Exclusive Q&A with the Cast & Crew of Grey Skies

grey skiesSciFiChick.com was recently able conduct a Q&A with the cast and crew of the new scifi/horror flick Grey Skies! The independent film will release this summer. Keep reading below the break for Q&A’s with Aaron McPherson (actor), Michael Cornocchia (actor and producer), Kai Blackwood (director), Stacy Jorgensen (actress and producer), Mark Reilly (writer and producer), and Barney Barnum (Star Trek Oscar Winner and FX Creature Creator).

The film follows a group of old college friends who reunite to relive their glory days by renting a beautiful cabin in the woods. As the bonding begins, a surprise arrival of mysterious antagonistic alien creatures forces the group to ban together and outwit them in order to survive.

Grey Skies Trailer from Kai Blackwood on Vimeo.

  • Aaron McPherson – lead actor playing Robert:
  • Can you tell us briefly about your character?
    He is not who he seems to be. The loyal fiancé and friend to all. He has a secret and it is up to the others to figure it out.

    What drew you to the role?
    Stacy Jorgensen coaches with me and I was helping prep for her role and she said “you know you should play my fiancé in this. The rest is history and I have her to thank for running through the woods in Michigan in the middle of the night at 40 below. I exaggerate. You know what, I would do it again. She is great to work with.

    What about your character was most challenging to play?
    Finding the flip for my character. When he goes to the other side and how. That and eating venison for a month…ask the cast.

    With such a dark film, how did you lighten the mood on the set?
    It was a great cast and we would go into town and cause trouble. By trouble I mean we would go to Karaoke night at like one of the two bars in Farwell where we were and show them what’s what. We had some singers and dancers in the cast. I was more of a dancer/drinker.

    How did your audition for the film go?
    Very relaxed. I met with Kai and Mark we talked about the script and my character. Stacy and I did a scene or two and that was that.

    Were there any actual frightening moments on the set?
    Dragging Michael through the woods on a cable. By the time he was done his cloths were ripped to shreds. Or when Greg told me to stop going on runs through the woods because deer season was starting and I might get shot! But the most frightening moment for me was on one morning I woke up early and wondered outside half asleep sipping my coffee and Greg (the owner of the property) said, “Hey man you want to see something cool?” And before I knew what was going on he was taking me up like 200 feet in my pajamas in this crane we had for our aerial shots. So the crane was swaying in the wind. Greg is laughing saying “let’s go higher!!! And I am standing there in my boxers trying to figure out what the just happened. That was a little jarring first thing in the AM. Thanks Greg. But I do owe him, because when I got back to LA I had an audition for NCIS to play a red neck Marine who hunts dear and gets in a bar fight and I based it on him. One of my lines was “I got an 8 point buck in the bed of my pick up… how’s that for proof?” And my personal favorite “Why don’t you come back to my place and decorate my tree, Darlin?” It was their Christmas episode. True story, any questions? Your check is in the mail Greg. All best, Aaron

  • Michael Cornocchia, actor and producer:
  • Can you tell us about Grey Skies in your own words?
    “Grey Skies” is a sci-fi horror film about a bunch of old college friends reliving their “glory days” over a weekend in a secluded cabin in the woods. They soon come to realize that their fun trip is anything but.

    How did the idea for Grey Skies come about?
    Mark Reilly and I were in Patrick T. Gorman’s “The Star Wars Trilogy in 30 Minutes” in Los Angeles. One night right before a show, we talked about how we should come up with a horror film that we could actually make. We are both HUGE horror film nuts and we discussed how we could make a film and not have to break the bank in doing so. All we would need is one location, a few actors, and then throw in some aliens. We came up with this idea 5 years ago. Then Mark met and married Stacy, our other producer. Stacy’s Mother and her husband had the perfect cabin for us to shoot in Michigan. With Michigan having some really nice tax incentives for filming coupled with some generous Michigan investors Stacy found allowed us to make our idea a reality.

