Talking to Sean Donohue was refreshing. Not only is he fed up with film censorship for the purpose of distribution, he’s joining a growing trend of filmmakers doing something about it. He’s self-distributing. And now he is also distributing the horror films of others. One thing he will guarantee; he will never, ever distribute a PG-13 chopped-up abomination. Sean is a champion of the integrity of a film the way the director intends it to be seen, and he is raising his voice loud.
Sean Donohue on Mainstream Horror:
The PG-13 rating is everything that is wrong with modern cinema. I’m not saying this because I need to have gore and heavy nudity in everything I see. It’s because Hollywood censors, creates or re-makes movies and then stamps on the PG-13 just so they can appeal to the widest possible audience. Films with this mark are tailored to the status quo. As a viewer, I just feel like I am being swindled in some way. I would never make a PG-13 piece of garbage.
Sean Donohue on Directing:
Life experiences have shaped me into the director that I am today. Of these, I would say directing movies has been the best. I have learned more making movies than I ever did in film school. And I learn something new from every film I work on. I think that is why I like filmmaking so much; it keeps me engaged.
I really think I still could have achieved all the things I’ve done without going to film school. However, if I didn’t go to film school, become an AV tech, work at a video store, etc… I may not have taken the same path, met the people that that have helped me along the way and I might not have become a filmmaker. So, it’s a lot of luck, a little bit of chance and mostly hard work that has gotten me to where I am.
DIE DIE DELTA PI (2013) was my biggest budgeted movie. Shoots were long and hot. I am very proud of what we were able to accomplish with that film, and it was another learning experience to say the least. It still to this day has reached the widest audience out of all the movies I have been a part of.
The best lesson I took away is to always be prepared for the unexpected. Directing movies is all “thinking on your feet”. No matter how much you plan and prepare there are things that happen on set sometimes that are out of your control. I always say “Have a plan B, and a plan C, D, E and sometimes a plan F!” And yes I have made it that far down the line to make a scene happen.
I think it really is more beneficial to be the sole director on a film. As a director you have a vision, and to keep a clear approach to communicating that vision, the project should be led by a single person who is appointed to be the director of that movie. Co-directing is a tricky business. No matter how “on-board” you think you are with your co-director you are never truly going to think exactly alike. That can cause a lot of discussions on set, rather than moving things forward.
Sean Donohue on Collaboration:
I don’t like being pegged as the go-to guy when it comes to beautiful female talent, but yes, other directors have hit me up about actresses for their films. I get asked a lot on how I get certain actresses in my movies and how I get them to do the things that they do. My answer is always the same. I just talk to them for a while to see what they are comfortable with.
FRANKLIN: A SYMPHONY OF PAIN (2015) was a collaborative effort to say the least, and it was not put together like your typical Hollywood-style film. We actually shot improv-style scenes without a script for almost half of the movie. Jeremy Westrate and Richard Anasky sat down and carefully wove what we had already shot into a tight-knit story line that made sense and flowed.
I basically had an idea for a psychedelic movie that I wanted to be like A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) meets PINK FLOYD: THE WALL (1982). I contacted Jeremy about the idea and asked him if he would like to be the director. The main parties involved in the early creative process were Jeremy, Richard, Nikolas Franklin, Dee Dee Seruga and myself.
The scenes I am most responsible for are a Lolita-esque scene with actor, Bob Glazier and actress, Amethist Young called “The Bus Stop”. And I also wrote the scene we shot in a hotel room called “Skinny Cut Hotel”. I shot a promo video for FRANKLIN with Evan Stone called by the original working name, SEX WITH DEVIL: FEEDING THE MONKEY. Additional footage I shot with Evan also made the final cuts of FRANKLIN and DEATH-SCORT SERVICE.
There is a documentary called COMPOSING A SYMPHONY OF PAIN: THE MAKING OF FRANKLIN (2015) by The Lavender Handle Collective. Jeremy and I wanted to have a company name that would be suiting for FRANKLIN. I said the best way to come up with a company name would be to combine two things that have nothing to do with each other. We considered machetes and carpet cleaner. Jeremy looked at me and slowly said “Lavender-Handle?” I replied “That’s it!” and The Lavender Handle Collective was born.
Sean Donohue on his Influences:
I try to do a cameo in all of my movies. It is an homage to my favorite director, Alfred Hitchcock. DEATH-SCORT SERVICE (2015) is an onslaught of classic gritty gore FX. Most of the movie was shot with interiors so it could have been anywhere. A specific locale wasn’t my priority when making this movie. I wanted to concentrate more on the sleaze and gore, and that’s what people will remember about it.
Being a big fan of Italian horror and slashers from the 70’s/80’s, I wanted DEATH-SCORT SERVICE to be a nod to films like NEW YORK RIPPER (1982), TENEBRE (1982) and PIECES (1982). I teamed up with writer/producer Chris Woods of The Sleaze Box. And he also shares my passion for Italian horror. We joked around on set and called this our underground LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972). Because as you know, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was a teaming up of Sean Cunningham and Wes Craven.