Digging up and endlessly exploring the past may initially seem like promising opportunities for friends and business associates to garner as much emotional insight and financial opportunities as possible, to help them move forward with their lives. But when those investigations inadvertently bring up unexpected and unwelcome secrets and curses, even the most innocent motives can unleash irrevocable consequences that can ruin even the strongest relationship. Searching for those long-hidden truths and desires causes havoc among Kathy, played by Danielle Harris, and her friends in co-writer-director Gabriel Bologna’s fantasy horror thriller, ‘The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond,’ which will be released tomorrow on Blu-ray and DVD.
‘The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond’ follows nine friends, including Kathy, her fiancé, Trent (Walker Howard) and Pete (Robert Patrick), as they take a holiday at a Victorian home on a private island off the coast of Maine. There, they uncover a game first discovered as part of an archaeological expedition from over 80 years ago that resulted in a series of mysterious–and grisly–deaths. What they don’t realize is that when played, the ancient artifact brings out the worst in each of them. Jealousy, greed, hatred, lust, all of the things they keep buried deep inside themselves rise to the surface and come to a boil. A warning to all those who start the game: it just might finish you!
Harris generously took the time recently to talk about filming ‘The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond’ over the phone. Among other things, the actress discussed how she was attracted to the role of Kathy because the horror thriller allowed her to play an age-appropriate character that she could truly relate to; how the movie’s co-writer and associate producer, Sean Clark, sent her the script and asked her to take on the role, as they were friends before shooting began; and how she felt it was a natural progression to become a director, as she’s always admired and respected the creative process behind the camera.
ShockYa (SY): You play Kathy in the fantasy-horror-thriller, ‘The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond,’ which is set to be released on Blu-ray and DVD. What was it about the character, and the script overall, that convinced you to take on the role?
Danielle Harris (DH): I think first of all, it was the first film at the time where the character was age-appropriate for me. I had been playing younger characters for a really long time. At the time, I had just finished filming Rob Zombie‘s ‘Halloween,’ where I was playing a high school student. I think I was about 30 at the time.
I knew most of the cast (on ‘The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond’), as they were my friends. They were all attached, and I was the last one to fill in the cast. We were starting a few days after I signed on. I thought it would be really fun to shoot up in the woods, and hang out with all my friends. We were shooting night shoots locally in L.A.
With Kathy, I felt like I finally had the chance to really act. I just thought it was a fun idea. Plus, I hadn’t died from a chainsaw yet. (laughs) So that was another deciding factor.
SY: Speaking of playing a character who’s closer to your age, instead of someone who’s younger, what was the process of maturing on screen? Where you able to relate to Kathy’s struggles at all?
DH: It was nice to not have to young it up, for a lack of a better word. It was a bit frustrating playing younger than I was for my whole life. So it was nice to make the transition, and be seen, as an adult. It was also nice to dress pretty and have my hair done, which was also kind of new to me at the time. I had been doing that on TV, but film was a little bit harder.
Kathy’s a bit more serious than I am, but it was nice to not necessarily be the naughty girl, even though those films were fun. It was nice to take a break and watch the craziness around her. It wasn’t me that was in the middle of it, until three-quarters of the movie, and then I get to get it.
SY: How did you become involved in the film-did you have to audition for the movie’s director, Gabriel Bologna, or were you approached for the role of Kathy?
DH: I actually didn’t know Gabriel. Sean Clark, one of the producers and writers, just called me, because we were friends. He called me and asked, “Would you mind? We’re starting in a couple days. I know your schedule’s crazy, but I’d really like you to do it, if you want to.”
He sent me the script, and said he had to know by the end of the day. He said, here’s the deal, and I said, yeah, sure, I’ll do it. So it was pretty easy, actually.
SY: Besides helming ‘The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond,’ Gabriel also co-wrote the script for the film. What was it like working with him, as both a scribe and a director, on the set? Do you generally prefer working with helmers who also penned the screenplay?
