NIGHTMARE NATE: An Interview with Nathan Thomas Milliner

DRC - NATEInterviewee Nathan Thomas Milliner (above right). / Milliner’s artwork for Scream Factory titles Halloween II, Halloween III, The Burning, The Howling (bottom left). / Artwork for Volumes of Blood (above left). / Image rights belong to respective owners and not DRC.

Nathan Thomas Milliner is giving back to the world that so inspired him as a child. As a writer, director, and artist, Milliner’s work can now be seen around the world. Though Nate is most known for his recurring work with Shout!/Scream Factory — in designing newly-commissioned artwork for DVD/Blu-ray releases –, his work in the independent horror scene is also picking up massive momentum. Milliner’s debut directorial feature, A Wish for the Dead, was shot in 2011, and is finally being released this year. Along with the debut, Milliner is also behind the critically-acclaimed short fan film The Confession of Fred Krueger, as well as segments in Volumes of Blood and its upcoming sequel, Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories.
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Milliner’s original artwork for the Halloween 4 cast reunion at HorrorHound Weekend Cincinnati 2010. Find more of his brilliant work here.
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In between his busy work load, Milliner had the time to chat with DRC writer Tyler Keeton on the importance of the horror genre, the genre fandom, and the future/current state of horror cinema. Check out the interview below!
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DRCAs someone so well-versed in the realm of horror, what is the importance of the genre, to you? What initially drew you to the genre?
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MILLINERThe importance of the horror genre is essentially to make the audience apprehensive before they walk into that theater to sit down.  Keep them nervous and uncomfortable–scare them a lot, if you can–make sure they laugh a few times and, ultimately, walk out feeling they just had a very fun time.  That was what drew me to the genre.  It was fear at first, and then that undeniable sense of fun you get in watching.
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DRCYour artwork is breathtaking. Your originality shines through with each creation. As you have served on commission for Scream Factory’s releases of Halloween II, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, The Funhouse, Terror Train, Deadly Blessing, The Burning, and The Howling, what has been your proudest artistic accomplishment to date? What release was the most challenging, in terms of wanting to please the horror fandom?
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MILLINERI’m not sure what my proudest artistic accomplishment has been, as I have been very fortunate to have several.  I would say maybe a tie between the cover to the Never Sleep Again: The Making of a Nightmare on Elm Street coffee table book, the blu-ray cover of Halloween II (my first), or one of my films.  Either Encyclopedia Satanica or The Confession of Fred Krueger.  Each cover is a challenge, although some come easier than others.  But the responsibility to the fans is in every job.  I have to show my respect not only to the film, but to those who love it.  I need to understand the film and understand why those fans are so obsessed.
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DRCAlong with your original artwork, you are also a writer, director, actor, and producer. Tell us a little about the 2009 film Girl Number Three. Was it difficult transferring  pieces from your own graphic novel into someone else’s hands for a screenplay and feature film?
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MILLINERI had written Girl Number Three to be a short film for me to one day direct.  So yeah, it was hard turning it over to another artist to direct.  Luckily, I was asked to write the screenplay — although the director had some requested changes.  It was tough, but he said to me one day, “You have to let me make it.”  So, from that day on, I did my very best to keep out of his way.  Let him take the reigns. It is important that the director has that freedom and single vision.  I think Herschel felt more pressure to please me than I had letting him take it.
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DRC2015’s Volumes of Blood was met with acclaim from fans nationwide. As an attached director, what was it like collaborating with other filmmakers to form a cohesive genre film? Tell us about your own individual contributions.
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MILLINEROn the original Volumes of Blood, I was asked to direct a segment.  I was sent three scripts and the only one I cared for was “The Encyclopedia Satanica, which had been written by a guy named Todd Martin.  While I liked the story, I felt the script needed a major overhaul.  It had potential, but really needed changes and additions or subtractions.  They allowed me to basically rewrite it to fit my vision.  Again, very important that it be the director’s vision.  I did art direction, storyboards and cast the lead actress.  The rest of the cast was assigned.  I had a great time–despite the lack of time–making the film and worked with some of the most talented and hard working people around.  The same crew and half my cast reunited very soon to make Confession of Fred Krueger.  On the sequel, Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories–I am writing two segments, acting in one and directing one I wrote, titled, “Fear, For Sinners Here, which I am currently editing.  My first time as the editor.  Once again, I cast, storyboarded and did art direction on the film.
