Chris Cheeseman and Paul Krysinski Interview (Directors, Mind Leech)
The Horror Revolution: First off, what’s your favorite horror movie? What movie scared you the most?
Chris Cheeseman: So difficult to choose even a top ten, but I suppose I would say The Thing is probably my favourite horror movie. Evil Dead 2 is right there though.
Paul Krysinski: What movie scared me the most would probably be The Evil Dead. Watched it when I was quite, and it was so intense I had to turn it off around the time pencils entered ankles. Silent Night Deadly Night 4: Initiation gets an honourable mention since I also saw it way too young, and found it so disturbing that I had to turn it off.
CC: Probably Aliens or Army of Darkness for favourite. I saw Aliens pretty young and found it pretty scary at the time. I saw Chucky 3 the same day, which was also scary.
THR: Mind Leech is a funky little indie creature feature, and I was surprised at the quality of the production given the budget limitations. What inspired you to make an old-fashioned monster movie, and do you actually consider it a monster movie?
PK: Thank you. I’d direct the “what inspired you” question to Cheeseman, since it was his story to begin with.
CC: The landscape was inspired by my youth, which was very similar to Paul’s. Rural Ottawa Valley. Snow, forest, fields and farms. Also, “coincidentally” such remote locations can be cost effective to shoot in, which was also quite inspiring.
I remember telling Paul “I want you to be the first monster in my movie!” Referring to the Leech/Host unit as the Monster has cemented Mind Leech as a monster movie in my mind. I don’t think I can UNDO that.
PK: I wouldn’t really refer to it as a “monster movie” myself, but I guess you could call it that. When I think of a “monster movie” I think of a big beast, like a werewolf or something, maiming and murdering, not a smaller parasitic creature hitching a ride on some poor sap. But that’s just me.
THR: What inspired you to become filmmakers? Were there any films in particular that you saw that made you know that’s what you wanted to do with your life?
CC: I started in the entertainment industry doing stagehand work. As my career progressed I though being in a union was best. I had a connection to the head of the IATSE SPFX department. I met him at Pinewood Studio’s one day to talk and he brought me onto the set of the Thing. Remake of course. They were using Flame Throwers on set that day. I was Sold! Where do I sign up! My interest in making a movie was a result of watching others make movies.
PK: I’ve been shooting movies with my friends since I was a kid, so it’s always been there for me. Although, when my friend Brodie showed me some claymation and other videos he had made, those are what really inspired me to make movies in the first place. He and I made a bunch of videos together when we were kids-and still do- and it just sort of naturally evolved into “hey, maybe we could do this for a living.”
I will add that The Thing certainly inspired me in regards to special effects; both in getting into that side of the industry, and in the stories I wanted to tell for my own projects.
THR: Mind Leech is a very Canadian Canadian horror movie. How much of the film was inspired by your life in the Great White North?
PK: The story came from Cheeseman, so he would know the direct influences, although we both grew up in rural areas of the Ottawa Valley, so I’d hazard a guess and say most of it.
CC: The landscapes are straight outta my youth, though our cops didn’t wear the tan and green. Also, the style of ice fishing we would do was to drive your truck out on a huge lake and setup a few holes with tip rigs. I won an ice fishing contest once as I was 1 of 2 people who caught a fish that day. It was not very big. Actually it was a pretty small fish...
THR: The two of you are special effects gurus, and you can tell with what you were able to put on- screen in the film. After directing your first film, is there a job that you prefer over the other? Do you find that your understanding of effects helps to ensure that what you want to appear on- screen makes the cut?
PK: I don’t know that I’d flatter myself with the moniker of “Guru” haha, but I’m confident in my skills and experience thank you. I definitely prefer Directing over SPFX. Directing/Writing has always been the goal for me, so it’s a no- brainer. Absolutely. Understanding how to shoot certain effects, and what is feasible, or what are realistic expectations to have, is a big plus. Especially with a small film where time and money is scarce. It also helps that you’re not always reliant on someone else, you can do some things yourself to make sure it’s what you want. When you do need to rely on someone else, then at least you can better articulate what is needed.
CC: Mind Leech is definitely a product of me being bored of working in FX. Wanting to bring my own ideas to the screen instead of someone else’s. Our ability to put maximum effect on screen for minimum expenditure sure helps. I read in one review they thought the Ice shack explosion was a big piece of our budget. It was essentially “free”. I got all the wood from a big movie when it wrapped. I already had everything everything else required. I think I had to pay to get the shack to the location but that was it.
