Dark Side Magazine at FrightFest 2022 – Interview with Ian Tripp writer and co-director for Everybody Dies by the End
Fancy a meta-movie with just the right amount of psychological tensions? If so, then Everybody Dies by the End is for you and is having its World Premiere in Discovery Screen 1 today at FrightFest. We chatted to writer and co-director about this creative piece.
DS: What inspired you to write Everybody Dies by the End?
IT: What drew me to writing Everybody Dies by the End really came from the mysticism and folktales around the fable makers themselves. It seemed the story tellers needed to be as large as the stories they were telling and as I entrenched myself in varying filmmaker’s careers, there were glaring moments of cinematic history that felt frightening to me. To read some of the things actors and directors did to other team members and performers was very revealing of the delusions of being result oriented at the cost of making people suffer. I’d rather not name names but I’m sure we could all think of the same directors when thinking about abusive work environments and from there it just snowballed in our fiction of what kind of a character this Horror Director would be and the things he’d do that would make him an actual horror character now.
DS: How did the whole project come together?
IT: I had the idea for the movie in my back pocket for years while we were working on other projects, specifically short films and freelance work. But the calling of my soul has always been to make feature films and it was less about when and more about feeling ready. So, at a certain point I knew I was going to direct my script, that I’d play the camera man with my actual sound op (Josh Wyble) playing the sound op in the film and my filmmaking partner Ryan Schafer as my co-director. The truth is the movie took years to make. We shot that opening archival interview scene in December of 2018 and we then took all of 2019 retooling the script, having everyone we could get to rip the movie apart. And people did! It was great. We then started up principal photography in March of 2020, I know. We shut down. Waited, retooled, got really lucky with some awesome resources to make the movie, like that creepy concrete dungeon of a basement that Alfred Costella calls his Sound Stage along with the dusty desert setting of Alfred’s ranch. The thing is, no movie asks to be made, you have to will it into existence, persistently and compassionately. After the ball was seemingly up the hill, we ended up getting to make a movie, graciously, out of favours and the good will of the talented and caring team members I call my friends. It was a dream movie come true and making it will go down as some of the best times of my life. And for what it’s worth, making the movie gave me a key education that money doesn’t buy you a good movie and you’re only as capable as your crew and the decisions you make. Directing is essentially being an art curator, that’s the biggest lesson I learned taking on the feature film world. Also, that there’s no such thing as being ready. There’s just a feeling you get that it’s time to dive into the unknown.
DS: Vinny Curran is outstanding as director Alfred Costella, did he audition for the role and is Alfred an exaggerated amalgam of any characters you’ve met whist working in the film industry?
IT: I don’t remember when, but at some point, Vinny Curran became the face of Alfred Costella for me, and I now have no memories of the character without it being Vinny. I wrote the part with him in mind after seeing him in a film shot in my hometown of San Diego called ‘Resolution’ from (2012) and the thing that really stayed with me was how good the acting was and that they did this in my city on a dime. It gave me both the encouragement that I could make my stories my way, outside of Hollywood and just boldly DM’d Vinny saying I wrote something with him in mind. I didn’t audition him, I wrote the part for him, so I mostly just wanted to hear how he’d approach the character. I had only really rubbed elbows with Vinny at some local screenings in San Diego. So, my directing partner, Ryan and I, met Vinny and his girlfriend for drinks. Talked for a good ninety minutes about how Vinny as a performer could wrap his head around likably playing such a character as Alfred Costella, full well knowing what the character puts people through. I don’t totally remember how we got to the moment but by the end of the night we were cheering over a movie we all decided to make together. This was October 2018 and we all really had the time to meditate on our parts as it evolved over the years, leading into full blown production finally at the end of 2020. The way we operate, we find the best creative experiences when we seek performers who are willing to co-author the part and Vinny just really also operates best in that area. He’s so committed, he’ll surprise you in the middle of a take by diving across a table and off a stage.
DS: Did the cast rehearse much as they bring such an authentic feel to the piece?
IT: Gratefully, Ryan and I haven’t worked under an Alfred Costella type, but you meet all kinds of personas when navigating through creative seas. But key inspirations were My Life directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, specifically tapping into the cycles of production hype and then feeling cripplingly depressed behind the scenes. And Full Tilt Boogie, chronicling the production of From Dusk Till Dawn, which also follows a more human subject centric ‘making-of’.
DS: Its manic at times, was there any moments improvised?
