AN INTERVIEW WITH Gary D. Henry, WRITER & PRODUCER
As a screenwriter and producer, please introduce yourself and let us know how you became involved in film production?
My name is Gary D. Henry, and I am an author of thirty published books and many works in progress. I always wondered what it would look like if the stories I created were presented in a visual medium. So, since getting a movie adapted from one of my books seemed impossible given the piles of scripts that I'm sure decorates the offices of just about every major and minor studio throughout the US, I decided to finance it myself. I went into this not knowing anything about filmmaking, but that's how I began my writing career in 2009. To this day, I still don't know everything about the construction of a quality film project and depend on contacts within the film industry to assist me in finding the best team that a small budget could buy to make my stories pop. This proved to be the correct approach, at this point, given the final fantastic product.
What sparked your interest in visual storytelling compared to writing stories?
I tend to write my stories with a movie in mind although, the stories are so story-focused that my director, Johnnie Hector, stated that he could make a movie out of every chapter of the Witchwoods novel. What inspired me to make movies? Well, it's the stories. I pride myself on being unique in my storytelling and make sure that the reader cannot guess the ending. I read the books and can see the potential. Once that happens, I turn the screws and sharpen the blades in preparation to see my characters move and follow them to wherever my mind takes them.
How did you start out, and what were some of the important milestones along the way?
I started writing in 2009. As a favor to a friend who had a fantastic story to tell, he asked me if I could write given my years of toiling over technical, environmental reports for state and local clients. I told him that I'd write the introduction to see if I possessed the talent to write a full non-fiction biography. He gave me the okay, and I couldn't stop writing. I remember giving him twenty questions for his mother to answer. It took months to get the answers back so I decided to write another book while I waited. In six weeks I had my second book written. You might even say that I completed my second book before I finished my first. I then completed what I could on my friend's book utilizing his mother's answers. After that, I gave him twenty questions for his father to answer. Again, another three-month delay so I wrote my third book. The stories came to me that fast. I finished his book in the next two months and never stopped writing. To this day, I'm working on full-length novels 31 through 35.
As the writer, what was the inspiration for writing the screenplay for "Witchwoods"?
The incredible multi-directional mystery that attacks many genres in one captivating and impossible journey into the Tennessee woods. The Bell Witch legend has always fascinated me, so I created a story around the legend.
Tell us about your collaboration with the director in this film. How did you first meet each other, and what was it like to work together?
I work with the talented actor turned director of many award-winning movies. He's Johnnie Hector and owner of Tique MS Productions. Johnnie produced a fantastic book trailer for me for one of my earlier books. The Trailer called The Books of James C. Patch: The Barrier, far exceeded my expectations, and from then on, he's the guy I turn to turn my books into visual adventures. He wrote the initial script for the film, which showed me how to write a script. There were elements I liked in the script, but I felt it needed more intensity, so I rewrote it. I added scenes and kept some of his. Together, we agreed on the final script.
About your film "Witchwoods", how long was the shooting time, and how did you prepare for it as the producer?
I do not know how long the exact shooting time was, but the movie is thirty-three minutes long. I wanted more, but Johnnie informed me that we had a budget to adhere to, so we packed as much of the story into the film as we could. Dwindling such a full story into thirty-five pages of magic is a daunting task, to say the least. I wanted every quality scene in the final script, but that would make the movie eight hours long, so I cut out favored scenes, and it was still too long. We finally created a workable script and moved on it before I changed my mind on the deleted scenes.
What are the films or people that had impacts on you and deeply inspired you to become a film producer or screenwriter?
There are many films I could cite, but none influenced me to the point of tackling the task myself. I simply watch a movie and ask myself, "Could I have written that?" The answer to that question perplexed me many times because, most of the time, I thought that I couldn't. However, as I progressed as a novelist, the list of movies that I thought I couldn't write, dwindled. Soon, my confidence and ego took hold and decided to go for it to see if I could. It turns out that it was easier than I thought, thanks to that initial script Johnnie Hector wrote and some invaluable direction from him.
What are your favorite genres to work on? Why?
Horror, mystery, and fantasy simply because there are no limitations as to where the story can go. In fiction writing, everything impossible becomes real once it's written. As a fiction writer, I can allow people to fly, morph into anything and do either good or bad deeds. I can blast through the barriers of science and create fantastic worlds far away from the human condition.
"Witchwood" is officially selected in the "American Golden Picture IFF". What were some of the challenges you faced in producing this film?
Writing the perfect script and finding the perfect actors who deliver their lines flawlessly. This was the director's task, and he selected the best. They are the reason this film was selected, and I apply all credit to them and my brilliant director. Because of them, the challenges were few.
To you, what part of the filmmaking is the hardest? Why?
To me, as the Executive Producer, I had the most straightforward job. All I had to do is pay and approve initially. However, I wanted to be more involved and decided to rework the script, having first-hand knowledge of where the story led. I was lucky that the people Johnnie and I chose were professionals. They made it easy. My main job was mostly promotional. I submitted to your film festival, I designed and had made matching Witchwoods shirts for the cast and crew, designed a fantastic poster, created an IMDB page for myself, the movie, and doled out film credits to all involved. Once we've completed the year-long film festival phase, I'll host a small premiere at a local movie theater here in Northern Virginia.
Distributing the film is a very important part after you produce a film. What have you done so far for distributing your film?
I have done nothing concerning distribution other than entering film festivals on the outside chance someone in the crowd likes what they see in the film and contacts me with a definitive plan. Whether a studio buys the story and creates a much larger story encompassing many of the scenes we removed, or no one does anything. This movie I see on the big screen came from my mind, and that's satisfying enough for any starry-eyed author to ponder. Except I won't have to ponder it, it's right there in front of me and an audience.
In professional filmmaking, who do you like to work with if you have a choice?
I would like to work for a studio so I can be around it every day.
What is your next film project? What are your film producing goals in the future?
My next film will start principal photography in late July, and it is based on another of my horror/ mystery novels though it's tough to determine which one. My plans are for 5 films with Witchwoods being the first of five.
What keeps you inspired to continue writing the screenplays and producing films?
It's fun, creative, exciting, rewarding, and everything amazing.
GOOD LUCK Gary