Jones, a lover of the paranormal genre, documentarian and indie filmmaker, creates an ambitious story, produced on a microbudget. He also snags genre icon Casper Van Dien, a legend in the making of the horror and sci-fi genres. I was privileged enough to have an opportunity to interview Andrew P. Jones about "Darkness Reigns" and working with Van Dien.
ASouthrnLife: Where did the inspiration come from for "Darkness Reigns?
Andrew P. Jones: Darkness Reigns was inspired by my personal love of the paranormal, as well as my experiences working in the indie film business. I also wanted to figure out how to make a film in an unthinkably short amount of time, so the long, continuous takes was my answer to that.
ASoutherLife: Have you always been interested in the paranormal or did your interest come about from an experience?
Andrew P. Jones: I have always had a general interest in the paranormal. It's fun for me to stay at "haunted" hotels. I have made documentaries on the subject, and I have a TV show I'm developing that I think offers a fresh, new take on the ghost hunting genre. I shot a pilot for that and it involved traveling all over the country and working with a multitude of paranormal researchers. I would imagine I've been on more ghost hunts with more of a variety of paranormal groups than anyone on the planet.
ASouthernLife: Darkness Reigns" is sort of a "movie within a movie", the making of a horror film and the paranormal experience, how important was it to tell the story this way, and how hard was it to keep the fluidity of your concept?
Andrew P. Jones: Creating a movie within a movie is challenging on a tight budget because you need to film what looks like a working film set. The upside is that we didn't need to worry about equipment being in the shot, or clearing away things we might normally clear away. I remember once my DP, who was operating the camera, stopped during a rehearsal and said, "I need to change this... I caught my shadow on the wall." A normal thing for a DP to notice. But after a moment of contemplation, I said, "wait, no it's OK... it's SUPPOSE to be there. We know there is a cameraman shooting this.... it's his footage we're watching." So, it was odd to break old habits but it gave us total freedom.
ASouthernLife: What classic films told in a similar style did you draw influence from- if any?
Andrew P. Jones: We get the "found footage" thing a lot, which baffles me. There is no footage that anyone finds. It's documentary style. It's "continuous footage." So... I get the Blair Witch comparison a lot and there really is zero similarity. I tend to pay homage to the 80's and 90's when there were more practical effects and movies were a little more about interesting characters. I think there is a little nod to The Shining in that it's set in an old hotel and there is a cool bar that we had some fun with.
ASouthernLife: In the film Casper Van Dien plays himself, how was it working with such an iconic talent, and was it always your intentions to have him in the movie?
Andrew P. Jones: When I wrote the script, probably five or six years ago, I had no idea who that might be. Once my casting director got involved, she pitched me a few names, and I pitched her a few... but honestly Casper was pretty much top of her list. And I thought it was a great choice because he's not a cliche. It would have been easy for that character to become a joke, and I didn't want that. He's respected as an actor and beloved by his Starship Troopers fan base. He has a strong following in family films too. More than anything he was a joy to work with and I'm at the age where that carries a lot of weight. After thirty plus years in this business, I like to surround myself with good people who are going to make the experience as enjoyable as it can be, and that is Casper for sure.
ASouthernLife: What projects do you have slated now that "Darkness Reigns" is out there, and will it be paranormal in nature?
Andrew P. Jones: I am working on a family film called Harriet Houdini that is near and dear to me. I also have a couple period dramas that are based on true stories that I am trying to raise money for. I have a wonderful Christmas movie that I'm hoping to make soon. All in all I have six features and three TV shows in various stages, so, I'm keeping pretty busy.
ASouthernLife: Who are some other big genre names you would like to work with?
Andrew P. Jones: I don't think in terms of genre names. I love actors. I tend to love the really great character actors, and there is a long list of those I hope to work with like Stephen Root, Len Cariou, Bill Nighy, Timothy Spall... too many to list. But, I still have a lot of movies to make, so, there's time.