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IFH 621: The Art of Directing Horror Comedies with Damon Thomas

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Damon Thomas is well known for making documentaries. He’s documentaries includes Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and David Beckham: A Footballer’s Story. He also directed the hit shows Killing Eve (2018), Beethoven (2005) and Dracula (2020).

His latest film “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” is a 2022 American supernatural comedy horror film from a screenplay by Jenna Lamia, based on the 2016 novel of the same name by Grady Hendrix. In 1988 best friends Abby and Gretchen navigate boys, pop culture and a paranormal force clinging to Gretchen. With help from a mall exorcist, Abby is determined to compel the demon back to the pits of hell — if it doesn’t kill Gretchen first.

The film stars Elsie Fisher, Amiah Miller, Cathy Ang and Rachel Ogechi Kanu. The film was released on Prime Video on September 30, 2022.

Enjoy my conversation with Damon Thomas.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Damon Thomas 0:00
It's not It's that thing again. I'm not overreaching. Does this feel right? It's just sitting right? You know, you have to constantly be your own worst critic guy, or is this crap?

Alex Ferrari 0:10
This episode is brought to you by the Best Selling Book Rise of the Filmtrepreneur how to turn your independent film into a money making business. Learn more at filmbizbook.com. I'd like to welcome to the show, Damon Thomas. How you doing Damon?

Damon Thomas 0:26
Great, great bit tired. We had the screening last night the premiere, it was like 300 people at the Art fest. So it was a big night. Live Reactions like talking about it was a great night. I'm really pleased to be here.

Alex Ferrari 0:40
Great, my friend. Congratulations on your new film my best friend's actress exorcism, which is as insane as it sounds. Right. It's one of those titles like Sharknado like you know what you're gonna get?

Damon Thomas 0:56
I 100% agree with it. Like, as soon as I got sent that in my inbox, like in 2019. And it was like my best friend's exorcism. I thought this brilliant or, you know, you just can't wait to read it. And every moment since I got signed up to do it, where people say to me, Hey, what you're up to and I go, I'm doing my best friend's exorcism. People always smile. It's just, I mean, they go wow, really? And they go Yeah. I said, Well, you know, what is about

Alex Ferrari 1:26
It's about my best friend's exorcism. I mean, it's, it's, it's perfect. I mean, it's like jaw is like, you know what you're gonna get?

Damon Thomas 1:34
Wait. And yeah, so then you say is certainly at is great.

Alex Ferrari 1:42
You had me at hello. Hello. That's the brilliant part about it, too, as I was watching him just going. I love the 80s. I mean, everyone's doing 80s stuff now and Stranger Things is brought it back and made it cool. But for my generation, and I'm assuming yours as well, the 80s You know, is awesome.

Damon Thomas 2:03
So my first question is simpler times, right?

Alex Ferrari 2:06
Oh my gosh, can you America, simpler times when there was no Internet, there was no social media. I mean, there was you barely had remote controls on the television.

Damon Thomas 2:14
Right? I mean, I mean, when you think about you had to if you are going to meet someone you phoned, and if you had a dial up phone, you would

Alex Ferrari 2:24
Tatatatatata

Damon Thomas 2:24
He would slip on like the seven digit you go put the phone down, go start that whole thing again. And then you call your friend and say like, I meet you there, put the phone down, you go to that place. And if they weren't there, you were like, where are they? And then you'd have to find a phone box, call their house and go, do you know where they are? And they go where they left? 20 minutes?

Alex Ferrari 2:45
No, no, it's like yours last.

Damon Thomas 2:51
Oh, so you know, slight sort of off topic. But the feeling of boredom was something to behold back in the 80s. You know, what, if you have nothing to do, there wasn't that instant, kind of like dopamine hit off something new from you're like, oh, let's go down a rabbit hole down the internet now. And you would just use a stare and feel so bored. It was untrue. It was like a sort of sport. It was like, profound, bored.

Alex Ferrari 3:19
On you had three channels. And if nothing was on that you liked. You were pretty much done. Until you had a friend who had cable. Yeah, then you would go over and maybe get three more channels. And then you'd be if there's nothing there. You have to go outside and actually interact with other human beings. Scary territory.

Damon Thomas 3:35
Exactly. Or you had to like think of something to do didn't you had to go read a book? I get ya read. I mean, God read a book. I mean, wow. Anyway, yeah,

Alex Ferrari 3:47
it's just a bunch of now we just sound like two old farts talk

Damon Thomas 3:52
Said it

Alex Ferrari 3:54
Just two old farts talking about the old. Exactly, exactly. So my first question, sir, is how and why did you want to get into this insanity? That is the film business?

