Thursday, August 12, 2021



A salute to everyone reading this interview. My friends, my name is Elder Andrades Martínez and today is releasing in more than 700 theaters the horror movie "THE STAIRS" directed, co-written and co-produced by the today's interviewee: PETER "DRAGO" TIEMANN, from Northern Carolina but raised in Seattle, Washington. PETER became an expertise stuntman and coincidentally his first stunt action "work"; and I stated it between quotation marks because was a favour to a friend in short film; was falling on a carpeted stair. You can check out on the upcoming post for the film HERE. "THE STAIRS" will be out on August 27th on VOD format also.

PETER gave me a profound interview, we talked about how his movie emerged from his mind off, the hurdles he faced during all the movie stages, te keys he thinks an newbie filmmaker must have in consideration in the moment to shoot the first movie and more more and even I feel some questions left out of asking, surely i will ask him in a future interview, for instance,  what means the nick "DRAGO"? And many others. 

I know you  will like it, just have to scroll down and read it... come on!

EFF: Firstly, Thanks for letting me chat with you. Secondly, Let me ask you, where are you from and how did you get immersed into the film industry?

PDT: Thank you for having me Elder, I have to say the questions you sent over were excellent and made me dig deep and I appreciate that. I am from northern California and moved to Seattle Washington with my family when I was 13. 

How I got immersed in the film industry is an interesting question. In 1999 I had a mutual friend reach out because he was making a short film and needed someone to fall down some stairs, I would be playing the obnoxious yet funny drunk neighbor in his short film. I have always been an active extreme sport type person my whole life, so he asked me if I could fall down some carpeted stairs (actually a very dangerous stunt) and the camera was to follow me as I slowly tumbled down several flights of stairs. He showed the film locally and several filmmakers asked who he got to do the stunt and they reached out to me to take some falls, fights etc etc. After doing several short-film projects I knew I wanted to do more stunts and also realized I needed to get some training. So I looked up the ISS (International Stunt School in Washington state ), went through the June class of 2001. After graduating, I was asked to assist the teachers with high falls, body burns and driving stunts with the school for the next 3 summers, an amazing experience and opportunity. I got to assist alongside some greats like Dave Boushey (owner operator), Bill Boggs (well known special effects coordinator) and Steve Buckley (stunt and precision driver) as well as meeting those who I still have an incredible friendship with because of the school like Sherril Johnson and AJ Pogue. Flash forward to now and I have been in the industry for 20 years.

EFF: Did you always want to get into the film industry? 

PDT: I always had a fascination with the film industry. I grew up watching Dukes of Hazzard, the Fall Guy, Miami Vice as well as all the stunt heavy films of the 80's and 90's and wanted to be a stunt performer or actor.
EFF: You have a vast experience as a stuntman, what geared you to pursue a career as a director now?

PDT: I actually created and directed my first film in the 4th grade, a claymation movie shot on super 8mm stop motion for a class project. I did all the sound effects myself. It was, if I remember right, an alien invasion story based off of the Mr. Bill Show from Saturday Night Live, I wish I would have kept tabs on it, would have been hilarious to watch now. The last 20 years of stunts and being a SAG-AFTRA Stunt Coordinator taught me about camera angles and how to shoot action. As a Stunt Coordinator you are often the second unit director since you are building the action and stunts to be performed on camera, you already know where the camera needs to be placed for the best shot(s). But just placing the camera does not make you director material so for the last 20 years I have worked with some excellent Directors and Cinematographers and I was always hungry to know what lens they were using and why, always asking why they would move the camera for certain shots and be on sticks for others. My hunger for knowledge of how shots were framed and why gave me a head start to directing since basically for the last 20 years it has been an on-set film school for me.
Peter "Drago" Tiemann

EFF: Definitely the best film school ever. You are about to release your first ever film as a director, "THE STAIRS", first, tell us what is it about? And second, why shoot your first one ever in the horror genre, usually, and not trying to stereotyping, stuntmans almost always start as an action director?

