One on One with…horror filmmaker Jamie Santamore

Jamie Santamore

Jamie Santamore

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Jamie Santamore believes he has always had an eye for creativity.

“Like most kids, I always had adventures. I had my own world,” he said. “I had always wanted to perform and was the typical class clown all through school.”

Today, Jamie is living in a very dark world — one that can leave others gasping or closing their eyes.

As owner of Wicked Carnival Productions, this fall the 37-year-old Bridgton man completed his latest horror flick, “Sins of Man: Rise of Mortis,” the sequel to “Sins of Man,” which can be bought on DVD at Bull Moose Records in Windham. Jamie operates a website, on which he writes reviews of the latest horror movies and proclaims he wants to be the man that makes “slashers” great again.

The News recently posed the following questions to the upstart producer and huge fan of horror.

BN. Where are you from?

Jamie: I was born in Columbus, Ga. My biological father was in the Army so he moved around a lot. My brother was born in Germany.  Once I was born, we moved back to Maine so my parents could be closer to family. My family comes from France, Scotland, Ireland, and a little Native American. They came to Quebec, Canada from France, then moved south to New York and then to Maine, I have family all across the country and the world.

BN. Where did you go to school?

Jamie: I attended and graduated high school in Standish at Bonny Eagle, receiving my diploma in 1997.

BN. What are your interests?

Jamie: I love watching movies across all genres, which surprises many people because I’m focusing my early career around Horror and Slasher films. I love the comic book TV shows. “Arrow” is my favorite, but I watch them all — “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” “Agents of Shield,” “Agent Carter,” “Legends of Tomorrow” is pretty good, too.

BN. Do you have any hobbies?

Jamie: My hobbies are very much work-related, which might sound odd but it’s true. When I’m not working on a project, I’m writing blogs or talking to fans on Facebook or Twitter because when I do these things I learn, and filmmaking is a never-ending education. When I’m not working, I also like to kick back and watch movies with my amazing wife, Mandy, who is my rock and a huge supporter of my work and my dream (we have three kids). I’m very much a student of the game. I watch the classic “slasher” movies repeatedly and I’m always taking notes.

BN. When did you become interested in horror movies?

Jamie: When I was 10, my step-dad Tom, who raised me from the age of 8 on, rented “Halloween” on VHS. He let me watch it with him while my mom was at work, and I was hooked instantly. I watched everything I could get my hands on. “Halloween” is my favorite movie of all time in any genre. The reason why I became interested in horror movies, I think, it was the relationship between the antagonist and the protagonist that drew me to them. Sure, there are these types in other genres of film, but it’s uniquely different in the horror world. I also like to explore the relationship of the protagonist and her nerdy counterpart, who ultimately has a crush on her and dies in the end trying to protect her.

BN. What is the “slasher sub-genre” and what lured you in this direction?

Jamie: “Slasher” movies are a sub-genre within the Horror genre, like Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film “Psycho,” which was very well made and still is talked about to this day as an all-time classic. Also released in 1960, Michael Powell’s “Peeping Tom,” another great film, was overshadowed by “Psycho” because they came out within months of each other. There are films like 1974’s “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” which blew the doors of the Horror genre. Four years later, John Carpenter released “Halloween,” which is a movie that takes audiences back to the days of “Psycho” where less is more in terms of the blood and violence. What lead me down the blood-soaked path of the slasher sub-genre was that I love these films and they have shaped me into who I am. I want to return them to the great heights they were once at in their heyday.

BN. What inspired you to write your own horror script?

Jamie: In January of 2014 after “Wicked Carnival” had been shelved (due to production costs), I knew I could write a screenplay. I just needed to get back to work. I watched John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and “Scream” back to back and I started thinking about what I would do if I were to write a slasher movie that was very basic, no big sets needed, a movie that could take place anywhere and a thought turned into an idea, which turned into an outline, which turned into a script. While I was working on the outline and getting things together to write “Sins of Man,” I was working on other scripts, also trying to get good at writing action movies, drama films and romantic films for the ladies. I love “The Vow” and “Dear John.”

I made the decision early on in the process of writing “Sins of Man” that I was going to pay respect to those that came before me — be it writers, directors, characters, actors or places in other horror classics. I used as many references as I could fit into “Sins of Man: Rise of Mortis.” I did this because I believe it’s important to be respectful of those that came before me and at the same time I tell people as an indie filmmaker, I feel that I walk a fine line between having one eye on the past of slasher films and the other eye on the future of the genre and what will keep slashers going for years to come.

BN. Your website said the first script was “Wicked Carnival.” What was it about and what did you like most about it?

