An Interview with David Dittlinger by Dave Wain
“I wish I could un-watch the last 75 minutes of my life, but most of all I wish I could just make something like this disappear”. (Dave Wain – UKHS)
When the low budget DVD release of The Factory made its way into my player the other week I was pretty damning about it. So much so that after nearly 200 film reviews for UKHorrorScene.com it became the first film that received a zero rating from me. Imagine my surprise then when the producer of the movie, having read my review, wanted to set up an interview to discuss the movies production. I thought this could well get nasty! How wrong I was – it was a pleasure to speak to David Dittlinger, and the following interview underlines the old adage that no-one sets out to make a bad movie.
UKHS – Can you describe your background in the film industry for me? Is producing something that has always appealed to you?
DD – I personally didn’t have much of a background, Dave. I grew up in a small town where there wasn’t even a dream of working in the industry. But I watched a lot of movies and always loved that world. Creature Features on a Saturday night was the highlight of my week. No HD 80″ Flat Panel could ever compare to that 21″ black and white T.V. Used to stand for hours holding the rabbit ears with tin foil so we could at least see something that looked like the creature from the Black Lagoon.
A few years ago my wife got a call from her sister asking if she could help her with a writing thing she was doing. Turns out it was a spec for a T.V. sitcom. They turned it in, the studio loved it and I ended up in Los Angeles with her.
As far as me and producing, I’m surrounded by creative type people and for some reason, creative people hate the business end of things. I guess I just got tired of people waiting on things to get done. And it was the first film I’ve ever produced (and no “no kidding” comments, please).
UKHS – How did your involvement in The Factory (aka Death Factory) come about?
DD – Eighteen months ago at a Christmas Party, a bunch of my friends were sitting around lamenting the fact that no one would make their movie for them. Stephen Durham, my partner in producing, had a script which turned out to be The Factory. He said, “Why don’t we just do it ourselves, why wait on anyone to give us something?” The script had the elements we thought would work. Action, pretty girls, scary guys. The director Steve Judd said, “I’ll do it, sounds like fun.” The stunt coordinator Patrick Gallaway was also on board and a couple of actor friends that were at the party were thrilled at the chance. So we said, “let’s do it.” From nothing, we put together everything you need to make a movie and started filming in April. It seemed easy enough – it wasn’t. Anyhow, that’s how I became involved – a bunch of friends getting together to make a movie.
UKHS – With the project being undertaken with friends then, did you feel a little less under pressure than had it been working with strangers? There presumably must have been a level of trust already established?
DD – Some things about working with friends are better, Dave, and some things are worse. Everyone worked so hard and really went above and beyond the call of duty, but…. when you have friends working with you (many volunteering their time), sometimes the boss/friend line becomes a little blurry for them. I’m guessing in everyone’s circle of friends there’s that one guy who is probably more suited to prison or a psych ward than a movie set. All the hired help were really professional and did their jobs without question, while some of the friend types were off cutting down things with Ed Gein’s chain saw. But all joking aside, I can’t imagine working with a better crew. In fact, we set one of my best friends on fire, beat him with a steel pole, ran over him with a Masarati and yanked him 30 feet through the air. His name is Patrick Gallaway. He’s a professional stuntman and the best fire guy around, but that’s still a lot to ask of a friend.
UKHS – You’ve hinted at a few issues that perhaps hindered the making of Death Factory – would you care to elaborate on these at all?
DD – One day, Dave, maybe we’ll get together over a beer or two and have a good chat about some of the more disquieting things that took place, but that’s better left unwritten. I’ll give you a couple of the more tame examples.
First, location: We originally planned on filming in a creepy old factory in Oklahoma, thus the title The Factory. Two weeks before we started to shoot, we received a call stating that our factory was full of asbestos and we couldn’t film there. Everything was already set up for the Oklahoma shoot, so we had no choice but to find another location and quickly. Stephen knew a guy who knew a guy who had an old movie set in the middle of the desert in California that he said we could use for 14 days and 14 days only. A place called the Blue Cloud Ranch. They used to film a lot of old westerns there in the 50s and 60s. Point being, we had no time to spare. Fourteen 16-hour days without a break, and no built-in time for things that might go wrong. Our poor director Steve Judd couldn’t get the shots that he really wanted: “Please, can I just set up the circle dolly? It’ll only take 12 minutes” and us going, “Are you f***ing crazy?” etc.
Then cast: You may notice in the bus scene that Star, our lovely Goth girl, Tonya Kay, has a head of long black hair obscuring her face. That was the last scene we had to shoot and was filmed a couple of weeks later. (That was a whole situation unto itself. We forgot to mention to anyone that we’d be filming a movie on the bus). In the meantime, Tonya got a really cool gig hosting a reality T.V. show that commenced on that day, so she was no longer available. Since this was the scene that introduces all the characters, Star had to be in it. Again, someone knew someone who looked a little bit like Tonya, or at least was female, so she was Star for a day. Instead of speaking lines as originally planned, we quickly changed it so that she was badly hung over and once everyone was off the bus, Star was bent over, barfing in a ditch with her hair covering her face.
