With the tagline “The Cycle Begins” the new bone-chilling horror film 7 Witches is said to not only take place in present time but briefly take us back to the colonial days during the film’s terrifying 75-minute run. As I have mentioned in other articles, my favorite sub-genres under the horror umbrella are haunted house movies and anything about Witches. Judging by the trailer, 7 Witches will be sure to fulfill our craving for this sub-genre, with the immaculate cinematography and sinister plot, 7 Witches is a film I absolutely cannot wait to see.
Be sure to check back for a review on the film. I was fortunate to pick the brains of Director/Writer Brady Hall, Writer/Producer Ed Dougherty, & Cinematographer Ryan Purcell. The group speaks about the cinematography, the originating idea of the film, and funny moments occuring on set. So turn of the lights, light the candle, kick your feet up and read our interview below.
As their big day approaches, Cate and Cody should be celebrating. Their families are there, they’ve rented an island for the big day, but unbeknownst to them, their wedding falls on the day when a 100-year-old curse comes to fruition. Instead of celebrating, they find themselves fighting for their lives as a coven of witches rise for revenge.
7 Witches Trailer
Interview With Director/Writer Brady Hall, Writer/Producer Ed Dougherty, & Cinematographer Ryan Purcell On 7 Witches.
iHorror: Tell me, how did your careers in film begin?
Brady Hall: I started making crappy home movies and stuff with the family camcorder when I was a kid. Stop motion GI Joe epics and things like that. Then did a lot of skateboarding filming as a teenager cus my friends were way better as skating than I was so I learned how to hold the camera steady while skating. Me and my buddies were always making dumb movies and shorts and stuff. We then we got into Public Access TV in the mid and late 90s and had a couple shows on, one of which we decided to make into a movie called JERKBEAST which is about a big stupid monster than plays drums for a punk band. It was terrible, but through all that, we always learned stuff and kind of taught ourselves how to do things using what we had on hand. I’ve made a bunch of features of slowly increasing quality over the years and when I started teaming up with Ed things got markedly better. The first one we teamed up on was SCRAPPER, which we are both proud of and wish found a larger audience but it just wasn’t in the cards. Aside from movies I always have a ton of stuff going on. I play in a band called EPHRATA and build stuff on my small lot in Seattle. Just finished a backyard cottage!
Ryan Purcell: I’ve worked in the business in a lot of different capacities – set dresser, projectionist, grip and electrician and gaffer and have been shooting for the last decade. I’ve shot nearly a dozen low-budget features. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment! I actually just like working with actors and with talented people who are trying to make stuff and telling stories with a camera. I’m also a musician and songwriter and have two teenagers in the house, so I’m used to not being the smartest person around.
Ed Dougherty: I’m originally from Long Island, NY, and went to UC Berkeley for undergrad, which was basically an incredibly reclusive period in which all I did was try to get good enough at screenwriting to get into USC film school while listening to the Morrissey album “Viva Hate.” I got into USC and pretty quickly had an agent and a manager and was into the whole spec game. But I never found just writing completely fulfilling, and I basically felt like I was kind of in this horrible limbo until it became possible to make your own stuff affordably. In 2012 I co-wrote/produced SCRAPPER with Brady and produced the segment “D is for Dogfight” in THE ABCS OF DEATH. While I had done stuff before this, I consider that kind of the start of my modern career. In my spare time, I travel a lot, read a lot and am much more of a cinephile than Brady.
iHorror: This film is beautifully shot, I could tell this immediately from the trailer. What locations did you use for filming? Any sound stages or was it all on location?
Ryan Purcell: Thanks for the kind words on the cinematography. It was a challenging shoot. (I think my boots are still drying out.) As for locations: We shot some in Seattle and a fair bit of it at Fort Flagler, out on the Olympic Peninsula on the tip of Indian Island. No sound stages! Fort Flagler was a great location for the film with a lot of creepy bunkers and surrounded by beaches and forest and was a great place to base camp for a film production – tho sleep could be a little hard to come by.