PDT: The Stairs is a film about loss, tragedy, comedy, growth and survival. The tagline is 'They went out for a pleasant stroll, it turned into a dead run.' 
Summary:  What started as a week-long adventure with friends quickly turns into a terrifying fight for survival in The Stairs. In 1997, a young boy (Thomas Wethington) is out hunting with his grandfather (John Schneider), when he stumbles upon a mysterious staircase deep in the forest. The subsequent disappearance leaves the locals baffled as to the fate of the wayward pair. Twenty years later, a group of hikers (Adam Korson, Josh Crotty, Tyra Colar, Brent Bailey and Stacy Oristano) set off on an ambitious trek deep into the same wilderness. With each step away from civilization they are pulled deeper into the treacherous trap of the mountain terrain where they stumble upon the same ominous stairs and the horrors that reside within it.

For my first project I did not want to shoot an action film because truthfully that's just second nature for me and instead I wanted the challenge of doing a genre based film to cut my teeth on and show that I have broad range to offer as writer/director. 
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EFF: How was the story born? How it came up to you with? Knowing this movie was co-written by Jason L Lowe too.

PDT: I always wanted to do a creature feature being a huge horror fan, so I started looking up urban legends. I wanted to do something that had not been done before so I searched deep and one day stumbled upon a post about a phenomena about 'Stairs in the Woods'. At first the pics I came across were just abandoned concrete stairs that the houses rotted away around them and left only a free standing staircase somewhere remote and people asking why or how stairs got out there. After digging deeper I found some people heard weird sounds, feelings, smells or foreboding sensations around the stairs or disappearances etc. It was then I knew I wanted to write some weird abandoned stairs into a horror movie and make them a catalyst or doorway to horror. I called my best friend Jason Lowe and told him my idea of an outline and asked him to co-write the script with me. He said yes obviously and we spent months collaborating on the script.

EFF: Nowadays it is easier in certain ways to shoot a film; there is a tech democratization, many platforms to display your work, but nonetheless, getting funding keeps being one the hardest thing in the moment to get that money in the bag. Can you tell us how that stage was in your movie? Did you have to pitch it out or not?

PDT: We had the fortune of built in funding and what I mean by that is, I have worked construction and labor intensive jobs most of my life. My customers or clients were always so intrigued by my stunt career and when I would see them they would always ask what film or project I had worked on recently and what I did for it. When it came time to do my first film I informed them of the ambitious project and the first few wanted to know more and after telling them the concept and scope of the project they were happy to sign on, which made writing the script even more important since we knew we had funding to go camera up. 

EFF: Oh I see, that’s interesting. How was the script crafting stage? How many drafts you and Jason L Lowe made before you had the final one? And if there was, please tell us what plot hole you had to erase out to keep straight with the story?

PDT: The crafting stage was simple at first, we just threw all kinds of ideas on the board and went with ones that stuck visually in our minds and really whatever brought our hikers closer to stumbling upon the stairs where all the action really gets going. Once we had a general arc of the story, we (co-writer Jason Lowe and I) got down to the nitty gritty part of dissecting each scene, character and mood of the film. We both Started writing Feb 2019 and finished mid June, about 6 months later. 

We went through several drafts in the course of the 6 months as the story got tighter and tighter. I am not actually sure how many drafts we went through to be honest because we just kept editing as we went along, I would say probably a half dozen. Once we finished the script Jason spent a couple weeks going over every page and making sure it was tight and got rid of bad formats or grammar while I started pre-production of the film with my co-producer Amanda. It is really awesome having a writing partner because it is easier to bounce ideas off each other and if one of us has writer's block the other usually can pick up the pace and keep the story flowing, not to mention Jason was invaluable on set helping with rewrites as we were filming as well as coming up with ideas for b-roll or a scenes we needed to add on the day.

Plot holes, as all writers can attest unless you write for a living there are always plot holes and you need to have that spackle ready to fill them. There were several scenes we cut because of time, resources or just because of budget constraints of being an ultra-low budget film. Looking back I don't remember the key plot holes we got rid of, I know there were several but they escape me at this time.
"The Stairs"

EFF: Now, entering the shooting stage, how was it? I mean, did you have any setbacks you had to solve it out?

