Stevan Mena (Director/Writer - 'Malevolence 3')
'The Third Act: Come Get Some!'
In 2005, Stevan Mena's debut film 'Malevolence' became a surprise hit when it was released both theatrically and on DVD. Written, co-produced and directed by Mena, 'Malevolence' told the shocking story of Martin Bristol. Taken from a backyard swing at his home at the age of six, he is forced to witness the unspeakable crimes of a deranged madman. For years, Martin's whereabouts had remained a mystery, until the masked serial killer suddenly had a new face.
Intended as the second act of a trilogy, come 2011 and Mena went back in time to explore the origins of Bristol within 'Bereavement.' Starring Michael Biehn and Alexandra Daddario it was yet another massive hit with the fans.
And now the final chapter of the trilogy has been written ... but Mena needs your help to get 'Malevolence 3' finished!
Indeed, Mena Films recently announced the launch of their www.indiegogo.com page to start production of 'Malevolence 3.' Once again, Mena is writing, directing and producing, along with longtime co-producer Tim Bristol and producer/actor Brian O'Halloran.
Through www.indiegogo.com, fans can contribute money towards commencing principal photography, having their names in the credits, and even pre-ordering the Blu-ray/DVD! In addition, fans who commit to other monetarily targeted pledge amounts will be eligible for signed scripts, tickets to the premiere party, a Skype session with the cast and filmmakers, and even a chance to appear in the film!
The 'Malevolence 3' www.indiegogo.com page can be found at:
'Malevolence 3' IndieGoGo Page
And here are just a few monetary levels to think about:
$25.00 - DIGITAL DOWNLOAD - A 'Malevolence 3' digital version of the movie. Plus a PDF of the shooting script. Plus your name in the end credits! Estimated delivery: March 2014.
$50.00 - DVD - A copy of 'Malevolence 3' on DVD, with bonus features including a documentary on the making of Malevolence 3. Plus a PDF of the shooting script and your name in the end credits! Estimated delivery: March 2014.
$500.00 - ATTEND THE PREMIERE - Attend the NY premiere and private party with the DIrector Stevan Mena, cast and crew in NYC! Special Guests will include Producer/Actor Brian O'Halloran (Brutal Massacre/Clerks), Gunnar Hansen (The original Leatherface Texas Chainsaw massacre 1974) and more! Plus you'll receive all the rewards above! Estimated delivery: March 2014.
$1,000 - BE A FEATURED EXTRA! - Be a featured extra in the movie! Plus all the rewards above! Estimated delivery: March 2014.
Chatting recently with the man himself Stevan Mena about the films and especially about what he is expecting from his www.indiegogo.com page, we first discussed how he got into writing the trilogy? "I had written a novel and I had been working on it for quite a few years. And when I decided to turn it into a script, I realized that it was just way too big to make it into just one film. So I kind of broke it up into three stories. And so the first film, 'Malevolence' I made on a shoestring budget. I figured that part of the story was the part I could tell for the smallest amount of money. And also the fact that that portion of the story you don't really know much about the killer, the protagonist. So I thought that was a good starting point."
"And then 'Bereavement' came along and that was more of a fleshing out of a character study about nature verses nurture. And the aspects of evil and horror and those origins. So, I always knew there were three stories there, but I never necessarily knew I was going to do all three. When we finished 'Bereavement' we knew it was a really dark and different film, but we had no idea how people would react to it. Given the dark subject matter."
"But the reviews were really generous and we were really pleased with the response. And a lot of people have asked when are you going to conclude the story, because we know there's a third part. So I did a lot of thinking about it and so finally we decided to go ahead and complete it."
The original 'Malevolence' is, in part, obviously an homage to the amazing stylistic techniques of Wes Craven and John Carpenter, particularly 'Halloween' - growing up, was his work especially meaningful for you? "Absolutely. In fact, when I was making the film, 'Scream' was a big hit in the late '90s. And it came out right around the time I started writing this book. And he was kinda exposing a lot of clichés in horror films, but I wanted to show all the things that I liked about those films. So I was kinda standing on the shoulders of other people who had made these types of movies. I thought that these were all the little winks to the old school that I felt were really cool. And that I think are missing in a lot of the ways the films were stylistically structured."
"Because to me, suspense is not some guy in a mask running after somebody for twenty minutes. It's all about the cat and mouse. It's all about the way the scenario is set up. The mechanics behind building suspense. And I think a lot of that got lost. And that was what I was trying to go for. And whether I was successful or not, I don't know."
"And so, yeah, there are actually some obvious homage's and some subtle ones. Like there's a door in the slaughter house where the cop is standing at the end and it's painted to look like Freddy's red and green sweater. And that's something that maybe only die hard fans might even catch a glimpse of; or get. But yeah, there's a lot of fun homage’s sprinkled throughout the film. For me the biggest one is the way the script is designed as an homage to 'Psycho' - and how that was structured."