Last, but not least, Pestilence: Another issue that cost us a lot of time was the pest problem. We set up craft services in one of the buildings on the grounds. I was quite proud of myself for putting together such a nice spread and, as such, really bragged about all the great food the cast and crew were in for. When dinner time came, Mara Hall, who played Auntie May, opened the door to the room and mice ran everywhere! Except for one, who stood on the table holding up a Little Debbie snack cake. I’m not kidding. A big, fat rodent stood up on its hind legs holding a snack cake. No one could eat and it was probably the worst night of my producing career. Never, never come between movie crew people and food! Also along those lines, as part of the film, we had vials of the serial killers’ “blood” sitting on dirt mounds in the miscellaneous cabins. Art, our special effects guy, kept forgetting to fill the test tubes with blood. He swore he had filled them and after getting chewed out several times, we happened upon one that still had a little blood in it and several thousand ants. As you probably are aware, some sort of sugar base is used to make the blood and the ants were eating every trace of it and leaving. They don’t teach you that one in film school.
Anyway, Dave, I could go on forever with this particular question and as I said, maybe someday.
UKHS – That Star story is hilarious! I genuinely didn’t notice. The shoot sounded pretty arduous David. Once you had the film in the can though, what was your thinking? Were you satisfied with what you had shot?
DD – Many scenes I love, like anything with Ed Gein (Gary Kasper) in it. He is one intimidating dude. Our stunt guys were also amazing. Damien Puckler, who played Simon, is a former World Champion kick boxer and one of the coolest guys around. He got a big part in a US network series called Grimm based on his work in this film. He plays a role much like the Simon character on the show. Fans went crazy for him and the L.A. Times did a big write-up a couple of months ago about his life and career path. Mara Hall, who was brilliant as Auntie May, also landed a recurring role on Grey’s Anatomy right after her work on The Factory. We’re grateful to all our performers because there was a lot of pressure on them.
We had to shoot some scenes in one take so we had very little coverage and it made our cuts tougher to put together. David McClellan, our editor and everything else Post Production, had technical issues that drove him up the wall. Issues I would never notice because I’m not an editor, but he did. We didn’t have a chance to watch dailies like we should have, so some problems didn’t surface until weeks later. I don’t know an indie producer alive who doesn’t wish they had more money, more time. But to answer your question, Dave, overall I’m very proud of what we accomplished. My brother-in-law who wrote a Hugh Grant comedy once had a critic say he wanted to hunt him down and kill him. So by comparison, yours is a rave review.
UKHS – How is the distribution process going? How easy was it to get the movie picked up in the UK? I see domestically you’ve had a name change to The Butchers now?
DD – We were fortunate, because distributors actually courted us. We made this movie with distribution in mind, which I think helped. We know that buyers tend to like horror, action and pretty girls. So we gave everyone some of what they want. As far as the UK, we had a couple of different distributors interested and ended up going with 4Digital Media. They retitled it from “Death Factory” to “The Factory” and redid the artwork, which I think is beautiful. Joe Hopkins did the original art, which I also think is pretty amazing. Every country seems to want to do their own thing when it comes to the presentation.
Uncork’d, which will be distributing in the US and Canada, thought that the title Death Factory was a little too violent so they changed it to The Butchers. Go figure. The release is planned for October/November.
UKHS – I agree David, the sleeve is very eye-catching and it’s certainly a major selling point over here in the UK. One of the things I find deplorable though – and I underline the fact this is something that’s out of your hands – is the use by certain UK distribution companies of bogus cover quotes. The Factory has two, “An intense brooding horror, with some really extreme shocks” say ‘Darkside’, while ‘TerrorNet.com’ call it “deeply scary, with moments of pure terror”. I think it’s fraudulent. A lot of people really pay attention to these quotes but don’t think to check them out to see if they are credible. What’s your opinion on this?
DD – I was very confused on that one myself, Dave. I was unaware of the quotes until the DVD came out and was quite excited and searched everywhere for the official reviews. I figured I was looking in the wrong spots or they hadn’t officially been posted yet.
UKHS – So with your film released in the UK and with US distribution looming, you’d have to say that irrespective of any critical opinion – this has been a successful project? Do you see yourself assuming the role of producer at any point in the future?
DD – For me, it has been an incredibly successful venture. I live in a fifteen square mile plot of land where everyone is trying to make, write, act in or, somehow or another, be part of a movie. We not only made a movie, but got it distributed, which surprisingly only 2 out of 100 films actually do. I made a lot of new friends, bolstered a few acting careers and learned more about this business than I ever could going to film school. Although it’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, some people are really enjoying it, which is very gratifying.
As for me personally, I definitely am on to the next project. Stephen Durham and I are currently working on a follow-up project that we already have a distribution deal for. This one will have a higher budget and we will take the lessons that we’ve learned and make a great film. I’m aiming for a BAFTA award, but I’ll settle for a good review from you.
UKHS – Well, who knows David – I certainly look forward to that next project, and I thank you for the time out you’ve taken for this interview which has been more fun, and more fascinating than I thought it would be! It’s been a great insight into the world of low budget filmmaking.
DD – I really appreciate the chat Dave and as I said before, you’ve got a new fan.
The Factory is available now in the UK from all the usual retailers.
Check out the official Facebook page [here] where you can follow all the developments with regard to the movies US distribution and reception.