“The initial inspiration for The Legend of Viper’s Hill was just to do a good, old-fashioned ghost story. With it being our first real feature we weren’t planning on reinventing the wheel. That’ll come later. I think we achieved mixed results. Some things turned out better than I hoped while some things got lost in the translation. The cast was amazing and any faults with it are mine.”
How did you find that making a feature differed from making shorts?
“Not a big difference. We pretty much approached it the same as we would a short. The only real change, I’d have to say, was that The Legend of Viper’s Hill had the largest cast of anything we’ve ever done. So there was a little more sitting and waiting for your scene.”
With your cast and crew, what balance did you have between a regular Cousin Company team and people who were cast/selected specifically for this film?
“Because we work fast and cheap and fly pretty much under the radar we work with a lot of the same people, but we try to inject some new blood with each project. David Rusk has been with us pretty much since the beginning. He’s our go-to guy. If we need someone to play a creepy neighbour we call Dave. Corrupt cop, Dave. Sleazy lawyer, Dave again. However I think he has figured out we’re typecasting him.
"Donna Henry went to college with my partner and cousin Norm Scanlon and I. Initially Donna was only going to play the ghost of Rosie. We had someone else in mind for Meredith. But that sort of fell through. Then it hit me. Here we have Donna, who was great in our short A Fine Murder, and we put her in a role with no dialogue. After we kicked ourselves for a while we called Donna and said, ‘Hey, you’re playing Meredith too.’ Donna’s a trooper and after giving 110 per cent on an exhausting first day she came back for more. She’s a good one in my book.
“The Legend of Viper’s Hill was our second go-around with Tina Michaud. Her first appearance was in the Cousin Company production The Last Heartbeat where she played a psycho who stabs a sleazy wannabe - played by David Rusk, of course - in the chest and pulls out his heart. Tina’s a very high energy performer who gives it her all. By the way, Dave lived to tell about it. I warned Donna before we started shooting: ‘If the script calls for Tina to drag you down the hall, be prepared to be dragged down the hall.’
“Our new face this time was Tom Griffin. He was a discovery of Norm’s and in all honesty I was a little unsure at first. But he proved me wrong. Tom was right there putting it all out and he was a major boost behind the scenes as well. Tom will be back.”
What problems of time, equipment, budget etc did you face and how did you overcome them?
“We own all of our equipment so that was never an issue. The biggest chore was getting everybody together. Big chunks of the movie were shot over three non-consecutive weekends with everybody. Then bits and pieces as needed. A day here, a day or two there. We started shooting Friday May 13, 2005. Friday the 13th. How’s that for an omen? Then finished shooting almost a year to the day later. Everybody was in for the long haul and I love them all for it.”
How has The Legend of Viper’s Hill been received so far and what plans do you have for distribution?
“The Legend of Viper’s Hill has been received pretty well. We’re not expecting to get rich with it. Right now it’s available at Indieflix.com. It’s a non-exclusive agreement so we’re hoping for a couple of other distributors. Right now I’m just getting the word out.”
What is next for the Cousin Company?
“Next for the Cousin Company? Take what we’ve learned and improve upon it. Norm and I are tossing around a couple of ideas about what to tackle next. You never know, sooner or later we just might do that wheel thing.”
interview originally posted 22nd October 2006