Damon Thomas 4:07
Oh, yeah. For me, it started when I watched Blade Runner in the cinema. Now, I just went, I need to be in that somewhere I need to be in that. I mean, even back then there was so little information about what that was working in the film industry. There was like we used to have this program that was just called film or whatever the year it was that Barry Norman used to present it was going to film 1985 or database two. And then you would just watch that and that was the only information and occasion you'd have an answer documentary. And that was nothing else. And then you might look up films in in encyclopedias, and now,

Alex Ferrari 4:46
We're dating ourselves so badly.

Damon Thomas 4:52
But the funny thing is my daughter that who's like 15 or takes me it was really interesting in that movie, they were like broke the fourth wall and you No, she's got her whole sorts of like terms of reference about filmmaking and everything is so amazing that you kind of got I just feeling we were just in the darkness in the wilderness. And so, so that I kind of got into documentaries. And then I kind of came, you know, I took me a long while to sort of find my roots into drama and started directing drama. But then, of course, I just always wanted to make the movie,

Alex Ferrari 5:29
Isn't it? Isn't it interesting, though, that I have kids as well, and they are, but you know, much more educated then. Because it's just so much more information about everything. Yeah. I mean, the you would get the occasional Star Wars making up or the Indiana Jones making and that was pretty much it. I mean, you didn't see anything else until in the later 80s. When, you know, then it started to become a little bit better than nine DVD commentaries and laser discs. Now really old commentaries on the laser, the criteria, laser distance, stuff like that,

Damon Thomas 5:58
Didn't you want it to hear like how he did stuff you? It was like, you know, behind the curtain, the The Wizard of Oz, it's like, how are they doing this stuff? How is it being made? How'd you do this? And whereas now they were, you can just go on YouTube and go, like, how do you do that, I'll just put it in, you know, and I'll find someone telling me how it's done. Or if someone would have made a film about it, it's, that is sort of great, because it opens it up to everybody in a way.

Alex Ferrari 6:24
But then then the bad thing is it opens it up to everybody. So now before you didn't have as much competition, like I always tell people like in the 80s, if you finished a film on 35, it was sold. Like you just good, bad. I mean, Toxic Avenger got theatrical release, like, it doesn't really matter. But now everybody's making a movie. And now it's about getting seen and all of that kind of stuff. But you were saying about your daughter knowing had the reference from references about that. The generation that's, that's now it is so educated in story. It is so difficult for the for us as filmmakers and storytellers. Because make something that's interesting that doesn't hasn't been done before. And every year that goes by, it's getting harder, and harder and harder to because, you know, things that worked in the 70s and 80s. Just don't they can't work and like I was showing, I think it was some kids were watching Rocky the other day, Rocky, Rocky, and they're like, because every because they've just seen every buddy rip off rocky. Yeah, for the last 4050 years. So it doesn't have the same umph to it as it used to. So it's how do you as a storyteller, kind of kind of deal with that? Because it is something very, very difficult things that Hitchcock never had to deal with weed.

Damon Thomas 7:47
I mean, I suppose every genre has tropes. So and the you know, the horror genre is a very broad church from slasher movies, to psychological horror, to sci fi horror, you know, to alien aliens knows amazing movies to kind of comedy horror. And so you either the, The Exorcist is sort of like the benchmark of like the hand. So Handbook of cartoons, you know, do you? Are you going to do the vault net? Are you going to do the, you know, are you going to do and, and how are you going to do it? And it's sort of interesting, because you're always going to disappoint someone, you're always going to someone's gonna go up. I wasn't scary. But the thing about it is I did it, what want the film to have this sort of tone that felt like an 80s movie. And then it kind of went into a completely new realm of like, oh, wait, you know, where did that come from? I wanted to stay within the same thing. So the exorcism for me was a great, I thought, can we pull off this thing where it's kind of scary and quite disturbing, but then it's funny. It's like, relieved by this real character of Christian lemma. And the thing is, because once you he's sort of desperate, but and, you know, when I when I first met Chris, we were talking about it rehearsing. I said, he's sort of a loser, but he's kind of a bit cocky. But he cocky or cocky loser? Yeah. And he does want this. He does want it really bad. So that when the demon shows himself and he just goes like, yes. Even a high five, she's totally chocolate sized. And for me, and it was great watching it last night, because people really enjoyed that moment, and really enjoyed Christian lemon. And I think actually, it's it showed me that there's kind of quite a nice group dynamic when you think you could really watch this movie with a group of friends. Oh, yeah. It's not like I don't think it's a sort of, well, you know, people will watch obviously watch your mobile device devices all the time, but it actually made me really think about that group experience of watching movies. You know, I went to the cinema As I see Thor and my son, you know, a week ago and now it's it is great being in the cinema, isn't it? There's something that is said. That's why I thought last night I thought it actually really helps when everyone's going through because like when, when the when there is she burns him address them. They all cheered last night. It was fantastic. Thank you not expecting it.

