Scariest Interview: Sitting Down with Writer/Director Scott Dunn

ATMOSfx! Woo!

With the holiday season upon us, I certainly didn’t expect Team Dunn to have time for answering questions. How wrong I was!

Santa came early this year at The Scariest Things and gifted us with not one, but two great interviews: one with writer/director/actor/editor Scott Dunn and the other with Scott’s better half, writer/producer/actor/Jill-of-all-Trades Gina Gomez Dunn!

The Dynamic Dunn Duo are fresh off the release of their latest movie, Mandao of the Dead (2018), and bring us news of good things to come.

Let’s dive right in with Scott Dunn and my favorite opening question…

What filmmakers do you keep a close eye on and/or inspire you?

The Duplass brothers have inspired me for a while. A lot of the principals they’ve shared have inspired Gina and I to move forward with our own projects.

What goal do you keep in mind when making a movie? Huge piles of cash? Oscar nominations? The sheer joy of filmmaking?

The main goal is to make a movie I can vouch for. Something I can be proud of. I want the audience to have a great time. Each project will represent where I’m at and hopefully there is a charted growth happening from movie to movie. It wouldn’t hurt to have a cult following.

[TST: I’d say you’re doing all the right things to generate one of those!]

According to your IMDB profile, your short film, Today (2014), and both of your feature films so far, Schlep (2016) and Mandao of the Dead (2018), have been made as a team effort with Gina Gomez. Is this a trend you’d prefer to continue or would you also like to take on projects separately as a Director?

Gina is the best producer I could ask for. She believes in the project more than anyone else could. She also happens to be my wife. So our bond goes deeper. I love making movies with her. The goal is to build up a community of people who love making movies together around us.

Scott Dunn in Mandao of the Dead

Is there anything you learned from making Mandao of the Dead that will change how you handle your next project?

I want to learn on every project I do. It’s super important. A specific thing that comes to mind on this one is pacing. Pacing in script and editing. I want to get better at it all. Acting, writing, directing. Eating my veggies.

As writer/director of both of your feature films, what’s your process when developing a story for the silver screen? You mentioned that Jay & Jackson were characters you’d come up with in high school. Did you write them into short stories before they got their own movie or did they wait to come to life during production of Mandao of the Dead?

In high school I made a 45-minute movie involving these characters. I played Jay. My friends filled out the other characters . It was much more irreverent and had nothing to do with astral projection and ghosts. The supernatural element for this movie came from a desire to do a genre movie. My last movie was a comedy that was much more down to earth. I wanted to raise the stakes in this one. This movie combines my favorite stuff. Time travel, buddy movies, horror, comedy. I just had fun with it. I was lucky to have a cast and crew that was as into it as I was.

What advice can you give hopeful filmmakers looking to make movies without a huge budget?

My advice would be to take stock of what you can get for free. Then make the best script you can so you can shoot it within your means. It may come out like crap. It may be a cult hit. But at least you’re making your mistakes on film. I think Heath Ledger said that he made all of his mistakes on film. He made some GREAT mistakes.

Speaking of budget, if a studio knocked on your door with a $10 million budget to remake Mandao of the Dead, what would you change?

I would seriously lobby for them to put that money into more Mandao sequels. We’ve already established a world and characters. Let’s expand forward! They obviously see enough value to throw $10 million our way.

Behind the scenes of Mandao of the Dead

It sounds like Jay & Jackson may not get to relax just yet. From what I understand, you have a sequel in the works (Mandao of the Damned). What can we expect from your next project and when will we get to see it?

I’m in the middle of writing Mandao of the Damned right now. Since we set up a lot of stuff in the first movie, the sequel can dig its heels in a little faster this time around. We’re very excited. That should come out in 2020.

Is there anything else you’d like to like to share with our readers?

I just want to say thank you to everyone who’s been renting and buying our movie. We really feel the support and it’s pushing us to make an even better sequel to it.

And there you have it!

On behalf of The Scariest Things and our readers, I’d like to thank Scott for his time in answering all these questions. As an accomplished filmmaker, the advice he’s given here is invaluable to all you wishers and hopers looking to break into the magical world of movies. We wish him every success and look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.

If you’d like additional words of wisdom from both Scott and Gina, you should watch the video they made for Film Courage, “6 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Make A Movie”…

Their latest film, Mandao of the Dead, is currently available for streaming on Amazon and will be released on iTunes and DVD/Blu-ray in February 2019.

You can catch the trailer right here…

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