Fast forward six months, and we sit down with Dustin and Meagan Mattson for an update on their horror feature shot in Shenandoah.
By April, Dustin and Meagan had raised $5,000 on their Indiegogo campaign and were preparing to begin filming “TapeHead – The Return of Jacob Cobb.” The idea to film the feature came after the pair filmed a short version of what Dustin described as a “throwback to ’80s slasher movies” in the summer of 2021, and decided to challenge themselves. and go further.
TapeHead, the main character of the short and feature film, was created by Dustin as a villainous cartoon character while writing scripts for his 3B video channel which brings forgotten movies from years past to life. Due to the high cost of creating a cartoon, Tapehead became the character for the couple’s first short horror film, winning several awards at independent film festivals.
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Filming for the feature film began the last weekend in May, and Dustin said that with the exception of one weekend, the cast and crew spent every weekend on set until at the end of September. The set was no ordinary set, however. Prior to filming, Dustin and Meagan transformed their home into a filming location for the horror movie.
“At first, I couldn’t tell if this was going to be the best idea or the worst,” Meagan said, laughing about having their house as the set. She finally decided that there were positive moments as well as negative ones. While this allowed them to easily record the scenes that would take place with the painter’s tape before the actors arrived at the weekend and prevented them from carrying equipment, it also meant that they never had break with “Tapehead”.
“The only luxury it gave us was when Meagan and I block out the scenes, we look at the script and we’re like, okay, we need x number of shots for the day,” Dustin said. “We could do it without the cast and crew present. We could be like, okay, I’m going to stay on my mark, and we’d find the lighting, so we recorded where the camera goes, where the lights go, where the talent goes for each scene and each sequence. So our floor was covered in multicolored painters tape. Each actor had his own color, the light had a color, the camera had a color. So we could spend the whole week basically preparing for those two days of shooting and not having to have any actors standing. It was really nice to be able to do this away from everyone and to have the time.
On another positive note, Meagan said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for their kids because not everyone can say “my house was a movie set.” However, the family must now repaint or learn to live with bloodstained walls. While Meagan said she has no regrets using their home for filming, she plans to film in a different location for all future movies.
Phenomenal is how Dustin described shooting the film and said the script he wrote went well.
“It helped see the jokes happen,” Dustin said. “The way it’s written, every scene ends on a certain punch line.”
Dustin said he knew the script was going the way he planned by listening to the actors say their lines, and then when they got to the last line, everyone would be laughing. It told him, “we know that funny is funny, and scary is scary.”
So that leaves you with the question: is this a combined horror and comedy film? Meagan says no. “It’s horror, but a bit of comedy mixed in to keep it light until it gets dark,” Meagan said. It was also important for Dustin when writing the screenplay to make the characters who were children in the film likable. He said making them likable would entice the public to watch.
After the filming portion was done, Meagan began working on a trailer for the film, which is now complete and is one minute and 45 seconds long. She said it took her 10 hours to edit and complete the trailer.
“You have to find the right take that you like, and then you have to line up the audio that we’ve done, and then you have to either create your own sound effects for people walking and things breaking, or there’s a few d ‘places online where you can get it,” Meagan said of what goes into putting together a trailer and a movie. “Then you have to think about the music because we’ve got edited the whole trailer and then at the end I was like, I don’t like this music. So we have different music. Then, I like to go up in time with the music, so each time there is a rhythm, I change the angle of the camera. It’s almost like a song. You want the roars to hit at the right time and stuff like that.
Meagan says she can only imagine how long it will take her to edit the whole movie, but says once you get into a rhythm, “it goes a lot easier.”
While many are eager to see the finished product, Meagan and Dustin want to get it right and plan to take their time with the editing process. Nothing is fixed, but they estimate a release date in May or June 2023.
“I don’t want to compete with summer blockbusters or anything like that because if it comes out when big movies come out, we might not get a chance to show it in theaters,” said Megan. “So we want to do it before that.”
Meagan and Dustin hope to work with a few local movie theaters to set up a premiere, but if that doesn’t work out, there are other options. They also hope to see their film screened in independent cinemas and plan to submit it for consideration at independent film festivals. Dustin said they participated in the trailer and poster at independent festivals in hopes of winning an award for best trailer or poster, or both.
Once completed, “TapeHead – The Return of Jacob Cobb” will also be available for purchase on DVD and Blu-ray. However, it will be a few years before the two consider releasing it for free for everyone to see. Dustin said everything they do with this movie will come back in their next production, whether it’s a short or a feature. Meagan and Dustin estimated they spent around $7,000 on this movie.
The couple’s goal is to make young people aware that if you have a dream, it is possible to achieve that dream. They hope to inspire young people who dream of producing a film to release and film that film and take it to festivals. Dustin says that when they ask, he tells the kids it’s not easy to produce a movie, but it’s “so worth it”.
“Having our son as one of the protagonists was fun,” Dustin said. Happy to have been able to give Tyson this opportunity, Dustin and Meagan love to hear him share his experience with others. Their daughter Jazmine helped with sets, makeup and special effects, but her hands appear in the film.
Meagan said many people in the community helped make the film successful. These people included their neighbors, the city for allowing them to temporarily block the road in front of their house, and the cinema for opening their facility to them while filming in the alley. She also thanked those who donated food to feed the cast, saying Fareway donated 20 pounds of meat; Jacob Cross of Red Oak donated pork, jerky and chicken; and Dustin’s mother, Deb Mattson, fed the entire crew on the day of filming in Villisca. She also thanked Shenandoah Inn and Suites for giving a cast member a free night and the Depot Deli for their donation.
Dustin said the community even helped keep them motivated when they filmed 14 hours straight and were tired. He said you’d be exhausted, but you’d go out to find a bunch of kids on bikes waiting to see what they were filming, and that would give them the energy they needed to keep going or look down to see the others sat in lawn chairs watching.
“They kept us excited about it,” Dustin said.
Both say the experience was very positive and learned that the organization is coming a long way. They said the community was behind them and helped them when they needed it.
“There are a lot of people in town who want to come together and do something special and be a part of something special, and that’s really cool,” Meagan said.
What’s next for Meagan and Dustin? Well, they have several months of editing ahead of them to complete their first feature, and then they hope to travel with the cast to festivals and conventions promoting the film. Dustin summed up the experience so far, saying “the stars have definitely aligned for us.”