Damien LeVeck – The Cleansing Hour
By: Lisa Steinberg
Q) How did you come up with the concept for the film The Cleansing Hour?
A) Our writer, Aaron Horwitz, and I both have roots in reality TV. Aaron ran with the idea that, today, be it on TV or online, people are quick to believe what they see. Just the way viral videos go around, memes and the way people get obsessed with following certain characters or topics online. What if there was a weekly exorcism? Would people buy into it? We’re of the opinion they would. It’s a very relevant and current thing. In trades recently, there was an announcement that Destination America is going to be airing a special where they do an exorcism on the house that inspired the movie The Exorcist. That’s just a pop culture example of why this is a relevant topic and a relevant movie for today.
Q) What is it about the theme of the movie that really intrigued you to be a part of it?
A) I have been a fan of horror movies my whole life. Specifically, the exorcism genre I am drawn to because of the idea that there is this unseen force – a demon if you will – that can inhabit the human body and take control of it. How do we defeat that? How do we prevent that? What is the solution for that? Then, it’s addressing the spiritual and religious approaches to that kind of thing. They vary across the world, but I think it is a fascinating topic and one of the scariest. I read a statistic some years ago that regardless of religion and regardless of country of origin, something like 90% of the population believes in some form of demon possession. That is very fascinating for me because there is something innate within all of us that can be scared by it.
Q) How did you originally connect with writer Aaron Horwitz?
A) Aaron is a good friend. We have known each other through USC. We both went to the University of Southern California together and studied film and TV there. We have been sort of working our way up in entertainment since then. I moved to LA fifteen years ago and he grew up in LA. He comes from a family that works in entertainment. I have sort of had to build myself up from the bottom, but we met in the middle. We share a love of horror films and we also share the same taste in horror films. I think that is really why we got together on this project because we both have the same vision.
Q) Talking about the casting of the film.
A) The way it often works in the entertainment industry is that you end up working with people you have worked with before. The whole industry is very incestuous in that way. That is in large part due to relationships because you spend a lot of time making a movie so you want to make more movies with the same people if you had a good experience. This film is no exception. I first met Sam Jaeger working on Take Me Home, which is a romantic comedy that I edited for him. I was actually on the road filming a good portion of that and ended up editing it. I also edited two of Heather’s short films and that is how we became friends. So, whenever this project came about I knew that both of these guys would be perfect for the roles and they were written for those people. When I approached Heather, I said, “I have this film that I’m doing and this role we wrote for you because we know it would be so good for you.” She said “yes” right away without any hesitation.
Q) What is the background of the characters they will be playing?
A) The two main characters, Lance and Drew, are frauds. They are guys that have moved out to LA and tried to get into the acting scene. Then, they ended up making this webcast that made them internet celebrities. While they aren’t successful in the acting world, they are still sort of successful doing that by this webcast that they have called “The Cleansing Hour.” Lance is the guy on the camera playing a fake priest. Every week they do these fake exorcisms and he does his whole act to make it look like he actually exorcises demons as the person is strapped to a chair every week. They have different theatrics and special effects that they trigger as they are doing their exorcism to make it look real. Sam’s character is this character who almost has this God complex. He is very arrogant and loves the celebrity. He loves the money he has gotten out of it and he is a womanizer. He actually shows up to set on the first day of set with lipstick on his priest collar. It suggests he might have come straight from a club or bar. This is an interesting role for Sam because he has never played anything like this before. You are going to get to see him – the sweet guy Joel from “Parenthood” is the exact opposite of him. As far as Heather’s character, I don’t want to give away too much. I will tell you that she plays an actress named Heather. She is there for a job. It is supposed to be a quick gig that maybe she can get her SAG card from and is hopeful this will lead to something else. I want to leave it at that because I want to leave an element of surprise. She shows up hoping these two guys who run this popular webcast can maybe help her launch her own career.
Q) Where did you get the idea for a Kickstarter campaign?
A) We settled on Kickstarter because it has a greatbrand recognition. I have a number of friends and acquaintances who have run successful campaigns who have raised as much and in some cases more money than we are trying to raise for their own film. We were particularly turned on by the “all or nothing” idea because it is important for fans to realize this is an all or nothing campaign. If we don’t meet our funding goal then the movie won’t get made, at least not as quickly if it would if we had a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign. There is a certain urgency to a crowdfunding campaign where if you don’t fund it then you don’t get anything. We kind of liked that. The other part about it was growing up as a young filmmaker and working on my own projects and other people’s projects is that I have never worked on any other project where people have not reached out in some way to help me get to where I need to be with that project. It’s always been a collective effort to get a movie made. I’ve done short films in the past and worked on feature length films and documentaries and Peoples’ generosity, especially when it comes to filmmaking, is enormous. I think Kickstarter is a great way to get everyone involved and help everyone feel like they get to be a part of the movie. That’s really a very important thing for me because I know how much entertainment and movies mean to people. I think that growing up that after all the help I received, giving back and letting people be a part of my own project is the least I could do. It is fun to get people involved. It is fun to have people on social media join us and keep up with every step of the process. Going on Periscope and talking with everyone about it is really great. It’s fun to see people get excited about it as we are.
