Baron Craze: Where did the idea for “The Elf” come from?
Justin Price: Every year during the holidays we are always going to our sort of Christmas movie list of films that lets us know the Holidays are close. My company Pikchure Zero Entertainment, we never sleep. Everyday myself, Khu, Deanna Grace Congo, David Cazares, Cameron White, and Lisa May we just sort of talk about what to do next. So every day is essentially, how the hell can we scare people? How can we make people laugh? How can we bring people together for just a short while and have fun. “The Elf” was one of those ideas! It was really fun to construct and live in that world for a while and I’m grateful Uncork’d Entertainment enjoyed the film and its available now in Redbox and on all digital platforms. Itunes, Vudu, and Hulu to name a few.
BC: Did you start writing with a cast (You or any) in mind? How long did you take to complete the script? (Do you have a writing process?)
JP: Usually when I write a story I have no clue where it’s going to go or how it will play out. I originally wanted The Elf to center around Mrs. Clause and sort of set it in darker times. I rarely have enough time to focus all the things dancing in my head though, but I am trying. The script writing process for me is fluid, so I can’t say how long because I write while on set sometimes. During the caroler scene (fan favorite from the film), I put in the script “they sing”, but I guess my wires got crossed because I didn’t put
what the heck they were singing. So I had to write two songs on the spot because the location was charging per hour ha-ha. I was like sing something not copywritten and let’s go!
BC: In your opinion, what is it about subgenre of Christmas Horror that lately has many attracted to the films? Your favorite Christmas Horror theme movie
JP: I think what attracts people to horror and fantasy is true across all seasons and moments. We seek out memorable moments and anytime we can bring the family together and share in the arts, that’s what we remember. I remember sitting on the floor in the living room and watching Home Alone with my mom and brothers. I remember wanting Christmas to be like that. I thought everyone but me had Christmas the way Kevin had it. I was so excited to open presents and to see the tree, that Christmas itself became an event. I didn’t realize why I love the idea of fire and eggnog and old music but now looking back it’s because of films and family. The way together we shared and experience and now each time I play the movie I am transported back there. That’s what’s so amazing about films. It can be a vehicle of time. We worked with Natassia Halibi and Gabriel Miller (the two leads) and before the film,
I had never met them in person. Audition tapes were digital and Mary Smith and Angela Griffith handled the casting. But on set we became really cool and it was awesome how much we clicked! I forgot I was supposed to be their director and would find myself laughing during scenes. But now that “The Elf” is available everywhere I will never forget the moments we had, the scenes we shot. People like Amy Jo Guthrie, who plays Sky in the film, just filming outside a church while people watched. It is moments like that and being with my film family that I will always cherish. The hope is that which each film we put a little bit of magic back into the world. And Edward Scissor hands is my favorite Christmas Horror!
BC: What challenges did you face making this film? Was there anything you had in the script that you needed to change once on the set?
JP: The most challenging thing about making “The Elf” was the fact that we had a fake doll that needed to interact with humans. How do you make this fun but believable? The doll itself was created by Melissa Vega and it was an amazing piece of art. Just watching the actors interact with the doll and be afraid was very challenging. We didn’t have the robotic version of the doll so we had to animate it. Luckily, we had a dope VFX team. The turnaround time and quality was bananas! So I had to change a lot in regard to interactions. We are happy with how they came out.
BC: Had you worked with the cast before?
JP: I have worked with Lassiter Holmes in my first film “The Cloth” and Lisa May led “The 13th Friday” all which are available now on iTunes and Fandago Now. I also worked with Viviana Ozuna before in Almost Amazing, so it was great to bring back familiar faces.
BC: What do you hope audiences get out of the movie?
JP: I really hope the audiences have a good time. “The Elf” was shot beautifully by Khu and I think it’s really cool to have a Christmas horror film around a unique idea. It watches and it sees all… it punishes! I hope that every year “The Elf” becomes a film put on during the Holidays.
BC: And if this one goes well, will you consider a sequel?
JP: A sequel is a great idea! I think as usual the next film needs more flare, now we have built up the folklore and the backstory, we can just go into the kills and scares. That is what makes indy film making so challenging and rewarding. We have to create the back story. Comic books and bedtime stories we all grew up with have a special place in our psyche and we have lived with stories told to us as kids. So when you create something totally unique, it has to float about for a while before becoming a thing that resonates. My second film Dark Moon Rising was considered odd and weird and now it’s rated over 7,000 times on IMDB and got up to as high as 20 on the star meter! Not bad for a movie that was done based off an original idea.
BC: Have you always wanted to direct or were there other careers, which interest you beforehand?
JP: I wanted to create. I had no idea in which way or how. I started off singing and dancing on the playground and then I was doing comedy at my mother’s friends’ houses. I then started playing sports and before you know it I was singing before the game and playing during the game and then editing a mock video of my performance. I love acting, I love putting on other skins and I love telling stories. I just think it’s an unbelievable medium to be involved in. That’s why I started a company called Pikchure Zero Entertainment. That’s why it’s important to always be creative. I never want that independent spirit to die. A famous actor told me something recently and it stuck with me. He said “people can’t do what you do, because you are so unique and its ground breaking to be able to produce and direct and write and release 4 films a year. But also know that it will be much harder for you, people in Hollywood like systems and they hire directors and actors who won’t be as talented as you or can’t do 80% of what you do, but the public will never know that there is a big talent gap and a real difference because you are a true artist and the usually are celebrated much later.” It hurt my soul in one way and reignited the flames in others and that’s why I don’t have one particular thing I like. I am doing a tv series called Reapers and I am doing a comedy series with Torrei Hart soon and I’m working with Shaun Cairo on two projects. Conundrum and S.O.H.N., both films I’m either directing or producing.
BC: What horror film hooked you on the genre, not your favorite?
JP: The film that hooked me on horror was Jaws. It isn’t my favorite film, but I think about it every time I’m in water. I can be in a kiddie pool and think a shark is coming! But there was this really old tales from the crypt episode it scared me so bad I had anxiety and for some reason I couldn’t explain it. But the episode is about a man who comes out of a bar and sees two people eaten by a gargoyle and the creature makes him promise not to tell if it spares him. The man promises and then he meets a lady has kids and wants to propose to her but he says “I don’t want any secrets” and he tells her about the gargoyle. The lady says “why did you do that!” and she begins changing and the kids becomes baby gargoyles and she eats his head off and flies to a perch in tears. Scared the hell out of me.
[BC: The film episode Justin mentions, actually from Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990), the third story entitled “Lover’s Vow” which starred James Remar and Rae Dawn Chong.]
BC: Was it hard to achieve the proper tone and mood for the film in post-production?
JP: It was hard to achieve the proper tone because of the idea behind “The Elf” being so dark and yet it being a festive film we didn’t want to be brooding. I am an artist and I will go to my grave trying to push the boundaries. I am very excited to constantly push and challenge what can be achieved in cinema. We set out to make a dark story with heart and a film that would turn something campy and cheesy into something eerie and dark and we feel we knocked that out of the park.
BC: What else do you have in the works?
JP: Find me on facebook: facebook.com/justinpricex or on instagram: pikchurezero
We are currently working on a creature film and “Conundrum,” “Secret Amongst Friends,” and “S.O.H.N.: The Rise of Achak” (directing) alongside Shakir Entertainment. We are doing a television series called Reapers and also a comedy pilot called “The Green Light”.