Tom DeNucci is a horror actor/ writer/ director who has been responsible for two full-length feature films in 2013, “Self Storage” and ”Army of the Damned”, the first of which is currently available on Netflix. He recently (October 19th) premiered “Army of the Damned” at this years Rock N’ Shock horror convention held in Worchester, Massachusetts and talks to me, Dr. Morbid, about his past and future projects.
Dr. Morbid: What inspired you to want to write and direct feature films?
Tom DeNucci: As a kid my imagination was pretty wild and I could really let it rip, but I never thought about making films until I took an introductory film class in high school. I made my first short film with my friends at 17 and that was it for me, I’ve been hooked ever since.
DM: You went to the New England Institute of Technology for a Bachelor of Science degree in digital recording arts. What did you learn while there and did you find that knowledge useful in your film career?
TD: NEIT was a great experience for me because I was finally surrounded by people just like me, who shared the same love for film. We really pushed each other to hone our crafts. I met a couple of my best friends to this day there and I also was fortunate to have some great teachers who really pushed me and in a way challenged me to take it seriously. I really thrived being in that environment. That’s also where I feel in love with acting. Out of necessity (because it’s hard to find quality acting for free) I would play the lead in a lot of my short films.
DM: What was your first acting gig? And what did you find most difficult at the beginning of your acting career?
TD: My first acting gig was being an extra in the Disney movie “Underdog”. I’m not even sure if you can consider that acting, but it exposed me to being on set for the first time and I got a chance to see how the machine works. From there I did extra work for about two years, banging away, until I landed my first small speaking role in a film called “Tanner Hall”. From there I landed another speaking role on a TV show called “The Brotherhood” and I was able to pick up some traction from there.
DM: What do you enjoy doing the most; acting, writing or directing? Why?
TD: Man, that’s a tough one. I love it all so much. Each part of the process draws me for a different reason. Writing is an amazing experience, because for the most part its a solitary craft, just to be alone with a blank page and create. It’s a pretty great personal journey to go on. Acting is wonderful because you can truly step outside of your skin and become something else. When you have ideas crashing together from great performers it’s a pretty powerful thing. Then of course there’s directing. Bringing Frankenstine’s monster to life. When you see your vision come alive it’s truly an electric feeling. Having all these great people around you, supporting you to make the best film possible is an amazing feeling. To be with a project from pre production all the way through post is like fostering a child it’s pretty cool to watch it grow up before your eyes.
DM: How did you get involved with producer Chad A. Verdi and Woodhaven Productions? How about your experience working with genre legend Robert Englund on “Inkubus”?
TD: At the time, “Self Storage” was just a screenplay but it was picking up a lot of buzz. The script came across Chad Verdi’s desk and he really believed in it. At the time he was looking to acquire a stable of young writers for his new company Woodhaven Productions and I came on board. From there he got a chance to see some of the other things i’ve done in front of the camera. From there I landed the part of “Pax” in Inkubus and got to work with a true legend. It was pretty wild working with Robert, but for a guy who has worlds of experience, he’s very welcoming to work with and happy to mix it up and teach a lot of his tricks to the younger actors on set. He really made me feel like I belonged.
DM: How did you come up with the idea for your first feature “Self Storage”? I thought the whole body-harvesting angle made your film unique. Also, the way the film ended, especially with Eric Robert’s character, left the doors open for a sequel. Was that intentional and do you have any plans on making a sequel?
TD: At the time the idea of writing horror based on ten or less characters and one location was really hip. I figured what better place then a creepy 24 hour storage facility. Once the stage was set it was a natural progression to start thinking, what kind of weird things people may want to hide in these units? Bam, black market organs popped into my head. I feel as though whenever you make a film in this genre it’s always a good rule of thumb to keep yourself open to the opportunity of making a sequel. If people fall for the characters, they’re gonna’ want to see more.
DM: What was your experience on directing your first feature “Self Storage”? How difficult was it to be on both sides of the camera, both acting and directing? Technically you’re directing yourself, did you ever have to yell at yourself?
TD: Directing Storage was the adventure of a lifetime. It was my first feature, we had a lot of young people at key crew positions and we faced a lot of adversity but we made it happen. That’s why it was so much fun. It’s certainly a challenge to direct and act, but knowing the material so well and having the vision so engrained in my mind was a big help. Also it was instrumental to have Chad and such a great team around me to make sure everything was set, when my eyes weren’t available to be on the monitor. I definitely took a private walk or two to ream myself out, if things weren’t going right.
DM: Eric Roberts, Jonathan Silverman and Michael Berryman co-starred in “Self Storage”. How did you get such amazing genre stars to appear in your movie? Was it intimidating trying to direct them?
TD: We really had some heavy hitters in this one. That’s really a nod to two things. Chad Verdi’s ability to bring in top notch hollywood talent, which he’s done time and time again, for six feature films now, and the material. If the script is quality the name actors will come and want to be a part of it. In a way I think it was helpful to work with pros like that right out of the gate. They are so specific and take direction so well, you could say two words to them and they already know exactly what you want. That’s just from years and years of experience on their part.
Learn more about Tom DeNucci, including more about his most recent film “Army of the Damned” and it’s premiere at the Rock N’ Shock horror convention, in Part 2 of Dr. Morbid’s interview.