Jay Woelfel is a lauded director who won the Interactive Academy Award for Best Documentary for his work on “Titanic” and two Emmy awards and one OBIE for the production of “Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Birthmark.” Jay’s most recent project is a horror film called “Asylum of Darkness” which was released in April of 2017. He recently spoke about this new movie and his overall career in entertainment.

Movies

Blasting News (BN): What prompted you to enter the film industry and what media inspired you early on?

Jay Woelfel (JW): Growing up, I watched all kinds of movies. I played in bands growing up and Jerry Goldsmith sort of showed me the opportunities film could offer.

Inspirations were “Planet of the Apes,” “Star Trek,” “Twilight Zone,” GI Joe action figures, playing in backyards and creeks and what’s now called urban exploration. “Jaws” and James Bond films were movies that got me going creatively, but I read a lot as well. Robert Bloch, H.P. Lovecraft, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Bram Stoker, Poe, etc.

BN: Where did the idea for “Asylum of Darkness” come from?

JW: The idea is from a couple of people I know who have had to spend time in asylums involuntarily and I would visit them there. I also used to ride bikes through various cemeteries, so they were places I experienced and even enjoyed in a different way than other people. In college, I became interested in the Boston Strangler case and how the person who they suspect, but never prosecuted, claimed to realize what he had done and want to atone for it somehow just like the Birdman of Alcatraz did.

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There are also elements of Voodoo in this story and an influence of Japanese mythology and ghosts. I spent time as a child in Japan. And then there is an idea from Christian belief which is that spirits don’t leave your body or this world until the end of days and the second coming. If you follow this, no one is in heaven, and I thought, wouldn’t the spirits get tired of waiting? That’s a unique key element to this movie.

BN: Are you into supernatural elements like those featured in the movie?

JW: I’m into it creatively. I’m into the possibilities and even probabilities. I’ve been placed which are supposed to be haunted, I’ve never seen a ghost, but I have seen orbs in cemeteries. Do I believe there is more to the world than life and death? I do. And I believe confronting those could be terrifying and mind busting—and that’s certainly a lot of the “Asylum of Darkness” movie.

Experiences

BN: What was working on the "Titanic" project like?

JW: I edited it and it is interactive, so the story can go differently depending on your interests.

I met the last survivor, Millvina Dean, and she made it real for me. One survivor never got over losing his parents and killed himself years later on the anniversary of the wreck. I met Walter Lord who had the whistle the first officer blew to attract people in the water to get into his lifeboat. The most impactful thing for me was newspaper art showing the Titanic hitting a massive iceberg. The iceberg has the word FACT written on it; the Titanic has the word THEORY written on her side.

BN: What is your upcoming film, "Black Room," about?

JW: It's about a couple who buy one of those suspiciously affordable houses and unleash a demon the previous owners kept locked up in the basement.

BN: Creatively what is next for you?

JW: I’m finishing my novel called “Ice Cold, ” and I composed a score for the classic “Island of Lost Souls.” It premiered at the Austin Texas Other Worlds Film Festival in December and won the est score. Now, Bela Lugosi Junior is helping me set up a Los Angeles premiere! I have a script called “The Demon Sea” that is an adaptation of a classic monster story. I will soon start a documentary on Houdini’s only unsolved spiritual investigation and I’ve edited three features. I also help promote my wife Kristy's business, Serendipity Cupcakes!