Ian Tripp and Ryan Schafer are the US co-directors and first time feature filmmakers of the film ‘Everybody Dies by the End’, one of the closing acts at this year’s FrightFest, the UK’s No.1 horror and fantasy film festival.
Please introduce yourselves and your movie
Ian Tripp: I’m Ian Tripp one of the co-directors and I wrote the movie. Our film is called “Everybody Dies by the End“.
Ryan Schafer: And I’m Ryan Schafer the other co-director.
How did the film come about?
IT: The dream has always been to make feature films so the short films career was always for practise and just to be up to stuff, come up with ideas and be happy with them. The idea for Alfred Costella and the making of his movie I have had in my brain since 2012 and after meeting Vinnie (who plays Alfred) and a couple of other things happening in life, it kind of just hit, we wanted to make this movie and so we did.
Can you give a synopsis of the movie?
RS: Acclaimed horror director Alfred Costella has a bit of a mental breakdown on a public access interview show. Sort of has his artistic integrity questioned and goes into hiding for like a decade until he suddenly comes out of the woodwork to work on his new project, his ‘magnum opus’, “Everybody Dies by the End”. He hires a documentary crew to film the BTS (behind the scenes) of it and that’s who we see going in and we get to learn that not everything is as it seems at the Costella Ranch.
IT: I play one of the documentarians, so the angle of the movie is through the POV of our character chronicling the ‘disc 2 making of featurette’ to the actual movie.
What are some of the themes the movie is about?
IT: I’d say it comes down to bullshit artists.
RS: …artistic integrity, what it means to make real art, quote unquote. Real art being genuine and raw.
IT: …and how that can lead someone down a misguided path. Madness in a sense. The movie is a kind of descent into madness.
RS: …and how some directors will push the boundary to pretty messed up extremes to try to coerce a real raw performance from actors with no real regard for their well-being.
IT: …if it makes the movie better, it justifies that.
RS: …it’s worth it.
IT: Which is not our opinion in real life!
RS: That’s not how our sets look like!
How much of the film reflects your own experiences in the film industry?
RS: Most of our experiences are just independent, working on our own sets. Thankfully not too similar. We’re able to be different but you hear stories. There are all the famous ones with Kubrick and Hitchcock and the things they’ve done.
IT: Or even down to, it’s been a bit of a hot topic recently, to sort of denounce method acting.
RS: …what’s that quote “no one ever method acts a good person.”
IT: Right, Robert Pattinson “No one ever method acts a good person.” They are always method acting an arsehole.
RS: So you feel like you have this free pass to…
IT: …release your inhibitions.
RS: Be Jared Leto on the Suicide Squad set.
Does it also look at how violence in film potentially influences society with copycat violence?
IT: Less a theme and more a perspective of following a character who is questioned from that outlet. You’ve definitely seen interviews of Tarantino getting questioned and flipping his lid.
RS: …and the interviewer coming at it from a gotcha perspective to try to devalue the art. To try to put this perspective that this is just a snuff film.
RS: I mean it’s primal. Who doesn’t fear death. Fear being hurt. It’s a very primal instinctual thing that is just inherently ingrained in us.
IT: I think as humans we do celebrate death in a way, to dance with death is to accept it. We celebrate the day of the dead, halloween etc. These are all examples of us getting together and celebrating the dread of our existence as a way to embrace it.
RS: It’s the one thing we all have in common. We all die by the end.
IT: Since the beginning of time, we’ve been afraid to be out alone in the woods because if a highway man or a wild animal comes, you can get fxxxxd up. A lot of our stories are based around the simplicity of primal existence.
How did you cast the lead actor Vinny Curran as Alfred Costella the cultish film director?
IT: I first saw him in a movie called “Resolution” which was shot in our home town of San Diego and so that was really special to see a movie that we really liked come out of our home town. That was very influential and so we ended up getting to meet those filmmakers just vicariously through screenings around town and ended up being friends on Facebook. I thought I had the character Alfred Costella in my head but after meeting Vinny the image of Alfred Costella faded away and I could only see Vinny Curran. So when I wrote the script, I wrote it for Vinny and we just boldly hit him up, “we wrote this for you and we hope you’ll do it, if you don’t do it, we’ll probably move onto a different movie.”
RS: But luckily he said yes.
Where did the script and the funny lines come from?
IT: Honestly, the idea was there but then movies like “What We Do in the Shadows” really influenced the tone we wanted to go for. There’s a bit in “What We Do in the Shadows” where they’re like “you can’t kill any of the cameramen…maybe one cameraman”. Ideas like that you are like ok, you’re working dangerously on the edge with someone who could be malicious potentially. Have you seen the “Creep” movies with Mark Duplass? Those were another influence and some of the more underground movies “Man Bites Dog” is a mockumentary about a film crew chronicling an assassin, but the assassin is really funny and quirky but then will shoot people in the head whilst they sleep. So it is like shocking the turn over but it is still the integrity of the character; he is that. Then also “Street Thief” is another one where a camera crew is chronicling a professional safe cracker; so the perspective of mockumentaries following sociopaths were big influences on this movie.
The location on a ranch looked like a filmmakers dream
RS: We got very lucky in terms of the ranch location, a lot of the locations we were looking for beforehand were so expensive.
IT: We were looking at a cowboy set and they wanted way too much money for a place that wasn’t being used that much.
RS: Or at least we are not at that level to have the financing for getting locations for a full wild west town.
IT: We hit up a family friend whose dad owned a ranch. So she contacted a bunch of ranch owners and we met Jose the property owner of that ranch and he took us in like family. He loves us. We’re going to shoot a ‘cabin in the woods movie’ on his property and he’s going to build a log cabin for us.
