We’ve asked the filmmakers for the 11th annual Oxford Film Festival the same five questions. Meet Don Swaynos, writer and director of The Horrible Life of Dr. Ghoul. This film will be screening Friday, February 7 at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 8 at noon.
#1: In 140 characters or less, describe your movie and why someone should see it.
It’s about a horror host when he isn’t “horror hosting”. Maybe you want to see it because you like horror hosts or old horror movies, or maybe you don’t know anything about horror hosts and you’re curious? Maybe you have a “horrible life”? I hope not, but maybe you do and then maybe you’d like it? That seems kind of weird, but I don’t know what you’re into, that horrible life probably comes as a result of some pretty poor decisions.
#2: Biggest lesson learned in getting the film made? Best part in getting the film made?
I’d initially written ‘Dr. Ghoul’ as a feature- or I’d tried to. I wrote a bunch of drafts and none of them were working so I gave up on it and focused on a script I had finished (‘Pictures of Superheroes’, which played Oxford last year). After wrapping the feature, some friends had started a short film writing club, where every two weeks we would turn in a short film script and our friends would critique it. After a few weeks you really start to run out of ideas, so in desperation I revisited the ‘Dr. Ghoul’ character. Removing him from all the unfinished/just plain ideas that surrounded him in the feature script and writing a simple story about a day in his life allowed me to clear my head and remember what drew me to the idea in the first place.
Then once we got our fantastic cast I got see something that has been in my head for so long, getting bogged down in rewrites and tangents, finally come to life in a clear way.
#3: Tell us about you. What is your movie making background?
‘Pictures of Superheroes’ was my first narrative feature as a writer/director (and it is now out on VOD by the way), but I mostly work as an editor. I recently cut Yen Tan’s ‘Pit Stop’ (which is currently nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and is also available on VOD) and Bryan Poyser’s ‘The Bounceback’.
#4 What do you want the Oxford Film Festival audience to know about your film that isn’t obvious from its title or description?
It isn’t a horror film, I know it kind of sounds like a horror film, but it isn’t. I mean I guess you could say it’s about the horrors of the human condition or something like that- but no, that sounds dumb. Let’s just say it isn’t a horror film. It’s a comedy.
#5: What does the future hold in store for your film and for you?
Once Dr. Ghoul’s festival run is over it’ll head up to the short film retirement home in the sky (YouTube). I’d love to tackle the feature version at some point, I’ve got a few feature ideas I’m juggling in my head right now so I’m mainly just writing and trying to figure out which one to actually make.