Thursday, February 18, 2010

Danny Draven on “The Filmmaker’s Book of the Dead”

What's your filmmaking background?

DANNY DRAVEN: I’ve always had a passion for horror and sci-fi. When I moved to Los Angeles, I wanted to work for Roger Corman to “get my foot in the door” like so many of my film school influences like Francis Ford Coppola, Ron Howard, Jonathan Demme, James Cameron, Joe Dante, and Martin Scorsese did.

I had to start somewhere, so that led me to Full Moon Pictures, a company that was making a lot of movies at the time (and still are today). It was there I met indie producer/director J.R. Bookwalter (The Dead Next Door), and he helped get me started and gave me my first directing gig.

During this time, I also met Charles Band, David DeCoteau and Stuart Gordon, all of whom were great mentors for me.

I eventually started producing “made-to-order” films for Charles Band of Full Moon Pictures (, for shoe-string budgets and all were shot on digital (this was before affordable 24p cameras). After several movies, I became very tired of making films in this “cookie cutter” environment, so I decided to lock myself away for a few years. I decided to only make movies I wrote. After a few years, I made Ghost Month. It was done my way, and completely independent.

What made you decide to write this book, The Filmmaker’s Book of the Dead: How to make Your Own heart-Racing Horror Movie?

DANNY DRAVEN: The best way to learn to make movies is to be on a set and make as many mistakes as you can so you learn not to repeat them again, and I’ve made plenty. I wrote this book to share my experiences and pitfalls with others so they can avoid them. This is the book I wish someone would have given me 10 years ago.

What's the secret to making a successful genre film?

DANNY DRAVEN: It all starts with a great story, told well. There really isn't a secret. However, having a great cast (a star helps!), a strong hook, short title, fantastic artwork and trailer, and a high-quality finished product certainly will get you a long way. It's also important to understand the genre you are working in and what is generally expected in such a film.

What's the most common mistake filmmakers make when working on a horror film?

DANNY DRAVEN: I think the most common mistake is shooting a script that isn't ready or too ambitious for the shoestring budget. It's always best to keep it simple, but remember horror fans want a horror move, so try your best to give them what they want.

What's the best advice about filmmaking that you've ever received?

DANNY DRAVEN: Never invest any more in a film than you can afford to lose.

As a filmmaker, what's the smartest decision you've ever made? The dumbest?

DANNY DRAVEN: The smartest would have to be getting myself on a set early in my career. I'm a film school grad, but the things you learn on set will stay with you forever. There is no other place to learn! Get off the armchair and get your butt on the set.

The dumbest has to be financing a movie on credit cards. It's tempting for a lot of aspiring indie guys, but DON'T DO IT!

What's next for Danny Draven?

DANNY DRAVEN: Another movie and another book.


James said...

Great interview!

Monroe said...

Sounds like a book I need. Will go out and buy one. This guy sounds pretty cool.