Exclusive Interview: Director Richard Stringham Talks New Horror Movie CLOSE CALLS

Richard Stringham‘s directorial debut CLOSE CALLS is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and VHS from Scream Team Releasing. The indie filmmaker went through every obstacle imaginable during production but he and his crew were able to finish the movie and in my opinion it turned out awesome. So much so, it’s my favorite new indie horror movie – and I watch a lot of movies! This one pays homage to those awesome horror movies from the 80’s and the filmmaker took a time out so I could ask him some questions about Close Calls.

Alien Bee – First off, what made you decide to direct a movie of your own?

Richard Stringham – I’ve always had it in me to direct ever since I was a kid. I talked about it all the time. Back in the day I would use my friends and family to shoot these cheap little horror movies with a VHS camcorder, and they would always get better and better, the more of ‘em we made. But I suppose what made me wanna tackle it for real was when I got tired of my day job. I was working as a heating and air contractor and I was just miserable. Depressed and exhausted. I could literally feel the pressure of it trying to kill me every day. It was a super stressful job, so I just decided one day to drop everything and pursue filmmaking. Little did I know— filmmaking is just as stressful.

Alien Bee – Did you have any kind of experience before you dove into this head first?

Richard Stringham – Not really, other than the practice I had growing up. I attended a two-day film seminar by Dov Simens, but I never went to film school or anything. I just always loved experimenting with shots, angles, and looking through various lenses. To me, that was the ultimate experience. And watching movies, of course. I would soak up and study almost every film I ever saw. I was obsessed with cinema in that way. Some would say an almost unhealthy way. My dad used to say if I fell and cracked my head open, movies would spill out of my skull. I think that’s what it takes though. Whether it’s producing, writing, or directing— you have to eat, breathe, and shit cinema … every aspect of it.

Alien Bee – Close Calls definitely has an 80’s vibe to it even though it takes place in the present. What were your influences?

Richard Stringham – There’s way too many of them to list here. Whatever I grew up on is pretty much what I threw in there. I think there’s a lot of first-time filmmakers out there who have this innate tendency to wanna do that. Or maybe you just unconsciously do that. I had this buddy of mine tell me recently that ‘Close Calls’ was like an amalgam of every single cult/horror/exploitation film I’ve watched since I was little. Seeing as how I was a child of the ‘80s, this makes perfect sense to me.

Alien Bee – What’s your favorite kind of horror movie?

Richard Stringham – I appreciate everything in the horror genre for what it is. Slashers, monster flicks, ghost stories, and old-school suspense thrillers. Those are probably my favorite. Hitchcockian stuff. I really enjoy horror movies that give you that physical jolt, but sort of fuck with your mind as well. Films by Lynch, Cronenberg, and Polanski always stood out to me, mainly because of the whole psychological aspect. When I started writing ‘Close Calls’, I wanted it to have that same kind of trippy, cerebral feel that always attracted me as a kid. I also wanted it to feel nightmarish, like old Italian horror. In case it wasn’t obvious in ‘Close Calls’, I’m a huge fan of Italian horror and classic Gialli. Argento, Bava, Fulci, Lenzi … all of it.

Alien Bee – You went through hell making this movie, to the point many filmmakers would pack it up and go home. What helped you get this project to the finish line?

Richard Stringham – I honestly don’t know, man. It was a whirlwind, looking back on it. But I’ve always been able to push myself even when I feel like I couldn’t make it anymore. It’s that fight-or-flight mentality. I look at it this way: the production was plagued with problems, but the movie itself is a result of how we solved those problems. Sometimes you look back and wonder how you accomplished something in the face of adversity, anxiety, or emotional duress … and I’d say most of it just comes down to personal drive and positive support from friends, family, and crew. It needs to be a mixture of both. You have to have strong willpower and a strong support team to push you whenever your will is weak.

Alien Bee – I’m crushing on Jordan Phipps! She did a great job as the main character and she’s in just about every shot in the movie. How was it working with her?

Richard Stringham – Jordan was great. She’s a pretty amazing woman. I’ve always said this: Jordan Phipps is the face of ‘Close Calls’, and the heart and soul behind it. She carries that film in a way that makes you hate and love her character at the same time. That’s no easy job for an actor. The conditions were harsh for her at times, but she waded through that shit like it was nothing. I had a good time working with her, and I hope to see her on the next film.

Alien Bee – You brought in Rocky Gray to compose the score who always delivers when it comes to music. How was it working with him?

Richard Stringham – Rocky was smooth and easy to work with. You give a guy like that a basic idea, and he always comes back with something spectacular that you didn’t see coming. To me, the film wouldn’t be shit without his soundtrack, but that was kind of the idea. I didn’t want the music to serve as an undercurrent, like most of today’s films. I wanted the music to drive the narrative like those classic horror scores by Tangerine Dream, Goblin, John Carpenter, and Fabio Frizzi. You actually felt the fucking music back then in those films. I’d have to say Rocky understood that too, because when his music permeates the movie, you sort of ensconce yourself in the experience. It puts you in a trance. It takes a damn good composer to do that, and Rocky’s the man to do it.

Alien Bee – If you could do one thing different about Close Calls what would it be?

Richard Stringham – Everything. Trust me, I love the movie, I’m very proud of the movie … but I see all its flaws. Better yet— I just see what could’ve been done differently. This is not to say I think it’s bad. This is just the curse that a lot of filmmakers and artists have to live with, unfortunately. Once the playful id is done creating, the judgmental ego usually steps in to critique. Knowing what I know now, I would probably write it differently, shoot it differently, cut it differently. But that’s just because I’m constantly growing as a person and an artist. That’s what I’m striving for anyway. What’s interesting about films is that they’re like these time capsules that represent the framework for how a filmmaker expressed themselves creatively at that time in his or her life. That being said— I would probably wanna do everything differently on a creative and technical level, but I wouldn’t wanna necessarily change anything about the overall experience of making it.

Alien Bee – Scream Team Releasing picked up Close Calls for distribution. How’s it been working with them so far.

Richard Stringham – Scream Team has been awesome. My distributor, Justin Seaman, is a supercool guy who’s extremely easy to work with. What I like about Justin is that he comes from the world of indie filmmaking, so he understands the whole concept of artists who just want honesty, transparency, and the bottom line. We had several offers for ‘Close Calls’ during its festival run, but I had my reservations about making the deals because I was worried about the relationship I would have with the distributors. To me, that’s important. I don’t wanna deal with a guy who’s all numbers and figures. I’d rather deal with someone who I can call up anytime and shoot the breeze with. Justin is definitely that guy, and he’s already done a hell of a lot for indie filmmakers and the underground horror circuit.

Alien Bee – What’s up next for you? Any idea what kind of followup you’d like to do?

Richard Stringham – I’m not sure. At the time, I’m taking a step back from filmmaking just so I can get some writing done. That’s my true passion. I talked about doing another film last year, and then I talked about another one this year … but at this point, I’m just kinda stirring the pot and seeing what brews. I don’t really wanna rush into the next one just yet, but— who knows? We may have something creeping around the corner in 2020. We shall see. I’ll keep you posted for sure. Thanks a lot for your time.

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