Horror With A Twist:
Cross Shadow Productions
by Charles White
You’re staring at the screen at your local theater when a black-clad man bursts through the door wielding a blood soaked knife. A scream cuts through the room as the heroine is cut to shreds and blood covers every square inch of the room where she is murdered. Slasher movies are a staple in the horror industry. If it doesn’t contain intense violence, nudity and buckets of blood, it can’t possibly be considered a good horror film. Standing counter to this claim are two individuals who have demonstrated that a good thriller doesn’t need buckets of blood. All you need is a good story and a great cast of characters.
In 2007, Cross Shadow Productions was formed. This came out of a light bulb moment that co-founders Tiaan Kruger and Matt Mitchell had as they sat chatting. “We were talking one night and Tiaan said there needs to be more Christian thrillers,” Matt recalled. “If there was only somebody who would do these.” Then Matt remembered a childhood story that he had been told many years prior in Huntsville, Alabama.
Going to his computer, Matt found that story and a few others that he had saved from his childhood and shared these with Tiaan. Tiaan was so excited by the story that he wanted to start filming the next day. “Tiaan called me at 12 or 1 am and said that he had a camera and we should get some people from church and get in the parking lot and act out some of these scenes and see how they look on film,” Matt said, smiling. It was then that they both realized that they had found a calling.
However, their journey wasn’t without challenges. Neither were experienced with film production, cinematic direction or screen writing, but the pair weren’t deterred. They didn’t let their inexperience stand in their way. “Don’t let the facts get in the way,” Matt stated. “God used the semi-strengths of Tiaan and I and our wives filled in some gaps that we didn’t know that we needed filled.”
Tiaan and Matt aren’t without some skills. Tiaan is skilled with the technical side of things and Matt has been involved in music ministry since his late teens. “I had done worship arts since I was 17 and at 18 I directed my first musical,” Matt states. “I had a lot of experience directing but it was all for live stage.” Complementing Tiaan and Matt’s skills were their respective wives. Matt’s wife, Amy, brought a plethora of experience as a writer and director for several large scale Church productions. Tiann's wife, April, also serves as a producer and handles much of the public relation activities for Cross Shadow Productions.
From the start, they knew that they needed a name that reflected their vision. They wanted folks to know that their films were grounded in their faith in Jesus Christ, in contrast to the stereotypes that surrounded most other horror films. They settled on the name, Cross Shadow Productions. “Everything that we wanted to do has gotta have a heart,” Matt shared. “It’s got to have some spiritual reason otherwise it is just going to be a nice clean thriller, which is cool, but let’s call that what it is and market that way. We wanted to have a deeper reason to do all of this.”
Their first film almost didn’t happen. They soon found that a 3-page childhood story was not nearly enough material to bring to the big screen. “I talked to a few friends in Wilmington [NC] who had done some small stuff and basically they said that a page equals a minute of film, so we said we have to do more,” Matt recounted. “We got together and said everyone think of some really cool things that we can tie together to make these characters have life. We built a front end and a back end to the story and the basic story that I heard is really the last ten minutes of the movie. By the time we were done, we had a 65-page script. We wanted about 75 minutes of film, so we added a bonus scene. That has kinda become our trademark. Once the movie is over, it isn’t really over.”
Matt explains their lack of a need for gratuitous violence by harkening back to the classic horror films and radio dramas of long ago. These productions used imagination, not special effects or graphic displays to frighten their audiences. This allows Cross Shadow Productions to present something that is both clean and scary at the same time. As Matt puts it, “what you conceive in your mind is so much scarier that what I can show you on the screen.”
For Tiaan and Matt, having a deeper reason to approach film making doesn’t mean one has to sacrifice quality for the message. In fact, they believe that a good quality product helps deliver the message more effectively. Unfortunately, these two are haunted by the memory of Christian music and movies that have left a bitter taste in the mouths of some believers and non-believers alike. The team at Cross Shadow Productions wants to show that Christian and quality can walk hand in hand. “We have one chance to make that first impression and if we botch this, they are going to come in and sit on the back row and think oh yeah, it’s as cheesy as I thought it would be. Gone are the days where we would have a weenie roast and hang out our sign at Church and say y’all come in. It’s not happening. We need to go where they are, but you can’t water down the message.”Cross Shadow Productions is set to release their fourth film entitled, Paranormal. This film is a departure from their wildly popular Pray series.
Paranormal is the story of Greg Evans, an experienced novelist who is saddled with a horrible case of writer’s block. As he struggles to overcome his block, he plunges headlong into the world of the paranormal and finds himself in way over his head. Desperate, he turns to a team of investigators to help him seek out answers.
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