Dirt Dauber is an odd little film. It's a 33-minute Lovecraft-inspired horror flick, a mixture of styles of filming, styles of storytelling and styles of theme. They all work. I really wasn't sure what I was getting into with it. It is quiet at times, completely overblown in others. It tells its story well, and that is really all you can ask.
It is hard to talk about the movie without giving to much away. Just see it. Forgive some of the B-movie effects at the end and think about the progression of the thing.
Here's an interview with creator Steve Daniels. You really should watch the film first. You can buy it and get more info right here.) . Then come back to this part after.
Matt Cowger: Lovecraft influence aside for a bit, what were some of the other things behind the creation of Dirt Dauber There is kind of a Carnival of Souls feel to it in places.
Steve Daniels: One of the strongest influences on Dirt Dauber was my yet-to-be-conceived son. Around the time of Dirt Dauber's inception, my wife and I were having serious talks about having a baby, our first. My own fears and neurosis polluted ideas I had about fertility and motherhood. I channeled author HP Lovecraft and his monstrous literary creation, Shub Niggurath, a blasphemous fertility god, the black goat of the woods with a thousand young.
Only days after Dirt Dauber was complete, my wife and I had our son. Luckily, he was not the monster spawn I feared him to be. I can already tell he's going to be a big horror/sci-fi fan.
As far as films, yes, Herk Harvey's Carnival of Souls has always had a strong influence on my work, especially my previous film the gibbering horror of howard ghormley. David Lynch's early short films and E. Elias Merhige's The Begotten strongly influenced Dirt Dauber as well.
MC: What made you decide to go for the mix of black and white, color and puppetry for the various pieces of the movie?
SD: The use of various colors and textures in the film represents an insect's life cycle through metamorphosis. The film opens in grainy, black and white Super 8mm. This was meant to represent the larva phase, then the film switches to sharper, high contrast B&W, 24p video for the pupa stage, and for the adult phase the film changes into full color. The puppet-ed folklore flashbacks represented the Driver character's childlike, fairytale memories of these strange mountain legends.
MC: Start to finish what was the production process like (and where was this filmed)?
SD: The production was a long, drawn out process. Having no budget, with everyone donating their time and talent, filming took place primarily on weekends. Luckily my two talented actors, Lyon Forrest Hill & Lee O. Smith were patient and believed enough in the project to stick with it. We shot on and off for a couple years. It's not the most efficient, nor encouraging way to make a short film.
Dirt Dauber was shot in the Blue Ridge Mountains at the northern tip of South Carolina, and in and around Columbia, SC.
I grew up visiting the tunnel/cave that we used for Shub Niggurath's lair It is called Stumphouse Tunnel and it's truly an amazing place. The South ran out of money around the Civil war, so the work on the tunnel, cut deep into the mountain, came to a halt. It leads to nowhere. A creepy, haunted place.
Like any no budget project, shooting the film did have its share of challenges. Lighting the scenes within the tunnel proved to be a major obstacle. My father solved this problem by a ingenious lighting rig that ran off a car battery that we had to lug deep into the tunnel. Overall though, the shoot was great experience, but it just stretched on too damn long.
As far as post production goes, I edited Dirt Dauber and was lucky enough to get Chris "Anakrid" Bickel to do the music for the film. I'm pretty sure Chris has sold his soul to the Devil, or worse, for his musical prowess because his work is truly creepy on a whole other level.
MC: What made you decide to put Lovecraftian elements into the film?
SD: At the core of Dirt Dauber is the fundamental Lovecraftian idea that monstrous, alien entities lurk behind man’s feeble idea of what he perceives to be as reality. Sometimes, in dark and forgotten places, man’s reality and the horrifying truth can intersect with horrifying results.
MC: Is there anything you would have changed or expanded?
SD:Perhaps I could have shaved some minutes off the final running time.
MC: Any new projects you are working on you can talk about?
SD:I recently won a small film grant from the South Carolina Film Commission to make a 10 min short film I wrote entitled, Dirty Silverware. It is about a man who goes into the forest to kill a creature that creates cursed silverware that brings unhappiness to the world. It's a great opportunity and a chance to broaden my scope as an independent, DIY filmmaker. For one, I finally have a budget to work with.
MC: Lastly, the question I always like to ask, what makes you happiest in life?
SD: My family.