I Want to give a million thanks to Filmmaker M. ASLI DUKAN for taking the time out of her busy schedule to do this interview for us. Asli Dukan is a Director, Producer and Editor,, she has shot and directed some wonderful and amazing short sci-fi films such as ORISHAS, 73, M.O.M.M., the upcoming 2012 documentary INVISIBLE UNIVERSE - a documentary on the history of blackness in sci-fi and horror books and films. And busy in pre-production on her horror, eerie anthology film SKIN FOLK.
EYEPUS: CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF?
ASLI DUKAN: My name is M. Asli Dukan. I am a producer, director and editor currently residing in New York City where I have lived since 1998. I am originally from Newark, New Jersey but have lived in most of the cities in the northeast parts of New Jersey (part of the tri-state area) - Newark, Irvington, East Orange, Jersey City, etc. My family is actually from New York, so its like I came home really.
EYEPUS: HOW DID YOUR PASSION FOR HORROR/SCI-FI FILMS GOT STARTED?
ASLI DUKAN: In hindsight, I believe my passion was evident to me and my family by the time I was seven years old. My aunt was taking my cousin and me to see a movie in New York City and she gave me the choice of film. Amongst the movies to pick from were, Superman II (Richard Lester, 1980) and The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980). I chose TESB because I hadn't seen Star Wars yet (or at least I don't think I did - I have to ask my mother) and I was really pschyed at that young age to get into the whole space fantasy thing. It seemed to me very chaotic and very heroic at the same time with the creatures and the space ships and the light sabers and the mystical FORCE… I really wanted to be a part of the world the characters were living in, even at seven years old, I wanted to be a part of that whole fantastical experience. Then, a few years later I saw Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979) on VHS tape and I knew I was right about my preferences. I dreamed about Alien every night probably for the next ten years, up into college before I officially started making films in a film program with film cameras. Alien for me was the epitome of everything that I loved - a ship in deep space, merciless combatants with their own philosophy on life, an unassuming hero forced into the role, a woman as the hero, a bomb, an escape, using your brain and brawn to get out of a jam…
EYEPUS: DID YOU GO TO FILM SCHOOL OR WAS IT SELF TAUGHT FILMMAKING?
ASLI DUKAN: Yes, I went to two film schools actually. Undergrad and grad school. I guess you can say I kind of had my heart set on what I wanted to do. I began undergrad in Jersey on 16 mm film cameras like the Bolex H-16, CP-16, Arri S and BL, the Eclair NPR, the Aaton LTR and later the Arris SRII. I learned to edit on film on Steenbeck flatbeds and mixed down my film audio on Multi-Track Magnetics mixers, the whole complicated bit. There was also a video class or two to take at the time, one was a requirement, but we were still in the age of film is greater than video - real filmmakers don't shoot on video, so I took the one required class and went back to shooting and editing on film. By the time I got to grad school, though, there was no film editing on flatbeds, only Avid on desktops so I my philosophy changed and eventually expanded to shooting on video, all as a matter of fact. However, I must add even with two film degrees, there was quite a bit of self-learning because my education came during the transition from analog to digital technologies. I have spent many a night reading about digital formats, resolutions, compression rates, color spaces, bit rates, etc…
EYEPUS: WHICH HORROR/GORE FILMS INSPIRED YOU TO MAKE FILMS?
ASLI DUKAN: As I mentioned Alien was the epitome of great filmmaking to me from an early age. There are other films that have inspired me though, Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978), The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980), Dawn of the Dead (1978), The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973), Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977) - as I look at this list I am making from off the top of my head, it's evident they are all from a certain period in film history, essentially the 1970's. There is something that just feels cinematic about the films that came out of this period for me - the storytelling, the performances by the actors, even the grain and the contrast of the film stock makes sense to me. Of course it could also be that I was of a very influential age when I saw these films too. Who knows. Also I just noticed I don't really discriminate between the types of themes within the genre - I like zombie films, possession films, witchcraft films, psycho-slasher films, etc. There is another film that really inspired me when I was young, a vampire film called Ganja & Hess (Bill Gunn, 1973). It's a genre film that attempts and in my opinion succeeds at postulating an alternative origin for vampirism, in this case via a fictional African culture called Myrthia. The film's director also attempted to direct a film that just didn't delve into addiction as a matter of blood lust, but also the addictions that affect humans on a daily basis, addictions to certain social classes and material possessions, addictions to religious beliefs, addictions to sex, etc. It is really a beautiful film, unfortunately battered and bruised by various producers and distributors over the years - after a standing ovation at it's debut at the Cannes Film Festival on France - it fell into obscurity. Fortunately, a "director's cut" came out in 2007 and it is purportedly the closest to the director's vision that has been seen thus far, but even in its most wrecked state - one can still get a sense of originality and poeticism from it. On another note, the lead characters are played by Marlene Clark (Putney Swope, 1969; Beware! The Blob, 1972; The Beast Must Die, 1974) and Duane Jones (Night of the Living Dead, 1968; Beat Street, 1984; Vampires, 1986). The film really is legendary.