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DRCAs you directed a short fan film, The Confession of Fred Krueger, it is obvious you have strong devotion and respect for Wes Craven’s original masterpiece. It is very important to note your own fan film was met with acclaim, as many hailed it to be more than a mere “fan film,” and worthy of its own merit and credibility. This had to be exciting for you.
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MILLINERI had wanted to make that film since I was twelve.  It was rewarding in itself just to make it.  Having the fans react so positively and accept it and call it more than just a fan film, or “the best fan film,” and all of those wonderful things, was very nice to see.  I knew many fans would reject it, but the response was definitely more on the positive side.  It was my love letter to Wes.  Sadly, he passed two weeks before it premiered.  But that film is my thank you to him.
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DRCYou recently completed your own feature film, A Wish for the Dead. How has the film translated with the horror fandom, and did you meet your own expectations for the film? It is an extremely admirable feat to touch on so many areas of the entertainment industry and extended independent film community.
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MILLINERWell, the info going around on A Wish for the Dead is false.  It isn’t my new film.  I shot Wish in 2011.  It is just now getting released. But it has been done a very long time.  It was my first time directing, and I was very green.  I was not really prepared to direct that film, and while it is a decent film, it was a very collaborative effort between myself and the director of Girl Number Three.  Making a feature is a tough thing to pull off.  I am excited for those who worked on it to be able to see and share it, but I was a little worried about it being called my new film — as it was made 5 years ago, and I have made three other films since it and have learned and grown so much since.  It is a good film — for a first film, I would say.
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DRCYou have support from so many fans worldwide. How has it been for your wife, Brenda, and daughter, Lily? Are they also fans of the genre? It has to be a creative and inspiring household.
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MILLINERMy wife loves horror.  My daughter is curious.  She is artistic and has grown up on sets and at horror conventions.  Brenda and Lily get recognized and called out to by strangers at cons.  I am sure it can be as surreal for them as it is for me.  The horror community has been good to me.  I love these people.
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DRCWhat and who are some of your own favorite films or filmmakers? Every film lover has his or her own inspirations and idols.
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MILLINERMy top five films are Taxi Driver, Reservoir Dogs, Dazed and Confused, Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Favorite filmmakers are Tarantino, Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, The Coen Brothers and really too many to name.  I have had a lot of inspirations and idols.
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DRCIf someone were to ask you how to get started in the writing or film industry, what would be your piece of advice?
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MILLINERDo it every day.  Learn something every day. Work hard, never stop — despite rejection or self-doubt.  Don’t be in a hurry to get success or respect, and enjoy any and all opportunities and successes no matter how small.
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DRCOriginality is key when it comes to creative genius. As so many modern horror films recycle old tropes and cliches, how do you approach your own work?
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MILLINERWe are all essentially recycling the same stories over and over.  It comes down to how you tell it, your vision, your style, your personal voice, and your execution.  I always try to make left turns.  Hemingway said great writing is leading the reader down the same path they know and then when they know where they are going, go the other way.  Paraphrasing, but it has always worked for me.
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DRCWhat is the importance of the horror fandom, to you?
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MILLINERFans need to lighten up and remember that this genre is about having fun.  I fear the community has turned on itself a lot.  Cannibalizing itself.  The elitist and so-called “true fans” are making the genre a sour place to hang out.  Remember what it was like renting that crappy b-movie with your friends over pizza and soda and just having a blast with a scary movie?
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DRCLastly, let’s say you are cast in a reality series documenting your own life and work. What would your tagline be?
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MILLINERWake up every day and make something.
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Be sure to follow Milliner’s brilliant work on his website, as well as IMDB, Facebook, and Twitter.

