I recently had the opportunity to review a newly released DVD, The Gothic Vampires From Hell. You just have to love the internet, because by an amazing stroke of good luck Jeremiah Campbell the screenwriter for this movie happened to read the review and left a comment. After trading a few emails he graciously agreed to do an interview.

Hi Jeremiah, maybe you could give our readers a little background about yourself?

I was born June 29, 1977 (Cancer) in Atlanta, GA.  The big 3-0 is creeping up on me!  I was moved to Ohio at the age of 2 and have lived here ever since.  Yup, you read that correct…Ohio!  I’m about 10 minutes outside of Cleveland. 

Ah, home of some great sports teams?

Please, no Browns or Indians jokes.  I’m not a fan of either team.  Besides, I’ve heard them all.  Clevelanders made most of them up. 

Somehow writing horror movies and being a family man seems incongruous to me, but I understand that in the day time you are just like us regular folks.

My wife Tracy and I have been married 7 years this October 28th (as close to Halloween as I could get it).  We have two beautiful and full spirited daughters: Sabrina (7) and Maegan (15months).  M-A-E-G-A-N is the old Gaelic way of spelling her name.  I do have a normal “8-5” job (gotta pay the bills). I am a HUGE Horror Genre fan (movies, books, you name it).  I have been since I was about 8 years old. 

Everyone has heard the term Screenwriter, but I for one am not really clear what a screenwriter does. Maybe you could explain.

Exceptional question!  In the low-budget or micro-budget world of filmmaking, it is rare to find someone like myself.  Most productions companies have such small budgets to work with, they really don’t farm out work.  Everything is done “in house”.  It’s very common to see the Director, Screenwriter, Producer, Editor, and Cinematographer all being the same person.  I consider myself damned lucky to be a “writer for hire” in this market.

As a screenwriter, I am contacted by the Producer with an idea or concept.  I am sometimes given a lot of substance to work with.  Other times I am given very limited input and I develop and tailor the story to what they (the Producer’s) want to see on film.  I try to give 2-3 different directions for the script.  They’ll pick the one they like and I’ll flesh out a treatment.  From there, if the treatment is approved I start writing.  I have interacted with a few directors, but mostly just the producer.

I have also done rewrites and written additional material on completed scripts from another writers work. 

How did you get involved in this line of work?

A fellow Screenwriter/Actor, Eric Spudic actually hooked me up.  I think we met on a message board and just started chatting here and there.  That would have been back in 2002.  I had wanted to be the next Stephen King since reading IT in the 4th grade. But I had decided that novel writing was too time consuming, so I thought I’d give screenwriting a shot.  I had just recently finished co-writing my first script about a group of eccentric, upper-class cannibals.  I told Eric about it and he was intrigued.  Eric had written a few flicks for Producer David Sterling (Sterling Entertainment).  Like most B-horror movie fans, I had heard of David Sterling and had seen a few of his flicks for Brain Damage Films.  I emailed Dave per Eric’s advice and in no time at all, Dave called me.  We chatted about movies, life, etc and then he gave me my first paid writing gig in early 2003.  I attribute my being in this line of work as meeting the right person at the right time.  If you are reading this, THANK YOU Eric for the foot in the door, and a BIG THANK YOU Dave for putting your trust and faith in me.

How did you get involved with Gothic Vampires?

GVFH was actually the 6th or 7th script I had written for Dave Sterling.  He called me up and said “Hey, I got this idea…” I took the majority of his ideas, mixed a few of mine and fleshed out a treatment.  The treatment was approved by the production company and I started writing.    I was thrilled to write it.  Like most Horror fans, I too am intrigued by the Vampire mystique.  The “Battle of the Bands” element was something different for this kind of movie, so it fascinated me that much more.

Obviously this is a bit of a ‘how long is a piece of string question. But, how long does it take to screenwrite a movie like Gothic Vampires?

I started GVFH on 7/23/05 and completed the first draft by 8/14/05.  The producers read it quickly and asked for rewrites.  Mostly they wanted me to remove a sub-plot in the original script that had the character of Morgana being pregnant.  I did as instructed and resubmitted on 8/16/05.  Months went by.  I had begun working on other scripts and then in February of 2006, I was asked for a few more rewrites. 

Personally, I don’t believe a script is ever fully complete.  But generally I like to give myself at least a month to work on them.  I have finished 1 or 2 in under two weeks.

Zeroing in on Gothic Vampires once again, what did you think of the visual work, did it meet your ‘on paper’ expectations?

When I write a low-budget script, I keep description to the bare minimum.  I know there isn’t much money to work with, so I keep it simple and let the Filmmakers do to it what they will.  I really don’t know how much they have for a budget, so I never write elaborate screens, which I know they could never pull off.
 
I know there were some issues on set and filming was delayed a bit, but I was pleased overall with the finished project.  I’d write a sequel in a heartbeat!

I interview a lot of authors, and a very common theme is how difficult it is to break into the business. The ‘Book Ocean’ is dominated by a few big fish, and the little guy has a really tough time with publishers, agents, and most difficult of all shelf space in the book store. Is it a similar issue in screenwriting?
 
The Film industry operates with a different set of dynamics. I personally believe it’s all in who you know and being at the right place at the right time.  Word-of-Mouth is rather useful in the filmmaking world.  If you are known by the right people – good things can happen!

I was perusing your blog and I noticed that that Gothic Vampires was actually completed quite a while ago. Is it common to complete a project but keep it in storage for over a year? I would have thought that sheer economics would dictate wanting to get the product to market as soon as possible. Why do production companies operate in the way?

I agree 100%.  However, in the low/micro-budget filmmaking world – things don’t move as fast as one would like them to.  As a screenwriter, I am always anxious to see the finished product.  But things get delayed on these films: money runs out, actors don’t show up, producers scrap the project all together.  There are a myriad of reasons.  Normally the projects aren’t completed, but sit on a shelf until the capability to finish them surfaces.
 
I don’t believe Production companies operate this way intentionally.  Rather, circumstances outside of their control cause delays.

Can you tell us what you are currently working on?

Sure…I just finished writing the sequel to the 2006 release of The Curse Of Lizzie Borden.  I enjoyed writing the first so much I agreed to write the sequel even before pre-production began.  I’ve wrapped up a sequel to the 2002 cult favorite Death Factory (Brain Damage Films).  Earlier this year I wrote a script called Sawblade, which filming is near completion.  Fans of the Phantasm films will recognize a familiar face!  The currently titled Appetite 4 Destruction (directed by Ford Austin) wrapped filming not too long ago.   It’s been a rather busy year for me.  Up next, I will be working on a zombie script.  It’s my first, so I’m really anxious to get started on it. 

Postscript: I really enjoyed talking to Jeremiah and I wish him all the success he deserves. Although not part of the interview he explained that the job of Screenwriter is not high in the movie Food Chain. So here is a little piece of cinema trivia for you. Prior to Alfred Hitchcock movies would include in the opening credits “A Jeremiah Campbell Film”, it was the screenwriter that got the kudos, now it is the director. I am also certain that if you post any comments or questions Jeremiah will reply.

Simon Barrett

http://zzsimonb.blogspot.com

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