Catching up with the director and actor behind “The Night Watchmen”

night-watchmenWe already talked about all the spooky independent films that are screening at the Buried Alive Film Fest from Nov. 16 – Nov. 20, including the world premiere of “The Night Watchmen.” The feature-length film follows a group of unlikely (and unqualified) friends as they fight to survive a vampire outbreak. The film, which is a little not safe for work, hinges on comedy and lots of fake blood to get its story across.

The Signal caught up with Mitchell Altieri, director of “The Night Watchmen,” to get some insight on his background and aspirations before the premiere of his film.

Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking was not just a hobby, but that it would be your life and your living?

A. After I made my first film “Lurking in Suburbia,” I was called by some big agencies down in LA. So I took a trip and met with a few agents that wanted to sign me for representation. The buildings were all glass and extremely impressive, everyone looked sharp and slick. I think that was the moment I knew that my filmmaking was becoming my living.

Q. Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?
A. I personally believe it’s harder to “keep going” than “getting started,” but I’m sure that would be up for debate by other filmmakers. I just think when you start out, you have the time, you have that script you’ve been perfecting for years, and nowadays you have amazing cameras and editing systems right at your fingertips…you can make a smart, contained film for next to nothing. But once you get into the system, that’s when the pressure builds, you need to keep upping the ante, yet you also have to stay relevant, you want the stay in the industry’s eye… so you’re working faster, always looking for your next project. And I feel like the particular thing for me is I’ve had films premiere at Sundance, SXSW, and other great festivals so I’m always looking to top that last film. That was my goal for “The Night Watchmen,” so I hope audiences in Atlanta are in for a treat!

Q. What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?

A.Oh there are so many great films that come in all shapes and sizes, so that’s a very difficult question to answer. I believe in passion. Do you see the passion in the film? And not just by the actors, I mean everywhere…. Editing and production design. Obviously acting is very important, but I believe in the entire package needs to show passion.

Q. What drew you to directing over other aspects of production?
A. I loved films since I was a kid. When I was very young, as most, I thought the actors did it all… they controlled the movies in all aspects. So I decided I wanted to be an actor and told my mom right away. She explained that it was not the actors but the director who set ups up the vision for the movies. And I said, “Oh, I want to do that!”

Q. What is your end goal in filmmaking? Do you want to stay in indie films?
A. I think the end goal in pretty much any filmmaker’s life is to keep making great films. I love indies. I really do. I’ve also done studio work. But honestly wherever I can make great films, films that mean something to me, with great people, that’s where I’ll end up.

Making a Murderous Clown

If you’ve been wondering where all those crazy clowns went, they’re currently enjoying the limelight in “Night Watchmen.” Gary Peebles, who played the main villain, Blimpo, leads his band of vampire clowns into the newspaper headquarters where the Watchmen work. Peebles, an Atlanta native, opened up about how he brought Blimpo (back) to life.

  1. Who are your favorite actors? Who do you think has had the most influence on your acting style?
  2. My favorite actors are Dwayne Johnson, Don Cheadle, Forest Whitaker and Donnie Yen. I think the combination of Donnie Yen’s slick and smooth but deadly approach and Dwayne Johnson’s tremendous presence is probably the most influential for me. Donnie Yen being a lifetime martial artist and Dwayne Johnson being a football player, I find I can identify with them the best.

    Q. Do you prefer horror movie roles?
  3. This was actually my first Horror Movie Role and I have sooo much fun with it. I’d definitely love to do more. If it’s in the cards for me, I’m definitely interested in doing it again.

    Q. The Atlanta film scene is still booming. Have you had other jobs around here?
  4. Since my main roles in film are based in stunt work I’ve have had the chance to work on different films and tv shows being shot here in the area. It’s been a wild ride for sure, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I’ve been very very fortunate enough to have been keeping busy and working consistently since I relocated here.

    Q. What’s your favorite type of character to play?
  5. I guess my favorite type of character to play is the protector type. Not the hero, just protector. Heroes have rules, protectors protect and at any cost and means necessary. I feel I can channel that kind of ferocity based on duty well.

    Q. How do you prep for a role like Blimpo, who doesn’t have dialogue and mostly acts through body language?
  6. I let the makeup do the most work. Having a simple conversation with someone in full creepy makeup can still scare the crap out of them. Adding any kind of traditionally creature-like movement can help. But Blimpo wasn’t a creature. He was hungry and evil. He had an agenda. He toyed with the Night Watchmen all throughout the film. Think of playing the meanest tricks on the people you despise, mostly ‘because they’re in your way. He’s not complex in his movements. He’s strong as two oxen, but they hardest part is trying to think like a hunter who’s playing with his food before he kills it.  

Tickets to the screening are $12. Popcorn and drinks are available at the box office. The screening will be held at 7 Stages Theatre at 9 p.m. Nov. 17.