Eric Stanze is a director, editor and producer of a multitude of horror and thriller films. He also owns Wide Pixel Cinema, a production company behind many of his films. From a young age, Eric has been fascinated by film and horror, twisting his creative juices to create films such as Savage Harvest, Ice From the Sun, Scrapbook, and Ratline.
With time and experience, his perspective on film-making, and even his own films, has evolved. Here’s the inside story.
How did you begin your passion with horror movies and cinema in general?
When I was nine or 10, I spent the night at a friend’s house and we caught The Blob and Invasion of the Body Snatchers on late night TV. I think that’s when the first seeds of being a horror fan took root.
Shortly after, my family moved to Pittsburgh, George Romero’s zombie country. It was after we moved that I started shooting short 8mm films with my friends.
What was your first film?
I did a lot of experimenting with the family’s 8mm film camera. My first attempts at making short films were The Vampire and The Groundhog Day Massacre, when I was about 12.
Your first “official” film, as far as the Wicked Pixel Cinema company goes, is Savage Harvest. What was the idea and inspiration behind it?
Actually, Savage Harvest came before Wicked Pixel Cinema. We formed the company fueled by the momentum SH gave us.
SHwas inspired mostly by Sam Ramsey Evil Dead. Other influences crept in there, but it’s obvious Evil Deadwas the primary one.
The plot was inspired by Missouri lore about Native Americans and the Trail Of Tears. I’d heard stories about ghostly figures in the woods from the mother of my girlfriend at the time. I was told these eerie sights were supernatural echoes of the Native Americans who once lived in the area. All of these stories became early inspiration for the plot of SH.
I saw in the behind the scenes documentary that you had doubts about the film while in post-production. Could you elaborate?
After SH was done, I hated it. I was so young; my experience was limited and my ambitions were sky high. I was pissed – at the movie and at myself. Growing older, I realized that the movie seldom turns out as awesome as it plays out in your head, but I get much closer with each film I make.
I’m no longer bitter towards SH. The fans of the movie taught me what they like about it. Once a movie is released, my opinions are secondary to those of the fans. If they’re cool with SH, so am I.
Ice From the Sun, to me, is an amazing film. Where did it come from and how was it birthed?
Making SH, I did not have much of a voice as a filmmaker. I wanted to do something different – to find my own voice as a filmmaker. I knew I needed to discover and exercise new creative muscles.
Tell us about the process of making the film and the hardships you endured.
IFTS was a massive undertaking. The hardships came from trying to pull off something huge on a very small budget. We had a lot of locations, travel, and a lot of people to coordinate – this was before the convenience of cell phones and email.
You made the controversial Scrapbook after IFTS. Did you do it because you wanted to make something less complicated after IFTS?
That was a big part of it. However, I was also interested in doing something that pushed boundaries. The story that Tom Biondo brought to me not only did that, it had a lot of elements that I thought would make a good movie.
AfterScrapbook you produced a string of low budget exploitation/horror pictures for other companies: The Undertow, China White Serpentine and I Spit on Your Corpse I Piss on Your Grave (aka The Captives). Care to talk about some of these and their production?
Those movies were factory work. At some points, I was juggling five movies at a time. The workload was crushing, and I was becoming disappointed in the demands for quantity over quality. I wasn’t happy, so I put the brakes on that gig.
One film that stands out from that pack is China White Serpentine. I still really like that one and proud of the work we did.
Why did you decide to do a sequel to Savage Harvest and what was the production like?
Jason Christ approached me about doing a sequel. I had no personal interest in doing a sequel, but he was very enthusiastic about it, so I gave him the green light.
Production fell into chaos for a few reasons, one of which was a car accident Jason survived halfway through production. Jeremy Wallace and I worked very hard to get the film back on track and provide Jason with guidance and support, without compromising what he wanted to achieve creatively.
Tell us about the genesis of Deadwook Park.
After working on so many quick ‘n’ cheap exploitation films, I wanted to do something big. Bigger than IFTS. I wanted a film that would plunge me into a deep, treacherous abyss and force me to slowly claw my way out.
The movie is a pretty damn original vampire movie. Was the production difficult? It looks like a million dollar film.
Thank you. That was one of my goals: make the movie look a hundred times bigger and more expensive than it really was. Production was difficult for the same reasons IFTS was difficult.
What’s the future for you and Wicked Pixel Cinema?
This is a time of transition and the future is very unclear. I didn’t want to keep taking the same steps in my career after Ratline. Finding a new, better path has temporarily slowed things down a bit, but it’s all for very good reasons.