Friday, October 19, 2012

Interview: Mick Garris

Mick Garris is one well-connected dude.  He began his career as a freelance writer, contributing to classic 70's genre magazines such as Starlog and Cinefantastique.  In 1977 he parleyed a job at the "Star Wars Company" (the first iteration of Lucasfilm) into a hosting gig with the cable access interview program Fantasy Film Festival.  In this capacity, Garris was able to meet many of the genre's up-and-coming standard bearers such as John Carpenter, Joe Dante, John Landis and Steven Spielberg.

This last meeting proved to be very fortuitous.  Garris was still a struggling scribe in his early thirties when Spielberg hired him to be a writer and story editor for his prime time sci-fi anthology series Amazing Stories.  Subsequently Garris won an Edgar Award for Best Episode in a T.V. Series for penning the teleplay for the first season episode "The Amazing Falsworth" directed by Peter Hyams.

In 1992, Garris made his directorial debut lensing Stephen King's original script for Sleepwalkers.  During production the two became fast friends and Mick's name was at the top of the list of directors when it came time to adapt King's elephantine post-apocalyptic masterpiece, The Stand.  Despite the daunting nature of the assignment, Garris delivered one of the highest watched T.V. miniseries of 1994.  More opportunities followed, including a more faithful televised adaptation of King's The Shining (1997) as well as Quicksilver Highway (1997), Riding the Bullet (2004) and Desperation (2006).  

Using his insider clout, Mick began to assemble the greatest minds in the horror genre for a series of informal dinners.  This eventually led to the brilliant anthology series Masters of Horror which gave fright fans new nightmares courtesy of Don Coscarelli, Stuart Gordon, Tobe Hooper, Dario Argento, Larry Cohen, Takashi Miike, Peter Medak, Tom Holland and many more.

Last year, Mick brought his production team to Halifax to shoot A&E's four-hour adaptation of Stephen King's quintessential ghost story Bag of Bones.  During filming I was lucky enough to appear as an extra, giving me some unique insights into the film-making process.  As part of the first Halifax Horror Weekend Festival back in August, Mick screened the film for a small but appreciative crowd.

After the screening Mick was kind enough to participate in a lengthy Q&A.  This was a real thrill for me since I've been watching Mick's behind the scenes featurettes for movies such as The Thing, The Howling and Videodrome since my mid-teens.

In the following audio clip Mick talks about:
  • The evolution of Bag of Bones from a truncated feature film to a four-hour mini-series.
  • Casting for the miniseries.
  • The power of sound in horror films.
  • The challenges inherent in filming difficult subject matter.
  • His original campaign to have Bag of Bones shot on location in Maine.
  • Dealing with Nova Scotia weather.    
  • Stephen King's involvement in his own film adaptations. 
  • Working with screenwriter Matt Venne.
  • Mick's start with Amazing Stories.  
  • Storyboarding with Spielberg!
  • The unconventional film that turned him into a life-long fan of the genre.  
  • The transition from solitary writer to social director. 
  • What's scary?
  • Translating a book's internal point of view to external cinema.
  • How to move a project forward.  
  • What motivates him.  
  • Writing superstitions and rituals.  
  • His new novel Snow Shadows. 
  • The lingering influence of certain characters.

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