Ted Smith - Exclusive Interview

Ted Smith - Exclusive Interview
The director of the newly-released DVD, Guardian of the Realm.
Updated: 06-20-2006

Guardian of the Realm is being marketed as a horror flick, but there is a lot more than meets the eye.



Staci Layne Wilson/Horror.com: What was it about the story of Guardian of the Realm that made you want to direct it, and how involved were you in the writing?


Ted Smith: Well the main reason I wanted to direct it, was because it was [actually] my story. Wyatt Weed came aboard to help me finish the script. I had the story in my head and Wyatt was instrumental in putting the words down on paper.


How would you describe the movie to potential viewers?


I was pitching the story as a Buffy meets Blade, an action film with a sense of humor that doesn't take itself too seriously. Think Film decided to market Guardian as a horror project and  that was never my intent. I think  people who watch the movie will enjoy a fun film whether they are horror, action or sci-fi fans.


What was the casting process like?


I was lucky to have great actors. My lead is Glen Levy who I met in New Zealand while I was working on Xena. We became good friends, and when I asked him if he would ever work on a project for me if I got the financing he agreed and in a very un-Hollywood fashion also kept his word. Tanya Dempsey. Mark Bautista, my makeup artist, introduced my female lead, to me. Who worked with her on Death Bed. I met her for lunch and the script won her over. Tanya was tired of playing the victim and she was looking forward to portraying a strong female character. Lana Pyrin "Evil Nikki" and I met on a super low budget short I was doing FX on. We bonded, and much like Tanya, the script did the selling for me. She agreed to come in from New York for the duration of the shoot.


What were some of the challenges you encountered — it is a rather ambitious plot, for a fairly low-budget flick, right?


Having worked in the film industry for 17 years on projects such as Titanic, 5th element and Contact, I was well aware of what I could and couldn't do. I took a year off work in order to make the costumes, sets and props that you see in the film while also cashing in favors with other fellow professionals for post, practical and digital FX. I knew what I was getting into and I knew it would be a challenge, but I didn't write anything I couldn't do. I am proud of the quality of digital FX I got for the budget, but I'll be the first to admit that this is not an ILM budget production.


As a director/writer I find it hard to compromise a story point over a not so perfect composite. Due to a careful pre production and having a great team by my side on the set during shooting, we never had any major crisis. By breaking down a mountain of a script into small pieces we ended up with scalable hills which we crossed on a daily basis. This wasn't any different than ay other production I worked on big or low budget.


What's the most valuable thing you learned, that will enable you to make your next movie even better?


The most important thing I learned was the process and cost of post production. We had budgeted for post quite generously or so we thought. You never realize how much sound, editing, ADR and mixing can add up to.


Guardian of the Realm is sci-fi, horror, action, fantasy, suspense… you name it! But what's the scariest thing about the movie?


Guardian is as much of a horror movie as Hellboy and Blade are. The premise could be deciphered as horror but as I stressed before this is more of an action adventure genre piece. There are scenes with some gore such as when Ruby the demon kills a victim in the hotel bedroom, but there are more scenes involving gunplay, swordplay, and martial arts. I hope I don't disappoint some viewers but if you want to see gore, go rent Hostel.


Who are you influences as a director?


James Cameron, Luc Besson, and Peter Jackson. Much like Cameron, I started off in the FX world with the intention of becoming a director. Luc Besson's Le Dernier Combat inspired me to shoot my first movie. Peter Jackson's made three films back to back, all of them great. Having done one, I cannot imagine bearing the workload of three at a time. There are very few directors that can pull that off.


What are some recent horror movies you've seen that you think really "got it" as far as being scary and memorable?


The Ring, I have not seen a good scary movie since the seventies. The ring was a creepy and pleasant surprise. It took me back to the Sentinel and Exorcist days.


Would you like to direct full-on horror movies in the future?


I love genre movies. If I read a good horror script or had an idea for one, I would love to direct it. People being tortured in a small room are not my idea of horror. I like making the audience jump and scream not squirm and cringe in their seats.


Any words of advice to aspiring horror movie directors?


To all first time directors out there! I can’t say this enough!  Plan your attack, do storyboards, rehearse your actors. Making a movie is like going to war, the more you plan, the better chance you have of winning!


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Staci Layne Wilson reporting

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