Brady Hall: We shot everything in and around Seattle. We did a week out at Fort Flagler, which is a state park that used to be a coastal defense fort originally constructed before World War 1 and added to in the ensuing world wars. It was part of a group of forts positioned at strategic points around the entrance to the bays and sounds of Washington to prevent invading navies. They’re full of these amazing labyrinthian concrete tunnels and ramparts built into the bluffs. We stayed in the old barracks that are normally used to house boy scout troops and such, and Ryan is 100% right that sleep was a tough situation since all the rooms had no doors so you could hear every bed creak, fart, and snore from everybody. The rest of the shoot was scattered around various homes and properties. We did some at an old community center, an Italian restaurant that happened to have a stuffed cougar in the banquet room, my house and a few outdoor properties that had woods we could use.
iHorror: Brady, your cast is beautiful. Did the 7 Witches receive traditional casting? Or were these actors and actresses individuals that you had worked with on previous projects?
Brady Hall: We cast it ourselves. A good chunk of the actors are people we already knew. Megan has worked with Ed in the past a bunch, I knew Danika from a music video my band did a few years back, Ed knew Persephone from a project he hired her for previously, etc… Nancy and Gordon Frye were an especially fortuitous couple to have on board, as I already knew they both were into historical re-enactment and had a lot of great props and know-how. There were multiple times when we were like “I wish we had a weird creepy knife or an old oil lamp” and they would say “We have multiple.” We did some rounds of casting in Seattle and LA and had people come in to read lines and such, and that’s where we got people like Bill Ritchie and Rory Ross.
iHorror: Where did the idea of 7 Witches begin? Did the two of your collaborate on the entire story?
Brady Hall: I don’t actually quite remember where the core story came from. I feel like it might have germinated from me knowing about the old forts on the coast? Ed might have a better recollection. But I do know that once we had the nugget, we both collaborated pretty evenly on fleshing it all out.
Ed Dougherty: Brady and I had been trying out different ideas as a follow up to SCRAPPER. We wrote many drafts of two different scripts, one which we should probably get back to someday, one of which was crap. Meanwhile, I was trying to come up with horror ideas just as a producer, and it occurred to me that a destination wedding was a great place for a contained horror film. There aren’t as many wedding-based horror films as there should be. At first, I was mainly trying to go for a fun slasher kind of in the vein of APRIL FOOL’S DAY with a different pair of writers, then me and Brady started over and just made everything way weirder, moodier and more occult.
iHorror: Ryan was there a particular shot in the film that you were extremely satisfied with, or made you very proud?
Ryan Purcell: I like the battle scene in the corridor – we made a Sam Rami rig and strapped the camera to the middle of a long rail and used it to track along with the old lady and the knife. It worked great and added some production value and helped accelerate that moment. I also liked the little almost unnoticeable dolly shot from above as she enters the tunnel. We are peering in at her as she goes in and adds a layer of creepiness.
iHorror: What is your favorite scary movie?
Brady Hall: To be honest I don’t watch a lot of horror movies, but I did when I was younger, and the classics like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street always stuck with me. The original Texas Chainsaw film has such a gritty feel to it, and I’ve always loved the tone.
Ryan Purcell: Burnt Offerings Late 70’s – Oliver Reed and Karin Black – Nuff said.
Ed Dougherty: I’m a lifelong horror fan, and so this is a very difficult question. I have favorites in many sub-genres. I suppose my overall top three would be ROSEMARY’S BABY, SUSPIRIA, and PHANTASM. Lately, I have been rediscovering early Cronenberg. I didn’t love THE BROOD when I saw it as a teen, but now I think it’s amazing. My favorite action-horror is probably THE DESCENT; favorite horror-comedy might be SOCIETY. Favorite horror movie of the past year– oh this is a good one– I loved this movie called A DARK SONG that I saw at Fantastic Fest. I thought that was really unique and super creepy. Horror fans should seek that out.
iHorror: Do any of you have funny stories that took place during production? Who was the cast or crew clown? =)
Brady Hall: Oh, the clown? That’s easy! Our data wrangler Justin Dittrich always does double duty at the crew clown! I will let Ed flesh that out because they are bosom buddies.
As for other stories, a tree almost fell on a PA one day when it was super windy in the woods where we were shooting. After that, we quickly wrapped up that setup and quit for the day cuz we didn’t want actually to die. There was a scene where Megan needed to be dunked in the ocean, and it was mid-March in Washington, so the water was ice cold. She lasted about 5 seconds and tapped out so we decided to reshoot those shots later and ended up using a kiddie pool full of rocks and sand in LA and she got dunked a bunch then.