Alex Ferrari 10:27
But it's primal, theatrical experiences. It's a primal experience. And we're all around the fire. Yeah, it's a primal thing and group experiences of a story, where, you know, the core of all stories is basically to teach us not to be eaten by the tiger down the street. Yeah, you know, around around the corner. That was the point of stories around the campfire as they were, and then they evolved into morals and lessons and things. And now it's entertainment. Because we get a lot of the meat and potatoes from other other kinds of media. But it is, yeah, you're absolutely right, without question now.

Damon Thomas 10:58
But just also just to pick up on that point is, I think that even if you have never made a movie TV, and you know, but you've people sort of absorbed so much about, you sort of watch something you go, they're gonna get together, he's gonna die. He won't, you know, you just feel it right? If you feel that, you know it, because you know how these things work, you sort of said that when you get like, you know, say a series of severance or station 11, you're on TV, you let you go, I've got no idea where this is going. And they feel quite refreshing. And I wanted to do some things where you sort of felt I thought, it'd be funny if this felt like a movie that somebody thought they hadn't seen from the 80s. So have a bit of an 80s vibe. And but also, if you had an exorcist, it was just so unlike any excess, you've seen before, and, and to really get to make him so we I really set him up so that when he comes to the exorcism, you really enjoyed him. So that was the high fives that he's always doing. Up top, you know that stuff. But you know, he's cheesy, but you know, there were weightlifting, Christian evangelist, if you put it on YouTube, you can see these guys pumping iron for Jesus, and they exist that they were real, they were real people. So it's not far fetched. And he is a real person, he is like, totally believes that, you know, his purity. I mean, I even realized that he can't remember Gretchen's name. Yeah, it comes out in the middle of it. It goes, You know what, such a, it's so true. Because it's all about him.

Alex Ferrari 12:42
Obviously, obviously, you know, it's, it's brilliant. And you're right, it's so because we've just seen it so much. And we've seen it and we've seen it done well. And we've seen it some bad, you know, so like, if you're gonna see a shark, if you're gonna see a shark movie, and you've seen Jaws, it's gonna be tough for you to figure out a new way to do a sharp move, because it was done pretty much unanimously. The first exam the DHS is, it's the same thing. It's flawless.

Damon Thomas 13:10
I know some people then get disappointed if you don't do the things that have been done before. Because you're like, Well, what happened to that? Where's that? You know, and they go, but you're like, you were saying, how do you do different you're trying to find ways to either, like, reinvent the wheel, if it's already been filmed and done, like 1000 times. So you are, you're in kind of familiar territory, but you know, I did want to Yeah, as best as I best cuts just get that tone. Right. And, you know, if people you know, you can only do what you can do, you know, there's always

Alex Ferrari 13:44
Yeah, yeah, it Listen, it's we're in, we're in the world of everyone has an opinion. And everyone can express that opinion on Rotten Tomatoes, or on you know, mats and things like that, and social media. But at the end of the day, as a filmmaker, you just got to do what you got to do. One thing I love about about the movie is that you are able to balance humor and horror, which is not easy. It is not easy to do that as a filmmaker, as a storyteller, because I've seen really bad because if the balance is off, I've seen bad horror comedies, where if the balance is off, you know, like Evil Dead to an Army of Darkness. Like they'll those movies. You know what, Sam? Sam general, could do no harm. No wrong in my eyes. But yeah, but he's able to balance that and you were able to balance the horror and the comedy beautifully in this film. Oh, because it's not it's not easy. It's not easy.

Damon Thomas 14:35
Yeah, I mean, I think it comes from truce, I think. If your characters feel like the real article, even if they are heightened, I mean, we all we all know people that feel quite heightened type. So you're gonna meet people who are strong flavors, and they're real people. And Christian lemon is a strong flavor. And yeah, but as long as he's being truthful to that character in that sort of set of circumstances. And it's sort of balanced with, you know, Abby's kind of like sheer like, Oh my God. You know, it was one of the things I put in because he just sort of say actually is an exorcism. And it originally she, she went, Well, how do I do that? I just sort of I kind of said she would really go, well, it's not a normal thing. You know, generally, it's been fun but because it's an exorcism movie doesn't mean that everyone knows that, you know, an exorcism is something that is actually real. So so he talks about really patulous way, but he gets the job as an excellence as demon inside it, these these really patronizing to her. And I thought that's exactly what he would say, like, are you stupid?

Alex Ferrari 15:52
Come on, of course, it's just the team. Yeah.

