Footage finds way into POV redux


You know the adage, right? “The person who believes most in your project is you.” It’s the philosophy upon which all productive activity is built from scratch. C-U Blogfidential has offered these kinds of stories for years, centered on individuals and teams who hammered out game plans based on the ideal they could become working filmmakers with a mix of hard labor, constant practice, networking skills, effective collaboration, canny application of talents, a heap of as-you-go business experience, and a constant sprinkling of good luck. So, how do you advance along these lines when more or less flying solo based on geographic location, lack of immediate peers trained in the craft, minimal educational resources that apply, and a desire to stick with the comforts of a home base not teeming with relevant industry or “a scene” to draw from? One southern Illinois couple provides today’s example, channeling an upbeat attitude and outgoing nature into an expanding sideline that is all based on a creepy property, so to speak, that keeps on opening doors for them. We could say they’re owners of their own destiny.

Jed and Cassondra Brian live in Sumner, which is located just on our side of the Illinois-Indiana border in Lawford County, and is set about equidistant between Terre Haute and Evansville. The town has a population under 4,000 per Wikipedia and is neighbors with numerous other communities on the smaller side. Residents have to drive roughly a half hour to see a movie, either to the Eagle Theater in Robinson or an AMC ‘plex in Vincennes, and academic resources in the area are similarly scattered, often outreach branches of the University of Illinois and the like. In this age of streaming video and the internet, one can certainly soak up instruction and “how we did it” testimonials on all aspects of the filmmaking process from wherever one lives, as well as binge-watch classic fare to study their strengths. However, it typically takes a village – well, a band of roving creatives with common goals in mind – to make a movie in the flesh, and you don’t necessarily need an “in” to figure out how to get it done.



With enough confidence under their belts after putting together shorts and contest entries, Jed and his buddies took a stab at the found-footage thriller by relying on what they knew and had access to. This included an unoccupied rental property in Sumner, the kind of older residence that silently screams “Photograph me!” to anyone who actually listens. As happens in many a horror film, young people dismiss a local urban legend and explore the scene of a recent crime only to pay for it when the perpetrator returns for more mayhem. UNLISTED OWNER efficiently ticks off the boxes of what viewers expect from this kind of low-budget production, but it does so with energy and a can-do cast and crew who were presumably stoked to be involved with something not the norm in little Sumner. Jed, Brian Perrott, and others needed two years to shape UNLISTED OWNER and a few more to finally gain distribution on disc and at streaming sites, first through the Tomcat Films subsidiary of Summer Hill Entertainment in 2017 and then J.R. Bookwalter’s venture into manufacture-on-demand (MOD) media, Makeflix, in 2019.

During this later period, Jed and Cassondra married and started a family while holding down jobs, his as a parts seller for field equipment in the Illinois Basin and hers as an esthetician-in-training at the Salon Professional Academy branch in Evansville. The movie projects have kept coming, though, with Cassondra lending her skills as a make-up artist and occasional actress to Jed’s creations. This includes UNLISTED OWNER: DIRECTORS CUT, a new edit with roughly 10 additional minutes of material about the night the Owner (Levi Atkins) came home, released by specialty label POV Horror in time for Halloween; it keeps providing Sumner a spotlight and the Brians a growing presence in the indie horror world. Today, we engage Jed in a long-overdue CUBlog conversation about this film and others he and Cassondra have worked on, including the seasonal anthology 13 SLAYS TILL X-MAS and one of the first ever “made-for-NFT” genre shorts, TRICK NOT TREAT, and tease what the future holds for them.

Their adventure is a nice reminder of what is possible in film if you’re willing to put in the effort. UNLISTED OWNER: DIRECTORS CUT can be rented or purchased today at Amazon Prime Video, and the MOD DVD edition from Makeflix is still available in limited quantities and at a discount.

~ Jason Pankoke


Read on, MacDuff…


C-U Blogfidential: Jed, thanks for taking some time out of your schedule to talk about your current projects.

Jed Brian: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me!

CUBlog: Let’s start with the big one, even though it is essentially a revisit of the original one. What led you to update your first feature UNLISTED OWNER as a “director’s cut,” and how does it differ (sans spoilers) from the original version that was released a few years ago?