DH: Most of the directors I work with are also the writers. I’ve rarely, if ever, worked with a director, especially in the genre, who are not the writers. So it’s nice that they can tell you what they’re looking for.
Sean was actually more about keeping to the story, while I think Gabe just wanted to get it in the can, and get what we needed for the day. I think he trusted that we would do do the character and story stuff, while Sean was the one who kept us on a timeline with the characters. He was very hands-on while we were on the set.
That was nice, because normally you don’t see writers on the set, unless they’re also the director. Sean was there to help facilitate, though, while Gabe was trying to get the shots in the can.
SY: How did you prepare for the role of Kathy before you began filming the movie? Did you do any particular research before you began filming to get into your character’s mindset?
DH: No, not really. Again, it was age appropriate. It was just that I, Danielle, was going to go to this house in the middle of nowhere with friends. Some of the other actors, including Mircea (Monroe) and Electra (Avellan) and Elise (Avellan), are my friends. So it was like I had to just show up, and those relationships were already established.
So it was just kind of existing, and we had to create stuff, like my brother dying in the movie, and Jimmy (Duval)’s character having done, since he’s such a sweetheart. It was hard to have that animosity towards him. But we’re actors, so we make it happen.
SY: Speaking of being friends with your co-stars, the movie features a diverse ensemble cast, including Robert Patrick and Sean Lawlor. What was the process of working with your co-stars on the set? Did you have any rehearsal time with them before you began shooting the film?
DH: Not really. I’m Meisner-trained, which is based on playing in the moment. For me, I actually don’t like rehearsal; I don’t think they’re organic and authentic. So I prefer to do my work on my own, and know what I feel about the person and want from them in the scene.
When you get there, everything changes anyway. I’ve never, as an actor, had a rehearsal where I then get on set, and it’s the exact same way. Even when you do a play, you have six or eight weeks of rehearsal, but on opening night, it’s going to change. It depends on how you’re feeling in the moment, how the audience responds to you, how the other person acts and what craft they’re bringing into the moment. So I prefer working without having rehearsals before.
As far as blocking, and knowing what the day is like, that’s really important. But other than that, I just like to get in there and make it happen.
SY: The characters in the film turn to violence after playing the game, as they contend with such emotions as jealousy, greed, hatred and lust, all of which they keep buried deep inside themselves. What was the process of balancing the friends’ conflicts with each other, and keeping their emotional struggles realistic amongst the movie’s violence?
DH: I think each actors’ process is different. I think when it comes to our characters’ issues and conflicts, I don’t think it really affects our working and personal relationships. Thankfully no one was method (acting), so as soon as Gabe yelled cut, we were laughing and joking, and enjoying our time and getting ready to move on.
It was a short shoot with a lot of cast. We needed a lot of coverage in a limited amount of time. So it moved very quickly, so there wasn’t any time to really think into it what was going on. So we had to get in and get it done.
SY: ‘The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond’ was shot independently. Did having that low budget pose any challenges or difficulties while you were shooting?
DH: I think it depends on the movie. With independent films, I think the director has more creative control. There isn’t a bigger studio that’s overshadowing, and is being specific about what they want. They don’t always allow the production to be free. But at the same time, when you have an independent film company, and you don’t have a studio looking over your shoulder, you don’t really know who you’re getting and working with.
Sometimes when you get very limited funds, you get what you pay for, so it’s very difficult to shoot. I know, because I shot my feature (‘Among Friends’) two years ago, and we shot in 10 days, on almost no money. I know how hard and challenging that is.
It’s not something that’s all that fun, necessarily, when you’re working under those restraints. But it’s gorilla filmmaking, so there is something exciting about it sometimes. But it’s a lot easier to do a studio film, where the budget’s $20 million, and three months to get the movie in the can, versus shooting a movie for $200,000, and you have eight days to get the movie in the can. It can be very challenging.
