After my interview with one of Fewdio’s finest, Paul Hungerford, I was eager to learn more about some of the minds behind Fewdio. So, I reached out to another of its finest, director Dave Schneider, whom some of you may know as co-director of Stark Raving Mad as well as many Fewdio shorts. David was very kind enough to sit down and allow me an interview with him.
Can you say that you know the man? I know I couldn’t until, that is, he answered a few questions for me. Of course, that doesn’t go to say that I know him completely, however, I was able to gain a little more insight as to who he is. Plus, very much so like Paul, he’s shown me that he’s a very cool and nice guy. David provides some great tips and advice for aspiring film makers that you don’t want to miss!
ReelyBored: Where did your interest in directing stem from?
David Schneider: I’m a life-long movie fan. But I actually moved out to L.A. without even thinking about directing as an option. I moved here to be a writer. I went to college to be a writer. It was something I knew I was pretty good at. I wrote a lot. And I had this idea in my head – without consciously thinking it – that directors had some special knowledge that I lacked. A skill-set that I was unprepared for, and probably never would be.
But, a few things happened along the way that would devoid me of that notion… one, as a struggling writer, I worked on a ton of low-budget films in production – P.A., props, art director, etc. And it became increasingly clear to me that a lot of the directors working on these films had no idea what they were doing. I would see the choices they’d make, and I’d kind of raise an eyebrow, and think, “Wow, that seems… odd”. But I’d shrug and assume they’d know what they were doing, and I didn’t. But then I’d see the result of those films, and become more and more convinced that I was right all along. Understand, my point here is not to try to say I consider myself to be a genius – I don’t – just that, if you know the grammar of film, and have a decent eye and ear for dialog and basic understanding of acting and emotion – you have the knowledge you need to make a film.
The second thing that set me down a path to directing, was seeing a few of my screenplays turned into films. Like many writers, there’s typically a sense of, “Wow, they misunderstood what I was going for. I wish I was in charge.” And so, I started working towards making it so.
ReelyBored: What directors have influenced you and your work?
David Schneider: Scorsese. I remember vividly walking out of GoodFellas, absolutely amazed by what I’d just seen. I was a young adult by that point, and had always been a movie fan of course, but that was the first film I recall that just blew me away on all aspects, visually, story-wise, music, acting, etc. Before that, I’d been a fan of movies as story. That was the moment I realized a movie could be much more than just a story.
Hitchcock, definitely. The way he could create mood and tension simply was fantastic.
I discovered Kurosawa fairly late in life, but I’d have to consider him a strong influence.
Buster Keaton. He did so much with so little.
I haven’t named any horror directors! Mario Bava, definitely. Takashi Miike, also definitely. His style just gets under your skin and crawls around… he’s the director who just leaves me most pleasantly uncomfortable – in a good way!
ReelyBored: Are there any particular actors/actresses you wish to work with and why?
David Schneider: Paul Hungerford. I hear he’s a diva, though!
ReelyBored: Was being a film maker your lifelong dream? If so, do you feel as if you have achieved that goal?
David Schneider: Not really, not from an early age, at least. But I did always want to be an entertainer of some sort. I think ‘magician’ was the first thing I wanted to be “when I grew up”, when I was very young. Comedian, musician… I think I even went through a passing ventriloquist phase! But I knew I was going to be a writer of some sort early on.
ReelyBored: What steps do you feel you have taken to get to where you are today?
David Schneider: I think it all comes down to writing. Writers can be looked down on in this industry, but a good script is a good script, and is in demand. Write enough good scripts to get noticed.
ReelyBored: Do you feel you have been noticed?
David Schneider: To an extent. I had a good run where I made a decent living as a writer for a number of years. Studios were buying a lot of scripts at the time, and most of the scripts I sold never even got made. Which is too bad; you always want to see your work get turned into an actual film. But hey, making a living doing what you love to do anyway is never a bad thing. So yeah, I worked long enough that I was noticed as a writer. And now Fewdio is getting a good amount of exposure, and it’s nice to be noticed as part of that. I’m very proud of what Fewdio has accomplished.