Dario Argento is another filmmaker I admire, because of his commitment to the mythology and art of horror. His Three Mothers trilogy, Suspiria, 1977; Inferno, 1980 and his later Mother of Tears, 2007, was a great example of an artists research into history, religion, the occult and other arts over a thirty year period to get to a point where he could tell a sort of thematically unified storyline about three Witch Sisters, and although each film was different from each other, I really did appreciate that intellectual approach to the films. Argento's influence on the Giallo genre (crime mysteries with a mixture of horror and psychological twists) is legendary. Indeed he, along with Mario Bava and Umberto Lenzi were some of the earliest practitioners in the sub-genre. His influence was masterly felt in his first feature, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage, 1970 which had a great twist at the end. Lastly, Argento's use of color and music is highly effective and really helps to overpower the audience, especially in places where his films are weaker, like in the scripts and the acting.
I also appreciate filmmakers like Richard Stanley (Hardware, 1990 and Dust Devil, 1992) whose resume is not extensive but whose vision is original and Guillermo Del Toro (The Devil's Backbone, 2001 and Pan's Labyrinth, 2006) who is the current master of fantastical, horrific worlds. And how can I leave without saying a few words about producer, Val Lewton, who during the 1940's produced some of the most influential and iconic horror films of all time for RKO. Cat People, 1942, I Walked With A Zombie, 1943 and Bedlam, 1946 are shining examples of how to set up stories, characters and locales to tell effective stories of psychological terror on low budgets.
EYEPUS: WHAT WAS YOUR LAST HORROR/GORE FILM YOU SAW?
ASLI DUKAN: INSIDIOUS by James Wan, 2010. It kind felt like Paranormal Activity 2, but all in all I liked it, especially its switching paces three times. The last part was my favorite because it was like watching Poltergeist but from Carol-Ann's point of view.
EYEPUS: ANY FAVORITE HORROR AND SCI-FI WRITERS YOU ADMIRED?
ASLI DUKAN: Current list. It could change tomorrow. Octavia E. Butler (Wildseed, Mind of My Mind, Clay's Ark, Fledgling), Nalo Hopkinson (Brown Girl in the Ring, Skin Folk anthology), Kim Stanley Robinson (The Mars Trilogy), Anne Rice (The Vampire novels - mostly when I was younger) and Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash).
EYEPUS: CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOUR PRODUCTION COMPANY MIZANMEDIA?
ASLI DUKAN: I founded Mizan Media Productions (MMP) in 2000 with three other people to specifically make speculative fiction films (horror, fantasy, science fiction). Along the way the staff has been reduced to me and a bunch of freelancers and we also produce music videos, promos, documentaries and performances for artists, bands and organizations.
EYEPUS: YOU RECENTLY SHOT A SHORT FILM TITLED M.O.M.M. CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THIS FILM?
ASLI DUKAN: M.O.M.M. is a short SF film influenced and based on the the first scene from the book Mind of My Mind by Octavia E. Butler. Initiated as an homage to the late writer - who died in 2006, it's kind of a re-telling of the scene from the point of view of a character who was very minor to the story but very important to the plot of the book.
EYEPUS: WHAT WAS THE BUDGET FOR M.O.M.M.?
ASLI DUKAN: The actual money I had to put up for the film was probably one thousand dollars, because I have a lot of resources like equipment and favors I could pull in from crew and actors to get it done.
EYEPUS: WHICH CAMERAS DID YOU USED FOR M.O.M.M.?
ASLI DUKAN: We used the Panasonic HV-200 with the Letus 35mm adapter.
EYEPUS: HOW MANY DAYS DID IT TAKE TO MAKE M.O.M.M.?
ASLI DUKAN: We shot a total of two days. One for the original shoot and a second day for re-shoots and pick ups.
