SMC Spotlight No.1 | Dacre Stoker: Exclusive Interview with ‘Dracula: The Un-Dead’ Author

by Candice Anne Marshall

Trying to formulate the words for a writer as established as Canadian-born, South Carolina-based Dacre Stoker, Author of ‘Dracula: The Un-Dead’ and great Grandnephew of legendary Author, Bram Stoker, who wrote ‘Dracula‘, is a daunting task at best for a newbie on the block like me. I was challenged to write an introduction worthy of the kind of authenticity and grandeur that prolific writers like Dacre deserve and that can sometimes feel a little intimidating. However, this Author is so personable, approachable, and friendly, the words came easy to say. This ascertainment was made after speaking to Dacre at length on the phone this week for our Limehead Radio interview (launching Monday – times announced following the interview): the conversation was candid, entertaining, and very profound. We also delved into discussion about his careers as a Writer, Educator, and established Athlete (yes, an Athlete!) which is not only admirable, it’s relatable to me (I too, enjoy running and writing!). ‘When you’re following in the footsteps of someone like Bram, you better make sure your work is equal, if not better than his because people expect this,’ was a comment that he made through these discussions. Given the fact that he has recently sold a script from a finished book (due out in 2018 – a prequel to Dracula co-written with JD Barker) to Paramount Pictures, it’s safe to say that Dacre Stoker is being recognized as one of the most prolific writers of our time. I do believe Bram would be very proud.

As a young girl, I was always drawn to the idea behind magical and mystical creatures, and Halloween was the one day each year my family and I would go all out. My siblings and I would dress up in our scariest Witch, Bride of Frankenstein, or Dracula costumes and give the neighbors a theatrical treat for the eyes. Even today, the very thought of the skeletal remains of tree branches set against an angry dark moonlit sky elicits excitement among my family because it means Halloween is near. For the last six weeks, Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) has been promoting our Halloween special in conjunction with Limehead Radio (in the United Kingdom) with vivid imagery and special effects in weekly videos leading to the start of this magical time of year when even the oldest among us become kids at heart. Yes folks, it’s officially the start of our five-day Halloween special with Limehead Radio and there’s no better way to start than with the topic of the seasons’ most iconic creatures of all: Dracula!

Let’s rewind a bit…

In mid-September, I stumbled across a promotional video that Airbnb had launched in 2016. They were advertising a contest for two people to ‘Win an Airbnb night for two at Dracula’s Castle on Halloween night’in Transylvania, Romania. I was immediately intrigued and all while doing my research on the subject, I also wondered what rock I had been hiding under last year. This story was huge! I discovered that a Canadian brother and sister won the overnight stay in the famed Bran Castle. I researched further to find that the host of this event was non other than Dacre Stoker. It only made sense for him to have hosted the event, given his family lineage and the fact that ‘Dracula’ was written and based on the infamous castle itself (or so I thought – new speculation has arisen from the actual whereabouts of Dracula’s castle which was discussed in my Limehead Radio interview with Dacre Stoker). Immediately, I began researching, discovering more about his ‘Stoker on Stoker’ presentations that have been ‘fascinating audiences around the world, exploring the issues behind the mysteries that have baffled Dracula scholars and fans since the book’s publication in 1897 (quote from the Stoker website). I located his contact information and made my inquiry to see if we could line up an interview for our Halloween Special. He responded very promptly, agreeing to an interview on the SMC Spotlight.

By mid-October, I sent my interview over to Dacre and within days, it was returned, along with stunning imagery of Bran Castle, the Airbnb Halloween event, himself, and Bram. I began reviewing the questions and upon final review, became even more inquisitive. I sent over more questions which have now been included in this feature. This last week while chatting with Mark Richards at Limehead Radio about the depth of this interview, it donned on me that we should have a radio interview as well. There was just too much to this story to leave it at one part – this is a family, whose historical works of art both past and present have inspired the creation of (vampire) societies (see: Victorian Vampire Society UK), films (from the early black and white terrifying images ‘Nosferatu’ in the first film version of ‘Dracula’(1922) to the modern day Twilight series), to even more novels, articles, and a myriad of other things such as jewelry, comics, fashion, furniture, and dwellings inspired by these works. So, it was important for me to be able to extract all the pertinent information that avid Vampire and ‘Dracula’ lovers world-wide would want to know about the Stoker family history, mysteries hidden within the ‘Dracula’ novel, and where the family intends to take the ‘Dracula’ legend next.

The following interview is part one of a two-part Halloween special on Dacre Stoker and his own novel ‘Dracula: The Un-Dead’, a well-written sequel to his great Granduncle’s book, and the folk lore, myths, and truths of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’.

Editor’s Note: I would personally like to thank Dacre Stoker for taking the time to connect with me for this interview and on such short notice for our radio interview with Limehead Radio. I am honored to have been able to catch a glimpse into this magical and mystical world of the Stoker family where fiction is fact, and the pursuit to discover more about the family history and ‘Dracula’ legend is the very heart of this prolific Author. I look forward to connecting with him following his ‘Stoker on Stoker’ tour in the UK next month where we will continue discussion of his experiences and discoveries while on tour. It is an honor to know you sir, and I look forward to continuing to document your journey through our SMC Spotlight Numbered Series.

Dacre Stoker, descendant of Bram Stoker speaks during an interview at Bran Castle, in Bran, Romania, Monday, Oct. 31, 2016. A Canadian brother and sister are passed Halloween night curled up in red velvet coffins in the Transylvanian castle that inspired the Dracula legend, the first time in 70 years anyone has spent the night in the gothic fortress after they bested 88,000 people who entered a competition hosted by Airbnb to get the chance to dine and sleep at the castle in Romania. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) Photo courtesy: Dacre Stoker

Starlight Music Chronicles Exclusive Spotlight Interview | Dacre Stoker

Career Life & Bram Stoker History 

SMC – Hello Dacre! Welcome to the Starlight Music Chronicles Spotlight! We are thrilled to be including you in our Halloween month special. There is so much depth to this interview, so we will break it down into parts, but for the sake of our readers, can you give us a brief background of yourself and your relation to Bram Stoker?

