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Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
October 15, 2008 [introduction revised November 3, 2008]

While promoting his horror movie Splinter, a big winner at the 2008 Screamfest Horror Film Festival, director Toby Wilkins spoke briefly about his involvement with Sam Raimi's production company Ghost House Pictures and their sequel project The Grudge 3, a follow-up to the two American Grudge films helmed by Takashi Shimizu. In this excerpt from our exclusive interview, Wilkins recounts his history with Ghost House and the experience of stepping into an established franchise.

The Grudge 3, which has already been completed, stars Saw's Shawnee Smith and is expected to debut on DVD in 2009. Meanwhile, Splinter is playing in theaters now in limited release.

The Interview Before directing The Grudge 3, you worked on the Tales from the Grudge shorts. Were those primarily for internet promotion, or for DVD extras?

TOBY: It was for the web. It was to promote the movie before The Grudge 2 came out. And it's sort of one of the milestones in my relationship with Ghost House Pictures, which is what led to Grudge 3. In 2005, my short film Staring at the Sun played at Screamfest, where Splinter is premiering tonight. And Ghost House Pictures were on the judging panel for the film festival. And Staring at the Sun ended up winning the festival, and sort of brought me to the attention of Ghost House Pictures, who then commissioned me to do a 2-minute, thousand dollar short film for them, which ended up being Mousetrap, which I'm kind of happy with. It was just a little sort of tiny, tiny horror movie. And then [we] grew the relationship into doing the three shorts to promote The Grudge 2, just before it came out. They were launched on the internet, to mixed use. They were on cable and they were on the DVD, and they were all over the place. So they were being sort of widely distributed just to get people's awareness of the existence of the second movie, and to sort of lay the groundwork for the idea that the Grudge curse could expand. And then after that, I went on to do the Devil's Trade mini-series for FEARnet and Ghost House, which, again, was another sort of internet, video-on-demand, instantaneous worldwide-type release, and as experimental in its very nature as the Grudge shorts were.

In working on The Grudge 3, did you enjoy a creative freedom similar to what you experienced with the shorts, or were you very restricted by a specific framework that had to be tied to the first two Grudge movies?

The two projects are totally different. I can tell you that. But I enjoy stepping into other people's shoes (especially shoes that are as hard to fill as Takashi Shimizu's) just as much as I enjoy doing something original. I find the prospects of telling a story within any genre or any medium or any framework or set of restrictions to be the challenge that excites me. And I've, in the past, set my own restrictions that are much more constraining than anything I've been forced to do by the constraints of physical production. [laughs] Just because on my short films, I'm self-financing, and I know what resources are at my disposal. So really, the arrival of new parameters that are set by someone else makes my job, if anything, slightly easier, because I don't have to come up with what the parameters are. [laughs]

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