Damon Thomas 15:55
So to your point is that if you have, it's like in killing Eve, I did a scene where Eve kills a guy with an axe, like being spurred on by Villanelle. But that's that scene is quite funny. Because the axe gets stuck in his back and says she can't pull it out. And so she's being shouted that, like, hits him again. She's saying I can't have access. And the guys go, Ah, it sounds kind of really disturbing. But it's funny because I think those things can sit right next to each other like, because the Coen brothers do it all the time. They kind of, you know, they put like, weight. And I think that it's it's a bit like when you go to a funeral that they're you feel like sometimes doing the other thing that you're not meant to like laughing, because it's the relief intention that you need, because of the emotional expectation. You're

Alex Ferrari 16:50
I'm sorry, I don't mean to trump your budget. Do you when you sell a funeral? Do you? I don't know if you saw this online somewhere, but some guy died. Okay, he died. And at his funeral, he put a speaker he had his family put a speaker inside of the inside of the casket. And as their as their this is part of his wishes, as it's being laid down. Like, hey, hey, no, no, no, no, no, I'm alive. I'm alive. And he's hitting and knocking and, and it's and people are pissing themselves. I mean, everyone's crying. But then everyone starts laughing because they know it's, what'd he do? I'm like, Oh, my God, that is so brilliant.

Damon Thomas 17:29
He's brilliant. He's fantastic. Isn't it as well for planning?

Alex Ferrari 17:34
That's, yeah, he I think he was sick and he was gonna die. I'm gonna do this. I'm going to do this, right. And my favorite tombstone ever is like I told you, I was ill.

Damon Thomas 17:44
That's brilliant. Very, very good.

Alex Ferrari 17:47
Now. So when you started your career, Damon, I'm assuming that the second you said, I'm going to be a director, that the trucks of money came in, all the doors came wide open and said, whatever you want to do, all you have is time and money.

Damon Thomas 18:01
Oh, my God, if only Yeah, I know. I've had it's a long journey. I did a degree at physics and I, of course,

Alex Ferrari 18:10
Prerequisite to be a filmmaker. Yeah,

Damon Thomas 18:13
I mean, I just got a job in, you know, I got a job in BBC News. And then I gave her up to go and work on an arts program and then gradually just did more and more documentaries that did drama documentaries with about Beethoven and other things. And then I got, yeah, just got a break. You know, someone actually approached me to do a drama documentary. And I said, why don't we just do a drama, and it was set in the Antarctic, and we had like 120,000 pounds. To make it said that I were filmed inside and out as an ice fridge. It was all set on one of Scott's Antarctic missions. So that said that their breath was all sort of

Alex Ferrari 18:54
Because there's no budget for VFX no budget for VFX.

Damon Thomas 18:57
Yeah. And we went we snowed up a studio. That was tiny. And yeah, it was. Yeah. So it started back then in 2006. So yeah, it's been a long road. You know, there's been a lot of us a lot of Miles.

Alex Ferrari 19:11
Miles on the tires, as they say. Yeah. So the question is, though, because a lot of filmmakers listening are going through these stages. And again, even in Oh, six. It was a different world than we are today. Like, you know, it's so much more difficult to get in now than it was in the early 2000s. How did you keep going? Is there any advice you can give to filmmakers? Right?

Damon Thomas 19:35
I mean, obviously, back then, it was a bit like if you wanted to make a record, you know, you you'd like you could you just couldn't afford to go into a recording studio, so they seemed very out touch beyond reach. I think the good thing about today is you can make a movie on your iPhone. And I think the thing what you learn by just doing it is sort of you know, How'd you make something that just kind of engages people? You know, and I think that that's the thing, if just start making stuff, even if it's you, you know, you and a friend do something about your life, suddenly, there's kind of like, you could be filming your own house when your garden or down the park or things that you kept. So they don't need huge production. So it sets something contemporary, and just start sort of just putting something together. Because the thing is, that's what people judge you about. They kind of look at you and see how do you well voice every last story? Can you do something funny? Can you make something? And, you know, it's amazing how you can engage people with something very small. It's like, Don't overreach. That's always the thing about filmmaking is, you know, don't just spend all your money on one shot and the rest of the film feels like it's no money.

Alex Ferrari 20:50
But Kubrick and Scorsese did it. Why can't I?

Damon Thomas 20:54
But, you know, I was reading gonna take because I love the shining.

Alex Ferrari 20:58
My favorite, one of my favorites,

Damon Thomas 21:00
Right! It's such an amazing film. And, you know, Jack Nicklaus axed 60 doors to get his Johnny. That's three. mean,

Alex Ferrari 21:14
I mean, you imagine, can you imagine taking one of the biggest movie stars in the world today? And you're not Stanley Kubrick and going, Yeah, or David Fincher at this point. And yeah, and just 66

Damon Thomas 21:29
Number 14. I like exhausted, like, axing costs,

Alex Ferrari 21:33
I think. I think I'm sorry, but I think Fincher on social network. When when I think Andrew Garfield had to smash the the, the laptop. Yeah. And they did like 40 of them had he had literally 40 laptops sitting down, because he knew it was good it because that's David Fincher.