Dacre – Bram Stoker’s youngest brother George is my great grandfather, this makes me the great grandnephew of Bram Stoker.

SMC – I first found out about you late last month when I saw a post in my newsfeed about an Airbnb contest for two to spend a night in ‘Dracula’s Castle’ in Transylvania. It had me completely intrigued. Can you tell us about this event?

Dacre – Airbnb hired me to be the host of “Night at” Dracula’s Castle. They do these “Night at” events in different locations around the world as promotional events. So, I spent Halloween 2016 at Bran Castle in Transylvania Romania helping put on the event. I helped read thru the finalists of 88,000, 500-character “essays” from people all over the world to see who would win a trip to Romania and spend an overnight in the Castle, complete with gourmet diner, in Bran Castle.

SMC – I also read that two Canadians were the winners of the contest and that they also have familial ties to the castle. That’s awesome! I also know that you are Canadian-born yourself. Can you tell us what the experience was like for all of you?

Dacre – The winners were a brother and sister from Ottawa, they had a famous relative who was a professor and an author specializing in Gothic Literature. They got to face an amazing barrage of world press including: AP, AP France, Reuters, and about 10 other journalists from assorted countries.  They were picked up in Bucharest driven to Bran, spent the night in an AirbnB house, then on Halloween they were driven by horse and carriage to Bran Castle where the filming and interviews started.  I then led them on a tour of the Castle for an hour before we left them in their crypt with their coffins and cell phones for the night. The next day after breakfast we all were driven back to Bucharest where we had drinks at the Canadian Embassy with the Canadian Ambassador and his staff.

SMC – Is there going to be another AirbnB event this year for Halloween?

Dacre – I have not heard of one at this point.

SMC – Can you tell us more about the Stoker on Stoker events/presentations and how people have reacted to them?

Dacre – I have been pleasantly surprised how well received my presentations have become. The audiences range from high school students to hard core movie fans, to literary and historical buffs. In most cases, over the past 5 years, audiences are entertained and become well informed about the backstories of a book that all have heard of and many have read. In the Q&A and discussions and comments on Facebook I have found that people had no idea that so much of Bram’s personal life was involved in the novel Dracula. Many say they will go back and re read it with a much different eye. 

SMC – When do you expect the details of the tour guide to launch for the life of Bram Stoker?

Dacre – Tough question, I have just finished, with Co-Author JD Barker, a prequel to Dracula, we are slated to do a lot of promotion starting in a few months. In the mean time I am working on a documentary about Bram Stoker with an Irish filmmaker. I have 2 tours to Transylvania in the spring and summer to plan and promote, so in reality the tour guide takes a back seat to these other more time sensitive projects.

SMC – I had read that Walt Whitman and Bram were Pen Pals. Can you tell us more about how they met or collaborated?

Dacre – Bram first read Whitman’s controversial book of poetry “Leaves of Grass” while he was at Trinity College, Bram was impressed by the freedom that Whitman was able to express in his writing. They corresponded by letters, then finally met in Camden, New Jersey on one of Bram and Henry Irving’s trips to America with the Lyceum Theater. I believe that they shared a mutual respect for each others’ writings. They both shared a great respect for Abraham Lincoln, It is believed that Bram delivered his manuscript of “Dracula” to Whitman’s friend and lawyer Thomas Donaldson as a thank you for Donaldson passing on Whitman’s elaborate notes on Abraham Lincoln. Whitman had passed away, but Donaldson followed thru with Whitman’s wishes to give Bram the Lincoln Notes, in return Bram gave his “Dracula” manuscript to Donaldson possibly originally destined for Whitman.  This manuscript turned up in a Pennsylvania barn on a farm once owned by descendants of Mr. Donaldson. The manuscript is technically a typescript since it is typed, was sold at auction to Mr. Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft.  I have been fortunate enough to study it as part of my research for my “Dracula” prequel. 

Dacre Stoker during a ‘Stoker on Stoker’ presentation at Columbia College . Photo Courtesy: Dacre Stoker

SMC – I read on your website that you are beginning to organize a ‘Bram Stoker Dracula travel guide’ identifying the real-life locations mentioned in the novel as well as highlight the places of your Great Uncle ‘Bram Stoker’s’ origins. How is that coming along? Can you tell us some details about it?

Dacre – It is moving along very slowly mainly because every time I go back to Romania, seven times now, I learn something new that needs to be included in the travel guide.  This is a guide to show interested readers where to find the locations associated with the life and times of Vlad Dracula lll and also the places where Bram Stoker set his novel Dracula.

SMC – I read in an article where it was said that you are ‘determined to stop the deluge of vampires in popular culture from making people forget who invented the original cape-wearing bloodsucker (Dracula).’ (quote from this article here) Can you expand on that for us?

Dacre – Essentially, I want people to learn about the author who brought the world Count Dracula. He was an interesting man in many respects.

SMC – You have written ‘Dracula: The Un-Dead’ with Ian Holt. Can you tell us what prompted you to set out writing this book?

Dacre – Ian had the idea to write a sequel of Dracula using a screenplay of his as a starting point that was never made into a movie, it was a continuation of Bram’s novel. We decided to modernize our Count Dracula, he was similar to the Count played by Gary Oldman in the 1992 Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Ian asked me to get involved as co-author, this is what opened my eyes and interest level into the whole word that my great grand uncle created.

