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Indie Horror Lives in ‘The Shade’: An Interview with Director Tyler Chipman

In the last decade, indie cinema has gone commercial. Writer/director, Tyler Chipman, sat for an interview to discuss his new film ‘The Shade’.

Chris Galust as Ryan Beckman in The Shade (2023)
Still from 'The Shade', directed by Tyler Chipman. Credit: Red King Cinema / Tom Fitzgerald

Over the last decade, independent (or indie) cinema has gone commercial. With independent and arthouse film production companies becoming successful to a mainstream audience, real indie flicks fall away. Horror films have an even more difficult time getting noticed in the commercial world of remakes and superhero films.

Many are left craving something original and relatable on the screen these days. Solving that problem is the challenge the team at Red King Cinema accepted. Red King Cinema, founded in 2019 by Tyler Chipman and David Purdy, is an independent film production company.

Red King’s aim is to battle back against the cookie-cutter film studios that pop up all over the film industry. Their film, The Shade (2023), written and directed by Tyler Chipman, can hardly be placed in a single genre. The Shade has elements that would send a shiver up the spine of any seasoned horror savant with the gaul to tell a story about growth, grief, and growing up.

The Review:

The film follows twenty-year-old tattoo apprentice, Ryan Beckman (Chris Galust), not long after the loss of his father. Ryan is the big brother of the year and is very close with his younger brother. Around one eerily chilly-seeming Massachusetts Halloween, Ryan’s eldest brother, Jason (Dylan McTee), unexpectedly returns from college mid-semester. Ryan is quick to discover that Jason may not have come back from college entirely alone…

Some of the sequences in The Shade are unforgettably creepy. The film delivers a type of monster that is familiar to many packaged in a new way. The burden of portraying how it is to know terror like that sits on the broad shoulders of actor Chris Galust. His performance as Ryan Beckman is stellar. His upfront yet haunted demeanor shows how The Shade means business.

Jason Beckman played by Dylan McTee gets haunted
Jason Beckman played by Dylan McTee gets haunted. Credit: Red King Cinema / Tom Fitzgerald.

The Shade expertly uses conventions from the horror genre to create a beautifully realized peak behind the curtain of mental health, grief, and family. It also spares no expense in showcasing subtle details to serve the mise-en-scene that will leave the viewer noticing new things with every rewatch. Each loose end is carefully tied up by screenwriter Chipman, while the film’s incredible hardcore soundtrack and hushed nods to film and horror history make one grin in recognition.

I was lucky enough to chat with Chipman this week about his film. Right from the start, Chipman came off as genuine, passionate and proud of the effort from all involved that went into creating The Shade. Some introductions and a couple of technological snafus later, we kicked it off with:

The Interview:

Hailie Gold (HG): Tyler, where did the initial idea seed for The Shade come from?

Tyler Chipman (TC): I think it was a couple of things. Quite honestly, the seed of the idea was born from two main directions. One being that I have a very good friend, an ex-roommate of mine, who lost his father to suicide extraordinarily unexpectedly. I saw him struggle with that for a long time. Most people, me included, have the luxury of not knowing what it feels like to lose someone to suicide. […] I had never really seen a movie that looked at something like that as carefully and genuinely as I thought movies should be.

That’s one half of it. Obviously, the other half being our main character, Ryan, suffers from a whole host of things like generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and other scarier things that go hand-in-hand. I wanted to tie my own personal experiences with anxiety and panic disorder together with my very good friend’s experience of personal loss.

HG: What an incredible way to bring up a topic that is so important, but so many are afraid to talk about in a venue like film.

This became a conversation about portrayals of mental illness on screen.

TC: It’s a sensitive subject for a lot of reasons. When you talk about suicide and suicidal ideation in media, one of the main things you have to worry about is “suicide contagion.” It’s tough. It’s a difficult subject, but not any less worth speaking about. […] Everyone can come up with their ways of handling these things the right and wrong way for them. I don’t believe there is one objective way to do that. I don’t think you should build boxes about what an artist can or can’t create.

That being said, I think you do have to be mindful in the way you tell these stories and still be honest. […] I didn’t want to do that thing that a lot of genre [horror] films do where they use suicide as some sort of kicking-off point in the story, or as a prop. I tried really hard to not do that on The Shade. […] These stories have to be told. They have to be.

HG: Your honesty in the storytelling does create a shared experience with the viewer in a comforting way that reminds them that they aren’t alone. Moving into my next question, how long did The Shade take from beginning to end in its multiple phases of production?

Chipman paused here to laugh.

TC: For me, it feels like it took half of my life. It stretches back to me being a teenager dreaming about making feature films for a living, but that is too long of a story. The Shade, the feature version, was the first venture David Purdy [producer at Red King Cinema] and I thought was appropriate, or maybe feasible to bring to the big screen. We shot a “proof of concept” short film in 2019. Although, it was different enough that I don’t know if we can call it a “proof of concept” anymore. There was a point in time where we envisioned shooting The Shade in fall 2020…

HG: Ha…

TC: I think we both know why that didn’t happen… When we were on the opposite side of all of that, we started searching in earnest for co-producers, backers, collaborators, a casting director, things of that nature. We started shooting in October of 2022 and the shoot went through January of 2023. There was a little bit of a break while we got our post-production ducks in a row. All of post was done in New York. We finished post-production in July of 2023. A few months later, we premiered at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival on October 17, 2023.