Damon Thomas 21:54
Yeah, I mean, yeah, it's weird. We don't all have that. I mean, you know, his tutor, you could say he's right, because he turns out brilliant film, right? It his process network is, you know, that shining is a masterpiece. And they change, they change filmmaking daily, they change sorts of that, you know, when I, when I was doing killing Eve that I was quite influenced by, you know, Jack Torrance when he's sitting there, and the whole dance is going on behind it this whole I know, it's so like, at the edge of the world sort of madness. And so when I do killing him, I suggested that we do this, this kind of like afternoon tea dance. So you go into this environment and villain I was waiting there. And this is old fashioned music playing all these people just dancing. And it's like the edge of time. And I just, you get really influenced by, you know, but sorry, I was sort of digressing. I mean, in terms of filmmaking, you just have to do if the more you do, the more you sort of learn, because you sort of realize no sound is quite important, a good sound, you know, and it gets forgotten, you know, sound cooked, you know, to get great sound that you can actually use it because a lot of times we have to do re recording a lot of dialogue was it's like planes and all sorts of fridges on in the background. And, you know, someone just decides to sort of, you go to the quietest place in the world. And on that day, there's a guy getting his tree cut out. And there's like, you go over, you get like, people come over, go, can you not cut your trees? And he goes, No, I've paid for it. You know, you're like, oh, my gosh. But you know, it's all those. And you learn how I mean, you know, working as I started as a trainee news additive, you start realizing, Oh, you can cut that picture that picture, they sort of come together. Oh, yeah. How do you cut those? Oh, we actually need a cutaway on that, again, a detail shot because it's how it helps me tell that story. And you realize that sort of objects. If you see objects in someone's room, you can actually tell exactly who they are very quickly. And so art direction and all the bits you need, it's like a messy desk. It's interesting how some people do a messy desk, but it's sort of looks like a sort of presentation. It looks messy desks actually have smears on them and bits of crumbs. And it's all that kind of thing that you start to you become, you know, over the you just become super observant about things in a kind of really all the time, things that you sort of that make all the difference. Now, you may be watching it as a kind of year ago, like it doesn't feel right doesn't feel like a real thing. But you can't put your finger on why it doesn't feel real. It's a bit like doorframes. In a real house, they tend to have quite a lot of scuffs lower down. Because all the things have gone through them over time. If they look pristine, it looks like a new build. You know, it's sort of it's all those details that you start to get quite attuned to as a director when you start doing stuff. But you know, story is key, you know, what's the story? And is it engaging? It's sort of like you can dress things up with you can spend millions on effects, but they don't engage you about the human condition, then you ended up going, I don't care. You know, if you're going to see a film that was 100 million dollars, you saw that. Because we've seen everything go away.

Alex Ferrari 25:18
I mean, if Jurassic Park was just a bunch of dinosaurs walking around and be like, it'd be a documentary, you needed a story you needed to connect to those characters, you needed the magic that Spielberg brings in. Do you know On a sidenote, since you such as a Kubrick fan, do you know I'm sure you do though this but he, I think it was four Eyes Wide Shut, right. Had his assistant runner up for a year run around? Oh, no, not theaters? No, no, the the side tables of couples in a bed, and he just go into people's houses. It is take hundreds, hundreds of pictures of just how people kept the side tables at night. And he just used them as reference to build out his side tables for

Damon Thomas 26:05
And us who are things that

Alex Ferrari 26:09
You just get a bit but you're talking about someone who spent seven years prepping that movie. And it was great that he did but it was horrible that he did because we didn't get more Stanley Kubrick films, I wouldn't die. I would love to see what Stanley would do with today's technology. Can you imagine? Imagine?

Damon Thomas 26:25
I mean, you know, 2000 a while it's just it's so clever. And so, so interesting, you know, there was sort of being made in the late 60s. And it's kind of amazing, you sort of they are different times. And he was a particular, you know, very particular director. You know, I'm I'm also a big fan of like, really, Scott, you know, I think people people are still trying to make alien and Blade Runner. Yeah, they're still trying to make the air those are the benchmarks in the way that, you know, it's, you know, that sort of dirty future, like rain soaks, sort of the clash of kind of, like different cultures around the world, you know, that whole feeling? I, you know, it's it. Of course, they were, they were slightly you can feel it from the effects point of view, but they there's so the characters are so great. And they're stylization, mixed together, that kind of, you know, realization of is, you know, they had such an impact on me. And, yeah, it's why these, you know, you can still go back to this, but that's what I think about how many films you actually revisit, and we watch Apocalypse Now, you know, blew my mind when I watched it, I can still rewatch that film every single time because it's, you still see something new in it, and you just think it's so incredible. And, you know, and the conversation, you know, another amazing, amazing film, but also great, you know, surveillance, you know, I like I really liked that movie, the lives of others, which is another surveillance movie, you know, another brilliant film, because they're all about the human condition, but they just tell great stories really well told. And I think that that's what you're always trying to do. Whether we succeed.

