A Lyrical Feast with the Amazing Marcus Dunstan

By Amy Humphries

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The Collector, The Collection, Piranha 3D and season 3 winner of Project Greenlight…Feast. Consider these films your appetizer as you are most likely salivating for the main course, Marcus Dunstan! His talent for his craft is like a trigger on a horror bullhorn sounding out his success. It is virtually impossible to further an intro for this exceptionally talented man. I feel honored to have a dialogue with the record holder for the most blood spilled in a student film!

Let’s eat!

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Terror Time/AH: I’d like to go back to 2005 and say amazing third season win on Project Greenlight! You have stated that being in screenplay pitch competitions has a lot to do with not only taking “your best 1st shot”, but “your best 100th shot”. How does that influence your preparation for a single project of yours versus pitching against many?

Marcus Dunstan: Hahaha … well… if I may… the title of this interview is A LOT to live up to. Thank you, Amy! I’ll do my best to honor such a compliment! Project Greenlight offered us a guest seat at the adult’s table. We are fortunate to have been part of such a wonderful process. It was brought to fruition by filmmakers we admire (Wes Craven, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Chris Moore, and Mr. Bob Weinstein), producers (Mike Leahy, Joel Soisson, Nick Phillips, Andrew Rona, Matt Stein and the great Don Phillips) who fought to place every red penny on the screen, and a director, (John Gulager), who not only became a dear friend, but selflessly shares his family, heart and talent with any and all in the orbit of his life.

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My parents were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary during our premiere, and my Mom was able to take a photo in the embrace of Jason Bourne and Batman. Her smile is one of the greatest things a son can see, and courtesy of Sean Decker, our FEAST beast made it on to the cover of Fangoria magazine… which years prior while a freshman in High School, much to my mother’s embarrassment, I was sent to detention when I brought a copy of Fangoria featuring Freddy Krueger perched over Nancy’s shoulder in prom regalia to class. That time was worth the crime. It would be audacious to ever expect such an experience to unfold in life, and thanks those who allowed two projectionists from the college theaters of Iowa City, Ia, to participate in that mischievous cabal of carnage… the FEAST tribe painted the silver screen crimson and we laughed with macabre glee as one. Thankfully, we were also in the company of those who shared not only the gratitude of this once-in- a lifetime joy, but also shared the advice to never stand still in such a moment, for it moves on to memory just as quickly as it arrived from a dream.

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Once the FEAST was served, there was no waiting for another project to present itself, but rather it was up to us to create that next opportunity and steel our boots to keep kicking every door ahead to perhaps earn a seat at the adult’s table once more and maybe… just maybe …grow a bit taller in the process. The 100 shots may only result in one bullseye. The skin of a rhino is helpful. The preparation of each idea or pitch is balanced amongst the lessons learned from each victory, failure, and staying on top of the ever-evolving techniques utilized to help others see an idea. A script or outline isn’t always enough to clear the many hurdles from concept to creation. In some cases a larger canvas idea benefits from including look-books, original production art, “rip- o-matic” trailers, or even filming scenes from the script to help ignite interest in a project. Each pitch and script is an absolute commitment, and the more one can practice at it, the more one can stay nimble and roll with the many punches of the creative process.

There is another asset to working on a couple of projects concurrently; the psychological relief. I remember writing in the middle of the night on a horror sequence that was particularly dark, vicious… and was a one-way ticket the bleakest of headspaces. I finished up, and didn’t quite want to stay there… in that scene… with the nadir of someone being torn away… So, thank goodness, there was this other project that required the opposite kind of moment; hope, adrenaline, victory. Those words flew out in an avalanche and let a bit of light back in. It was a relief.

Then, the next night… went back into the dark to save a character from the nadir of the scary story and set fire to some evil. That felt even better!