Director PATRICK KENNELLY is a multifaceted filmmaker whose art refuses to be bound to just one medium. With a broad and eclectic body of work woven through film, theatre, music video and visual arts he is an exciting and subversive talent with a unique expression that commands attention. His debut feature-length film EXCESS FLESH has been gripping audiences around the world and taking the festival circuit by storm, and Monster Pictures Australia have just released it on Blu Ray and DVD. I took some time to throw some questions at Patrick, and he was kind enough to oblige.
I had been trying for a year to get off the ground another script - one that was quite complicated. So I was kind of hanging in limbo. Separately, co-writer Sigrid Gilmer and I had been considering this other piece that was based on the true story of a single mother who got sucked into the world of a serial killer. We were going to do it in the style of Bridget Jones Diary believe it or not! But we hadn’t progressed very far with that…
So, being stuck technically and creatively with these things, I pulled out a one-page
treatment I had written a decade-ago. There were themes within it that were calling out, particularly based on the previous big project Sigrid and I collaborated on, an
all-female live pop musical called Patty. That work used the real-life stories and myths surrounding pop cultural icons, Patty Duke and Patty Hearst, to examine contemporary issues around female identity, celebrity, cults, mental illness, and faith. The Excess Flesh treatment seemed a logical extension of that project, a deeper immersion into a lot of the ideas explored there. Also, because it was basically two characters in one space, it could be done cheaply! I pitched this idea to Sigrid and we started formulating a script, merging in a lot of the genre-play and style we were going to do with the serial killer/Bridget Jones Diary project. As ideas bounced back and forth, it started expanding, and what was originally something much smaller in scope grew to what you see onscreen.
I believe the movie is ultimately a reflection of the prison of the self. How does one occupy that prison? Through addiction, obsession, delusion, through a distorted projection of the self that one can simultaneously idealize and castigate. Its pretty brutal, but I think there is a certain transcendence at the end. If that transcendence is a *positive* thing or not… I don’t know.
Now, if any of these ideas come through to people, I’ll be supremely satisfied, but ultimately it’s an entertainment. I think people can ride with the twists and turns of the story, without taking away anything beyond that! As long as they feel they had a worthwhile experience for one hour, forty-three minutes, I will have accomplished my job.
With so many under-lying themes within the film, did you feel a particular obligation to represent the issues responsibly?
We absorbed a lot of material in the research, writing and pre-production phases. The themes became intertwined with the story and the aesthetic we chose. I didn’t feel any obligation vis-a-vis questions of representation, but that was because I was confidant that what we were doing was very honest to the situations, even if that was going to turn off a lot of individuals.
One of the stand-out aspects for me was the amount of time given to the character development before turning their world upside down. Did you pre-conceive spending so much time getting to know them, or did the pacing come naturally on paper?
This was definitely pre-conceived - it was written to start as one kind-of movie before slowly twisting into something completely different.
I’ve known Mary since school, and I knew she would go all in for this. Even though she’s naturally thin and physically fit, Mary underwent a tough workout and weight-loss regime leading up to and thru the shoot, as we were mostly shooting in chronological order. For her to maintain all of that, execute the intense physicality of the part and give a great performance is quite something.
I met Bethany in the casting for this, and it was some kind of miracle. I’d been looking
for years for a performer I could just have this telepathic communication with. Who
shared a lot of the same ideas and thinking, and Bethany was that person. She’s also
an amazing writer and director in her own right, who speaks a lot of the same creative language as I do. Because Jill is such a difficult role, such an *ugly* part, it needed this other insight into what we were trying to do. And Bethany just got it. She dove head first into this and did all of what I asked her to do without hesitation. She’s absolutely fearless as a performer, and just completely lives within her roles.
All that being said, this is a movie were making - there are detailed safety precautions taken, there is respect of boundaries, etc. It's a fiction we’re creating - not a documentation of reality. PLUS, because of our limited budget and shooting schedule, we kind of HAD to limit most of the shoots to 2 or 3 takes, sometimes even 1!
