Six months from today will be January 1, 2021, I say this because the Christmas Holiday season is Run,Hide,Pray Director & Screenwriter Liz Lugo\’s favourite time of the year next to Halloween of course. Every year the pictures of Christmas start around the end of September beginning of October and let me tell you Liz is relentless. Which is exactly the type of tenacity one requires when they are the Director. I know Liz very well, she is extremely methodological and we happen to share similar tastes in horror movies. One of the few people I can discuss with about how I feel Candyman is a love story not a horror. I\’m so excited to share with you my interview of Liz\’s journey creating Run, Hide, Pray — it\’s always a special treat to be able to absorb more knowledge.
All pertinent links for you to research after reading the interview. For more information, stills, EPK, visit the official website: https://www.runhideprayfilm.com, Instagram: @runhideprayfilm, Twitter: @runhideprayfilm, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RunHidePrayFilm. Also please note these two little vids courtesy of Liz.
RMMW: Why was it important for you to make your movie accessible to everyone by ensuring subtitles for the Deaf community?
LL: Inclusion. Every filmmaker has their own visions. One of mine is to make sure everyone can enjoy my film (or future films). Normally people don’t consider the Deaf community or believe they should adjust to the hearing world. And I think it’s important that the entertainment industry include them. You know, a friend of a friend went to see Avengers: Endgame and he couldn’t understand so he left. It’s frustrating for them not being able to go to the theater and enjoy premieres as everyone else.
And I’ve always believed that there’s no small action. If we can do something to make life easier for anyone, if it’s in our hands to change something, in this case, to assure everyone can enjoy your film, why not doing so?
RMMW: What is it about the genre of horror you enjoy?
LL: Well, stabbing people is one of my favorite hobbies hahaha kidding. Hmm, life is about emotions. We need to experience, to feel – love, laugh, cry, be thrilled, be scared. Horror gives us that balance. It complements what we lack in real life (and/or try to avoid). It gives us the chance to go there, be scared, face our fears, and overcome them (or even accept our dark side). And the thing with horror is you never know what really could happen. If you watch a drama or comedy you don’t know the Inciting Incident, End of Act I, Midpoint, End of Act II… but you know everything will be fine. Horror breaks that, and you’re constantly feeling scared for the characters, especially the protagonist or any favorite characters. Anything could happen. Dark secrets are revealed – probably like any other genre but in horror we go where we can’t in other genres. And no matter what genre, I love to experience real people struggling with life, with the consequences of their actions. To feel that human part. And, you know, every situation has two sides, at least – two points of view that characters resolve different depending on the genre. And horror doesn’t put a – hold. Horror is scary, or should be. It gives us the freedom to create whatever world we want and do whatever we want with the characters. And it’s fun to play with and experience the complexity of people’s emotional lives, and how far they’re capable of going for a specific goal. The nature of horror is just unique, special. And the more suspense, scary or bloody, the more people enjoy it.
RMMW: What was the inspiration behind the script, is any of it based on true events?
LL: Not at all. This short film is based on a feature script I wrote. Run, Hide, Pray introduces a story about revenge, inspired by watching my younger brother play Until Dawn. The backstory and graphics of the game are phenomenal, but the fact that you must make a decision and, based on it, the game continues with a different outcome – that it’s just so cool. It’s so as everything in life. And, for some reason, I had this title in my head so I asked myself: “what if a serial killer gives their victims a chance to live…” but this could only happen under certain circumstances. And I started creating different rules for the game, then a specific prayer came up – and yeah, everything started – subplots, characters’ relationships… in the feature script, we’ll see what happens if a character says the right prayer… would the killer forgives them or what? And you know, it was fun to play with it (still it is with the feature screenplay) – especially ‘cause I used a folkloric character of my country, Puerto Rico, to create this serial killer. And then, the religious theme… creating something so sinister linked to religion, at least for myself, was harder – ‘cause you need to be careful – how you incorporate both… ‘cause the religious theme is in the game but also in the killer so it’s a fragile line. And I don’t want to just create something. I need reasons. I need to understand the characters, the game, everything, so eventually the audience (and myself) believe and enjoy what they’re watching.
RMMW: What was the biggest challenge in producing your own movie?