    What can you tell us about the alien creatures?
    The creatures are well, creepy. I don’t want to give too much away but they are certainly scary thanks to recent Academy Award Winner, Barney Burman. Barney won the 2010 Oscar for make-up for his work on “Star Trek.” We are so fortunate to have Barney and his amazing team create our aliens and other make-up effects.

    What is different about this alien invasion story?
    “Grey Skies” is different than other alien invasion stories, because unlike most horror films, our characters are so full and real. They’re not just in the story to get abducted. The psychological terror they go through is just as frightening as when they finally get abducted. Plus, this is one of the first times, if not, THE first time, a gay couple is in a sci-fi horror film. And the gorgeous yet eerie land in Michigan where the movie was shot is just as important a character as anyone in the film.

    Can you tell us briefly about your character?
    I played “Michael” in “Grey Skies.” Since I helped come up with the story, the character is pretty much close to home. Although, I personally have never been abducted (and prefer to keep it that way.) 😉
    Michael comes up to the cabin with his boyfriend, Brian, to hang out with his old college friends. He’s in love with Brian and is excited to introduce him to the rest of the gang. When things start to go awry, Michael tries to logically figure out what’s going on but unfortunately, Michael’s problems are out of this world.

    What about your character was most challenging to play?
    I thought it would be challenging to both act in AND produce a feature. As it turns out, I loved it. I loved being able to work off set and then jump right into character when it was time for me to be on set. An actor on set does a lot of sitting around. It can get pretty boring. Well when you produce, there is no such thing as boring. So yeah, I really liked wearing both hats.

    With such a dark film, how did you lighten the mood on the set?
    I would tell so many jokes on set. We had a pretty ambitious shooting schedule and keeping morale up was something I felt strongly about. Every MORNING we would finish our night shoots and then everyone would meet around the campfire which was next to the cabin in which I was staying. We would light a fire and decompress from the shoot. We would tell jokes and just enjoy the beautiful country that surrounded us.

    What are some of your favorite highlights from the film?
    I LOVE all the actor’s performances in the film. Usually, horror films have these two dimensional characters that are just a “prop” to be killed. Mark Reilly, our writer, made sure all the characters had strong back stories and strong relationships with each other. Kai Blackwood, our director, cast the film perfectly.

    Were there any actual frightening moments on the set?
    There were some moments out in the woods that got a little scary. We were shooting in the middle of nowhere. And when I say, “the middle of nowhere,” I mean we were in the MIDDLE of the middle of nowhere. There were barely any lights outside if you strayed too far. So once the sun went down, you better have had a flashlight. It would get dark. Really dark. And since most of the film takes place at night, we were in the dark a lot. The all night hours played tricks on your brain. Sometimes you would think you saw something out of the corner of your eye. One night, both Kai Blackwood, our director; and Mark Reilly, our writer; swore up and down that a strange light was following them in the sky. I just figured, as long as it doesn’t interrupt filming, it’s ok. 😉

    Thanks for your time! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
    We shot this 90 page movie in 18 days with an amazing cast and crew. EVERYONE on the set had one goal in mind: TO MAKE A GOOD MOVIE. To see this 5 year old idea come to life in those 3 weeks we shot, was a dream come true. I look forward to sharing that dream with the world!

  • Kai Blackwood, Director:
  • Can you tell us about Grey Skies in your own words?
    Making Grey Skies gave me an opportunity to deal with some of my favorite subjects; aliens and alienation. When I direct a film, especially if I didn’t write it, I have to find a theme within the subtext that I feel compelled to explore. With Grey Skies, I found myself drawn to the gradual alienation of each character as they dealt with forces beyond their control. What was most interesting to me was that normal human emotions and events had begun to fracture the bond of these friends even before any slimy, alien invaders arrive. So rather than band together as events spiral out of control, each character becomes isolated and internalized – which ends up with each one feeling as if they have to face this tremendous obstacle alone. From my point of view as the director, bringing out this element of the story was every bit as important as the terrifying parts and ultimately it really serves the film well.