Q) Talk perks for donating to the Kickstarter for The Cleansing Hour.
A) We have them at all different levels so no matter where you are coming from you should be able to afford something and still be able to get something out of it. For $1-$24 we will give you a shoutout on Twitter and Facebook. For $25, we will give you a download of the movie when it is finished and we will give you behind the scenes photos, concept art and digital assets. We recently added some new perks that have gotten people very excited. We had some Cleansing Hourbranded merchandise like tote bags. They are going to have an exclusive behind the scenes photo book in it. We’re giving away props from the movie – the actual props from the movie, the actual props from the actors are using. For $100, you can get your name in the credits next to all the talent. That will also be listed on IMDB.com. Our most popular have been the Heather Morris perks. We gave away three ten minute Skype calls with Heather and those were swiped up in thirty minutes. We also gave away her costume from the movie. Everything she wears will be given away. We added a new perk that is the actual latex prosthetics that she is going to be wearing on her face for her demon look. So, pretty much Heather Morris is being given away. Probably the most personal one for me is that I’m giving away my own motorcycle. It’s my first motorcycle and it is not easy for me to part with. This film means a lot to me and I’m willing to exchange the importance of this film with my love for the motorcycle.
Q) Have all the locations for the film been scouted?
A) All locations are set. We know where we are shooting. We’re shooting for three days in LA. That’s all done!
Q) What do you want to be sure fans know about the movie and the campaign?
A) As far as the campaign is concerned, the hundredth backer I will contact personally where I will call them and do a Facetime or Skype with them. We have been announcing that on Twitter. We have a $30,000 goal so we are hoping for a really big rally this week. We are very excited and very optimistic about our chances. I would say the faster that people donate to the Kickstarter the better because what that does is that Kickstarter has an algorithm where it detects how quickly people are donating to a project. So, the faster people donate the higher up you get ranked on their website. We want to be on the front page of Kickstarter. That is our goal! We want everyone to rush to Kickstarter now and donate. There is also an easier link to remember. If you were to tell someone to donate, they can go to cleansinghourmovie.com/kickstarter.
Q) When do you expect the film to be shot and released?
A) We are filming in November. The holidays complicate things a bit because of thanksgiving and Christmas. There is a chance, and I can’t say one way or another yet, but there is a chance we are going to write into the script (we’ll change it) to accommodate for the fact Heather is pregnant. That could be particularly creepy and disturbing that the possessed girl is also pregnant at the same time. We haven’t decided if that would be too over the top. It is still up in the air and still a possibility. We should be finished with the film by late January or mid February at the latest. The festival season doesn’t start until early September because it means we aren’t rushing to finish the film and on the other hand it means we have more time to help promote the film before we go to festivals.
Q) Are there any other updates on the movie you want to share with the fans?
A) We have gone out to Elijah Wood to fill the role of Drew. We had an artist design a beautiful box to present the screenplay to him in a very creative way. We’ll send out a picture of the box and made it look like a religious artifact. It’s a box covered in linen and draped with a stole. You open it up and what you see is like an ipad sitting in sort of a coffin lined with purple felt. At the bottom of the ipad you have a little red tab that says “pull.” When you pull it, the screen on the ipad changes to the text from the teaser trailer. When the text from the teaser trailer goes away, the last screen is clear. So, you are looking straight through the ipad looking at the screenplay below it. We are in the process of setting up a meeting with him right now. It changes things because as soon as we have Elijah Wood on the film, he is an A-list actor so there is no question. He is also one of the nicest people in town. He is very excited about horror films and does a lot of horror films through his company SpectreVision. We are very optimistic about our odds of getting him involved in the film. So, Wood would be a huge add to the film and really blow this thing out of the water. We’re going after him because we did a thing on Twitter where we got a bunch of the fans to tweet at Elijah to ask him to be in the movie.
Q) How else can fans get involved with the film?
A) FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK, SNAPCHAT, TUMBLR, YOUTUBE. We have had a lot of people who want to contribute to the film, but do not have credit cards. They can pay directly from their bank account linked to PayPal and send to FatherLance@CleansingHourMovie.com.
Watch the latest The Cleansing Hour episode!