In the world of horror cinema, most of the big names find something they are good at and stick with it. John Carpenter is known for directing, Robert Englund is known for acting. Richard Band is known for composing. Sometimes, however, individuals come along who branch out and find that they are actually exceptionally good at many different areas of film making and they become known for all of them. Lon Chaney managed the task until his death in 1930. Tom Savini continues to this day to act, direct, work on special effects, and do stunt work. In independent film, this is a much more common occurrence due to the need to keep budgets to a minimum.
Even though carrying out multiple tasks is not uncommon for those in the independent film business, Eric Widing may still give reason to be very impressed given all that he has accomplished. Widing has worked as an editor, producer, actor, cinematographer, director, writer, assistant director, as well as working in the sound department, editorial department, animation department, as a composer, and even as a set decorator. With this kind of resume, you know you are in for some interesting stories when you take the time to talk to Eric Widing. My interview with Widing did not disappoint.
Ira Gansler: Looking at IMDB, you seem to be an extremely multi-talented person in the indie film industry. You’ve got credits under actor, director, writer, editor, cinematographer, sound department, composer, and even set director. With all that going on, how would you say you primarily see yourself heading, or define yourself, in your film career?
Eric Widing: Well, ultimately directing is my big thing. The problem is, as far as coming up with ideas, I only come up with one idea I really like and a lot of ideas that get pushed to the side. My goal as director is maybe 10 to 15 features in my whole career. As far as editing goes, though, I’ll pretty much edit anything. I think the most prolific thing that I’ll do to keep busy and keep making money is editing, such as what I did with Haunted House on Sorority Row. I think that is going to be my future. Directing is my main focus but editing is going to likely be my most prolific.
IG: Most of your work has been with horror at this point. Do you feel a certain attachment to the horror genre?
EW: You know I do. Honestly, growing up horror was something I wasn’t really allowed to see, but I was always very curious about from a young age. In the early ‘90s I would go into the horror section of the video store and look at the cases. I remember Candyman, Hellraiser, and Child’s Play particularly caught my attention. So as a kid, I would usually imagine what horror movies were like. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started reading Stephen King and catching up with Friday the 13th, Halloween, and all the stuff I had missed out on. That was the point where I first tried to catch up on horror movies. It’s always been something I’ve enjoyed. All of my favorite movies, even if they are not horror movies, have horror elements. One of my favorites of the last decade is No Country for Old Men, which is generally a thriller, but has a lot of horror elements. That is my favorite type of movie. A thriller or drama that has a lot of horrific elements to it is really what draws me the most.
IG: With the draw being there before you were even allowed to experience it, what is your earliest horror movie memory?
EW: As a kid, I remember sneak watching Child’s Play at a friend’s house. One I was allowed to watch as a kid was Alien, which was really cool. When I was a kid, I would watch by checking out the TV guide and making sure I was able to sneak watch if something was coming on. I vaguely remember watching Nightmare on Elm Street. I think the earliest movie I really had a reaction to as a kid was Child’s Play. I thought Chucky was a pretty cool villain and it was a lot of fun.
IG: So at this point, you are probably best known for your movie, Hellhounds, which you have stated was inspired by the Robert Johnson song Hellhound on My Trail. When you look at the lyrics of that song, you can see some places that seem to line up, but there is definitely a vague connection to how they go together from an outsider’s perspective. How did you go about creating such a unique movie from this song?
EW: Well, that’s kind of a long story. I’ll try to keep it simple. I came up with Hellhounds when I was graduating college and I was having a lot of trouble finding jobs. I was uncertain about stuff. I was also unsure of where my life was going to go so I became attached to a lot of old blues songs such as Hellhounds on My Trail. I like the concept of that song. Mostly, a lot of the stuff that Hellhounds is inspired by is really the back story of the song. The back story is that Robert Johnson has supposedly sold his soul for great music ability, whereas in Hellhounds what he sold his soul for is kind of vague. I just like the idea of a guy being on the run from evil whether it is metaphorical or physical.
IG: That being the story of where the idea came from, what was your inspiration for creating such a visually unique movie? Because I think that is one of the things that really stands out for the fans of Hellhounds is the amazing visuals.