SMC – In reference to the last question, what was the public response from your book like?

Dacre – The book made it to number 21 on the New York Times best sellers list, it was sold to publishers in 20 countries. We receive excellent reviews from professionals; Publisher Weekly, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and Library Journal. However, some Dracula purists did not like the fact that we modernized Count Dracula and altered the characters.

SMC – Have you always wanted to write or direct?

Dacre – No, writing was something that came late in the game to me, I am slow and steady and need the assistance of good editors.

SMC – You were also a contributor to ‘Dracula in Visual Media: Film, Television, Comic Book and Electronic Game Appearances, 1921-2010’. What are your thoughts on this book?

Dacre – John Browning and Kay Picart did a fantastic job researching and putting this excellent reference book together. It really shows the impact that Dracula has had on popular culture. Let’s be honest, our culture is very driven by visual media, this book shows how prolific Dracula has been over the ages.

SMC – Are there any other projects we can discuss that you are working on currently?

Dacre – I am constantly being asked to make appearances to do my ‘Stoker on Stoker, The Mysteries Behind Bram Stoker’s Writing of Dracula’ presentation.  As a result, I am constantly striving to find new material to add to it. In early November, I am traveling to the UK to do some of these presentations. I will be visiting Cruden Bay in Aberdeenshire, Scotland for the first time. This is a town where Bram Stoker spent many of his summer holidays. He found inspiration here to write some of his other books and portions of Dracula as well. 

SMC – Which social media site are you most active on?

Dacre – I am a regular on Facebook and have recently started with Instagram and Twitter.

SMC – Can you tell us which ‘Dracula’ film was or is your favorite and why?

Dacre – I love the 1931 Todd Browning version with Bela Lugosi, I also like the 1992 Frances Ford Coppola version entitled “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, although I feel the name is somewhat misleading, I think it should have been called “Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula”.

SMC – I read in an interview that you do think that the film adaptations of ‘Dracula’ are great in the sense of ‘evolving’ the original ‘Dracula’. Can you expand on that?

Dacre – I love the idea that Bram’s original work, his novel of 1897, has inspired many Authors, Screenwriters, Directors etc., over the past 120 years to write their own version or adaptations of Dracula. If we did not embrace and honor Bram’s work by adapting it, we would be pretty bored with just one original version after 120 years.

SMC – What are your thoughts on the 1922 German film ‘Nosferatu’ (the first film version of ‘Dracula’) and how it evolved into the films of today like the ‘Twilight’ series?

Dacre – ‘Nosferatu’ (below) was a ground-breaking film back in 1922, the only problem I have is that it was determined in German court to be a copyright infringement. This was in fact the first novel to movie copyright infringement in history. I am all for creativity and history etc., but I also stand up for the rights of artists, authors, and musicians who need to have their work protected by copyright.

SMC – Christopher Lee as Dracula (1958 Horror of Dracula). What are your thoughts on his portrayal?

Dacre – Christopher Lee was a fantastic Count Dracula, I loved the 1958 version, this was the first version of Dracula where censors allowed blood to appear on the fanged mouth of the Count.

SMC – If there was one thing you would like the world to know about your Great Uncle Bram Stoker, what would that be?

Dacre – Besides the impact he has had on the world with his novel Dracula, Bram wrote a manual for Clerks of Petty Sessions throughout Ireland, this manual was in use in Ireland up until the 1960’s.

SMC – What are five things that all avid ‘Vampire’ or ‘Dracula’ fans or followers should know about the origins of the novel your Great Uncle wrote?

Dacre –

1.He based the story on a combination of events in his own life, as well as a lot of research into existing superstitions and folklore. 

2.He set the story in many real places.

3.He inserted some real people into his novel.

  1. There is a little bit of Irish folklore and myth in Dracula.
  2. Bram’s brother Dr. William Thornley Stoker helped him write the parts of the book dealing with blood transfusion and brain surgery.

SMC – It is nice to see your loyalty to the family name and the origins of Bram’s book! What is one thing that you would change in terms of people’s perceptions of the book based on the evolvement of Dracula that the film industry has portrayed?

Dacre – Count Dracula in Bram’s novel is more like a present-day zombie then the sexy dashing model looking Dracula’s in today’s movies and TV series.

SMC – Have you ever been approached by young Authors or Writers wanting mentorship from you or even a collaboration of any sort?

Dacre – No, I need all the advice I can get, I am in no position to give it out.

SMC – The real Vlad Dracula’s story is different from Bram’s. What are those differences?

Dacre – The original Vlad Dracula lll was not a vampire, he was however a brutal ruler who ruled in a brutal and violent time in history, the late 15th century. He ruled over Walachia and fought the Ottoman Empire in an effort to protect his homeland. Count Dracula was a vampire who was lightly based on some portions of Vlad’s past history. Bram used existing superstition and folklore from Romania to attach to his fictional count to give the backstory that the count was schooled in the Scholomance, a mythical school of the dark arts in the northern Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania. 

Bran Castle at Night
Photo Courtesy: Dacre Stoker

Personal Life

SMC – I read that you are former member of the Canadian men’s pentathlon team and coached the team at the Seoul at the 1988 Summer Olympics. What an accomplishment! What were those experiences like?

Dacre – Twelve years of dedicated training and focus on achieving physical goals! It was very rewarding, both the participating and coaching. I met a lot of wonderful people, travelled to many countries, was constantly learning and stimulated to improve. I learned that with hard work and desire we can achieve almost anything that we set our mind to.  

SMC – You and your family are now in the United States. What prompted the move to where you are today?

