Interview with Vanessa and Joseph Winter, from ‘Deadstream’: we did sacrifice a few animals to the spirit of Tom Savini

The filmmaker of ‘Deadstream’ talks about practical effects and how to survive filming a movie as a couple.

When I first played Deadstream, I didn’t think I’d find one of the best horror movies of the year. Fresh and funny, It’s like if «Evil dead» meets an Instagram live. Of course, I wanted to interview the filmmakers. And here we are!

Hi, Vanessa and Joseph. Thanks for your time! Just to locate you in time and space, this is an interview for Argentina.

Chiri: When I saw Deadstream and looked up the details of who made the movie, I was surprised to find out that you guys were husband and wife. And, perhaps because of the bizarre imagination that I have, just like a couple argues to decide what color they should paint the wall, I imagined you fighting over how much blood should be used in the film. What are the advantages and disadvantages of working together?

Mr. and Mrs. Horror: Advantages are having two brains to workshop ideas and a buddy to safeguard against procrastination. Disadvantage, as you said, is that you have to argue over how much blood to use. Haha!

Chiri: And now speaking specifically about Deadstream and To Hell and Back… First things first: How is the creative process of the stories? And I’m talking about the moment before the production of the films. Is one of you two the one with the ideas? Or do they come up at the same time and work on them together? Perhaps, you are taking the kids to school, a driver cuts you off, and then you decide to create a short film in which he is murdered.

Mr. and Mrs. Horror: We both riff on each other’s ideas. One of us will pitch an idea to the other. Then the other will change it and repitch it back.

Seems like the epiphanies come when we are brushing our teeth.

Mr. and Mrs. Horror

Chiri: I really love found footage movies —I still remember shi*** myself when I was watching the Blair Project at the cinema—, and I was pleasantly surprised with Deadstream.  I felt like I was watching «Evil Dead» on Twitch. Where did you get the inspiration for that movie?

Mr. and Mrs. Horror: We wanted to see if we could pull off a found footage movie that would start off more natural and escalate to an «Evil Dead» kind of bonkers creature feature without losing the audience. The livestream format seemed like a good way to keep propelling the audience forward and not give them time to «jump ship» or question how ridiculous things were getting (too much).

Chiri: And why did you decide on the found footage movies? You like the genre or was it useful for the needs? Btw, To Hell and Back was the best segment of V/H/S 99 (Sorry other directors, but not sorry).

Mr. and Mrs. Horror: Haha, thank you! The answer is both! We love found footage but when we first started kicking around the idea about 5 years ago it seemed like audiences were a little burned out of found footage but we needed to keep our budget low so we went for it!

Chiri: Call me old, but I will defend the practical effects tooth and nail. And I think they turned out perfect in your work. Is it because you had summoned the spirit of Tom Savini or did you sell your soul to the devil? Now without joke: how complicated was it to bring them to reality? (Anyway, I know you would have wanted to do the finger in the nose by CGI).

We didn’t sell our souls but we did sacrifice a few animals to the spirit of Tom Savini.

Mr. and Mrs. Horror

Mr. and Mrs. Horror: We both LOVE practical effects. We love the way they look on screen and also admire the art and artist behind the scenes. We didn’t sell our souls but we did sacrifice a few animals to the spirit of Tom Savini. Our creature designer, Troy Larson, is amazing and did most of the work bringing the monsters to life. Of course there are always challenges on set filming monsters practically. Nothing ever goes to plan.

Joseph sat in the bathtub for Deadstream for 14 hours trying to get the right shots for that creature fight. V/H/S 99 was shot in a very remote location in the desert so it was a big challenge getting the stunt performers in makeup etc in the crazy conditions.

Chiri: Horror and comedy are the ideal couple. And Deadstream has the perfect balance of both. Was it difficult to get to that result? Because humor has a lot of improvisation, but it doesn’t exactly look like an improvised movie. Especially since the editing of all the cameras and sequences -I don’t know, but I have no doubts about it either- seems like it was a pain in the ass.

Mr. and Mrs. Horror: Haha, you are spot on! We messed with the balance of the horror and comedy all the way to the end. Scripting, rehearsals, shooting, editing…it was always changing. We were still arguing about the right balance all the way up to the final pass with the sound design. 

Also correct about the improvisation. We didn’t do any improvising in Deadstream. All the writing and timing of the shots were carefully rehearsed. Getting the shots we wanted with action camera tech and the constraints of a body camera rig were a pain in the ass. Thank you for pointing out the editing. We’re pretty proud of it!

Chiri: The film took a long time to reach the mass public -I read that it was filmed a couple of years ago-. In all that time, did you think it would become as successful as it is now? And is that what got you the V/H/S 99 invitation?

Mr. and Mrs. Horror: We did not expect to get into a big festival like SXSW so we were thrilled! And it wasn’t until we were accepted there that we got the invitation to V/H/S/99 and it was a dream come true. I think another filmmaker dropped out so we had just a couple months to quickly write and film our segment but it was such a great experience!

Chiri: I don’t want to take up any more of your time, so I’m going to ask you one last question, which is actually a space for you to answer that thing that you’d like to be asked and that you’ve never been asked until now. Free your souls!

Joseph A: Do you plan to act in everything you make?

Absolutely not.

Acting was the least enjoyable aspect of making Deadstream and I regretted it several times during production. Operating the technical aspects (camera operating, ipad interacting, etc.) while performing was incredibly difficult. I realized during that time that I’m not nearly passionate enough about acting to continue to be in things that I’m also directing.

I ended up taking a central role in our V/H/S/99 segment purely because it made logistical sense. I now had experience operating a camera and acting at the same time and at the pace that we would need to move, we had to have someone with that kind of experience.

Vanessa: All I needed was someone to point out the pain in the ass editing. And you did. So now I can rest in peace. Thank you.

Chiri: Oh, in fact there is one more thing… What is your best horror movie, novel and short?

Vanessa: These aren’t my favorites but are recommendations: Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, Abhorsen Trilogy, Mama.

Joseph: The Gate; In a Dark, Dark Room (not a novel, just a really messed up children’s book I love with all my heart); Lights Out (the short)

Chiri: Any words for the Argentina audience?

Mr. and Mrs. Horror: We’ve heard you guys are the best of the best horror fans. Would love to visit a festival and watch movies with you!

Chiri: Thanks for your time! And I hope to see more of your stuff soon.

Mr. and Mrs. Horror: Thanks so much for having us! Very fun questions!

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