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Dec 26, 2019

As always each episode of The Nick Taylor Horror Show explores and deconstructs the success strategies of established horror directors while summarizing the key insights and resources that you can use on your own horror filmmaking journey.

Today we have directorial duo Adam Stein, Zach Lipovsky. Freaks is, not necessarily a horror movie, but it did deliver a very decent amount of blood (which may make it ‘horror adjacent’). Regardless, this was a fascinating movie that, on one hand was an independent character study, but on the other hand, delved deep into superhero level mythos - it was fascinating to see how Adam & Zach were able to play with such outlandish subject matter on such a small budget. 

That and the movie is loaded with very compelling performances, with Bruce Dern and Emile Hirsch, and overall it was one of the most surprising movies of the year. This was Adam and Zach’s first feature and we talk at length about how they were able to get it off the ground, how they got Bruce Dern involved, and how they were able to do so much with so little - all of that and so much more on the Nick Taylor Horror Show. 

Here as always are key takeaways from this conversation with Adam Stein, Zach Lipovsky, the directors of Freaks. 


  • Make your Casting Director your first hire. When Zach and Adam began to raise funds for the movie, the first investment they made was in a casting director. Why? Well first of all, they knew that in order for their movie to work, they needed great actors who could pull off the deeply emotional characters, and a casting director would be able to pitch the movie to stars. As we all know, big actors are a cache that can attract more funding which is what makes this such a critical first step. Casting Directors also have access to studios as well which can also help with funding. Find a casting director early, and invest in them. 


  • When it comes to the script, correct course as you go. After writing the screenplay, Zach and Adam were constantly rewriting it, even on set as they were shooting.  They stated that if some piece of dialogue felt like it didn’t work they had the presence of mind to try out different improvisational exercises to find dialogue that suited the scene better. In other words they were not so bound to the script as to treat it like it was the bible. This really is a testament to being as present as possible on set and adapting your material to the present moment. Zach and Adam had the flexibility and wherewithal to adapt the script to the moment and it suited the actors and the movie which had a very naturalistic feel to it. Doing this requires keeping everyone completely aligned and on the same page to ensure that everyone is making the same movie.


  • Be a curator, not an auteur. A number of directors who have been on the show including Mick Garris, Dan Robbins, and Mitzi Peirone have spoken at length about how damaging auteur theory can be to a movie. For those who don’t know, auteur theory is the belief that any and every single decision made on a movie has to come from the director. This is a limitation. Zach and Adam recommend being open to getting ideas from your entire crew and being the curator of those ideas, by picking and choosing the ones you think work best. Your job as a director is not to have the greatest ideas but to find the greatest ideas. Directing is a highly collaborative art, to not be open to the ideas that could come from the talented people around you is a wasted opportunity, particularly since they can make your movie better.  


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