Dacre – My wife is from South Carolina, when we first got married she moved to Ontario, I taught at Appleby College in Oakville. She really did not like the weather, so after two years we moved to the South. I knew the area well as my parents owned a winter home here, so it was like my second home. 

SMC – What area of your career as a Writer/Director/Athlete has been most rewarding to you personally?

Dacre – The process and single focus to achieve specific goals, be it winning an event or having a book published is wonderful, nothing beats the feelings when a goal is achieved. I have been involved as a Coach in helping two athletes win a World Championship; Lynn Chornobrywy win the Ladies World Championship in Modern Pentathlon in 1983, and then more recently in 2016, Camden Riviere won the Mens Singles and Doubles World Championship of Court Tennis. Helping these fine people achieve their own goals was extremely satisfying to me.

SMC – Halloween is right around the corner – I am going to ask some fun questions:  can you tell us which horror or suspense books and films you like?

Dacre – “American Horror Story”, “Penny Dreadful”, “It”, “Dracula Un-Told, Ripper Street, Ozark“. I also enjoy reading David Wellingtons vampire series, and my Co-Author, JD Barker’s Fourth Monkey.

SMC – What does your family do at Halloween – is there an expectation from neighbors or friends to ‘live up to’ the Stoker name by dressing up in a Dracula costume? (I had to ask – I was curious!)

Dacre – I get asked that a lot, I am usually not at home during Halloween, but instead at some gig somewhere in the world doing a Stoker on Stoker presentation. When I do dress up, instead of dressing up as Count Dracula I have put together a Bram Stoker costume consisting of the clothing that Bram would have worn as a theater manager in Victorian London late 1800’s.

SMC – What is the greatest compliment you have been given in terms of your career(s)?

Dacre – Bram Stoker would be proud!

SMC – I am sure you have been asked what weird experience you have had at Halloween from fans – but for the sake of our readers, can you tell us of an experience you’ve had?

Dacre – Vampire Con in Los Angles, was asked quite sincerely and quite convincingly if I would be interested in letting a person drink a small amount of my “Stoker blood”, needless to say I declined.

SMC – Okay, final question: Can you tell us what advice you would give to a new generation of writers who are wanting to delve into the same genre of writing or style you and your Great Uncle have?

Dacre – If you are writing about Vampires, then do your research, create a convincing and unique “world” and then let your imagination flow. Make sure that you create a believable storyline consistent with the world that you have created.

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Dacre Stoker Social Media Links (click to view)

Website

Bram Stoker Facebook

Dacre Stoker Twitter

Dacre Stoker Instagram

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Bram Stoker and his famous quote, an ioriginal painting by Damian Byrne
Photo Courtesy: Dacre Stoker

Bram Stoker / Dracula CSI UK Tour 2017 with Dacre Stoker

Nov. 7 University of Northumbria Newcastle 6pm

Nov 8 Art Central Gallery King Square Barry, Cardiff, Wales 7pm

Nov. 10 The Old White Lion Haworth 7pm

Nov. 11 Howl Bar Leeds 3:00pm

Nov. 13 Kilmarnock Arms Cruden Bay Scotland 7pm

Nov. 16 Edinburgh The Banshee Labyrinth 29-35 Niddry St Edinburgh 8pm 

Nov.  18 University of Glasgow TBD

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Limehead Radio Exclusive Interview with Dacre Stoker will air on Limehead Radio #Viral show on October 30th, 2017 starting at the following times:

7pm UK

North America

11am PST

Noon MST

2pm EST

*Please be advised that the interview will be aired following these times and not necessarily right at the times listed above. The Limehead Radio show is a 2 hour show.

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Dacre Stoker
Photo Courtesy: Dacre Stoker

Dacre Stoker Biography

Dacre Stoker is the great grand-nephew of Bram Stoker and the best-selling coauthor of Dracula the Un-Dead (Dutton, 2009), the official Stoker family endorsed sequel to Dracula. Dacre is also the co-editor (with Elizabeth Miller) of ‘The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker: The Dublin Years’ (Robson Press, 2012). His next novel  a Prequel to Dracula, expected out in 2018 co-authored with JD Barker, has been sold to Putnam with film rights purchased by Paramount Studios.   

A native of Montreal, Canada, Dacre taught Physical Education and Sciences for twenty-two years, in both Canada and the U.S. He has participated in the sport of Modern Pentathlon as an athlete and a coach at the international and Olympic levels for Canada for 12 years.

Dacre Stoker’s compelling and informative Keynote presentation, ‘Stoker on Stoker, the Mysteries Behind the Writing of Dracula’, weaves together the details of Dracula’s history with Stoker family lore, and Bram Stoker’s life in Dublin and London, then separates fact from popular fiction, revealing the truth about all things Stoker and Dracula.  Customized to appeal to university groups, Gothic scholars, vampire fans, or history buffs, Stoker on Stoker has fascinated audiences around the world, exploring the issues behind the mysteries that have baffled Dracula scholars and fans since the book’s publication in 1897. Illustrated with Dacre’s own collection of never before published, and seldom-seen historic images, Stoker on Stoker is a glimpse behind the scenes of the life and the writing of one of the least known authors and one of the worlds most famous books. 

Dacre has consulted and appeared in recent film documentaries about vampires in literature and popular culture. He currently hosts tours to Transylvania to explore both the life and times of the historic Vlad Dracula lll and also the locations where Bram Stoker set his famous novel.  