PDT: Shooting the film, once we got going felt seamless, natural and down right fun thanks to our crew, it was pre-production that was a slight nightmare. About 3 or 4 days before we were camera up we lost our main location which was a 1800 acre park that we had permits to shoot all of our day and night scenes in. A county auditor reached out days before and stated they had to pull the permits due to someone authorizing night shoots in the park and she stated they don't allow anyone in the park after dusk and she wasn't sure who had authorized or signed off on the night shoots which was a devastating blow, but my stunt career has taught me there is always hurdles to jump over so buckle down and get solutions fast. Within a day after the news my producing partner (Amanda Rae Jones) and I had backup locations including shooting most of the night scenes at my buddy Rory's property out in Carnation Washington and most of our day shots were at Shoreview park in Shoreline. We reached out to the awesome peeps at the Shoreline Film Office ( who helped expedite permits, without them we most likely would have had to push our shooting schedule, but the film office pulled a rabbit out of their hat for us and I will be eternally thankful and plan to shoot more projects using their film office, I can not sing their praises enough. Anyone shooting in and around Seattle should reach out to the Shoreline Film Office. 

EFF:  Well, filmmakers you can grab the advice from Peter. How long it took you to shoot the film and what date was it and when?

PDT: We shot the film 19 shooting days over the course of a month. We were camera up August 26th 2019 and wrapped principal photography Sept 22nd 2019.
Peter "Drago" Tiemann

EFF: What words can you tell us about the post process? Maybe anything curious about that? How many days took it? You know this is a blog for newbie filmmakers, we have to ask about everything haha.

PDT: We wrapped principal photography early October and our editor Michael Tang started cutting the film while Amanda, Jason and I cleaned up locations, returned equipment,  finalized a lot of things so we could take a quick break and get caught up on sleep before Me and Jason started overseeing post production and the editing process with Mike our editor. I believe editing the first cut took Mike roughly 3 months. Then Covid hit, a lot of uncertainty of what's gonna happen, luckily we were in post and all our post vendors, sound design (Danny Knutson), editor (Mike Tang), award winning colorist (Mart Todd Osborne), vfx (Max Jordan) and music composer were safe working from their homes and self quarantining. We had an awesome award winning composer BC Smith working on music of the film and as we rough cut scenes we sent them over to him so he could work his magic and come up with the music while we were simultaneously polishing the edit. Jason and I bought a few monster sound packs and started putting together the sounds of the creatures in the film we liked and sent them over to Danny Knutsen our sound designer who tweaked them and did our foley work. Once we had picture lock we handed the film over to the amazing award winning colorist at MTO Color, Mark Todd Osborne and he really made the PNW woods vibrant colors shine through the film. Dave Howe at Bad Animal Studios in Seattle did a final re-mastering of the film.

EFF: What style did you try to print on the film, maybe any references to other movies?

PDT: There really wasn't a style I borrowed from other films, I was making a conscious effort to find my own style as a filmmaker and ultimately as a director discovering my style. There were a couple of references to or homages in the film from other favorite horror films but I won't spoil it for the viewers so watch it and you will see some references.

EFF: What was the hardest scene to shoot and why? Will we watch any extreme stunt scenes? 

PDT: There really was no hard scenes we shot, difficult at times, yes, but we had such an amazing crew on set with the camera and G&E departments that were so hands on and committed to get the shots we needed that I feel because of the hands on approach and crossover of departments working together that even if we had a difficult shot  it was mitigated because of the professionalism and can do attitude from everyone.

EFF: What camera did you use in the film and why?

PDT: For the day shots we used our cinematographer Ryan Purcell's Red Dragon and for the night shots we used our stedi-cam ops (Daniel Mimura) Red Gemini for the low light sensor. The Gemini was instrumental in keeping the colors of PNW forest at night and really added an element to our scenes that made them pop.
BTS "The Stairs"

EFF: As an indie filmmaker and taking in consideration the low budget usually an indie horror film can get, what is the most important thing an indie director needs to have in consideration when filming a horror movie?

PDT: There are several factors an indie filmmaker needs to consider. The main one obviously is your budget and how to get it back so you can keep making films. If you're making a short, which does not usually make money then have fun and make a short with the best story, performances and production value you can afford since this just might be what gets you funding for a feature or series. When shooting a feature get 1-2 well known actors for a day or two on set to help sell the film for distribution.

EFF. What kind of director consider yourself, directing actors, your crew, etc. Do you storyboard all the scenes?

PDT: That's a great question, I believe I am a good collaborator when it comes to actors, performers and crew. It takes a village and that means working together and open to others ideas as long as it doesn't sacrifice the vision of the director.

