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Scars Magazine
[April/May 2008]
Chronicles of an Exorcism
Matthew Ashford & Nick Miller

Two priests, a pastor, and two amateur filmmakers sanctioned by the church spend three days exorcising and documenting the case of a possessed girl name Tina in a new film Chronicles of an Exorcism. SCARS recently spoke to filmmakers/actors Matthew (Days of Our Lives) Ashford and Nick G. Miller about their movie, exorcisms and what scares people.

When did you two first work together?

This movie, Chronicles of an Exorcism, was actually shot as a mini featurette two years ago and we decided to come back and shoot it as a feature. And that's where we first met. I was brought up to act on the film only, and Matt was also brought up to act on the film.

Yeah, David Ross said, "I'm going to put you you in touch with Nick Miller the other priest and I said, "Oh, good wed better talk then." We got on the phone with each other and we started discussing our personal histories, our back stories for the characters, and that's the first time we met.

SCARS: For the feature you two co-wrote it with another person?

NICK: For the feature, that's correct. I wrote the script for the screenplay and I collaborated with Matthew as well as David Michael Ross.

SCARS: Now what's it like writing as a trio?

NICK: You know, it's really good to be able to use other people as a springboard you know with ideas and thoughts. When I write I go into a mode and I think a lot of writers do, maybe a weird mode, where I'll go to New Your City. Actually, for this I think I went to South America. I went to Columbia. But what I can do is I can get on the phone with these guys or I email them. I run things by them and we talk about scenes and whatnot. So, for me it's good.

SCARS: Do you two have an interest in exorcism subject matter or was that just because of the narrative of the story?

MATTHEW: I think all three of us had an interest in exorcism subject matter. This story was intriguing to all three of us and we all came up with our own backgrounds, and not just all different religious faiths, but we've all kinda had this interest in what this is about. The whole idea is this is a real exorcism, and getting to come to it as a Catholic priest is going to be something different to me than it is to Nick, than it is to David. We were sharing research on exorcisms and demonology and we did a lot of research and  got a lot of back-up material which is helpful because Nick could find things I couldn't find. David had things, old  material, that he had in North Carolina. It was exciting.

NICK: For me I was raised on Rod Sterling, The Twighlight Zone, the Alfred Hitchcock type of stuff and I have always loved horror films. And psycho thrillers, I've always been drawn to them. So when they first sent me the scripts two years ago to come up and only act on the mini-feature I was drawn into it then. When they asked me to come back and direct it and rewrite the screenplay we decided to take a year and do research on the film to do it right. My eyes were even opened up. We hired a research analyst on the demonology side, we also hired someone that was involved in Catholicism and we wanted to make sure that every single thing happened exactly as it happens in a true exorcism. So we had people that studied the rights [sic] of the exorcism and the Bible passages... and it took a long time to put it all that together. Then we sat down and said what are we going to use, if we use it do we keep it true to both sides, and we decided that yes, we do. There was definitely an interest, but more so after we started the research, my eyes opened up to how often this happens around the world, whether or not there is someone who is possessed or if the people that are performing the exorcism just think that that person is possessed. It happens a lot more often than people think.

SCARS: The film takes place over the course of three days?

MATT: If you watch the course of the film you get a feeling like you're there for three days, but it's pretty much non-stop. They rest briefly, but they go on, an exorcism can go on for weeks and months, this one we just compressed into three days.

SCARS: Matthew, what is the difference between acting in a soap opera and on film? Is it easier to work in film?

MATT: Well, when it's my film it's a lot easier. My character, Jack Devereux [sic], on Days I got to create and have a lot of fun with, but most of the time you have someone looking over your shoulder and saying you've got to do it this way, or you've got to do it that way. Working with Nick and being co-creators in this thing, we were allowed to created characters that we found interesting. After working in television for a long time, it's exciting to suddenly be working in a film where there is no limit. It's whatever I want to do. Fortunately, I had Nick there to reign [sic] me in, or say "Easy cowboy don't do that," and that's important too because you have to have a second pair of eyes, you need to have someone watching you. It's so much fun, I love it. I love working in film, you know when you do one character for a long time it gets old.

SCARS: Now, this is shot in a documentary style do you think movies like this are bringing horror back to a scarier place than the fantastical over the top stuff?

MATT: Nick and I have talk about this. Of course we both love the Twilight Zone, just because they had great writers, and what kind of special effects did they really have? And yet, we keep talking about them 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 years later in some cases. One of my favorite films is  The Haunting, the original.

SCARS: Yeah, that was a scary one.

MATT Yeah, and literally there are long shots of just nothing, but you're looking at the face of a building. Ut;s dark and you're looking up at those dark windows looking down at you, with angles and the music. And it gets back to you: you don't need all that stuff, and that's what's interesting to us, because the documentary form can help us do that. We thought, let's get very simple with this and find what's really freaky to us.