Dacre has become well known and a respected figure in the world of Vampires in both academia and popular culture. He lectures and makes presentations entitled Stoker on Stoker The Mysteries Behind the Writing of  Dracula in the U.S. and abroad at various engagements, including: 2012, Comic Con, New York, NY, Underground Film Festival, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland, National Library of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland, University of Hull, Hull and Whitby, England  University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield,  England, London Dracula Society, London, England, World Horror Convention, Salt Lake City, UT, USA, Theatre Alhambra, Theatre en Anglais, Paris, France 2013 Historical Haunts Tour (Providence RI Newport RI, Mark Twain House, Hartford CT, Garde Theater, New London CT, Romania: Bran Castle, Hotel Castle Dracula, Samuel von Brukenthal High School, Sibiu . 2014 Historical Haunts Tour (Salem MA, Portland ME, Rockland ME, Woonsocket RI) Exhibition Dracula History & Myth: (consultant) National History Museum Taipei, Taiwan, US Navy Base,

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 2015 Whitby UK,  Horror Con Sheffield UK,  Historical Haunts Tour Salem MA, Saluda NC, Horror Writers and World Horror Convention Atlanta GA. 2016 International Vampire Film and Arts Festival, Sighisoara, Romania, Columbia College, Columbia SC, Sensoria Arts Festival, Charlotte NC, Monsterama, Atlanta Ga. Hendersonville NC Public Library, Bishops College School, Lennoxville, Canada, Airbnb “Night at Bran Castle”, Transylvania.  2017

Chattacon, Chattanooga TN, AnachroCon Atlanta GA, AgamaCon Aiken SC, Vulcan Industries Seattle WA, Whitby Goth Weekend, Whitby UK, Dragon Con Atlanta GA, University of North Georgia, Monsterama Atlanta GA. 

Illustrated with Dacre’s own collection of never before published, and seldom-seen historic images, Stoker on Stoker is a glimpse behind the scenes of the life and the writing of one of the least known authors and one of the worlds most famous books. 

F o r m o r e i n f o r m a t i o n : h t t p : / / w w w. b r a m s t o k e r e s t a t e . c o m / Presenting_Dacre_Stoker.html dacre@bellsouth.net    dacrestoker@

SMC Spotlight Series No.1 | Stephen David Brooks ‘Flytrap’ Director & Writer Exclusive Interview

By Candice Anne Marshall

There’s a new King in town and he is known as Los Angeles-based Writer/Director/Special FX mastermind Stephen David Brooks. I mean this quite literally. After watching the 2-hour sci-for thriller ‘Flytrap‘, a film that was well received on the film festival circuit, I am convinced that Brooks is the next creative film genius of our time. I spoke at length with Brooks a few days ago about some of his upcoming projects, his views on the film industry and his time working with horror book Novelist Stephen King. This is truly one of the most unique individuals I have met thus far, and it is apparent in this most recent film – its script is inventive, dynamic in visuals, and strong in composition. It comes as no surprise to me either that King elected Brooks to be the screenplay writer for his film adaptation of the book ‘The Mangler’. This earned him a place on King’s short list of “King Approved” Screenwriters.

‘Flytrap’ is full of humorous, chilling, and edge-of-your-seat dramatic performances delivered by Jeremy Crutchley, Ina-Alice Kopp, complete with epic creepiness by ‘whistle blowing’ Jonah Blechman. Overall musical score is by Simon Boswell with dance sequence and end titles by The Tearaways which add a unique balance between paranoia (the synopsis) and normalcy. The film is directed by Brooks and produced by Tamara Sayiner (Ellen Degeneres Show) and is a true reflection of this sophisticated and audacious film prodigy. I can not even compare him to any other because there absolutely is no comparison – Brooks walks to the beat of his own unique drum and it is this that will make his films a truly memorable work of art.

You can catch the thriller on most major media platforms since it has already circulated the Film Festival scene throughout 2016 earning Brooks several prestigious awards. Stephens films have screened & won audience & Jury awards at: ECU The European Independent Film Festival, The Chelsea Film Festival, Worldfest Houston, Dances With Films, The Monaco Independent Film Festival, The Idyllwild Festival of Cinema, Ramsgate International Film & Television Festival, Festival du Film de Strasbourg, and The Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.

In speaking about future projects, the idea of SMC being involved in a ‘behind-the-scenes’ editorial came up and Brooks was all for it, ‘Do that for my next film, sounds fantastic!’ We look forward to continuing our journey by documenting his career through our SMC Spotlight series and we begin with our exclusive interview today.

Enjoy this Director’s reel below and ‘Flytrap’ preview, sit back, grab a coffee and enjoy. We guarantee this IS the beginnings of a genius at work!

By Candice Anne Marshall

SMC – Hello Stephen! Welcome to the SMC Spotlight! We were thrilled when our friend Mr. Mike Rogers connected us. This interview has been a long time coming and we are so excited to dig into the questions here. First, can you tell us what your connection is to Mike?

Stephen – Happy to be here. I met Mike through John Ferriter. Mike was playing some Tearaways songs on his Japanese radio show and had questions about film festival strategies and sales for his film Ghost Roads. So, John turned him on to me. 

SMC – Mike also informed me that you are a multi-award winner at some of the most prestigious film festivals! Can you tell us which was most memorable for you and why?

Stephen – I have four festivals that stand out, each with a unique set of wonderful memories. ECU The European Independent Film Festival in Paris, The Chelsea Film Festival in the heart of New York City, the F.A.S.H. festival in Los Angeles, and the charming Ramsgate International Film and Television Festival in Ramsgate UK. ECU screened my first feature HEADS N TAILZ so I have a special place in my heart for festival founder Scott Hillier and everyone there. That’s why I chose ECU to be the site for the World Premiere of my second feature film FLYTRAP. The people running it are top notch film lovers and are very supportive of independent filmmakers. Plus, the festival is in Paris in early April. Nice time to be in Paris!

SMC – Your credentials as a Director/Writer are astounding. I have read that you have also worked with Horror Novelist Stephen King – can you tell us how that came about?

