Filmmaker aims to make audience ‘sick and scared’
Zach Green may produce horror films, but that doesn’t mean he likes fear. In fact, he says he generally avoids watching frightening movies.
“I don’t like to be scared,” he says. “I like scaring people.”
But the Toronto native spends his time producing and editing horror films written by Richard Powell. Together, they run Fatal Pictures Inc., which has produced three short films.
The newest one is called Familiar, and it premièred at the Projection Booth cinema in Toronto on March 2, ahead of the screening of the Japanese gore-filled thriller Battle Royale.
Green says the theatre was packed, and there were even some people who came specifically to see Familiar, which he describes as the story of a middle-aged man who suspects the negative impulses plaguing his mind may not be his own.
Although it is a scary movie, Green says it’s completely different watching it from behind the camera.
“There’s nothing horror about it. I’m watching Richard say ‘cut’ and everyone laughs,” he says. “We’re making you think it’s real, but really it’s the fakest thing ever.”
However, the people sitting in the dark cinema shouldn’t let their guard down.
“When I [screen] my movies and the person watching it is feeling sick and scared, that’s the best thing in the world,” he explains – a feat he says he accomplished at the latest première, with audience members gasping at all the right parts.
Green met the second half of Fatal Pictures, Powell, at a private film school in Toronto. Green was studying post-production and Powell focused on production. When Powell was searching for an editor for one of his films, Green applied for the job.
They built such a good rapport in the editing suite that they decided they would continue to work together after they graduated in 2002, he says, adding that they incorporated in 2007.
Green says most people who create short films use the medium as a stepping-stone to eventually make feature films, and he is no exception.
“No one makes short films to continue making short films,” he says, explaining that there’s no money to be made in that part of the industry.
In 2010, the two men released a movie called Worm, which gives a 20-minute glimpse into the life of a misanthropic high school teacher with a “fragile and increasingly terrifying mental state.”
Since its release, Green says they have written a script that expands this peek into a 90-minute real-time feature film following the same character from Worm, creating new situations for him.
Using an established character gives the company a leg-up in terms of finding investments because they can demonstrate previous success acclamations, Green says.
He is passionate about film, and he emphasizes his love of traditional methods. Despite technological advances, he says he prefers shooting on 16-millimetre film, which is an economical alternative to the non-digital theatrical film that an established director like Steven Spielberg might use.
In particular, he says he appreciates that film separates the amateurs from the professionals.
“You aren’t going to see a guy who doesn’t know how to shoot movies shooting on film,” he says, explaining that it costs money for every second the camera is rolling, and thus it takes a lot more expertise.
Although high-definition cameras certainly create a comparable film experience for the average viewers, Green says a good director should be able to know the difference visually. He calls 16-millimetre film gritty and grimy, creating an effect that “can’t be matched.”
Despite his education and his confidence in his work, he seems rather disillusioned with the Canadian film industry. He says he knows his films are very well done, but blames their lack of widespread success on Canada’s lack of involvement in the film industry.
“I get no love from Canada,” he says. “Movies aren’t made and sold in Canada.”
He acknowledges Canadian filmmakers like David Cronenberg, but points out that the Canadians who have found success making movies have had to move to the United States to find funding and investments.
“No one takes risks in Canada, and film is a risky business,” he says. “I’ll never give up my Canadian passport, but I’d rather be American so I can make money.”
He said one of the most crucial aspects of the film-industry game is to get screened at film festivals to generate publicity.
It’s especially important because a movie’s success comes down to its promotion, he explains, suggesting that a movie should put half its total budget toward advertising.
“If you don’t promote, you may as well use your movie as a coaster for your coffee,” he says.
Through the experience of working on a number of scary movies, Green says he has come to appreciate the horror genre, even if it hasn’t turned him into a fan of fear. In the end, it’s all about connecting with the audience.
“If emotions are getting drawn out, whether you’re happy, sad, throwing up, whatever,” he says, “I created something… and you’re getting scared from what I made. I love it.”