NICK: Yeah, one thing that we decided to do collectively early on was ask ourselves, "Do we shoot a full feature film, or do we make it look like a documentary? We decided of course to make it documentary style. But my main goal was to make sure that it was real meaning no special effects whatsoever. I think the two words that I kept kind of pontificating about with the group were "disturbing" and "scary." When someone leaves the theater or watches it on DVD, and are done watching it and it goes dark, my whole goal was for them to look at whoever they're with and say, "You know what, that was a disturbing movie, or, "That was scary." Because I used to feel that a lot, years and years ago, when I would watch the old movies that didn't have the special effects stuff. There's a place for those movies, and we love all the big 100 million dollar movies and horror films and what not. But also when you go back to your original roots and you make the story itself important, and it's scary, then I think that makes a great film.

SCARS: That's refreshing because I think The Haunting is one of the scariest films I've seen just because of the atmosphere.

MATT: Yeah, and they brought you in there. And the great thing about doing this as a documentary, I thought from the beginning, is that you know how we watch a scary movie and the foolish young man or the foolish young woman go into the room, and you know they shouldn't go in, and yet you watch them do it and you say, "Don't go in there! Don't go in there!
Well, with this documentary, this foolish you man or foolish you woman has a camera on their shoulder and they;re bringing you, the audience member, into the room in front of them.

NICK: And the other thing is the way the story is written, they;re going in there for a reason. In other words any time we see a horror film, like Matt says, and someone's going into the room, we say "Run! Why would you go in there?" In our film they;re going in there because one's doing it for the money and the other amateur filmmaker, his partner, ultimately is staying for the girl because an attachment begins there. It's obvious; there's a reason they're going in there.  There's a reason the two priests, Matthew's character and mine are there. Ray Keziah, who plays Pastor Bill, who does a great job playing Pastor Bill, there's a reason he stays. So I think it's one of those things that no one can say, "Why is that going on?" It's obvious and they all know that we're there for a reason.

SCARS: What are the plans for the release of the film?

NICK: The film will be released in April. It's being released through Echelon Studios. I can't even tell you where it's coming out first, but the big major release will be in April.

SCARS: What about The Unlikely's? Is that getting a release this summer?

NICK: Yeah, The Unlikely's has a theatrical release. It will first be released in limited theatrical release nation wide in six cities, and depending on how it goes in those six cities it will then have a national and international release theatrically, and it will go to DVD. That is also going to be released in April or May for The Unlikely's.

SCARS: That one looks like a lot of fun too.

NICK: It is. We had a good time doing both films. But you know with the subject matter of Chronicles mentally the actors are in character and a lot of actors stay in character, but with a comedy, however, it's just a blast all the way through. It's non stop fun  and we had a great time on that. The next film that we have slated is called The Reunion, which is another horror film, more of a psycho-thriller horror. We have fun doing everything; we have have a good group of people. Our producing group is John Mulis, Ray Keziah, David Michael Ross, Howie Kelly, Matthew Ashford and myself and we all really work well together and we made this decision when we started the company that we were only going to do things we wanted to do. We were basically going to be in control of our destiny and finance our own films and we're doing it and loving it.

SCARS: Is there anything else you can tell us about The Reunion?

NICK: The Big Chill meets The Twighlight Zone meets Nightmare on Elm Street.


NICK: Exactly. it is a very, very, disturbing film. It's one of those that makes you uncomfortable watching, but you can't leave the theatre. And when you leave you're just -- I don't know about you, but when I watch a good movie I either walk out doing the moves that the superhero did, or I'm saying the famous line as I leave the theater. This is the kind of film, for the script that we've written, that will hopefully end up this way, leaving you sitting there thinking, "What in the world? That was just an amazing scar piece!"

MATT: Or, "If I was there with these people, what could I have done to stop it from happening?
If I get myself that into a story I try to think how could I stop that horrible thing from happening. What would I have done? But you couldn't, you couldn't stop this thing from happening?

NICK:The Reunion opens up 15 years prior and there's a college prank going on and there's a girl that's murdered. There's a group of friends and one of the young girls is murdered [sic]. We don't see who the murderer is and the friends disband, they don't see each other for 15 years. One of the girls decides hat she would like to heal the old wounds. She does an invitation to everyone and as she does you see where they are in their live, and a reunion happens, much like the Big Chill where everyone gets together. And I take you out of the horror because it opens with an intense murder scene. And then you kind of forget as you're learning who these characters are today that you're in a horror film. Shortly thereafter some very bad things happen.

MATT:  I told my dad we were making this horror film called The  Reunion and he kinda laughed and said, "Well, you know there are a lot of kinds of reunions that could turn into horror films." And that's one of the neat things about people coming back together after many years everyone can relate to this, people come back together and there's so much expectation: What am I like? What is he like? What is she like? How much have we changed? There is so much wonderful stuff there, even above and beyond the usual horror genre, which is what we wanted to do. We want you to care about these people very much so it's not just a body count, which is what I think a lot of horror movies turned into in the last 20 years.

NICK: And with The Reunion just to end on that subject, there is a very big twist at the end. Which I have always really loved. Many of the 30 minute Twilight Zones, a lot of the Hitchcock films you know, a lot of the Stephen King or Dean Koontz books or what not have the twist at the end where you say, "Woah!"

SCARS: Have you started shooting The Reunion yet?

MATT: No we're actually casting as we speak. We're in the middle of casting now and we hope to begin production in March.

SCARS would like to thank Nick and Matt for taking the time to speak with us. To see a synopsis of the movies we talked about check out

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