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Sean Cain - Interview

From Staci Wilson,
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Talking with the writer-director of Naked Beneath the Water

Staci Wilson / About.com: What was your inspiration for writing and directing Naked Beneath the Water?

Cain: My first real film job was as an editor for director Victor Salva (Jeepers Creepers) on a film called Kindred Spirits. Aside from editing the picture I had a small role in the film and was present during the whole shooting process.

Before I ever heard the term, ‘microbudget’ we called these types of movies ‘back-yard videos’ because you literally made them in your backyard for a miniscule amount of money, but still using the basic principals a typical Hollywood film would., i.e. good lighting, good sound, good acting, etc.

Kindred Spirits taught me that it was possible for some kid outside of Hollywood who didn’t know anyone to make a film by any means necessary. This might seem like old news now, but back in the early 1990s the concept wasn’t so novel. Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriquez hadn’t become indie icons yet.

But one major trend was already in the works by 1992. MTV’s The Real World became a major hit and paved the way for reality TV. That was the same year I had devised the concept for Naked Beneath the Water. Being a fan of Roman Polanski’s work like The Tennant and Rosemary’s Baby, I wanted to do a scary film but without hockey masks and hacked off body parts. To me reality TV was a ripe psychological plum to be picked.

Q: How long did it take to shoot, and where did you shoot it?

Cain: I originally began shooting Naked 3 days after Christmas in 1992 and finished the first version of the film in 1995. Back then low budget horror was on par with porn – no mainstream market would touch it. I sold some VHS copies through Film Threat and Alternative Cinema and was even approached for distribution by Something Weird Video for distribution, but nothing came out of it.

It wasn’t until the DVD market became so huge and the need for product became so great that it started to include various horror titles that had come out about the same time as Naked did in 1995. So, I decided to pull Naked back off the shelf and do something with it.

The only problem was that I had evolved as a filmmaker so much that the first version of the film just didn’t do it for me. That’s a nice way of saying I thought it sucked ass. Basically, I re-shot 75% of the film on 24p and completely changed the ending.

The tricky part was finding all the original actors and integrating the old footage with the new stuff, but most viewers who are unaware of the film’s history don’t seem to notice. I guess I was also lucky that a lot of the actors still looked the same.

I started the re-shoots and digital re-mastering at the beginning of 2005 and finished the last big scene (the explosive piece that opens the film) in January of 2006. Most of the film was shot in San Francisco, but some interiors were filmed here in Los Angeles.

Q: What has viewer feedback been on Naked Beneath the Water? What's surprised you most?

Cain: So far the feedback has been very positive. We had our theatrical premiere at the Laemmle’s Sunset 5 in West Hollywood as a Midnight Movie at the beginning of June. Even the theater’s staff said the turn out was really good. I guess they typically get six people a night and we filled about half of the 190 seats in the theater on the first night.

Q: Have you ever had a weird fan experience?

Cain: My weirdest fan experience was when I was selling VHS copies of the flick back in 1995. There was person in particular who sent me a money order and a hand written letter that certified he was over 18, but no address on where to send the film. I was definitely going to cash that money order, but figured I should at least make an attempt to find this person and get him a copy of the film.

The letter itself looked like it had been written by a 6 year old, but the name was legible, the official post office stamp on the envelope came out of Houston, Texas and the money order was done at a 7-11 type convenience store. After looking through a Houston phone book I was able to find a guy who matched the name that lived close to one of the two stores in town.

That night I called the guy up and I swear I thought I was talking to the Tooth Fairy…you know who I mean... the bad guy from Manhunter. He sounded just like him and it creeped me out. I think he was shocked I was called, but confirmed that he was the guy who ordered my flick. I quickly broke the phone connection started to address a package to the guy, but then I thought about it. Who are these people that want to see my low budget horror film? Do I really want to meet my audience?

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