The music is arresting and really gives the film a jarring edge. Can you tell us about the composer and how the two of you worked towards the sound of the film?
I’ve been working with Jonathan Snipes since 2007. Since that time, he’s sound designed & scored practically all my projects (most of which have been theater-works), and I’ve done video design and music videos for his music projects (first Captain Ahab, then clipping.). He helped create and did all the music for that Pop musical, Patty, that I cited above (in fact, I believe Jonathan used a number of vocal bits from the sessions for that project in his scoring/sound design work for Excess Flesh).
Overall, I adopt a mostly hands-off approach with Jonathan. I give him the concept and/or script/edit, and kind of let him run with it. We’re pretty much always on the same page and I trust his instincts implicitly.
What we always do is push forward this idea of music and sound design as being one entity. It was difficult in the mixing sessions to delineate what was sound and what was score. The projects we do are always *scored* through, to immerse the audience fully in the world, and, if they closed their eyes, they would still see it. So these are the things that were again applied here - and this time we went even further by making the soundscape completely subjective. This is why there is an aggressive interiority to it and a discursive quality scene to scene.
The film takes a particularly jarring and surreal turn at once point. Tell us about the conception of that and what your intentions were
I was thinking, for a number of reasons, that there needed to be a Coup de Theatre at some point, and this seemed the perfect place for that. I’m very much into this French New Wave conceit of debunking the artifice of a movie. Not necessarily putting it in quotations, but rather reminding the audience that they’re inside of a movie. This story facilitated something of that nature - because everything that happens in Excess Flesh is completely subjective of the Jill/Jennifer’s minds - its all created from their memories. Since cinema is memory in moving pictures, one could say Excess Flesh the movie is wholly the movie that Jill/Jennifer would create - and so us, the audience, are purely witness to that. By breaking the fourth wall in the way that we did, I was seeking to get illuminate this idea.
People have cited other films and filmmakers in their reviews of the movie, and I can see where those links might be, but these are the filmmakers who most directly inspired my thinking of the movie. That being said, I never really reflect on other films or filmmakers while I’m in the process of making something. Its really about the story and the materials I have at hand, and what my gut tells me. All these ideas I’ve absorbed from these films and filmmakers come through via osmosis. The only movie I did watch while making Excess Flesh was Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, so that was *probably* the mostly directly influential…
I like to learn about the filmmaker's journey. At what age did the film bug bite you and was your family supportive from the get go?
My family’s always been supportive of my creative endeavors.
I started writing screenplays in the fifth grade, so I guess it was inevitable that I would end up making a movie some day! The path there has been pretty circuitous - through art school, then theatre school. I’ve had a lot of creative interests outside of the movies, pursued all of these - - visual art, performance, music, criticism, etc. - in one form or another but it ended up being the movies that brought all these interests together. Plus, I believe my greatest talent lies in curation - bringing together a conglomeration of ideas and great artists and forming those into a cohesive whole. And that is essentially the role of the director.
\What are your earliest memories of film?
I can’t say for sure. All I know is, my full-on obsession begin sometime in the 4th or 5th grade, which was the moment of my induction into the world of *adult* movies. The two I remember explicitly from this time were Bonnie & Clyde and Candyman. I also remember tricking a babysitter into letting me rent A Clockwork Orange. So I guess that gives you a sense of my temperament at the time … and what it formed into! heh…
I’ve never been to Australia, but I think this Outback setting and colonialist history - which is very similar to the U.S. has engendered this simultaneous bleakness and beauty. There’s this wonder with the perpetually untamed landscape, but there’s also something mysterious and dangerous about it. The Outback is the Australian version of the Wild West.
In regards to this question of landscape (which is predominant in the Weir movies cited above), I start to think of a lot of works that push pass their Ozploitation labels and become something much weirder - like Wake in Fright or Wolf Creek. And then of course there’s Romper Stomper. I can’t say enough about that movie.
