Interview: Slash and Anthony Leonardi from "Nothing Left to Fear"
He is one of the greatest guitarists of all time, the other, a young director eager to take on any creative challenge given to him. Slash, and his company Slasher Films, teams up with director Anthony Leonardi III to bring you the new horror film “Nothing Left to Fear”. Movie Room Reviews had the amazing opportunity to talk with them and get Anthony’s thoughts on making a horror movie, and also what Slash thought about being a producer/composer for the film.
Nick Leyland from Movie Room Reviews: Hey thanks for taking the time to talk with me. I'm sure you've been talking about this all day and you're tired, but I appreciate the time.
Slash: It hasn't been all day.
Anthony Leonardi III: No. Good.
MRR: Well, the new film "Nothing Left To Fear" comes out October 4th in a limited release and October 8th on Blu-Ray. So Anthony, talk about the job offer from hell, literally? [chuckle]
Anthony Leonardi III: No, it was great, I mean the best part about it is when you go in, and you meet on a script you never know who the producers are gonna be, or how they're gonna react to your take. And it's kind of an interview process both ways; them interviewing you and you interviewing them, 'cause making a movie's like going to war. [chuckle] And the thing is when I met Slash and the producers, I kind of said, "I'm gonna go in and just make the kind of movie I want to make." It was a little different than, not different than it was on the page, but what you see on-screen is a little bit less horrific than the original script was. And from the moment we met, we all kind of agreed on the movie we wanted to make, and so that really made the process no matter what issues came up after that... It made it a really awesome experience.
MRR: When you look at a horror script, how can you tell whether it's good or not? And how do you avoid those cliches of the genre?
Anthony Leonardi III: It's tough because I get a lot of different kinds of scripts, and I wasn't even looking just at horror scripts at the time. And I read the script, and the script's changed a bit since we got it, but immediately when I read it, I found something I connected in with it, and I saw a movie. And that's kind of how I judge a script whether it's a good script or a bad script; it's whether I see a good movie when I read it, and then that's usually what I'll go after. It's one of those ones where I kind of saw the movie, I saw what grabbed me as a director. It wasn't the straight-slasher genre picture I'd been seeing. And so there was something much more interesting in it and a little bit more original.
MRR: We get a Byron Hadley from “Shawshank Redemption” appearance in actor Clancy Brown.
Anthony Leonardi III: Yeah, he's awesome, amazing.
MRR: Yeah, and Anne Heche is also. How did the cast live up to your expectations?
Anthony Leonardi III: I'm really happy with it, I think we've got a fantastic cast. I think each one came in and knew the film that we were trying to make, and they all rallied around it. I think we didn't want to do the kind of cliche horror movie with the slutty girl. We don't want all the characters to feel cliche because I think we've seen so many horror movies by now that we know which one's gonna die first, or what's gonna happen to who, and what we want to do is kind of build a very natural film and that turns into a horror movie.
MRR: While directing a film like this, did you ever find yourself kind of holding back and telling yourself not to go too far?
Anthony Leonardi III: Yes, I mean the whole time. I mean it's funny 'cause I think me and Slash both held back because it's so easy to turn it into a fast-cut or get real tricky with the angle or kind of go over the top stylistically, especially in horror where everything's bleach-bypassed or cross-processed. And what we really wanted to do 'cause I have a very... Like more of a high concept style. I wanted to shoot something that felt very natural, I wanted the characters to feel very natural. I didn't want it to ever be leading too far ahead of the characters, so there was definitely a restraint in how much we did with that. And the same with the music. I mean if you listen to the score as well, it matches the picture perfectly because it restrains itself and doesn't go over the top.
MRR: And same with effects too. Your effects were great on the film, and I was wondering 'cause you've worked in the art department on several films I read. But what do you think, practical effects or CG, which is better?
Anthony Leonardi III: My whole process is do as much as I can possibly afford and achieve practically before I have to go to CG. It was funny 'cause, especially with a creature like this, where most movies you see they’ll use CG to completely distort and do everything and really almost change the performance. And with Jennifer (Stone) it was great because she would say, "Let me try and do everything I possibly can in my acting before we even touch it with the computer." So that was the same process for everything, and with a smaller budget movie like the one we have, you don't want to have a million bad effects, you'd rather have a few that are really good than a whole bunch that are kind of watered down. So it was really kind of picking and choosing where we absolutely needed those effects to tell the story and where we could get away with less is more.
MRR: Well what kind of horror movie is this? If you could explain it to our audience. Inside the genre, what is this film?
Anthony Leonardi III: I mean it's horror in the classic sense of horror. It's funny it almost feels like we didn't go retro, but movies before the '90s, horror movies especially all started out with a normal movie and turned into a horror movie. I think now we've become so formulaic in horror that it's kind of hurting it a bit. So I'd say it's a non-formulaic horror movie in a way in a certain sense and it's more of a haunting tale than a slasher movie.
Slash: But yeah, it's really like a drama about a young family who makes this trip and has horrific results.
MRR: Now, when making a horror movie do you ever find yourself just in too weird of a mood all the time in your own head? You're kinda like just gotta get out of there?
