Interview with the director: Peter Dukes on ‘Little Reaper’

Little-Reaper-press-pic-1

Earlier this week we gave you the most recent short feature from Dream Seekers Production’s, the wonderfully unique ‘Little Reaper’ (watch here). Since then we have been lucky enough to steal a few moments of writer/director/producer Peter Dukes’ time, picking his brains on his inspiration, plans for the future and gathering advice for all you future filmmakers out there.

Dream Seekers was formed by Peter and his sister Aubrey with the aim of taking audiences on a journey back to the origins of cinema and bringing to life all manner of endearing, innovative and challenging films. Over the past 12 years this goal has been more then achieved; their films are a breath of fresh air, constantly surprising viewers with their exceptional style.

Hi Peter, thank you for taking the time to chat to us today. Could you give the readers a little information about your background and how Dream Seekers evolved?

Stories have long fascinated me. Movies, books, plays, you name it. Being able to craft a story and draw an audience in was something I enjoyed immensely, so it was only natural for me to start creating my own stories at an early age. This eventually led to film school and my move out to Los Angeles in 2001. It took me a few years to put the necessary pieces in place before I could launch Dream Seekers Productions and start producing pictures, but once I did we were off and running.

What inspires you when writing these unique scripts?

Inspiration is everywhere. You just have to know how to look. I have several scripts on standby at any given time, but more often than not, the script I choose to produce is an idea that just kind of pops up unexpectedly and slaps me in the face, ha! Inspiration drives me, so when an idea comes at me, watch out, because I’ll be off and running before you can blink.

What is the most difficult aspect of independent filmmaking and what do you enjoy the most?

There are several factors that make indie filmmaking a challenge, as I’m sure you can imagine, but I think the two that are generally most prevalent are a lack of time and money. In some ways this is a good thing because it really forces you to sharpen your sense of storytelling. You need to rely on the strength of the source material, the cast and your skills at composing the scene, as opposed to falling back on tons of coverage and fancy lights/etc in order to bring the scene to life. Still, are there times when I wish I had more time and money at my disposal? Absolutely.

In terms of what I enjoy most, it’s the creative fulfilment. Filmmaking is extremely difficult. More so than I think most people realize, so to be able to successfully bring a script to life, knowing that not just anyone can do it, is very fulfilling. Then, finally, watching people get drawn into the world you’ve created – I Love that.

From looking at the website there seems to be a penchant for fantasy/horror, would you say these your favoured genres? And if so what is it about them that draws you in?

I’m a fan of many genres so long as there is an interesting and challenging story to tell. However, I do have a soft spot for horror and fantasy. Always have, always will. These are genres that allow for a tremendous amount of creative flexibility, and that fits very nicely with the way my mind and my imagination work.

From your back catalogue are there any films that stands out the most in your memory and which are you most proud of?

I can’t really say that any ONE film stands out from the pack. I think there are certain films that are stronger than others, to be sure, and each has been a specific challenge I had set for myself, but in my own way I’m proud of all of them. Each has been a learning step, and has helped me gauge what my strengths and weaknesses are so that I could continue to hone my craft.

945598_510418735689910_577942557_n

‘Little Reaper’ has a really unique premise, what gave you the idea and how long did the whole process take from start to finish?

Playing around with the idea of the “Reaper” has been on my mind for some time, I was just never sure how I wanted to approach it. I’ve done my share of psychological gloomy pictures, so I really wanted to produce something that was just plain fun, a story where I could just unleash my imagination and see where it takes me, not caring how wild things might get. I also had never tackled a comedy before, so this was an additional incentive to take the project on; a new challenge.

My process is usually very quick, but in this case there were several rain delays (in Los Angeles of all places!), which stretched the shooting schedule out over nearly a month and a half. There were also some bumps in post production. All in all, I’d say the process, from conception all the way to the film’s release, was somewhere between 6 and 7 months.

What are your plans for ‘Little Reaper’ going forward?

My plans are simple. I want to get it out there for as many people to enjoy as possible. I make these films because I love doing it, so even if it were just for family and friends I’d still do it, but in the long run it’s another film to add to my catalogue in preparation for moving in to the feature world, which is an inevitable step if I want to move my career forward. I’ve taken the longer, more patient, road to getting to this point than others might, but when I got my opportunity, I always wanted to make sure that I was ready. It’s hard enough to get one shot at a feature, so you’d better make it count. You won’t get another.

Professionally whose career do you admire, and is there anyone who you would love to work with – either behind or in front of the camera?

I admire many fellow filmmakers out there, but I’ll just mention two here. The first is Steven Spielberg. From a director standpoint, I would do just about anything to have been a fly on the wall when he made Duel, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third King, Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. They were a huge influence on me. The way his (storytelling) mind works and his skill at directing actors (particularly children!!) is astounding. Unless you’re a filmmaker it’s hard to fully appreciate what it was that he was pulling off, and at such a young age. Another director I would have loved to have seen in action is Krzysztof Kieslowski. He resides on the other end of the filmmaking spectrum. His films definitely aren’t mainstream, The Colours Trilogy, The Double Life of Veronique, The Decalogue were all amazing artistic achievements. He was a true auteur. A visionary really, before the term became as loosely thrown about as it often is nowadays.

What does the future hold for Dream Seekers – have you got any new projects in the pipe line?

Right now I’m putting short films on the backburner for a bit. How long can I go without making more? Probably not too long! However, I really want to take the time to focus on features. I’m not getting any younger and now is the time. I’m developing “The Beast”, which is a short film I did a couple of years back, into a feature project. Bill Oberst Jr., who starred in the original, has read the script and really dug it. I’m currently shopping it out to producers so we’ll just see what happens. I’m also attached to direct an upcoming horror feature from Gothic Pictures International, with Gabrielle Stone (Dee Wallace’s daughter), DJ Perry and Jessica Cameron attached in the lead roles. After this, we’ll just see where the road takes me.

And Finally – What advice would you give to all the aspiring filmmakers out there?

I get this question a lot and although there’s a truckload of advice I could give, I would say the most important piece I would pass on to young aspiring filmmakers is to make sure you really love it. I know it sounds silly, but I’m very serious about that. Loving film and loving filmmaking are two very different things. It’s a tough road – No way around it. If you’re into it for the fame, fortune and glamour, you might be in for a rude awakening. If you’re into it for the love of FILM, the love of STORYTELLING, then you’re off on the right foot. Fame and fortune are fine so long as you consider it the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

Great advice and we here at Critics Associated can’t wait for your first feature! Good luck Peter.

Katie Hall is the assistant editor at Critics Associated.