by Daniel Kraus
Filmmaker and author Daniel Kraus is a familiar name to many in Wilmington. He spent a number of years here making movies, improving the artistic landscape with his presence, and even contributed regular film reviews to encore. He first burst onto the scene with the engaging and controversial 1998 documentary “Jefftowne,” a film-festival hit which raised a number of eyebrows.
Since, he has filmed a series of documentaries dubbed “The Work Series,” written regularly for magazines like Maxim and Cosmopolitan, and has penned several novels, the most recent published by Random House entitled “Rotters.”
I talked to Kraus last week in regards to his current scope of work and what has been keeping him busy in the windy city of Chicago. Here’s our conversation.
encore: Tell us a little about ‘Rotters.’
Daniel Kraus: It’s a little Stephen King, a little Indiana Jones, a lot creepy, moderately heartbreaking and sporadically disgusting. It’s the story of a high-school kid named Joey who is forced to go live with his father in rural Iowa—a hermit who is revealed to be an esteemed member of an underground society of grave robbers.
Soon after, Joey discovers that the very qualities that make him an outcast at school make him especially skilled at this dark art. He begins to learn the craft from his father, and together they embark upon a gruesome adventure.
e: Every good story starts with a simple idea. What was the inspiring idea behind ‘Rotters’?
DK: I’ve told this story many times, but I’ll tell it again because it involves Wilmington. When I first moved there, I worked as a videographer for a couple of years at WECT. One day I was trying to outrun a hurricane in a news van and passed by a flooded cemetery. I had this vision of caskets rising through the swampy mud and two men battling through the muck to find some valuable object. That image stayed with me for 10 years before I figured out who those men where and what they were after.
e: You’re both a filmmaker and an author. What is the appeal of the written word over the filmed script?
DK: There are far fewer compromises in novels. I could go on all day about this. A script is a blueprint and a movie is, by its very nature, a thing that is compromised and impinged upon from the very first meeting. With books, I can, and do, anything I want.
e: Speaking of films, anything on the movie horizon?
DK: “The Work Series” of documentaries is going strong. Last year, the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago did a retrospective of my films. My new film,
“Preacher,” comes out later this year. All four “Work Series” films (including the TV premieres of “Professor” and “Preacher”) will begin airing in September 2011 on the Documentary Channel, available for all those with Dish and Direct TV.
e: You left Wilmington for Chicago many moons ago. What’s your fondest memory of your time here?
DK: Not to get sentimental on you, but I kind of treasure the memory of when my future wife [ed note: And previous encore editor, Amanda Sawyer Kraus] waited my table at the good old Pizza Bistro.
e: Is there any TV show/movie/author that’s really knocking your socks off right now?
DK: I haven’t really loved a TV show since “Twin Peaks.” Maybe the last movie that knocked my socks off was Harmony Korine’s “Trash Humpers.” Favorite recent author discoveries: Joe Hill, Rick Yancey, Justin Evans.
e: You’ve been a regular contributor to a number of magazines. What’s the most bizarre article you’ve ever had to write.
DK: I’m going to go with the time that I tested infomercial products for Maxim. The ab belt, the spray-on hair, the Ding King, the Flowbee—they made me the man I am today.
e: Is God so powerful that he could create a rock so large that Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan and a reanimated Rick James couldn’t smoke it?
DK: Ah, the omnipotence paradox. I defer to philosopher Peter Geach’s exploration into the four levels of omnipotence, and urge you to consider Anselm of Canterbury’s assertion that almightiness is not equivalent to omnipotence.
Regarding modern-day philosophers Sheen, Lohan, and James, and their theoretical ability to smoke said rock, one can only conclude that these esteemed fellows would fail, providing, of course, that one of them (most likely James) was not almighty Himself. Thank you for your question.