Stephen – That was my first professional writing job. I was hired to adapt Stephen King’s short story THE MANGLER. And Stephen King had script approval. So…no pressure.

I had supervised Visual Effects for director Tobe Hooper. He and I had a great working relationship so when he and his producers obtained the rights to Stephen King’s short story he called me to see if I’d like to pitch him my take on the adaptation. Tobe loved my pitch and called Stephen King. Next morning, I get a call from Tobe informing me Stephen King loved the pitch as well. So, I was hired to write the first draft. Six months and 44 drafts later we were in Johannesburg South Africa shooting. I went along as the Screenwriter/2nd Unit Director/Visual Effects Supervisor.

Brooks (right) on the set of Stephen King’s ‘The Mangler’ with Ted Levine (left, Silence of the Lambs)
Photo Courtesy: Stephen David Brooks

SMC -What was your experience working with King like? Can you tell us of one that is most memorable?

Stephen – It was actually a dream working with him. He understands the psychological aspects of horror better than anyone. We went back and forth on dozens of drafts of the script until he gave it his stamp of approval. He’s a perfectionist but one who knows exactly what he wants. Brilliant mind.

The most memorable moment happened when Stephen King screened the film. The short story is 5 pages long so I had to add a lot of detail that needed to be Stephen Kingesque but wasn’t actually in the original work. As he was watching the film he kept asking “Was that me?” and oftentimes Tobe would say “No man. That was Brooks.” No higher complement than that. Stephen King couldn’t tell what I wrote from what he wrote.

SMC – You then went on to seek your own adventures in Directing and writing – can you tell us what kinds of themes and stories you gravitate toward most?

Stephen – I gravitate towards characters who are out of their depth, in a situation they couldn’t have imagined and when we first meet them, have no idea how to extricate themselves.  Then again, I think that’s the basis of all drama. That sense of being out of our depth and unsure how to proceed to make things right. We’re all imperfect creatures and exploring that imperfection through drama is how we discover who we are as human beings.

SMC – As a writer myself, I know that we writers are a very eclectic group and our imaginations are pretty intense at times – tell me, are you also an insomniac too? Most of us are…. if so, what keeps you up?

Stephen – I have never had insomnia. I can sleep anywhere. On a plane. On a train. In a moving car. And some of my best ideas have come to me in dreams.

SMC – You and I have tried so often to connect by phone to no avail – our schedules are intense! Can you tell us what project you are working on at present?

Stephen – Well I’m quite superstitious about announcing anything too soon. Waiting for all the pieces to be forced into place. Let’s just say one film is intended to be an iconic holiday classic, like LOVE, ACTUALLY and IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. This film has a heart. A big heart. Another film will bring a beloved character back to the big screen. And another is the beginning of a Young Adult mega franchise…When I can say more I’ll let you know.

SMC – Before we get into discussion on your film ‘Flytrap’, can you tell us what it’s really like being among some of the world’s greatest screenwriters in Hollywood? Have you collaborated with any?

Stephen – I know some of those writing greats but have not collaborated with any of them. We screenwriters tend to be solo creatures.

SMC – Your bio on your website says that you have been ‘mentored by Oscar winners John Dykstra & Richard Edlund’ (Star Wars) – can you tell us what that experience was like and what the most important thing you absorbed in your experience being mentored by them?

Stephen – John Dykstra taught me to always have a backup plan for any specific shot or scene. He was so right! Things oftentimes go wrong during the intensity of production and having a ready backup plan has saved the day more than once.

Richard really taught me how to view dailies with a critical eye. That man sees absolutely everything. It’s astounding.

I also had a third mentor in my Visual Effects days…Harrison Ellenshaw. Harrison taught me another valuable lesson…one I have dubbed “The Harrison Ellenshaw Rule.” That is…everything will change. Go with the flow. Filmmaking is as much about reading the tea leaves as it is turning adversity into an advantage.

And in the end. IT. WILL. ALL. CHANGE. Sage advice.

SMC – What, in your opinion, makes a film ‘great’?

Stephen – For me it all comes from the characters. Do they have identifiable problems? Do they deal with those problems in a realistic way? Are the characters driving the story? Are there some larger more universal thematic issues being explored? Is the film well executed? If the answer to all those is “yes” then you probably have a great film. Ultimately, it’s the test of time. If we’re still watching a film 50 years later. It must be great.

Brooks speaking at the European Independent Film Festival
Photo Courtesy: Stephen David Brooks

SMC – I see you have also shot music videos as well. Can you tell us which projects you have worked on past or present that are most memorable and why?

Stephen – Back in my Visual Effects days I worked on an Ozzie Osbourne video. “No More Tears.” That was a blast. Ozzie, what a character.

I directed a couple of videos for The Tearaways: ”Bash” and “Hello Isla Vista.” I loved capturing the exuberance of The Tearaways sound.

I’m now working with Rochelle Vincente Von K on a new video for her song “Deal Me In.” Rochelle is an Austrian Australian recording artist from London now based in LA. Very exciting stuff. We’re exploring an amplified cinematic visual style not usually seen in music videos.

SMC – What do you think makes your art stand out among the rest in your field?

Stephen – I’m just true to my point of view. I trust my gut. I have a very specific idea how the universe works and I use that as my guiding light when creating.

I don’t over think what I’m doing. Rather I feel my way through it. When I’m writing I can feel when a situation, or line of dialog is right. When directing Actors, I can feel when a moment is right. All I can say is…Everything I do is very “me” as those who know me well can attest. My sensibility. My sense of humor. My sense of irony.

SMC – Let’s get into your film ‘Flytrap’ – I watched the trailer on your website – wow! It’s intense! Can you tell us where you conceived the storyline for this film?

