SKSM: Could you start with telling me a little bit about yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Jeffrey Stackhouse: My name is Jeffrey Stackhouse and I’m a Sandwich Delivery Boy. But let’s break that down, a bit:
I began in theater: after school in England I was an Assistant Director of a lovely College Theater above Baltimore for a few years until I left for NYC. There I performed professionally in Baroque Opera for 5 seasons before moving on to New Music, wherein I created leads in 14 musical workshops and had pieces commissioned for me by the likes of Aerosmith’s producer Paul O’Neil and the original director of Jesus Christ Superstar & Hair, the amaaazing Tom O’Horgan.
I came out to CA to work as the villain of the best musical I’d ever encountered, Jon Stothers’ terrific Pilgrim, and got to watch someone brought on board flush $3M of investors’ money down the tubes. So: not that.
I then did some film, my favorite on a great indie project called The Crusaders that won Best Comics Film at Comicon, worked again with New Music composers, developed a then-pretty-severe case of Vitiligo that made me shy of auditioning and felt I’d move on to my 4th or 5th Entertainment Career … Decided writing horror screenplays was more stable, because I seemingly have no firm concept of reality.
SKSM: How did you become involved in I am the Doorway Dollar Baby film?
Jeffrey Stackhouse: My wife Wendy and I had been co-writers previously on a Spaghetti Western that won The PAGE Awards, and we were lucky enough to be selected for two of Mr. King’s stories, this and “The Ballad Of The Flexible Bullet.” We discussed it for a while and decided that “Bullet” was pretty much perfect as Prose and we could thus only equal it or fall short. “Doorway” however was Body Horror, and that has a bunch of lenses to view it through. Transformation is very fertile ground.
I often work with co-writers, and had just come off of what I felt was a successful collaboration with Richard Becker on an award-winning Military Horror called “Handful Of Dust” and we hoped that Mr. King’s name would be enough of a spotlight that we all might rise a bit, and so Wendy and I approached Richard as a valued resource and began talking the beats and approach. My original thought was to create a film in the style of Argento and Cronenberg: a beautiful and lambent jewel that framed this absolutely brutal and terrible story, and that was our attack.
Now two years earlier, I had seen Simon Pearce’s feature horror “Judas Ghost” at Shriekfest Film Festival and it blew me away. The acting was well directed, the shots were intriguing and served-the-story, the forward motion was intense. But important for this project, his feel for color palate was beautiful.
After the screening, I had made damn sure he knew my thoughts, and I’d kept in touch, so I was able to pitch the project to him, and he was intrigued. And because he’s a consummate pro, he was able to attract the likes of DP Phil Meheux (Casino Royale, Mask Of Zorro) and Illusion Industries (SPFX for Pirates of the Caribbean) to the film.
“How did I become involved…?”
I was verah verah lucky.
SKSM: What do you think it is about the story that attracts people so much?
Jeffrey Stackhouse: As I said, I think the subject of transformation is a very powerful one; in whatever Genre you play it, there’s an inherent resonance. Wendy and I are proud to be parents of a Trans child, and because it came near the beginning of Society’s wider recognition, we were involved with a lot of the “discovery” aspects of such. I came to realize that “change” is a very brave act. Our astronaut may or may not be quite so brave.
SKSM: You said you worked with Simon Pearce on this film, how was that?
Jeffrey Stackhouse: Simon was very open to listening to my thoughts on the piece, and to my initial approach, which was the lynchpin. He’s a good ally to have and brings extraordinary talent and work ethic to a project.
SKSM: Do you still have any contact with the crew/cast from that time? If so with who?
Jeffrey Stackhouse: Thanks to the Intertubes, I’m still able to interact a bit with our terrific leads, Simon Merrells and Grant Masters, and look forward to being able to see them bring their nuance and gravitas to other characters, some day. There’s a strong and enigmatic Spaghetti Western lead Wendy and I would love to see SM take on, and Grant would be a wonderfully creepy Doctor Richard and I have throughout the framing of an Anthology of ours.
Simon Pearce and I “speak” more often, and still gaze wistfully at a couple of Features we’d like to get going, but his newest film “Officer Down!” has had his attention, lately, and I look forward to seeing that.
SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?
Jeffrey Stackhouse: I’ve been working with another co-writer, Renfield Rasputin and developed with him a New Orleans set Horror Pilot about a damned priest, that won a major award, and also a current proof-of-concept Short-for-Feature about an EMT who takes a rescue call during a hurricane and finds a tortured angel in the old man’s shed. Those are great fun. And I’ve finished a Feature on my own about clever students in a School in England who figure out a way to replace our Universe’s God with another, but have to sacrifice literally everyone, just to get Its attention. Turns out it’s a love story, lol. That one might end up a novel, as well, since it’s too expensive for someone at my level, to get made.
SKSM: Are you a fan of Stephen King’s work?
Jeffrey Stackhouse: He’s probably my favorite living “voice.” I‘ve reread all of his work at least once and physically have all of his novels – one of our 18 bookcases is just his stories. I like to say that Roger Zelazny is like having your smarter older brother tell you a story, and Stephen King is like your best friend reading to you around a campfire, at night. Comfort food, for me.
SKSM: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
Jeffrey Stackhouse: I’ve already done the Baroque Opera and New Music beats. Surprised? I enjoyed major-character voicework on a lot of Japanese Anime, including Otomo’s (of Akira fame) first feature Harmageddon and the legendary La Blue Girl (oh, you can Google, I’ll wait… Hentai is a world to itself). That might at least be intriguing, if not new to my circle..
SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything you want to say to the fans that read this interview?
Jeffrey Stackhouse: For screenwriters, learn formatting (I’m a Trottier baby) and then Tell Your Story.
The only storytelling tool you need is having read Joseph Campbell or Frazer, and damn your Education System if you haven’t already. Generalized Beat Sheets create generalized pap; how many great Screenplays have those gurus actually written?
On that, realize that all of the filmmakers of the 30s–60s had a storytelling vocabulary built upon what they had read. Even those great visuals that our filmmakers imitate today originated from a lifetime of sharing worlds with great authors.
— Writers in general: Be unafraid. Stop asking permission. Many folk before me have said you can’t edit what isn’t on the page, so write. And it’s alright to have written crap; silk purses from sow’s ears, amiright?
— For life? I’m absolutely the wrong person to take that advice from, but I will mention don’t suffer fools (“waves”) and surround yourselves with those who are kind.
But also, be kinder to yourself. Realize you’re not alone. If you’re down, reach out to people who might help. Those thoughts are more common than you think. Much.
SKSM: Do you like to add anything else?
Jeffrey Stackhouse: I have the start of a website at ShadowlandOnline.net that you might want to check, but it’s only a beginning and some pretty graphics.
Thanks so much for this opportunity, Oscar, and for your patience for my getting it done.
— My best to all of you out there. Stories can change the world. I hope you step forward and make some of that change.