A few months back, THE INTESTINAL FORTITUDE had mentioned the current production of an interesting and intense looking horror/crime-noir/home-invasion crossover film entitled LAKE RUNS RED. Being made in the thickets just outside of the Twin Cities of Minnesota, they’ve already released several character trailers *(of which I’ll post links to after the interview), each one revealing a bit more about the film – – – but never too much – – – with two more to come this December. From what I’ve seen of the trailers thus far, I’m pretty well hooked – – – LAKE RUNS RED looks to be something a little more intense, made with a little more passion, than your run of the mill, crank ‘em out indie quickie. This is a film made by lifelong horror fans, for the fans, that looks like it may pump something a little different into the genre as we currently view it.
I was lucky enough to wrangle up an interview with both LAKE RUNS RED Director/Co-Writer JASON RIESGRAF, as well as Executive Producer STEPHANIE RIESGRAF, which will be brought to you in two parts. We also get some insights into not just the film itself, but just what exactly goes into a true “production of passion,” of which this is: an honest grassroots film that seems to come directly from the heart. A special thank you goes out to both STEPHANIE & JASON for letting themselves be subjected to my strange interrogations, as well as JEFF FULLER for arranging it. Be sure to read both parts, and check out the trailers posted for the film, as well as the two new ones coming in early and late December.
The LAKE RUNS RED Interviews, Part I: JASON RIESGRAF, Director & Co-Writer
T.I.F.: Hello Jason, and thank you for taking the time out to speak with THE INTESTINAL FORTITUDE about your upcoming film, LAKE RUNS RED. What was the initial impetus that sparked the idea for your directorial debut LAKE RUNS RED?
J.R.: Thank you for speaking with me! It’s a tremendous honor. Well I guess a little background would be pertinent first. I’m a lifelong horror fan stemming all the way back to seeing my first horror film, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, I’ve been in love ever since. Along those same lines, I’ve always dreamed about pursuing a career in television and film. A few years ago, with the support of my wife, Stephanie Riesgraf (a producer on the film), I went to film school to pursue that dream. After I graduated, I secured a job in television production and editing. I love what I do and get to tell local news stories commercially for a living. But I’ve always really wanted to tell my own fiction-based story. That’s where LAKE RUNS RED comes from. It’s a passion project that has been incubating in my head since about 2010 or so. You might even say longer than that because there are themes in this film that stem all the way back to my childhood. I wrote the first draft of the screenplay on and off for about three and half years before we started moving forward with the project officially. I finished the screenplay while vacationing with friends (including my wife and one of the other producers on this project) in Cancun, Mexico. It was then, on that vacation, that the spark for moving forward was really ignited. That was January 2014 or so. When we got back, this thing just took off.
T.I.F.: How was it to co-write the story with J. Dan Moores? Was it a combination of mixed ideas, a natural collaboration? Did you find a difference in collaborating as opposed to lone writing?
J.R.: J. Dan has been a good helper in this creative process. Along with writing duties, I’ve asked him to be a coordinator for the production and help with cast relations. He and I have known each other for about 12 years or so. While it’s true I wrote the original draft and came up with the original storyline, J. Dan has really helped me expand the drama between the characters. He’s also helped write some of the juicy dialogue. J. Dan previously worked as a literary agent and book editor in New York City, so he’s really been able to clean up my disparate ideas and even brought some remarkable ideas of his own to the table. I’d say it was definitely a natural collaboration, especially because our friendship goes back so far. I have to admit, writing is HARD. It’s hard to get started, it’s hard to stay motivated, and it’s hard to selfcritique your own work. So when you’re writing by yourself, you’re doing it in a vacuum. When you write with a partner, you can bounce ideas off one another and you keep each other motivated. It goes much more smoothly. But to be clear, that flow only comes from trust with each other. If J. Dan and I didn’t trust each other as creative partners, it wouldn’t have gone so smoothly. Luckily we did.
T.I.F.: LAKE RUNS RED is your directorial debut, though not your first foray within the film industry. What are some of the other technical duties you’ve held on other productions, and within this production itself, as I know they are several?
