Monday, February 13, 2012

Exclusive Interview: Director LEIGH SCOTT Talks DOROTHY AND THE WITCHES OF OZ

Leigh Scott is the writer and director of the upcoming DOROTHY AND THE WITCHES OF OZ. The movie takes all of the familiar characters from Oz and sticks them in present day Big Apple. The movie has such a huge and impressive cast for a true indie film and immediately caught my attention over a year ago. On February 17th the movie will have its red carpet premiere at Harkins Superstition Springs in Mesa, Arizona (order your tickets HERE) and will screen this summer at Fright Night Film Fest in Louisville, Ky.  2012 is the year we all return to Oz with this special movie!

Check out my latest Versus with writer/director Leigh Scott as he shares his experience in making this cool looking indie fantasy, he talks about the cast, where we'll be able to begin seeing the movie and much more.

Alien Bee - First off tell me about Dorothy and the Witches of Oz
Leigh Scott - Dorothy and the Witches of Oz is a modern spin on the world of Oz first created by L. Frank Baum in his series of children's books.   It takes place in New York and tells the story of an adult Dorothy who writes children's books about Oz.  She learns that Oz is real and that her stories are actually repressed memories.  Pretty soon, a lot of the characters from the books start showing up in the city.  The idea of fantasy characters coming into our world isn't 100% original obviously ("Enchanted", "Ink Heart" etc.), but we felt it was a nice device that would allow us to make a fantasy film given our resources.  I really hate it in low budget fantasy stuff when a place like Oz is depicted as a typical forest and a few matte paintings.  When the story moves to Oz, I wanted to make it look like something you've never really seen before, so we had to be careful how much of the film we set in Oz.
Alien Bee -  I take it you're a fan of The Wizard of Oz?
Leigh Scott - I went to film school and got to see the 1939 movie on the big screen, which is a great experience.  It stuck with me, especially when you watch it in context with other movies from the time period.  It really was amazing.  And of course, you can't deny the impact that it's had on film and our culture in general.  For this film though, I think we were more influenced by the original books and perhaps a bit of the 1985 film Return to Oz.  I'm a big fantasy fan, and I've always been bothered by the fact that every movie about wizards, witches, dragons, etc. is set in some non-descript British location.  So, I wanted to make an American fairy tale.  The world of Oz just felt natural.
Alien Bee - The movie has gone through a few name changes, can you tell me why?
Leigh Scott - Well, making indie films is always tough.  But, at this level and this scope, it's almost impossible.  We simply started running out of money and had to make some tough choices.  So, we released the film overseas.  We always wanted to do something special and different in the US.  A few months ago my producing partners and I (Chris Campbell and Eliza Swenson), put our heads together and figured out a strategy to get the movie into theaters.  The distributor, MarVista, graciously gave us the rights back to give it a whirl and we went to work.  Barry Ratcliffe, who plays a major character in the film also has this amazing background in sales, so he became the point person and handled getting the movie into theaters.  It's pretty unheard of.  We went directly to the theater chains and have worked with them,without any third party distributor, on this release.  We changed the name in order to distance it from the other version.  It really is a whole other movie.
Alien Bee -  How long did it take y'all to make the movie?
Leigh Scott - I started working on the idea and the rough character sketches back in 2005.  In 2009 I wrote the script and we started prepping it.  We ended up shooting it over much of 2009 and 2010, sort of in little pieces.  All in all, I think we shot 60 days or something like that when you add in all the shoots for visual effects elements and 2nd Unit stuff.  The VFX took forever, but again, we did that all in house and without any "big guns".  Just some talented people, no sleep, and the best equipment that Best Buy had to offer.
Alien Bee -  You have a great cast that includes Paulie Rojas, Eliza Swenson, Billy Boyd,  Christopher Lloyd, Barry Ratcliffe, Mia Sara, Sean Astin, Jeffrey Combs,  Sasha Jackson, Ethan Embry and Lance Henriksen. I don't know if there's been  an indie film with this much well known talent before. How did you pull in so much known talent?
Leigh Scott - People really responded well to the script.  Mia Sara has pretty much retired from acting, but she read it and her kids read it and they really liked it.  When you have material that people like, it's a lot easier.  Plus, our executive producer (Chris Campbell) signed off early on to having a big cast, so he made sure that we had the financial resources to make it happen.  So, on top of being material that people responded to positively, we didn't have to beg too much on the financial end.  I'd also worked with some of those actors before or knew them socially, so it made things a lot easier.
Alien Bee - What's the next step for the movie? Any festivals or more distribution deals in the works?
Leigh Scott - We're going to see how these first few theatrical dates go and try to expand from there.  Otherwise, we're set to have a big event at the Fright Night Film Fest in Louisville in June, which should be a lot of fun.  And, we're making plans to have this version on cable, TV, DVD etc.
Alien Bee - Early word is this is a really special movie. Would you ever do a sequel to it or is this a one shot deal?
Leigh Scott - In the film, the Wicked Witch indicates that Oz is just one land next to many other fairytale worlds like Wonderland, Neverland etc.   We've mapped out a whole story line that involves characters from all those different worlds.  I think it would be neat to see the Wizard of Oz fighting Captain Hook!  So, yes, a sequel or perhaps a trilogy is in the works.
Alien Bee - Does the film have a website or Facebook page that everyone can find online?
Leigh Scott - @Ozmovie2012 on the Twitter and on Facebook Dorothyandthewitchesofoz
We also have a main website which hasthe most up to date theater locations.
Alien Bee -  Do you have any other projects in the works you can talk about?
Leigh Scott - We are putting the finishing touches on "The Penny Dreadful Picture Show" which is a horror anthology we shot in the fall.  A lot of the Oz cast shows up in that one and it's pretty much the same key people behind the scenes.  It was a lot of fun.  Look for that late summer or, since it's horror, around Halloween.  That and the Oz follow ups.

Alien Bee - Would you like to say anything to everyone reading this?
Leigh Scott - It's always been my goal to do stuff that's different.  I think that's why I tend to be a bit polarizing.  I get emails saying that people are getting into filmmaking because my movies inspired them, and others saying that I should quit immediately and go work at Wendy's. This movie is no different.  We went out of our way to do things that weren't typical and not try and copy anyone.  A good example is the cinematography.  Everyone seems to bitch about the whole "teal and orange" color palette that every movie has so we avoided that.  I also wanted to make sure that the movie's climax wasn't two CGI creatures fighting, which is also something every movie seems to do nowadays. Some people will appreciate that, others will look at the lack of a CGI monster finale and the "Transformers" look as an indicator that we're amateur.  I just feel strongly that people should try different things and be open minded about entertainment.  Otherwise, we're doomed to watching the same stuff over and over.  People should really give this a chance.  And, if you're a fan of movies like "Ghostbusters", "Back to the Future" and "Gremlins" then you're really going to dig it.  The film is set in the present day, but it has an 80s movie vibe.  And that's intentional.

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