An Interview With ‘Anything For Jackson’ Director Justin G. Dyke And Writer Keith Cooper

June 11, 2021

Written by Kelli Marchman McNeely

Kelli Marchman McNeely - Horror Fuel CEO & Executive Producer Email: [email protected]


 
 
An official selection at the Fantasia Film Festival and winner of the “Best Actor Award” (Julian Richings) at the Blood in the Snow Film Festival, the “Certified Fresh” film  Anything for Jackson is set to land on VOD and Digital along with DVD and Blu-ray June 15th. We sat down with both director Justin G. Dyck and writer Keith Cooper to discuss the film.
 
 

 
 

In the film, starring “Supernatural’s” Julian Richings and Sheila McCarthy (Die Hard 2) as well as Konstantina Mantelos (A Christmas Crush), Josh Cruddas (Polar), and Yannick Bisson (Another Wolfcop), “after losing their only grandchild in a car accident, an elderly couple kidnaps a pregnant woman to perform a reverse exorcism in order to bring him back to life.”

 
Canadian filmmaker Justin G. Dyck makes his horror debut with Anything for Jackson, after a long career in family-friendly films such as A Christmas Exchange and Witches Ball, which Keith Cooper also wrote.
 
 


 
 
 
Kelli McNeely: “Keith, how did Anything for Jackson come to be? I’m fascinated with how stories and movies are born.”
 
Keith Cooper: “It’s kind of a funny story. It came from a lie like every movie does. We were pitching a different movie, a different script that we were shopping around and they asked if we had anything in the supernatural world. So of course I said, ‘We do.’ I started driving home and an hour and twenty minutes later came up with Anything for Jackson. That’s how we got started. I put together what they call a one-page and sent that back right away.”
 
Kelli McNeely: “That’s a great story. That was really thinking on your feet.  No matter how the story was born, it’s a good one. Justin, tell us about your vision once you heard what Keith came up with.”
 
Justin G. Dyke: “It was really nice that I was there from the beginning. It took a while with us throwing ideas around. Keith would write ten or fifteen pages and send them my way. It was great. I could read a few pages and say it would be nice it went in this direction or that direction. We went back and forth until we got it. I have this feeling of connection with the project so that’s really nice. We really wanted a grounded film. We wanted it to feel real. When it comes to Satanists, do you think they’re going to be in a cave in the woods? No, they’re going to be in a house like everyone else. We listened to podcasts by Satanists, we wanted to be very authentic like this is exactly how this would go.”
 
 
Kelli McNeely: “I understand. I always appreciate realism and it’s amazing that you two went to the lengths you two did to provide that.
The characters feel very real. What was the casting process like?”
 
Justin G. Dyke: “Thank you. I saw a movie starring Sheila McCarthy and wanted her in it so we wrote the script as if she was playing Audrey. Through a mutual friend, I was able to get the script to Shelia and she read it in a couple of days and got back to us and she loved it. She said that once we got financing to let her know. Maybe she was being polite, but we got financing and she signed on. After that, it was a lot easier to cast it. We got Julian Richings, who is known for his work on the Murdoch Mysteries. The rest, I knew from some of our Christmas movie world. So many great actors.”
 
Kelli McNeely: “I’m a big fan of Mr. Richings, he played Death in “Supernatural” after all. And he has such a unique presence. Sheila was in one of my favorite movies, The Day After Tomorrow. The entire cast did a fantastic job in Anything for Jackson.
 
Justin G. Dyke: “Yeah. It was really fun to put him in that leading man role. We got him right up front and center. He was a lot of fun.”
 
Kelli McNeely: “He’s is talented.
The effects are well done. Can you tell us about your approach with them?”
 
Keith Cooper: “I think it was a good combination, you know, practical and digital. Luckily, I have a background in digital, in computer animation. I’m more than just a screenwriter. We kind of knew ahead of time what we were gonna do. It was nice just knowing that they were going to work. We were more than honored to work with Karlee Morse on a couple of other projects and her talent is through the roof and we were so grateful. She went above and beyond and she created some amazing monsters for us. All of her special effects makeup were so great.”
 
Justin G. Dyke: “Yeah, I think she just posted a bunch of behind the scenes stuff on her Instagram.”
 
Kelli McNeely: “Oh, awesome. I’ll have to check that out. I love that the practical effects and the CGI effects meet to make this fantastic creation.”
 
Justin G. Dyke: “There are times these days where you have to use CGI when we put things in when we used green screens. Anytime there’s a scare or monster or blood, that has to be practical. Luckily, we had someone like Karlee to do it.”
 
Kelli McNeely: I appreciate that, horror fans appreciate that. There are those times though that adding a little digital effect help make those moments scarier, so good job Keith.”
 
Justin G. Dyke: “It’s getting so much harder now, right? Know your up against the Avengers. So when you have a monster you compare it to the Avengers. It’s really hard to compete.”
 
Kelli McNeely: “I get it. The technology they use is insane. But storytelling will always be important. Speaking of stories, it could not have been easy writing this film to reveal both the point of view of the couple and the mother while making viewers feel sorry for all of them. How did you write it and keep things from getting convoluted?”
 
Keith Cooper: “I like to try and tell everyone’s perspective in the movie as much as I can. Obviously, you don’t want to do it too much. Originally, I started writing it more from Shannon Beker’s point of view. I think I was on like page five or six when I sent it back to Justin. We thought it would be better to tell it from the couple’s point of view. Then, Shannon really becomes the star, so it was really important to me to tell her point of view. We really wanted the audience to bond with Shanon. It really became a story in mind of Henry and Audrey and that Shannon’s along for the ride.”
 
