Interview with “The Devil’s Well” Filmmaker Kurtis Spieler

Filmmaker Kurtis Spieler gives us the 411 on his found-footage fright-flick The Devil’s Well, which hits DVD January 23 from Wild Eye Releasing.

-PH: When did your film career kick off?

-Kurtis: I’ve been actively involved in filmmaking since about 2007. I first started by making short films, the first of which was called Sheep Skin and debuted at the New York City Horror Film Festival that year. I kept making short films for a number of years until I made my first feature film in 2013, in fact it was a feature length version of Sheep Skin. It was picked up for distribution by Unearthed Films in 2015 and I immediately went right into production on my second feature, The Devil’s Well.

-PH: Did you always want to direct?

-Kurtis: Directing has always been my main focus. However, I also really enjoy the writing process (which is something I never expected). At first, I just wrote the scripts out of necessity. If I wanted to shoot a certain type of movie, I had to write the script first. After enough time, I started to really enjoy the writing process as well as the directing. It’s really gratifying to see something start on paper and then carry it through until the final product. It’s interesting to see what changes and what stays the same over the course of time. But, directing is my main focus and I’m definitely trying to learn more so that I can grow into becoming an even better director.

-PH: Anyone whose career you admire – particularly in the horror genre?

-Kurtis: There are always the greats, guys like Carpenter and Craven, who are icons in the genre. They will always be a source of inspiration. But, since I’ve really started to try and make filmmaking a career, I’ve actually found myself admiring some of the newer guys like Ti West and Adam Wingard. I’ve watched their careers from the beginning. They started with these low budget movies and they’ve worked their way up to being successful names in the genre. That’s what I strive for. I hope that I’m in this for the long run.

-PH: Since your beginnings, who have you enjoyed working with the most? Anyone that has really impressed you?

-Kurtis: I’ve been really lucky to have worked with some really good people, both in front of and behind the camera. However, there are two people that immediately come to mind. The first is cinematographer Adrian Correia. I first worked with him on a short film back in 2008. We became friends and I’ve watched him grow over the years. He has now shot a number of known feature films, including my first feature Sheep Skin. He has worked hard over the years and just recently was picked up as lead cinematographer on season 2 of Netflix’s GLOW. It’s really great to finally see him getting the credit that he deserves. The other person is actor Bryan Manley Davis. We also worked together on a number of shorts and he was also in Sheep Skin. I wrote the lead role in The Devil’s Well specifically for him. Not only is he a talented actor, but he is also just a really great person. We have become friends over the years and I look forward to working with him on future projects. I recommend him to anyone that is looking for an actor for their movie.

-PH: When did the journey on “The Devil’s Well” begin?

-Kurtis: Right after I signed the distribution deal for my first feature Sheep Skin, I immediately shifted gears and began on The Devil’s Well. At first, I was actually considering doing as horror documentary. While researching different “haunted” locations, I came up with this idea of a paranormal investigator who goes missing while conducting an investigation. I really liked the concept and started exploring the idea more. I then thought that the best way to present it would be in more of a documentary fashion. So, that’s really how this all began.

-PH: How would you describe the tone?

-Kurtis: I tried to go for more of an “unnerving” tone. I would describe the movie as more of a slow burn, so I think “unnerving” works better than scary. I wanted to create this mystery at the beginning and then let the viewer explore different options in their mind as the movie progressed. There’s no crazy jump scares or anything like that. I just tried to create this overall sense of uneasiness and dread as the viewer watches the events unfold. Hopefully, the audience finds it scary, but I think “unnerving” a better way to describe it.

-PH: Tell us about your cast..

-Kurtis: Once again, I was lucky to be able to work with some very talented people. There was actually a pretty large cast for such a low budget movie due to the first half being presented more like a documentary. What was interesting about this movie, is that the actors needed to feel more like real life people. So, this gave me an opportunity to cast different types of actors that I may not normally get a chance to work with on a different type of project. The cast for the paranormal investigators were all really great. Some of them I have worked with before, but others were new. Everyone was very talented and professional and all brought something unique to their character. I want to give a special mention to Anne-Marie Mueschke who played Karla, the missing woman. She only had a short amount of screen time, but the time that she is on screen is excellent. She is a very talented actor and I hope to get to work with her again on a bigger role.

-PH: What’s next for you?

-Kurtis: I have a number of scripts that are ready to go and I’m talking to a couple of companies right now. Nothing is set in stone, but I’ve had some really good meetings. Hopefully, I can get another movie off the ground soon because I would love to be back in the director’s chair sometime this year.

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