Haunting TV

Interview with filmmaker Jack Thomas Smith

Alexander and I had the pleasure of interviewing Jack Thomas Smith this past week. He is the director, writer, and producer for the new film Infliction which has just come out on DVD, VOD, and on Netflix. We plan to do a follow up interview on our YouTube channel, Haunting Television, after we’ve had a chance to watch it ourselves.
Before we get into the interview, here’s the trailer for the film:


J = Jeanette

A = Alexander

JTS = Jack Thomas Smith)

J: ” So, how did you get into film?”

JTS: “I’ll admit I was one of those little kids that saw Star Wars in the theaters and it absolutely knocked my socks off.  That opening scene when those two ships went overhead, that was it for me. I knew from that moment on I wanted to make films. And a year after that I read the Shining by Stephen King. And from that point on I knew I wanted to write. And as I got older and moved into my teenage years it was like a natural marriage- my passion for writing and my passion for film-making. As a young adult I got into making screen plays. I never went to college, so I kind of just figured it out. I went to library, took out a book about writing screenplays and worked my way through it to learn all of the formatting. How I got into the film business it is kind of a crazy story. In my late teens I worked in a video store in Sparta NJ.  And there was a customer who would come in and rent horror movies, and he and I would always talk about [them]. So I [told] him, I was working on a screen play, and he said, “Oh that’s cool. When you’re done you should contact a friend of mine, his name is Ted BoHaus, he’s an independent filmmaker.” When I finished the script I called Ted up and I sent him my script. He read it, and thought it was really cool, but it was a little big budget for what he was making at the time. He said, “hey I can tell that you have some ability here so we should try and make something together.” So that’s what we did, we co-wrote a screenplay called the Regenerative Man. It was kind of a Sci-Fi horror movie. The main character is creating a drug that will make you regenerate. You know, like if you blow off your arm you can regenerate it. These guys break into a lab in the middle of the night and force a guy to drink the mixture and he turns into a mutant. So anyway, we raised $75,000 to make the film, we shot it and sold it for double the investment. So that’s kind of a long winded answer as to how I got into the business.”

J: “How would you describe this film to a new audience?”

JTS: “I describe Infliction as a disturbing assembled footage film that documents a murder spree by two brothers in NC in 2011. And the horrific truth behind their actions. It’s a very dark film, but it’s more like a psycho drama with elements of horror in it. [It is very] character driven, very story driven, and as you watch it you will find yourself asking who are the true criminals here and who are the true victims?

J: “What inspired you to make this film?”

JTS: What Infliction deals with is the long term effects of child abuse. How it effects not only the victims of child abuse but also society as a whole. And it deals a lot with the empowerment of the victims over the abusers. Essentially, what inspired me to write it was I once knew a person who came from a very abusive family. She came from this family and I saw the cycle of abuse. And I saw that her parents were abused by their parents and she had been abused by her parents. I saw her siblings having kids and that they weren’t the best with their kids [either]. And you could see this whole cycle of abuse. Then you watch how it effects not only the kids, but society. Sure some people [who are abused in a violent home] can rise above that and live productive lives. Others don’t. Others go out and commit crimes and cause all kinds of chaos that we all have to deal with. So that was kind of the inspiration of this film. I honestly can probably say that Infliction was based on a true story because all you would have to do is to turn on the evening news every night. If you turn on the news you would see some sort of horrific thing happening to a child somewhere in the world that would remind you of Infliction.

A: I’ve also been doing some research into that myself. I recently found a group called BACA, bikers against child abuse, which is all over the country and they empower children who have been abused. And what they do is, let’s say a kid has to take an uncle or someone to court, they do 24/7 security for this child and make them a part of the biker gang to empower them to be able to speak out against what happened to them. They’ll give them rides to school, they’ll do anything that needs doing to help keep this kid feeling safe while they are going to court. ”

JTS: What an amazing organization.

A: Yeah, it’s a really amazing organization, I read some [other] stories [too], there was a guy out of jersey who was abused by a priest in Boston and the church had covered the whole thing up. They had covered all of the incidents up for so long that the statute of limitations had passed. [The Church knew about it, but] they keep them in the church thinking they can try to council them and change or control their behavior while they are still in the church. When it doesn’t work they defrock a priest and then let them loose upon the earth. So these guys are just out there now. Now, this particular [ex-priest] will go onto websites where there are younger boys and he will chat with them. Every time he’ll go to a different city with a different name, but use the same [social] site to find new kids.[So] I’ve been thinking that something like BACA might help, to up out a bulletin or something to see if anyone will speak up against him that might still be within the statute of limitations.