Being that you write, direct, produce, edit and even compose the scores to all of your films, is it true 'Malevolence' was edited in your one bedroom apartment - and that you even recorded actors ADR in your closet?! "Yeah, that's very true. It was a very homegrown piece of work. And sadly 'Bereavement' was done the same way," he laughs. "Yeah, sadly my social structure status hasn't moved that much," he laughs again.
In the follow-up 'Bereavement' you, once again utilize tried-and-true horror elements in telling the back story. But as much as it was a better horror story, we didn't get to know the victims; so empathizing for them was tough. Was that what you had intended though? "I don't think so. In fact it was my intention for you to empathize with them a lot! I think what gets lost in translation with that film is when I shot it a lot of the sub plots ended up on the cutting room floor. A big portion being the father-son relationship between the dad in the wheelchair and William; the boyfriend she befriends in the beginning."
"And there's a lot of subtle nuances that for pacing reasons you can't have a three hour horror movie! Which is what it clocked in at when I first edited it. So a lot of things had to get cut out and you end up with just the spine of it. I've actually heard a lot of the opposite that you didn't know enough about the killer Sutter and about his relationship with the boy. But again, you can only flesh that out so much before you've got a movie of the week. A five part mini-series."
"So I had to cut and paste where I could to make it a film that I could fit under two hours so that people could sit through it. And again, it's a horror movie so all those dramatic elements ended up on the cutting room floor. And I think that's, when you say there was a lack of empathy or understanding of the characters, that's where that went. It was sacrificed for the horror."
It also seemed like there was a multi-layered subtext throughout the film that you had purposely weaved in, yes? "Yes, for me, there was this thematic element that was running throughout the film. And that was the idea of being trapped. Allison is trapped because her parents die and she is forced to live with her uncle; Martin's trapped because he's forced to take care of his dad; Sutter is trapped by his demons; the boy is trapped by Sutter. And so it's this vicious circle that eventually all collides."
And now, here in the soon-to-be 'Malevolence 3' you are bringing the trilogy to a conclusion with Martin Bristol returning to where it all began: the home where he was kidnapped from. But damaged beyond all repair he is now stalking and killing at supposed random. Had you always had the plot for Part 3 in your head and is it still going to play out the same all these years later? "Almost. Almost. There's been a couple of changes. One of which is in the novel, well, the novel is a very hopeless novel. And I think what I've changed the most is the ending. The theme of 'Malevolence 3' is not as hopeless as it was in the book. It's got a much more satisfying conclusion then it did in the book. So that changed."
"It's more of a popcorn movie then a character study, like the other two films were. So there's a lot more action, a lot more suspense and a little less on the drama in this film. So I think that will also be different to what people expected to see in the other two films. And certainly different from the way it's written in the book."
Why 'Malevolence,' to 'Bereavement' and now back to 'Malevolence' for the titles? Why not name the third one something different? "Oh, I did. The original title of the film was 'Sorrow.' The reason we went back to the 'Malevolence' title was that these are small independent films. And so, for us, marketing is a huge challenge. Just to get people aware of the film and then go pay to see it. I laugh when people ask me if I get upset when I read bad reviews, because I'm like, 'No, at least they saw it'," he laughs.
"So, when 'Bereavement' came out we got a lot of people saying we didn't even know there was a connection to 'Malevolence' - even though there was a direct connection! But people weren't aware of it. And in a way I designed the film to stand on its own, because we thought it would be a larger film - which it ended up being. But we certainly did want to dip into our pool of fans who liked the first film and make sure they were aware of it. I think we kinda missed something there."
"So that's why we decided to bring back the 'Malevolence' title so that everybody that's been following the history of these films, and was looking forward to it, they won't miss it. And they'll know it's a direct connection to the other films. So, unfortunately it's one of those cases where commerce has to trump art. Because we really want to make sure that everybody is aware of this movie."
And it's a funny word, Malevolence! Not the easiest to sound out sometimes! "Yeah, I've had people ask me if it's a real word. I've had people say Male Violence! And all sorts of other mispronunciations. We kinda get a joke out of it. But it's definitely a wordsmith word right out of the dictionary. But when I thought about it for a title, I thought it very aptly described what the film was about. So it kind of just stuck. I wasn't trying to be pretentious," he laughs.
What is it about filming in Allentown, Pennsylvania that keeps you going back there? "It's funny, because it wasn't even a part of our films in the beginning. And the only reason we found that location in that town was we had lost the location where we were originally shooting in Long Island. It's such a long, random story of how we found that building that the chances of it were one in a million."
"But yeah, I keep going back to Allentown because it is just such a cool place to shoot. I have yet to find any other location that you can be in suburbia, you can be in a urban setting, you can be in the middle of nowhere in corn fields, all within the span of five minutes. And it's very conveniently located just outside New York City. And the people are amazing. It's one of those things where I go out there and I say, 'Hey, I'm here' and they're all like, 'Great, what can we do to help?' I mean, anywhere else you go and shoot they're like, 'Hey, not on my lawn!' It's just a very welcoming atmosphere there. And I've made a lot of long term friends. I just found a comfort zone there. And people seem to welcome me with open arms. So I figure why go anywhere else?"