Ryan Purcell: We got chased around by the weather pretty good. We spent most of one day setting up for a big nighttime scene around a campfire. Then the wind started to pick as we were out shooting and then the rain started coming down, the trees were blowing over, and the little clearing where we had staged the campfire started filling up with water. It soon became clear we were not shooting that scene that night which meant we had to shove a 6-page nighttime campfire scene into our schedule somewhere later which wasn’t too funny in the end. It turned out that that day was the wettest 24 hours in the historical record for the Northwest. And we still shot three pages or so before it got too crazy and started raining sideways…
Brady graciously gave the actors the nicest accommodations at Fort Flagler. He spent the next week unable to sleep in the dormitory with the rest of us where you could hear every sound made from rolling over in bed to farting that was made anywhere in the building echoing loudly through the halls and I’m not sure he slept more than three hours a night….
Ed Dougherty: I guess I’ll have to tell a Justin story. A few months after principal photography, we did a few days of reshoots, including a large battle scene. Justin became obsessed with me killing him onscreen in this battle scene, and thought it would somehow ease any tensions we’ve had in our many years of knowing each other. He wanted to do this even though he would need to fly up to Seattle and miss work for no pay. He had just one condition– the stunt coordinator would have to plan a special battle for us, so me killing him would look really great.
In the time leading up to the shoot, Brady assured us that Drago the stunt coordinator had been working on our battle. But the day of the shoot, with dozens of extras around, we presented ourselves to Drago and said we were ready for our battle, but of course, he had no idea what we were talking about. He said “Ummm Ed…you can flip Justin over your shoulder…” and walked off to attend to more pressing matters. So me and Justin tried to figure out how to pull off this move, quickly realizing that throwing someone over your shoulder isn’t as easy as it looked in the TMNT cartoon 25 years ago.
So finally we have something, and the camera is on us. I flip Justin over my shoulder, but we miss the crash pad, and he lands on the ground and immediately starts howling in pain. Not only was that entire scene cut, but it was also the only piece of footage that was somehow lost completely. Justin has had to go to the doctor a bunch of times and now has a back problem. That might not sound funny, but if you know him, it’s hilarious.
iHorror: Is there a release date for the film? VOD? DVD/Blu-Ray? Theatre?
Brady Hall: The release date is May 9, and as of today, we are still awaiting word on what outlets it will debut on.
iHorror: Are you currently working on any projects or have anything coming up?
Ed Dougherty: I have a film called PAINT IT BLACK that I co-wrote/co-produced with Amber Tamblyn. It stars Alia Shawkat, Janet McTeer, and Alfred Molina and is based on an amazing novel by Janet Fitch that we started adapting way back in 2009. It comes out May 19th and is a pretty heavy drama, though it has a bit of a horror touch to it. Someone once described it as PERSONA directed by Dario Argento. I’m very proud of it, and I’m curious to see how it’s received. Me and Amber are currently writing our next film together, a horror film, and I also co-wrote a fun adventure/horror movie called THE NANNY for the SyFy channel which should be on relatively soon. I’ve also done a lot of music-related stuff and just directed a few videos for the Austin bands Sweet Spirt and A Giant Dog. Yet Brady doesn’t ask me to direct any Ephrata videos.
Ryan Purcell: I’m shooting a lot of corporate/commercial work and as always – looking for my next feature.
Brady Hall: Right now I am wrapping up a bunch of stuff (7 Witches, band stuff) and looking forward to figuring out what the next film project will be. Ed and I have some loose ideas floating around but haven’t come together to do a real hash-out session yet.
iHorror: Thank you gentleman that was fun! I am looking forward to your film, best of luck to you all.
-About The Author-
Ryan T. Cusick is a writer for ihorror.com and very much enjoys conversation and writing about anything within the horror genre. Horror first sparked his interest after watching the original, The Amityville Horror when he was the tender age of three. Ryan lives in California with his wife and Eleven-year-old daughter, who is also expressing interest in the horror genre. Ryan recently received his Master’s Degree in Psychology and has aspirations to write a novel. Ryan can be followed on Twitter @Nytmare112