JTS: It’s funny because we’ve been doing screenings all over the country and we do Q&A sessions afterwards  and you would be shocked how many people sitting there in the theater during the Q&A just absolutely connect with the film. One woman in particular, she shared that she had been abused as a child and she actually has an organization that is bank rolled by Micheal Reagan, Ronald Reagan’s son, and she said the one thing about Infliction that struck her was the empowerment.  That the victims were taking back their lives and – I don’t want to ruin the film for you, but – that is essentially what it is. It is them trying to reclaim their lives, and they were trying to define themselves and to not let people define them as victims. And she said that is very common with victims who have been abused. They are always chasing that the rest of their lives. They are always searching for that empowerment. In her case, the abuser died before she had her chance to sue him or prosecute him as an adult or even to scream at the guy . So she never got that  sense of empowerment over him.

A: I feel like  it’s a really a good thing for people to get it out of their system and for people to find a catharsis [for that] through writing, music, whatever to get that aggression out in a creative sense. I’ve been thinking for a long time that we can help [people] use this as a sense of empowerment. We would like to use what we do with our company as kind of a platform to talk about these things.

JTS: That’s awesome, anything I can do just let me know. I mean, thank God I was fortunate enough that I never had anything happen to me. But when I saw this family do i mean, holy s**t, I couldn’t believe the dysfunction, I couldn’t believe the whole cycle of abuse. And the thing is, [if] you look at it from a logical standpoint you would say, “There’s no way in hell I would ever do this to a kid because of the horrors that were done to me.” I’m talking logically. But the thing is you see what happens to some of these people and they just repeat the cycle. Not everyone, obviously, but some of them do. And you judge them because they are harming children, but then you think “holy s**t, what happened to them? What happened in their brains? What happened to them in their environment that led them to repeat the cycle?” Knowing how bad it was to be a victim, but then to go and victimize someone. That’s the other thing that Infliction dives into,  nature vs nurture and there’s actually a scene where they discuss that. “Are we genetically predisposed to be what we are? Is it environment that creates us to become what we are? Or is it a combination of both?” And that’s the other thing that comes out of Infliction.

J: how was the process for making this film? Was it guerrilla style film-making?

JTS:  It wasn’t as guerrilla as if i just wrote the script and then we picked up the camera and shot it. I mean there was a lot of prep work. For example, in the film you’ll see  the two brother are filming everything on little camcorders you could pick up from Walmart, but the reality is we shot with a very high end camera. So whenever you see the brother move the little camera across the room and shoot himself in the mirror our DP [is] literally shooting over the actor’s shoulder. So that his motions match up with those of the actor with the camera.  So you’ll have the actor moving the camera up and down and the DP had to be in sync with the movement of the actor.The challenge for the actor was he had to deliver his lines, be in character, focus on his facial expressions, everything that is involved in acting, and on top of that- he had to know exactly how to move the camera. And with the DP he had the job of keeping the shots in focus, lighting, making sure there were no shadows, all of the responsibilities of a director of Photography, but he also had to be completely in sync with the actor in terms of the camera movement. So, it was a challenge. and I don’t ever want to do another found footage film again.  It’s not as easy as it looks actually. Because with a regular film you can cut. You can get your couple eating dinner, wide shot, close up and then get cuts from around the room. With found footage, it’s all from the perspective for the camera, of that person. So yeah, it’s a challenge. And It’s technically found footage, I actually call it assembled footage. I’ve started that phrase, and what I mean by that  is that found footage implies just that. like Blair Witch, like Cloverfield, everyone basically dies and you’re just showing what they shot. With Infliction it was shot like a documentary. The brothers set out to document all of their actions for a reason. The cameras are just as important to the film as to why their doing it.

J: I’m really looking forward to watching this, and thank you for doing this with us.

JTS: absolutely and thank you so much.

Find yourself a copy of Infliction by visiting their website and liking their Facebook page:

Website: http://www.inflictiontapes.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/InflictionTapes?ref=hl

And stay tuned to HauntingTV for our follow-up conversation with Jack Thomas Smith after we actually watch the film. 🙂

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