ReelyBored: I recently saw a documentary titled “Tales From the Script” in which many Hollywood writers spoke of their horror stories that pertained to scriptwriting and the Hollywood system. Do you have any horror stories that pertain to your writing as opposed to your directing?
David Schneider: Honestly, not too bad. Maybe I’ve just been lucky. Like I said, it would be nice to have had more of my script sales actually made into movies, but that’s just part of the game.
Horror stories…. hmmm. Pitching to Jerry Bruckheimer was a very, very scary and intimidating experience. I suppose that could be considered a horror story. But, we sold that project to him, so it was a horror story with a happy ending!
Writing a script for Uwe Boll was pretty scary, thinking about how it might turn out. It was actually a good script. I’m grateful that one didn’t end up getting made, at least at the time!
ReelyBored: Jerry Bruckheimer? Wow, very impressive! Uwe Boll, very scary indeed! How was the opportunity brought about to direct your first feature, Stark Raving Mad, along with director Drew Daywalt?
David Schneider: We’d written the script, shopped it around a bit, and got it to John Crye and Aaron Ryder at Newmarket Films. Drew and I had just completed our first short film, called Hate* (*a comedy), and used that to show them and the financiers that we could direct. Next thing we knew, we were up in Vancouver making it. Sorry, not a very interesting story!
ReelyBored: What was your most embarrassing moment while being new to the film making scene?
David Schneider: Hmmm… not much comes to mind. I remember the first day, first shot of Stark… we were shooting on a stage. Rolling. Sound speeds. –crickets—After several long seconds, everyone looks to Drew and I expectantly. We were so nervous, we both forgot to call “Action!” That wasn’t too embarrassing, though… we got over it quickly!
My very first day on a film set, this was many many years ago, I was a day-player production assistant. I was told to go get some apple boxes. “Sure thing!” I was too embarrassed to admit I had no idea what apple boxes were. So I ran downstairs, found someone who looked like they would know, and asked where the apple boxes were. He looked at me kind of funny, and pointed right next to me. I felt kind of silly about that. But I knew what they were then!
ReelyBored: What is your most memorable moment on set?
David Schneider: The big extra days on Stark, the ones with a lot of party-goers. We had a room full of a few hundred extras, a huge crane, a few name actors, tons of lights… those were the days I looked around and just had to say to myself… “wow”. No, I’m not very eloquent when I talk to myself.
ReelyBored: Why horror shorts, for the most part, and not some other genre?
David Schneider: To be honest, I’d always considered myself more of a comedy guy than a horror guy – although I always loved horror too, comedy is just where I’d gravitated to. But when we started to make shorts, we looked at the market, and it was just absolutely flooded with comedy. GOOD comedy. Oh sure, there was a lot of bad comedy as well, but tons of great stuff too. Then we looked at horror. The market was much smaller, and, at the time when we started, there wasn’t a whole lot of good horror shorts. Things have gotten much better now – there’s a lot of great horror talent making shorts now – but at the time, it seemed like a market in need.
After the first few Fewdio shorts, I looked at them and thought – hey, I’m not bad at this either! And it can be just as fun as comedy. Sold!
ReelyBored: Many directors have been typecast as horror directors, and although you have Stark Raving Mad under your belt, are you comfortable being relegated to just directing horror?
David Schneider: That’s a good question. Look, if I spend the rest of my career making horror, I won’t be unhappy, as long as I can make stories I’m proud of. And I do always see myself making horror – it’s a great genre, with great fans, and great opportunity to tell good stories with lots of emotion. But sure, I want to do more as well. Like I said earlier, I come from comedy (and, this might seem strange to some – but I like to think comedy and horror are very similar, flip sides of the same coin). I do want to get back to that, as well.
ReelyBored: Can you describe to me the inception of Fewdio and where the idea of forming this horror troupe came from?
