Wholly Cinema Exclusive Interview with Filmmaker Mike Stahl

Blog post by Ross Munro for Wholly Cinema.

Now that the true horror of Halloween approaches (getting invited to numerous staff parties where your boss is dressed up as the newly invented Philadelphia Flyer mascot Gritty or having to turn off the lights in your home on Halloween eve and hide behind your couch to avoid handing out candies to never-ending swarms of kiddies…) it’s time to throw a scary flick or two onto the blu-ray player.

Instead of the usual movies featuring hordes of encroaching zombies (see the upcoming American mid-term elections) or pea soup spewing children in need of an exorcist, how about checking out a low budget ode to classic slasher flicks
called Capps Crossing?

Written and directed by Mike Stahl and just released on Blu-ray/dvd by hip boutique Los Angeles distributor Indie Rights, this gore-induced shocker about a bunch of young people roaming around a creepy forest geo-caching (this activity alone makes them deserving of everything they get!) while being chased by a deranged maniac would be a cool cinematic discovery for this Hallow’s Eve.

Thankfully, California filmmaker Stahl was willing to take off the goalie mask and give us ink-stained wretches (OK- everything’s digital now- we get it…) at Wholly Cinema an interview just in time for the upcoming scariest of nights when goblins roam the streets in search of organically made pumpkin pie at Whole Foods.

Wholly Cinema: What inspired you to create the story for Capps Crossing?

Mike Stahl: Capps Crossing is an actual campground that my friends and I would visit twice a year. It is a large private campground and near it there is a bridge that is covered with graffiti. That made me wonder about all the people who had visited and what their stories were. On one trip my friends got into geocaching (a gps treasure hunting game) and I thought it was an interesting activity. I’d been looking for a concept to build into a horror movie and I combined geocaching with a crazy guy who’s girlfriend died in the forest. Instead of finding the regular tokens and trinkets people find geocaching, I had them find body parts instead.


WC: What was your earliest memories of going to the theaters and viewing scary/horror films?

MS: My earliest memory is watching The Exorcist with my brother and he ended up sleeping with the lights on for a while. My love for horror arrived with the very first Friday The 13th movie which Capps pays homage to.

WC: What are your cinematic inspirations for your movie?

MS: I just wanted to make a movie and I didn’t have a lot of money to do it. I wanted it to look like a real movie as a lot of films made cheaply tend to look more like video. A decent portion of the budget went into cameras, lenses and a talented Director of Photography. Horror movies can be made with a single location or very few locations. Capps was shot in three areas near each other in the El Dorado National forest. Most of the film was shot at a different campground called Sly Park. The location offered what Capps Crossing didn’t- power. Plus, it cost much less to shoot at Sly Park. The cast and crew slept in tents and a small building on the campsite. We loved every minute.


WC: What was the most challenging aspect of making Capps?

MS: Small budget and short shooting schedule. We shot the whole film in 8 days which ended up becoming a little over 7 because it rained for the first time in over 20 years. At the time we were devastated, but we tried to shoot what we could with umbrellas and just making some scenes “rain scenes”. They turned out to provide a beautiful extra dimension and texture to the finished product. Most days were 20 hours long and the cast and crew were dedicated to make it happen and not letting lack of sleep get in their way.


WC: What surprised you the most while making it?

MS: How much every person brought to the project and what we were able to accomplish when many told us we’d never make it. Everyone worked together. We had a small crew and the actors jumped in and held lights, wrangled props and did whatever need to be done. It was a true team experience. I am very lucky to have such great people to work with.

WC: What do you like most about directing?

MS: I enjoy bringing a story to life and collaborating with others to solve problems that come up. And there are always problems. Even the best planning gets blown away when things change on set.


WC: What’s next for you?

MS: Capps Crossing: Ranger Danger is the sequel and it picks up the moment the first film ends. I have a couple other horror films in the works as well as a comedy called “Reaper Wanted”. It is the story of how heaven and hell are sent scrambling for a replacement when the grim reaper decides to stop killing and start living.


Blu-ray/DVD link



Viva La Cinema!