The conversation turned into a review of other screenings and further distribution news before we jumped back into the content of the movie itself.

Ryan draws a hooded figure in the trees in new movie 'The Shade'
Ryan draws a hooded figure in the trees. Credit: Red King Cinema / Tom Fitzgerald.

HG: Something that I find so captivating and successful about this film is the attention to detail and the sub-culture influence of the tattoo community, hardcore music, independent film, and all things dark and creepy. Why were these some of the images you landed on?

TC: I tried not to beat anyone over the head with it, but it is a regional movie. This is a very sort-of Boston-adjacent movie. I am not from Massachusetts […], but I have lived here for twenty years, and I wanted Ryan and his brother and some of their friends to feel truthful to a lot of the guys I know out here. I had mentioned earlier, my friend who served as a sort of inspiration for the Ryan character, this is the stuff that he was into – that I am into to some extent. It’s really got to do with this brand of perhaps misguided blue-collar masculinity that seems pervasive in this area.

Continuing, Chipman pivots from masculinity to horror in The Shade.

In terms of, as you say all things dark and creepy, that is something in the horror genre that I have always been obsessed with. Mental illness– I don’t like that phrase… Mental health… ailments? [laughs] I wanted to portray and illuminate how terrifying and isolating some of those struggles can be. They are difficult to show on screen because of the interior nature of those psychological struggles. The beauty of filmmaking is that you can bring genre and metaphor into the story to underline the hardship of some of those things. At the same time, I tried not to lean too hard on genre elements. […] Horror wasn’t our main focus, but it was one of the focuses.

HG: Yes, I see characters that have stakes that I want to root for, not someone whose a prop for a slasher.

…The Creature.

Speaking of, what was the creature creation process like for this film? The Harpy’s is terrifying to me. There is something simple, but so effective about it. How did you arrive at this look?

TC: Yeah… Y’know what? I stole that. That isn’t my invention. This isn’t something I love to talk about which is why it isn’t super explicit in the movie, but I’ll tell you. The Harpy is taken from Dante’s Inferno. When Virgil and Dante are moving through the Seventh Circle of Hell, they come upon the Wood of the Self-Murderer. Those who have committed suicide are being fed on by these birdlike women called… harpies. I tried to tie preexisting human mythological stuff into a modern story of suicide and mental health.

HG: I like that this is an image that passed through generations while The Shade is a film about trauma that’s passed on as well. When I watch The Shade, some of the major takeaways for me are family, masculinity, mental health, and specifically the relationship between masculinity and mental health. What do you hope an audience pulls away from this story?

TC: With Ryan a bit and definitely his brother Jason, I feel like we show how some of these masculine ideals can be a dangerous thing. I don’t think I am the first to have that thought. I guess that–I hope that if people are going through something, they can leave The Shade feeling a little less alone. You don’t have to be alone, even though you feel it profoundly. That is the real problem at the heart of the story. How could anyone understand that sort of a thing? […]

I don’t want to talk about what others should think, so I’ll talk about what I think. Viewers can think and take away anything they want. What I think is that you need to find strength with what and whoever you can to stand up to the thing that is terrorizing you. It doesn’t have to be an endgame thing, even if it’s a lifelong thing.

Here, we had a rousing conversation about the film’s conclusion. That, however, is a spoiler. You will have to see The Shade for yourself to join in.

TC: I didn’t want a film that felt contrived. No going to the library for research, digging up the bones and salting and burning them. That’s contrived.

HG: It’s not a supernatural procedural!

TC: In the end, Ryan makes an important decision and I think the end is… I think it’s pretty clear. Or it should be.

HG: Thank you so much for all of this, Tyler. What’s up next for you?

TC: Yeah! Obviously, we gotta get this movie out to the people! Hopefully, we’ll have a distributor within the next quarter and can bring The Shade to more viewers. And… We want to keep making movies! David and I at Red King, have films in various stages of development all the way from ideas scribbled on a napkin to scripts near completion. I will say I am working on an idea that shares a bit of thematic ground with The Shade. A little Dante-inspired. It’s got a different character perspective, though, with a bigger scope and is maybe more ambitious.

HG: Before you go: top five favorite movies! Other movies won’t be mad if you forget one of them, I promise.

Tyler, with several moments of thinking and a post-interview amendment to the recording, concludes that his top five favorite movies are:

  1. Paris, Texas (1984)
  2. Blue Velvet (1986)
  3. The Shining (1980)
  4. McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
  5. Scream (1996)
  6. with an honorable mention for Clue (1985).

To get a taste of The Shade, check out the trailer here!

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twenty-three year old lover of film, books and rock n roll

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