I believe the best actors in Hollywood - and the ones I’ve personally worked with in the U.S. - are British, European and Australian. There’s an entirely different tradition of training and performance in these countries that engenders a real commitment to character and craft that one often finds lacking in American counterparts.
What can we expect to see from you next?
I have a number of projects in development, all works that fuck mashes together disparate genres and fucks with expectations of each. For instance, there’s an adaptation of a book myself and my co-writer on Excess Flesh are doing that combines a pitch black hostage thriller with a tender teen love triangle.
Patrick, thank you for taking the time to field these questions. Excess Flesh is a confronting and strangely hypnotic movie-going experience that has certainly stuck with me. I'm eager to revisit it soon.
With a background in television production, several years of which spent writing/directing the comedy series THE JAQUIE BROWN DIARIES, Gerard Johnstone received the necessary funding in 2010 to helm his debut feature-film, HOUSEBOUND. After roughly four years in modestly budgeted production, the film premiered in March of last year at SXSW and immediately became a cult classic. Its perfect cross-stitch of humour and horror has proven a refreshing and successful blend for genre-enthusiasts worldwide, winning acclaim with audiences and critics alike. We caught up with Gerard recently to discuss the film, the filmmaking process and even a revelation or two, all this ahead of the February 11th home entertainment release of HOUSEBOUND in Australia.
Spolier!!! Yes, People under the stairs is a big subconscious influence. I checked The Frighteners out before filming, but I also checked out every ghost movie from the last 50 years, so while there wasn't an intentional homage at play, again, it could've been subconscious.
I've read that HOUSEBOUND was shot at 25fps, given the majority of cinema is shot at 24fps, was there a particular reasoning behind this?
No we just fucked up.
Given that you're a jack of all trades being the writer, director and editor behind HOUSEBOUND, what was your favourite part of the process? Pre, Pro or Post?
It's post-production by a mile. You're able to sit in a relaxed environment and look at what you did wrong with complete clarity and objectivity. Writing is 90% banging your head against a wall, feeling like an intellectually-challenged fraud, offset by a 10% gap where you have an inflated sense of achievement because you made a funny or a thought of a plot twist. The actual on-set experience is just long periods of waiting around and constant frustration. It's uncomfortable. There's nowhere to sit. There's usually an odd smell. Everyone's complaining that we don't have any money. Myself included.
What's next for you creatively, do you have anything in the pipeline you're allowed to mention?
Nothing I'm allowed to mention, no. But it's all super exciting stuff.
Finally at FakeShemp.Net we love discussing guilty pleasures on our podcast and in our online interviews. Do you have a guilty cinematic pleasure you're willing to admit?
Most of my favourite films are guilty cinematic pleasures - The Last Dragon is easily in my top ten. I spent an unreasonable amount of time tracking down the composer of the training montage for No Retreat, No Surrender so that I could use it in my last TV series. It's mostly Karate movies that are my secret shame but I also have a soft spot for c-grade sword and sorcery flicks. Deathstalker 2 has some pretty great one liners. I'm always endeared to films that shouldn't be any good because of the circumstances and restraints in which they're made, yet they somehow punch above their weight. Into the Sun with Michael Pare and Anthony Michael Hall is another one. The writers of that went on to do some decent studio movies.