Jamie: “Wicked Carnival” is my first slasher script. I have written scripts in many genres, 15 total but want to focus on slasher movies for now. “Wicked Carnival” is about a girl named Jill, a high school student whose parents are murdered and then jumps forward a year to her living with her aunt and uncle. The killer was never caught and now is back to kill her. Through the course of the script, which takes place in and around a student carnival, her friends, teachers, etc. are all killed off one-by-one until it is down to her and Patches, a weird-looking clown. There are a lot of twists and turns in the script that will hopefully keep the audience guessing until the finale as to the killer’s identity.

BEHIND THE SCENES in the production of the Wicked Carnival Productions movie, “Sins of Man: Rise of Mortis.”

BEHIND THE SCENES in the production of the Wicked Carnival Productions movie, “Sins of Man: Rise of Mortis.”

BN. It lead you into looking at producing your own horror flick. What were the biggest obstacles?

Jamie: The biggest obstacle at the time was money because when I was writing it I didn’t think about money to make it. It wasn’t just the special effects that put “Wicked Carnival” out of a doable price range. It was basically the location rentals for a carnival. I contacted Palace Playland and never heard back from them. “Wicked Carnival” was ultimately shelved due to not having any connections to people that could help me make it happen. I’ve tweaking the script to make it more cost effective. Back in 2013 when I wrote “Wicked Carnival,” I was young and dumb and was very unwilling to change my script or story to fit into a budget. Now just a few years later, I know that I want to make movies that fans can enjoy and if making major changes to a script to make it into a film are needed, I’m at least willing to listen. I’m proud to say that “Wicked Carnival” is back on the Wicked Carnival Productions release schedule among nine films including “Vengeance” and a web series that is in early development. I decided that I would never lose sight of wanting to make “Wicked Carnival” so I named my production company Wicked Carnival Productions so that movie is always on my mind on some level.

BN. Despite the obstacles, they didn’t hold you back to keep trying? What pushed you ahead?

Jamie: My passion to be creative is what pushed me forward. I knew I had the talent to write a good story, compelling characters and a script that would catch the attention of the audience. I’m also the type of person that when someone tells me I can’t do something for whatever reason, I take it as a challenge and push myself to do everything in my power to prove them wrong. I have been told my whole life that I’m not good enough or I’ll never make it, etc. I don’t believe that for one single moment. I have learned over the last few years that no one believes in me more than I believe in myself and that’s just a fact of life. I’ve also learned that you can’t let people outside of your cast, crew, or co-workers dictate what you can do because they are on the outside looking in. We are the ones that decide if this succeeds or fails and as a group, we decided that “Sins of Man: Rise of Mortis” wasn’t going to fail. Sure, we didn’t have a lot of money. Sure, we had a cast and crew full of first-time actors. Sure, we had a first-time director, but did we let any of that stop us? No way because we all knew we could defy the odds and make this movie happen and on Oct. 30. We held a DVD release party at Bull Moose Music in Windham and signed DVDs and pictures for fans.

BN. You said after watching a couple of horror flicks, you were inspired to write “Sins of Man.” What got you going and how did you come up with this story?

Jamie: I started to think about all the things I like about slasher movies, which lead me to think about all the things I don’t like about them. I started to think about how I would write my own slasher movie knowing that I would have to be mindful of making it very basic and nothing to costly that would have to be cut due to a lack of funding. I started with the antagonist, who it was and why. Then, I wrote the characters, followed by the death scenes and I built the script around them and then it was basically fitting things into the script that worked and moved the story forward to the bloody conclusion.

BN. You wrote three scripts in 30 days? How did this play out?

Jamie: I started writing “Sins of Man” and about half way through I started to think about a sequel, which was something I hadn’t thought about until that point because “Wicked Carnival” was a one-off film — meaning no planned sequel. I was writing “Sins of Man” the same way so I started thinking about a sequel and while I was writing the second half, I started working on notes for Sins of Man II. Once finished with “Sins of Man,” I started writing Part II and once again about half way through I started thinking about writing Part III, but I didn’t want to be the guy that talked about there being too many sequels to slasher films and then make 5, 6, 7 “Sins of Man” movies. So, I decided that “Sins of Man” would be a trilogy and started working on notes for part III while I finished part II. In less than 30 days, I had all three scripts written.

BN. You used today’s modern technology — from a webinar on filmmaking and YouTube for make-up — as a resource. How did it help?

