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Since his first feature film in 1999, filmmaker Dante Tomaselli has been working hard to establish a career in the horror realm by creating sometimes impenetrable works which don't follow the conventional three act template. Sometimes haunting, frustrating, and befuddling in one go, he's made three films Desecration (1999), Horror (2002), and Satan's Playground (2005) - that have augmented his stature as an independent filmmaker whose talent is slowly coalescing into a recognizable name on the horror scene.

Now beginning production on his fourth film, The Ocean, Tomaselli's career is the result of hard work outside of the studio system: the financing is tougher to come by, you willingly wear several hats to get the film done, and have a more direct relationship with fans and detractors, the latter sometimes vociferously launching verbal salvos with their own level of passion and glee.

This interview reveals a passionate and determined filmmaker with a deep interest in experimental and surreal film, yet with each completed production, he's a bit wiser to the vagaries of the industry, and realistically addresses the business aspects of the process to ensure each project is followed by another to keep the creative juices flowing, and the career moving full steam ahead.

Mark R. Hasan :     One aspect that's very challenging to filmmakers who want to produce their first effort admittedly, partly out of necessity -- is organizing the financing, because without the funds to back a production, the venture remains a dream.

There are a number of methods filmmakers have used to get their productions going -- selling stock, visiting every known dentist and doctor in the family, rich friends, setting up a formal business plan -- and I wonder if you could compare the main steps you took to finance your first three films. I imagine  Desecration  was the toughest, while your second and third films -- Horror and Satan's Playground -- were more firmly financed because you had the beginnings of a filmography.

Dante Tomaselli : Well, I was possessed with the idea that before my 30th birthday, my first feature would be completely finished and distributed. So when I graduated from college, I was like a horse let out of the gate. I put all my energies into my short films. There was always the intent of making a feature. I kept my eye on the prize. 

Throughout my late teens and my early to mid-20s, I was living in NYC, trying to survive in cockroach infested apartments. I had many degrading telemarketing jobs, I sold ad space, shot cable commercials, I was a security guard, I did anything to pay for film stock... and rent. 

I remember after graduating from the New York School of Visual Arts, just feeling completely consumed with creating Desecration, almost to the point of psychosis. The images and sounds were pouring out of me, especially after my visit with an acupuncturist/herbalist in Chinatown who burned my back... along the spine... in three spots, releasing... something.

I had insomnia for weeks, though I didn't need sleep... I was wide awake! I was surviving on some mysterious energy. No. Not drugs! Over the next few months I made a series of low budget 16mm shorts, and started entering them into film festivals. I sent them out everywhere, figuring something would stick, somewhere, somehow. Nothing. No film festivals wanted them.

I kept on making these shorts, over and over and over, even though most people around me thought I was fucking out of my mind! I lost a lot of friends during this period. I remember, it was me...against the world. You were on my side or not. I saw my future peeking over the horizon, it didn't matter jealous or judgmental friends couldn't see it. 

I guess they thought I was insane for making films about a caged boy with a deranged mother armed with a baby bottle filled with hallucinogens (laughs). I think eventually the shorts improved in quality because they started to get accepted to some film festivals and, wildly enough, would play at different S&M clubs and bars in NYC. Many times with no sound, just the background imagery. The clubs would loop them.

During this time I was definitely creatively nurtured and inspired by a filmmaker named Cherel Ito. I met by her by chance. We were just magnetically drawn to each other at a post office in the West Village. Incredibly, Cherel was the Executrix of the Maya Deren estate! I couldn't believe it! Of course I am a huge fan of Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon. Big influence. Maya Deren is the grandmother of surrealism!

Cherel and I became very close and she definitely helped me in many ways. I lived on West 10th and Bleeker and she was just down the street. We had a unique relationship and she kind of guided my career for a while. Cherel said she was psychic... and due to her urgings, in 1996 when I was 26, I attended  Angelika Film Center's Independent Feature Film Market with a trailer for Desecration. At one of the screenings I met Jack Swain, who turned out to be the main investor for the $150, 000 feature length  Desecration.



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