PRIMAL FEAR: An Interview with Director Patrick Rea

film club patrickDirector Patrick Rea is a dear friend and mentor to a young screenwriter like myself. He is the mastermind behind the 2013 horror feature Nailbiter, as well as countless renowned short films – the latest of which include “Howl of a Good Time” and “Pillow Fright.” Rea is a friend and collaborator to classic horror icons like Tamara Glynn  (Halloween 5) and Leslie Easterbrook (The Devil’s Rejects), both of whom star in “Howl of a Good Time.” His approach to the genre is a force to be reckoned with, combining elements of nostalgia for diehard fans with a modern take on primal fear – a rich concept steeped in chilling commonality for all ages and audiences. His filmic qualities connect everyone to a force beyond any simple comprehension: pure terror. We all (even those hesitant to admit it) love to be scared, and Patrick Rea understands just that.

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† Before an exclusive screening and discussion of “Howl of a Good Time” and “Pillow Fright” for the Western Kentucky University Film Club led by myself and fellow former club president Amber Langston, Rea spoke with the audience on the future of horror and his mission to carry on the traditions of the greats. He also offered a simple but effective piece of advice to any aspiring artist: “Just keep going. Never give up.” His discussion with the club led to an absolute spark with the expansive group of students that has carried over into the new year, and inspired the club to expand its scope to all genres – not only our favorite. Film is a powerful form of art that rivals even the most impressive of mediums. Rea is an artist, and believes anyone willing to put in the time and effort can achieve his or her own wildest dream.

† In a new interview with yours truly, Rea confirms his dedication to the genre, speaks about his current work and plans for the new year, and speaks on the importance of horror as a credible form of art. Read more below.

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DRCWith a new year comes time for new territory in film. What are you currently working on? Can you spill any chilling details? Horror is quite your forte.

ReaWe are completing post-production on my new feature Enclosure, starring Fiona Dourif, Kevin Ryan and Jake Busey.  Hoping to have it released sometime this year.  Also, just completed a two-minute short film for Eli Roth’s Crypt TV titled “Hoot”.

DRCWhat has been your biggest career moment to date? As in, what specific moment made you realize: “THIS is what I want to be known for.” 

ReaWell, that’s a tough question.  Seeing my film Nailbiter available in the Redbox, and on television, and hearing kind words from people who had seen it felt very rewarding and reminded me of why I’m doing what I’m doing.  I mainly just want to be known for doing quality work, treating people with respect, and having a good sense of humor. 

DRCHorror means so much to millions across the globe. What does horror mean to you? Let’s place your title of writer/director aside for a moment and pretend you’re simply a fan. What is the significance of horror in the year 2016?

ReaI feel like horror allows us to face our fears in a way that is safe.  We all have primal fears that follow us in our everyday life and it’s cathartic to sit back and see a visual representation of them from the safety of a movie theater…or our couch.  Death is going to get all of us at some point, so in many ways I feel like horror movies are, in a way, preparing us for our own demise.  For me, it’s comforting.  I love being scared.  I think, as far as horror in 2016, we may see films that will subtly or not-so-subtly reflect our current state of the world – whether it be war, societal issues, the current election, or even the latest technologies. 

DRCMany would argue horror is a genre void of merit or credibility. Why do you think horror is the genre that will truly never die? Does the genre deserve more attention from critics?

ReaI think horror will always live on because of its target demographic.  Teens love to be scared and they carry those movies that frightened them into their adulthood and eventually pass them on to their kids.  My dad showing me The Exorcist for the first time was an important moment in my life.  I think that making a very good horror film is extremely difficult and requires a lot of preparation….and when successful, critics do take notice.  The recent film It Follows is an example of a horror film that critics really took a liking to.

DRCIf you could name some of your absolute favorite horror films, what would they be and why? It’s always interesting to get inside the mind of a filmmaker. What films have influenced your own style? 

Rea: I love all different kinds of horror films. Some of my favorites are Poltergeist, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Omen, Friday the 13th, and Halloween. The films of John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and Steven Spielberg have all influenced me. I have always appreciated their films stylistically. They were all very smooth and beautifully composed. A lot of these [films] were the ones I snuck around watching as a kid in the late 1980s and early 1990s…so they had a distinct impression on me. 

DRCI love to have a little fun portion to conclude each interview I conduct. Let’s say you’re the latest cast member of a hit reality series documenting the lives of you and your friends/enemies. Every reality star has his or her own tagline. Something shallow, like, “Life isn’t all diamonds and rosé…but it should be.” What would your tagline be, Mr. Horror Director?

Rea: Hmm…that’s a tough one. How about this: “Short, sleep-deprived, and bearded. But tough as blood-soaked nails!”

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Be sure to follow Rea’s work in the new year, and give credit where it is due. It is not only inspiring to chat with an individual well on his way to being a master of the craft, but exciting to see the horror family coming together to celebrate the communion and fellowship of simply being scared. Check out the trailer [below] to Rea’s 2013 feature Nailbiter, and follow him on Twitter.