The Movie Waffler Interview - CRISIS HOTLINE Director Mark Schwab | The Movie Waffler

Interview - CRISIS HOTLINE Director Mark Schwab

mark schwab
Director Schwab on his tense new thriller.

Mark Schwab’s Crisis Hotline is both an entertaining horror-thriller and an education tool for those hooked on dating apps. We spoke to the talented filmmaker, well known for his quality made independent genre films, about his latest, out this June from High Octane Pictures.

crisis hotline poster

Why scary movies, Mark? What is it that led to a career in making people squirm?

Well I hope to be able to make all types of movies - not just scary ones. But I did want to make an audience nervous and uncomfortable with Crisis Hotline and I think we achieved that.

Which filmmakers did you enjoy growing up?

I was always a big fan of John Carpenter. Anytime his name was above the title, I made sure to see it in a theatre, and I saw them all. I still would today if he gets another feature up on the big screen. I also haunted the art houses and video shelves looking for anything by John Waters, Gregg Araki and David Lynch. The more subversive the better.

What about films? Any that especially inspire you?

As far as scary/suspenseful films I love Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness - a great, underrated horror film! I also love the terrifying puzzles of David Lynch’s Inland Empire and Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut. Films that favour atmosphere over jump scares.

And have any of those films or filmmakers indirectly influenced your films? Any intentional homages in there?

I’m not sure about intentional homages but their style definitely influenced me, I think. All of those films are about creating a sense of dread - a waking nightmare that unfolds piece by piece - and that was what I was specifically going for in Crisis Hotline.

What was the first thing you ever shot?

The first thing I ever shot was when I was in high school in 1987 - a horror film on VHS called The Hunted. It was 22 minutes long and we shot it all during 100+ degree weather in six hours. It was a grand time and I’ve never looked back since.

And how do you feel you’ve improved as a filmmaker since then?

The filmmaking technology changes so much over the years that it is a constant state of learning/improving. I think the biggest way I’ve improved is not just being able to surround myself with the perfect cast and crew but to manage them properly. I’ve learned how to make a little money go a very long way.

Tell us how Crisis Hotline came together…

My filmmaking partners and I had been making offbeat films for years and getting them into film festivals but we hadn’t really made anything that was truly sellable yet. We finally decided that we had to do a feature film “for real”; real crew, serious equipment, actual distributor - so we personally invested some actual money, got an excellent crew up from Hollywood and pulled Crisis Hotline together.

The marketing materials don’t really hint at it, but this is a movie of mixed genres. Wouldn’t you agree?

I would agree and I think it’s a good thing. I started out making Crisis Hotline as an absorbing thriller and it ended up becoming much more than that.

So how would you describe it to us?

The situation our characters find themselves in is horrifying, it’s a race-against-time thriller and it’s a psycho-sexual mind screw about how technology has the power to warp one’s moral values.

Have you screened it for an audience? How did it go?

We’ve only done one very private screening for our cast/crew/families and it went extremely well. They were very surprised by it - the most common feedback we heard was “I loved it because it was different. I’ve never seen a film quite like it.” Which was music to our ears of course because that was what we were striving for the most - a movie that wasn’t just a copy of something else you’ve already seen. A true original.

Do you have a moment in the film where you’re like “I absolutely killed that!”?

There are so many moving parts critical to making a good feature film that I have trouble singling myself out. Instead, I see all the amazing things the cast and crew pulled off by working so hard in it. When I watch the film, I see myself saying things like “My cinematographer (the fantastic Dante Yore) absolutely killed that!” Or when I see one of our wonderful cast members bring something in a scene that I hadn’t caught before. I guess I’ll take credit for being a key part of getting the movie this far.

And finally, plug away! When do we see it?

It’s being released everywhere this June 11th by High Octane Pictures! We are working hard to keep everyone updated and you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter under Diamond in the Rough Films. We are also developing two new sci-fi thriller projects that you can read more about at

Crisis Hotline arrives on digital and DVD June 11th.