I wanted to storyboard this film but we were running out of time and needed to get right into shooting. In the PNW our fall is always rainy so we knew we had to go camera up as soon as possible to miss the inclement weather that always prevails late September early October. I had such a clear picture of the scenes in my head I felt confident enough to just get right into shooting, going forward though I will definitely take time to storyboard future projects because it does speed the process and helps all involved to know what is being shot and how.

EFF: Any anecdote from the shooting stage?

PDT: Captain Becky Stankus,  our stunt double for Stacy Oristano, had an interview the next morning and we had a long night shoot involving stunt rigging (our stunt rigger was Jeff McKraken) and it involved a lot of blood, that stains, so she went to her job interview the next morning with little to no sleep and blood stains all over her.

EFF: What are your inspiration: Directors or films?

PDT: My inspiration for stories comes from real life experiences, you can design fantastical stories but you need to add realness to them for the audience to relate, so I like to sprinkle a bit of reality to them, using events that happened to me or my friends. Directors - I mean of course Spielberg since I grew up watching all his films, but now that my tastes have matured a bit I would say Mendes, Villaneuve, Sophia Coppola. Aronofsky, and last but not least my favorites are the Coen Brothers. 

Films - When Fight club and Seven came out, I felt that there was a new revolution in a new style of great filmmaking on the horizon and there was!

I am a huge sci-fi nut so Blade Runner 2049 and Ex Machina as well as District 9, Edge of Tomorrow, Arrival, Event Horizon. I have an endless list of films that inspire me to be a better filmmaker.
BTS "The Stairs"

EFF: What advice would you give to those newbie filmmakers from your experience, i mean, during pre, production or post, any advice is gold.

PDT: Pre-Production - Storyboard your film or at the very least go through and put together a shot list with you and your DP. I did not storyboard (wish I had!) but Ryan Purcell (cinematographer) and I sat down and went over movements of each scene and drafted a shot list which becomes easier on set for your AD and the camera department.

Production - Don't let your EGO ruin a great experience or your career. Do not be afraid to ask your AD, DP or anyone on set you trust with asking for help, be it a shot, actor performance etc. everyone is there working and invested in the success of that project, so swallow your pride and ask for help, some great things come from collaboration.

Post-Production - I cannot emphasize this enough, post is the last phase of the creation process and treat it just as important if not the most important part of filmmaking. Sound design is the highest I think in my opinion, you can have a beautifully shot and performed film but if your sound design is off it makes it unwatchable. Colorist paints the palette of the film and sets the mood visually, do your research and get a good colorist. Composers add emotion to your film, if they do their job right like ours did, then the audience will be immersed in the experience. Editing is one of the biggest hangups for new filmmakers because of cost, most edit their own film, but I feel as a director writer you are too emotionally invested in certain shots even if they don't work cause in your mind you wanted it to work, trust the editor and make sure your film has pacing. It needs to flow. I guess my parting thought here is to trust the professionals.
Peter "Drago" Tiemann and Jason L Lowe

EFF: How have you lived this pandemic? Personally, Professionally...

PDT: It was interesting for sure, lots of uncertainty this past year. Luckily I had my film in post to keep me busy otherwise it probably would have been harder on my psyche. 

EFF: Are you a horror fan? What film do you like most?

PDT: I LOVE HORROR!!! I would sneak out after my mom went to bed, turn on the TV real low, careful not to wake her up and I would watch Elvira's show at midnight. I would say my go to film I can never get enough of is Evil Dead, it was groundbreaking with its humor and still holds up today.

EFF:  What new projects are you working on now, anything you can anticipate us now? 

PDT: My mind never stops with new ideas, I have dozens of sticky notes with loglines and ideas. On our boards we currently have a female driven action film, a couple of series, a WWII movie, a Western and several SCI-FI. Realistically in the immediate future we are developing a slasher flick as well as a prequel and sequel to The Stairs. 

EFF: If a producer gives you a chance to direct a horror film remake, what would it be and why? 

PDT: Oh man great question Elder. I always thought Scanners and C.H.U.D. both needs a reboot and  I've  always wanted to do a sequel to The Thing.

EFF : Would you like to say anything more?

PDT: Keep creating! If you can't film, at least keep writing and get those ideas down.  Thank you for having me on Elder, this was really fun for me.

**PETER "DRAGO" TIEMANN'S | IMDb Twitter  **

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