Alex Ferrari 28:22
It's not easy. This is not easy, telling a good movie telling a good story. I mean, if you're a good storyteller, and even the best storytellers that we have in the film industry, they don't get it every time. There's very few that have impeccable photography, it's something else times,

Damon Thomas 28:39
Essentially. And the thing is, you know, nobody sets out to make a big pile of crap. You know, you've never noticed that says, you know, this year.

Alex Ferrari 28:48
I'm gonna, I'm gonna call me cat, I'm gonna make cat let's go make cat

Damon Thomas 28:52
40 million and then move on with me. Good. I read. It's just like, everyone he knows. It's it kind of, you know, it's a lot of people's lives, you know, spent dedicated to doing something. And that's why, of course, you know, I think it just takes a huge I think the thing about it is just not it's that thing. Again, I'm not overreaching? Does it feel right? It's just sitting right? You know, you have to constantly be your own worst critic guy, or is this crap? What is this, you know, you have to, and also you have to be able to work with people that you trust their opinion, so that when they go, that's why, you know, Robert Evans was such a great producer, because he was able to tell us some trouble if you become, you know, a celebrated director. You know, can you take criticism, because someone's hate give you a no go is any good, you know, and you go, right, actually, I think that's, and that's what I think sometimes does happen. I mean, look, you know, if if someone you know, you can make one shining in your life, you'd be happy with it.

Alex Ferrari 30:00
Oh my god. I wouldn't take any almost any movie out of out of Stanley's filmography and go. I'll take that one. You know, I'll take it all.

Damon Thomas 30:14
I mean, if and that's why these guys are amazing. And you just keep kind of going back on thing. Yeah, there's, there's no and that's why I kind of judge the film when I rewatch it. Right. It's it's like really disturbing. I don't want to rewatch it was definitely disturbing. But you know, it's funny how you can, if Jaws is on the show, watch a bit of Jaws, you know, when you just see it on a streaming platform you go, I'm gonna watch that tonight. We'll get back to it. Right you and kind of we, you know, because also these actors that are in there, you know, Dreyfus is so, so good, aren't they? There's such, the way that they inhabit those characters is,

Alex Ferrari 30:52
Is, is remarkable. Now, let me ask you, you know, as directors we there's always that day on set that we feel the entire world is coming down crashing around us. Generally, it's every day, that's everyday generally. But there's always the one

Damon Thomas 31:05
Offs in device device slowly.

Alex Ferrari 31:09
So so there's that one day, that's really bad. And you know, camera doesn't work last the location that guys cut into tree next door? What Yeah, what was that day for you on my best friend's exorcism? And how did you overcome it?

Damon Thomas 31:23
Ah, gosh, let me I'm trying to think of those days. Mistake 10. If we had like, a true chakra of a day on that, that's good. Yeah. Because the thing about it is doing it so long that you literally, it's like this sort of thing. When it comes, you just, you just let it, you sort of have to absorb it. And like I say filmmaking is like the same, but always different. Because of the actors and the team that you have. There's always that combination. And there's always something that will just go wrong. And you just have to, I think doing documentaries for years that allowed me to sort of pivot in a way of just going because I used to always turn up places like I've never been before. And they meet people film them, and they're going to film some shots. And you were just making up on literally, if you didn't get to Reki, because you couldn't sort of fly to America and meet the guy and go home again and go back and do you would just go and film them. And so you sort of so it's kind of like taught me that don't get too rigid. Apart from like, action sequences when you have to really plan on storyboards, and then pickoff shots, which takes a very, very long time. It's why like bond has like the main unit, and then it has the the action unit. They're running for like six months next to each other because of this so many shots. But I think that sort of doing documentary for so long. I just kind of if things sort of go wrong, I can just go well, let's try and do something else. It doesn't. For me, I kind of go, you know, and things just happen all the time, you know. And the classic one is you've got a driving sequence and you just go to the right just drive the car of them they go, I don't drive.

Alex Ferrari 33:22
I had fun on your headshot. But on your headshot, you say you ride horses, you play the guitar and you drive. That's when your special skills.

Damon Thomas 33:30
I always remember one guy said no, I spent the money on of dance lessons. I was you know, I literally just drive the car over here. It was like a really small oversight. And so we had to put him in the seat behind in the backseat and fill in such a way and just mine the steering wheel, but someone just drove in front of him but we got away with just that. It's just you just choose the camera angle. And just see just like that you just kind of go like, course no one's asked him if he arrives.

