Aaron B. Koontz on the set of Old Man
Independent cinema is all about the downtime between occasional shoots. So when Aaron Koontz, co-founder of the Austin / LA Paper Street Pictures production house, saw the pandemic set in for the long haul, he saw an opportunity. Distribution for its horror anthology, Fear package, was fixed, so he could devote a little more time to postproduction on his cowboys vs. western witches, The pale door. After that, he and his longtime creative partner Cameron Burns were going to work on a few scripts. Instead, he ended up with the biggest production list of his entire career.
Initially, he said, “There was this strange moral dilemma: is it right to go back to work? Then he and the rest of the Paper Street crew saw how many of the cast and crew were desperate for work, and they made a decision, “If this is going to go away, then we can put it in. safe place.… The next thing I know, we had six films posted. “
They had caught the industry’s attention because of what they had achieved on a shoestring budget with Fear package and The pale door; now, as productions rearranged budgets to include pandemic health and safety protocols as a primary post, Paper Street has become their destination. “Because we’re so effective elsewhere,” Koontz said, “we were able to shake things up.”
There is Old man, Lucky McKee’s next feature film; Snow valley, the first film by The bodyguard of the hitman’s wife screenwriter Brandon Murphy; Developer, a new horror from comic book writers Tim Seeley (Hack / Slash) and Michael Moreci (The parcel); images found horror Shelby Oaks; and The shark, a horror film about the survival of sharks in Florida starring Alicia Silverstone, which he called “easily the greatest Paper Street movie to date”. All are in post-production, as is another unannounced title, plus three more currently in production, one of which he is directing. Plus, somehow in all of this, he signed on as the head of development and production for Blood Oath, a consultancy group for horror filmmakers. “It was completely, completely wild,” Koontz said.
There was no big secret to the success of Paper Street. It was just a matter of having security protocols and sticking to them. They worked closely with the Craft Guilds and did whatever was necessary to ensure that production did not come to a halt. For a shoot, they booked an entire conference hotel. The cast and crew slept on one end, and on the other they turned into a soundstage and built the set, an entire two-story house. All meals were prepared and hygiene was the # 1 concern. “You just have to be really, really strict,” he said. “We had to fire some lagging people. ‘You broke our bubble, you have to go.'”
In all of the settings, there was only one positive COVID-19 test, and that turned out to be the hotel bar’s fault for breaking its own protocols. Still, Koontz said: “I felt bad. We thought, ‘Did we put someone in danger? “”
The biggest disappointment in all this success is that it has had to shoot every movie outside of Texas because the state’s production incentives are still so low. Yet Koontz has never forgotten the local ties to Paper Street, especially when it comes to teaming up. “We don’t make them in Austin, but we bring people from Austin.”
Read our original 2020 interview with Aaron B. Koontz here