Addison Heath's name is becoming synonymous with the Melbourne indie film scene and any Australian who revolves in movie circles is likely to know exactly who he is. He is of course the award winning writer of CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA (featured heavily at FakeShemp.Net) and the writer/director of the brand new psychedelic film UNDER A KALIEDOSCOPE. With an uncanny knack for creating quirky offbeat characters and placing them in dark and menacing situations Addison is proving to be one of the country's most promising and talented writers and comparisons to the late great Everett De Roche (ROADGAMES, RAZORBACK, THE LONG WEEKEND) best describe his work. Just like DeRoche, Addison taps into the Aussie colloquial effortlessly and toys with its nuances to bring his characters to life. Shaping them with strong dialogue, concise back-stories and contextual environments his characters leap off the screen and confront the viewer face to face. The result is a fluid, eclectic and sincere style of filmmaking that stands out above so much of the droll, laborious and typical films within the Australian film industry at the moment. And aside from his obvious creative talent Addison is also one of the many dedicated and passionate champions of the DIY movie scene. His first two films skirted all of the go-to funding bodies and were both made resourcefully. With micro-budgets funded directly from his own pockets (and those others involved) his productions have been a true labor of love and personal favours with more blood, sweat & tears shed than the average blockbuster. Filmmakers like Addison put everything on the line to see their vision come to life... many fail and others become jaded and yet Addison shone through it all with two celebrated bodies of work... and awards to boot!! The most exciting thing of all is that Addison hasn't stopped. In fact he is already in pre-production for his 3rd feature length film, BUBBLEGUM: A DETECTIVE STORY. He joined us a few weeks ago on our podcast and following the recording he gave us the heads-up that he was about to dive head-first into the next film. With little time to spare on the night he agreed to check back in with us to dish the dirt on this mysterious new venture. If you know his work like I do then you will also be frothing at the mouth to learn more about it and so here's the part where I pick his brain and scoop it out.
Let me cut to the chase. Tell us about BUBBLEGUM: A DETECTIVE STORY.
What's it about?
Bubblegum: A Detective Story is a true-blue who-dunnit. A dark comedy about a couple of country blokes that are forced to become detectives when a prized guinea pig is stolen. Our main hero is Bubblegum, a mower by trade but he's also somewhat of a local legend. He's joined with his trusty sidekick, a heavy metal kid named Braiden.
It sounds very quirky. Does it fit within the same universe as either of your previous films?
Yeah absolutely.. Like CSV and UAK, It's a colourful vision of dark themes.. However, Bubblegum is first and foremost an Australian comedy.. Like the earlier films, It does contain some heavy subject matter but this is definitely intended to be a comedy and at it's heart, is more a sweet-natured film than my previous work.
Where did the idea for it come from?
I've always been a fan of hard-boiled detective stories.. and who-dunnit's.. So I had wanted to do one for a long time. A somewhat slow-burning crime story.. At the same time, I've had the character "Bubblegum" in my mind for a long time. Bubblegum is a community focused bloke with a heart of gold. He wears his rural upbringing as a badge of honour. So after having ideas for this character for quite a while, I started developing a who-dunnit story that would suit his innocent way of life.
What were some cinematic influences when writing it?
A few early influences on the writing were definitely the Coen brothers.. Specifically Fargo and Raising Arizona.. I love the way they are almost cartoon-like characters that are put in to sometimes dark situations.. I love the language of those films.. I wanted to try and create a singular language for Bubblegum.. A celebration of Aussie-isms and a focus on the naff. So those films served as an inspiration.
Other influences would be Wes Anderson, Taika Waititi and the Clint Eastwood movie with the orangutan, Every Which Way But Loose and it's sequel Any Which Way You Can.
Where about is the film in terms of pre-production?
I'm currently working with Jessica Pearce, she recently produced the bushranger epic "The Legend Of Ben Hall".. She has been amazing to work with. Very understanding of how I want the film to be.. She immediately got the script and has been a joy to work with. We are currently sourcing locations and organising materials to apply for funding. Jasmine Jakupi, who handled all the design elements of UAK is also hard on designing the world these characters live in.. This isn't a period piece, but it does contain a 70's Australian style, so we are all working towards making that happen.
This film seems much bigger than either of your previous ones. Have you got a funding model in mind?
Unlike my previous films, we are sourcing financing for this project. That would include government financing as well as private financing, but we are still early stages. Not a whole lot I can say about it, but yeah.. This is definitely a much bigger production than my previous films. A bigger setting and overall a larger story and scope.
What can you reveal about the casting?
