Exclusive: Interview with Director Thomas J. Churchill and Actress Sadie Katz



The Amityville Harvest 

Written & Directed by Thomas J. Churchill.
Starring: Sadie Katz, Paul Logan, Kevin Lowder, Julie Ann Prescott, Johanna Rae, Eileen Dietz and Yan Birch.

Writer/Director Thomas J. Churchill 

Born and raised in Queens, New York with Italian, Irish and English descent, Thomas J. Churchill, an actor, writer, director, and producer has been entertaining the world since the age of five, with his first award on Doctor of Storytelling that came from the daycare center pre-kindergarten. 

Then, during his sophomore year in high school, he convinced his father to get a VHS camcorder so that he could make his own film. Since then, Churchill has been providing us with some great entertainment in horror, action, and drama. Churchill has worked with some of the A-listers in Hollywood, such as Academy Award nominees Bruce Dern, Bill Goldberg, James Duval, Michael Jai White, Randy Couture, and many more. His credits included Check Point, The Hard Way, Xenophobia, Nation's Fire and many more. 

Sadie Katz

Sadie Katz is an award-winning actress and director, as well as a WGA writer and producer. She is most popularly known for her role in well-known horror franchise Wrong Turn. Her role in Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort as Sally Hillicker put her on the map as one of the talented actresses out there. Sadie had also played Goddess Ishtar in 2018's remake of Blood Feast. Her directorial debut in documentary The Bill Murray Experience won several awards in festivals and received a worldwide distribution. Her credits included A Fargo Christmas Story, Mayday, Automation (where she won Best Supporting Actress), Clown Fear, Bus Party to Hell, and many more. 

Check out our exclusive interviews:

Chris Seekell (CS):
There has been many projects in the Amityville franchise, and they've been made by various production companies. And what's really awesome about this franchise is it's actually based in part on a true story about haunting and mass murder that happened. So just for anybody who is not super researched on The Amityville Harvest, do you want to talk about how it connects to the rest of the franchise?

Thomas J. Churchill (TJC):
Takes place in Amityville. The Amityville Harvest is a different type of entry into the series and to the franchise. When we approached this, going in to it, we wanted something fresh and new and exciting to kind of, you know, jump start the franchise again. 'Cause it just caught up, kept coming. It just kept feeling like it was being exhausted with all these type of projects that were coming out, and there wasn’t really any connection. We shot lot of it in Amityville, in New York, and we shot a lot of it here, in wonderful Hollywood USA... We have a great cast. There’s a little bit of a mystery to the film, the characters and stuff. I mean, certain things that are given away in the trailer and on the poster... I will let Sadie, who plays Christina Weingarten, talk about, you know, the story and everything else. But bringing out project to the screen and to where it was too much where Lionsgate picked it up, and it being distributed worldwide next week, October 20th, on all platforms, DVD/Blu-ray, links, Red Box, all the fun stuff. So pretty excited about it.

CS:
That’s awesome! Sadie, I'd like to ask you to introduce your character a little bit and talk about the story of the film.

Sadie Katz (SK):
Yeah, I don’t want to give too much away...but I had a lot of fun because I got to go in, and I was interviewing our owner of the house played by Kyle. Am I allow to say Kyle Lowder?

TJC:
Sure, you can give away, talk about the cast, the characters.

SK:
The cast amazing, and Churchill is like by far, he’s an incredible director and writer, but I will say this: The house we shot in was this amazing amazing, amazing Victorian house. It’s actually part of...I don’t know what you'd call them, but they're protective where you can’t tear it down. There was some hauntings while we were shooting. I hope I’m not jumping ahead. So I felt like that links to Amityville in the most amazing way, but I wanna be like, sometimes the internet doesn’t get, they wanna stay in one zone. This is a whole different re-imagining. I’m really grateful because I’m in the first chapter of this, which I think really was a tremendous way and find out in my shoulders. And you know, we’re a TV crew, but this is not a found footage film, where, you know, I also have my sister with me, who is adorable ,who is trying to work with me. So we have a lot of interpersonal dynamics. And then of course the owner of the house, I think he wants to eat us. I can’t tell you why… I’ll say this: the movie was scary to shoot, like, I don’t even think I’m a good actress. I think I was absolutely, like, frightened during most of shooting.

Chris:
That’s funny 'cause, that literally was the next question I was gonna ask you, which is, how, as an actor, do you put yourself in the mindset to be scared as the character, but it sounds like the setting and the actual hauntings that were happening, like, did it for you. You almost felt like you were living in a horror film as you’re shooting it, which I'm sure came through to make it so much better in the final project.