JB: When I was first approached by our new distributor, POV Horror, one of the things they wanted was a director’s cut with new footage. I knew there had been questions people had wanted to know the answers to with the original release. So, we tried to do that along with adding some more mystery to it!

CUBlog: POV Horror’s trailer for UNLISTED OWNER flirts with this, as it features a handful of internet “talking heads” discussing the events of the massacre as we originally saw in what the characters recorded. How is the premise of DIRECTORS CUT [sic] shifted from the original, apart from what looks like a new framing device? Is anything altered or lengthened from what happened “that night”?

JB: Without giving a lot away, there are a few added sequences from the night’s events, but we were limited to not having access to the house location and time not being on our side. [Incidentally, w]e started filming UNLISTED OWNER 10 years ago this month [in October].

CUBlog: Your wife Cassondra plays a role in this edition with the special effects. Can you talk a bit about her training and passions in make-up that have led her to joining you on the sets of more recent films?

JB: I am so proud of what she has been able to accomplish with just learning stuff on her own. She has always done beauty make-up, and in 2017 I talked her into trying to see if she could do some horror effects make-up. She killed it! When we started working on new projects or the director’s cut, it was the perfect set-up for her to show her talents. And, she did fantastic!

CUBlog: I’ve looked through the catalog of POV Horror and Found Footage Critic since you announced UNLISTED OWNER was returning. Contextually, the partnership with POV makes perfect sense. How did this come about?

JB: They had reached out to me after my last distribution deal was up and asked about me doing a possible director’s cut. I’m excited to see what everyone thinks of the new things we added!



CUBlog: Hopefully, the fans and new visitors will take a tour with UNLISTED OWNER soon! Are there plans to offer DIRECTORS CUT on other services than Amazon or on physical media?

JB: We are actually working on getting a VHS release! I know it sounds crazy, but VHS releases are still happening with indie horror.

CUBlog: That’s right! Who knew that movie-watchers would still be willing to rewind here in 2021? Maybe we should now flash back and discuss the beginnings of UNLISTED OWNER. How did you decide to get into filmmaking, and what is it about the process or product that interests you?

JB: Ever since I was a kid, I have loved scary movies and going to haunted houses. It wasn’t until I was right out of high school and saw Eli Roth’s HOSTEL [that I was inspired] that horror can be more than just monsters. So, I started coming up with different ideas for films I would like to see that deal with real-life horror.

CUBlog: Did you have any formal training or schooling in production before UNLISTED OWNER?

JB: I went to ITT Tech[nical Institute] while it was still a “thing.” It introduced me to editing, but the rest I learned on my own.

CUBlog: When did you decide to go for it with your first feature?

JB: I started out making a teaser trailer for a script I had called “Meth House” just to test and see what I was capable of. Then, our next project was a GoDaddy commercial contest in which we got eighth [place] out of 539 videos. After that, I felt comfortable enough to try for a feature film using all local resources from southeastern Illinois, so I wrote a script around what we had available that became UNLISTED OWNER.

CUBlog: Tell us a bit about the region of Illinois where you made the film. Is this where you live and/or grew up?

JB: UNLISTED OWNER was filmed entirely in my hometown of Sumner, Illinois.

CUBlog: Is narrative film or television a common or scarce activity there?

JB: I’m pretty sure this is the first film that has ever been shot in Lawford County, so I’m pretty proud of that. Other than UNLISTED OWNER, I don’t think much has been filmed here yet.

We do have our share of ghost stories and urban legends from Elizabeth “Betsey” Reed, the first woman hung in Illinois, to the Purple Head Bridge, also known as the Wabash Cannonball Bridge – that’s an old train bridge going over the Wabash River that cars can drive across. Pretty spooky, especially at night!

I know one thing, one hundred percent – southern Illinois is the perfect place for a horror movie.



CUBlog: How did you go about recruiting your cast and crew for UNLISTED OWNER?

JB: Believe it or not, the main cast was actually my friends. Gavin [Groves], Tyler [Landers, who co-wrote the film], and Brent [Perrott, credited for cinematography, editing, and much of the post-production work] are three of my closest friends. Griffin [Groves] is Gavin’s brother and Andrea [Warner, née Potts], I had known for years. [Haidee Corona-Toll] was attending Vincennes University [in Indiana] at the time and was friends with Andrea [so] we had her try out for the part. She did great!

