Quantcast Paul Natale interview - LOST SUBURBIA

Paul Natale!!!

A forbidden place in the dark woods, a lady in white, something reflected in the headlights. Local legends, every town has them. Tales of murder and misery, of ghosts and spirits, stories that get passed down generations. On Long Island, the home of a burgeoning independent horror scene five filmmakers have collaborated over three years on “Lost Suburbia”, an anthology of local ghost stories that is half-fictional/recreation and half-documentary. Paul Natale directs the “Misery Loves” chapter of the film, which recounts the legend of Long Island's Mount Misery.

Mount Misery has numerous supernatural legends surrounding it. Paul's segment of the film focuses on the Overpass Suicides. Legend has it that in the 1970's four boys committed suicide off an infamous overpass on Sweet Hollow Road, and that if you go there at night you can still see the bodies hanging.

Creepy stuff? Sound familiar to a legend in your own hometown? Paul, now living in Paris, talks to Icons of Fright about his film, and universal nature of local legends. - by Mike C. 8/07

Mike C : So, first off, let me ask how did Long Island lose you to Paris? I'm curious.

Paul Natale : Well, I was getting along okay without a college degree working as an audio engineer post production assistant, film and video reviewer, and Avid editor assistant, but I wanted to go back to school and finally get a degree. So, I first went to Nassau Community College, then Portland, OR to attend the NW Film Center, then to Paris for EICAR: The International Film School of Paris. The thing is, I married a French/American girl this past September, and she wanted to move back to France for a while. Plus, the school is really great... and not too expensive.

Mike C : Glad to hear you're finally able to work on finishing your degree.

Paul Natale : Thanks! It's tough at my age (I'm 33, by the way) but I love the challenge.

Mike C : So, you're finishing up your degree now, but you were working in film. How hard was it for you to break into that without the benefit of a degree? How were you able to prove yourself?

Paul Natale : I went to the Center for the Media Arts right out of high school and they placed me in a PA job at a post production studio called Howard Schwartz Recording (or HSR/NY) in NYC. I worked there for 4 years like a dog. 15 hour days, sleeping mostly on the studio floor. Eating leftovers from the client lunches. It was hell. But people notice when you work your ass off. So, I made some friends and contacts along the way and managed to keep working within the entertainment industry in some capacity for over a decade.
I wanted to work in film early on, but I had moved to Queens at about 19 years old and had to pay rent. It seemed at the time that the only way to get into film was to work for free for a long time, and I couldn't do that. The choice was move home or keep working to keep a roof over my head on my own. I choose the latter. It wasn't until I finally moved back to Long Island (into my grandfather's basement) and went to Nassau College and started working part time at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington that I finally got to work on actually making my first short movie. It was called UN-REAL and it's where I met Sean King (he starred in it) and Pete Bune (he shot it) from The Slack Pack public access TV series.
Pete and I worked at the Cinema together and we shot there overnight after the place closed and without the owners permission. Usually we started at about 10pm and wrapped at 4 or 5 am. But, it was great, and it solidified a working relationship between the three of us that would eventually take us to LOST SUBURBIA. UN-REAL, by the way, while initially an exercise to see if I could actually make a film and only really for that, went on to screen at about 10 film festivals around the country and in the UK. The editor insisted I send it to festivals, so I did and it did well. Except, I ran out of money to apply any more and stopped. The application fees run from $20 to $50 sometimes. It's crazy.
Mike C : Was UN-REAL also in the horror genre?

Paul Natale : It was really a slasher. It's about a terrible low-budget filmmaker who is constantly rejected by film festivals because of his lack of realism. This was a comment on all of the reality TV shows and stuff coming out at the time. So, he grabs his camcorder and heads to the cinema where the last film festival to reject him is being held and proceeds to murder all of the employees while taping it. He sends his final masterpiece to the organizers, and that' where it ends. It was funny, because a few festival organizers I sent it to admitted that they only accepted it because they were afraid not to.
Mike C : That's fantastic! Have you been a long-time fan of horror, then?

Paul Natale : Very long. For as long as I can remember I was always into all things horrific. My parents hated it and always hoped I would "grow out of it". I guess they're still waiting.

Mike C : Here's something I don't think we've asked a film maker before. What do you think it is about this genre that make so many people who grew up as fans want to make movies? Time and time again, even if we're talking to someone who isn't working in horror we hear "I grew up watching the horror movies...." as inspiration.

Paul Natale : I think it's a very inspiring genre. You see a horror film and it gets right to the heart of your visceral sensibilities, maybe without you even knowing it. If you have a creative spirit, you can easily be swayed by the fantastical aspects of this genre. Apart from this, let's face it, its fun to scare the hell out of people!

Plus, they have all of the filmic elements that appeal to filmmakers, but tenfold. The acting, lighting, music... everything is over-the-top. If you’re a new filmmaker it's a good place to start because you can experiment with all of these elements and nobody will fault you for going to extremes... horror IS extreme.

Mike C : Any favorite films or film makers that you found you looked up to? What do you remember being that first horror film to scare you?

Paul Natale : The first horror movie to scare me was a made-for-TV flick called DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK. It had these little creepy monsters who only came out in the darkness. I had nightmares about this for months after. When I was a pre-teenager I was really into American horror films. Of course the 80's slashers like NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and HELLRAISER, but also classics like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. But, as I got a little older I started getting turned on to the Euro horror scene. I'm still completely addicted to these films. I'm obsessed with Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci, and Dario Argento. I just watched a double feature of SHOCK (Bava) and MANHATTAN BABY (Fulci) last night on DVD. I love those films. But, overall, my favorite film would have to be Werner Herzog's 1979 NOSFERATU. I've seen it more times than I can recount. I just love that film. It's at once beautiful and utterly creepy.

