'There is a different landscape making a studio film from when I got into the business,' Joe Dante says. 'There's a lot more writers involved and a need to satisfy more people and justify costs, which leads to a lot more cooks in the kitchen. The nice thing about independent film is you generally have fewer people looking over your shoulder, so creatively it's very appealing.'
For these reasons Dante, one of modern American cinema's most renowned genre directors who has entertained audiences for three decades with films such as Piranha, Gremlins, The Howling and Innerspace, was attracted to Bold Films and Benderspink's supernatural thriller The Hole, which Bold is fully financing for under $15m.
'I've made a lot of horror movies but generally don't find much of interest in them because the material doesn't appeal to me,' Dante says as he prepares to begin production in Vancouver in December. 'This was different: it's essentially a family-oriented story and I found the quality of the writing and characters to be above average.'
When he read the script for The Hole, a lightbulb clicked on inside his head. '3D seems to be in the news again due to the peripatetic efforts of Jeffrey Katzenberg, so I thought this might be the time to do a 3D movie.'
The story features a family who move into a new house where the children find a bottomless hole in the basement. 'Of course, there's something bad in the hole and I thought we could use 3D to enhance the telling of the story with things not so much coming at you but going away from you.' Teri Polo, Chris Massoglia and Haley Bennett will star.
It has been five years since Dante's last full-blown feature, Looney Tunes: Back In Action, and since then he has mostly done TV work such as CSI: NY. 'People used to be very snobby about TV, but that's fallen by the wayside,' he says. 'You work very quickly and I found that exhilarating because it reminded me of when I started out years ago working for Roger Corman.'
Now he is relishing the return to his feature roots. 'If you haven't made a hit lately it can be hard with the studios. There's also a feeling that older, more experienced directors expect more money and are more opinionated and studios would rather have a younger guy who won't fight them on stuff.'
Bold Films will start pre-sales on The Hole at AFM.