In exactly one month, “Gore Orphanage” will be premiering at the Sandusky State Theater.
Emily Lapisardi, the director, agreed to answer some questions about how she chose to direct this movie. Lapisardi is really a fascinating person. She has accomplished so much in her life. I am truly in awe of her.
You are an accomplished dancer and musician. How did you transition into directing a horror movie?
I had worked as the music supervisor on Cody Knotts’s Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies, which is a horror-comedy, and had also played the leading role in a Civil War docudrama some years ago, so I was not unfamiliar with the process of film production. Gore Orphanage was initially my idea—Cody loved it and wanted to produce the film, but asked me to direct because I am more accustomed to working with kids. I teach voice and piano lessons, so spend an average of 20 hours a week giving kids direction of a different sort! The story is also unusually female-centric for a horror film, so we felt it really called for a female director.
How did you learn about the story behind Gore Orphanage?
Our first exposure to Gore Orphanage was a serendipitous—one might even say fateful—sighting of a “Gore Orphanage Road” sign on the way back from a trip to Detroit. My curiosity was immediately aroused by the name, so I looked it up on my phone and found postings about the legend, as well as some sites debunking it. Cody and I started formulating ideas for the film in the car that day, and also subsequently researched the historical background of the Light of Hope Orphanage, the Swift Mansion, and the Collinwood School Fire (which shares quite a few similarities with the Gore Orphanage story). As we continued to develop the project, we were also fortunate to hear a number of oral accounts from area residents.
I read that you are involved with historical reenactments, was that skill for costuming beneficial?
It was helpful, but also somewhat frustrating, since I sometimes knew exactly what I wanted for a character’s wardrobe, but time and budget constraints necessitated other choices. I have been presenting first-person portrayals of historical figures for museums, historical societies, festivals, and reenactments since the late 1990s, including speaking engagements for the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC, the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, PA and several National Park service sites. My mother and I make all of my period attire for these portrayals, have a business called Rue de la Paix Reproductions which specializes in Civil War era clothing and accessories, and have collected antique and vintage clothing for years. I’m always very picky and critical about period clothing in the films I watch, but working on this project has helped me realize that dressing a whole film cast in consistent and authentic period wardrobe is much more challenging than just dressing myself for my portrayals!
Do you have any plans to direct another movie?
Not specifically at this point, but I wouldn’t rule it out. Cody and I have a number of additional projects in the works.
If so, will you do another horror movie?
Cody has been developing his reputation through horror films (Gore Orphanage was the fifth one he’d been involved with as producer, director, or both), but both of us have a strong desire to work in historical films as well, and we have both horror and historical projects in development at the moment. I recently wrote a treatment for a horror film set in 1830s New England and Cody is writing the script for it now, but he’ll probably direct that one.
Do you have any bucket list goals left?
Lots of them! We have a script for a Civil War project which has been a long-term goal of mine and which we hope to shoot in the next couple of years, as soon as we finish securing funding. That’s a huge bucket list item because I have such an emotional connection with the project! I am also currently working on my Master’s degree in music, having taken a long hiatus after my bachelor’s degree, and am very much looking forward to realizing that goal.
Where will this movie be showing?
The premiere will be on July 11th at 7 PM at the Sandusky State Theatre, but we are also planning a limited theatrical release in other theatres in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia later this year.
Do you guys have any movie merchandise? I think a Gore Orphanage shirt would be really cool.
We do! Some of the merchandise is already available at our Shopify site, http://pro-wrestlers-vs-zombies.myshopify.com/, and more items, including posters and buttons, will be available at the premiere. The T-shirt features a fantastic and rather eerie photo of the three main child actors on the steps of the orphanage. DVD and Blu-Ray presales are available, also, but won’t be released until after the theatrical showings. Another really exciting product we are offering—at least for me—is the novel. We’d developed so many backstories for the characters during production that I went back to the script afterwards and incorporated all of these details into a novel which will be available this summer.
What would you like people to know about this movie?
It’s historical fiction, not a documentary! We’ve received a few comments from people who don’t seem to understand that what we’ve done is to take the fundamental aspects of the Gore Orphanage story and shape them into a work of fiction which explores themes that are fundamentally part of being human—the delicate business of raising children well, the consequences of the breakdown of support networks for lost and abandoned kids, and the ancient and powerful symbolism of fire to both cleanse and destroy. Gore Orphanage is not an overtly bloody, jump-scare heavy type of horror film, but instead is creepy, a little disturbing, and psychological—more along the lines of Hitchcock’s films and Argento’s Suspiria than Texas Chainsaw Massacre!
You are directing your husband, as well, as yourself, was that difficult? Or was it pretty routine stuff?
I wasn’t originally supposed to be in the film, but the actress who was cast to be Nellie’s stepmother had to cancel and I fit in the dress, so I stepped in! I don’t want to spoil the story, but my on-camera time in that role was pretty minimal, so it wasn’t too much of a challenge. Cody’s role is also essentially a cameo, but we had some in-depth conversations about the background of the Delivery Man, whom he plays, and decided he was an eastern European immigrant. Having trained as a ballet dancer with several Russian teachers, I then had to do dialog coaching with him since this wasn’t an accent he could already do—this was probably the biggest challenge of directing him, since we not only had to work on what he was doing visually, but also on delivering the lines with the accent.