David Schneider: We started during the writer’s strike a few years back. As we were all in the film industry, we were out of work while the strike going on. Just to keep busy and our creative muscles flowing, we decided to make a short film on a weekend. John Crye and his friend Travis Fickett had written this great, intelligent, moody short called Curse. Drew had just bought a Canon XL2, and I had purchased a Final Cut Pro editing rig and a nice film light, and we decided to give it a go. We spent a few days building the set – I built a flat and we put it up in John’s garage, then spent another few days dressing it to look like a run-down hotel room. We cast two actors Drew and I had directed in a VH1 movie not long before – Kirk Woller and Bradley James.
We shot it over the course of a weekend, and just had an absolute blast. What better way to spend a weekend than with your friends, making a movie? At that point, it was just going to be a one-off thing, but we’d had so much fun, we decided to make another. Then another. Then another. And Fewdio was born.
ReelyBored: Have you ever thought about forming a comedy troupe, a distant cousin to Fewdio?
David Schneider: You mean a performing group? No. I’m a strictly behind-the-scenes guy, not a performer. But I would love it if, at some point in the distant future, Fewdio would branch off and have a comedy division as well. There are some funny, funny people in Fewdio… it would be a shame to keep that all hidden away forever!
ReelyBored: Which Fewdio short did you enjoy the most filming, from a visual perspective?
David Schneider: Marie. I’ve always been a big fan of film-noir, and that was us attempting to do horror-noir. It was a fun look to create.
ReelyBored: I tried asking Paul this question but said he couldn’t answer so I thought I’d take a stab at it by asking you; Where does the word itself, Fewdio, come from?
David Schneider: Okay, I’ll finally answer that. The name Fewdio comes from — *ACK* *CHOKING* *CAN’T BREATH* *GASP* Okay, okay! Sorry, apparently the Elder Gods do not want me to tell you.
ReelyBored: And so the mystery continues. Where do you hope to take Fewdio within the next couple of years?
David Schneider: Features, definitely. I LOVE the short film format, and see that as always being a part of the Fewdio game plan, but I love feature films. I love character, and I love the freedom a feature gives you for developing character. You can do it, but only so much, in a short.
ReelyBored: For those aspiring to become future directors, how would you break into the business?
David Schneider: Shoot, shoot, shoot. Get a camera and shoot. Never in history has it been easier to make your own films. Learn to edit. Getting some editing under your belt helps tremendously on future films.
Beyond that, move to L.A. Sure, you can make films anywhere, but this is the place where the business is. Breaking into the film industry as a filmmaker is tough no matter where you are – and you’re making it a multitude times harder on yourself if you’re not here in L.A.
Get jobs working on films. Production assistant, whatever. Talk to people. Watch what’s happening. Get an internship at a post house. Learn everything you can about the process, start to finish. And in the meantime – keep writing and shooting. Just immerse yourself in film, and do what you can to experience the process first-hand.
ReelyBored: What do you do when you’re not directing?
David Schneider: I watch a lot of films, obviously. I read a lot – I probably read more than I watch films. I edit. I design web sites. I play poker. I go to Vegas. I like to travel, in general. I drink way too much coffee. I get frustrated over Baltimore-area sports teams constantly losing.
ReelyBored: Sorry to hear about your Baltimore teams, but when you are in the same league as a NY team (Go Yanks!) you’re in trouble. Are you originally from he east coast? If so, how hard/easy was your choice to move out to L.A. in the West Coast?
David Schneider: Boo, Yanks!
Yes, I grew up in Baltimore, as you might have guessed. The suburbs of Baltimore, to be more exact.
Leaving family behind wasn’t easy — I come from a great, wonderfully supportive family. I get to travel back and see them once a year or so. But, I knew this was where I had to be to be in the film industry. It had been what I’d spent the previous 4 years in college preparing for. I’m honestly not sure what I would have done if I’d not moved out here.
Thank you David, you were truly a great sport and a pleasure to speak with! Good luck with all of your future endeavors and don’t be a stranger. I wish you all the best!