Glenn Douglas Packard was raised on a farm but left the rural life behind, and made a career as a professional dancer and choreographer. He has since worked with musicians such as P!nk, Ricky Martin, Brian McKnight, and Usher, and was even hired to choreograph the television event, Michael Jackson’s 30th Anniversary Celebration. Now, as a lifelong fan of horror and slasher films, Packard has co-written and directed his first film, a horror movie titled Pitchfork. And though Pitchfork has only been recently released, it is already getting a lot of praise from the horror community for its originality and how it uses a LGBTQ character. Wanting to learn more about Packard’s career and Pitchfork, he was awesome enough to allow me to interview him for ScifiPulse.
To learn more about Packard, you can visit his homepage and follow him on twitter at @glennpackard. Additionally, you can watch Pitchfork on these platforms: YouTube, Time Warner’s Spectrum, VUDU, Amazon, DirecTV, and iTunes.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, when did you know that you wanted to have a career in the entertainment industry? Was there a specific movie or musician that you think pushed you the most in this direction?
Glenn Douglas Packard: I grew up on a small town so I wasn’t exactly surrounded by entertainers, more like cows. <laughter> But when I went to the movies, I was drawn to them from the opening scene to the end crawl. Even at a young age my parents would want to leave the movie theatre and I would tell them, ‘we can’t leave till the end credits are over’. I was so intrigued with what it took to make that film. John Hughes and Sam Raimi were early influences to me as directors and telling stories through film.
Yanes: In addition to being a director, you have a successful career as a dancer and choreographer. Could you take a moment to describe how being a choreographer has helped you become a director?
Packard: Being a choreographer and creative director for sure helped. Working with some of the biggest names in the industry and them trusting me with their stage shows were step it up to the captain of the ship kind of roles, how to work with a team of individuals, which is always important when directing, because if you just have a dick for a director or a person not passionate about the project, it usually suffers. Michael Jackson’s 30th Anniversary Celebration on CBS was my first big break with being in charge of such a huge televised event, and it got me my Emmy Nomination. That moment I knew anything was possible if you work hard enough.
Yanes: You actively promote gay rights, and you have worked with GLAAD and other LGBTQ organizations. Horror movies have a particularly troubling history of representing LGBTQ characters. What are some steps you think writers and directors can take to better depict LGBTQ characters?
Packard: Write interesting and believable queer characters. We are a big diverse group of individuals, and it would be nice to see all the different gay stereo types represented in horror. The main character, Hunter, is a gay person from a small town, who had recently moved to the big city of NYC. In the film, we see him coming back to his small town to confront his parents, which he recently had come out to; that’s a scary thing all in itself.
So even though he knows who he is, he just came back to the place where as a kid he had been bullied; so you go back into the being that insecure kid all over again. But as the movie goes along you see him transform on screen to the strong kick ass final gay trying his best to save his family. But I didn’t feel the need to keep waving the rainbow flag with the character throughout the whole film, at one point in the film he is simply another human being just trying to stay alive and help others. That was important for me to show in the film and hope that the LGBTQ community realized that.
Yanes: What was the inspiration behind your movie, Pitchfork? Were there any classic horror movies that you looked to for inspiration?
Packard: Pitchfork is an homage to all the classic horror films of the late 70’s and the 80’s. Even how the film was made is an homage. Back then they didn’t have these big stars or big budgets. Pitchfork was made with one camera in 21 days, it was filmed at my family farm with a group of friends and skeleton crew on a micro budget, a perfect formula for the kind of feel I wanted with the first PITCHFORK film. He is a character people will end up loving at the end of the movie. They will want more of him, and even more of his journey and back story. I hope that at some point, even if he is the baddest ass slasher ,we all are cheering on the villain just like Jason, Michael, Freddy – love them all – but I have always felt like it’s time for some newer slasher franchises. Pitchfork is created for that role of being a new slasher in horror cinema.
Yanes: You were raised on a dairy farm. And though rural landscapes can be quite beautiful, they can also be terrifying when you find yourself alone with no one around for miles. Also, rural communities can be stuck in the past. So, how did being raised on a farm shape Pitchfork?
Packard: Yay, I can tell you I have some good scary stories that have happen to me and my family living out on that farm. That stone house and all the barns, land, cabins in the movie was where I grew up and my parents still own it all. I lived a lot of adventures out there. I played Friday the 13th out in the woods with siblings and friends. My brother and nephew are even thinking of opening up a ‘Survival’ themed event out there in the dark Michigan backwoods, where contestants would try to survive a weekend of horror, it’s a Survivor meets Pitchfork type of experience. That would be a blast! Sign me up! <laughter>
Yanes: How did you go about designing Pitchfork? From start to finish, were there any elements of the character that had to be dropped due to the budget or other constraints?
Packard: Well he had been in my head for over seven years, so I knew what he looked like. I knew he was feral, very animal like. I knew I wanted his hand to be a pitchfork, and imagined it all wrapped up with barbwire. Now to execute it I had faith in a young women I found on Instagram, and a young man that was just finishing make up special effects schooling that I knew in Las Vegas – Candy Domme [Candy’s Instagram] & Chris Arredondo [Chris’s Instagram]. They would work the first few days perfecting his look and making sure it was all workable to the actor and the scenes. When the moment came for Pitchfork to come onto set, they had given me exactly what I had hoped for with what we had to work with. Pitchfork was alive and it was such a rush to see him come to life, I love the two of them for making that happen.
Yanes: An aspect of Pitchfork that stood out to me was how he moved. How did you go about deciding how Pitchfork would move and what his overall posture would be?
Packard: Well I went back and forth with am I making him more Kane Hodder of Fridays or more like the Sean Harris of Creep (2004). As you see, I went with the Creep kinda character, which Daniel Wilkinson played perfectly. We spent hours on the phone talking and preparing for the moment Pitchfork was to come to life. Daniel brought a lot of how Pitchfork should move ideas to the table. He is an actor very aware of his body which was so important to me since the character could really only communicate through movement and his eyes.
Yanes: When people finish watching Pitchfork, what do you hope that they take away from it?
Packard: Well, I would hope they first see how talented this cast was; not only beautiful, but some of them, if you look, danced well in the film. We have some major triple treats in the cast, along with some really strong performances in the film. I’m hoping people get more involved into the character of Pitchfork himself, along with the relationships between the kids and their parents. I also think that if viewers knew about what it took to make a film from the ground up they would be inspired. I would want them to know that dreams can happen, if you are invested enough in the subject and know it well you can make it a reality.
Yanes: What are your long term goals for Pitchfork? Specifically, do you see it as a franchise in its own right or as a steppingstone to movies with larger budgets?
Packard: Fork yeah! I have always seen Pitchfork as a trilogy, a new slasher character up there with the likes of Jason, Michael, Jigsaw, Ghostface, Pinhead, Freddy…come on, of course I want to see JASON VS. PITCHFORK one day while I’m still above ground.
Yanes: Finally, what are you currently working on that people can look forward to?
Packard: Besides my choreography gigs here and there, I am in the process of pitching a few new projects; all horror related to some of the television networks. There is a huge market for it right now, along with a movie musical with an iconic artist’s music. Also working on a project this year called “The Institute,” mentoring young performance artists in Michigan.
Remember, you can learn more about Packard by visiting his homepage and following him on twitter at @glennpackard. Additionally, you can watch Pitchfork on these platforms: YouTube, Time Warner’s Spectrum, VUDU, Amazon, DirecTV, and iTunes.