I'm extremely happy to be able to announce some of the key cast.. Aston Elliot, who I've had the pleasure of working with twice is playing our hero Bubblegum. Aston is an amazing talent and really one of my favourite people to work with. I wrote the role for him and I think when audiences see him in this role they will see just how versatile the guy is.. A huge talent!
Kenji Shimada is playing Braiden, our trusty side-kick. Loved working with him on UAK. Again, this role was written with him in mind. Kenji has brilliant comedic timing and I want to be able to showcase that and let him go all out on the role.
Last, but definitely not least.. We have secured Glenn Maynard to play the local police officer. Glenn is a life-long friend of mine and he will be in everything I do. Loved working with him every time I've done it. I think he's the most interesting actor that I know. I'm a big fan and I can't wait to work with him again.
Audiences will know Aston from your previous films as deeply violent and menacing characters. Why did you cast him in the lead?
Aston is great at playing heavy characters with a penchant for violence, and I've loved watching him play those roles. However in real life, Aston is from the country and he's really funny. He knows comedy well and I wanted to flip the roles and have him play a completely likeable character.
So am I right to assume that you had him in mind from the get-go?
Yeah definitely. It was written for him.. Also being on set with Kenji and Aston, they had an instant rapport and I started trying to think of a way to allow these actors to play off one another.. Bubblegum felt like the perfect way to do that.
And what about Kenji? Was this character written before or after you worked with him on KALEIDOSCOPE?
This film was written after UAK was shot. I was in the edit room and writing Bubblegum at the same time. Braiden was written with Kenji's voice in mind.
You are stepping back into your director shoes for the second time. What are some lessons learned that you will be applying to BUBBLEGUM?
Bubblegum will be a pretty different playing field to UAK.. UAK was a tiny crew, shot completely guerilla and Bubblegum will be a sourced production with a full crew. However, there are definitely things I will take away from UAK.. How to treat people on set.. It's all about respect. I've been on sets that are moody and it's not fun for anyone.. I will try to keep the set as an inspiring place to go to work.
CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA & UNDER A KALEIDOSCOPE both had a heavy presence on social media. Will you be pushing a similar campaign with BUBBLEGUM?
Absolutely.. We want to be pushing Bubblegum as hard as possible.
We currently have a facebook page set up, if you want to keep up to date. Hit like at www.facebook.com/BubblegumDetective
This is really exciting news and its fantastic to know that you're wasting no time in getting your next film off the ground. Please keep check in with us soon to give us an update on its progress.
Thanks for your ongoing support. It's much appreciated!
Thanks for your time Addison. Best of luck!!
Melbourne's cinema culture has been thriving with the dogged determination and enthusiasm of movie lovers and cinema-groups alike. Not content with the typical cineplex blockbuster drivel that saturates suburban multiplexes, a handful of committed film societies have been working their guts out to bring classic, retro, subversive and obscure cinema to fans of the alternative. With groups such as The Valhalla Social Cinema, Oz Horror Con and Melbourne Horror Film Society working alongside each other the one clear leader of the pack is CINEMANIACS. With an irrefutable passion for celluloid they have continuously delivered a sincere and tenacious offering of some of the greatest cult cinema of all time. The group's spokesperson is Lee Gambin; a renowned film connoisseur, author and contributor to Fangoria magazine. His insanely energetic personality has helped catapult the CINEMANIACS to become a staple component of the city's ever-changing arts culture... but that's not to say that he has done it alone. In fact the group is made up of a whole not of people, one of which is FAKESHEMP'S own Justine Ryan. This week Justine touched base with Lee and hit him with a series of questions. He was generous to give us his time and his response to the interview is quite revealing.
Please enjoy CINEMANIAC ON CINEMANIAC.
JUSTINE: CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND?
I have done lots of different stuff professionally. The main one would be writing for Fangoria Magazine, which is a big thrill because I used to read it and subscribe to it when I was a kid, so that is fun, that is great. It has been a consistent gig. I have run a bunch of things – theatre companies, have written for different magazines and periodicals etc. I have done a whole bunch of things – bands. I did my own fanzine years ago, which was all horror themed related and there was the one I did which was general movie related –obviously old stuff, I don’t care about new things (Laughs).