CUBlog: It has been more than 20 years since THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT became a hit and also synonymous with “found footage” horror. UNLISTED OWNER follows that tradition. Why did you decide to use this device?

JB: The main reason was funding. When shooting something in the “found footage” style, you really cut out cost of having to rent expensive cameras and lenses, plus you cut the cost of extra crew that you need for a traditional way of filming.

CUBlog: What were the good and not-so-good aspects of telling a story in this way?

JB: For UNLISTED OWNER, a major challenge for me was being not only an actor and director, but also being in control of the camera. Having to balance directing everyone, not only remembering everyone’s lines but also speaking your own and making sure the camera is in focus, is a huge challenge. Also, if you have an effects-driven sequence you are wanting to show, you are limited to one angle to show it from. Plus, a horror film without a musical score is a major challenge on its own. In most horror movies, the music makes the movie so you are taking away a huge tool in making a horror film [effective].

CUBlog: Where did you find the house that is the main setting of the story?

JB: The house is actually in Sumner. As long as I can remember, I have always thought that house was so cool and had so much character to it! I’m so blessed to be able to use it in my first feature film.

CUBlog: Speaking of setting, I wanted to ask you about how you built a sense of dread as the movie went along. Even when the partiers are out in the woods, the movie is claustrophobic and that transfers neatly when they get to the house. How did you approach the “cinema verité” aspect of the photography; how much of the result was planned versus “accidental” that worked in the film’s favor?

JB: It was very much planned. I wanted this film to be a drama/horror instead of just a horror. I wanted the audience to follow this group of people on their journey and show how a few poor decisions can destroy your lives forever. I wanted this to feel real instead of being all over the place. I wanted it to be filmed like you are on this journey with them from start to finish.



CUBlog: Post-production and distribution were apparently drawn out for UNLISTED OWNER. In a nutshell, what did it take to get it into releasable shape and how did you land [the initial] release on both physical media and video-on-demand (VOD)?

JB: It was a bit of a journey [in itself] but well worth the wait in the end! After not having luck on the film festival route, we learned about the American Film Market (AFM) in Santa Monica, California. We screened UNLISTED OWNER twice at AFM [in November 2015], after which we were given different offers and signed with Summer Hill Films. It was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD [under the Tomcat Films label].

We had an amazing release for an indie film [in the fall of 2017], breaking the Amazon “top 10” for hot new horror releases on DVD! Going up against THE WALKING DEAD, IT, and 47 METERS DOWN was a huge accomplishment for us.

CUBlog: What was the most satisfying aspect of creating UNLISTED OWNER?

JB: Most satisfying as sitting in a room with 110 people [and] watching the movie for the first time. Knowing that something I dreamed up in my head was now on screen for all to see. That was a huge moment for me.

CUBlog: Promoting the film has led you to making appearances and tabling at conventions and screenings. What’s it been like to welcome fans that come up to you and talk to you about what you do?

JB: To be on the other side of the table, having people buying signed posters and movies from you, is still hard for me to believe! I had a fan drive from Chicago to Indianapolis to meet me once, that was such a great feeling to know the art you made impacted someone that much.

CUBlog: And, how much did you really dig Heather Donahue from THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT when you got to meet her at a show?

JB: Heather is wonderful! We happened to be seated across from her at Days of the Dead [held in Louisville, Kentucky, in August 2019] and hung out with her all weekend. She is such an amazing person, I can’t say enough about her! The convention did a live stream with her, and she had myself and actor Griffin Groves from UNLISTED OWNER appear with her for the live stream! Still my top favorite con moment ever!



CUBlog: Now the question is, “Is the journey complete for UNLISTED OWNER?” Again, without divulging too much, do the questions that are answered in DIRECTORS CUT, which has been available on Amazon Prime Video since early October, negate a follow-up movie if the stars align?

JB: I do have a concept for a “Part 2,” but have other projects I would love to tackle first before attempting that.

CUBlog: Totally understood. Until then, you have been active making shorts and movie segments in the horror and thriller vein since. What do you like about the short subject format, and do you prefer it over full-length storytelling or vice versa?