But this movie was shot mainly on one location, which helped with the budget. We were all together for many scenes, so that helped. But trying to get coverage on ten people in one day, where you’re doing 12 pages on one camera, is incredibly difficult. So it was definitely a learning experience, but it’s nothing I haven’t seen, time and time again, on independent horror films, or independent movies, in general.
SY: Like you mentioned, you have made a name for yourself in the horror genre, and have appeared in such films as the ‘Halloween’ and ‘Hatchet series, as well as ‘Stake Land.’ What is it about the horror genre that you enjoy acting in it so much, and are you interested in appearing in more horror films in the future?
DH: Well, I guess you can say people call me the modern-day scream queen. I’ve definitely learned a lot about it by starting my career in this genre. It’s not something I would say I sought out to do at 10-years-old, and I just fell into them. I love them for what they are and know how hard they are to do, and I love how fans have made forums about the genre.
I know there are about five movies coming out this year that I’ve done, and I’m about to start some other ones this year. So I would consider doing more of them, if the right ones come my way. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t do other things at the same time. I am moving into directing, and am transitioning into other things.
SY: What type of reaction did you receive from horror fans when ‘The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond’ was release in theaters? Did you receive a generally positive response from fans of the genre?
DH: I did. For many years, I have been doing conventions, and fans have been coming up to me, asking when they can get it. They say they saw the movie in the theater or at a convention during a screening, and they love it.
Actually, I’ve been a bit surprised by the response that I’ve had. There has been a cult following of the film. I think between myself, Robert Patrick and James Duval, it brings a pretty big audience of really supportive fans, who have been dying to see it on home release.
I think that’s because it’s been the forbidden fruit; it hasn’t been available for so many years. No one’s been able to get it. But now that it’s finally out, everyone’s been rushing to get it. It’s pretty exciting for Sean and everyone involved in making the movie.
Fans want what they can’t get. Now that they can get it, hopefully everyone will run out and get it.
SY: Like you mentioned earlier, besides acting, you have also been directing. Why did you decide to make that transition into helming?
DH: I just think it’s time. I’ve been the victim and the heroine for quite a few years now. There’s only so far you can go (as an actor). I’m 36, so it’s time (to move on). It’s been 25 years since I did my first horror movie, and I’m only 36. So it seems like a natural progression.
I don’t really have a desire to be a movie star. I understand acting, and do appreciate and love it. But I’ve always admired and respected the creative process behind the camera much more than in front of it.
I think it’s much more challenging over a longer period of time. So I need to do one thing and stick with that, instead of doing eight films as an actor. it’s a lot to go through that over and over again. If I can stay with one project over an extended period of time, and really sink my teeth into it, that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.
SY: Have the directors you have worked with as an actress, such as Gabriel on ‘The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond,’ or Rob on the ‘Halloween’ remake series, influenced your decision to become a helmer yourself?
DH: I think all of them have had an influence. I think it was inspiring for me to work with directors like Adam Green, who did ‘Hatchet II,’ and Jim Mickle, who did ‘Stake Land,’ and Rob, who are fans and know it really well, and are excited about the process of making a film. It was exciting to see that happen, and watch them jump up and down behind the monitor, and really be a part of it.
It’s also great to know the challenges and struggles they’ve gone through, as well. I wanted to learn about it, and educate myself about the distribution and pre-production processes. I knew a considerable amount about them, but I hadn’t necessarily known as much as I wanted to.
So it’s been educational. You think you know everything about filmmaking, and then you take on directing. There’s a whole other world that you didn’t know you didn’t understand. Now that I know about that, I thought it was time. It was either time to go back to school, or try directing. I need a change, and I felt directing was where I needed to go at the time.
SY: Do you have any upcoming projects lined up that you can discuss?
DH: I have both, but none that I can discuss yet. (laughs) There are some projects I’m attached to that we’re going to make an announcement about soon.
Written by: Karen Benardello