J.R.: That’s true, this is my directorial debut. Though, it doesn’t feel like it. I’ve held full time positions as a television producer and editor. My background on feature films includes stints as an assistant editor and camera operator on a variety of different projects. I’ve even directed a few commercials on a freelance basis. From the perspective of this being my first feature that I’m responsible for, these experiences have been invaluable. If I had walked into this with no film or television experience prior, there is no way I would have been able to manage this production. Directing a film is incredibly challenging, but also rewarding. I’m so thankful for my previous opportunities, as I feel they’ve truly prepared me for my current career as a horror filmmaker and director.
T.I.F.: LAKE RUNS RED both sounds and looks incredibly intense. What are some of the creative influences and inspirations behind the film? What are some of your personal favorite films, and why?
J.R.: That’s a terrific question. First off, yes LAKE RUNS RED is incredibly intense. I appreciate that you’ve picked up on that. That’s exactly what I was going for when I relayed my vision to the production team and cast. I love home-invasion horror films. Most horror films don’t scare me, but home-invasion stories do. I think it’s the plausibility that it can actually happen to you. Funny story (or maybe not so funny story) my wife Stephanie and I actually had our home invaded this past year while we were away at a LAKE RUNS RED production meeting, ironically enough. When we came home we actually interrupted a robbery of our home. It’s a terrible feeling to know that we could have been home when that had happened. It definitely was a bit of art imitating life, you know? In terms of direct influences, I was really influenced by two home-invasion horror films, THE STRANGERS and HIGH TENSION. The realism and grittiness of those two films were huge inspirations for me. From a horror perspective, I’m a huge fan of Rob Zombie, Eli Roth, and James Wan. Rob Zombie is my favorite horror director and his film THE DEVIL’S REJECTS is definitely my favorite horror movie. I also love epic films like GLADIATOR and 300, not to mention adventure classics like JAWS, INDIANA JONES, and BACK TO THE FUTURE. If I had to pick a #1 favorite film of all time… it would have to be David Fincher’s SE7EN.
T.I.F.: LAKE RUNS RED is not merely a “slasher film,” but from what I’ve read it is also about rejection *(something I’m well familiar with) and choices, as well as the ultimate impact and outcomes of those. In other words, it appears that you’re creating actual character arcs. It seems there is a deep psychological and even existential power to the film as well, something missing from a good portion of both indie and mainstream horror over recent years. Are you hoping that this will connect with viewers on a more cathartic level?
J.R.: I’m glad you picked up on that. J. Dan and I are definitely trying to create a character driven story that examines the psychological impact of some pretty melancholy themes. LAKE RUNS RED is really about two internal ideas: Rejection and Choices. The rejection theme of the story is based on events that happened to me when I was growing up. I certainly feel that rejection is something we can all relate to, albeit on different levels, and am optimistic that this will connect with audiences in a deeper, more meaningful way. In that same regard, choices are often what drive us as human beings. Choices often influence those feelings of rejection, or lackthereof. I wanted to use my story to examine those choices and the consequences that often accompany them.
T.I.F.: How did you manage to wrangle Helene Donohue in for a main role in the film?
J.R.: We were lucky to have her on set! I enjoyed collaborating with her. Helene plays a minor, but integral role in LAKE RUNS RED. We’re thankful that she was willing to contribute her experienced talents to this project. She plays “Gwen,” the cold, domineering, and damaged mother of one of the protagonists. This was certainly the most difficult role to cast. J. Dan (Co-Writer and Casting Director) really needed someone that could pull off what the gravitas of the role require. After auditioning a large number of actresses for the role, without success, Helene came in and was immediately able to pull the attitude and presence we were looking for. It was clear she really wanted the role… and more importantly, had the the chops to pull it off. Helene wasn’t the only actor we were lucky to get though. We also hit the gold mine with our three stars, Kaci Wegleitner, C.J. DeVaan, and Lauren Morris. And of course, probably our biggest coup was scoring veteran theater actor, Michael Hertenstein, to play “Gwen’s” secretive and mysterious husband, “Paul.” Michael was most recently featured in a high profile production of “To Kill A Mockingbird” at the world famous Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. He also recently starred in a History Channel episode “The Secrets of Einstein’s Brain,” as Einstein. We were lucky to have the amazing cast that we did.
T.I.F.: How do you feel about the term “torture porn” when applied to the modern extreme horror film? I personally find it repellent and very, very misused.
