WATCHING A RAW FEED: INTERVIEW WITH JOHN SHIBAN

“The X-Files” executive producer John Shiban, “24″ executive producer Tony Krantz and “Blair Witch” co-creator Daniel Myrick have teamed up to create a bunch of movies for Warner homevid label Raw Feed. Their first release, “Rest Stop,” the frightening tale of a young girl tormented by a loo lurker, was released on DVD a few months back. Their latest effort “Sublime,” about a hospital patient who has a rather spooky experience within his ward, is on DVD this month. Film Threat’s Clint Morris talks to John Shiban about the new shingle and its output…

How did Raw Feed get started?
Tony (Krantz), Dan Myrick and myself were all looking to do something different. We came up with some stories together and decided to pitch them as a series of direct-to-DVD movies. Warners, who are making a lot of money in the DVD business, wanted to do more original movies [as opposed to sequels], so they jumped on it. This was the first deal of its kind with them.

What’s the goal with the label?
We’re not just making movies; we’re trying to establish a label and a brand – and kind of its own genre. If you look at the “Twilight Zone,” each episode had its own diverse blend of themes, and we [Tony, Dan and I] all each brought something different to the table here. Tony is from “24,” so he knows how to do a thriller; Dan knows his horror, and myself, being from “Supernatural” and “The X-Files,” can do supernatural and horror. We kind of want each movie we do to have a little bit of all three.

Was it always intended that everything would be direct-to-DVD?
Yeah, for a couple of different reasons – films in the U.S are blockbuster driven, and I don’t want to do that, and I’m from television so I’m used to writing things and then making them straight-away, ya know? That’s what we wanted to do – write and then do them. We also all wanted an opportunity to direct one. It was a way to make all those things happen. Our deal with Warners is that if they want to they can release them theatrically, though. Personally, I’m just glad to get them out there. I don’t think the audience really cares anymore how they get their movies. I think the stigma of direct to DVD has pretty much gone now.

Look, some of the stuff that’s going direct-to-DVD is better than some of the crap that’s getting theatrically released.
Absolutely.

I mean, look what happened to “Grindhouse”?!
I know! I know! You don’t have to cater to a hundred million people [with DVD]. I’ve done a lot of television – and cable television – and the freedom, because you’re not trying to please so many people, is remarkable. You can tell stories that you want to this way – and not have to worry about getting a PG rating either.

You directed “Rest Stop,” didn’t you?
Yes I did.

So you always intended to direct the first Raw Feed film?
Yeah, I’d done television but I’d always wanted to direct a feature. I wrote the script too, so I was just the natural choice to direct it.

Was “The Hitcher” a big influence on your script?
“The Hitcher” was an influence… it kind of started actually with… did you ever see Spielberg’s “Duel”?

Yes, of course.
I saw that when I was very young and it just did stuck with me – its truly realistic horror. Those types of 70s horror movies were an influence on me, because unlike the gothic horror movies of the 30s or 40s which were Asian influenced, they were real and gritty. Its not fantasy land, its ‘my town and there’s something terrible happening here’. I think sometimes a highly stylised horror film can pull an audience out of it, so I wanted it to look and play a certain way.

How much of a budget did you have to work with?
I’m officially supposed to say ‘under 5’ – according to Warner Bros publicity – so I’ll say under 5 but I’ll tell ya, it was way under 5.

That’s fantastic.
Yeah. We shot it in Los Angeles. We had a great production team that really put every dollar we had on the screen. We had a great cast and crew.

And I see you’re doing a sequel to “Rest Stop”?
Domestically, in the U.S, it has done so well – for Warners, for an original DVD, its sold more than any in their history – that now I have to come up with another one. I actually just started… digging into the outline. It’s going to be fun.

Are you going to try and get the same girl, Jamie Alexander, back? She was good.
I’m going to try, yeah. This is how I see it – and this is the way I explained it to Warners – ‘remember “Mad Max”? And remember the “Road Warrior”? It was the same mythology and same character but it not only took it up a step, it took it in a different direction. I definitely want to bring back a number of the [original] people and keep the mythology going – but I just want to do a much different kind of movie.

Now lets talk about the latest release, “Sublime.” Where did you find the script for it?
“Sublime” was one of the three original ideas that we pitched to Warners. We found a writer to flesh that out. It came from the same kind of ethos that “Rest Stop” did – find a realistic situation that we’re all familiar with – whether it’s a rest stop or a hospital – and make that scary.

As a producer on these, are you on the set a fair bit?
Because we all have day jobs and other commitments, we usually split up the duties. In the next round of movies, I’ll do point – I’ll do point on “Rest Stop 2.” Tony will do point on another movie. We’re all involved – in casting, the script stage and hiring the writers and all that – but no, we’re not spending a lot of time on the set, because we don’t want to lose our jobs. We’re just going to try and get a team together – a good line producer and so on – so we can just roll with it and keep doing these.

Loved Tom Cavanaugh in “Love Monkey.” How did you get him onboard a horror movie?
We’ve all been fans of his for a long time and we were blessed to grab him. He was great. I’m sure you know, when you do low-budget filmmaking you aren’t big on the perks, and he didn’t mind; he was a real trooper.

With a guy like Tom, does he get a nice payday because of his repute on TV?
Everyone basically worked for Scale – or a little bit less. What we realised is that a lot of cast or crew were willing to do that if they liked the material but more so, they wanted to do it because it was a ‘go’ movie … it’s happening. And we’re shooting for a certain quality, we’re not trying to make… we’re not the new “Grindhouse” as it were. We’re trying to do interesting and edgy little movies. We found that because we only needed them for fifteen days – which isn’t a big commitment – and the fact that it was something different, people were willing to do it. Joey Lawrence, who was in “Rest Stop,” doesn’t need the money – but he loved the death scene he had and really wanted to work that muscle as an actor, so he said he’d do it. Nobody’s really doing it for the money.

I can’t let you go without asking what you know about the next “X-Files” movie?
I got the same pitch from ["X-Files" writer and executive producer] Frank Spotnitz that he told the folks on the Internet and that’s ‘the movie is in development’ and he can’t tell me what the plot is. There is some development going on in the script stage. I don’t think I’d be involved anyway – I’m too busy with “Supernatural” and Raw Feed.




Posted on June 6, 2007 in Interviews by
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