1. How did you come up with the story of Occurrence at Mills Creek?
I was directing a feature film with actress Alexa Mechling (Cassandra in
Occurrence at Mills Creek) and made the joke that I was going to write a
script where I slit her throat if she didn’t settle into a scene. Over a
year later she asked me if I was working on that idea, so I began to flesh
out story threads from that base concept. By this time Alexa had become
like a pseudo daughter to me which prompted me to think of the cruelest
fate a daughter could possibly face.
2. Were there other titles you came up with before Occurrence at Mills
Creek? If so what were they?
I’ve been writing in some shape or form most of my life. I’m drawn to
darker themes as they provide me opportunities to explore aspects of human
nature that are usually ignored or suppressed. I’ve written scripts to
over a dozen short films and am currently working on a horror-themed
3. What was your writing habit when you wrote Occurrence at Mills Creek?
I would write when and where I could but always set aside 4-6 hours one
night a week at a local coffee shop to work uninterrupted.
4. What was the most enjoyable thing about directing Occurrence at Mills
Everything about this project had an organic evolution kind of vibe. The
story was influenced by the people who joined the cast, such as Betsy Lynn
George. The last major project I directed was very much the
writer/producer’s film and I was making it for him to the best of my
ability with what we had. Occurrence at Mills Creek has been very open
and natural. To boil it down to a word, it has been “fun”.
5. What research did you do when writing Occurrence at Mills Creek?
In one of the earliest drafts of the script the story was set in the
1950’s with an in-home wake. I did a lot of research into potential props
and wardrobe from the time period and really focused on caskets and what
an in-home viewing of a deceased person would look like. As the story
evolved and took on a more psychological tone I read case studies about
severe emotional trauma and dissociative disorders.
6. What are your thoughts on Betsy Lynn George playing Emily, Ava Psoras
playing Clara and Alexa Mechling playing Cassandra?
I’m thrilled to have Betsy play Emily. I remember her from Billy Idol’s
Cradle of Love music video and am in awe of the sincere and dedicated
person that she is. We talked at length about who Emily was and what
brought her to be the character that she is when we meet her in the film.
The amount of mutual respect and collaboration that we’ve established is
as humbling as it is inspiring for me.
Alexa as Cassandra is a trip. This is my third time directing her and she
has become a pseudo-daughter to me. It’s been my privilege to watch her
grow and mature as an actress and a person.
Ava as Clara is exciting. This is Ava’s first time acting and her raw
presence is palpable. There have been moments when we’ve been shooting
that have momentarily left me speechless because she completely owns the
The natural dynamic between the three is something to be experienced and
they embody every essence of their respective characters.
7. What is your favorite line from What was Lost, Erson, and Occurrence at
What Was Lost: “Your bacon is burning.”
Erson: “Still the charmer.”
Occurrence at Mills Creek: “There’s a difference between being into you
and wanting to be in you.”
8. Do you recall the very first short film you ever did? What lessons did
you learned from it?
My first serious attempt at a film was a project I made with friends in
college called Twenty-One. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong,
but we finished it and that’s the most important lesson – finish what you
start. Even if the finished product is less than stellar the lessons
learned from the experience are invaluable moving forward.
9. What is your favorite scary movie?
I have several for a variety of reasons – The Exorcist, The Silence of the
Lambs and Halloween. However, if I’m forced to choose one it is the
original Halloween by John Carpenter.
10. What piece of advice do you have for beginning screenwriters and
Be true to and honest with yourself. Do not make something to please
somebody else. Recognize that you are not a genius and be willing to be
your hardest critic to cut what does not serve the story. Always put the
story before your ego and tell it through your characters.
11. What is the biggest surprise that you experienced after directing
Occurrence at Mills Creek?
My core production crew for Occurrence at Mills Creek has been with me for
at least three years and at least three projects. Our shorthand and
camaraderie has resulted in a finely tuned machine that enables us to have
fun in a generally relaxed environment. The entire experience has just
been fun, and that is not always the case.
12. In one word how would you sum up your overall experience with
Occurrence at Mills Creek?
13. Are you willing to adapt a novel/novella/short story into a
screenplay? If so, what type of story would you be interesting in doing?
That’s sort of what I did on my first feature; however, my producer was
also the writer of the novel which presented certain challenges. I would
definitely do it again and am attracted to darker themes that are
ultimately character driven.
14. What season do you like best: winter, spring, summer, or autumn? And why?
I live in the northern Appalachian mountains of Western Pennsylvania and
love autumn. The foliage as summer fades and winter arrives both ignites
my imagination and invigorates my soul.
15. If you were just given a yacht. What would you name it?
The Bigger Boat
What an excellent way to start out your new year by checking out an intriguing, independent movie like Occurrence at Mills Creek. I just want to extend my gratitude to Mr. Don Swanson for answering my blog questions. I hope everyone have a great day and as always thank you for stopping by here. Take care!