Conjoined directed by Joe Grisaffi is a great independent American horror comedy. I loved what I read about the film, so I went and got the DVD. I loved it, so I got the director to tell me more about the film.
1 & 2. What was the inspiration behind the film? How long did it take to write the script?
Chuck Norfolk: Conjoined was simmering on the back burner of my brain for a few years. The inspiration was a “what if” thing. What if you were married to a conjoined twin and her sister was a serial killer. Me and my Tim Norfolk banged out the script in about a month. It kind of wrote itself.
3. How long was the shoot and what challenges did you face when making a low budget film?
Joe Grisaffi: The shoot was 9 days spread out over one month. Two of those days were ½ days. One of our goals with Conjoined was to embrace the challenges of low budget filmmaking. We intentionally limited our prep time, I think to four days, and vowed to come up with “solutions” on the spot for scenes we weren’t completely prepared for, hoping our mistakes or quick solutions would become part of the fun, and it really worked. Luckily, this was a studio shoot and the entire movie was filmed at one location, so we had a lot of items at our disposal, even if the solution wasn’t exactly as scripted. For example, the surgery scene was written to use proper surgical items, but we were unable to locate the correct items in time, but we solved that problem and the movie is better for it.
4. How was the cast chosen for the movie?
We didn’t hold any casting calls. We cast privately. We called actors we wanted to work with directly, asked them to read the script, and if they wanted the part, it was theirs. If I recall correctly, our casting relied on Michelle Ellen Jones. Keefer agreed to play Alisa, the bad sister, but she is a tall woman, and her casting depended on Michelle saying yes – Michelle is tall as well. We had worked with Jake Byrd on Lars the Emo Kid and Haunted Trailer, and just knew he would be brilliant as Jerry. We included Sara Gaston to reprise her role as Detective Waters from Dead of Knight, and found a way to include her Dead of Knight partner Dan Braverman in a cameo as well. Sara recommended Tom Long, who we’ve both known for years now, and he was perfect. I had recently worked with Troy Parker and thought he’d be great as Ty the Video Dating Guy, and finally, Chuck Norfolk recommended Deidre Stephens as the Web Cam Girl, and she was a great choice.
5. What did you learn from making the movie?
Conjoined was really an effort to use everything we’ve learned from our previous low budget endeavors. In the past, I would stress out over very little things in the pursuit of perfection that ultimately didn’t matter to the audience. You know, minor continuity errors, digital effects that might be off just a little. I spent a couple of years worried a couple of composite shots in Dead of Knight, which held up its release – and now that the movie is released, nobody has ever said a word about them. It was my goal to let those little things go if they happened, and they did, but they just made this movie even better, in my opinion.
This film was also a great opportunity to experiment with comedy because so little was at stake financially. Our script was 58 pages long and we needed a 75 minute feature for distribution. Our solution – as part of the joke, I let some scenes linger way too long. And it worked beautifully. Another lesson learned is that a scene can be more effective if you let the audiences’ imaginations fill in the blanks. The surgery scene is a great example of both of these points – I think it’s extended runtime with a couple of false endings works great, and the use of sound instead of graphic visuals makes the scene even funnier.
6. How important is having the right promotion material for the film like artwork and so on?
I think the right promotional material is incredibly important. I don’t really consider myself a poster designer, but I made the Conjoined artwork. I wanted a grindhouse feel to the poster and I think it represents the movie well. I especially love our tag line. If the film gets picked up by a larger distributor or foreign territories (it is currently being handled by Champion Entertainment), I am pretty sure the artwork will change, though.
7. Are you happy how the film has been received?
I am thrilled with how the film has been received. We knew it was funny, and we were pretty sure our target audience would really enjoy it. The film has been shown at festivals and events all over the world. Surprisingly, middle aged women who are not really horror fans tend to love the movie. My mother hates horror films, but she attended a screening of Conjoined – I sat behind her – and she couldn’t stop laughing. Others have said the same thing, kind of embarrassed that they enjoyed the movie so much. J
The film is currently available on DVD and streaming at Amazon Instant Video. We are hoping for wider VOD availability soon and I know Champion Entertainment has been talking for some foreign territories as well.
8. What is next for yourself?
I have been asked to directed a fun horror film called Kids vs. Zombies, written and produced by Courtney Sandifer. We are currently trying to finish fundraising for this family-friendly zombie film. I also have a couple of completed scripts that I’ve written that I’d like to produce, The Barber and Alligator Man being among them, and we have another script called Slugger from Dead of Knight screenwriter Emilio Iasiello. Sara Gaston and Dan Braverman would reprises their roles as Detectives Waters and Sutherland in Slugger.
9. Why do you think horror and horror comedies are always so popular?
I believe both are cathartic. I think comedy is the hardest thing a filmmaker can do, because it is so subjective, but when it works, it can work brilliantly. Even a poorly made horror film still has value and can find an audience, and may even become an unintentional comedy.
10. If you could have the ultimate cast for a film who would be in it?
I don’t really have a dream team cast list, although there are a lot of actors I would love to work with in the future. The dream team cast would certainly depend on the material.