THR: If you had the option of either working effects on the biggest Hollywood horror movies or making a movie of your own, and you could only do one, which would you choose and why?
PK: Make a movie of my own, hands down. SPFX is a job, and the bigger the show, the more you’re just a cog in the machine. To me, SPFX will never be as fulfilling as creating my own stories. That’s not to say FX can’t be fulfilling, it certainly can and is a fulfilling career for many people, but it’s a matter of preference.
CC: SPFX can be quite fulfilling in the bank account! Occasionally challenging/exciting projects come up, but working a minimum of 60 hours a week doesn’t translate into 60 hours of explosions and fun. Large scale unionized film making is mostly waiting. For me the smaller the team on the project, the more fun to be had.
THR: Where did the two of you meet? How far back have you known that you wanted to work together?
PK: We met on some set, but I don’t remember which. That was at least 10yrs ago, probably more. I’ve shot various shorts over the years so I’m sure the idea of working together had come up at some point. As for really establishing a mutual “we should do something” connection, probably around the time Cheeseman had the concept for Mind Leech. He had watched this series I shot with my friend Brodie (Spaull), called “Dark Before Dawn”, and I guess he liked what he saw, so he asked if I’d help out. I said yes, of course. I think that was on the set of 8-bit Christmas.
CC: Indeed it was! “Be my monster” I asked. Then at some point you asked who was editing it and if you could put your name in the hat. Then you became an acting/editor. In time that morphed into acting/ directing/editor.
THR: Speaking with indie horror directors is fascinating because of how many hats that they have to wear during a film production. What parts of the production were the most challenging, and how did you make it through those parts?
PK: Well, it’s always tough being both in front of the camera, and behind; especially with a 3ft rubber leech tied to your head. Cheeseman was also frequently inundated with Producing/Production Coordinating that he couldn’t always be there as much as he’d like. As for post-production, that’s another story...
CC: Cold was a challenge. There’s no getting around that. There was no Hollywood movie magic there. It was as cold as it looked. Also the logistics of filming around the weather and everyones availability. I worried we’d run out of snow. If 1 person on the team couldn’t do that day, we don’t shoot. If it’s snowing, we don’t shoot (except 1 day, which you only really notice in 1 shot.) Another challenge was all the little hiccups in the simple stuff like setting up a bank account or having to make a resume to get insurance. I’ve had a successful FX career for over a decade with no resume, and no problems. Insurance is required to rent road access from Municipalities. Insurance companies want to know the experience of the FX and stunt coordinators. I made a movie with no script, which a few people (even Paul and the insurance company) said couldn’t be done, but I did have to make a resume.
THR: If you could work with anyone in the industry, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
CC: Sometimes it’s best to not meet your heroes....
PK: This question is very difficult...I don’t know, let’s say Buster Keaton; he was just such an amazing physical performer. Imagine him in a Horror/Comedy as the hapless hero.
THR: Leeches are great villains for a movie because they’re... just so fucking gross. Do leeches even live in Canada? How do they survive in the ice?!
Paul: They do, and I believe they go into a dormant state and bury themselves under the mud.
CC: We were just talking about that! You know what else is gross, most Leeches have suckers on both ends. What’s also interesting about ice on water is that once a thick layer forms it insulates everything below it from the cold above. Once a body of water gets over a few feet the ice will protect the bottom from freezing. Also I think leeches can survive freezing.
THR: What’s next for you guys? Do you have any upcoming projects, individually or together, that you’re excited about?
PK: MIND LEECH 2 BABYYY!?? Hopefully.
Aside from that, I have several feature scripts I’ve been writing. I plan to shoot one with childhood friend, and long-time collaborator Brodie Spaull. Perhaps Mr. Cheeseman could be involved as well.
CC: I can do FX! Mind Leech 2 is on my mind. Debating the feasibility of shooting it this year or waiting until 2024.
THR: Finally, what is the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought for yourself, and can I have it?
PK: Probably my car, and no. Sorry, but I need it to get around!
CC: For me also my car, and I also need it. That and FX gear. Not any one piece was as much as the car but all of it for sure.