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Interview With Jack Skyyler: Night Aboard The Salem


There are many haunted locations across the U.S. A campaign recently opened on Kickstarter for a film set on the historic (and haunted!) U.S.S. Salem. Jack Skyyler began this campaign in the hopes of raising at least $9,000 for production costs. But there’s a twist: a portion of the film’s profits will be put towards the preservation of the U.S.S. Salem. So the film will lend a hand to the preservation of a piece of U.S. history as well as increase popularity and tourism of the vessel. We spoke to Jack Skyyler about the film and its inspirations.

Q: What is your background in film-making?

Jack: I am an award-winning indie-film director.  My most recent feature: Hitting the Wall won a REMI at Houston World Fest and Best New Director and Best Director at Atlantic City Film Fest / Downbeach Film Festival.

Q: Are there any specific locations you want to film at or have filmed at?

Jack: The Night aboard the Salem will be filmed entirely on board the U.S.S. Salem, a World War II era heavy gun cruiser, actually the world's largest all-gun heavy cruiser.

Q: What makes this location special to you and the project?

Jack: The U.S.S. Salem is actually the perfect location for a ghost horror because the ship is one of Massachusetts most popular haunted locations.  It comes with its own buzz already as it's the sight of regular paranormal investigations and haunted tours, and has been featured on TV shows such as: Ghost Hunters and A&E's Ghost Story.

Q: Where did the idea for this film come from?

Jack: When I was prepping for the filming of "Infested Ship", I had to stay on the U.S.S. Salem over night so that I could get up and watch the sun rise on the Salem; I had to take test footage of how the morning light "moved" across the ship for a shot we were planning.  The funny thing is: after shutting myself into the Salem for the night, it started to get creepy.  The huge ship would constantly groan like a monster purring, and sometimes you could hear metal slamming into metal, probably just the ship bumping up against the wharf; but it was unnerving.  I realized if it is haunted, and I didn’t make it out: I was kind of asking for it, I mean I just sealed myself into a haunted ship to study it for a haunted film, if I didn’t make it out, I certainly had fair warning!  But I made it out, saw a beautiful sunrise, and I had the idea for a new feature film!

Q:  How would you categorize your movie with regard to genre?

Jack: Horror / Sci-Fi / Thriller

Q: Who do you expect your audience will be? Who are you trying to reach out to?

Jack: Teens to adults realistically.

Q: What is the draw for your audience?

Jack: The film is a found-footage film which is currently the hottest ticket in film.  Found-footage gives the audience the feeling that they are watching true events; and for horror that reality makes it even more frightening.

Q: What makes your film unique?

Jack: What makes it unique; I feel that it's very rare to see a found-footage film that's believable.  I've actually seen found footage films where the footage got blown up in the end of the film!  In this film we are maximizing the reality of the found-footage aspect of the film by tying it to the U.S.S. Salem which already has a haunted history and haunted buzz.

Q:  Did you draw influences for this film from other films? Which ones?

Jack: Sixth Sense, Inception, Saw. When I was writing this script, I wanted a twist that would top Sixth Sense, and I wanted to put it in a mind-bending world like Inception, then give it that intensity/danger like Saw.  It was a tall order, but we had a big ship and a bigger ocean to put it in.

Q: Are there any specific directors you draw inspiration from?

Jack: Ridley Scott, Brian Helgeland, Edward Burns. For someone in the midst of a horror feature these are certainly 3 odd choices for directors.

Ridley Scott has been a favorite director of mine for the longest time.  Since we're filming on the battleship the U.S.S. Salem we've often referred to the film Alien for inspiration on general cinematography as I love Alien.  The thing about Ridley Scott with I respect is he's always making something new.  He has a range as a director.  Alien (Monster Horror/Thriller), Match Stick Men (Drama/Comedy), A Good Year (Romance Comedy), Gladiator (Epic Dramatic Action)...  And his list just keeps going.  He's an artist not a machine.

Brian Helgeland, unfortunately hasn't directed in a while, but his two strongest films were: Payback (Mel Gibson) and A Knight's Tale (Heath Ledger).  Brian Helgeland is a director who understands the group/social dynamic of filmmaking.  I remember in the behind the scenes for Knight's Tale he was missing a tooth because Heath Ledger knocked it out while they were jousting with broom sticks.  The filmmaking process has to have that energy where you need to get right down in it and get a tooth knocked out or you're not going to see that energy on screen.

Edward Burns is a hero of mine because after seeing the success of Brothers McMullen and then She's the One, I realized you don't need million dollar sets and you don't need to blow things up.  You just need people living, and you can make a film.  After I saw She's the One, I decided I was going to be a director and started writing my award-winning feature Hitting the Wall.

If you are interested in making a donation to this campaign, you can visit its official Kickstarter page here: