcase the best of the next year's horror. It'll be its UK premiere. As part of my Frightfest prep (we're gonna be covering it in some depth, because I love horror) I spoke to THE BANSHEE CHAPTER's writer and director, BLAIR ERICKSON. It's very much worth a read if you're looking to break into film.

Here's our chat in full:

How would you describe The Banshee Chapter in your own words? 
For me "Banshee Chapter" is an intense and disturbing thriller about our past and our secrets, both as individuals and as nations, coming back to haunt us. It's a story that follows a young online journalist named Anne Roland probing some truly frightening chemical experiments that the American government created as part of the MKULTRA project. What starts out as a creepy suspense mystery turns into a full-fledged nightmare when Anne finds out she's been dosed with the experimental chemical from the program. I think it's a very appropriate horror metaphor for the terrifying and unexpected consequences of the American intelligence and military secrets we uncover every day. There's even a brief nod to the NSA...

It is your feature film debut as a writer/director. Does that double the workload or is it easier to manage?
By the time you go to direct the story, you're done with the majority of the writing but it becomes a blessing and a curse. In some ways it's a curse because you know the movie you envision in your head but you have to grapple with the realities of location changes, shooting schedules, and budget limitations that force you to do some rewrites. But it's helpful because you're the author of the story so you don't have anyone to fight against when it comes to changing the original script... except yourself. But we were very fortunate to have a great production team and exceptional producers who helped make almost every single page of the screenplay make the transition to the big screen. 
Which do you prefer - Writing the script or directing it? 
Writing is really more enjoyable just because you can let your imagination run wild and have this almost perfect film playing in your mind. Directing is much more grueling but probably more rewarding in the end, because you actually have something to show for it. 

But this is my first film so I can't say for sure yet. You never know how people will react when they finally see it. For instance I've been posting random stuff on reddit for the past three years that I've also been taking this story from script to finished film. And as anyone who creates and shares stuff online knows, the biggest unknown is always how people will react.. because usually no matter what you're gonna have some fans who will champion it and some people who are just not into it at all and think you suck. You just hope like hell the upvotes outnumber the downvotes. 

What's your background? Have you studied film-making? 
I actually started as a computer science major at Carnegie Mellon University before switching into art with a focus on electronic media. The nature of their art program there was built on the back of their alum, ironic-celebrity concept artist Andy Warhol, so they didn't react as kindly to the idea of "narrative" in art as much as I did. Like the star of the program there was a guy whodressed in a lobster suit and lived in a treehouse. Making short horror movies wasn't exactly considered "high art."

It was an uphill struggle, but I ended up working with a lot of fantastic CMU students from the drama program who ended up later becoming incredible collaborators on this project. I met folks like Zachary Quinto, Corey Moosa, and Neal Dodson who would later end up being my team at their production company Before the Door. I assistant directed a play with their friend from the drama program, Stephanie Riggs, who ended up as both my producer on this movie and as the director on another documentary project I produced called "The Standbys." And even one of my main characters in this film, played by the terrifically engaging actor Michael McMillan from "True Blood," was actually a friend who had once starred in one of my student horror films at the college. So although I technically was never a film major, all the ingredients for a filmmaking career were really put in place in school. 

Any advice for students hoping to enter the world of film? 
Nobody does it alone. You have to be good, but you also have to have some great and trusted collaborators you can work with and share your ideas with. If you're not at a college or learning environment where you can make those contacts, then find people in your local community who share your passions and have some talent too. Then start making short films and putting them online. I cannot stress that last one enough. If you have tons of great ideas but never execute any of them, nobody will ever know. Make stuff and put it out there.

Any stories about working with Zachary Quinto, or is he a hands-off producer?
Zach, Corey, Christian, and Steph and all the producing team were incredibly supportive but never ever meddled. They're all ferociously smart and have great ideas but it's never over-bearing. I would say that all of us share a philosophy of supporting the vision of a great film rather than trying to tell each other what to do. We all understand the weird nature of storytelling and creative, which is to say you can't ever know for sure for what works for certain, you can only brainstorm as a team to come up with the most interesting and compelling story possible.

What's next for you? More horror or something else?
I'm just finishing a new screenplay that has some supernatural elements but ultimately is a haunting story about ordinary young people confronting the tragic death of a close friend. It's a story that had been lurking in my mind for quite a while and when it finally came out it ended up being one of the most personal stories I've ever written. It's not a prequel, sequel, reboot, or remake so I hope it can still get made in this film market!

Also, just last month I started a new game studio with my friends here in San Francisco. We're called Jamwix and we're creating some pretty unique and imaginative games. The first title is actually a love letter to the classic sci-fi, horror, and action films of the 20th century with the gameplay being built around resurrecting all these great cinematic characters and creating brand new stories for them.

Words by Chris Welsh

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