Alex Ferrari 34:04
But it's basically directing his compromise in so many ways. It's constantly compromising and pivoting and shifting. Because I don't know about you, I love to walk on set with and scare the hell out of my ad with like 150 shots on my shot list every day. And they're like, You are Yeah, we have eight hours. And I'm like I they're there in case things go well, I know I'm gonna shoot 20 of them. But

Damon Thomas 34:31
Exactly. And I think that is a sort of career of patience of just, I mean when you think about it as you're now it's that most of the day is spent lighting. Lighting is you know, lighting is key and makes everything look great. And you just so you know your block, size of your shots. You sit and then you start lighting. I mean They just spent a lot of time, right? And so it's like riding that wave of, oh, you know, waiting for last. But that's not the denigrating the director of photography, it's just like that is the life isn't it? So life off just kind of finding that in

Alex Ferrari 35:15
That it is then that inner Zen of place, you're like, Okay, we're ready, okay, three to how many two hours to 90 minutes, but it's gonna be two hours.

Damon Thomas 35:24
I mean, I'm the other interesting thing, I think, is that people who don't work in the industry often say, you know, when you work with actors, they go the other direction, they just do what you say, you can go. It doesn't quite work that way. Doesn't you know, that's not how it works. And they just don't understand that it's a very inexact. Science is really unique and special. And it's such a exposing amazing thing, that it's not just about you that you do that over there. It's not that it's a kind of proper creative relationship that you sort of embark on.

Alex Ferrari 36:01
Isn't it interesting that when when normies I call them normies people outside of the Carnival business that is our world, come on set. And they've only seen like, behind the scenes. Everything's edited. So like on set seems like it's, you're going fast. And they're sitting there like three hours later, they're sitting in the chair with with the headphones on for sound, and they're like, this is boring is crap. And like, is it like, on a mark on a Marvel movie? They'll spend, what, eight hours lighting for one shot? Yeah, because that's they have all the money.

Damon Thomas 36:37
In Bad Boy, just shoot two shots in a day. And just spend the whole morning just rehearsing, rehearsing a big shot that has a lot of moving parts. And that's what you do, you have to, if you're gonna shoot a shot, you got to shoot it well, or don't shoot it. This is the crazy thing sometimes about shooting is, don't shoot. That's another thing. That's another thing. I'd always say don't shoot. I'll say crap. But you know, don't shoot rubbish and shoots stuff. Because you're always going to look at later Oh, why didn't I just I knew, you know, I knew I

Alex Ferrari 37:14
I know.

Damon Thomas 37:17
And the thing about it is that's what you have to do as a director you have to go. It's not right, we need to, you know, it doesn't feel right. That's sometimes you set for a shot, and you have to have the competence. And it might have taken quite a long time to put the camera out there and the rigging or the guys the grips. And then you start looking at it. It's not right, we just actually need to be over here. And you have to have the confidence go strip it all out and have people around you that kind of out. Yes, you're making it. Yeah, we see it. And also don't get sort of that it also meant that you're doing something wrong sometimes like this, actually, you know.

Alex Ferrari 37:53
But that takes time to build up. Because when you're when you're first onset, you just don't want to look like you don't know what you're doing, of course, but as you get older and you've got more more shrapnel in you, you just go, guys, I made a mistake. Let's let's go over here. This is just not working. Let's say yeah, it's gonna take two hours. I'm sorry. Let's go.

Damon Thomas 38:12
Yeah. And you you're, you'll never regret it. Because you're, as you know, or just the footage that you get will be like you think thank God, thank God because you might as well choose something great. That took twice as long. I mean, it depends about obviously jeopardizing a location whenever you have to. That's why it's a sort of system of moving parts. You're always going, oh my god, can we, you know, we're only in here for one day, like the interior of the weird house, you know, there where it happens was actually there like the upstairs corridor. And this other building is sort of outside You'd never believe that we were that was the inside of the house. But we got real freedom to like smash it up inside. But we have such limited time in that.

Alex Ferrari 38:57
But is it but isn't it true, though, that you have to sit once in the edit room and go Why didn't I move the camera? Why did I accept that shot when I knew somebody was telling me? No, you've got to but you didn't have the balls or the confidence to change? Or? Yeah, you're in the edit and you're edit and you're in the edit room and you're like God I need either a guy God I gotta get saved somehow with this. Yeah, these are lessons you learn along the way and then eventually you just like I know I'll get the shots that I need. I gotta shoot that they ashtray why cuz I need a frickin cutaway?

