An Interview with Dean Lent, Director of Photography for “Jack Frost”

In the spirit of Halloween please enjoy this insightful conversation with Dean Lent, the cinematographer behind the 1997 campy masterpiece about a mutant killer snowman.

How does one end up the Director of Photography on a low-budget horror movie about a snowman who kills people?

Dean Lent: The producers of Jack Frost produced a very small, low budget commercial that I shot. Thats how I got the job. I read the script, I thought it was stupid and awful and I was like “oh my god I don’t want to do this but what the hell, I need money.”

Creatively, did you phone it in?

DL: I definitely embraced it, and it was fun as fuck to shoot. It was a like a big party, everyone was laughing the whole time, the director was just the nicest guy, he would make everything move incredibly fast because he would just make an effect happen by sticking his hand under a snow blanket move it around and that would be like Jack transforming. It was like 10 seconds to do an effect shot.

Were there any problems shooting a horror movie on such a low budget?

DL: We planned to shoot it in the winter, it was all scheduled out, so we were hoping for huge snowstorms. There was absolutely no snow. Zero. It was like 60 degrees. And that’s why everything was shot tight if you notice- or low angle looking up. If you look at the film again there are very very few wide shots because there was no snow.

What are your favorite shots in the movie?

DL: I love the shot where Jack’s driving the cop car. When we were shooting that it made me laugh out loud. I also like the shot of the first murder of the guy in the rocking chair. We were thinking “How are we going to cover this? ” We decided to do all the post murders kind of POV of the person that was just murdered…because it was too expensive to show the murder victims without it looking too cheese ball.

What was the most complicated scene to shoot?

DL: The scene where Shannon Elizabeth gets raped by Jack in the bathtub. That was kind of a bitch. The whole bathroom was a set with a false floor and getting the snowman to bang her against the wall while not showing her boobs took a long time and it was exhausting for her.

How did you convince her that getting screwed to death by a snowman qualified as tasteful nudity?

DL: Fortunately that wasn’t my role (laughs), that was way beyond my pay-scale. That was all Michael (the director) and the producers. She was extremely nice and she liked doing it. I think it was one of her first roles, way before American Pie.

But that has to be the most well known scene in the movie.

DL: I remember filming it and thinking “Is this right? Are women going to be really upset?… Is this way beyond taste?” I think it’s so far over the edge it becomes like a John Waters thing.

This movie received an 8% on rotten tomatoes. Do you feel that’s an accurate rating?

DL: Wait, how many?

8.

DL: 8 out of 10!?

8 out of 100.

DL: (laughs) Wow, that’s very generous. I don’t know, I can’t look at the film the way everyone else does.

When did you see the finished product?

DL: We screened it to investors … and it was dead silent the whole way through, I could see Michael just like sweating and cringing. Basically the movie ended and there was just dead silence. I thought it was a disaster in that first cut. It seemed like they were really really upset, and Michael was just crushed. And then it ended up making more money than any of these investors had ever dreamed of making. They had to eat their words I guess.

This movie actually has a pretty large cult following, was there any sense of that while you were shooting it?

DL: No! I thought this is a fun film with very fun people, but it’s a complete throwaway… I’m kind of mystified still why it’s so fucking popular with like college kids and whoever. I think it’s for drinking beer with your buddies and laughing at it, with maybe a joint or whatever. I still don’t get it. Can you tell me?

Maybe it’s one of those movies that everyone recognizes from the video store shelf?

DL: You mean the 3-D Box.

Yes!

DL: It was genius marketing.

Do you still keep in touch with the crew?

DL: No I did shoot Jack Frost 2, the sequel, which was really terrible, I mean no one likes that film, it was just a waste of time.

Are you glad you did it?

DL: Reading the script I was just like “Oh my god this is just awful but I need the money”. Shooting it was a laugh riot, had a great time. And the really great part is 10 years later, 15 years later anyone who knows I shot it will come up to me and say “Oh my god I love that movie!” and that always makes me smile.

Jack Frost is currently available to stream on Netflix.

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