Stephen – FLYTRAP came to me like all my ideas…BOOM. There it is. A complete concept just pops into my brain. There’s no method to it. The initial idea is pure inspiration. Then I have to craft the idea into a story and a script. That’s where the hard work comes in.

SMC – As for the Actors in your film, can you tell us whose performance most blew you away in terms of final result?

Stephen – I had worked with Jeremy Crutchley before. He was in THE MANGLER. So, I knew he’d be great. Although Ina-Alice Kopp and I knew each other we hadn’t worked together. But having discussed another project at some length I had a good idea what she could do. And she did not disappoint!

Billy ‘Sly’ Williams and I have worked together on three films. He is my Robert DeNiro. So, I knew he’d knock it out of the park.

The big surprise was Jonah Blechman’s portrayal of Gilligan. I had met him once. I thought he seemed perfect for the role but I didn’t really see his genius until the first day of shooting. His look. The creepy whistle thing he did. He absolutely blew me away.

Brooks (left) with Ina Alice Kopp (right) at the ‘Flytrap’ World Premiere
Photo Courtesy: Stephen David Brooks

SMC – Can you tell us where the public can see this film in the film festival circuit?

Stephen – We’re finished playing festivals. FLYTRAP is in wide distribution and can be seen on Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon Japan, Google Play, iTunes, and Fandango Now. And we recently sold the film to China so it will be available on various platforms there in the very near future.

SMC – Your bio states:

‘Stephen’s films have screened & won audience & Jury awards at: ECU The European Independent Film Festival, The Chelsea Film Festival, Worldfest Houston, Dances With Films, The Monaco Independent Film Festival, The Idyllwild Festival of Cinema, Ramsgate International Film & Television Festival, Festival du Film de Strasbourg, and The Los Angeles Independent Film Festival.’

Can you tell us which award ceremony/win stands out to you the most and which film it was for?

Stephen – I hate to pick and choose. Every festival award is a gift and a special moment. But the win at The Chelsea Film Festival was quite memorable. It was the end of the ceremony and they had given out all the awards. FLYTRAP was nominated but didn’t win. Fine you can’t win them all. And as everybody got up to leave the theater the lovely Ingrid Jean-Baptiste, founder of the festival, steps up to the podium and announces there is one more award. And the Special Jury Prize goes to FLYTRAP. I was floored. What a great moment!

SMC – I also noted that there’s some ‘Tearaways’ music included in this film. As you are aware, we recently interviewed John Ferriter for our SMC Spotlight. Can you tell us of your connection to John and what projects you have worked on together?

Stephen – Well that’s no coincidence! I went to high school with Greg Brallier of The Tearaways. So, I see most of their Southern California gigs. I had also seen John Ferriter’s band The Stingrays back in the day. So when John re-joined The Tearaways John and I re-connected.

I needed 3 songs for the dance sequence in FLYTRAP. John said he’d send me the new Tearaways CD’s The Earle Mankey Sessions Volume IV and VII. I got the CD’s at 8 am the next morning. Played them and found two absolutely perfect songs on Volume VII: “Keep Your Knickers On,” “I Love The Blues,” and then on Volume IV I found “The Last Goodbye.” I mean it is as if they were written for the film. They were thematically and rhythmically perfect.

Then I discovered the song “I Love My Life” on the Volume IV CD and realized it is the perfect end titles music. Sometimes when it’s meant to be it just works out. And this was the perfect marriage of film and music.

SMC – What do you feel is the most important thing to be ‘equipped with’ in terms of pitching an idea/concept to potential investors for your art?

Stephen – Passion. Period. Yes, you have to know the structure of a pitch and you have to have a compelling story. But if you don’t go into the pitch absolutely convinced it will be the best film/tv show ever then you’ll get nowhere. And you have at most 30 seconds to make an impression. If you fail in the first thirty you won’t last the next couple of minutes.

SMC – I saw that you shot this film in California in a matter of only 12 days! In my personal opinion, some of the greatest films or projects that I have seen have been produced in a very short time-frame. What are your thoughts on this?

Stephen – There is something to be said for working fast. I think the energy level you create on set having to shoot 10-12 pages a day shows up on the screen. There’s an intensity there that translates.

SMC – Can you tell me who your ‘dream team’ is or who you would like them to be?

Stephen – John Ferriter, Jamie Angelise and Rana Joy Glickman…I’m already working with them!

SMC – What do you want to aspire to?

Stephen – I’d love to make a cinema classic. A CASABLANCA. Or LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. A timeless story set against an epic struggle. Intimate and sweeping at the same time. I’ve got a few ideas…

SMC – Which of your other projects are you particularly fond of and why?

Stephen – My first feature HEADS N TAILZ stands out. I mean it was my first! And making a feature is infinitely more complicated than making a short. I’m very proud of that film. It did play festivals and win some awards. And there seems to be renewed interest in it…

I’m also proud of my short BINKY which I shot before FLYTRAP. It stars two of my actors from HEADS N TAILZ: Billy ‘Sly’ Williams and Lucy Jenner (Lucia Ballard). That film also won some awards including a Best Actress accolade for Lucia. BINKY is being distributed by Shorts.TV and can be seen online, via Amazon and iTunes as well as on select cable and satellite channels.

Last year I directed a short called IRIS. I didn’t write or cast the project which is a first for me. But it turned out really nicely. And has already won a Remi at Worldfest Houston. Other film festival screenings are in the future but we can’t announce anything specific just yet.

I recently directed a short called BURN BABY, BURN with the Irish sensation Emma Pyne. The film was an experiment in minimalism. Emma wrote it, produced it, and stars in it. I directed and shot it. No crew. We’ll be screening at a festival in LA this November…stay tuned.