SK:
Well, that’s Thomas who also likes to scare, I hope I’m not, the shit out of his actresses and actors. So whenever I was going through, it's like...the anticipation. I’m hiding in a coffin which is scary, I’m not giving anything else away, but we’re also in mortuary, so there’s coffin, where you’re gonna hide. So the thing that I like about Churchill is like we’re filming, and I’m supposed to be running, and he’s running next to me like, feeding me scary stuff. There’s a magic. You don’t always get that from a director, so, you know, all prepared, and then open myself up to the experience. It's also a great script. Great script.

TJC:
Sadie is an incredible actress. I’ve known her for years, but this is the first project that, I mean, we’ve known of each other, and within the last couple years we started to become close, and this is our first venture out into a project together since we did a couple. Ee got some more coming, but you know the movie is only as good as the story and the acting. And I feel like with this, The Amityville Harvest, the acting that came with it. I mean, Kyle Lowder played Vincent Miller and Sadie Katz is playing Christina Weingarten. We had Brandon Allen who played Cosmo... Michael Cervantes is playing Scratch, Eva Ceja was in the film... Eileen Dietz is in this project as well from The Exorcist. And I feel like I’m missing some people... But the film is...designed to be disturbing in many ways, you know, I didn’t want to do just an entry to the franchise; I want to do an entry to the franchise you’re gonna remember. And being in actual Amityville shooting, a lot of our pick-up shots stuff and B-roll, it brings a lot of authenticity into the film. The film is pretty much a Civil War historian who contacts a journalist and her film crew to come in, and he wants to talk about something that occurred from his ancestors during the Civil War, mainly, the killing of Lincoln, that wasn’t fact-based of what is in history books. So he wanted to clear the air, so this news group comes and wants to interview women and find little things about the man, and they learned, you know, the man has his own funeral parlor, which is next to the house, and he’s got some secrets, some dark secrets. And little by little, things go crazy, and the story becomes nuts at one point. And it wraps up and I’m hoping people really really enjoy the film and revisit it. I’m grateful that Lionsgate picked it up and are distributing it worldwide, I’m very excited about Lionsgate, so I’m hoping that you’ll enjoy it and everybody will enjoy it, and it will be like a favorite horror film.

CS:
There's like these two main elements in horror films that is pretty much in all of them. Number one is that they always build suspense, and then the other, sometimes there is lot of like jump scares and things that just shocks you and freaks you out. And I’m always curious how different directors balance these? Some directors like Ari Aster, for example, with Hereditary and Midsommar, with all that like with the suspense of everything, there’s not too many jump scares, like others, like more slasher films that just like, you know, the villain's always jumping out and everybody’s screaming. I wanna know what your approach is, Thomas, to kind of balancing some of the classic horror elements into a film.

TJC:
Well, you just stated it, classic. One of the things about my style in directing and all, is you kind of lean towards your influence. My influence is Spielberg and Hitchcock. Mainly Hitchcock when it comes to suspense, and I like keeping people at the edge of the seat. And weather it’s an action film I’ve done or horror films, or even family films, like what’s gonna happen, what’s gonna go, what’s, you know. To me, once you know the whole movie in the first five minutes, it's not really fun anymore, watching a movie supposed to be an escape where you go away and, you know, whether it’s eighty-five minutes or three hours, and you go in to a different world, different level. You're just watching it and getting absorbed, and getting sucked in meeting these characters, and you’re investing it in the story. In longer time, you wanna see a good pay-off. And sometimes, with me, as my style of filmmaking, I want to give my audience a different type of horror film. I know people would say, "We want this, we want that, we hate sequels, we hate remakes, we hate reboots." But then when, as an indie director, when you 
give the horror fans something different, they don’t like it. They want us to do something that they enjoy in horror, so I tapped into that, where it's a little bit of both. I’m giving the stuff that they're kind of used to. but I’m giving them a spin to show them, this is new. This can happen, this is real. The great things about genre horror is, no matter what story you tell, if you believe it in your camera, and you believe in the story, and you believe in the acting, you’re gonna really believe it as an audience, you’re gonna get involved. I mean, you can make a movie about a killer toaster, but if you’re telling the story the right way where you’re really treating it with respect and showing, you know, keeping all those elements alive for those audience members for investing the time, then they’re gonna ride with you. And, you know, again, Amityville Harvest to me is a, I think, is a great classic feel horror film. And I loved making it with the cast and crew, and I’m hoping that everybody will enjoy it, but I’m sure there will be people out there that are haters.

CS:
Speaking of classic horror films, Sadie I have a question for you. Many decades, horror has been a genre that has very prominently featured women in the lead role. I mean, I think of Sissy Spacek, I think of Jamie Lee Curtis. Do you think there are ways that the genre can continue to improve their portrayal and adding more dimension to female characters? And are there any other forms of diversity that you think it’s lacking currently in the genre that should be addressed?

