Friday night the much anticipated, Sam Khaleghi directed feature, “Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge” had its World Premiere at the Arclight Cinema, Santa Monica, CA. This was also the weekend of the AFM (American Film Market.) an annual event that draws filmmakers and film industry people from throughout the world.
As with many movies, while you may certainly know the before camera talent, or those faces that appear on screen by name unless a director has enjoyed some renown, you may have trouble identifying the film’s director. But, do you know who may have written the original script? Do you know whose idea it was that gave birth to the narrative on which a movie was based? It’s not always the director’s idea which we see on the screen. Often the talented people on whose ideas the movie is based are somehow lost. This has always been the pecking order of film production.
In the case of this movie, Aaron Russman wrote the screenplay. While he and Khaleghi kicked ideas around prior to this screenplay becoming a reality, “Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge” was the first feature film Russman wrote for someone else to produce; it was his lines the actors mouth on screen.
Aaron Herman Russman has written, produced and directed projects at A Picture Show Film Company for over 15 years. His work includes narrative features and short films, documentaries, reality, and scripted television pilots and music videos. In August 2011 he released his debut feature film, “Lost in the Future,” followed by “Animus: The Tell-Tale Heart,” a re-imagining of Poe’s macabre masterpiece, in 2015.
Because the Weekender is going to be promoting a screenwriting competition this coming year, we are going to focus more on the talents that create the stories on which the films (more particularly the feature narratives) are based. We want to know how stories took root, how they developed, how they were optioned for films, what opinions and helpful advice the screenwriter may have about the scripts they write and the processes, and anything else we can find out that may help aspiring screenwriters.
Aaron Russman consented to this interview the weekend that his screenplay “Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge” would appear for its World Premiere at the Arclight Cinema at the AFM (America Film Market) in Santa Monica, California.
This weekend the AFM is taking place in California. One of the movies for which you originally penned the script is being presented in its World Premiere, and next weekend it will see its Michigan Red Carpet Premiere. I am talking about the movie, “Devil’s Night: Dawn of the Nain Rouge.” Tell us about this work and how it came to be as a movie.
Sam Khaleghi and I have known each other for a while, he saw a trailer for a film I made back in 2013 and helped get the movie distributed. So we were looking for something to originate together. He had an idea to do a film about the Detroit legend of the Nain Rouge, a kind of “Seven” approach, two city cops investigating a supernatural crime…I’m a fan of “Twin Peaks” and suggested we do a rural small town take, on the outskirts of Detroit, and one thing led to another and it started from there.
All things worth having are worth waiting for, I suppose. But you are saying that things started on this production as far back as 2013, is this correct? Was this a quick write for you? If no, how did it develop?
No, our friendship started in 2013, the “Devil’s Night” idea came about late 2017. It was a quick write compared to films I made myself, maybe a month for a first draft, then a couple weeks to work out changes for the final draft. Sam had the main characters in mind, Finnick, the female lead with a military past, and then Nightingale the Detroit police detective. Sam had a relationship with the city of Lake Orion and knew he wanted Jerry Narsh, the police chief, to play the actual police chief in the film. So I had a few story beats to go on and I filled in the world and timeline around those items from my own imagination.
How many screenplays have you written that have gone on to become movies, either your own or something someone else would produce?
“Devil’s Night” is the first feature I’ve written for someone else to make. Aside from a dozen or so shorts, I’ve written three screenplays that I subsequently produced into feature films (the third I’m currently shooting/editing.)
Before we talk about your latest project, talk about some of the others that you have done.
In 2011 I finished my first feature, “Lost in The Future,” a coming-of-age, father and son story. Jumps around in time a lot, a bit experimental. Then in 2013 I adapted the Edgar Poe short story The Tell Tale Heart into a modern-day story about a father seeking revenge for his daughter’s murder. Psychological drama/horror kind of thing.
My first introduction to your films was one on which your latest project is based. It was one shot largely (as I recall) inside a garage. In the end, your female lead meets a surreal end.
She left for a few other locations, but yes, most of the action takes place in the garage. Much in the same way I was watching Twin Peaks around the time, Sam proposed the Nain Rouge idea, and then that filtered into the small town approach for that film. I was reading a lot of classic horror comics from EC Comics. They’re self-contained, little creepy stories with dramatic endings…so I did my own version as that short film, “In The Death Car.”
When you make a fun short film often you imagine it could be a feature, too. But I did feel like I already told the main story, even if it was only 20 minutes…however, something about the rockstar character I featured in more or less a cameo role, had really stuck with me. I wanted to tell his life story.
How far along are you with this production? When can we see its release?
We shot this past summer for a few weeks, knowing there was a portion of the film that needed a winter setting. So we’re on hiatus at the moment, most likely until February next year before we resume shooting for a week or so. I’m confident the film will be completed by the fall of 2020.
Do you have any more screenplays that you have written perhaps on the backburners which you are going to produce after the “Denny Dooley Story”?
For sure. I have one I’d love to find the funds and interest for, and then if “Devil’s Night” needs a sequel or something along those lines, I’m always up for that, too!
In closing, do you have any thoughts on writing screenplays that you would like to share?
There is a lot of good advice out there: what to do, what not to do…I probably follow some, probably make a lot of mistakes in other ways. But for me, I just stick with it and make sure I’m writing the kind of things that keep me interested throughout the whole process, however long it takes.
But long or short, just stick with it and do things to keep yourself from getting bored with the subject matter, whether that’s watching similar genre films or listening to music that keeps your brain in that kind of mood. That’s what always works for me.