A few months back, I reviewed an independent horror film directed by Shawn Burkett titled Don’t Fuck in the Woods. The name instantly grabs you, not just for the use of “Fuck,” but because it ties into so many beloved films that shows what happens when you fuck in the woods (ahem, Friday the 13th).
Apparently, the title really draws people in because the film was pirated over 14,000 times in just a couple of days. There are very few soapboxes I take a stand on in a public forum, but piracy happens to be one of those exceptions. When fans of the genre I hold so near and dear help to destroy it by stealing work and not compensating indie filmmakers and their crew… well, it pisses me off. I built the site you’re visiting right now with the hopes to help support indie in all different medias, so when this came to my attention, I jumped at the chance to speak with Mr. Burkett about his film and the piracy issue.
HorrorGeekLife: Before we get into the issues that have come up since releasing Don’t Fuck in the Woods, can you give me some background on the film’s shooting? Did you actually venture into the woods?
Shawn Burkett: Funny thing, only one of those scenes was shot in the woods. I live in a loft apartment and we actually just set up a tent and filmed inside. So nobody really knew the difference, but there were definitely less bugs, which was one thing every woman on the set was scared of. But Nadia White‘s scene was in the woods. She’s the girl that gets ripped out of the tent, and she was a trooper. She is in the adult entertainment industry, so a lot of people thought that her scene felt more realistic.
With the opening scene of the film, I had somebody operating the camera, but I lost that person. So I shot the film from then on in my landlord’s backyard. We were literally 100 feet away from a house. They had this open patch of woods where we set up a triangular lighting system at night. We used that same stretch over and over again, just multiple angles so it looked a little different.
HorrorGeekLife: I couldn’t tell that it was such a limited location at all. While I expected Don’t Fuck in the Woods to be a slasher, I was pleasantly surprised with a creature feature. It looked all practical; can you talk about the creature a bit?
Shawn Burkett: Oh my gosh… in the film, we used two different creature suits. The opening scene was our Mark II creature suit that honestly I didn’t like, but we were running out of time. But you only see that while the first girl is getting killed. Any cuts before then where you see the creature was our Mark III suit. The Mark III suit was our cheapest one to make and it’s the one that is featured throughout the film. I think we added it up and it was $180 to make. We actually just bought an adult Hulk padded muscle top for Halloween. We spray painted it. We covered it in this dollar store silicone so it would be shiny. And that’s pretty much where we left it.
Not a lot of people, especially independently, are doing many things with monsters, unless they are on a more controlled level. One of my favorite films is the The Puppet Monster Massacre. Dustin Mills does a lot with creature-esque stuff, but on a scale that’s more controllable. But people are harsh about any type of monsters. Luckily, I don’t let that negativity get to me because I did what I could to the best of my ability. And it wasn’t just me, it was a team effort, it was all hands on deck with that creature suit. Between myself, Ryan Stacy, and Scott Gillespie, we spent probably years perfecting a suit. On the Blu-ray, we go through all of the creature suits that have been a part of Don’t Fuck in the Woods.
HorrorGeekLife: With so much hard work going into the film, what has it been like to know that it’s been seen for free thousands of times?
Shawn Burkett: It’s one of those things where I don’t know how to feel about it. Obviously I hate the idea that the film was pirated. But it’s kind of a catch 22 because the popularity was boosted. I’m conflicted about that because, at the moment, we are actually seeking distribution and we are talking mainly with one company. The fact that it’s currently, I believe, number 7 in top popular horror films on IMDb… I just don’t know if that’s a positive thing or not. We added up the math and if everyone who pirated the film at least gave a nickel, it would have been $10,000. That’s the budget for a movie right there.
HorrorGeekLife: I’ve noticed that a lot of IMDb reviews have suddenly been added for the film since this happened. Are those almost exclusively from people who pirated?
Shawn Burkett: They have to be. I literally have been on a Don’t Fuck in the Woods watch as far as online information and it went from having 37 ratings to having over 175 rating. Then the next day it was over 250 ratings. And now I believe it’s up to like 500 ratings. I know how many copies of this I have sold via Blu-ray and DVD, so unless everybody who has secured a copy has rated it, it has to be from people who pirated.
HorrorGeekLife: Why do you think Don’t Fuck in the Woods took off in popularity suddenly? Perhaps the title?
Shawn Burkett: I don’t know, it’s weird to think that a 4 letter word could generate that kind of exposure. Because there are other films on IMDb that have that same 4 letter word in them, it’s just that they are typically porn.
HorrorGeekLife: Do you know how it happened?
Shawn Burkett: I don’t know how it was pirated. Maybe someone physically bought it and somehow ripped it from the disk. But given the type of software we use to duplicate our disks and render them, that shouldn’t be possible. I’ve actually downloaded a couple of them because there are different versions out there. They’re horrible quality which, this is the filmmaker in me, upsets me the most because it’s not the quality I put out there. So people are judging based on quality, and if somebody did a 420p rip of it, it’s just going to look like crap. But not only that, they’ll put up really old artwork from when I first announced it. That bugs me too.
HorrorGeekLife: I can only only imagine how frustrating that has to be, as someone wanting to make a living in this industry. Hopefully this isn’t an issue that continues to plague your work. And speaking of, can you tell us about your future projects?
Shawn Burkett: Currently I’m working on a film titled Betsy. It’s nothing like Don’t Fuck in the Woods. It’s more dramatic, it’s definitely meant to pull on people’s emotions. It’s about a girl going through changes because she’s actually had been bitten and assaulted by a werewolf.
HorrorGeekLife: Oh, I love werewolf films!
Shawn Burkett: I do too. Part of me was just like… well, I made a creature feature I might as well make a werewolf film.
HorrorGeekLife: We don’t see a lot of decent werewolf films. It’s an underrated sub-genre that needs more love. I have to ask, will there be a transformation?
Shawn Burkett: There is a transformation. My business partner, Ryan Stacy, and I sat down and watched every transformation that’s ever been made. I’ve watched everything. I mean, I’m a hardcore werewolf fanatic to begin with, so this is definitely getting all of my attention. But with the transformation, obviously I want to do something different than what’s been done. I can say that it will definitely be different.
HorrorGeekLife: What’s your favorite werewolf transformation in film so far?
Shawn Burkett: It’s funny because my friend and I debate about this all the time. He feels that the transformation in The Howling is the best transformation of all time. I feel it is in the top 5 transformations for sure. But I’m still American Werewolf in London. That’s my favorite. The way the scene plays out with the song, it makes me smile.
HorrorGeekLife: Fantastic choices and two of my favorites. I have to throw Monster Squad in there as well. I definitely look forward to Betsy and I appreciate your time!
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