JB: The shorts are nice because you can usually fill it all in a day or less but with a full-length, once you complete it, you get a huge sense of accomplishment. To make something that is over an hour long and a full story, it’s such a great feeling. I love them both in equal parts.

CUBlog: You produced a short starring Steve Christopher as a not-quite-right Santa Claus for the anthology film 13 SLAYS TILL X-MAS from Blood Moon Pictures and Scream Team Releasing, which debuted on Blu-ray in the spring and at Amazon Prime just a couple of weeks ago. Can you talk about the making of this versus your experience in producing UNLISTED OWNER?

JB: This was my first time doing an anthology project. I was approached by Blood Moon Pictures to write and direct a sequence, so I came up with a killer Christmas clown named “Kringles.” Steve sent in his self-tape and killed it! I always have a blast working with Steve.

13 SLAYS, compared to UNLISTED OWNER, was different on so many levels – from it being traditional [movie storytelling compared] to found footage style of filming, to focusing solely on directing and not having to act, and it being a project for someone other than myself.

CUBlog: You have also been involved with several short-shorts appearing on the YouTube channel ACMofficial. This includes the newest, OUIJA, and the now ubiquitous SMILING WOMAN series, all produced by Alex Magaña of Los Angeles. How did you get involved with ACM and in what capacity?

JB: Alex had reached out to me about writing on a project that never really materialized, but he decided he wanted to try his hand at creating a horror short-based YouTube channel. Alex and myself have collaborated on many of the shorts, including the “Smiling Woman” character, who has literally taken on a life of her own.



CUBlog: You’ve even branched out into films as NFTs (non-fungible tokens) in partnership with Terror Cards on the brand-new short, TRICK NOT TREAT, which we’ve discussed previously. How did its real-world premiere go at the Robinson Eagle Theater last month with the double feature of UNLISTED OWNER: DIRECTORS CUT and Indican PicturesHIGH ON THE HOG starring the late Sid Haig?

JB: The event went well! It was great to have everyone out.

CUBlog: TRICK NOT TREAT seemed to come together pretty quickly, leading up to its release a few weeks ago. I’m sure you now have a system down with team members and talents that you trust. To whom should we tip our hats for helping Lawford County Productions create one of the very first horror films to be released into the world as an NFT?

JB: First off, I want to thank [producer] Previn Wong [of Terror Cards] for giving me the opportunity to make this NFT horror film! I want to thank my beautiful and talented wife Cassondra Brian for the make-up effects job she did, my awesome director of photography Derek Huey for his great camera work, my actors Gil T. Wilson, Christine Jones, Adam Gard, and Grayson Pinkston for their awesome job acting and bringing the whole thing to life! I also want to thank my co-editor Brent Perrott for helping me bring my full vision to life, Jeffrey Ryden for keeping me on track as my script supervisor, Ryan Pinkston for his great behind-the-scenes photos and production assistant work, and Hunter Mcintosh for being our slate. And, my parents Pam and Jerry for allowing us to film at a great location!

CUBlog: Great. Can you talk briefly about helping out on film sets not your own such as TRICK AND TREAT, which is unrelated to TRICK NOT TREAT, and THEY SEE YOU?

JB: TRICK AND TREAT was my first set outside something of my own to be on. It was an awesome experience to be a part of! It’s not every day you can say you are on a film that has Malcolm McDowell and Gary Busey. Heroic Age Studios did a fantastic job! I can’t wait to see it all put together!

And [for participating in] THEY SEE YOU, one of my friends, fellow filmmaker Tory Jones, was looking for help to fill a cop role, so I offered. I recently saw [it and] really enjoyed the film. I can’t wait for everyone to see it!



CUBlog: What’s next for you and Cassondra in real life?

JB: It’s getting through the rest of the Halloween season and prep for our new addition to the family, a little boy named Wyatt. He should be here in February. We have some stuff in the pre-production phases for next year as well.

CUBlog: Sounds like the script is in place! Then, I send a hearty Happy Halloween to the whole family and may Wyatt’s big brother Jace protect him well.

JB: Thank you, I really appreciate it! We love this time of year!



Interview conducted October-November 2021
and June-August 2019, via Facebook IM.


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