Kelli McNeely: “I appreciate it any time my emotions get involved when I’m watching a movie, whether it’s crying or anger, and I felt many things while watching Anything for Jackson. I understood where the couple was coming from and I understood the fear and panic Beker was experiencing. I felt sorry for both which is odd because two of the characters were doing horrible things. I don’t experience that much these days, I’ve become a bit jaded. So thank you for that.”
 
Keith Cooper: “That was our goal.”
 
Justin G. Dyke: “That’s exactly what we wanted. If you want to make an audience cry it’s no problem, give the puppy cancer. But if you can make the kidnappers, who are doing a bunch of horrific things, make the audience feel for them, then you’ve really accomplished something. We certainly made it harder on ourselves, but I think we accomplished it quite well. And created confusion about what is right and what’s wrong.”
 
Kelli McNeely: “You two did accomplish that well. Here’s a hard question. What were your favorite characters and why?”
 
Justin G. Dyke: “I think my favorite character is Audrey. Why? There are so many reasons. She’s so complex. She is your typical very supportive wife and mother, but she is very much running things around here. The way Sheila walks that line between this very maternal person who also has very strong feelings about how this is going to go. She is a delight to watch.”
 
Keith Cooper: “That’s a very good point and I love Audrey as well, but I think I’m going to have to go with Detective Bellows. I wrote her, not one dimensional, but not particularly layered, and Lanette Ware really commanded the room and I liked the character a lot more as I watched the movie. At every edit, I wanted to see more of her.”
 
Kelli McNeely: “Both are great choices, both are great characters. Personally, I’m going to have to go with Richings’ Henry. He just has such a presence and you could really feel his struggle with what was going on. But all of the cast did a fantastic job. How was it working with the young kid in the film? I imagine that couldn’t be easy, working with such a young actor especially in a horror film.”
 
Justin G. Dyke: “Dax was great. His family was very understanding. He hasn’t done a lot of films but he was very easy to work with. I think Dax was like six months younger than my son. So I had a familiarity with that age.”
 
Keith Cooper: “They had to put a prosthetic on the back of his head and his family had rules like that he couldn’t look in a mirror because they didn’t want him to see it and get all weirded out by it. As he marches onto set he starts chasing everyone and he would jump and turn around and yell, ‘Spooky!’ with this gross, bloody thing on the back of his head [laughter]. He loved having grownups go ‘Eww!’ He’d laugh his head off. He was delightful.”
 
Kelli McNeely: “That’s funny. I love it. My kind of kid. Whenever I see a kid in a horror movie I always wonder how it affects them in real life.”
 
Justin G. Dyke: “They really have limited time on set so that they don’t get scared. Everyone is usually in pretty good spirits on set.”
 
Kelli McNeely: “Speaking of sets, did you film on set or in a real house?”
 
Keith Cooper: “We filmed at a house. The main house is my house. A couple of scenes in Audrey’s room were filmed at Justin’s. The only set that we built was Jackson’s bedroom.”
 
Kelli McNeely: “Really? That’s cool. I guess it was a short commute to work, that’s nice [laughter].”
 
Justin G. Dyke: “It made the five AM call time doable [laughter]. ”
 
Kelli McNeely: “5 AM? Yeah, that would help.
The pandemic affected so many films. Was Anything for Jackson one of them? ”
 
Keith Cooper: “It affected the editing.”
 
Justin G. Dyke: “Yeah, We wrapped on March 13th, 2020, so we wrapped just in time. But then with the editing, things changed completely and we had come up with a brand new post-production process because everyone was stuck at home and we couldn’t work together. So, we did it remotely. We had a very clever editor who streamed the edits on Twitch, where you normally watch people play video games, I guess. So, yes post-production was quite wild. But I’d rather do that than get hit with a delay.”
 
Kelli McNeely: “I’ve talked to a lot of filmmakers who were affected and I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve heard of someone doing that. Ya’ll got creative. I applaud you for that. That’s determination.”
 
Kelli McNeely: “Have you two already found your next projects?”
 
Justin G. Dyke: “Luckily, we’ve got a lot of doors open to us because people seem to be liking Anything for Jackson, which is great. We’ve some great representation, we’ve great a great team behind us. But we’ve got something we can’t talk about yet. We’re both very proud of it. There is lots more coming.”
 
Kelli McNeely: “I’m very glad to hear that.
 
Kelli McNeely: “Anything for Jackson is about to land on Blu-ray, right?”
 
Justin G. Dyke: “Yeah.”
 
Keith Cooper: “It’s out on Blu-ray and DVD on June 15th.”
 
Kelli McNeely: “Awesome! I can’t wait to hear what our readers think. I know you can pre-order it now on Amazon Prime and it’s also out now on AMC+.”
 
Keith Cooper: “That’s right.”
 
 
Kelli McNeely: “I’m happy to hear that. I’m excited to see what y’all come up with next.”
 
 
Justin G. Dyke and Keith Cooper created such a unique and gripping film with Anything for Jackson which we called “entertaining, clever, and filled with the things horror fans crave.” Be sure to grab your copy on Blu-ray, DVD, or Digital on June 15th.
 
Follow Justin G. Dyke and Keith Cooper on Instagram to stay up to date on all their projects and stay tuned, something tells me we’re going to see a lot more great films from the duo.
 
 

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