LL: Money! Haha you need money if you want to do a great (or some say ‘decent’) film — unless you have all the skills, of course (which it’s not impossible I guess but, you know, there are so many people behind a film, and I think that’s the beauty of any industry, teamwork). Anyway, when I sent the script to Alex (Co-Producer) for feedback, he liked it and told me to go to Cleveland, team up with Chris (Cinematographer) and all of his team. Whenever I see a good opportunity, I usually don’t think it twice (let’s be real, the more you think, the less you do! So, do it!). But, you know, money haha There were two options. One of them was to run a campaign on GoFundMe – but most people outside the industry don’t understand indie films. They believe all films are funded by studios and, if not, your film is not worthy. It costs so much for people to actually understand the indie world and bet on you. So, Alex and I made a budget and it ended up being twice. But, hey, this industry is that – leaps of faith, all over again.
RMMW: What was the biggest challenge while shooting?
LL: It was an incredible experience, let’s start with that! Hmmm… there were a few challenges, but I would say the biggest was to work with the space we had. We saw several Airbnbs and decided to rent one that had a cool basement that would help us shoot the basement scene and then the kitchen, living room, master, every room was perfect. But when we arrived, the place was kinda small. There were shots that we couldn’t take because of that. There were other shots that we alter the angles. There’s a scene where the victim is under the bed, so we also had to adjust the platform bed. When Alex, Chris and I saw the place – we were like “oh, this sucks” haha but luckily we, and the rest of the crew, were really good with problem solving so, yeah, we did our best!
RMMW: Any fun facts while shooting?
LL: Well, hahaha, we shot the scene in the woods in a public park. Some neighbors heard the screams and called the police haha. We were speaking with them for like I don’t know, maybe five minutes that were like an hour hahaha. They told us the screams were terrifying (bright side, that’s good!).
RMMW: If you could do it again what would you change?
Wow, hm. More days to shoot. And definitely rent a second place. There’s a specific shot in the screenplay that it would’ve been beautiful to take. The scene where the Masked Killer takes the figure of Virgin Mary. An overhead shot from the right side, focusing on the figure, watching the killer’s fingers caressing the figure – that would’ve been stunning ‘cause it’s important for the essence of this killer – how this killer adores God and Virgin Mary, knows killing it’s kinda bad, but believes this has to be done. It’s like I know it’s bad and I love you but I also know you’ll understand me.
RMMW: How did you organise the audition process?
LL: We used Backstage. Actresses submitted their resume and reel. I was looking for a Latina and we found her, a Puerto Rican. But, unfortunately, we had to change the shooting dates and she wasn’t available. Then, we saw Joelle’s resume and reel. She speaks Spanish, her acting is good, and yeah, we knew she was our girl. Same for the Masked Killer (Vejigante). The issue we had with the killer was the height. We wanted someone taller than the victim and our girl was already 5’7. But we made it work.
RMMW: How did you storyboard all the different scenes?
LL: I’m the worst person drawing haha but it was fun. Hmm, the basement scene and the woods scene both have a natural flow – we used POV from a person recording so it was easy for me to explain it to Chris and yeah, it’s just perfect. For the rest of the movie, the breakdown followed the sequence of the script – we alter things based on the space, which angles were better – because looking at the script you might think you need a low angle shot, for instance, but then when you’re in the place, that alters everything and you realize a wide shot it’s better.
RMMW: What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your project that you know now?
LL: You know, I believe every experience helps you grow. It’s like when you meet someone, and then you both are dating but things go unexpectedly the way you never imagine – could be right or wrong. But you learn from that experience. You take parts of it and grow. I’ve been working on this story for years. I’m extremely perfectionist – always trying to do things as perfect as possible. And I’m a freak of small details. For me, every film, doesn’t matter the genre, mimics life. So, it’s important that everything is in place, that actors/actresses’ outfit and appearance, in general, follows the same – because you’re shooting different days, but the story is the same day. Hmm, so, I would say, don’t think that you, as a director, could control (all) things. Things just happen. It is what it is. Some things can be fixed. Some don’t. And, although we can’t control some things, we can control how we react — we need to be calm in order to think well and look for different ways to fix and improve the situation. And, at the end, you always learn and demand more from yourself every time.
RMMW: Please provide one non-writing fact about you that isn’t about how much you LOVE and are OBSESSED with Halloween & Christmas?
LL: Hahaha can’t wait to wear my ugly sweaters! Hmmm, well, I’m pretty weird so I’m just gonna say I don’t like cocktail sauce so I dip my shrimps in any other sauce. You should try them in guacamole, really good hahaha.