WHAT WAS THE FIRST FILM YOU REMEMBER WATCHING AS A CHILD?
God, there’s a lot of them. I can remember distinct ones. I remember one evening on channel 9 they screened a triple feature for some reason of Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Howling (1981) and Sybil (1976), and those three films are very important to me. I don’t think I lasted for all of Sybil, that was the one at the end – it was late, I was tired and only a kid, but I distinctly remember watching those three films in one night, in one go. The Howling really, really resonating with me, and just loving it.
WHAT FILM AFFECTED YOU THE MOST AS A CHILD? GOOD OR BAD.
That is a good question, but then again, there are too many things (Laughs), because you watch so many.
One that affected me bad was, and bad in the way that I was terrified of it was Amityville II: The Possession (1982), and mainly because of the sequence which is an fucking incredible sequence, where Sonny kills his family. I think that is a beautifully staged sequence. It is really scary. It was terrifying for me as a kid. I also remember the first time I saw that, I was so excited about the movie. The TV ads came on. The ad campaign was Sonny walking through the house and sort of being stalked by the entity, and the piping coming apart – that was the campaign, I was so excited. I remember talking to my family – and going – “I am going to watch this, I am going to watch this”.
I remember that evening, there was only me and my sister – mum had gone out for the night, and dad who hated me watching horror films (Laughs), it was hard for him to stop me, but he stormed in at the scene where Jack Magner’s Sonny is in prison, the priest, James Olson, gives him the cross, and he licks it, and my father being a catholic, being angry at the screen. He turned it off and said “GET TO BED!”. So, me and my sister ran to the kitchen, and I was furious - I wasn’t upset, I was just angry – how could you stop me from watching the rest of the film. There was a good half hour to go!. Luckily, the best stuff had already happened, but then there was all that wonderful make-up effects with Caglione Jr’s work, when he comes out of the skin and all that beautiful stuff, which I didn’t see for ages, which pissed me off. Luckily, I found it on video. I used to see the video case all the time, and the picture was blue with Sonny, sort of all twisted up. I remember loving it.
That was also a good experience, that was good and bad.
WAS THERE A FILM YOU DISLIKES AS A CHILD BUT LOVE NOW?
That’s really tricky. Ah, yes, I am going to say Endless Love (1981). I didn’t hate it as a kid, I just got bored. I thought “What the fuck is this?”, but now as an adult, I absolutely appreciate it and love it. But I remember loving the idea of it as a kid, like I got confused, because I loved, even as a kid I was obsessed with those movies of the late 70’s – early 80’s with troubled teen boys, and obviously, I just mentioned Amityville II, but there was a whole cavalcade, there was a whole bunch of them to come out of that period. It was like this weird backlash against feminism. You had boring ones like Ordinary People (1980), and you had fun ones like Christine (1983). But all these fabulous films about these boys that were fucked up, and Endless Love was one of them. Going into my teen years, I just thought Endless Love was just trashy, you know romance crap, but it isn’t. It is really depressing – it is so bleak. So rewatching that one – I just bought a $5.00 copy of it recently and love it. In fact I just wanted to watch it the other day, but I am trying not to because I only want to watch stuff I am writing about at the moment because my brain gets fried.
CAN YOU SHARE WITH US SOME OF YOUR PERSONAL FAVOURITE FILMS?
There are a lot of them. I like all sorts of films. I can tell you what I have been watching now, outside of my research, even though I still try not to watch stuff that isn’t part of what I am doing, because I am writing a book about 70’s movie musicals (We Can Be Who We Are: Movie Musicals from the 70s), therefore, when I need downtime, I won’t put a musical on, but I have been watching a lot of these wonderful films from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s mainly, about animals, animal-centric movies. One of them is Fearless Fagan (1952), starring Carleton Carpenter , who is such a great actor. He didn’t do much in the way of a career, like didn’t have much of a resume as far as film goes, but every time he pops up he is so engaging – there is something so charismatic about him. He’s got this kind of James Stewart type voice, but he’s got this rubbery face and he is lanky. He was in this wonderful film called Two Weeks With Love (1950) – it is one of my favourite musicals with Jane Powell and Debbie Reynolds.