But, and this is the reason we are primarily talking today, you need monetary help with the making of 'Malevolence 3' - and you are asking the general public to come to your rescue via an www.indiegogo.com page. Please tell us more "Well, with this film the way we're doing it is very much like we did the first film. A lot of the money is coming from ourselves, but we've also deferred a lot of the costs by donating all of our time. So the crew, the cast and myself we're all going out there on our own dime to make this film happen. And we've also raised some outside funds, but we need a little bit more to get us over the edge. To pay for all the hard costs that come along with making a movie. And I think we've distilled it down to a pretty small number considering."
"So, there's two parts: yes, we do need the funds to get into production. So we're hoping the fans can help us out. But we also thought it would be a great way to communicate with the fans. Because it's such a hard business making a film and getting people to know you actually made one. And that it's out there and they need go see it. So, we thought the fact we could let people know about a film and start marketing it before it's even made; and especially market it right towards our type of audience who like our type of films, well, we thought that was a no brainer. And it would be a great way to get the word out about us and about the film."
If you don't reach the $75,000 goal, what happens to the money - does it go back to the investors, or is there someone out there you have tucked away, a mystery sponsor who has already agreed to fill the remainder of the pot up to get the movie made?! "It's 99% that it's gonna go ahead. This will certainly make it much easier on us, because whatever we have we have, and everything else is going to be a compromise or a donation. So the more we can raise it's just going to take a lot of downward pressure off of us to try and have to come up with some creative way to solve something that we don't have the finances for."
Indeed, you have three (3) acting roles designed for this www.indiegogo.com campaign. Each is a speaking role and essential, meaning they won't get cut and it only costs $7,500 per person for such a role! So, if I gave you $7,500, you could find a decent speaking role for a British guy in 'Malevolence 3'? I'm curious though as to how you could write such a British-speaking role into the film at this stage?! "Our lead actress was from England," he laughs. "But seriously, we have some very creative people on our team, me being one of them and we can always come up with a way to solve something like that. I don't look as anything like that as a hinderment us or a detriment. You can always find a positive spin on whatever it is. Or whoever it is. I think the only real issue is if it's someone who freezes up on camera. But that just means more work on our part to try and get them comfortable and relaxed. We worry more about that then where we'd fit someone in."
How big a speaking part is it? "It's a small part. Probably just one or two lines we'd fit in there. But it's gonna be essential because it will probably piece a scene together. But, we'll make it work. We just thought it was a really cool idea."
Has any of 'Malevolence 3' actually been shot yet, perhaps? "No, no. Nothing's been shot. Everything's been planned out. Actors have been contacted, those ones returning from the prior film. But what we've done so far is just the leg work. Getting the script ready is the number one thing, more than anything else. And locations. So those are the two things we've been working on the most: Trying to secure locations and making sure every page of the script is exactly where we want it."
So, based on the movie being green lit, what shoot time have you allotted and when do you see its release date? "We're anticipating a five week shoot. And it's probably gonna be ready sometime in early 2014, if all goes well. And we're pretty sure that we've locked in around early February as distribution date."
So, in conclusion, what would be your final plea to the readers about why they should put their hard earned money into your 'Malevolence 3' project? "Well, I think that the movie business is really changing a lot. And it's become a real challenge for myself and other independents to continue to make these films. And make a living out of it too. I think what's great about this is what they can take away from it. Which is they are absolutely supporting the arts. Because whatever they contribute is literally going to go right up there on the screen."
"We don't have any high paid producers, nobody's taking a salary. So, at best if they put in $10 they've bought the crew lunch for the day. And if they've put in significantly more they've helped us purchase or rent a piece of equipment that we desperately needed. A line, or a camera, or a special effect. Every dollar is gonna be earmarked for something that will eventually make it up onto the screen. And I think there's something pretty cool about that. And also having your name in the credits means something. Because we really couldn't have done it without them. So, there's significant meaning behind that for us and I'd hope for them."
Finally, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, we here at Exclusive Magazine love Penguins … do you and do you have any Penguin memories growing up?! "Erm, I don't know if I have any stories about penguins. I did see 'March of The Penguins'! Oh, I used a killer koala in one of my films," he laughs.
We're headed in the right direction, but wrong climate! "Yeah," he laughs again.
Could you see yourself casting a killer penguin any time soon, perhaps?! "Yeah, but it might be hard for them, because they don't have any fingers. I guess they could slap at you, but ... yeah, I guess probably the wing could be serrated. I don't know, but I'd certainly be open to it," he gently laughs, one last time.
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
'Malevolence 3' IndieGoGo Page
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