    What is different about this alien invasion story?
    Grey Skies is more about the effect that the alien presence has on the characters than the aliens themselves. Yes, there are absolutely aliens, they’re scary as hell and they do unbearable things to these people. But somehow, there is also a quiet, slow burning subliminal terror in watching these once close friends crumble in the face of the unknown. I don’t think I’ve seen a film yet that deals with aliens and also humanity.

  • Stacy Jorgensen, actress and producer:
  • Where did filming take place?
    In Lake, Michigan. On 101 acres in the woods just outside of Clare, MI. My Mom Dede and her boyfriend Greg were SO amazing to let us run around and terrorize their property for 4 weeks!

    What is different about this alien invasion story?
    You really care about the characters- it is less about the gore of what these aliens do to the characters physically and more about what they do to them mentally. The aliens really tear these friends apart and take everything about them that makes them human and able to relate to each other. A big personal fear of mine is being trapped in my body with no control, and on a deeper level, that is what becomes of these characters once they are “taken.”

    Can you tell us briefly about your character?
    Jenny is the mother hen of the group. She looks out for everyone and worries about all of her friends. She is engaged to her long time friend from college and love of her life, Robert, but that has caused some tension with her best friend Annie. They have an unspoken competition over Robert, and now that Jenny is going to marry him, she wants to have one last great trip with her friends as an unmarried woman. She ends up being the strongest character of all and fighting for much more than her relationship.

    What drew you to the role?
    As an actress and a producer, I ALWAYS want to see more strong women in films, and I think my husband, Mark, wrote his strongest female character yet with Jenny. He thinks I can be pretty tough sometimes too, so I think that might have inspired him a bit…

    What about your character was most challenging to play?
    The love triangle. Playing those situations without delving into melodrama territory is always a challenge!

    With such a dark film, how did you lighten the mood on the set?
    By riding four wheelers and shooting guns at soda cans!!! Seriously. We were miles and miles from anything, so we could really enjoy the outdoors on our off time… there were a lot of bonfires at night, which became sunrise bonfires after we moved to night shoots! We also made plenty of trips into Clare to meet local business owners who were supporting our film.

    How did your audition for the film go?
    This was the FIRST project that I did not have to audition for and stress over whether or not I got the job! One of the best benefits of being a producer is that I can put myself in the films I produce. I told my husband that if he wrote a great role for me I would find the money to make his script. He did, and then with the help of Greg and Dede, we found the best investors Indie Producers could ever hope for!

    What are some of your favorite highlights from the film?
    The first time Michael sees the aliens is my FAVORITE moment in the film. And there’s a moment with Robert and Jenny towards the end that is also a stand-out for me… My favorite scene to shoot was one of the final scenes where I am with the aliens and we see what happens when the characters are taken… It was also the last scene we shot for the entire movie, so that scene will always have a special place in my heart.

    Were there any actual frightening moments on the set?
    Oh yes. I was trying not to see the aliens in their complete form (in Barney’s brilliant design of them, I had seen them in pieces, but never fully assembled) until I was in a scene with one, and I went downstairs to grab something before a take. As I was walking back up the stairs, an alien was brought out of the room where they had been shooting, and I almost fell down the stairs because I was that scared and shocked at how horrifying it was. I think my heart stopped for a second!!!!

    Thanks for your time! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
    Thank you for taking the time to interview us!!!

  • Mark Reilly, writer and producer:
  • How did the idea for Grey Skies come about?
    It was basically the idea of telling an old school horror story (friends in a cabin in the woods) but instead of it being ghosts or demons or serial killers in a mask, what would happen if it was aliens? Just seemed like a cool idea. I was hanging with my best friend one day, Michael Cornacchia (Producer and Lead) and I casually mentioned the idea to him. Three hours later, we had mapped out a bunch of real characters and also a set of circumstances that just seemed odd and scary. About five years later, I still never could get that idea out of my mind. So I finally put pen to paper and wrote half of the script. It was then Christmas of ‘08 and I was visiting my mother-in-law in Michigan. She lives on a beautiful lake on 101 acres of secluded land. I looked at my wife Stacy (Producer and Lead) and said “We could film it here.” Stacy went to work on all the business aspects (she found our funding God bless her) and I finished the script that Christmas.

