September 9, 2016 Interview – Filmmaker Greg McLean
Frightening an audience can be a difficult task, whether in literature, theater, or in cinema. Taking the challenge to task, aspiring Australian Filmmaker Greg McLean splashed onto the Horror film scene with his 2005 debut film, Wolf Creek. Highly regarded in the Horror community, McLean continues to create films within the genre, while looking to expand his own creative horizons. Recently directly, producing, and co-writing Supernatural film The Darkness, McLean once again dives into a new realm of fear. Released in theaters May 13, 2016, The Darkness is now available on Blu-ray/DVD, bound to gain a new audience, as well as capture some second looks in the process. Recently we caught up with McLean to talk his begins in film, his love for Horror, plans for the future, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in film for over a decade now. In that time you have written, directed, and produced a list of films. First, tell us, what inspired you to pursue a career in film?
Greg McLean – I started in visual arts, I was going to be a painter. I was always involved in Comics and I started drawing Comics at a young age. In the back of mind, I always loved movies, movies to me were always the most powerful medium. I kind of went onto the path of how to make movies. From that path, I went into directing theaters, and from there to directing T.V. commercials, and then I eventually started writing scripts. That is kind of how I got into it. I had a long path into studying. Then, when I made my first film, I realized this was the medium I loved the most.
CrypticRock.com – Very interesting. As you mentioned, you made a big debut with your first film, Wolf Creek, back in 2005. Being it was your first major film, were you surprised at the positive response the film received?
Greg McLean – Yes, because like anyone who makes a film, you really don’t know what is going to happen. Everyone makes a movie hoping it is going to be loved and people are going to enjoy it. Some people love it, and sometimes people don’t love it so much. It was a very welcomed surprised when that film was very well-received around the world. It is quite surreal when it is embraced like that. It is ultimately such a great experience when it is.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, especially with it being your first experience. Since then, you have done a series of Horror related films including Rogue and Wolf Creek 2. Do you have an affection for the Horror genre?
Greg McLean – I do. I love Horror films. I have always loved scary movies. When I was growing up, I probably saw some films at a young age that influenced my tastes. My mom uses to let me watch Alfred Hitchcock films. I had those films at a young age, the whole sort of dark Thriller/Suspense. There was a dark streak to Hitchcock’s films, I saw them very young. So I have always been into the bizarre, into the creepy, and supernatural. I don’t know why, but I do love Horror films. There is something about scary stories and it is something I really enjoy.
CrypticRock.com – There is something fun about a Horror film. Obviously, because of the suspension of disbelief, but you also have a plethora of options to create a story within that realm.
Greg McLean – Definitely! There are also so many different ways to telling a Horror story. Under the short banner of Horror, there are dozens of sub-genres; Slasher, Supernatural, Found Footage, Creatures. There are just so many different ways to tell scary stories. It is also kind of a medium where you can be fairly creative coming up with things. It is entertaining trying to scare audiences.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, speaking of Supernatural films, one of your latest films, entitled The Darkness, hit theaters back in May. How did this project come about for you?
Greg McLean – I had been working on the script for a long time. Jason Blum sent me a script for a film they wanted me to do. They were actually in pre-production for a film, and then heard about The Darkness, and they said this sounds cool, why don’t we do this film instead? So basically we switched over and ended up doing a script I was working on for a while in Australia. After kicking it around for a while, it kind of came together rather quickly with Jason’s involvement.
CrypticRock.com – Excellent. The Darkness, as mentioned, is more a Supernatural based film. You have worked in a variety of areas of Horror from Murders to Monsters, and now Supernatural with The Darkness. What was your experience like working in this realm, and what challenges did you face?
Greg McLean – Definitely. All the films I had done prior were outdoors and using a landscape. This is really the first movie I have done that was all set inside a house. That is different for me. It is a different style of storytelling. I would say I am definitely learning the ropes in terms of that style of film. It is a different way of thinking about things. It was challenging, thinking about setting scenes, using space, and cinematography wise. There are a lot of different challenges going from outdoor Slasher films to Creature Features and that kind of action.
CrypticRock.com – Right, as you mentioned, a lot of your previous films, the location plays a big part into the overall film. Obviously that creates the film’s atmosphere. How important is that backdrop to you as a filmmaker?
