Exclusive Interview with Director Mark Waters for ‘Vampire Academy’

– by Gig Patta

With so many films adapted from young adult fiction novels, “Vampire Academy” has one of the most loyal following.

The film is based on the novels from Richelle Mead. The film is about the relationship between Rose Hathaway, a half human-half vampire, protecting her vampire best friend, Lissa Dragomir, from the Strigoi. The movie is helmed by “Mean Girls” director Mark Waters.

It stars Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Danila Kozlovsky, Gabriel Byrne and Dominic Sherwood.

Latino-Review had an exclusive phone with Waters about the DVD and Blu-ray release of “Vampire Academy.” We discussed about the over-saturation of YA film adaptations, challenges of production and most importantly—the 10th anniversary celebration of “Mean Girls.”

“Vampire Academy” is currently available for DVD, Blu-ray, and digital download.

Read the full interview below.

Latino-Review: There are a lot of young adult novels there, but why were you attracted to “Vampire Academy?”

Mark Waters: Richelle [Mead]’s writing is very interesting. I do genuinely love the lead character, Rose Hathaway. Most of these YA novels at its core have these lead characters who are innocent and don’t know anything about the world. They have this encounter in the novel and need to be educated, grow teeth and be tough enough to fight back.

Rose starts off in the beginning already deeply embedded in this culture. So she’s a bad ass right from the beginning too. She also has this weird sense of humor. Knowing this from the movies I’ve made, I need everything to have a little bit of humor to it.

A lot of these YA novels have these humorless lead characters. Rose Hathaway was so feisty, funny and sarcastic. And not to mention, my brother wrote the screenplay for it. That enhanced the aspect to it and I liked a lot of the humor in Richelle’s book.

Latino-Review: Since this is based on a YA novel itself and with “Twilight” franchising starting all this, how is this film different from that? How do you make sure that the audience will not suffer from the “Twilight” fatigue?

Mark Waters: Well, we did suffer from the “Twilight” fatigue. [Laughter] There was a predisposition of hearing about a movie called “Vampire Academy.” People rolled their eyes and said, “I’ll wait and see this some other time.” We didn’t have a great domestic box office performance.

It was no question that it was something we tried to avoid, because this is a movie that was so very different. Bella Swan and Rose Hathaway couldn’t be more different as lead characters. Also, this movie’s focus is not on the romance. There is a little bit of romance between Rose and Dimitri or Lissa and Christian. The focus of the story is the relationship between the two girls, Rose and Lissa.

One of the things I think it’s great about the film is the dynamics between the two leading women on how they get along with each other. That’s the driving force of the novel. That makes it very different from the “Twilight” series.

Latino-Review: Personally, I’ve never read the book myself. I have it here…..just sitting here right now. [Laughter] Were there a lot of changes from the book on to the screen? How do you not change too much to satisfy the loyal fans of the novel?

Mark Waters: The changes weren’t extreme in terms with the storyline and what happens between the characters. The changes we’ve made really worked out in enhancing things. If there’s something where there wasn’t an action sequence—we’ve created an action sequence. Or if there was a small action sequence, then we put it on steroids and made it big and dynamic. Even with the humor, we accentuated the humor presented inside the book.

Fans were very supportive of the movie and they ended up pretty happy with the movie. The user ratings on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes were very high for the movie. Some people even rated even higher than “Mean Girls” in certain cases. People who went out and saw the movie as loyal fans really loved it.

We do all these things like we are trying to pump of volume by appealing to those besides the fan base of the book. So if these people buy it on DVD, they’ll find a lot of entertainment value in it. The loyal fans of the book have already saw it in the theaters, but they’ll enjoy it more since it has quite a few more deleted scenes in the book that we’ve shot and edited. The [scenes] came out well, but it just didn’t make it in the final cut of the movie. So they have something new to watch as well.

Latino-Review: So this for DVD/Blu-Ray release, you admit there are deleted scenes. Are these deleted scenes going to change the scope of the movie overall?

Mark Waters: It doesn’t make it like a new kind of movie. They’re not incorporated into a new director’s cut. They are just deleted scenes that you can access and see what we’ve did with them.

Latino-Review: Do you have an example of a deleted scene that people should look forward to?

Mark Waters: Oh, yeah. For instance, there’s a scene in the book of a flashback of a party. In the movie, the party is there, but Rose has a flashback of a party from two years ago. In that party, a lot of crazy stuff goes down. It’s a very dynamic scene for fans of the book who love that scene. We ended up cutting it, because it’ll be confusing for those who are virgin viewers especially for those who don’t understand the mythology of the book. Of course, it’ll be great for those who can’t wait to see that scene.

