Interview by Andreea Boyer // Edited by Chris Charles of Idol Features
David Zellis’ film production company, Zellco Productions, is based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. David is proud to announce the recent release of his company’s first feature-length film, a 1980s-inspired slasher entitled Dark Forest.
Andreea Boyer: How did you start your career as a filmmaker and what has your motivation and inspiration been?
David Zellis: I graduated film school in 1999. After that, I worked and volunteered at a local film co-op called “The Winnipeg Film Group.” I think getting to work with those other filmmakers at all levels was very inspirational for me to carry on this long. I am always motivated to tell interesting stories. I love stories, no matter what medium. I think I am most inspired by the journey itself. Sometimes for me, it’s all about the creative high you get on that journey.
Andreea Boyer: When did your start with your career as a filmmaker and has filmmaking always been your main focus?
David Zellis: Although I went to film school, I think working at the Winnipeg Film Group (the co-op) was really where my career started and I learned the importance of trying to find your voice. I always try to make it my main focus, but sometimes the circumstances don’t always allow that.
Andreea Boyer: What can you tell us about your best experiences and which moments in your career have been the most influential ones for you?
David Zellis: I produced a lot of content in my early twenties in around the early to mid-2000’s with colleagues of mine including short films, web series, online content, etc. I look back on those days fondly just because we were creating stuff with very limited resources. I think if anything, this medium is collaborative and the best people I have worked with are the ones I still remain friends with. Listening and understanding their creative process has been hugely influential on me as a filmmaker.
Andreea Boyer: What else can you tell us about yourself ?
David Zellis: It’s weird that this seems like such a tough question, but I try to keep my interests varied outside of filmmaking. I go and volunteer at a local boxing gym, I love video games, I follow the local sports teams, and I love going to see movies in the theaters as often as I can.
Andreea Boyer: What can you tell us about your film Dark Forest?
David Zellis: It started out in a competition here in Canada called Cinecoup. We entered Dark Forest the first year they ran it. In the competition, you had to do a marketing mission each week and if you made it you would get upwards of a million to make a film and a theatrical release in Canada. It was supposed to be a found footage film. Initially, it didn’t make it very far in the competition.
In the summer of 2013, we decided to make it anyway and it would eventually morph into a female lead slasher film, shot over two summers and officially released in 2015. It’s not a perfect film, but I am glad I can say that I produced a feature length film and aim to take what I learned from this one to improve upon the next project.
Andreea Boyer: What are your favorite film genres?
David Zellis: Horror films. Goes without saying, but I am always up for watching any type of movie regardless of genre.
Andreea Boyer: What can you tell us about the obstacles during the beginning of your career as a filmmaker?
David Zellis: Well, it’s still an obstacle to this day, but not having enough financing or not being able to obtain it and making projects on very limited budgets and resources.
Andreea Boyer: What kind of work did you do before filmmaking?
David Zellis: I have had all kinds of jobs throughout the years to insurance, audio visual work, and of course, working on a lot of independent micro budget films in all kinds of different roles.
Andreea Boyer: What is your vision for your future and what are your goals?
David Zellis: I want to make more features and expand my producing knowledge. With my business partner, we are working with filmmakers here in Canada to get there films out that may have not been seen or are currently sitting a shelf collecting dust, it has been a pretty exciting time doing that as well.
Andreea Boyer: What is your advice for all young independent filmmakers on how they should work on their goals and reach the best audience for their individual work?
David Zellis: Honestly, this is going to sound cliche, but there is no recipe to this so make what you want to make and be true to yourself. Audiences and people will more often connect when you are being genuine. I would also say just go out and make something and continue to be creative. Creativity is like a muscle. You need to constantly flex to get better and stronger.
Thank you, Mr. Zellis. We wish you continued success.
Learn more on David Zellis’ film production company, Zellco Productions, at their official website.