    What can you tell us about the alien creatures?
    They are creepy as all hell! Ha! We’ve made a point not to show any images or discuss what they look like because half the scare and fun of this is trying to get a good look at them as they pop in and out of the movie. But, I mean it’s Barney Burman! He just won an Oscar for Star Trek! He can create some scary shit and our aliens are no exception. Barney and I talked at length about JAWS and ALIEN and how those movies in particular utilized an audience member’s imagination. The human mind, when left to its own, will always create something more terrifying than say, just digitally recreating hundreds and hundreds of aliens hanging around screaming boo. We wanted to enlist a primal reaction to our aliens. By barely seeing them; a shadow here, a pair of eyes there, mixed with sound and music fx – we hope to get people’s blood going. I think we did a pretty good job.

    What is different about this alien invasion story?
    This is definitely a more intimate tale than most invasion stories. And that was my intention all along. I wanted to write a movie that told the story of aliens deciding to abduct a group of people rather than say, one person at a time… I thought by using a horror template that fans of the genre would recognize, we could create something fresh and exciting. I guess it becomes a little bit of an abduction tale mixed with an invasion movie. We always said that our aliens were very methodical…. They were targeting different people at a time – one, two, five people at a time. Before you know it, it becomes global. This movie is perhaps, the start of that and I think using a very recognizable horror design makes it kind of fun.

    And because of this threat, aliens terrorizing, we are able to dig a little deeper to experience true, human emotion. Everyone is afraid of “what goes bump in the night”… what if the thing going ‘bump’ is an alien standing outside your window, watching you? That, to me, is freaky. It then became all about the characters and what made them tick as human beings. Each person has a real arc, a real character and through line. I don’t feel these characters are the usual vapid horror victim, showing their boobs and then getting off’d. I wanted to take that horror cliché and turn it into something real. I feel a lot of the good horrors of the past from the 70’s like HALLOWEEN and THE EXORCIST have been forgotten and in their place is torture pron. Lot’s of blood and guts with no real character or story. Once you get to know the characters, the shocks and scares become more legitimate and real because you genuinely care about what is happening to them. When the scares begin and those horrible alien sounds and strange lights happen, you are so entrenched in the story, you won’t be able to turn away.

    Thanks for your time! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
    Have to say just how damn thankful I am to have worked on this movie with our amazing cast and crew. We got so lucky. Not only having my lovely wife star in a feature I wrote, but the amazing people like Gavin Fisher (our DP) Barney Burman, Kai Blackwood (our director), Michael and all the actors being a part of this is a dream…. This is truly a collaborative piece of filmmaking.

  • Barney Barnum, Oscar Winner and FX Creature Creator:
  • What can you tell us about the alien creatures?
    Ha ha! Nothing!… well, OK, I can tell you a little bit. I can tell you they were made to never be seen. Because the mystery of what’s coming after you is always scarier than the actual thing. If you look at the scariest movies of all time, Jaws (barely saw the shark), Alien (just caught glimpses of it), John Carpenter’s Halloween (What was under that mask?), you never really get a good look at the evil. There was an old movie with Ray Miland called The Uninvited. It was a classic haunted house story and it was truly frightening and there were no creatures, visual effects, just great story telling and great acting. Personally I like to create aliens and monsters and horrible disgusting things and then not see them. Hide it so the audience never really knows what they just saw. That stimulates the audiences imagination and that’s what we tried to do here.

    What is different about this alien invasion story?
    I think what makes it stand out from more recent films of its ilk, is that it’s more about characters and relationships. It creates moods and tensions rather than in your face scares. And to me, these aliens are a little more like Frankenstein, they’re really just curious. Kind of in the way that certain 19th century psychiatrists used to operate on insane people to see what was different about them inside. Or like Nazi doctors did during World War II. I think these aliens are kind of unaware of the hurt and suffering they’re causing. Either unaware or unconcerned.

    Be sure to check out the film’s website at: http://GREYSKIESMOVIE.COM

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