I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to interview the two minds behind the new film, American Exorcist. Below is the conversation that ensued:
Directed & Written by: Tony Trov, Johnny Zito
NN: You’re both director / filmmakers, but this is by no means your only credit. Your bio’s read like a checklist of awesomeness – the resume of men with many passions and interests. Comics, writing, music – what led you to filmmaking?
Trov: We both wanted to make movies always. We both plan to do it until we’re dead.
Zito: Filmmaking is the ultimate form of art.
NN: Your first film, Alpha Girls (2013) is a horror film, as well as your upcoming film American Exorcist. Both of these are horror films, and I would like to know: why horror?
Trov: When we started writing together back in college, we wrote lots of wacky projects. We were both and still are huge Kevin Smith fans. Many of our scripts were very much inspired by Clerks. It took us a while to find our voice, we had to learn to write what we knew without writing about ourselves.
Zito: In 2008 we pitched a comic called The Black Cherry Bombshells. It was a zombie webcomic that had a page come out every week. We went on to writing a book for Image called DOGS of Mars which is about a werewolf invasion on Mars. Horror has been the most fun and rewarding genre. Plus we find ourselves always connecting with horror fans the most.
NN: Alpha Girls was filmed at Eastern State Penitentiary. Got any cool scary stories or strange occurrences while filming?
Zito: Actually the soundtrack was recorded there not the film. It was extremely spooky to be in there.
Trov: I recall the extreme change in temperature in the different parts of the building. It really freaked out all the musicians.
NN: American Exorcist, anyone can read the synopsis online, but I’d like your take on the movie. In your words, what is the story?
Trov: American Exorcist is about a paranormal investigator who is trying to debunk a haunted building.
Zito: But the story is actually about crushing guilt.
NN: How much of an influence would you say religion plays into your writing? Is it predominant, or was the story of American Exorcist just a subject you wished to tackle?
Zito: We both had Italian Catholic upbringings and there’s a black magic component to all of that. Our grandma’s taught us which saints to pray to and how to protect ourselves from an evil curse.
Trov: So we’re really into the devil.
NN: What was production like for American Exorcist?
Zito: We had a sublet on an old building in center city Philadelphia that was getting knocked down.
Trov: We really got to go nuts and destroy it with an amazingly talented crew. Giving 30 artist the freedom to do whatever they wanted in an office building really brought out some creative ideas.
NN: Where was it filmed?
Zito: Our hometown, Philadelphia PA. We really tried to take advantage of our urban setting.
NN: How long was the filmmaking process for American Exorcist?
Trov: We started shooting in Feb 2015 and we’re still in post production. Right now the score is being written.
Zito: Just this morning we recorded some ADR lines. The process takes a while if you’re low budget.
NN: Naturally, we learn things through the creation process and how to overcome obstacles, so are there any particular problems you encountered on your first film that you were prepared to overcome during the filming of American Exorcist?
Trov: The less locations the better.
Zito: Keep the crew healthy. Read a book on nutrition. People perform as well as the fuel their burning.
NN: Bill Mosley. You got him on your film; on your set. How did that happen? How were you able to get him on board an indie film? Care to elaborate?
Trov: We went on the horror subreddit and straight up polled the community. We asked who people would want to see in our film.
Zito: Bill Moseley is a legend and we’re lucky to have gotten to work with him. He was very generous with his ideas and it was a fantastic learning experience.
NN: What was it like working with Mr. Mosley?
Trov: He’s a great guy. Really funny and a big hockey fan.
Zito: Bill loved to play spelling games with our lead actress Falon Joslyn. He used to be a science-writer for Omni magazine.
NN: Would you like to work with him again on future projects?
Trov: 100% yes.
Zito: Next time we’ll write with him in mind. It turns out he loves the prosthetics.
NN: Trov, you are a musician. How important is the score to you, as a filmmaker?
Trov: The score is very important. Mike Vivas is one of my closest friends and he’s giving us a synth heavy soundtrack. If you like Moog and analog synthesizers, this score is for you.
NN: Did you score any of the music on your film(s)?
Trov: I’m hoping to play some saxophone on it actually.
NN: What are your horror influences? Movies, music, videogames – let us get a glimpse into your psyche…
Trov: I love true crime documentaries. I just watched Cease to Exist which is really great if you’re into Charles Manson.
Zito: Philly is a haunted place. We walk the same streets as dead revolutionaries. This city is built on superstitions.
NN: Top 5 Favorite Horror films?
Trov: Ghostbusters, Alien, Tremors, Little Shop of Horrors, Jaws
Zito: Ghostbusters II, Aliens, Tremors II, Susperia, Jaws II.
NN: Got any advice for up-and-coming filmmakers? Things to prepare for? Ways to get distribution?
Trov: Get in shape. Don’t be a jerk and work with what you’ve got.
Zito: Good, fast, or cheap. It’ll never be all three.
NN: I have to ask – Practical FX or CGI? There is no wrong answer, and I’m not judging.
Trov: I know you are judging so that’s why American Exorcist is full of practical effects. We built a lot of great gags so heads up.
Zito: We built a blood cannon from a compressor and PVC pipe that I have a feeling you’re going to love.
NN: Streaming services and Video On Demand are the harbingers of the new era in entertainment consumption. I assume, though, that this very model has made it easier for filmmakers to break into the business?
Zito: There’s a lot more competition but it made it possible for two guys from Philly to get their stuff out there.
Trov: It can seem overwhelming but if you make a feature length film people will check it out.
NN: Do you see the traditional theatrical experience as dead (or dying)?
Zito: We toured Alpha Girls around the country and met lots of great people by doing so. We’re hoping to do it again for American Exorcist.
Trov: Horror films are especially great to watch in groups.
NN: What’s next for you?
Trov: There’s still a lot of work to be done on American Exorcist but we’re already writing another feature.
Check out the Trailer:
For more information on American Exorcist, you can find all the links on their YouTube Page.