SPIRITS, 9min., USA, Comedy/Horror
Directed by Matthew Catanzano
Some haunts are haunted.
I grew up an indoor kid -- obsessed with movies, TV, and pop culture. My family didn't do "family game night" we did "family movie night" and it consisted of piling on a couch and watching movies like "the 'burbs", "the Goonies", and "Big Trouble in Little China" and then discussing them. Eventually, I got a coveted job at my local Hollywood Video in Medford, MA. To this day, it's the second best job I ever had (although saying you used to work at a video store is like telling people you used to work for the phone book company at this point...)
The very *best* job, was Mainstage performer/writer/director at Improv Asylum in Boston's North End. It was there that I met my network of friends, writers, and performers. It was there that my friend Richie Moriarty and I created our YT page Simply Unemployable and got jobs doing sketch comedy in NYC.
It was where live performance taught me so many of the things I know about writing, about editing, and about audience expectations.
I live in LA now where I continue to perform live comedy at night. And during the day, I write, shoot, and edit shorts, sketches, essays, (and yes, even Tiktoks). I recently started a new website "TheHappyGhostProductions" where I put up genre-related content. Normal stuff, like a to-camera show where I convince an alien monster (puppet) why it should watch my favorite deep-cut movies. No one asked for the series, but I make it anyway. I'd make stuff if no one watched, but it would be really great if people did...
Get to know the filmmaker:
1. What motivated you to make this film?
My two great loves are horror and comedy. I have many MANY sketches online and I wanted to add a more straight-forward horror short to the list. Especially since it more accurately reflects the feature scripts I write. I really wanted to make a short that was scary first, had a lot of lore/rules, and showcased what I could do with no budget.
And subject matter-wise, Ghosts scare the hell out of me. I'm a big fan of creatures and monsters, but it's ghosts that actually keep me up at night. And I really love the idea of haunted places that are also regular businesses that have to operate day-to-day. haha.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
About 2 years. The idea had been swimming around my head for years, but I recorded a Real-Life Ghost Story podcast during quarantine and it got me excited to actually write the script. That's when I started occasionally looking around stores for cool-looking decanters and other props. When it was safe to shoot, I recruited a lot of talented friends and called in some favors. (shout out to Patrick Bradberry's incredible makeup FX, Vic Yambao's artwork, and Jim Zaroulis' amazing score) Then the edit itself took almost a full year. Lots of starts and stops.
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
Service-Industry Horror (I cheated, but I think it works)
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
The most challenging part of the shoot was that we only had the location for one day. It's a great little bar/speakeasy that I have standup shows in and they let me come in and shoot on a quiet Sunday while it was STILL OPEN FOR BUSINESS. There were a lot of shots, not a lot of time, and the occasional stop-and-start because of real patrons showing up.
And the most challenging obstacle to completion was the edit. I'm NOT a good editor and it took me forever. Lots of handholding from producer Shayan Ebrahim and DP extraordinaire Ryan Parsons.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
I felt a wave of gratitude and relief. Everyone that gave feedback seemed to really *get* what I was going for. They picked up on the little clues, the hints at lore and rules, and the general goal of giving people a proof of concept for a longer story. It felt amazing! I was also so happy people mentioned the acting! My friend Niousha Noor is so unbelievably incredible in it. I really needed to crush all the post-production elements to try to match what a good job she is doing (impossible to do, but I tried) And James III is a delight. I want him in everything I make.
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
I've wanted to make films since I was a child! I come from a real movie nerd family. As long as I can remember, I wanted to be an actor and that gave way to wanting to write and direct and be a part of the entire filmmaking process. It's a miracle when anything gets made and I'm so energized each and every time I can have some hand in it.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
The Goonies, my all-time favorite.
Lots of runner-ups though: the 'burbs, Gremlins, Poltergeist, Ghostbusters, Christmas Vacation, Temple of Doom, Big Trouble in Little China...Between being an indoor kid and working at a video store back in the day, I've rewatched a lot of my favorites over and over...
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
I think call-to-actions are really helpful and any follow-up type access. This questionnaire, the podcast interview, the posting of the feedback videos - those are all things that can be shared and used as promotional tools moving forward. A lot of festivals just feel like you send them money, maybe get selected, grab a laurel and move on. Anything that helps get eyeballs on the project or further expands the community is really helpful.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
Filmfreeway is super user-friendly. The only harm is it's TOO EASY to constantly spend money submitting your film to festivals haha. And not all festivals are not worth the submission.
10. What is your favorite meal?
Oooo, I'm an unapologetic chain restaurant guy. I'd go Outback Steakhouse - cheese fries, salad, Outback special, loaded potato.
11. What is next for you? A new film?
I'm trying to get funding for a feature-length anthology horror movie I wrote. This short, Spirits, would be one of the vignettes within the larger story! That, and I'm constantly performing in and around LA. I have a regular show at the Alamo Drafthouse DTLA called "Protected Under Parody", at The Hollywood Improv called "ill-prepared", and at Soho House called "Warp Speed." Plus, I'm always creating new sketches for YouTube (Simply Unemployable & The Happy Ghost Productions), Instagram, Tiktok. I, uh, like making stuff. Follow me @MattCatanzano & @DeepCutzSeries