Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: For those who may be unfamiliar with your award-winning horror film, Murder Made Easy, how would you describe its premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Dave Palamaro: Murder Made Easy is a throwback dinner party murder mystery in the vein of Agatha Christie, Hitchcock’s Rope, and films like Sleuth and Deathtrap.
How Murder Made Easy came about was in 2016, I co-wrote a feature horror script called The Housesitter with my talented friend, Suju Vijayan. The Housesitter won ‘Best Horror Screenplay’ at Slamdance. After that, we got a lot of interest from production companies, but no one willing to finance the film.
Out of frustration of not being able to get The Housesitter off the ground, I came up with the idea to do an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery. It would have one location and a small number of actors to keep the budget down. That way I could self-finance the film. The story for Murder Made Easy (complete with all the twists and turns) came to me while driving home from work one day. I ran home and jotted it all down before I could forget it! Then, I met Tim Davis on a TV show we both worked on. Being such a fan of murder mysteries, I thought Tim would be the perfect writer for Murder Made Easy.
Tim Davis: I was hired by David to write the script, but I certainly shared his passion for the material. In fact, we worked together in reality TV and became friends talking about shared love for shows like Sherlock Holmes starring Jeremy Brett. We just loved old-school murder mystery! When I came on board to write the script, David was emphatic I watch certain mysteries that were particularly inspirational to him. One was Rope which I was big fan, as well. This very much fit my working style as a writer. Not everyone feels this way, but I’ve found it to be very beneficial to immerse into the genre I’m writing for. That tells one the mythology and rules of the world so to speak. As a result, I believe we were able to be faithful to what people love about murder mysteries and that’s a big part of why we’ve gotten the very positive reception we have. We made a love letter to murder mysteries with our own spin but without reinventing them.
BD: David, as the director, what attracted you to the project, and what did you most look forward to taking on with the project?
DP: I saw Alfred Hitchcock‘s Rope when I was pretty young. I think it was on TV, and it really had a huge impact on me. I was really impressed by the long takes and it was incredibly well directed and acted. I always wanted to sort of mimic that style that Hitchcock pioneered in that film. Hitchcock has said that Rope was sort of a failed experiment but to me I think it’s one of Hitchcock‘s masterpieces. With Murder Made Easy, I was looking forward to working with our talented cast and crew and seeing if we could pull off a great murder mystery like Rope!
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in writing and directing the film, respectively, and what have been some of your creative influences?
TD: David was very involved in the scripting process. He had a specific vision which as the writer for hire is an incredibly relief. While of course we explored various choices and options within the story but David knew what kind of story he wanted, he saw the characters vividly in his own mind and he knew what he wanted to achieve as a filmmaker. Some might read that and think it’s restrictive to the writer but I would suggest it’s just the opposite. David provide a very stable foundation which I was able to spring off of. When a director doesn’t know what they want then you’re just playing guesswork with the writing. Because David was so confident in his vision, he was able to pull me back if I went to far when it came let’s say language (i.e., swearing or certain horror elements). As a result, I actually felt a tremendous freedom because I trusted his vision. We went through a large number of drafts and developed the script over two years. David was very specific in his notes and we’d go over specific lines until they were just right. The script was not rushed or short-changed. That can be intensive, but let’s be honest, that makes for a higher quality film. Of course, we had some disagreements – or discussions as Mom and Dad might say - but I would suggest all of that was very healthy, very normal part of the creative process. And I remain very grateful that David was always – and I don’t exaggerate – he was always open to hear me out if I did bring up something I didn’t think was working. I think that’s essential in productive collaboration.
BD: Likewise, what can you tell us about your work with the cast and crew in bringing the film to life?
TD: In any low-budget film, everyone wears many hats. Once cameras were rolling there were some line changes here and there. Jessica and I had character meetings every day about Joan while David worked very closely with Sherri our DP. I also took on several duties simply because there was no one else to do them. I was in charge of petty cash and lunch orders. I helped move furniture out of Sherri’s way for fluid camera shots. Chris, our leader actor, was fighting a cold so I would bring him green tea. I ironed shirts between shoot days. Our location was my actual condo at the time so I was up at 5 a.m. every day to run the AC to cool things off as much I could before everyone showed up. This was often after going to bed at midnight or 1 a.m. after I did final clean up. We were blessed with an amazing PA, Vance Whitmore, who did hesitate to jump in and help wherever could – setting lights, resetting props and even figuring out how to get discounts during runs. Whatever it took to get the movie done, we had to do. Once cameras start rolling, a trance almost sets in. You just will do whatever you have to get your movie made. It sounds a bit over the top but it’s really true – failure is not an option.
