Tim O’Leary talks LGBT horror series Demonhuntr

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We recently featured news of LGBT horror web series Demonhuntr which is currently crowdfunding.

Creator Tim O’Leary recently spared us the time to answer a few questions on the series.

Tell us where the idea came from for Demonhuntr?

I’d been kicking around the idea of Demonhuntr ever since moving to LA, so about five years now. I moved here from New York, and the cities are so different. There’s a vibe in LA that really lends itself to the supernatural, somehow.

I’m a big fan of the Scooby Doo template of “a group of scrappy young people solve supernatural mysteries,” and have always wanted to see something like that with a group of LGBT characters. The idea of the plot centering on an app came a little later when my husband (Robert Rice, who plays Harold in Demonhuntr) and my good friend started an app-based business. We were kind of “all app, all the time” in our home for a little while, and it ended up being a good story prompt for me.

Was it always your intention to have a story with an LGBT cast?

Yep. Totally. I’m surprised with how much pushback there’s been about that, actually, although I think that’s mostly from online trolls. You’d think in 2019 people would be cool with the idea of a mostly-queer roster headlining an action-oriented show. But the fact that there has been pushback from people uncomfortable with the idea jus goes to show how much a project like this is still sorely needed.

How hard was it to assemble the cast for the series?

Brutal. Absolutely brutal.

Haha, no, just kidding. It was actually a wonderful experience. It’s always easier to cast indie projects with people you know and has worked with before, so writing roles for my co-producer Allie Rivera as well as my husband was a no-brainer. But for the lead guys as well as some of the other members of the team, I was looking for certain qualities that weren’t a perfect match with my normal stable of actors, so we opened it up to auditions.

We saw some amazing actors, and my heart broke we couldn’t cast them all. But specifically, when Edmund Truong (Daniel), Tamario Fletcher (Jeremy), and Cara Mitsuko (Quinn) gave their auditions, we basically all knew instantly we wanted them for the roles. They were perfect.

What sort of demons will they be coming up against?

This is my favorite thing to talk about!

After I came up with the concept and a few of the storylines, I brought my friend Zach Nycum in to help break some stories and write a couple episodes. He’s an awesome writer and we can speak in a horror-geek shorthand, which is essential.

When we really started cracking down, my one big mandate was “No vampires, no werewolves, no zombies.” I had three reasons for this: one, they’ve all been done so much that there’s nothing new we can bring to the lore.

Two, there’s no way we could ever compete with the budgets of the big tentpole movies featuring these creatures, so why do that to ourselves?

And three, I’m a huge mythology nerd. I wanted to see creatures I’ve read about in books but never seen on screen. In Demonhuntr, we define “demon” as any magical, non-human being with intent to harm, so that net is pretty wide. We don’t mean it in the Christian, servant-of-Satan, lives-in-hell sense.

Every creature our heroes come up against is from real mythology – we tinker with their characteristics in some circumstances, but we don’t invent anything outright. In the first season, we see sirens, a djinn, an incubus, a golem, and more. They’re all based on real folklore from all across the globe.

Do you feel there is a gap in the market for this type of series?

Absolutely. Our show is first and foremost a fun, sexy, horror-comedy with a ton of kung fu. But it is also very inclusive and diverse, which is something we don’t see enough of.

People push back and say there are queer characters and characters of color on shows like Sabrina, Ash vs. the Evil Dead, etc. And it’s true – there are, and that’s awesome.

But have you heard of the Bechdel test? It’s a metric to judge the treatment of female characters in a script by asking if there are more than two named female characters, if they ever talk to each other, and if they do, it asks if their conversation is about something other than a man.

It’s staggering how many shows and movies don’t pass that test. But you can also apply it to queer characters and characters of color, and the results are just as bleak.

How many genre shows can you name that have two or more queer characters that talk to each other about something other than straight people? Or two or more characters of color that talk to each other about something other than white people?

Demonhuntr presents a world where sexism, racism, and homophobia don’t exist. So, it’s kind of a utopia… except with the whole, you know, monsters killing people thing.

How has the crowdfunding campaign been going?

Well, first let me say crowdfunding campaigns are not for the faint of heart. It is tough. It’s a ton of work every day. There are five of us on our team (Allie, Robert, Zach, and producer James Stanley) and we’ve hired a campaign director (Leah Cevoli), and even with all those hands on deck, it’s still rough as hell.

But there’s an upside to it, and that’s getting to see, in real time, the outpouring of love and support for a project like this. I know I’m not going to win the Nobel Prize for Drama with Demonhuntr – that will most likely come from my next project, MonsterSquashr – but from the positive reactions, it’s pretty clear there’s a real demand for stories like this, and that’s wonderful to see.

The horror community has been especially welcoming of us, which is really awesome. There’s just something so cool about horror fans – they really show up and support projects in a way that not a lot of other fandoms do. In the Internet tear-down culture we live in, there’s a lot of negativity, and this sense by some fans that they’re owed projects that will entertain them in exactly the way they want. But the horror community is different – they rally behind indie projects and support each other and go see films in theaters. For a fandom centered around fear and seeing decapitations and stuff, there’s a lot of beauty in it.

When do you expect to release Demonhuntr?

Once we hit our goal, we go right into pre-production, and will most likely shoot this fall. Post-production always goes way longer than you expect, so my guess is the earliest this will come out is the summer of 2020. But don’t hold me to that!

Tell us about a typical day on set?

Right now, all of our shooting days are for promotional material, so they largely consist of me asking my hard-working actors to take their shirts off so we can use the image as a thumbnail and get clicks on Youtube.

Seriously, though, shooting has been a blast. Being on set is my favorite place to be. We’ve been focusing on our Monster Mondays, which are little vignettes we release every Monday where a victim is hounded by an unseen demon, and they get in touch with one of the demon hunters. The victim describes the monster, and then we let the audience guess what it is. We reveal the answer the next day for our Trivia Tuesday videos. And then we have fun interview-style Feature Friday videos where people can get to know the cast and crew a bit more.

We also had way too much fun shooting our pitch video for Seed & Spark

 

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