How cool must it be to collaborate on an exciting project with your sibling? Even cooler when that project is a horror film about a relentless, ghostly curse, set against a very beautiful Thailand backdrop and starring some really notable stars like Scout Taylor-Compton, James Landry Hébert, and Mark Boone Junior. That's exactly the case with Rich and Kevin Ragdsdale, the director and producer of the creepy new paranormal horror film, Ghost House. We talk about all that and more with them, below...
Rich graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston with degrees in both composition and film scoring. After completing his graduate studies at USC, Rich went on to score some of television’s most popular sitcoms including “Will and Grace,” “According to Jim,” and “King of Queens” along with many commercials and video games for FOX Interactive, EA and Vivendi-Universal. In 2005, Rich directed a
horror film The Curse of El Charro which was bought by Paramount/Showtime. Rich also has directed over 20 music videos for artists like
Sean Lennon, Blues Traveler, 311, and Avicii with Lenny Kravitz. Rich continues to compose for movies including music for David Mamet’s
Edmond, the Sundance award-winner Big River Man and Tribeca Film’s release The Giant Mechanical Man. Most recently Rich has been able to combine his talents in a big way by both shooting the original pitch pilot and writing the theme song for AMC’s reality title “Freakshow.”
Kevin is a producer and an actor from Nashville, Tennessee and holds an MBA from Chapman University in Orange, CA. Kevin co-founded Pretty Dangerous Films in 2003 and produced ten motion pictures including Stuart Gordon’s adaptation of David Mamet’s Edmond starring William H. Macy and Julia Stiles; Paramount/Showtime’s horror release, The Curse of El Charro; and Asia Argento’s adaptation of J.T. Leroy’s The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things with a cast that included Asia Argento, Peter Fonda and Winona Ryder. In 2006, Kevin founded KNR Productions with his brother, Rich, and continued producing music videos, commercials, web content and feature films. KNR has since visited the Sundance film festival twice with the films Phantom Love and Big River Man. Kevin is also an Executive Producer on Amy Heckerling’s latest film, Vamps, starring Siguorney Weaver andAlicia Silverstone. Ghost House is the second feature film that he has done as a collaboration with Rich.
It was a very refreshing breath of fresh air to see that Ghost House was shot in Thailand. Were there any challenges inherent to shooting there? What about the benefits afforded to the film's production?
Shooting in Thailand was amazing, the crew and local talent were great. Of course, there were a number of challenges - getting the gear shipped overseas, the language barrier, etc… but our Thai crew and production services company really made things run as smoothly as possible. In general, it was a very ambitious shoot. Our schedule was very tight and we changed locations almost every day, which is very stressful on the cast and crew (especially because we shot 6 day weeks), but our crew was totally game.
There were numerous upsides to shooting in Thailand, the landscape and locations gave us a ton of production value and added a unique texture, the local crew made us feel so welcome it created a sense of family on set, and of course the food was great!
The film has a diverse spread of talent, what was the casting process like, assuming you were involved.
Kevin and I were very involved. Scout was at the top of our casting wish list and we were fortunate enough to get her! Many of the supporting roles were cast locally in Thailand, which can be a dicey proposition, but we got lucky there too. Russell and Rich made great bastards! We auditioned a ton of locals to play Gogo who had great looks and style, but their accents were so thick American audiences would never be able to understand them, so Micheal New was a godsend. He is half Canadian so his English is perfect as is his Thai accent, and he's a great actor, too, so he could play Gogo exactly the way we needed.
Were there any casting changes during preproduction, perhaps actors that turned out to be better suited for a role different than the one originally intended?
We originally had cast another actor to play Jim, but circumstances changed and we had to recast at the last minute. We hit up a number of filmmaker friends we knew in LA and they all recommended James, and he had just done GET THE GIRL with Scout, so they already knew each other. After checking out some of his previous work and skyping with him, we asked him to play the part and he graciously agreed to join us at the very last minute. I feel we got lucky with James, he was very committed and driven and brought some real surprises to the role.
We joke in our review of the film that Scout Taylor-Compton is continually put through the wringer in the horror films she plays in; glad to see that carry through to Ghost House! Was there much direction needed to pull that high level of anguish from Scout's performance, or was she able to pretty much nail "tortured" right off the bat?
Scout is a natural. She can turn it on and off like a faucet. It's really amazing to watch. Before the camera rolls, she is prancing around and being silly, but as soon as you call action she's right there in it! I really put her through hell with so many scenes of terror, writhing and screaming, but she was a trooper! Her performance in Halloween 2 was one of the reasons we wanted to cast her in the first place, after seeing that, we knew she could bring it.
Similarly, was the cast given any leeway to make the roles their own, or was it a very stringent translation from screenplay to performance?
James’ process is a lot different. He approaches things in a more method way. He really wants to feel what his character is going through. He's very physical and committed. He came on late so we didn't have a lot of time to rehearse, but he found his character very quickly, which was very helpful as it was a very technically demanding shoot that required a lot of my attention.
I wasn't dogmatic about the script. If any of the actors felt their dialog wasn't natural, Kev and I was cool with them shaping it, as long as the meaning remained intact. Originally, our Brit characters were written as Aussies, but we found Russell and decided he was the right choice, so we asked him and Rich to adjust their dialog to sound more British.
We noticed your extensive work as a composer in other films and projects; were you able to apply any of that experience to better perform your duties as director?
Well, I've had the good fortune to score films with some great directors from whom I have learned a lot, especially guys like Stuart Gordon. I think scoring for films also makes you very mindful of timing and pacing.
Is directing something you plan to stick with moving forward in your career, or do you have plans to wear other hats?
I love directing and I certainly plan on continuing. I also love music so I'll never give that up, but right now I'm focused on becoming the best director I can be.
Regardless of the path you choose, is horror a genre you intend to continue working in?
Well I would say that my sensibilities tend to favor darker material, so if not horror specifically, I think most my projects will at least run on the sinister side!
Some of the most prolific cinematic paranormal stories share productions that are rife with creepy occurrences. With Ghost House, are there any similarly on-set horror stories you can share with us?
We were shooting the final exorcism scene in an abandoned temple located next to an old cemetery, when the actress who was playing our shaman/witch doctor character began having trouble delivering her lines. I thought that since she was elderly that maybe we were pushing her too hard, but she explained in Thai to my AD that she could see ghosts everywhere and she was very distressed. A number of crew members left set and returned wearing lots of their amulets they use for protection from ghosts. We explained to her we had done a purification ritual in the morning to clear the set of spirits but she told us we must have been too far away and we needed to do it again!
*EDITOR'S NOTE* HOLY SHIT
Speaking of horror, do you have a favorite film in the genre, one you absolutely cannot live without?
I love so many it's hard to choose. If you consider Eraserhead a horror film, that's definitely my favorite. If not, then maybe John Carpenter’s version of The Thing.
What's next for you in the industry?
We have a few projects in the works, but it's too soon to talk about them! We will announce something soon, I hope. If anybody with a pocket full of money wants to come on board and help make Ghost House 2, get in touch!