EYEPUS: ANY HARDSHIPS IN THE MAKING OF M.O.M.M.?
ASLI DUKAN: There's always some hardships. I could have originally used two days for shooting, then maybe I wouldn't have had to come back for missed shots, for example and would have a more consistent look throughout. We shot the re-shoots/pick ups maybe 3 months after the original shoot in the same interior location, but by this time the sunlight and its color were different, so there was alot of color correction that had to be done to match the looks in the film. Also post-production took longer than I expected because of technical problems for people who were working with me on VFX and sound design. But these kind of delays are always the case in making low budget, independent films, and you really have to prepare for them, have back up plans, and back up plans for your back ups and forge ahead and get it done.
EYEPUS: YOU ARE ABOUT TO MAKE A BIG INDIE HORROR FILM ANTHOLOGY TITLED SKIN FOLK, WHERE DID THE IDEA FOR THIS HORROR ANTHOLOGY CAME FROM?
ASLI DUKAN: Skin Folk is based on three different short stories from an anthology horror book by Nalo Hopkinson. I really love her work, especially this collection of mostly, short sci-fi and horror stories based on Afro-Caribbean mythology. I picked three stories - one about soucouyants (vampires), another on gangers (ghosts) and another on zombies. I've re-written the stories to take place in a post-Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans. I liked the stories because I thought they would be familiar to popular horror audiences but were different enough to bring some originality to the table.
EYEPUS: WHEN DO YOU THINK PRODUCTION WILL BEGIN FOR SKIN FOLK?
ASLI DUKAN: I am planning on beginning production at the end of 2011, but it is totally dependent on raising the budget for the film.
EYEPUS: ANY STRUGGLES SO FAR IN THE FUNDRAISING AND PRE-PRODUCTION OF SKIN FOLK?
ASLI DUKAN: I've decided to try the crowd-sourcing approach to get initial monies to get into pre-production. It has been hit or miss so far. It's like we (me and another director) are new filmmakers on the feature length film block trying to grow an audience and raise money from them at the same time. And there are hundreds of other projects doing the same thing. So I am constantly on the look out for press to promote our project to more and more people and to convince them that our project is exciting and new and fresh and worth investing into. Fundraising is whole other world, whether for filmmakers or for other types of businesses. For me, it is very hard to wear so many hats at the beginning (creative producer/fundraising producer), so I have also been on the look out for other producers to bring on-board with this project. I have found some help in the form of a consulting producer, but what really need is a full time, Producer, with a capital P.
EYEPUS: ARE YOU PRODUCING SKIN FOLK BY YOURSELF?
ASLI DUKAN: So far, yes, but hopefully not for long.
EYEPUS: IS SKIN FOLK GOING TO BE A BLOOD AND GORE FEST?
ASLI DUKAN: Skin Folk will have some blood and guts but actually has more psychological horror in it. For example, one of the stories is a zombie story and actually a throwback to the original zombie movies like White Zombie, 1932 and the aforementioned, I Walked With a Zombie, 1943, but with a twist, because we experience the zombiism from the zombie's point of view.
EYEPUS: WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON HORROR REMAKES/DO YOU BELIEVE GREAT HORROR/SCI-FI FILMS SHOULD BE REDONE?
ASLI DUKAN: I am categorically against re-makes because some of the my favorite films have been re-made and are the worst pieces waste ever produced by human beings. (Psycho 1998; Godzilla, 1998; Planet of the Apes, 2001; Body Snatchers, 1993; Invasion, 2007; The Omega Man, 1971; and I Am Legend, 2007).
EYEPUS: AFTER SKIN FOLK - ANY OTHER PROJECTS IN THE HORIZON?
ASLI DUKAN: I have many ideas and several scripts waiting for more attention - a vampire film, a futuristic dystopian drama/actioner, an urban ghost story, an urban zombie story, an animated alien space opera, etc.
EYEPUS: ANY INSPIRING WORDS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH OTHER ASPIRING FILMMAKERS OUT THERE WHO ARE WORKING IN MICROSCOPIC BUDGETS?
ASLI DUKAN: Study the craft and business of filmmaking; read the biographies/autobiographies of other filmmakers (and other artists), read fiction - alot of it, watch alot of movies (all genres), seek out other art forms (painting, sculpture, dance, opera, theatre, costume, make up, etc.), listen to different types of music, talk to different people and most importantly, daydream, plan and never be afraid to ask for help (but be ready to give up something in return that you can live with) and still get the film done.
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