And, Klaus Kinski is to me simply genius. If I could resurrect one person to work with, it would be him.

Mike C : I just watched Manhattan Baby the other night too! Do you feel that Euro horror has affected your work in any particular way, say stylistically? Will we notice anything like that in "Misery Loves"?

Paul Natale : I outright homage these films. There is no question about it. For sure you see elements of Fulci in MISERY LOVES. Some of the camera movements and sounds are certainly inspired by those films. I think what most appeals to me is how these guys tried to emulate what was happening in Hollywood but with a quarter of the budget. They had to be so much more inventive. It's the same with independent filmmakers. I've learned so much from watching the DVD features of these films.

Mike C : Speaking of Misery Loves, which is part of "Lost Suburbia", the film that's just had it's first sold out crowd out here on Long Island. Now, I know you guys worked on this project for three years. I noticed the films are credited separately on IMDB. Were all the film makers working independently of each other or was it always intended to be an anthology?

Paul Natale : It was always a collective from the beginning. It started after Pete and I (and a bunch of friends) went into Mount Misery woods on Halloween late at night. It was really creepy, and some of the people we were with were getting really scared. The next day Pete and I were talking about how great it would be to try and express those same creepy feelings in a film. We started tossing around ideas for just one short which would later be MISERY LOVES. At the same time, Sean and one of the co-producers, Chris Russoniello were already talking about making a film based on the Camp Here legend. We got together for a beer and the rest is history, as they say. The deal was we would all write and direct our own short based on the Long Island legend that most appealed to us, and then each of us would do whatever we could to help make the other's film, without getting in the way creatively.

It's not to say we wouldn't offer suggestions, but we respected each other's styles. The reason MISERY LOVES is on IMDB is because originally we though we'd try to drum up some interest in the films as shorts while the entire feature, documentary sections and all, was completed. It took us about three years and a director change to get to this point. Terrence and Elizabeth Smith stepped in after Chris Russoniello couldn't find the time due to a hectic work schedule. (But, he's back with us now and we're glad for it!)

Mike C : What can you tell us about the particular legend of Mount Misery that your film covers?

Paul Natale : The story is that a group of teenagers who hung themselves, but one of them backed out only to be haunted to the brink of insanity by the others and eventually kill himself as well. That was the part that got me. I thought I could do a lot with the themes of peer pressure and kids thinking they would gain some sort of notoriety for such a grandiose suicide. But, then the idea of saving yourself but being driven to suicide by ghosts from your past; now there was the real story! I focus mostly on the suicides packs last days and the estranged member's turmoil.

Mike C : Did you shoot in the area of Mount Misery? Did you use the infamous overpass?

At this point in the interview Paul's wife called to let him know something extremely important:

Paul Natale : Hold on... my wife just called to tell me she found CAT IN THE BRAIN on DVD really cheap... one sec...

Mike C : Sure, I never stand between a man and his Fulci.

Paul Natale : Ok, I'm back. Originally we wanted to shoot at the overpass, but couldn't afford the location fees. It was going to be close to $5,000! So, we decided to shoot the scene guerilla style in the Mount Misery woods because there are too many cars on Sweet Hollow Road. We started shooting at about 3am and it was one of the most fun times I've had making movies. But, the actors would say otherwise. They were hanging from tree branches by theses very uncomfortable harnesses for hours. The overpass is however represented as well. It serves as a tunnel between the real and fantastic realms... but I don't want to say too much until you see it.

Our shooting schedule was so hectic. To save money on equipment rentals we would cram multiple shoots into one day. The day we shot that Mount Misery scene overnight, we shot a scene from MARY'S GRAVE later the same day and into the overnight hours. It was crazy. I remember holding a boom mic for Sean and literally falling asleep on my feet. It was unbelievable.

Mike C : $5000. Wow. Have you heard from any people who say they've heard similar legends in their hometown. While each story is unique to Long Island, in a way, there's a certain universal nature to these legends, isn't there?

Paul Natale : Definitely. This is a point Marc Moran and Mark Sceurman, the author's of "Weird New York" makes in our film. For example, the lady in white legend is one you find common in so many towns. I think it's interesting how these stories remain in our culture. Where do they originate? How do they get passed on? These are the kinds of questions the documentary portion of LOST SUBURBIA focuses on.
Mike C : I loved that you got to work with Cody Lightening. He's in two films I'm a huge fan of, Manic and Brick.

Paul Natale : I loved Manic. I wish he was in Brick more. He was so great to work with. We were all a bit nervous the first day he showed up on set because he was already in some "bigger" films and was in an episode of the "X-Files" and stuff, but he was so cool and got along with everybody right away.

Mike C : Can you speak of what's next for the film. What's the plan to get it out beyond Long Island?

Paul Natale : That's something we were just talking about today. We have regular meetings on Skype to discuss future plans and we're constantly keeping in touch via e-mail. I can't say too much about the long term goals without the others, but for sure we want to get the film screened as much as possible. We're sending it to festivals and trying to get local theaters to host a screening. First it was the Cinema Arts Centre, and the Bellmore Movie Theater and Pioneer Theaters are next. That's the plan for now, and we are always looking into other opportunities. One thing is for certain, this was a labor of love, and we all want to see it flourish.

Mike C :
Thanks for you time Paul, and best of luck with the film!

Paul Natale : Keep in touch! FULCI LIVES!

Visit: www.MySpace.com/LostSuburbia

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