Fearless Fagan is based on a true story, about a lion who goes to the army, and that is all I’m going to say, but there is a great opening with Carleton Carpenter, as a clown, that is hanging out with Fagan, the lion, they work together. Janet Leigh is in it and Keenan Wynn. It is just great. It is directed by Stanley Donen, who did things like Singin’ in the Rain (1952), but it is a fabulous film, and I have been watching a lot of those animal related movies- things like that one, and I just re-watched Doctor Dolittle (1967) with Rex Harrison, Samantha Eggar and Anthony Newly. I watched all the Benji’s recently – but I love those films, they make me feel warm.
FAVOURITE DECADE OF FILMMAKING?
I can tell you the decades I don’t like. That would be the 90’s and 2000’s onwards. There are obviously some exceptions, but for the most part, even the late 80’s, there are slim pickings. There are some good things. Two of my all-time favourite films came from the late 80’s – Fright Night (1985) and Child’s Play (1988), but there are a whole great bunch of movies. The 90’s had some great films that are underrated like Wolf (1994). I love all cinema, but if you are going to ask me my least favourite decade, it would be 90’s and 2000’s.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE FILM COMPOSER?
That varies. Lots of them. Pino Donaggio is someone that means a lot of love and a lot of affection but also someone that is even closer to me because I have spoken to Pino, but I would have to say Charles Bernstein needs to be really respected, loved and admired. His score for Cujo (1983) is just phenomenal. It’s on par with John Williams’ music for Jaws (1975). Easy. He is someone I speak to quite regularly, and he is just a lovely, charming man. Brilliant music. He is someone everyone should listen to. He did Cujo (1983), The Entity (1982) with Barbara Hershey and A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984).
AND FAVOURITE COSTUME DESIGNER?
I love lots of them, but I am going to say Ann Roth. Simply because she gave a fantastic interview regarding Hair (1979) for my musicals book. She was hilarious. She says to me “Lee, listen, I gotta re-watch the movie before I start talking to you.” So she did. She went out and ordered the film. It is so weird these people don’t have copies, but you know, not everyone does. I don’t have a copy of my book I have written, but it is that whole thing. She was a fabulous interview, and she had great stories about working on Hair (1979) with Milos Forman.
SO WHAT ABOUT A FAVOURITE SPECIAL EFFECTS PERSON?
There are so many once again. But I am going to go really old and say Willis O’Brien, because he just pioneered so much, and also the Rankin Bass guys – I think they get, not disregarded but overlooked. I love Rankin Bass. But everyone of a certain age grew up with those films on television. They are fabulous, I love writing about them and giving them the credit they deserve. For this 70’s musical book, I could only write about three of them, but that is three more than a lot of people have talked about them because they kind of get disregarded, and you need to remember that this stop motion stuff is incredible, and without them, you wouldn't have the likes of Tim Burton.
I KNOW YOU ARE EQUALLY PASSIONATE ABOUT WRITING AND MOVIES. CAN YOU SHARE WITH US WHICH WRITERS AND FILMMAKERS INFLUENCES YOU AS A CHILD AND NOW AS AN ADULT?
Let’s talk about film criticism. People who inspired me that I read as a teenager. When I was a teenager, I lived off film criticism. I drank a lot and I did everything. I did everything early for my age, so my comedown, or going back to my cave time when I wasn’t partying and doing everything in excess was reading film criticism. Most of that was horror related. Absolutely, always has been, always was. Not always, not all the time. But yeah, most horror fans, the good ones, are lovers of all film. You will find that most horror movie fans actually love a lot of movies.