Damon Thomas 39:35
Yeah. And it's just, yeah, yeah. That you have to rely on people around. You just have to rely a lot. But yeah, you. You sort of over the years, you're ill so you sort of see the problems coming. I think that's what happens. That's what I sort of say you sort of go, I know that we do this. That's not going to work probably because you've so been there like 10 times for sure. Thank you Get those of that and that kind of that. And that's why experience hadn't counts for a lot of question. I especially when you when you move and do different genres, occasionally you sort of come over here, you sort of think, well, I've done a shot like that I did a shot with someone underwater, I did that crash, I did someone leading over, you know, they just did it by putting your green spirit. And it's also knowing sometimes people can't, like, I just, I just did a thing about the Black Panthers in the early 70s. And we just needed someone that was on our Holland, I just saw sort of shape and a park with a pathway. I thought I'd be great. As soon as you put the car here, just put a green screen around, and everyone's sort of going, like, are you mad, you know, but we did it. Because I just knew it would work the shape. And I guess it felt like sort of lookout point that you could put a car on the head, you know, you just use like we did sort of, we had had to recreate the Mexican border. And we literally did it in like an Ikea car park. So you go on the tape record, you go. And it's just as concrete. And it was literally going I don't get it, I just don't see it. And you have to say, well, we put the all the crosses here, put the fence there, all the trucks here, we've put a lot of blocking load of big trucks on that size. And then it just sort of it's sort of you have to visualize it. I think that that becomes a thing as well that you start to visualize things within spaces. And I think that that is another thing you start to see. Because you start thinking, I do think and it's not all it depends what your life is directly about you. But I liked photography. So I liked it. Yeah, so you sort of like I like photographing, you know, you get quite into composition. And it's a bit like taking photos that people just, you know, when you think about it, like you always take a photo as sort of a shoulder highlight this is where you sort of get on the floor and you're like, oh, let's do that, you know, you're gonna lay on the floor, you're never gonna put the camera down there. But you have to start thinking about that when you start shooting as directors, you sort of think Well, where can the camera? Uh, how does it make me feel about what I'm looking at putting the camera in different positions, and that's another thing you start freeing ourselves up, about not just going here we are. But sometimes the symptoms sometimes the simplest things are just just as effective. That's the other thing. They just aren't just making things really flashy because in the end is the performance and the writing that are going to set it off.

Alex Ferrari 42:40
I mean you could look at some John Ford shots and you're just like well that's a masterpiece and they just have to just lock the camera off.

Damon Thomas 42:45
Yeah, and you know just lock it off look at just you know Yeah, and you know, that's a lot to do with location is that again just sort of going we've got to go all the way to this remote place will do that shot

Alex Ferrari 43:01
No no no IKEA IKEA and a green screen you got Lawrence of Arabia What are you talking about? If he would have had IKEA green screen we wouldn't even desert that's crazy.

Damon Thomas 43:17
He wouldn't be on Santa so much.

Alex Ferrari 43:19
It's so my last question to you sir is if you were able to go back in time and talk to your younger self is there one piece of advice you would give? Give him one piece of advice about your filmmaking journey like dude, you know, you really need to look out for this

Damon Thomas 43:34
I think is to do as much of it as you can sort of don't kind of just be waiting for the one moment that you feel is coming at a certain point in time just start shooting things just make a small film even when it's like you know drama set in your own house with your family you know, if you're just think of a story and also if it comes from you your own experience then it will be true Won't it so that if you if something has happened to you do you could do it and you'll be surprised at who can act sometimes as well you know you're and then by shooting sub two and keep it very small because do some of your very limited and just see if we can make narrative lasts for like two minutes or three minutes and put some music right then yeah, I think I think I obviously but then there was a source of it. We didn't have for you this technology whereas now you could just do it and I think that in a way we have too many tools. You know and

Alex Ferrari 44:38
And not enough story

Damon Thomas 44:40
Is true, though, isn't it? And so so kind of you you know what's the everything everywhere all at once that movie? Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 44:48
Great.

Damon Thomas 44:49
Ah, what amazing what an amazing kind of, but also very, very interesting about the human condition. Isn't it's all about what people beaten to each other. And what it's it's, I mean, people with Frankfurter fingers. I mean, it's

Alex Ferrari 45:08
When I had them on the show. I'm like, Dude hotdog fingers, guys seriously? And they're like, Yeah, we were we were high. So I said something. Because like, this is insane guys, this

Damon Thomas 45:22
That's what I love about that film is like, it's like we learn to express ourselves with our feet. And I think Jamie Jamie Lee Curtis is there and then this little foot just cut this out to her face. And so that's, I just thought, I think it's, it's not but it's true to them. It's very true. It's perfect as perfect. I thought that's really clever. And it's just funny, very funny and touching. And those guys go,

Alex Ferrari 45:49
Damon, I can keep talking to you for about another five, six hours about geeking out over. I mean, we could just start talking about Kubrick for an hour alone. There's can people where can people see your new film My best friend's exorcism?

Damon Thomas 46:00
It's on Amazon Prime video now. It's it's released today the 30th of September and yeah, so

Alex Ferrari 46:08
Perfect Halloween film. Perfect Halloween.

Damon Thomas 46:10
Yeah, well watch it. We're friends. Yes. Like my first ad Steve Hall. Fantastic guy. He's doing a party tonight. They're re re enacting one of the lemon brands steeds tonight with his friends. I just Yeah, fantastic. Yeah. Watch it with a group.

Alex Ferrari 46:30
My friend. Congratulations on the film and continued success with with I can't wait to see your next films coming out my friend. So I appreciate you my friend. Thank you again.

Damon Thomas 46:39
Thank you Alex. Thank you!

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