The Science of The Amityville Horror (Part 1)

Months ago, I brought you a story about Ryan Katzenbach and his documentary trilogy on the DeFeo murders which spawned the Amityville Horror franchise found here: His film series, Shattered Hopes: The True Story of the Amityville Murders has been a six-year endeavor, and when you talk to Ryan, it's evident that the project has been a labor of love... and at times, real hate too. It's been months since I've talked to Ryan, and decided to catch up with him on his project because, since the initial two-part story broke here on the Huffington Post in January, there's been some very interesting developments in the production of the film. I had interviewed him right after the first installment of the film, Part I - From Horror To Homicide, had been released to DVD. I recently had an opportunity to chat with him via telephone and, as you will read, the conversation covered not only Amityville, but a lot of other projects that Ryan is just as passionate about. This, too, will be a part 1 of 3 interview series.

Alexandra Holzer: Ryan, you've taken some criticism over how long the film has taken to produce, why?

Ryan Katzenbach: Art first, business later, Alex. First, anyone who is critical of how long this film has taken to produce shows their naiveté for the business. A lot of independent films have taken two... five... ten years to make when funding is coming from the filmmaker's pocket as was the case here. Diana, my partner and I funded the project solely, and we are the sole owners of the film.  There have even been studio films that have taken years to complete for one reason or another... I just heard the other day that the latest "GI Joe" film with Channing Tatum has been put on hold for a year while they go back and reshoot all new scenes, so delays, they happen. Second, we didn't produce A film... we spent six years producing THREE films with a running time approaching seven hours over the three parts. So when you factor what this project ultimately became, it didn't take us very long at all to make three separate films given the scope of what we were dealing with. Third, who cares how long it took? This wasn't a project that was commissioned or co-produced with a network or studio, as you know Alex. This was me...a guy with a camera...who wanted to know what happened in Amityville and set out to find the story. And that story seemed to evolve and change and do crazy things as one person after another came forward to tell accounts that have never been told. There was, throughout the process, no network exec telling me 'you have to have this done by this date for airing.'  This enabled us to take our time and really explore the story, and tell it the right way.  Hollywood has had 37 years and, what, ten movies to tell the story and so far they've got it wrong repeatedly. So who cares if we spend six years and make a three-parter that sets the record straight once and for all? 

AH: When is installment two going to drop?

RK: Part Two is done excepting a lot of touch-up work that's being done now. We're going through rights clearances now and trying to get all the loose ends tied up. 

AH: Have you been dealing with any media houses?

RK: Indeed. And there's a lengthy application process involved. The actual forms and applications are relatively easy... it's the back and forth that takes time. We knew from the footage and music standpoint what we wanted and what we needed. So hence, we had Deadfall Rd. re-record the old, retro music we wanted. And we also had a VHS screener of all the footage we wanted. So we went ahead, had DFRD do the music, and we digitized the VHS tape so that we could use the grainy, low quality cuts in the film's working cut. So, once we have the final edit locked, then we go to the media house and we tell them "we want these clips" and we know exactly what they are, giving them the timecode. Same with the music. Once we have permission to use it, we have a master cut of the track we've been working off of. So now, the media outlet we're using will go back, take our time-codes, and pull the footage from 35mm and make us a print.  When we get the high-end quality stuff, we simply pull out the VHS stuff, and insert the better mastered cuts. This is done, as a final step, because obviously we can't afford, as a small production company, to license piles of material that we end up not using. This way, we use right to the frame what we pay for. We worked with some great reps last time, and they made this a very educational process for me. I've licensed material in the past, but never for a motion picture. So with Part I, I had a bit of a learning curve. But now, with our reps and processes in place, the entire operation is running pretty smooth. Licensing was done in July and that's the last hurdle to get to DVD. Also, we already have our formatting done for the DVD menus of Part II already in place and we're ready to lock...

AH: You were recently interviewed in Maxim Magazine this past May. How did that all come about?

RK:  Seth Porges, who was a senior editor for the magazine up until the end of March or so, is a technology guru. He had approached me when he heard through his grapevine that we were getting ready to set out on a mission to look for a pistol in the Amityville Canal. Seth and I spoke, and, because I have read Maxim off and on for years and have always enjoyed their content, we invited Seth to come along. By the way....I'm a current subscriber again because... well... the stories are always interesting and there's a lot of eye candy in each issue. But... digressing... Seth's angle was on the technology of our expedition and he hooked me with his "can new technology solve an old murder" pitch.  o, Maxim came aboard before we ever did the initial survey and they were there covering the expedition from day one. That, and being personally sandwiched between hot women really appealed to me. 

Part 11 continues in my next post as we uncover the found second gun in the Amityville Canal, The dive with Kenny Hayes who owns a company called AquaSurvey out of New Jersey and much more!

To learn more about Shattered Hopes and Writer/Director Ryan Katzenbach please follow him on Twitter at: @AmityvilleFilm and website at: