Artists have the divine like ability to give life to and destroy their creations. But what happens when an artist's creations try to destroy him? This is the premise behind "Conjure," an independent feature film, on which entertainment illustrator Matt Busch wore a number of hats including writer, director, and star. Comics2Film spoke to Busch about "Conjure" which makes its debut on DVD this week.
"Conjure" was born out Busch's love for supernatural thriller stories. "Horror movies in general don't do a whole lot for me, but throw in some ghosts, and you've got my attention," Busch told C2F. "So it was always on the back-burner to do an all-out ghost movie."
Busch is best know for his work illustrating books, magazines and comics but once he decided to bring "Conjure" to life as a feature film, he was able to use a lot of skills from his day job to help create his cinematic vision. "I actually have a pretty extensive background working on movies and TV shows," Busch said "I've done storyboards and pre-production art for movies like 'Con-Air' and 'The Matrix. I've worked on almost all aspects of movie making, right through the marketing and advertising, so it was really just a matter of time before I got behind a camera myself and made a movie. That being said, there was plenty for me to learn on the fly as well!"
Armed with his idea and his movie making skills Busch and his girlfriend Sarah Wilkinson began working on "Conjure" on Christmas Day 2003. "While visiting my manager in Los Angeles, I began writing story ideas immediately and Sarah and I were shooting within a week!" Busch explained. "Filming continued on and off over a year, in between editing. The first cut of 'Conjure' only took a year to complete, but I then spent an additional year re-editing over and over. It was over 3 hours long at first- but was eventually whittled down to half that. I kept tightening things up and working to get the pacing exactly where I wanted it. Many scenes that were cut can be found as 'Deleted Scenes' on the DVD."
It was editing and putting together cuts of "Conjure" that proved to be the most enjoyable aspect of film making for Busch. "I really enjoy the process of putting motion images together to make temporal connections," Busch stated. "That's really when you see your movie come to life."
For Busch, it was bringing to life a movie on such a small budget that was probably the most difficult part of filming "Conjure." "I think the hardest part was just having a small budget, but trying to make a movie that's going to compete with multi-million dollar movies on the shelf," Busch explained.
"I paid for CONJURE out of my own pocket, mostly from working on 'Star Wars' gigs," Busch continued. "Ha- since most of the funds came from Lucasfilm paychecks, I should have credited George Lucas as an Executive Producer! I've spent $40,000.00 to date. To some, that seems like an awful lot, but it's really just a fraction of what even most independent movies spend."
The size of his budget kept Busch from hiring paying actors to star in "Conjure" but he worked around this by incorporating elements of his real life into the story. "The basic gist is that it's a pseudo-documentary that meets a supernatural thriller," Busch explained. "I play myself, an entertainment illustrator, and you get to see me work behind-the-scenes. In a nearby graveyard, I stumble upon an old photograph of a South American castle. Obsessed with the photo, I decide to bring it to life by rendering a vibrant painting of the dark dwelling. At the same time, I'm creating creepy sketches of the twisted souls I imagine inhabiting the castle. Meanwhile, my girlfriend, model Sarah Wilkinson begins to experience phantom encounters throughout our home. These ghostly meeting get more intense as I create in the studio, and eventually we find ourselves manifested to the haunted castle, deep in the South American jungles. Sarah and I must confront the troubled souls that I created, and find a way home...
"'Conjure' is very dark," Busch continued. "The tone is usually that of a supernatural thriller, but there are definitely times where the comic relief comes in. There are camp moments. There are also segments that have more of a documentary feel."
Busch drew upon a number of influences while making "Conjure." "There are tiny moments that pay homage to some of my faves, like 'Star Wars' and 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.' The content was inspired not only by movies like 'Poltergeist' and 'The Sixth Sense', but also video games like 'Silent Hill' and 'Fatal Frame.' Stylistically, the biggest inspiration was probably 'Evil Dead.' Because this was a low budget movie, I need to draw from tried and true techniques that would have an impact."
Horror films are notorious for spawning an unending amount of sequels but Busch has no plans to make "Conjure 2." However, Busch, who is currently brainstorming his next feature idea, enjoyed his experience both making and acting in movies and says there's a chance in the future that he and Sarah Wilkinson will be playing themselves again in front of the camera.
"I'm not quitting my day job as an entertainment illustrator," Busch said. "I start on a book next week for DK and Lucasfilm called 'You Can Draw Star Wars Characters.' A new full color book of my art is being published by SQP this August. And Sarah Wilkinson and I just began visual designs for a new graphic novel that will be written by Horror Master Steve Niles! As for movies, my 'Crisis' graphic novel is in development with Rebel Films and set to star John Leguizamo. I also have about seven solid ideas cooking for future independent movies and full-length animated features. I'm going to wait until I'm done with the whole promotional aspect of 'Conjure' before I commit to what I'll invest my efforts in next. I'm learning so much, and I'm anxious to get started!"