Latino-Review: [Laughter] I’m one of those people who watch these young adult films and certain scenes confuse the heck out of me and I end up saying “What’s going on?” Thank you.

Mark Waters: [Laughter] Yeah, that is funny.

Latino-Review: Did you work much with Richelle Mead at all for the movie? Was she satisfied? Was this something she pictured her “Vampire Academy” to be?

Mark Waters: I don’t know if it’s exactly what she pictured it to be, but she was very happy with the movie. She felt that it very much delivered on the promise of her novel. She was very surprised and delighted on how we enhanced the action scenes. She absolutely loved the cast. She thought it was perfectly cast.

We didn’t work closely with her other than sending her my brother’s script and went up to meet with her in Seattle to “kiss the ring.” We wanted her to make her feel like she was included. She loved the script and gave us her blessing.  

I try to use her as a resource a lot. So like it I needed to know what the costume looks like and I was in a quandary—I would write to her about this. Or what’s the rule about fire magic. I figure why not go straight to the source. She could be the perfect answer to everything.

Latino-Review: I try to read the book myself, but there is always a lot of information that only true fans would understand. What was the greatest challenge for you on making this movie?

Mark Waters: You know it’s funny is when you’re reading a book and it involves vampires—you know vampires don’t go out in the daytime and our vampires don’t burst into flames. They’re just annoyed by the sun. You forget the fact that the movie is predominantly be [filmed] at night.

So you’re talking about the kids walking in between classes, you know they’re vampires so you have to shoot it at night. For six to eight weeks, we were shooting things till about 4 a.m. every day. To capitalize on things, we tried to have as many night scenes as possible. It does wear on you after a while and you become a vampire as you’re trying to shoot the movie.

Latino-Review: I understand your brother worked on the script. What was the process with working with your brother on this project?

Mark Waters: We never try to make a movie together before. We tried to develop scripts before into a good script form, but never into a production until now. That was fun. We got along quite surprisingly well. We fight more like brothers than as collaborators on the movie. [Laughter]

So sometimes we have to put away our clever insults and harsh negativities with each other. It’s all in good fun. When we were working together, we didn’t have anything like that. I helped with him on to get the script on where it needed to be. And he worked on set as the sounding board and when I needed a second opinion on something. He is there as a man who I can trust.

Latino-Review: What about working with such a young cast, particularly with the main characters? They are practically new to the business. How did you develop them in preparation for the movie?

Mark Waters: It’s something that I’ve done with for many times all the way back for “Freaky Friday” and “Mean Girls.” So I’m used in doing it. The thing about young cast members is that they are very enthusiastic and open-minded. They don’t have this specific technique of working that they have to be married to. They are willing to take risks and put their trust in you because you’re going to make them look good. It’s about giving them challenges that will excite them. I try to keep it varied, interesting and fun.

Latino-Review: Is there still a possibility on a sequel for “Vampire Academy?” Or did we come to a complete stop?

Mark Waters: My brother and I aren’t involved in the sequel. There is that possibility for that sequel to happen. The producers and the cast are very motivated to do it. They are just trying to figure out a way to do with a lower budget. Myself and Danny would be around as advisors.

Latino-Review: Hopefully, it will happen. And just for the fans of yours, you just celebrated the tenth anniversary of “Mean Girls.” Why is that movie still so big after ten years later?

Mark Waters: It’s interesting. If you try to reference a high school and they’re too young—they have no idea on what you’re talking about. “Mean Girls” is a movie that came out ten years ago. Zoey Deutch, the lead of “Vampire Academy,” was eight years old when it came out. She was a fan of it. It seems like every girl, who passes the window of ages from 11 to 17, will somehow find the movie. So it becomes so iconic for many people. It keeps us relevant and enjoying the movie.

Latino-Review: What other future projects are you involved in?

Mark Waters: The one I’m most interested in is a project called, “S.O.S.” It’s based on a Korean movie called “Castaway on the Moon.” It stars Adam Scott and Isla Fisher. I hope to make that this year.

Latino-Review: Awesome. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you. I wish you good luck on the DVD/Blu-ray release.

Mark Waters: I appreciate it for you getting the word out there.

“Vampire Academy” is currently out on DVD and Blu-ray.

Interviews, Film, LRM Exclusives Vampire Academy, Mark Waters