Exclusive Interview: Director Sean Stone Talks ‘GREYSTONE PARK’
GREYSTONE PARK is Sean Stone‘s , the son of the legendary Oliver Stone, feature directorial debut. Sean has appeared as an actor in all of his father’s films from Salvador to Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. He has directed and produced the DVD documentaries for Alexander starring Angelina Jolie and Colin Farrell, and has acted in, directed and produced several short films. Now Sean has his first horror film that fans can already catch on VOD and will get the opportunity to witness when it releases on Blu-ray and DVD on October 16th.
Alien Bee – Tell me about your new film Greystone Park.
Sean Stone – Greystone Park is as personal a horror film as it gets. Not only is it based on my experiences with the paranormal, but I even play myself, as do the other actors, re-enacting our adventures. To put it simply, the film is about shadows; two-dimensional projections; but do they have a life of their own? Do our fears manifest and empower them? Can they hurt us, or simply drive us mad? Many people have had terrifying shadow attacks and night terrors, but there is no place more filled with that negative energy than the Greystone. Once you go inside, the line between reality and paranoia quickly blurs, as I’m sure it did for those thousands of mental patients who once inhabited its now empty corridors.
Alien Bee - You not only direct but you also co-wrote Greystone Park with Alex Wraith. How did y’all come up with the story.
Sean Stone – As you’ll see in the film, Alex pitched the concept over dinner one night with my father. He had been exploring this creepy old mental hospital out in New Jersey which he claimed was haunted; not only that, the location itself was rich with production value, reminiscent of the mansion in the video game Resident Evil. Alex truly believed that Greystone was some sort of portal to other dimensions, and most people he’d taken there didn’t have the guts to go inside. I was skeptical, but very excited by the prospects of our very own ghost hunt. And so the next night, Alex and I were breaking into the mental hospital, beginning the three-year odyssey of bringing Greystone Park to audiences around the world.
Alien Bee – The movie is based on actual events. How close did you stay to that?
Sean Stone – This is the kind of film where we lived it, wrote about it, then found ourselves living through the experiences we wrote about. It was uncanny. I’d say about 80% of the film is real. Have I seen shadows move by themselves? Yes. Have I had things thrown at me from out of nowhere? Yes. Have I seen my friends get possessed? Absolutely. Was the gas mask-wearing mental patient Billy Lasher real? I’ve seen photographs of him inside the asylum. Was there really a crazy old witch-lady inside Greystone? You’ll have to explore it for yourself to find out. When all is said and done, I feel this is one of the most authentic films ever made about the paranormal, because that ‘other world’ is so subjective. I may see something that you’ll never see; but did I actually see it, or did my fear make me believe I saw it? Having been to Greystone, I now believe in ghosts; but only you can decide if YOU believe.
Alien Bee – What were some of your influences in making this film?
Sean Stone – When Alex used to break into haunted places before meeting me, he carried a consumer digital camera with him to document the expedition. He was tired of people accusing him of ‘making up’ stories about what happened along the way. And so, when I started exploring with him, we continued to carry a camera, thus establishing the hand-held style for Greystone Park. Of course, we watched plenty of classic horror films, from Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People to William Blatty’s The Exorcist III, studying the use of light and shadow and depth perception; but ironically, I kept coming back to the French new-wave film Last Year at Marienbad, which is not a horror film but feels like a ghost story. Director Alain Resnais uses hypnotic organ music, and empty lingering shots of this massive hotel, to establish the haunting impression that memories leave us with. When we leave a place, it’s as though a part of us stays behind inside it. And that is the way I felt about Greystone; it was a place still inhabited by the energy of the people who’d lived and died there. And perhaps a part of us, our shadows, stayed behind after we had gone.
Alien Bee – Your dad (Oliver Stone) is in the movie. Were you or are you ever intimidated when he’s on set?
Sean Stone – It was a pleasure to finally turn the camera on my father and have a chance to direct him. And it was a relief that I didn’t have to give him too much guidance, as he is a very good natural storyteller. The main pressure I felt was to shoot him out quickly and get him home because he’s not a professional actor and didn’t necessarily have the patience of suffering through a night shoot when he had his own film, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, to worry about. Toward that end, I think we got through his scene in under three hours.
Alien Bee – How was it directing him as an actor and does he ever offer advice and do you take it or just do it your own way?
Sean Stone – I remember that during our scene, he gave a couple of small directions to me as an actor, but he did it in a very off-hand way so as to be respectful. I think we have respect for each other’s opinions, but there’s definitely a stubbornness that a director has to have in getting his film made. I know that he was quite impressed with the first cut of the film, but we were unable to sell that version and had to make more edits, ultimately condensing about fifteen minutes from the final cut. He may have preferred the former incarnation, but I stand behind the film I am presenting now as Greystone Park; it’s ultimately my film, so no one’s opinion can be more important to me than my own.
Alien Bee – How do you feel about the “found footage” craze in film?
Sean Stone – At 14 years old, when I first heard about The Blair Witch Project, I was fascinated; after watching the History Channel documentary about the real Blair Witch, I could hardly sleep that night. But once I found out that there was no real Blair witch, that it was all a charade, I refused to watch the film for the next ten years. I’ve always felt slightly cheated by the concept of ‘found footage’. If I know all the characters are missing or dead from the start, it’s difficult for me to get emotionally involved. But there’s something deeper to my rejection of ‘found footage’… it’s based on a fake scenario. When we set out to make Greystone Park, we never intended it to be found footage. Instead, we wanted to make a ‘hand held’ movie, more reminiscent of a documentary, much like has been done with the new film End of Watch, to make the audience feel they are living the experience with the actors, and blurring the lines between reality and fiction.
Alien Bee - Name some of your favorite horror or thrillers from recent years.
Sean Stone – I loved Insidious. It reminded me of the great horror films of the ‘80s, like Nightmare on Elm Street, with fully-integrated sets and make-up, and a story that takes you into a paranormal reality that feels very possible. I have not been a fan of the torture-porn genre of horror that arose in the 2000s. Horror is the great genre for battles between pure light and dark, good and evil; or else the province of psychological terror at the paradox between one’s own madness and the madness of the world in which we live. I feel that in post 9-11 America, the horror film became a means of terrorizing audiences into submitting to a world without heroes, without hope of defeating the monster, or of overcoming one’s own dark-side. Perhaps Greystone Park fits into this new era, but I am hoping that we’re in for a shift toward a more optimistic point of view.
Alien Bee – What’s up next for you?
Sean Stone – We’re aiming at a martial arts-comedy called ENTER THE FIST, something completely different from the horror genre. You can already check out some of the hilarious audition footage on YouTube.
Alien Bee – Will you be doing more horror films?
Sean Stone – I hope so. Horror films have been my great love since I was 4 years old watching Pet Semetary and then sleepwalking through nightmares afterward. I think horror-comedy is actually my favorite genre, and toward that end Alex Wraith and I have written one, which we hope to produce soon.
Alien Bee – Would you like to say anything to everyone checking this out?
Sean Stone – Unless you plan on breaking into an abandoned mental hospital in the near future, check out Greystone Park. It’s the closest thing you’ll get to that rush, if you dare!