GUY’S GUY: An Interview with Gian Keys of THE LOVE WITCH

thelovewitch_kingofficeInterviewee Gian Keys (above), appearing as Detective Griff Meadows in Anna Biller‘s latest film, THE LOVE WITCH. / Image rights belong to respective owners and not DRC.

The Love Witch marks filmmaker Anna Biller’s triumphant return to the spotlight, after previous genre hit Viva. Find screening dates here.
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With an incredible Rotten Tomatoes score of 95%, The Love Witch “offers an absorbing visual homage to a bygone era, arranged subtly in service of a thought-provoking meditation on the battle of the sexes.” — Rotten Tomatoes, 2016. 
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DRCYou’re no stranger to genre acting. Heading into the new year in the coming months, we are seeing a gradual push for independent cinema becoming the norm. What’s your take on the current state of mainstream cinema?
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KEYSFirst, I’d like to say, ‘Thank you,’ for giving me an opportunity to be a part of DRIPPING RED CINEPHILE.  It seems the big studios do a lot of comic book movies and sequels.  I’ve heard it’s because there’s less risk involved, which makes sense from a business standpoint.  Although, it could mean fewer original movies being made, which can be frustrating to those of us who enjoy a great story surrounded by beautiful cinematography and fantastic performances.  I’ll admit, I do enjoy my fair share of car chases and crazy CGI effects, but I usually prefer a film with more substance, layers, a message, and not simply loud noises to distract me from everyday life. 
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DRCAnna Biller is quite the powerhouse filmmaker. The Love Witch brings a new type of narrative to audiences potentially unaware of the forgotten genre films of the 1960s. What was your initial reaction after reading Ms. Biller’s script for the film? Tell us a little about the creative process with her.
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KEYSWell, I wasn’t sure what to think, because I’d never read anything quite like it. So, I had to read it again.  I definitely liked the character I played — Detective Griff Meadows — because I can relate to him on so many levels.  I spent four years in the U.S. Air Force, so I’m familiar with the idea of having strict rules to follow and being a rather straight-laced kinda guy.  The more Anna and I talked about the project, the more I could see what she was going for.  Initially, it’s difficult to see how all the colors were going to come into play, but Anna had a  clear vision of what she wanted and she explained it very clearly.  I wasn’t overly familiar with movies from the ’60s and ’70s, so Anna gave me a list of films to watch.  This played a big part in helping me to understand how she wanted Griff Meadows to be played.  I’d say we worked very well together.
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DRCGriff, the primary male-lead in The Love Witch, arguably represents the power of masculinity and the early-1960s fear of challenging the patriarchy. His character initially reinforces the stereotype of men being dominant over women, but later changes in the second half of the film. How did you mentally approach the role? In your opinion, what does his character represent?
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KEYS:  I’ve learned a lot from my acting coach, Joe Palese. He talks about how important it is for characters to have a an arch during a film, instead of being one-note throughout the entire piece.  So, things that happen to Griff Meadows need to affect and change him in some way.  He’s a dominant male from the ’60s, but he’s also quite human.  I wanted to combine how men were perceived on film during that era, but also include the human aspect that exists in all eras.  I think he represents a certain type of man — the rugged, masculine, guy’s guy who was raised properly and taught the importance of being honest and doing the right thing.  He also represents the traditional male who’s in charge and probably uses the philosophy of, ‘It’s my way or the highway.’
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DRCThe Love Witch directly challenges the very concept of sexuality, in its unabashed disconnect of sexual physicality and actual romantic connection. Tell us a little about what the character of Elaine, the witch herself, represents, to you, about ‘sexuality.’
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KEYSAh, yes, sexuality.  Well, sexuality can be weird, awkward, and uncomfortable at times.  Elaine is young, and she’s simply trying to figure out what works for her.  Men and women are quite different, so I think it’s great she’s trying to understand how men tick.  However, in the process…she ends up killing a few.  Uh oh, is that a spoiler alert?  Elaine may have underestimated herself.  I don’t believe she needed any ‘love magic’ to attract Griff Meadows. 
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DRCThe film has been getting insane press and amazing reviews in the past several months. With a bigger spotlight being placed on indie genre cinema, what other types of ‘genre film’ would you like to see hit the big screen? Any dream roles or types of characters you’d like to play in the future?
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KEYSI’d like to see more Film-Noir.  I recently saw La La Land, which I really enjoyed, so maybe a bit more from the Musical genre.  After seeing Ryan Gosling in La La Land, I think it’d be a heck of a lot of fun to learn to sing and dance for a musical.  I took several months of voice training for The Love Witch, so I’m well on my way to singing. Ha-ha!  I’d also like to do a gritty Western, like some of the old Clint Eastwood movies.  I took four lessons on horseback riding for The Love Witch, so I’m halfway there to ropin’ and ridin’.
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DRCYou recently co-created an original series — F***in’ Actors. Obviously a comedy. Tell us a little about the series, and how we can surely get hooked. Where’d the initial concept come from, and what can we see from your character on the series?
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KEYSWell, F**KIN’ ACTORS was originated by myself and my friend, Ashton Bingham.  Ashton’s great with comedy.  We were both in the same acting class, and I approached him on putting together some short comedy scenes, so I could put together a comedy acting reel.  He then got the idea  that we do more with it and possibly create a series.  Actors, and many of the things actors do in order to be successful, are quite bizarre, especially to those who don’t know exactly how the industry works.  We essentially set out to make fun of ourselves doing the varied things actors do.  Ashton and I are very different.  We’re similar to the characters Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum play in the Jump Street movies.  A bit of the blind leading the blind.  My character, Chase Anderson, is very high-strung and intense.  He’s like the bull in the China shop, whereas Ashon’s character is far more mellow. We decided to enter our series into a few film festivals, and the next thing we knew, we’d won six awards for Best Web Series.  It blew our minds.  Our main platform is YouTube.  If you type in ‘F**KIN” ACTORS,’ all seven episodes will pop up. 
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DRCWhat can we expect to see from Gian Keys in the future? Any other upcoming projects we’ll get to see on the big screen?
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KEYSGian Keys is working his way up the Hollywood acting ladder.  The Love Witch is the biggest role I’ve had, and it’s leading to some wonderful connections and opportunities.  It’s a bit early to mention projects, because I don’t want to jinx myself.  Ha-ha! Not that I’m superstitious or anything.  Later today, I’ll be doing an interview with Huffington Post about The Love Witch and my career, so I’m quite excited about that.  Gian will continue to pound the pavement and beat the bushes, in order to become a super successful actor.
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DRCLastly, we have to ask — if your character in The Love Witch were to get involved with magic or witchcraft, what would his spell be? To go a step further, what would Gian Keys’ spell be, in real life?
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KEYSGriff Meadow’s spell of choice would be a ‘truth’ spell.  He’d like to be able to tell if anyone is lying, which would help him put away the ‘bad guys.’  Gian’s spell of choice would be a fountain of youth spell — which probably isn’t a spell — but then, his family and friends would be around forever.
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To follow Keys’ career, be sure to check in with his Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram/ DRC thanks Mr. Keys for his time, and wishes him a long career filled with success.

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.