RS: He’s down with the cause. We’ve been really lucky with all of the people we’ve met on this film.
IT: The movie is secretly in 3 different locations that we’ve stitched together. The interiors of Alfred Costella’s house is my mom’s house in San Diego and then the exterior is the ranch and the basement studio is a basement in downtown San Diego.
How does Calvin, the BTS documentary character, drive the movie?
IT: The idea with that was because we were having a BTS documentary camera, it is not narratively shot, you literally have a conscious camera. Someone’s POV is making emotional decisions of what they are filming and that comes with biases and so this is a character who has a bit of voyeuristic tendencies and also Calvin in particular is a fan boy of Alfred Costella and that is something Alfred acknowledges and plays on and makes a particularly interesting character.
Did you use held POV footage throughout the film?
IT: There is some blocking in terms of the camera movement even though it does feel run and gun. What we would do is, the first few takes of a scene would be let’s dance it out, let’s go slow, make sure everyone hits their marks, feel it out, try things. Then after the first 3 takes we would just go, ok let’s make it snappier, make it louder, make it faster if things are running too long, just crunch it in and make it a little more crazy.
What would you recommend to any filmmakers wanting to make a film?
RS: Not to say going to film school is a bad thing, not to talk down anyone who’s gone to film school, but because we didn’t, we don’t have that debt. Instead any money that we would have put into going into film school, we could instead just put it into the film itself and learn by creating and that is a pretty big benefit. Not saying that that is the way to do it, we are not saying that but it’s definitely not a necessity film school.
IT: It is something you have to ask yourself personally. Do you work best in an educational environment. Is that where you flourish? Is that where you can best meet people?
RS: I’d say what we are doing that was our film school. Neither Ian or I went to film school. We are both very passionate about filmmaking. We love movies so for a few years we were just making short films and learning from that and basically doing at home film school, just getting the skillset to be able to finally do this – make a full-fledged feature film.
IT: With the internet today you can put yourself through film school. A big part of what Ryan and I did was … the first thing we did in 2015 was a short film called ‘Philip Finds Love’ and it was made with just Ryan and I basically. Ryan was the lead actor and I was the director and I was shooting it myself. We shot it over 3 days. It was a great experience and we felt the partnership between us and so it evolved from actor and director to being creative partners.
I’d say, don’t be afraid to make something just for practise. A big part of what I see holds people up is the inadequacy traps of not being good enough to make what you want. So I would say make things for the attempt to learn how to make bigger things. That short we were talking about it had no onboard audio. It just had Ryan talking to a cam girl on the internet.
RS: I don’t think I said a single thing.
IT: So we dubbed the whole movie basically. It was just focusing on shots, compositions, editing, flow and then we started making more things like 20 minute movies until we felt versatile enough to carry a feature.
RS: Also, I feel like a lot of people are scared of that first project because they really want it to be good and perfect. You end up just kind of waiting and procrastinating when it’s best to just bite the bullet and get it done. You can see where you fell short and what you can improve on. Being able to actually look at your work and see where you can expand.
IT: Another thing, we dabbled with attempting to work with different people on the movie but we eventually just did it ourselves. So many people were telling us that we needed to make it for a bigger budget and we were seeing the movies that they made and it felt unnecessary. I didn’t see the end quality in what they were putting into it and so it kind of just gave us the influence to say fxxk it, let’s just go and do it our way. We don’t need to make movies with these people who are bringing us down.
RS: You’ll see million dollar films that look like they were filmed for $10,000 and $10,000 dollar films that look like they were filmed for a million.
IT: There was a movie that a lot of people in San Diego worked on. It was like a horror movie and it was a horror production. Like everyone was fed up with the movie, it ended up bloating into half a million dollars and I’ve seen great filmmakers like Benson and Moorhead make movies for less than one hundred grand that look like they cost millions of dollars. Jim Cummings latest film ‘The Beta Test‘. I think it was made for less than $300,000, and it looks like it was made for $3 million. So it isn’t about the abundance of resources. It’s about what you can do with what you have and so I would just say, don’t feel like you have to hold yourself back by what you don’t have. Make what you can make now the coolest thing you can make.
RS: Realise what potential scale you can work with in your story. If you are an indie filmmaker your first film should not be some crazy sci-fi ‘Star Wars‘ epic. Realise the scope that you can potentially work with.
From script to screen how long did your film take?
IT: We wrote the movie in 2018 and then December of 2018 we shot that opening scene and then we basically took all of 2019 to just read through all the scripts and to make it the best thing we could make it and then we started shooting again in March of 2020. We shot a couple of days and then covid hit and we shut down. We didn’t get back to shooting until October and so we filmed a week in October, a week in November and a week in December and each of those weeks were each of those locations.
You’re closing the London FrightFest 2022. How do you expect the film to be received at its world premiere tomorrow night?
RS: So far people have been pretty positive about it. I don’t want to go in with any expectation. Just go and see what people think. Hopefully they enjoy it. Hopefully the take away is that they had a good time with it.
IT: There seems to be like this taboo thing of being a filmmaker and wanting to entertain people, but we do just want to entertain and so we hope that people are entertained. I hope you laugh. I hope you cry. I hope you sweat a little bit.
RS: Maybe having a few of these conversations that we are having right now about artistic integrity and what makes real art.
Film: Everybody Dies by the End
Director: Ian Tripp, Ryan Schafer
Stars: Vinny Curran, Brendan Calahan, Bill Oberst JOR
Genre: Horror, Comedy
Run time: 1hr 30min