1. When did you start getting involved in the art? Where did you study?
I had been involved in art period since I was able to hold a pencil in my hands. As a kid, I would draw and paint pictures of everything from superheroes to monsters. When I was in high school, I was heavily involved with Manga and Anime. I loved the visuals that Anime had with movies like Vampire Hunter D and shows like Dragon Ball Z. At that time, I was convinced that I was going to be a animator and draw anime cartoons for a living…. that all changed when I took a TV/Video class in my senior year.
In that class, I learned what video production was and got my hands on all the modes of production: pre production, production, and post. I loved every minute of it even when everyone else in the class viewed it as a blow off class.
During the latter half of my senior year, I had to come up with a project that I had to complete in order to graduate. I had written the paper for the project at the beginning of the year; it was on the existence of ghosts through scientific means. Up until the TV/Video class, I was under the impression that I would perform a ghost hunt as my project. Then one day I came up with the idea of making a Hollywood styled interpretation of ghosts in a short 15 minute film called, “Banshee.”
I was still relatively new with video and had never actually shot anything that was a narrative. So I spent weeks writing the script for Banshee in study hall. The story was a simple one: A murdered Irish immigrant girl haunts the house of a boy and slowly kills off each of his friends until they finally must confront each other and do battle. Sounds really cool except that most it was chock full of plot holes and half of the footage that would help explain elements of the film were never in fact shot. I ended up breaking every single rule in the book of filmmaking for the worse. A friend of mine who acted in the film was electrocuted and stung by a bee in the same day. I was convinced at that point that the film was cursed, but the damage had been done; I had caught the film bug and knew that it was what I wanted to dedicate my life to doing.
After two years at a community college, all the while making another short film called, “Batmen”. I ended up transferring to Robert Morris University for their Media Arts-TV/Video program. It was primarily based around creating TV production, but the elements were the same for creating short films. I got heavily involved in the campus TV station; first working on their variety show called, RMU Live, and working my way up to Co-Producing a film review/comedy show called Prime Cuts Theater. For 2 years, I wrote, edited, starred, and produced Prime Cuts Theater, ultimately making it one of the most popular shows on RMU TV’s line up. All the while, I still made short horror films that kept getting better and more sophisticated with each one.
When I graduated RMU, I entered a market where there were ZERO job opportunities. I started doing freelance video for a bit, which was paying off but not in the way of real money. When I was at RMU, as much as I enjoyed my time there, I saw that there were some things that I disagreed with when it came to teaching of some subjects. I found that freedom to teach advanced techniques to those who wanted to try it were not encouraged. So I decided that teaching film and video would be something I could do along with making my own films. So I enrolled in Chatham University’s MFA in Film Program with a desire to improve on my ability to tell a story visually. I had learned a lot of technique at RMU, but content and storytelling was not thoroughly explored.
2. Where do you get your inspiration?
A lot of my inspiration comes from other horror films as well as my own experiences. I believe that nothing is ever truly original. It is all a matter of how we construct the pieces in our own way. For example, “Tablet of Tales” is very similar to Dr. Terror’s House of Horror. The twist ending and structure of the stories are almost identical. The only difference is how I interpret the elements left behind by a movie like Dr. Terror.
The current film I’m writing, pulls a lot from the possession movies of the 70’s and 80’s. It’s all about putting your own spin on it.
3. Do you write your own scripts? If so, what’s your process? Do you compose somewhere special? Routine?
I do write my own scripts. I have a love/hate relationship with screenwriting. There are times when I will stare down at my notebook and absolutely nothing will pop up. Then there are other times when it feels like something else is at work moving my hand and filling my mind with these images of horror. Moments like that are the “high” that I get from pre production.
I used to think that I could write anywhere; that was proven wrong by a recent trip to Florida. I was on a beautiful beach during the day, writing away at a vampire movie idea I had when I was back in PA. Everything I wrote sounded great when I was in Florida, but when I came back to PA, I saw that it was complete and utter shit.
That is when I thought about all the times I wrote scripts and realized that they were all written in dark and dismal locales. Tablet was written in a very dark basement apartment. So I ended up finding the perfect location in a 24 hour laundry mat near my apartment that was equally dark and dismal as most laundry mats tend to be. So that has become my writing location.
Typically what I will do for process is write a character sheet for each character listing all the details physical and emotional for that character, outline each scene with some dialogue and maybe a few details like location and some camera movements, then take the outline to a program called Final Draft and actually flesh out all the details of the screenplay there based on the outline.
4. Favorites in the field: Clive Barker. I respect the man for his ability to truly tap into all forms of creativity. From literary, fine arts, theater, and film.
Sam Raimi: I love the fact that this guy made a short little 10 minute horror film (Within The Woods), funded an indie feature based on that short that ultimately has become one of the greatest horror films on the planet (Evil Dead).
Wes Craven: Not only did he create one of the most terrifying movie monsters, Freddy Krueger, but his films and screenplays are smart and based on real horrors with his own twist to them.
5. What are some of your habits while shooting?
I found out a long time ago that to be successful at filmmaking; you need to be organized. While shooting, I always storyboard each and every shot in a notebook along with creating a shooting schedule and list of each an every shot that needs to be covered for the day. While I was shooting Tablet of Tales, one of my actors who had been on a bunch of indie shoots marveled at how organized the production was.
6. What do you strive for with each piece? Would you say that your audiences knows you for a particular effect? Gross-out? Violence? Etc.?
With each film I strive to be one step closer to the film coming off as something Hollywood would make. It isn’t in an effort to be anything like the quality of stories in Hollywood’s films, it is a matter to no longer have an audience look at the film and say, “Ah well its an indie film, you can expect a mistake like that.” My desire is to create terrifying stories that can give Hollywood a run for their money and show that the genre can go much deeper than they are taking it.
