Miles Doleac is the type of actor I enjoy watching. He’s a character actor, something that doesn’t get the respect it once did. Doleac, would be the type of guy John Ford would have around in his “picture”. Maybe in one western he’d be the town drunk or in another a ruthless outlaw and in another the kind neighbor that helps the poor widow. Doleac is fortunate enough to play gruff and suave. He also happens to be a talented filmmaker that continues to sharpen his skills on the indie beat. His southern crime drame “The Hallow” was one of my favorites a few years back. So it’s always a pleasure to get to talk to him.
Mile’s current effort “Demons” stars Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster), John Schneider (“Smallville”), Lindsay Anne Willams (The Hollow), Steven Brand (Hellraiser : Revelations), Kristina Emerson (“NCIS : New Orleans”), and Gary Grubbs (Free State of Jones) co-star star, along with Miles. It centers around an possession of a young woman and her sister, a over bearing father, a retired priest, and a film directors wedding. While the offering is horror it’s unlike anything I’ve seen in the genre and that’s not a bad thing.
“Demons” is out this Friday on VOD and is defiantly worth the view.
Miles, this unlike any possession film I’ve seen before-multiple time lines, lots of different characters-how’d the story originate?
I’m very pleased to hear that. It’s always nice to hear you’ve done something people haven’t seen before. The story originated in conversations with my partner in life, art, and dog rescuing, Lindsay (Anne Williams), who also produces and plays “Kayleigh” in the film. The exorcism angle excited both of us. I love religion-tinged horror films like The Exorcist, The Omen, The Sentinel. I also like how all those films are character-driven and terrify you psychologically, even more than visually. They get in your head and bang around up there. Lindsay was intrigued by the dynamic of two sisters, growing up in a very religious, oppressive household and how that very narrowly-focused brand of religious conservatism plays on their psyches. We came up with a synopsis that was suddenly getting some play with some industry power brokers who were asking for a script ASAP. At the time, I didn’t have one, so I pounded out the first draft in a little more than a week. Forcing myself to write on a deadline without pouring over every scene and word, without overthinking and second-guessing was incredibly liberating.
I knew, though, it had to be more than an exorcism movie. We’ve seen that done and done very well. Hence, the “present day” story line. In some ways, it’s as reminiscent of The Big Chill or The Anniversary Party as it is The Exorcist. I liked the idea of intelligent people with different personalities and perspectives, some of whom know each other extremely well, coming together to celebrate and reminisce, but then it’s all shattered. What do they do? In the case of these folks, they pull together. In some ways, this macabre circumstance brings out their best, truest selves. So many horror films are filled with not-so-smart folks who are consistently making poor decisions and paying for them. I wanted to avoid that here.
Did you research exorcisms or exorcist to get the details right?
I had some knowledge of the history of exorcism, given my PhD in Ancient History (which focuses on early Christianity), but I familiarized myself with the Church’s very latest teachings and practices regarding the rite as I was writing the script.
Once again you play a conflicted character, a former priest now celebrated author/screenwriter- what draws you to write and portray these damaged charters ?
Damaged, conflicted characters are always the most fun to play. In terms of writing, I think everyone has demons, everyone has scars, everyone has parts of themselves that they’re not willing to share with the world. Let’s face it. Human beings are deeply flawed (as well as incredibly beautiful), but the flaws are what make great drama. What fascinates me as a writer is understanding how a damaged character rises above, overcomes his or her history, and finds a way to be heroic, even for an instant, or maybe just finds a way to survive, to endure.
This is the third film you’ve written, directed and starred in (The Historian, The Hallow, Demons) – all very different films-is that by design and what genre would you like to tackle next?
Absolutely. I’m not interested in doing the same kind of film over and over, although there are themes that I find profoundly interesting and I’ll no doubt revisit those time and again. I’m proud that people talk about how different all three films are. I’d like to do something that’s a little sci-fi or action-y or maybe both. I have a script that’s along that line, but I’m afraid it’s going to be expensive. But, look, at the end of the day, I’m always going to gravitate to domestic drama, the drama of the real, because most of life is about figuring out how to find love or love yourself or make your marriage work or how to get along with your parents or siblings or how to overcome some damaging event or how to find meaning in the seemingly mundane. The meaning of the human condition, of life, is somewhere in the micro-details. In the relationship between two people. In the struggle of the individual to find themselves amidst all the noise.