Jamie: It helped me become comfortable with the idea of taking the idea from print to screen because once you release a movie it’s out there forever and you open yourself up to judgment — both positive and negative. You have to prepare yourself for that and yes my entire filmmaking education thus far has come from YouTube and conversations with friends and a few industry people that I have met via Twitter. Larry Zerner, who played Shelley in “Friday The 13th part 3” helped me weed through a few legal issues in terms of what products I can show on screen without having to procure permission from the company, as well as Todd Farmer, who wrote the remake of “My Bloody Valentine” and “Jason X.” He helped me along in my early writing with some basic ideas. I am forever grateful to both of them for their help. I’m not big on classroom time so being able to sit in the comfort of my home and learn to do something that I’m so passionate about is great. What strikes me the most is learning about camera angles, how they change what the audience sees and what they don’t. I learned so much about lighting and shadows and hiding things in plan sight. I learned how easy it is to do makeup with household items. Fake blood can be made with corn syrup, food coloring and fruit punch. Wounds can be made with Elmer’s glue, wax, a paperclip and foundation. What proved most difficult was learning to be patient while things dried and making sure everything was set in place before applying the next step. Using these videos helped the most in building my confidence and I began to believe in myself even more than I already did. I’m very hardheaded and refuse to quit and that plays well into making a movie because when the chips are down I’m all in.

BN. How did you assemble your cast? What were you looking for? Recap the biggest challenges you faced, how it played out, how long it took?

Jamie: I used Craigslist to fill our cast. I had no friends in the business to lead me to casting agents etc. so I posted a question on Facebook and someone told me post an ad on Craigslist because I would get actors who really want to work and I would get a good mix. I basically took whoever replied to the ad and fit the types I was looking for. It took a few months to get everyone needed and even right up to the day of shooting we had to make changes to the cast.

BN. What did you like most about the “Sins of Man?” What lessons did you learn? What will you do differently in the future?

Jamie: I enjoyed watching my script come to life in front of me at the first table read and then to watch the cast and crew make the movie come to life was an amazing feeling. I learned that you can do anything if you set your mind to it and refuse to fail. I really mean that. Even through all the hard times we encountered, we stuck together and we made “Sins of Man: Rise of Mortis” happen. I am forever grateful to my cast for sticking with me. We had issues come up on the second weekend of shooting that changed everything. A cast member who was to play a big part in the film had to drop out due to issues beyond anyone’s control and everyone looked at me as to how we were going to recover from it. This was the first in many on-set lessons in quick decision-making for me. I decided that instead of shutting down production to find another actor, I would take the role over and reshoot the scenes we had previously shot with the original actor. It became a running joke on set whenever I would mess up a line, I would say, “This is why I’m the writer/director and not an actor.” In the future, I will be more prepared for the pitfalls of film making when something as small as a cast member running late comes up. I will know how to handle it quickly because something small can become something big if you don’t handle it quickly and effectively. A major thing I learned is to be adaptable when something goes wrong, make it right as quickly as possible and move on or a mole hill becomes a mountain before you know it. As the director, everyone looks to me to figure things out and this time around I will have a backup plan to the backup plan to the backup plan.

BN. Give a few thoughts about the next installment. 

Jamie: Well, I’ll say this much. While I played it safe and stayed true to the Halloween less is more mold in “Sins of Man: Rise of Mortis,” this time around gore fans can rest assured “Vengeance” will be more bloody, more violent and Mortis will be more brutal in “Vengeance.”

BN. You write a blog and movie reviews. What has been your goal, what has been the response, and do followers talk about what their lure is to horror flicks?

Jamie: I started sinsofmanmovie.com to keep fans worldwide posted on the film(s) and now I use that website to talk about “Vengeance.” When I decided to start wickedcarnivalproductions.weebly.com I decided that would be the page that is for fans to discuss movies with me directly, as well as read my blogs. I try to write about movies or film making stuff and I tell behind the scenes stories once in awhile. My goal is to interact with fans from across the globe as much as I can. I want to be the most accessible filmmaker out there who always has time for his fans.

I want fans to know that the best part of my job is interacting with them I also do a video series called “Fan Mail Friday,” where I read questions and comments from fans and answer them. I love interacting with the horror fan base. Now for your readers that might not be horror fans I think it’s important to say that horror fans are the most loyal fans of any genre. They are smart and well-versed in their genre and often have very intelligent questions and comments for me. I give them credit for that.

I want fans to know that I’m not just a filmmaker or a writer but I’m a horror/slasher fan at heart just like them. I always end my blogs with the phrase, “Stay humble, Stay hungry.” What that means is that no matter how famous I become, how many hit movies I make, I will always remain humble, never let my head get too big. I will always talk to fans, sign autographs, take pictures with them, not because it’s part of the job but because I want to. Because I’m a fan just like them and I will always stay hungry to keep making movies or web series and never rest on the things I have done in the past.

Jamie Santamore works in his home office anywhere from 15 to 18 hours a day/night. “I’m always working on something. I don’t sleep much and it’s all worth it in the end when I hold the finished film on DVD in my hand. We are currently running a campaign on indiegogo.com to raise money for “Sins of Man II: Vengeance” at http://igg.me/at/SoM2Vengeance. It ends on April 24 at midnight if anyone would like to donate to the campaign that would be amazing we appreciate your support.”

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