Ultimately while I do want my films to stand side by side with Hollywood caliber aesthetics to an audience, I do not make my films for audiences. I make them for myself. If audiences like them, great. If not, I really could care less.
I’d say I’m probably known for my lighting, use of color, and visual effects that I incorporate into my films.
7. What is a normal day like for you while you’re shooting?
There is no such thing as a normal day. Typically, I don’t sleep that well the night before the shoot. I usually will make sure I have everything I need for that day’s shooting ie: props, lights, camera equip, makeup, etc. Day of we usually congregate at the location, go over the scenes for today and just dive in. Depending on if the actors need to warm up or not, I try to hit the harder shots first so that the rest of the shooting day goes by easier. All this of course usually gets thrown out the window more times than not.
8. What are you currently working on?
Currently, I am working with my partner, Johnny Daggers on the first puppet/animated short from DaggerVision Films called, “Mo Anam Cara”. We are currently in the pre production stage, designing sets, and planning what crew we will need to make this film a possibility. We are anticipating a spring time date for us to actually start shooting. Both Johnny and I are extremely excited that we have Doug Bradley (Pinhead from Hellraiser) on board to be our narrator for the film.
Aside from that, I have been working on the untitled demonic possession script that I mentioned earlier. That screenplay will ultimately be DaggerVision Films first feature length horror film.
9. What’s your favorite movie and why?
I have two favorite films for two different reasons. Hellraiser has always been a huge favorite of mine. The cinematography, characters, makeup all hit a deep vein in me that I see myself constantly going back to whenever I envision how my films should turn out.
The second film that ties for number 1 is a little indie horror film by Lucky McKee called, “May.” I love that movie because of that characters and the story. I was always the outcast and am a romantic at heart so seeing Angela Bettis’ character struggle and fail to find someone to love ultimately drive her insane hits a spot where I can sympathize with her.
10. Do you do any still photography work?
I did do some still photography work when I was at RMU. I loved the process of black and white photography. But with the current film work and radio show, there has been less and less time to do any of that.
11. Favorite and least favorite part about the field?
Favorite part has to be the pay off you get when you see your name up on the screen and people actually enjoying your work. When I premiered Tablet of Tales in February, I had roughly 40-50 people in attendance and you could see them visually tied into the film. It is a high like no other.
Least favorite part has to be egos. There are a lot of people in this industry who let their egos drive them. They feel that everyone is out to get them or that they have to be better than the next person. Filmmaking is an art of collaboration. Egos just get in the way.
12. Do you just work in horror? If so why? If not, what other genres to you work in?
I do work primarily in horror but I do love other genres. I just haven’t yet made a film with those other genres. Superhero movies are a favorite of mine, along with gangster films and odd-ball comedies.
13. What do you feel film should VS what it is?
That is actually a really good question. I feel that film should be about the story. I think there are too many movies out there that use gimmicks like throwing in excessive amounts of nudity, gore, visual effects, etc. Now I do not have anything against any of these elements, but I feel that story, and only story, should dictate what gets thrown in the mix.
14. How can you tell when a piece is finished?
It is hard to tell when a piece is finished. With digital technology, you can potentially never be finished. I usually take a break from editing and come back to the film about 2 days later and just watch it all the way through. If I come out of it thinking more about the story and the interaction with the characters, as an audience would, and less about technical problems that I can fix, than I have a good idea that the film is pretty much done.
15. Advice for aspiring artists?
The only advice I can give is to do your own thing. Borrow from what you can borrow but ultimately put your own spin to it. Also, you are your best salesman. To survive in this industry you have to be the equivalent of a carnival barker because if you aren’t willing to go to bat for your work, no one else will.
**Be sure to tune into DaggerVision Films Horror Talk Radio! Broadcasting Live Friday Nights at 10pm on spookshow.tv then podcasted on the following Tuesday.
**Tablet of Tales can be bought online at www.daggervisionfilms.com
**More info on Brian Cottington can be found at www.briancottington.com
Prey of the Vampire (2008)
Journey into the Necronomicon (2009)
Out of Bullets (2009)
Where Once Poe Walked (2009)
I Stand (2009)
Sins of the Heart (2009)
Artist Block (2009)
Powder Keg (2009)
Undead Forgiveness (2010)
Atrocity Exhibition Opener (2011)
Tablet of Tales (2012)
Atrocity Exhibition Opener (2012)
Samhain: Night Feast (2010)
Caustic Zombies (Current)
Mo Anam Cara (Current)
Special Effects Makeup:
While the City Sleeps (2011)
Death From Above (2011)
Devil’s Playground (2011)
Prohibition Documentary (2009)
Scientastic Pilot (2010)
Flour Baby (2011)
Bio: Brian Cottington has been involved with film and video for over 5 years. He has written and directed over 10 short films and edited countless projects both personal and freelance.
He became a part of DaggerVision Films during its infancy. As detailed in many interviews, Brian came across a craigslist ad posted by Johnny. The ad talked about needing an editor for the short film, Samhain: Night Feast. Brian was responsible for giving Samhain its gritty, dirty, grindhouse look as well as creating the opening title credits for the film. The film not only established DaggerVision Films, but also established a life long friendship.
Brian is also heavily involved in the Pittsburgh Art Scene; working with galleries such as Most Wanted Fine Art, The 48 Hour Film Project, and designing video installations for Morose and Macabre's Annual Atrocity Exhibition 2 years running. Brian's favorite horror movies are a tie between Hellraiser and Lucky Mckee's May. He currently resides in Pittsburgh with his cat, Selina.