SK:
God, that is a great question. I have to tell you, I think horror has the most roles for women. They also have the most roles where women are the heroes or the survivors. So even though there’s a lot of themes like killing this slutty person, that’s kind of turned around to slutty slut she means. And yes I’ve been in films where they raped the woman in, you know. Wrong Turn, they ripped their legs apart, but at the same hand, there’s a lot of heroes, and I think the, like, whenever someone asked me if a horror film is misogynistic, I’m like, I get so many opportunities to carry the film and there’s something called the Bechdel Test? Where that means that...whenever two women in the camera, when they’re not talking about a man, which most films in Hollywood do not pass that test, I think like ninety percent. But when you’re in a horror film, you have many scenes that are not about a man, that being in love or whatever. And so I have no complaints as far as that at all. I love nudity in films, and the films that I’ve done, nudity was my choice. I think it’s fun. I’ll do it as long as it’ll take me and light me well, but I think right now, we’re going through, especially big mainstream films, that diversity is already taken care of in bigger leagues. Like we have more of African American lead roles, and I think, you know, our film Amityville Harvest is not an all white cast. And if there’s something that I think services the story, then great, and your audience you know, sometimes they wanna see a blonde women killed or trying to be attempted to be killed because they’ve got such a Hitchcockian thing. They’re fragile, you know, and then what happen is, hopefully, I’m not telling you, but we became the final girl, which is amazing. So I think horror films get bad ratings. I completely disagree.

CS:
Speaking of interplay between different genres, I have a question for you, Thomas. What are some of the biggest things that differentiate the process of directing and marketing a horror film from other genres like action films? Are there any unique kind of challenges or hurtles or things that make it different as a genre?

TJC:

Horror has a good fanbase, pretty much mainstream. When I said mainstream movies, it’s like the drama, comedies, and the action films. It’s pretty much dominant. So there is a nice cut in the pie for horror. And if you do a good film, a great horror film that catches on, everybody will see it, everybody will know about it, everybody will talk about it. I believe it’s all about, you know, the execution in a project, with the way it’s told, and the acting. And I feel the audience will be built based on that. Horror fans already have a fanbase, the Amityville franchise has a fanbase, and the other genre that we touched on in this movie also has a fanbase. I mean, it’s not why we made the movie, but when you’re marketing it and you’re hoping that the distributor who’s taking it and putting it out really enjoys it, and they put their effort behind it to give it that push, I mean, right now, from what I’ve been seeing of Lionsgate, they’re doing a pretty good push on this film. And I’m very, very excited about it. I mean, it’s my first studio movie, it’s my first project with Sadie, and few other people in the film were friends before the film, before we shot. And now, you know, we’re all family. So that’s one thing about when you have that vibe, makes the movie and the vibe afterwards, and recognize, I think, the marketing and the promotion will come for it. It’s like the movie Field of Dreams, you know. If you build it, they will come. Build something people like, and they’re gonna go see it. If you build something too controversial or whatever, then you have to find your audience. I mean, I made movies where it found an audience and I made movies where, it’s just, they’re good films, but somebody drops the ball, you know, whether marketing, distributor, or investors, or executive producers. So one thing about independent films that a lot of people out there didn’t really know, and sometimes you watched a movie and you bashed that director and said, "Oh man, this guy is terrible." But yet, you know, they didn’t realize that there’s a lot of people behind that guy, that went into that cookie jar and touched it and finished it. I mean, I could make a great film, and then there’s people behind them. Executive producer, distributor, they wanna snap, they wanna cut, they wanna fix, they wanna tide, and before you know it, the movie looks, you know, not great. But the director has to take the blame. With this particular film, very, very excited about. Very happy with it. I think Sadie, Sadie is gonna, you know, have a, I mean, she’s already superstar. And I think her fanbase is just gonna completely grow more with what she did on film, and I think she’s amazing in our movie. I think Kyle Lowder from the soap world, he’s on Days of Our Lives, I think he is also in another film I’ve done back in the day. But Kyle, Kyle smashed it out of the park. Eileen Dietz, who is in this movie, very, very disturbing. And I hope it comes across to everybody. It’s great. It was a good experience, and I’m happy with the outcome.

CS:
Is there anything final you'd like to add before we close out the discussion?

SK:
Yeah, I think what we would really wanna encourage fans to do is to give it reviews. if you love it, you hate it... I think people forget that that’s really important in indie films, so so appreciated, so more people to get to see it, I get to work again. Haha! Churchill gets to continue to work, so you know, taking that moment is super, super appreciated. And tell your friends, and that’s like the biggest gift you can get for somebody.

CS:
Thank you for joining us.

TJC:

Thank you for having us.

You can also check out the video here


Synopsis:
Christina (Sadie Katz) and her documentary video team are hired to interview Vincent Miller (played by Kyle Lowder) at an aging manor for its research on its liquor smuggling history. However, no one can capture his image or voice on video. After shocking dreams and bloody encounters, the crew members fall under Vincent's hypnotic spell. 

The Amityville Harvest is out on Blu-ray/DVD and VOD on October 20th from Lionsgate.

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