Director Interview: Aaron Mento

You wanted a director interview, I got you a director interview.  Check out what inspired up-and-coming horror director Aaron Mento in his first full-length feature film, ” Standards of Living”:

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1. What inspired you to make a horror film versus a film of any other genre?

Horror has always been my favorite genre, because literally anything can happen in a horror movie. Like in “Phantasm” when the silver sphere of death brain-drains that guy. I’m pretty sure nobody saw that one coming! It was exhilarating to be so surprised, scared, and disgusted all at the same time. Other genres have boundaries, but the horror genre is only restricted by the limits of your imagination. I was already ignoring boundaries by shooting an entire feature on an iPad, so the horror genre was a perfect fit.

2. What inspired the idea for this film in particular?

I only had two small locations available for shooting, so “The Twilight Zone” was a big inspiration, because that show could knock your socks off with the same limitations. David Lynch’s shot on miniDV “Inland Empire” was also an inspiration, because it showed me how disarming and mysterious a lower-resolution image quality can be. For the story of “Standards of Living” I was inspired by the magicians I watched during my childhood. I always used to wonder how David Copperfield and Penn & Teller could make objects disappear. Where the hell did these objects disappear to? In my movie, there is a man who can make things disappear for real, and we get to see exactly where these vanished objects go…

3. What is your horror background? Do you have a preference as to what type of horror you’re into?

I grew up absolutely obsessed with Freddy Krueger, and my favorite horror movie is probably still “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” I used to flip through the TV Guide, search for Freddy movies, and then cut out the listings to post on my bulletin board. Even if an “Elm Street” movie was on at 2:00AM on a Wednesday, I would stay up and watch it. I’m also a fan of gory Italian horror movies, and the awesome clamshell VHS tapes of Anchor Bay introduced me to the wonders of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. I had never seen murder sequences taken to such extremes, and was absolutely floored by the obsessive artistry of the violence. While I love 70’s and 80’s horror movies, I am also a huge fan of the relatively bloodless Universal Horror classics, with The Wolf Man being a big favorite. I also think that Son of Dracula is very underrated and has some of the best cinematography of any Universal Horror film. For my SDSU and LMU graduate short films, the only genre I ever touched was horror. You could say that my background consists entirely of a lifelong infatuation with horror movies.

4. What is the message you are trying to send with your film?

While the movie definitely has moral thematic messages, I hope that the lasting message of “Standards of Living” is that you can make a good movie using any camera if the story is good. I worked really hard on the screenplay to make sure that the story was always moving, always evolving, and challenged myself to make it so good that it could be done live on a stage. The viewer will have to determine if I achieved that level of quality, but that’s what I was striving for. The iPad 2 camera has a wide lens, only shoots at 720P, and the image can be very grainy, but I embraced these quirks when writing the screenplay. I hope “Standards of Living” inspires other filmmakers to tell their own stories using any means possible. The key is to write something that can be achieved on a low budget, and to not worry about being criticized for using alternatives to high-end camera equipment.

5. Do you have plans on developing another film?

My next feature horror screenplay “Survival High” is an Official Selection of the PollyGrind Underground Film Festival of Las Vegas. I had previously won at PollyGrind for a short film of mine, “ABSENT,” and “Survival High” is the feature length version of that short film. Both stories feature the ghost of a maniacal teacher who tortures her students in brutal and creative ways. I’m working on finding funding for “Survival High” which is bloodier, crazier, and requires a more ambitious budget than “Standards of Living.”

6. How do you intend for the audience to take your film? What would you say your target audience is?

My biggest hope is that people are so drawn in by the story that they forget the movie was shot on an iPad. “Standards of Living” is a horror comedy, which is very tricky, so I also hope that the audience finds it has a nice balance of laughs and shocks. My target audience is not only horror fans, but also anybody who enjoys a good unpredictable story. If people watch the movie, are entertained, and can’t believe it was made on an iPad, I’ve done my job.

7. Could you provide me with a brief synopsis/summary of your film?

Peter Sayer is an awful stand up comedian who desperately wants to be funny. One night, after Peter bombs on stage, a mysterious man named Mr. Randall offers him a unique opportunity. Mr. Randall reveals that he has the power to make things disappear, and when he makes them reappear they are “improved.” A bent nail becomes straight, a tarnished coin becomes polished, and an empty saltshaker comes back full of salt. But Mr. Randall wants to make a human disappear…to find out where these objects go, and why they come back improved. Peter volunteers to “disappear” with the hope that he will come back funnier…but the bizarre truth about Mr. Randall’s powers is no laughing matter.

The movie is streaming for free at http://www.standardsoflivingmovie.com/

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