Interview: Indie Filmmaker Peter Dukes

Interview by Keri O’Shea

Though writer, director and producer Peter Dukes is in no ways new to the world of filmmaking, having made his first short film way back in 1999, we here at Brutal as Hell are pretty new to Peter’s work; he contacted us back last year regarding coverage in our recently-resurrected Horror in Short feature. As I’m the go-to girl for short films, I took a look – and I genuinely liked what I saw. In the first double-bill we ran, Dukes’ work demonstrated a pleasing level of variety: there was a dark tale of lycanthropy in The Beast, and then a fun horror-based comedy in Little Reaper: click on the link to take a look for yourselves. Then, yesterday we ran Dukes’ latest horror short, a film which clocks in at a mere three minutes; to reiterate what I said yesterday when we covered it, that has to be worth three minutes of your time.

After running three of his films and chatting here and there along the way, I thought it was high time Brutal as Hell got to know Peter a little better: to that purpose, he was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

Brutal as Hell: Thanks for doing this, Peter. My first question is a bit obvious, but how did you get into filmmaking? Was it always something you wanted to do?

Peter Dukes: So long as I can remember, yes. I’ve long enjoyed crafting stories, of all kinds. Telling stories, writing stories, drawing stories, you name it. Eventually I started playing around with my parents’ VCR camcorder (did I just date myself?) and was hooked on filmmaking from that point forward.

BAH: You’ve made a number of short films over the years: some of these have been horror, some other genres altogether. Do you have a particular favourite project that you’ve worked on so far?

PB: No. There are some films I may enjoy more so than others, but each represent a certain challenge I had laid out for myself, and thus each represent growth and maturation, even if at times I’m the only one who would recognize it.

BAH: How does writing/directing horror compare to the other genres you’ve worked on? And is there a genre you’d love to turn your hand to that you haven’t yet?

I have a soft spot for horror. Always have, always will. There’s a lot of room for creative flexibility there, and I enjoy that, but let’s not forget, it’s also just plain fun! That being said, I enjoy delving into other genres as well, as long as there is an interesting and challenging story to tell. I’m always on the lookout to try something new. That was one of the main reasons I took on LITTLE REAPER, which was my first experiment in comedy. I enjoyed the experience and learned a lot from it. In terms of taking on an entirely new genre I’ve never played with before? I’d actually love to do a western!

BAH: We live in a time of things like fan sites just like BAH, a proliferation of film festivals, phenomena like Kickstarter…do these things make life easier, or harder for indie filmmakers, in your opinion?

The social media revolution, along with the explosion of online media sites/etc, can really help indie filmmakers get their work out there for a lot of people to see quickly. It’s an investment – as one needs to put in the time to build relationships with the press, but one that’s more than worth your time.

In terms of crowd funding sites, I think they are a great avenue so long as you are prepared to put in the work necessary to get the job done right. Raising money has never been nor will ever be easy, but these sites offer indie filmmakers another financial avenue to explore, and for many I’m sure it’s proven itself quite valuable. I have yet to go through a crowd funding site, as I secure my investors elsewhere, but I know others who have used it to successfully finance their pictures.

There is, however, a drawback to all these new avenues. Now ANYONE can come in, make a movie and get it out there for people to see. With this sea of indie filmmakers out there (many of whom belong, many of whom don’t) it’s become extremely difficult to really stand out and get yourself noticed by the kind of people who can take your career to the next level. There’s a massive amount of filmmakers all vying for a very limited amount of gigs, so naturally the powers that be have kind of put up the dams (so as to keep their sanity). In other words, getting your script optioned or getting your demo reel into the hands of a manager or agent is next to impossible, unless you have an “in” or a referral of some kind. Blind submissions (pretty much) don’t happen anymore.

The life of an indie filmmaker is all about facing, and overcoming, challenges. It’s an absolute necessity. So, this drawback is simply another challenge that indie filmmakers must tackle, and it CAN be tackled.

BAH: A few months back, we featured your excellent short film The Beast. I hear that you’re now working on a feature-length movie by the same title. I’d certainly welcome some new werewolf movies on the scene. How’s it going – can you tell us more about this?

Yes, I expanded my short script for THE BEAST into a feature screenplay and was fortunate enough to have it optioned by Top Ranked Pictures a few months ago. The budget will come in around six million dollars and we are busy developing it as we speak. We’ve also been able to reach out to some major name taent. Progress is coming along nicely, but only time will tell if this project will come to fruition or not.

I’ve also recently been attached to direct a multi-million dollar Yeti horror picture, to be shot in the Himalayas. That too is in the early stages of development. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that both productions will go the distance…

BAH: What’s the most challenging thing about your job, would you say?

Tough question. There are many challenges that come with doing what I do, so depending on when you ask this of me, my answer might change from time to time, ha! However, I think that one of the most challenging things is pushing yourself to always work harder, to challenge yourself, to grow, to learn, to do more more MORE, even when you think you can’t do any more, and to keep this up week after week, month after month, year after year, almost all of which will be on the side of a regular full time job. Throughout this process you’ll be constantly aware that the odds of success are astronomically against you. Pushing through all this can be a challenge, even to the most experienced indie filmmakers out there.

The bottom line: is it’s a tough (although richly rewarding) profession and it takes sincere passion and hard work, both of which must be sustained over the long haul.

BAH: Thanks for talking with us – and good luck!

For further information on Peter’s work, be sure to check out his and Aubrey Dukes’ production company: follow the link to the Dream Seekers Productions website.