Everyone knows James Lee, the independent filmmaker who went mainstream for a while, and is now back to being independent. James has had an interesting journey as a director so far, from making confounding “arthouse” films where nothing much happens and people mope around a lot, to commercial horror and action films. He has even done a short sci-fi “teaser” with some impressive CGI work.
Over the years, having worked in both the indie and mainstream scenes, James has voiced his disillusionment with the traditional film production and distribution channels. He has since taken matters into his own hands, making and producing films for the Internet. His company, Doghouse 73, has a YouTube channel, and both his own films and the films he produced can be found there.
One interesting project he has undertaken in the last few years is the annual horror anthology 3 Doors of Horrors, which began in 2013 and has since gone through two more installments. The first one featured short horror films by three directors and premiered on YouTube during the Hungry Ghosts Festival. This year’s anthology is also available for viewing now on YouTube.
James told The Hollywood Reporter back in 2013 that he “developed the project with the goal of introducing local audiences to a new generation of vibrant young filmmakers who hadn’t yet been given a voice in the local industry.”
Here are five easy pieces for James Lee:
1. How did the idea for an annual horror anthology come about?
The idea was to have a platform or a series to showcase new and young directors which is greatly needed in the community, and horror is the best genre since it’s fun to make and could be done low-budget. In fact I believe the directors get to showcase their potential in their craft through horror films. And lastly horror still tends to easily attract audiences and viewers compared to other genres.
2. How has the response been? The first one has reached nearly 800,000 views. Has the average rate of views been increasing since the first installment?
It has been picking up slowly since it’s an annual series. So it always needs a push to pick up again, and 3 Doors of Horrors has become a brand of online indie horror shorts in the YouTube ecosystem and popular on Viddsee. We hope to solidify the series in the next two years beyond YouTube and across all major digital platforms.
3. How do you decide on the directors for each installment, or where should one apply if one wants to contribute to the next installment?
I source for them mostly by watching short films and also sometimes they pitch a story via email or Facebook. The most important thing is they must have done a few short films on their own, and based on the short films (they need to be of a certain quality), I would meet them and find out about their production methods which is important if they do a 3 Doors film. A lot of times the directors were invited.
4. Why did you decide to distribute your films online?
The traditional distribution system doesn’t favour independent projects, and short films have little to no commercial value, so the best way was to distribute online where there are large audiences worldwide. We could also ignore local censorship rules to explore better subject matters and stories. Before going online, we used to organise screenings in film clubs and colleges. It was not easy and each screening got us 20-40 audience members with very little publicity or promotion. After that people who wanted to watch the films had to wait for another screening session. But now when a film is released online there’s no reason people cannot watch it. And lastly, nobody watches TV anymore, and if they do have a TV set, it’s hooked up to the Internet.
5. Are you going to be directing any films yourself soon?
Yes, a new short film shooting in November for Christmas, and also working on a web series and a feature-length project.