Saginaw native, musician, and Berklee School of Music graduate Dan Smith recently composed the musical score for the 2014 thriller Bachelors Grove, which will be showcased at the Riverside Saginaw Film Festival on Saturday, November 8th at 7:00 PM at Pit & Balcony Theatre, with a special concert performance that will feature all-star band members Mike Brush, Laurie Middlebrook, Loren Kranz, John RIckert, Jeff Walikangas and Scott Vandell.
The film also co-stars Saginaw actress Tonia Carrier, who last year won a short film award at the Riverside Festival, and who will be on-hand along with Smith and Director/Writer Ricardo Islas. According to Carrier, Bachelors Grove is based upon a fictional town but a real life Chicago area cemetery that is supposedly one of the 10 most haunted places in America. “All the Ghost shows have been there investigating it and even when I went there to visit it seemed to be a tourist destination, with groups of people there in the middle of the day. In the film Bachelors Grove is a town and we meet six people, two girls and four guys who went to high school back in the ‘80s and wanted to go do something terrible in the cemetery. These actions come back to haunt them 20 years later and each of us plays older versions of the teenagers in the park. Richard Pryor, Jr. plays one of the kids and this entire film springs out of the deranged mind of Ricardo, who loves horror and breathes it and is a great director.”
As for the concert that Smith is pulling together and his involvement composing the musical score for Bachelors Grove, he says this is something he has always wanted to pursue. “Tonia was involved with a film being shot in Saginaw four years ago and I read about her in the Saginaw News and thought that I had enough skills to tackle a film score, but did not know how to approach it.”
“I went to the IMBD data base and saw this film didn’t have music for it yet, so got Tonia’s address and wrote her and responded, but nothing happened with that film,” continues Smith. “Then I saw her name again several years later and that she was involved with Bachelors Grove, went to the data base and got in touch with the director and said I would like to do his film. I only got to see one scene of the film, so I wrote music for that and he said that he liked my style and then we moved forward to score the entire film. I’d never done anything like this before.”
“It’s such a challenge,” continues Dan. “But it’s great because I’m taking all that I’ve learned over 35 years and incorporating it into the discipline. I’ve always loved film and now I am working on the score for the sequel to Bachelors Grove called The Sacrifice that is starting shooting on November 15th and will be completed in April.”
“As for the concert, we’ll be performing several originals and then also showcasing memorable music from different films such as Goldfinger, the theme from Arthur, the theme from The Odd Couple, along with music that I wrote for the score.”
Tonia says her involvement with Bachelors Grove derived from her relationship with fellow actress/writer Suzy Brack, who will also be in attendance at the screening & concert. “Suzy is this crazy redhead from Chicago and I adore her,” enthuses Carrier. “Bachelors Grove is our sixth project and then with two upcoming projects, this will be the eighth time I’ve worked with her. Bachelors Grove was already in production when I got a call from her saying one of the cast members fell out and everybody in the cast was 10 years older than me, but I don’t care, I’ll play older. Suzy was involved with casting and knew the look that the Director was seeking, so she sent him photos of me and then he called to audition me and four days later I got out of jury duty to start shooting.”
“I went back and forth to Chicago five times to shoot different scenes and each scene was shot backwards for me,” she explains. “I did my most violent and physical scene first and then once I had time to absorb the character, we shot the earlier scenes subsequent to the dirty and bloody one.”
Writer/director Ricardo Islas says he got the idea for Bachelors Grove two years ago by one of Frankenstein Day of the Beast’s producers. “I had never heard about Bachelors Grove until he brought it up. I didn't get to write a full script back then, just a treatment that was entirely different to the movie we ended up making. Then months later a different person brought it up again. It was then when I told myself: well... maybe I should make a movie about this cemetery after all. So it evolved from a demonic possession story in its inception, to a story that has to do with the presence of evil in a more subtle way. The final draft of Bachelors Grove is a story of evil more than the devil. And how evil can have roots in a cemetery, small town, and ultimately in the people that live in that town.”
“The two biggest challenges were to cast a movie that had to do with a group of people going back and forth between the present time and their past when they were teenagers. We had to look for actors that would somehow resemble each other 30 years apart. We got lucky, and found actors that not only look like each other, but also did a great job.”
“The other challenge, which is normal for Indie movies, was financing it. We had an original investor who walked away from the project 2 or 3 weeks before we started shooting. It was tough, but thanks to everybody's effort, we pulled it off.”
In terms of forging his relationship with Dan Smith on the musical score, Ricardo says whenever he makes an Indie film he usually gets many emails from composers with links to their work. “Most of the time, I can't find what I want. I had already given up on using an original score for Bachelors Grove, when Dan showed up. Soon we realized we were talking the same language. He had never done anything in the horror genre before, which was great in a sense, because he didn't have any of the musical vices that sometimes composers from the genre have. That's why listening to his music is very refreshing and extremely effective.”
Islas has produced, written and directed 18 films to date between America and South America. When asked what he feels distinguishes his work from others in the genre is “the firm decision not to stop and pull back regardless of budgetary conditions. There are other factors such as the vision of a writer that has lived in two very different parts of the world. That has an influence as well.”
At the screening and concert for Bachelors Grove on November 8th beer and wine will be available for purchase and tickets are only $10.00 general admission and $5.00 for festival pass holders, which given the caliber of entertainment being showcased, is a definite bargain.
16th November, 2023
7th November, 2023