RMMW: As someone who has a variety of interest where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
Scaring people hahaha you know, anything could happen in this industry, but I aspire to be on set, still writing horror films, and, if super lucky, directing horror films and/or TV shows. But you know, here (in this industry) things are so unexpected, you know it’s going to happen but you never know when – so even if things work different, you just have to keep going, trust yourself, believe you can achieve all of your goals, work hard and harder every single day. Adjust to whatever life brings you. As I always say, “dream the impossible and you’ll get the unexpected” because yeah, life is that – for everyone (doesn’t matter who you are or your career) – you just bet for something and then life gives you that thing but going through different paths or gives you better things, things you never believe you could have. So, live one day at a time, but live! Work for what you want. And yeah, whatever the future holds for me, bring it on!
RMMW: What quality do you feel is missing from our modern-day film industry?
LL: I would say more diversity. Diversity is beautiful and real. What every single person can add to the industry (and to people’s life). There’s so much talent waiting to be accepted, to be called. And the industry is getting there. We’re seeing, for instance, Latinas like Eiza Gonzalez and Ana de Armas shining in Hollywood (and, of course, the beautiful Zoe Saldana, and many others) and even in TV shows, Latinos like Rick Gonzalez, Josh Segarra and Kirk Acevedo – three Puerto Ricans’ descent in Arrow. But we need more inclusion in front and behind the cameras – and not only speaking about Latinxs; we also need Native Americans, Greeks, Afro-Americans, Redheads… We need to include the Deaf community and other communities that feel excluded – in the crew, cast, but also in our stories. Films (and TV shows) are our art, our platform to say you belong here, you’re not alone, we all go through the same, we all are beautiful, we are all human. And you know, I don’t believe the film industry lacks completely of all of these points, but I do believe we can do more — and TV shows, comics – transmedia productions can also create infinite opportunities.
RMMW: What movies inspired you to become a screenwriter?
LL: All of them hahaha I just love movies, I’m obsessed! Movies are an escape from the real world, those two hours where you belong somewhere else. Where you’re an assassin, a superhero, a thief, a detective, or maybe the victim in a horror story. Movies gives you the freedom to be who you are but also be the person you’ll never be. Movies inspire you to do more for others, to maybe change something about yourself or the world. Movies are visuals, fun, cool and the curiosity of being on set (vs actually being on set). How we make things happen vs how the audience see things happen. Creating marketing, promos, trailers… Gosh, it’s exciting! And writing screenplays is where the magic begins. It’s a complex process, especially when you’re working with so many characters – knowing all of them, creating subplots, etc – it’s hard work but the format is so perfect, it’s beautiful (yes, I’m madly in love hahaha).
RMMW: Which do you prefer the big screen or small one?
LL: I would say both have their advantages. I mean, I love going to the theater. And, as filmmaker, I believe it’s everyone’s dream – to see our film in the big screen. Enjoy people screaming, murmuring about how good that stab was or how a character deserved to die hahaha But then, the small screen, you can always enjoy films in the comfort of your home, cuddling with your special one, in your pajamas. If you prefer subtitles, you could add them. And also, for filmmakers, it provides more opportunities.
RMMW: What do you see for the future of this story?
LL: Well, the short film exposes the concept of the game (Run, Hide, Pray) and its rules, a different serial killer (this is a spoilers’ free interview hahaha), and that this killer is going after other people who wrongly tortured and killed a friend (a loved one). It is exciting that in both the short film and feature screenplay, you can see elements linked to my culture and country, Puerto Rico; for instance, San Sebastián Street Festival (also known as San Se) and El Yunque National Forest. As mentioned before, Vejigante (Masked Killer) is based on a folkloric character in Puerto Rican festivals. This is something we haven’t seen before and it seems a potentially dramatic and terrific area to explore. So, I hope people like it and that somehow, we’ll be able to make the feature and who knows what could happen!
RMMW: Sounds awesome! To finish, what else can you tell us about this mysterious serial killer? Which it’s the soul of any slashers! Everyone wants to know all about the killer! And we have spoken so many times about your film and the story, and I think the essence of the killer is so attracting and unique. What can you say without giving spoilers?
LL: Thank you! It is exciting, right! Well, Run, Hide, Pray follows the line of films like Halloween, Friday the 13th, Scream. I think it’s a fresh idea for slashers. Characters are really scared about their conscious and a masked person is terrifying enough to make the victims feel they’re not in control anymore. Some people can argue about strength (stereotyping) —- but (physically) it has never been if you analyze other slasher films. It is about the psychological part the victims experience. I wish I could say more! Hahaha but you know, (speaking about the feature screenplay) it’s fantastic how both the protagonist and antagonist are strong characters that, of course, are opposites, but similar at the same time. They complement each other so well and they both can find parts in one another.