Trysta Bissett (writer) and Preston DeFrancis (writer/director)
What inspired you come up with the idea for the film?
TRYSTA: We started going to these extreme haunts that are becoming more and more popular every Halloween – the kind where you have to sign a waiver and the performers are allowed to touch you. The ones we went to were really fun and interesting, but none of them truly scared us. We started thinking, what would it really take to scare us? What if something went wrong at one of these events and someone really did get hurt? Would you really believe what you were seeing?
Why did you want to tell this story?
TRYSTA: The story didn’t fully take shape and didn’t fully suck us in until we developed our heroine Alex. She’s not your typical final girl. She’s real, she’s flawed, and her emotional journey is what RUIN ME is really about.
How do you relate to your characters or subjects?
TRYSTA: Every character, no matter how big or small a role they play, is a person. They have their own unique wants, needs, and personality traits. Even in the most despicable people, you can find some common ground, or some experience that you can empathize with. No one in life is 100% good or 100% bad. And no one on the page should be either.
What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?
PRESTON: The ending changed the most during writing. It took us a few drafts to discover how we wanted to resolve Alex’s story. Once we hit on the details of the motivations of the characters involved – I have to be vague here to avoid spoilers – we knew we’d found the place where it had wanted to live all along. That last scene is now our favorite one in the whole film. To be honest, not much of the story changed during production – save for one scene that I will address shortly. We work our scripts so hard to get them to the absolute best place that we are capable of getting them. So we felt very confident with the script going into shooting, which is essential when you are working under the tight time constraints that we had.
What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during production?
PRESTON: Fairly early on in our shoot, we shot a big-ish action set piece. As we were shooting, something just didn’t feel right… tonally, the way we were executing it, everything was just a bit off. I could tell the actors were struggling, too. We finished it, minus a few pieces that we had planned to pick up later on in the schedule. After sitting with it a day, I realized the scene was just wrong for the tone of the movie. We put our heads together and came up with a simple fix. That was the totally right call, and so much better to make during Production rather than during editing. It would have been a huge pain to try to get those actors and location back after the fact.
Where there any risks that you faced during production and how did you find a way to embrace them?
TRYSTA: The biggest risk we faced during production was the weather. We filmed on location in Muskegon, Michigan during the month of September. The majority of the movie takes place out in the woods, much of it at night. If we’d had any significant rainfall or storms, there’s no way we could have made our days. Amazingly, it was the most beautiful Muskegon September on record. We only had a half day of rain and were able to film a scene inside a tent inside of a local pub.
What influenced the visual style of the film?
PRESTON: For the color palette and atmosphere, we drew inspiration from some of the classic summer camp slashers: FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2, THE BURNING, and JUST BEFORE DAWN, to name a few. But that was just a starting point. We wanted those 80s films firmly in the DNA of our film, but we used modern techniques to forge an aesthetic that is something unique and its own thing. Incidentally, that was our guiding principle for every aspect of the filmmaking: Watch those classics that we are riffing on, know what they are doing, have them in mind, but then create something new.
What risks did you take to tell your story?
TRYSTA: We took a big risk with this story in terms of tone and structure. The first half of the film is fun, filled with jokes for horror fans, and has a very self aware feel to it. Then we hit the midpoint, and the entire focus shifts. The laughing stops, there is a disorienting change of location, things are suddenly deadly serious, and the story evolves into a dark drama. We didn’t want to make a typical slasher film. We wanted to push the structural and emotional boundaries of the genre.
How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?
TRYSTA: Find a story you’re passionate about that only you can tell. Because you’re going to have to live with that story for a long time. From conception to our World Premiere, RUIN ME took four years. And we’re still doing work on it every day – festivals, social media, deliverables for distribution. It’s a long, hard road. Just try to remember to have some fun along the way. Otherwise, what are we doing this for?
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