EW: A lot of the visuals came from this experimental film maker named Stan Brakhage. He’s done a lot of stuff and has been very influential in the music video industry. A lot of classic MTV videos were influenced by his editing techniques. One of his most famous works is called Dog Star Man. It has a lot of really crazy negative visual, negative filters, a lot of various colors, and a lot of quick cutting. Originally I was going to take a more traditional visual approach to Hellhounds. One point in the middle of filming, I got kind of burnt out on that and wanted to try something new. So, I watched Dog Star Man again on YouTube. It had been several years since I had seen it. I really liked the primal experience of it and how you can really get lost in the visuals. So Stan Brakhage is a big influence on the colors and stuff. I also like David Lynch a lot, his use of dreams and dream atmospheres. So a lot of that was also influential on the visuals and atmospheres of Hellhounds. Also, some black metal videos with the images of demons in dark rooms and that sort of thing. Just the look and feel of black metal videos is an influence as well.
IG: Something I found very interesting and unusual as I was doing my research for this interview is that, according to IMDB, you are a freelance videographer and journalist for REN TV in Russia, which to me sounds pretty damn cool. What’s involved in that and how did you get connected with a Russian television program?
EW: It’s kind of a funny story. REN TV is kind of like Russia’s version of ABC or NBC. They’re a big network. They do a lot of interviews internationally, especially with people who had a scientific experience. I interviewed a UFOologist, along with a nuclear physicist, and I actually interviewed the hockey player Sergei Brobrowski. I recently interviewed a professor in West Virginia. So they are very science based for the most part. I actually got in touch with them through Craigslist. They were looking for a freelance videographer in Dayton. At first, I thought it was some kind of scam. I was thinking, “What is Russia doing out here?” Then once I talked to them and they explained what was going on, I thought that was a pretty cool gig. Yeah, it’s pretty interesting to go just a couple of hours outside my house and film something that is going to air on Russian TV. I’ve never seen any of the original or completed work that I’ve done for them. I know the interview with Sergei Brobrowski was for a news report. The interview with the UFOologist was for a documentary they were doing on UFOs.
IG: What would your dream project be?
EW: That’s an easy one. I have this script I’ve been working on for about fifteen years. It’s current title is Live for the Kill, but that could potentially change. That is my ultimate dream project. I thought about it initially as a kid and then I made it make more sense. Then as a teenager, I added more to it. It’s just stuck with me ever since. It’s never gone away. I’ve felt a lot of attachment to it. It’s also one that to do it the way I envision would require somewhat of a budget, like a real filmmaker’s budget. That would easily be my dream project. If someone gave me a million dollars to make anything, it would definitely be Live for the Kill.
IG: Anyone who looks into your work or follows you on Facebook knows that you are a huge heavy metal fan and have actually directed several heavy metal music videos. So is this a part of your career that you are trying to pursue more?
EW: You know, when I first graduated school, I thought I would have a lot more luck shooting heavy metal videos. It’s mostly been for friends because a lot of the metal bands I’ve encountered either don’t have a lot of money for videos, because their focus is on music, understandably so. I thought I was going to get a lot more into that when I graduated school, but it’s something I really enjoy doing. I’m a lot more willing to play ball with metal bands to get a video out for them because I feel most in my element when I direct videos like that. I feel like I can get more creative and use more of a style seen in Hellhounds when I do metal videos. It’s something I’d like to continue, I just haven’t really pursued music videos in a couple of years. I would like to do it in the future, though, if the opportunity arises.
IG: Anything big, or anything currently in the works for your fans to look forward to at the moment?
EW: Well, I am working on another script. I have a lot of ideas going in my head. I’m potentially going to take a film I wrote called Depravity and write it from the villain’s perspective. Depravity is another sort of pet project of mine that I am willing to take another direction with. So, that’s something that will most likely happen in the next few years. My next project before that will likely be something simpler. I’m still working on what exactly I want that to be.
IG: Final question for you. This is kind of the big, broad one, but I like to get the perspective of different people in the horror industry on this. How do you define horror?
EW: That’s a good question. Horror to me is anything that makes you feel horrified. Horror explores dark elements. It doesn’t have to be scary, per say, as long as it portrays dark, horrific elements in some way whether that’s psychological or focusing on blood and gore. Anything that makes you feel a sense of dread and focuses on causing fear and making you feel uncomfortable based on tapping into your ultimate fear that you would never even want to think about, makes you question certain aspects of your life, or question certain habits that you have so you don’t meet the same fate as the character from the movie. Generally, horror causes a sense of dread and explores fears.