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Cult Maestro LARRY FESSENDEN Chats It Up With Tess Davidson!

By Tess Davidson

I first became aware of Tess Davidson through her very funny tweets with such cult geniuses as Michael Rooker and James Gunn and thought she would be the perfect person to interview filmmaker Larry Fessenden.

Larry’s the award-winning writer/director of the art horror movies NO TELLING, HABIT, WENDIGO and THE LAST WINTER. He has been a producer on over a dozen films, including I SELL THE DEAD, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL and WENDY AND LUCY. He directed an episode of NBC’s Fear Itself entitled “SKIN AND BONES.” Fessenden has acted in numerous films including I SELL THE DEAD, BROKEN FLOWERS, THE BRAVE ONE, BRINGING OUT THE DEAD and HABIT. Fessenden founded Glass Eye Pix in 1985 with the mission of supporting individual voices in the arts.

Recently, Larry launched the audio series TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE and the wrote and directed the episode, HOLE DIGGER and he and Tess graciously took some time to talk about the project in a conversation that feels like it was ripped from the pages of INTERVIEW MAGAZINE. – S.B.

Tess: Hi Larry!
Larry: Hello, Tess.

Tess: The Hole Digger, I really liked it. I listened to it a couple of hours ago. How biographical of a story is it?

Larry: It’s not really. In fact I started paring that down from some of my statements. But I mean there was such a place I lived in Chatham (Cape Cod) in the summer and there was this summer when a hole was being dug and we filled it in and it popped up again. But my brother never died and I have two other brothers and my parents are together so all that kind of presented itself. The creepiness of the hole is actually accurate and I did used to listen to the whippoorwills in my bed at night. Most of my stories are more extreme than my own experiences but a lot of them derive from my youth.

Tess. Very nice. How did you come up with the idea of creating radio plays for this modern era? Did you actually listen to any when you were young? I feel you might be too young for that. You look so young and fresh to me.

Larry: (laughs) Well, yeah, but I mean I’m actually older than most people. I grew up in the seventies and they would play old radio then and they still do. I mean I think it’s something that’s always available. I just took to it and the thing I always like to say is in the seventies there was no VHS and there was no way to take movies home with you and I was an avid movie buff. So what I would do is I would record them and put them on audio cassette and listen to them. So I have a real affection for just the audio experience for movies that even years later are on dvd and stuff. I just always liked sound and sound I think is an incredibly evocative part of story telling in whatever medium. I listen to books on tape and all that. That’s why Glenn McQuaid and I thought it could actually be a viable thing for the modern listener, you know? Even though we have so much media it’s fun to pare it back and just listen again.

Tess: I agree. I just had to take a long bus ride to Brooklyn and I listened to a few of your Tales From Beyond The Pale radio plays on the way and I have to say it was so much better than watching a movie. It was more relaxing for me. I also have very bad eyes. Straining to watch a movie jump up and down on the computer screen is not fun, unless it’s one of your movies. They are always fun. Listening to the plays, I just closed my eyes and soaked it all in. I pictured it how I wanted it to be which is the best ever. Very cool.

Larry: It really is and it’s obviously, you know, like reading.

Creating a reality but there is some other texture and the other thing quite honestly is I like busy work. I love that you can listen to radio and still be doing the dishes or building a website.

It’s a fun way to multitask and still take in some cool media. And for commuters of course. I listen to books when I drive and all that.

Tess: I have to say I became I huge fan of you about six or seven years ago. I saw one of your movies on tv. Oh god, I’m blanking. Wait. No Telling! It’s the best, no doubt.

Larry: Oh really that’s awesome. That sets you apart. (laughs)

Tess: It’s my favorite!

Larry: That movie was resoundingly despised when it came out and in fact I had no career awhile after. I was just looking when it came out. Eleven years it took me to get distribution.

Tess: What?! Not on my watch, it wouldn’t have. I loved it.

Larry: Well thank you, I appreciate that. What kind of a maniac are you that you liked it? What did you like about it?

Tess: Me? I loved the dog. That poor monster dog.

Larry: Well that movie is coming out again, it’s just been bought. In fact we haven’t even announced it yet. Luckily it will have a second life.

Tess: That’s so awesome. Praise the skies above. I’m excited. I really love your film Habit, too.

Larry: That’s also coming out again. I’m very lucky to have a little bit of renascence with old work.

Tess. Now I am all excited with nowhere to go. Thanks, Larry. I just happened to watch Broken Flowers for the first time and I had no idea you were going to be in it, so that was pretty cute to see.

Larry: Oh yeah, a great thing with Bill Murray who’s just as wacky as you probably imagine he is.

Tess: Oh I’ve heard some things about Billy. Nothing I didn’t like.

Larry: Maybe even a little more wacky. It was really fun working that shoot. So relaxed on a fall day and got to hang with Bill.

Tess: Have you always loved horror? Probably.

Larry: Yeah, I would say that’s kind of how my brain is wired. I just see the world as a dark, brooding, frightening and dangerous place. It doesn’t mean I don’t have a sense of humor but fate is completely indifferent to what happens to us so I like to put that into my films. It’s a way of celebrating life and I’m not just celebrating gore. In fact I’m not really a gore filmmaker which is now what horror seems to mean. I really like the strange, spooky, off kilter moods that I’ve always experienced.

Tess: I’m not much of a fan of extreme gore either. It gets old. It’s gotten old.

Larry: It becomes spectacle as opposed to experience. I just don’t know what it’s in the service of whereas good screen violence when done with a purpose is always incredibly shocking and rival but that’s not how it’s being presented a lot of the time now. That’s just my take on it all.

Tess: Down with gore. Now back to Tales From Beyond The Pale, they sound really great. Where do you record them?

Larry: We work with a company called DigIt audio and it’s an amazingly great group of people here. The founder was someone I knew in high school years ago so it’s fun to be working them. They have a really high end studio here in Manhattan and we can’t pay them what they’re worth. They’ve done a lot of shows for us and all the hosts and all of the final mixes. One of the shows has been done in London and a couple of them have been recorded in LA.

We went through various filmmakers and we said we have very little money but an incredibly cool idea and asked if they’d like to come up with an episode. People would submit little descriptors and we would say we like the third one best of all and they would write a script. But we’ve mostly given everyone as much freedom as possible because we want to be the antidote to what they are probably going through trying to get a film made which is endless notes and endless restrictions. We want to be a little relief for the artists.

What we’ve got in return is just way beyond what we could ever pay for.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    December 24, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Great interview. Larry seemed to be having fun.

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