Greg McLean – I think it is crucial. Creating a believable environment for the story you are telling is probably the most important thing. Particularly in Horror films, if you don’t believe the relationships and the world that these things are happening in, then nothing else matters too much. I think Ridley Scott has a great saying, “The primary job of the filmmaker is to create a believable world.” You have to create a believable world, a lot of your attention goes into creating that world so the story you are telling can happen in a way that people care about.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, that is what it is all about. A good film is effective at that. The Darkness does a good job with that. The film is not out on Blu-ray/DVD. Often a film will have moderate success in theaters, but really achieve new life when released for home viewing consumption. What are your expectations for the film now that is out for home viewing? Sometimes Horror films take time to sink in.
Greg McLean – Absolutely. The film was not a giant success in the theaters. My hope is it finds Horror fans on DVD, VOD, etc. There are a little difference in roads to audiences in the movie because of the great cast. Kevin Bacon has a huge fan base around the world and he is a great actor. Radha Mitchell has an entirely different fanbase. Also, David Mazouz from Gotham. There are a lot of ways into the movie separate to the fact that people who love Horror films and scary stories hopefully like it. Here is to hoping that people discover it and it finding good life on DVD.
CrypticRock.com – That is what is great about DVD. Horror is something that needs to sit sometimes. Another interesting aspect of the film is it sees Kevin Bacon returning to the Horror genre. What was it like working with Kevin among the other talented cast members?
Greg McLean – Kevin is great. I know people say everyone they work with is great, and it is a bit of a cliche. I do have to say, in all honesty, Kevin is the nicest guy and most professional actor. He is just a joy to work with. As a director, you couldn’t ask for a better collaborator for someone who is totally on it and gets it. I am a huge fan of his. I was a fan of his before working with him. He was just a cool guy on set too. He was very nice to the other actors, he did not act like “I am a star and everyone has to bow to me.” He made it very comfortable for everyone to be around.
CrypticRock.com – That is great to hear. That has to make for a great working environment. The last thing you want is a cast where there is tension and people involved are really not getting along.
Greg McLean – Yes, I have a policy that I try and eliminate any kind of problems, keep it very focused on the work, keep it very open, and keep it focused on the actor’s being able to do their work. That really relies upon me as the director to be completely clear and in charge where people know what is what and what they are doing. Within that space of control, they can be very free as actors. My whole job is supporting the actors, helping the actors, or also getting out of their way, or getting other things out of their way so they can do their job. That is what I see my role as a director, to give them the stage where they create and be the best they can be. We worked with amazing people like Paul Reiser, Jennifer Morrison, as well as Lucy Fry, who is a phenomenal Australia actress. Lucy also stars in the new Wolf Creek TV series. It was really good fun to work with everyone.
CrypticRock.com – You really had a wonderful cast to work with. You mentioned Lucy Fry and the new Wolf Creek television series. What can you tell us about this new miniseries?
Greg McLean – It is a six part miniseries. We produced it last year in Australia. It basically takes off the first Wolf Creek movie and essentially tells the story of an American woman traveling in the Australian outback with her family. Their family encounters Mick Taylor in the first episode, they are slaughtered, and Mick thinks she is killed as well, but she survives. In the following five episodes, it is this young woman transforming into this complete bad-ass and trying to get justice for her family. It is a amazing part for Lucy, and I am really excited to bring that out to people in The States.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds very exciting. There will be a buzz around it because there are quite a few fans of the Wolf Creek series. What is the estimated release date of the miniseries in the USA?
Greg McLean – October 14th is the premiere date for the Wolf Creek series in the USA on Pop TV from Lionsgate Television.
CrypticRock.com – Wonderful! Just in time for the Halloween season. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music as well as Horror and Sci-Fi films. What are some of your favorite Horror or Sci-Fi films?
Greg McLean – My top 5, number one would be Alien (1979). I think it is just a perfect film. I think The Shining (1980) is another one of my perfect Horror films. Jaws (1975), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and The Haunting (1963) by Robert Wise is one of my perfect all-time Horror favorites.
CrypticRock.com – That is quite a diverse list. You have a little Science-Fiction, a Creature Feature, Slasher, and Supernatural.
Greg McLean – I think it reflects that I am trying to work through all the Horror genres in my own work. I have done a Slasher, Creature Feature, and Supernatural. The next I have to do is Sci-Fi (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – Well, that would be pretty cool. One of the genres clearly very hot right now is the Zombie genre. That is very popular right now.
Greg McLean – Yes, I actually have Zombie things I’m floating around. Zombies are great, we are living in a kind of post The Walking Dead world now. If you are not doing something really original, you have to kind of be aware of what is going. I would jump in there, but it would have to be something very original.