Genius at work – Brooks on the set of his film ‘Headz n Tailz’
Photo Courtesy: Stephen David Brooks

SMC – If you had a chance to do anything in your career over again, what would that be and why?

Stephen – I don’t dwell on the past. I learn from it. Learn from my mistakes then move on. I’m always moving forward. Never looking backward.

SMC – What do you measure success in the film industry by?

Stephen – There are two parts to my answer. First, how your work effects the audience. You can make them feel bad or make them feel good. Make them feel afraid or make them feel loved. I’d rather go for the positive emotional response. Have them walk out of the theater feeling better about themselves and their fellow human beings. That’s success to me on a creative level.

On a professional level, success it’s all about box-office. If you make the industry a lot of money then you will earn the clout to get more projects off the ground. That’s a win/win for me.

And I don’t think the professional and creative definitions of success are mutually exclusive. You can have both.

SMC – What is the greatest compliment you have received to date from an industry peer?

Stephen – “I want to work with people who know what they’re doing. Like you.” Producer Rana Joy Glickman September 17th, 2015

SMC –  Let’s go way back: what was the pivotal point in your youth which lead to or was a result of where you are today in the film industry?

Stephen – When I was very young my parents took me to a re-release of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I had seen films and TV shows before, of course, but that film made me keenly aware that there is a vision behind what is on screen. I started to make movies, read about movies, and think about movies. It became my obsession.

SMC – Where do you think there are difference between the music and film industries? What do you think there are similarities?

Stephen – Both are tough but I think the music business is much harder. Touring is brutal. Much more exhausting than being on location shooting a movie.

Artists in both industries are judged by the amount of money they make for the business interests. In that sense, both are quite similar.

SMC – What is a ‘deal breaker’ for you?

Stephen – That’s an interesting question. Showbiz is a full contact sport. Everyone gets knocked around and kicked to the carpet from time to time. That’s business as usual. For me I’d have to say a personal attack on my team or an attempt to subvert the team would be a possible deal breaker. I’ve been personally attacked but have a heavy-duty Teflon skin. So it doesn’t bother me. But to try to attack or attempt to influence me by attacking a member of my team? That’s way over the line.

We live and die by our working and personal relationships. It’s all about teams and allies. You have to defend them to the bitter end even if it means walking away from a project. There will always be another opportunity. But there will never be another core team. A truly broken relationship can never be repaired.

SMC – What five things impress you (this can be in relation to anything and includes the film industry)?

Stephen- Loyalty. When a person chooses an individual relationship over personal or professional gain…to me that’s golden. And in my experience very, very rare. Relationships are permanent. Or at least they should be. Professional gain is temporary and fleeting. The personal capital of a relationship is worth more than all the gold in the world.

Unfettered intelligence. By that I mean someone who can always view a situation with an open and analytical mind. Think outside the box and find a unique understanding of a problem. Every day something (or many things) will go wrong and it takes an unusually agile mind to keep everything on track.

The ability to say: “I was wrong.” You’d be amazed how many people there are inside and outside of the industry who simply will never admit a mistake. They’ll deflect. Blame others or simply double down on the error. I do say to people when I first start working with them “I don’t care if you make a mistake. We all make mistakes. Just let me know when and what happened and let’s find a solution.” For me the cover up is always worse than the crime.

I am impressed with anyone who can take criticism at face value and not take it personally. There is nothing absolute in the creative world. There are an infinite number of ways to tell a story or define a moment. And all of us, writers, directors, producers, actors, and musicians need to be able to accept a note or a comment and not become defensive about it.

I’m impressed by superstars who stay grounded. Very easy to be a movie star or rock & roll icon and lose yourself and your sense of humanity. Easy to lose themselves in their public persona. I’ve met both those who can and cannot handle stardom. The ones who can are rare gems.

SMC – What is the most positive experience you have had in your career where you felt like it was an ‘Ah Ha’ moment?

Stephen – My first 2nd Unit Directing job on SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION. Usually 2nd Unit is just establishing shots of buildings, car drive-bys, shots that do not involve the principal actors. In the low budget world 2nd Unit also involves finishing scenes when the director has to move on to another location. Or shooting entire scenes when the schedule requires it.

This was my first opportunity to direct professional actors. And my first two actors where Academy Award Nominees…So, again, no pressure! I had to direct Melinda Dillon who was nominated for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS and Brad Dourif who was nominated for ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST.

First up was Melinda. She played a ghost-like character who came back from the dead. So, there was a supernatural element to the scene. I setup the shot. And we did Take 1. It didn’t work. So, I walk over to Melinda and made a suggestion. I don’t’ remember what I said. I walked back behind camera and did Take 2. It didn’t work either.

I remember the next moments very clearly. As I walked away from camera towards Melinda the world slowed down and I was hit with a horrible realization: This is my moment. I want to be a director and I can’t get a performance out of an Academy Award Nominated actress? What the hell am I going to do…?

Then just as I reached Melinda it hit me like a bolt of the blue. I said, “You’re the wicked witch of the West.” Her eyes lit up. I knew she got it. I hurried back to camera and called action. Take 3 was perfect. “Ah ha” I thought. I can do this…

SMC – We would definitely like to begin a well-documented and chronicled SMC Spotlight Numbered Series on your career journey – what are your thoughts on this?

Stephen – Let’s do it!

SMC – Okay, final question:

Can you tell us what the next 6-12 months look like for you in terms of wrapping up current projects and new ones?

Stephen – FLYTRAP is in the rear-view mirror so all my energy will be projected forward. I’ll be moving one of my film projects from the development to the production stage. I just don’t know which one yet…Such is showbiz…

SMC – Thank you Stephen!

Stephen – Thank you!

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