Interview with Filmmaker Matt Zappala (THE GUARD STATION)

THE GUARD STATION was the winner of BEST HORROR FILM at the April 2021 HORROR Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

I wrote a feature film screenplay originally that involved a security guard for a research and storage facility encountering a shape shifting creature that he had to contain over the period of one night. The goal was to make a low budget, high octane horror in one location with a kickass monster and an endearing lead character. To explore a lot of the complexities that would be involved in taking on such a project i wanted to first see if the elements could play out using a short film format and then take what we learned and go from there. We could also use the short as a proof-of-concept piece to further develop the feature.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

The concept of the short to filming took 6 months. The main things that we needed to time was crew availability, location lock ins and creature design completion. I remember we were about to start shooting in the beginning of September when my DOP got a call for a much commercial project that got bumped forward so we had to delay until the end of October. It actually worked out better for us since the weather was so much nice and the last shoot day fell on Halloween. What better way to spend Halloween than making a monster movie.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Fun Horror

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The special fx and creature design. Mark Bentley was our creature and he had to be fully body painted in latex, have prosthetics attached and locked into the mask for long periods of time. Jon Tolliday and Chelsea Lange did an amazing job of putting the creature together, but time was always against us. I can honestly say I got 90% of what i wanted to shoot but i had to make some changes on the fly to the first encounter with the creature. Originally, we we’re going to have more interaction with the Naked Work man and Michael and i had planned to melt completely down into a thick puddle of goo and have more detail to the rise and formation of the creature. Think Franks rebirth in hellraiser. We were running late that night and I might have added too many fx and shots to do in such a limited amount of time, but we made it work and I learned so much of the process to better accommodate such things in the future.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I think i just developed a huge grin from ear to ear. To hear testimonials from people I don’t know who understood and enjoyed the story, who appreciated the fx and cinematography, that just found enjoyment and entertainment from my work… so grateful. I was so overwhelmingly happy. all i want to do is make something that’s entertaining and enjoyable and it really felt like i did that. so thank you again for that.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

I wanted to make a monster movie where someone is constantly fighting for their life and it just keeps escalating. The pieces slowly fell into place once i worked out what kind of character i wanted to be fighting for their life. Someone people can relate to, someone that has an internal issue that they need to overcome, someone that i could hurt repeatedly on camera and people really want to see fight back. After Michael was fleshed out the rest of the pieces fell into place

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Big trouble in little China.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

For someone like me that’s never submitted or ever been apart of a festival in this way FilmFreeway made the whole process of getting my work out there so much easier. I’ll definitely be using it again for my next project

9. What is your favorite meal?

Pizza

10. What is next for you? A new film?

I’m planning another short film based on another feature screenplay. It’s about an artist trying to move on from a tragic childhood with his mesmerizing talent to paint. One day his long lost sister confronts him about the death of their parents, his work suddenly takes a dark turn as bodies begin to pile up around him. Is he a serial killer that recreates the scenes of his crimes through his art? Or does his art take on a life of itself through supernatural means. Tune in next time to find out

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