BD: What do you hope that viewers will take away from the movie?
DP: That's a great question! I suppose people might see some kind of morality tale in Murder Made Easy. After all, with themes of murder, betrayal, social status, justice, etc. there's plenty of tasty issues to sink your teeth into after watching the film.
But honestly, I really want audiences to be thrilled, surprised and taken on a roller coaster ride in the same way one would feel watching a Hitchcock or Agatha Christie film. If I can achieve that, then I feel that I've done my job as a director.
TD: I think this is a super-fun, delicious genre of storytelling. I hope people genuinely enjoy the time they spend watching this film. I take no shame in the label of escapism. The world is chaotic & scary. Life is hard and uncertain. Writing stories that help people enjoy their time is a fine vocation as far as I’m concerned. I hope people have fun with it. When we’ve screened the film, I stand in the back and watch the audience react to the film. For me, writing a whodunnit and then watching a live audience try to guess what’s happening is a thrill beyond words.
BD: Having taken the film through the festival circuit, what was your experience with Murder Made Easy’s critical and fan response?
DP: I’m extremely grateful that some horror fans have embraced our film. Because our film is really a thriller not a horror film at all. But to get support from the horror community and horror reviewers has been incredible. It’s given us a potential fanbase, and I really didn’t expect that when we made the film. So, I’m very grateful for that and hopefully more people who see Murder Made Easy who are horror fans will also embrace it.
TD: I’m legitimately overwhelmed. We worked hard to tell a particular story we wanted to tell, but that’s no guarantee anyone else wants to hear it. We premiered at the very wonderful Women in Horror Film Festival in 2017. I knew no one there. To have a roomful of strangers tell you they loved a movie you wrote – that’s when you know you’ve done something of quality. I’ve not been able to attend all of our screenings which I regret tremendously because every screening has been incredibly gratifying. Not everyone is going to like everything, but of course you love it when an audience loves your piece!
BD: The film’s Blu-ray is currently available for pre-order. What can viewers anticipate from the release?
DP: The Murder Made Easy Blu-ray is now available from Scream Team Releasing, and they’ve done an incredible job with the artwork and the extras on there. We’ve got several audio commentaries, deleted scenes, rehearsal footage, trailers, bloopers, reversible artwork and more. So, I hope that audiences enjoy all the extra goodies that we packed into the Blu-ray!
TD: This is the Do-It-Yourself era of filmmaking. People who want to tell a story don’t have to wait for a 3-picture deal from a studio. Technology has made it possible to bring movies and stories to life. I’ve very much enjoying many of the festival-circuit and indie films that are being made on weekends with shoestring budget. A good story is a good story is a good story. Hopefully, on the special features of the Blu-ray, we’re offering some helpful and productive thoughts on that process of indie filmmaking. David’s idea of rehearsing for a week like it was a play and then shooting for a week was a brilliant strategy. I’m completely convinced that’s a big reason why we were able to finish on time.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
DP: I’m hoping to make The Housesitter, my horror script, into a movie in the next couple years. Looking five years down the road, I hope that I have a couple more feature films under my belt and I really hope I’ve improved as a director. That would be a good goal for me - improvement!
TD: I’m delighted to say I’ve written some episodes for the Cults podcast on the Parcast Network. That’s been a great experience bringing several real-life examinations of cults to life. They have a very high standard for both research and writing so that was a great and rewarding creative challenge. Since Murder Made Easy, I’ve been working on several other indie film projects which hopefully will be brought to life sooner than later. I have a blog and podcast covering the world of working in Hollywood which can be found at handsometimmydexpress.com.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Murder Made Easy?
DP: You can find Murder Made Easy on Twitter at @murdermadeasy and on Facebook.