IT: I really don’t know what it was, but everyone in the cast just really understood what the movie was and how they were gonna bring it for the camera. It was true synchronicity. For instance; after doing casting calls for the part of Laura, Alfred Costella’s 1st AD, we got an interesting tape from Caroline Amiguet that compelled us to do a screen test and it was just so easy to fall into the weirder and freaky fun funky sides of all these oddball characters and after, Caroline said to me “That felt more like a rehearsal than an audition” and I completely agreed and knew then who Laura would be. At the movie’s core, it’s secretly an ensemble situational comedy, driven by the engine of a horror/mystery. But the characters are really what carry the movie and without these performers, the movie’s production value would be lacking. We had enough time with the material between ourselves in both our personal time and together that we could really take each scene one at a time and really find the groove as we went. Since each scene is most always shot in a single cam long take, you find the minutiae of the scene and the levels of performance until you get to the point where I’m just unironically calling for “Faster, Louder, More Intense” as we get into the latter takes of each scene. While the movie was heavily scripted and structured, we were always finding new ideas we loved and about 80% of the movie is what we wrote but again, there was always room for co-authoring and finding the next best idea. New things were always being written live.
DS: Were all the effects done on set as they are really well realised?
IT: This movie was our first serious attempt into the world of SFX and visual gore. About as much of it was practical as we could possibly shoot with fake blood & pressure hoses, prosthetics, fake wounds but when it comes to things like dropping lights onto people’s heads, that’s where the fun of digital trickery and careful editing can aid in making a practical effect all that more impossible.
DS: Who designed the cool posters for Costella’s movies?
IT: On the topic of Visual Effects, our digital compositor on Everybody Dies, Ty Mabrey, also did all those really cool Alfred Costella filmography posters! I had a meeting with him about the stunts and FX I’d need and he said “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I really want to paint the posters for Alfred’s movies.” and I took that blessing graciously. How could you not, having those posters scattered around Alfred’s house added to the world building in such a simple but intriguing way. Makes me think, we should shoot some footage for some of Alfred Costella’s movies.
DS: Everybody Dies by the End is your first feature, what was it like the first time you stepped onto the set?
IT: Stepping on set the first day: It was a surreal and heightened state of being on an almost psychedelic level. You hold these characters in your heart and mind’s eye with you for so long and most of that time stay on a mental shelf, alone with you. And to step on set and see Bill Oberst Jr in that yellow 70’s suit and Vinny wearing the Costella cap, proclaiming Al’s manifestos like Vinny stopped existing and there was only ever Alfred Costella. To see your imagination come to life is a beautiful thing. Serendipitously, Vinny’s first scene was that talk show interview and the last scene we filmed with him was Alfred’s last scene in the script. We didn’t intend for that, but it was a great book end for us in our time with that character and Vinny Curran.
DS: Where did the idea of boiled wine come from?
IT: I’m chuckling right now reading that someone is asking me about the boiled wine. Okay so, we’re going to tell this story backwards. First, in rehearsals, because we did the most amount of rehearsal time with Vinny, myself and Ryan. For whatever reason, in the steak and wine dining table introduction scene with Al, I just threw out that the wine is boiled, ask them to drink it and tell them you learned this method in Germany. This came from going to a friend’s house one thanksgiving night and his girlfriend had a pot on the stove and was pouring wine in, boiling the wine. She said it was a German practice and had me taste it. I didn’t enjoy it, ha ha. Hence why we have Mark grimace when he tries Alfred’s boiled wine.
DS: Will you be nervous when the movie has its world premiere at FrightFest 2022?
IT: Will we be nervous? Hmm. Yes! But, what is both terrifying and exciting is worth pursuing. We’re most of all just grateful to see the movie with its first audience.
DS: If you made a documentary about a director, who would you choose and why?
IT: I don’t know that I’d be interested in making an actual documentary about a filmmaker, but I would like to make narrative films about real life filmmakers. I think making a Being John Malcovich or an Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent type flick centred on David Lynch would be quite fun. I’d also want to make a Disaster Artist-esque dramatization of the making of the 1960’s Batman TV show. The making of/behind the scenes stories are vast and wild.
DS: So, what are you up to at the moment?
IT: Right now, we’ve been prepping Everybody Dies for its premiere at FrightFest, earlier this year I acted in and helped produce a microbudget film shot in my hometown of San Diego called Daydreamer, about an affluent family plagued by an irreversible accident committed by my character, written and directed by Sam Sprague who is one of the producers and 1st AD of Everybody Dies. I directed another feature this past fall entitled Sincerely Saul which is a narratively shot black and white 4×3 nightmare starring Ryan Schafer, my co-director on Everybody Dies. I’m deep into refining the cut of the film right now and we’re in pre-production on what is looking like will be my third feature as a director this fall. That one is called ‘Normy’, though there isn’t a whole lot that’s normal about the film.
DS: Ian Tripp, thank you very much.
IT: Thanks again for your time and interest in the film. Cheers!