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Written by Written by Joe Sherlock   
Feb 06, 2007 at 02:00 AM
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DG Feb 07 - Ben Cooper Goes to The Brink
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Ben Cooper worked for many years in professional video production for clients such as Bosch Power Tools Inc., Seagate Software and Santa Barbara County earning him awards for production excellence. He hit the indie movie scene with the sci-fi thriller THE OMEGA DIARY. Ben's latest release is a horror flick called THE BRINK. Ben took time out from his busy schedule recently to talk to DARK GALLERY.

DG: What was your inspiration for THE BRINK?

BC: If I'm going to put all the time and effort into making a movie, I need that one original idea to build on, something I can get excited about. It had been awhile since I'd made a film. I was unemployed, depressed, and watching The Simpsons reruns. In one episode, Homer discovers the works of Thomas Edison and lists his accomplishments that included a machine for talking to the dead. As soon as I heard that, I knew I was back in business.

DG: How did you hook up with John Bowker, who wrote the screenplay with you?

BC: John, who lived and made pictures in Oregon at the time, emailed me one day for advice about distribution. I had made a movie that managed to get into Blockbuster in 1999. We became penpals, and eventually collaborated on a couple of projects. He wrote the first draft of The Brink based on my treatment and did a great job. This was before we ever met face to face or even spoke on the phone. It was all done through email.

DG: Tell us a little about finding locations for the movie.

BC: That was quite a challenge. I thought I was being clever by setting most of The Brink in and around a single creepy house, but in making the setting so specific, it became necessary to find the perfect location. I scouted for months, just me in my minivan scouring the backroads fifty miles in every direction. When I found a potential location, I made a visit to the county assessor to dig up the contact information of the owner. I had so little to offer that most of them passed. We finally found the Meherin house, a historic building built by the founder of Pismo Beach and being restored by a nonprofit group called Friends of Price House. It was still up on blocks from being relocated, but Frank, the chairman of the board, was so excited about the prospect of our shooting there that they accelerated the process of setting it on its foundation just for us.

DG: Casting is so important - did you go through auditions or just use networking to fill out your cast? Tell us a bit about your major players.

BC: After months of preproduction which I thought would never end, I found myself racing the clock because we were up against the holidays. Casting had to be done quickly so I had no time for a traditional casting call, but I lucked out with a great ensemble. Rachel Balzer had previously played a small roll in my first picture, The Omega Diary. I had worked with Jeff Ryan and Jason Flowers on the infamous Death Factory, available from Brain Damage Films. At the last minute, I think a couple of days before shooting commenced, I hired Heather Chase who I had worked with on the David Sterling opus, Evil Unleashed: The Mummy. The woman ghost was Catherine Barlow, my friend of many years and star of my first picture. She introduced me to Matt Miller who I cast as the man ghost. He is the tallest, scariest person I know and now makes his own films. Kevin Robb plays the boy ghost. He was the son of my wife's friend, and a natural performer. Rounding out the cast is Monty Wall as Edison, also from my first movie. A helluva actor and hard worker. He shaved his mustache for the role. Our fx artist played his contemporary, Dunninger, in the prologue of the movie.

DG: There were tough times on the shoot, per your production diary. Care to revisit a few interesting stories?

BC: There are many stories, but the one that sums up the experience for me happened on the last day of principal photography. The cast was due to return to LA the next morning, so we had to shoot for over twenty-four hours straight to finish up. I was positioned at the top of the stairs filming Jason Flowers as he ascended. In the middle of my pan, I fell asleep and put my elbow through an antique window, the only piece of glass in the whole house. After we completed shooting, I discovered my car battery had died. I fell aspleep behind the wheel as my wife arranged for a jump. That night after the principals had left, I returned to shoot the prologue of the movie.

DG: How long did it take from story to finished DVDs?

BC: I finished the first treatment on 4/20/02 and the movie premiered on DVD on 12/12/06 (four years and a day after starting principal photography).

DG: What do you have on your plate right now or coming up? What might fans look forward too in ther near future?

BC: I recently purchased a screenplay from Kenneth J. Province Jr., a monster movie I hope to do this year. I've vowed that it will not take four years to make. I'm aiming for four months. You can keep up with Ben at http://www.thunderheadstudios.com or at http://www.myspace.com/ben_cooper


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