J.R.: Sadly, we’ve misused that term ourselves. Regretfully, when trying to describe our film in the beginning I wanted us to use that term in the truest subgenre sense. But as you mentioned it’s become warped, repellent, and misinterpreted by the masses. So yes, I agree with you completely. I think, as a horror industry, collectively, we really need to take ownership of the modern extreme horror subgenre and describe it in a universally acceptable way. Our production has since wised up and moved on to describing some of the more thrilling and differentiating aspects of LAKE RUNS RED. Yes, the film contains splatter horror elements… but I would go so far as to say it’s also a crime thriller at its heart. We’ve got some big surprises and hopefully a mysterious story that you care about. I tried my best to marry those disparate genres into a new brand of horror entertainment. Time will tell if I succeeded.
T.I.F.: Have there been many difficulties while making the film? Any disturbances from “censorial” types? Or has the Minnesota area been receptive to the making of LAKE RUNS RED? Is this the film you indeed wanted to make?
J.R.: Haha, no censorial disturbances, thankfully. I know my Mom does not like that I’ve made a horror film, as mothers are often predisposed to feel. No, any difficulties we’ve experienced have come about through the normal challenges of filmmaking. Budget constraints, actor scheduling, marketing costs, location availabilities, legal expenses, etc. These are the challenges we’ve been facing, but of course all filmmakers face these same challenges. That said, so far the Twin Cities film community has been very receptive to LAKE RUNS RED. We’ve built a nice reputation for ourselves locally, and the film hasn’t even come out yet. We’ve been approached by multiple local film festivals interested in potential screenings and our name awareness is high. All in all, yes! I do believe this is the film I set out to make. And that makes me feel very proud.
T.I.F.: Would you like to keep your future film projects within the realms of the independent, or eventually move on to the machine that is Hollywood, and take your chances there?
J.R.: I love the creative control I have with LAKE RUNS RED. So the independent film life is appealing. My entire family and support system resides here in Minnesota. So unfortunately, since my life is pretty well established here, I probably won’t be conquering Hollywood any time soon. Never say never. But I think I’d be happy working on projects here in the Twin Cities. We have a fantastic film and theater community here. I really feel like I can continue to make an impact with my storytelling, while also still maintaining a semi-normal life here in Minnesota.
T.I.F.: Thank you again for doing this interview with THE INTESTINAL FORTITUDE. Finally, any parting words for our readers, perhaps something to whet their bloodthirsty little appetites just a wee bit more for LAKE RUNS RED?
J.R.: Well, first off, I didn’t get to mention them as much as I would like, but I just want to personally thank my production team Stephanie Riesgraf (my wife), J. Dan Moores (cowriter/producer), and Jeff Fuller (producer/social media marketing director). They have been instrumental in making this production a reality. I’ve known Jeff Fuller for almost fourteen years and my wife has known him since the 3rd grade. We’ve also known J. Dan Moores since high school. It’s been a terrific experience to work with friends we’ve known and trusted for so long. I’d also like to give a shout out to Mike Ascher, my cinematographer, as well as the rest of the cast and crew. Film is a collaborative medium. Without amazing collaborators like I had, you can’t make your vision a reality. LAKE RUNS RED is scheduled for a 2016 release. In terms of whetting appetites, we’ve got two more character trailers coming up. You can expect trailer #4 “Melissa” to be released in early December and trailer #5 “Paul” scheduled for late December. You are not going to want to miss trailer #5! That one is focused on Michael Hertenstein’s “Paul” character. That trailer is a game-changer! Watch closely. You’re going to see some subtle hints that might make you change your mind about what you’ve seen so far in the first four character trailers.
Interview 2 coming soon.
LAKE RUNS RED TRAILER 1, “BRUCE”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3N_WWDjBQ0
LAKE RUNS RED TRAILER 2, “GWEN”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MDTsDGF9L4
LAKE RUNS RED TRAILER 3, “LAUREN”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohT5RXx48dE
For more on LAKE RUNS RED:
Vincent Daemon, writer, editor, musician, photgrapher, film/music buff and historian, and rabblerouser, can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/vincent.daemon.1 as well as his spontaneously updated blog of writing news and nonsense THE WRITINGS OF A DEPRAVED MIND http://vincentdaemon.blogspot.com/Some of his music can be painfully experienced at http://www.reverbnation.com/vincentdaemonsageofdesire3 His email is firstname.lastname@example.org