Monday, June 6, 2016

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: The Merc Talks With Zack Ward, Director Of TheHorror Film 'Restoration'

I recently reviewed the new horror film Restoration (which you can find right HERE), which was written and directed by the very talented Zack Ward.  I also had the amazing opportunity to interview Mr. Ward about his new film, his life, and more.  Check out the interview below:

MERC WITH A MOVIE BLOG:  First of all, I'd like to say thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.  Why don't you start off by telling our fans a little about yourself.  Where you're from, what got you into acting, that sort of stuff.

ZACK WARD:  Thanks Josh, pleasure to be here and excited to be on deck with The Merc.  I grew up in Toronto, Canada. My mom, Pam Hyatt, is an actress for the last 56 years (she just turned 80 and is in the movie. NO SPOILERS) so I grew up traveling all over the country, following her from set to set, town to town, when she was doing movies or plays or commercials, etc. 

Watching her and the other actors perform, it became my "normal" and so I just extended myself forward with the help of my older brother convincing my mom to let me give it a shot. 
I started off in commercials, auditioning for about a year before booking my first job with a Jello ad. 

MERC:  Growing up, what films and actors/directors inspired you the most?

ZW:  Obviously Bob Clark was the most influential as A Christmas Story was my first movie (at age 13) and Bob set the standard of excellence, mixing professionalism and kindness. I worked with Stephen Spielberg as a guest star when I first got to L.A on a series called "High Incident". He was as cool as you'd hope and he taught me incredible lessons. 

One of my favorite films was Highlander. Director, Russel Mulcahy's edit transitions stood out to me as original and clever. I think that was really the first time I started looking at the craft of film making instead of just the craft of acting. 

MERC:  You've appeared in dozens of movies and television shows over your career, from Sliders and NYPD Blue, to Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Transformers, and of course as Scut Farkus in the classic film, A Christmas Story.  What has been your favorite project to work on, and what was it about that project that was so memorable to you?

ZW:  Not to nit pick, but it's over 100 hundred features, 3 series with 54 episodes , 40 guest stars and 80 commercials over the last 37 years of busting ass. Just saying. [laughs]

There are favorites: Titus, Transformers, Almost Famous, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Trade, Monte Walsh, NYPD Blue, Don't Blink, even Postal; but all for different reasons. That's the joy of being an actor is that you get to grow with each experience so, unless it kills you, it's never "bad". Variety is the spice of life.

MERC:  You recently released your feature film directorial debut, with the horror film, Restoration.  What made you decide to jump behind the camera for such a big project, and what was it about this one that made you feel like you needed to tell this story?

ZW:  The first film I produced was Don't Blink, starring Brian Austin Green, Mena Suvari and myself. But I didn't write or direct that one. With Restoration I felt I was ready to test myself. I had shot some short films and spec pilots; I had a great support team and actors to work with, so it was time. 

When we wrote the script, my goal was to satisfy the expectations of the haunted house genre but add a different nuance in the character relationships, writing people that I would like to hang out with, would respect in an intelligent conversation or debate over a glass of wine. And of course wanted to add an ending that throws a solid left hook.

MERC:  I'm a huge fan of horror, and I have to say, I really enjoyed the film.  What films, if any, really helped inspire you during the writing of Restoration?

ZW:  Thank you! Honestly, James and I are both horror fans, so we watched a ton of our favorite films and let that lead us in the direction of what we would have done differently in each of those films if we'd made them, or what concepts compelled us. After harvesting inspiration we got down to perspiration and jammed out 17 hour days for a week. The key was always to create a reality we would believe if it happened to us; if the here and now slipped into the Twilight Zone.

MERC:  How long, from start to finish, did it take to make this film?

ZW:  From Eureka moment to landing on VOD and iTunes, about 17 months. From shooting to drop, about a year. It's a lot of damn hard work but it's worth it. 

MERC:  Restoration recently hit #6 on iTunes horror division and currently holds a 4 out of 5 star rating.  What was your reaction to this great achievement?

ZW:  Honestly? Watching it up there on the top 10 next to films that cost tens of millions, that spent 500 thousand on their social media campaigns, who's catering budgets cost more than our entire movie? My reaction was "Holy fucking crap, are you kidding me!!!!" Yeah, I'm amazingly grateful, surprised, happy, excited and grateful again. It's a ton of work to get here, no one does it alone, so many people made this a reality and so many people are supporting us, helping to spread the word of our little movie, giving us so much incredible love, it's just an honor to be treated with such kindness and I feel blessed. Thank you. And yes, IT FUCKING ROCKS!!!

MERC:  Back in 2014, you co-founded the film production studio Grit Film Works with your Restoration co-writer, James Cullen Bressack.  Tell us a little bit about how that all came to be.

ZW:  Well "grit" means "the measure of courage, the mettle of a man's soul" and film making is the definition of that test if ever their was one. James and I had worked together on some projects, written some scripts together and were looking to pull the trigger. When that moment came we built Grit. 

MERC:  I also recently watched the short film you directed back in 2012, the sci-fi/horror film, Protocol X (aka "Experimental") which was great.  Tell us a little bit about how this film came about.

ZW:  Thanks. Protocol X is a short I did based on a full feature and I wanted to do some film tests in order to land some of my ideas. I financed it myself so I would't risk anyone's money and had autonomy to play and make my own mistakes. Which I did a lot of, but there were some really fun happy accidents, learning curves and ideas that came to fruition. I just knew that I had to stop asking for permission to be a director and just make myself into one. I had to stop being a pussy. 

MERC:  I read that it was made as a concept piece for a feature length film.  Are there still plans to make this into a feature film?

ZW:  Oh, hell yes!!

MERC:  Being your first time behind the camera, how did it compare to acting?

ZW:  Not my first time, more like my fifth, but it was my first full feature. It was both terrifying and fantastic. The whole process is an inner and outer struggle with control, creativity and life. It doesn't compare to acting because it's an entirely different experience. Like comparing apples and sex. They're both great but soooo different.

MERC:  Did that experience help prepare you for directing Restoration?

ZW:  Absolutely. I love the technical side and am constantly working to upgrade my knowledge, but when it comes to actors, how to help them bring their truth to the scene, that's something that comes naturally to me, and I hold as a sacred trust between my actors and myself. 

MERC:  Do you have plans to direct any other feature films in the future, and if so, are there any you can tell us about?

ZW:  Yes I do and no I can't. Sorry.

MERC: And finally, tell our fans, in your own words, why they should go out right now and check out Restoration?

ZW: Because I will dress up like Scut Farkus, come to your house on Christmas eve and hug each and every one of you!

Seriously though, Restoration is a wonderful, smart, scary film that doesn't rely on torture porn, but has rich, deep characters thrust into dangerous and mysterious situations that they're forced to resolve or die trying. The actors, Emily O'Brien, Adrian Gaetta, Sara Ann Shultz, Kirsty Hill, Keith Jardine and my mom, Pam Hyatt, are amazing. It is an indie film, but the acting, story and cinematography are top notch. People bled love for this little movie and I think it will find a place in your heart.  And maybe stand in the dark holding a knife watching you sleep. Just watching. Just watching.....for now!

Be sure to check out Restoration on iTunes and other VOD outlets and like and follow Zack Ward on Facebook and Twitter.

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