Your casting is always amazing-when you’re writing these roles do you have certain actors in mind and how do attract solid top level talent to modestly budget indie film?
Thank you so much for that. Sometimes I do have an actor in mind. Other times, no. I firmly believe that if you write complicated, fully-fleshed out, interesting human beings, actors, even ones with impressive resumes, will want to play them. That has been my experience at least. It all begins with the script. I’ve been fortunate to work with some amazing folks in my three features and most all of them have told me at one point or another that it was about the script or the character. I can assure they weren’t doing it for the money.
No, William Sadler this time around-was he busy or are you saving him for another project?
Don’t think I didn’t reach out to him. I’d have Bill in every movie if I could. He’s a tremendous actor, a consummate pro, and one of the most delightful humans on the planet. Here, he had just starting working on Power and production schedules conflicted. We just couldn’t make it work.
Speaking of working on a budget, your films never seem small-what’s the secret?
Pulling together the right group of talented, creative, driven people who care about the project as much as you do, delivering a clear vision at the outset, and then relentlessly refusing to take no for an answer. I very much appreciate you saying that. Thing is, there’s almost always a creative solution to every budgetary problem. If you have the right team, you often come up with something better and, maybe, more expensive looking than you originally intended. I’ve worked with some extremely talented crew on these films. My last two films have been colored by Bradley Greer out of New Orleans, who I truly believe is as good as anyone in the business working at any level. In terms of look, the combination of (DP) Ben McBurnett’s eye, who shot both The Hollow and Demons, and Bradley’s brilliant aesthetic and color sensibilities has elevated the look of the films immensely. I have had an outstanding composer on the last two, Clifton Hyde, a mad genius maestro of sound to be sure, and music is, of course, so important, especially in the horror genre. Then you have actors that audiences recognize, actors audiences have seen in huge movies, whether it’s Bill Sadler or Will Forsythe or James Callis or Jeff Fahey or Andrew Divoff or Steven Brand or John Schneider and that adds a great deal.
Like I said this unlike any exorcism film I’ve seen before-it’s horror but is not-it’s a relationship drama buts it’s not-how are you marketing it and where do you think it falls?
I would call it a psychological horror drama. Yes, it’s hardly your typical horror film, but it embraces certain horror tropes and then, hopefully, explodes some of them. For me, everything begins with the characters, the relationships … but, as a producer, you have to think about the financial bottom line. Our films are mostly financed through private equity. Your investors are looking for a return or they may not invest next time. Horror is the single most marketable narrative genre. A large part of the reason I wrote this script is because I wanted to see if I could make an effective, low-budget “horror” film that could really generate a significant return for my investors.
Did you John Schneider teach you to properly slide over the hood of a car?
You think I would have let him off set before he taught me that?
Most of the time your in serious flicks, but saw you in Mississippi River Sharks this summer on SyFy–for an actor is it a welcome relief to do something “light and fun” like that?
Mississippi River Sharks was such an enjoyable experience. I had worked with Daniel Lewis (the producer) many years back on some SyFy Original films and had a very positive experience, so when he called me about doing that film, I was totally game. Daniel’s a great guy and Misty Talley, the director, was awesome to work with as well. Here’s this cast of super actors, many with lots of experience, just cutting up and having a great time and embracing the silliness of it all (some more than others; I’m talking to you, Dean West). It was playground time, for sure.
Any chance river sharks becomes a franchise like Sharknado?
I’m not sure. If so, I’ll be ready to put my desert camo cap back on and get back at it!
Your always busy-where will we be able to catch you next?
Oh … if it wasn’t for those pesky NDAs. I’m coming up on an episode of the new CW series VALOR (ep. 108), have a couple of short films in the offing, and scheming on the next feature. You’ll be hearing from me.