Anthony Leonardi III: The funny thing was I think we had too much fun while making it. [chuckle] I mean the only time I'm in that place is when there's crazy things going wrong, but when you're making it... There are scenes where, like the nightmare scene with the woman, the face, and her arms are bleeding. I mean me and the DP are sneaking behind the camera laughing through the whole thing. [chuckle] It's a lot of fun to do that kind of stuff. And it almost, I think messes you up as an audience member a little bit because you know how that's made. You've been there, you've seen behind the camera, so that's all you think about. The only part in the movie that really was hard and put me in a weird place to shoot was probably the scene with Christopher. It's just one of those scenes where you know it's fake, and you're doing it fake, but I have kids and, seeing that, it was just a really tough thing to shoot.
Slash: I wonder what Christopher thought seeing it the first time? I haven't seen him since.
Anthony Leonardi III: Yeah, no. And he came to the screening of the movie, so I'm even more terrified what he thought.
MRR: Well, what's a better feeling... Scaring the hell outta somebody or making someone cry from laughing so hard?
Anthony Leonardi III: I think it's the same. And it's something we talk about when we first screened the movie. We go, "I wish this was a comedy", 'cause we could hear people laughing or not laughing at our jokes because in horror, you're almost telling jokes. But the thing is people don't gasp every time. You never know...
Slash: Right, because it's a different kind of punch line.
Anthony Leonardi III: Yeah, it has a different punch line so you never know if it's affecting somebody 'cause you can't see their faces in the dark room. You have to wait till it's over to see if people were truly terrified or not.
Slash: Well, I mean a good barometer for a horror movie is if people scream on occasion.
Anthony Leonardi III: Yeah.
MRR: So Slash, your company, Slasher Films, this is the first production for you guys. How'd it go jumping in the world of horror films, and is it what you expected?
Slash: Well, all things considered, it's a lotta hard work; it's pretty relentless. But I'm good with that. I'm a bit of a workaholic so I sort of welcome that kind of a challenge. But I have to admit also I was really fortunate in all the people that I worked with. I don't mean that gratuitously. I was fortunate because I've heard some real horror stories about making movies, and I could have went in head first into a situation that might have been overwhelming. There are situations I'm sure that I could have been put in that I might not have been able to handle, but I was fortunate to be able to work with great partners and Anthony, and it was a great cast and a great DP... I mean great special effects people. They were all really focused. This was like the little miracle movie that could and everybody put 110% into it, and that was a great first go for me.
MRR: Well, you composed the song, "Nothing Left to Fear" which is at the end of the film.
Slash: That too, great composing partner, Nicholas O'Toole.
MRR: I wanted to ask you, when you wrote it did you find inspiration through more of a visual representation of the film or more of a dark place deep inside you?
Slash: I think initially all my first ideas came from the script and Anthony's storyboards. That's because as a producer I'm there in the very, very, very beginning. I can start writing that stuff from the vibe of the story itself. And then, Anthony has these great storyboards that really painted a visual for me. And then, from that point on, when we started filming, we had already sort of gotten a good idea of what that music was going to be and then started getting into the actual scoring, the placement of the music.
MRR: Well, I'm kind of an audio geek. What kind of cool gear did you use to kinda get that horror vibe that you wanted?
Slash: Well listen, okay, for me as a guitar player, I was using AmpliTube through my laptop, and that's how actually the original version of "Nothing Left to Fear" title track was recorded on and through Pro Tools 'cause I was on the road and most of the stuff is very clean, but when we got into actually scoring the movie with Nicholas and we used his gear, I should actually find out what the name of it is, but this incredible orchestra app that simulates an orchestra like nobody's business. And he had all kinds of very high-end gear that he was using basically through his computer. So, they're all apps, but not your typical stuff that you go online and buy, but some very high-end stuff, and I'm not really sure what the names of any of that is.
MRR: My next question was when you're doing something like this do you prefer more of a midi-synthesized type of sound or are you more of a natural organic sound kinda guy.
Slash: No. See, that's the thing. I was very apprehensive about doing anything via the computer as far as the score was concerned. But however Nicholas does it, he made it sound so far from MIDI that he had me fooled a couple of times when he'd play me something in the very early stages, and I was totally convinced that it was a wind instrument and it wasn't.
Slash: Listen, you're talking to a person that will not do a record unless I use tape, so. I'm around digital recording all the time. But what I use for my own records is basically old-school. So, when it came to scoring, obviously we couldn't afford to have an 80-piece orchestra, but he had the tools to make something that sounded as good.
MRR: Well, I can't imagine many horror movies getting too much into your head, but is there one that completely creeped you out?
Slash: I get horror movies in my head, stuck in my head, all the time. [chuckle] When I see a good horror movie, very rarely do I actually get what you call "scared" but I definitely get into the suspense of it. I like the sort of heart racing, I go along for the ride. When I was a kid, there was a few movies that scared me and that sort of stuck with me, “Night of the Living Dead” being one of the main ones, “Jaws” was another one. I saw “Jaws” when I was 10 years old.
Anthony Leonardi III: Yeah. I think that's the one that stuck with me. I mean every movie scared me, but that one... I still won't go in the ocean 'cause of it. That's a movie that actually sticks with people.
Slash: Yeah, I got scared in the swimming pool at night...
Anthony Leonardi III: Yeah.
Slash: Yeah. There's not many movies that can do that.
MRR: Well, thanks a lot guys. The movie comes out October 4th on limited release, in certain theaters, and October 8th on Blu-ray. So our audience has gotta go out and check it out. I really enjoyed the film, and thank you guys so much for talking with me, and I hope the film does great things.
Anthony Leonardi III: Thanks man.
Slash: Thanks man. Good talking to you.