I would read film criticism, and some of my favourites who were horror writers but some of them weren’t. When I got older, in my late teens and very much in my twenties, I started to love..love reading up on film history but through critics eye, or through an analytical eye about certain groups of people or types of character or types of film style. So right now on the floor, next to my beautiful dog, is a copy of Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks by Donald Bogle because I just re-watched the two versions of Imitation of Life, and Bogle doesn’t even talk about the remake with Lana Turner (1959), he just talks about the first one with Louise Beavers and Claudette Colbert (1934). I thought that was really weird, but I reread that. So I always go back to those books From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies By Molly Haskell – that woman is a master writer. She is fantastic.
Lately, there has been some fabulous writers. I love all these new up and coming writers, and writers that have sort of been around for the last ten - fifth teen years, like Kier-La Janisse- her book House of Psychotic Women, and Robin Bougie Cinema Sewer series is terrific. Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, did a great book on rape revenge (Rape Revenge: A Critical Study). So there are all these great books and great writers that pop up. Yeah, all those seminal sort of 70’s and 80’s classics. Vito Russo’s The Celluloid Closet – he was a big influence. Even stuff when you read it again outside of being a teenager, you are like ”Ah, you’re wrong” - things like Men, Women and Chainsaws from Carol Clover.
HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU DECIDED TO PURSUE WRITING?
When I was a child I used to write cast lists. I was obsessed with writing lists. Obsessed with it. I would always go “Okay, who was the most important character”, and I would put them on top, and who played them and I just wrote lists, and lists and lists from every film. I would watch the movie and when the film had finished, I would rewrite the cast lists. God knows why, but I was obsessed with it.
Then I started writing seriously about films in year 8, I think. My first piece, that I should really find. It was all about Halloween. It is like why do you breath? I have to write, and yes I do get angry when people think my work is being behind a counter. It’s not. The reason I write also, is to champion films that go unnoticed. It pisses me right off when people think that if you give too much credit to a film that they think shouldn’t have credit – ah, well, no, go fuck yourself. If people don’t talk about The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here (1972), or people aren’t talking about Son of the Blob (aka Beware! The Blob (1972)) or if people aren’t talking about Cannon movies then they are not going to get noticed, and they just disappear, and that is the worst thing that can happen to art.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE FILM GENRES? WHICH DO YOU FEEL CLOSEST TO?
COULD YOU TELL US HOW YOU CAME TO BE INVOLVED WITH FANGORIA MAGAZINE?
I was working at the Melbourne Theatre Company. I loved it and didn’t like it at the same time. I felt like the people that worked there were wankers, they didn’t know anything. I was losing myself and my sense of identity there a little bit, but I also loved it because it was theatre. But the problem with it was everyone was an actor. There was an issue there because “young healthy actors” – not even that hungry, most of them came from rich families, but let’s not go there. Most of these people didn’t even really know films and didn’t even really know theatre – so it was like ugh! So I remember leaving there every day and just being obsessed with movies, obviously always was and always will be. And I thought, you know what? I am confident enough now to write for Fangoria Magazine, or to just ask them.
I started emailing this guy at Fangoria who took submissions, and I said “Look, I would love to write for Fango, bla, bla, bla.” He said “Yeah, just send some samples.” I sent him a bunch of samples and he loved it, which was nice and encouraging. He said “Look, what would you propose to do online? I would like an interview and I would like a retrospective”. I said ”Aw, fabulous, because I don’t want to do anything new. So I will do both, but I will do something old”. He said “For the interview, it would be good if you did something new, just so we know you can do both.” I said “Alright, cool.”
So I interviewed, and it was perfect timing because the Melbourne Theatre Company was doing a play which was like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – similar sort of style, called God of Carnage, and in it was Hugo Weaving. I managed to wrangle fifteen minutes with him while he was doing rehearsals and talked about The Wolfman (2010), which is cool.
I did that, and then I did a piece on Alligator (1980) because it was the anniversary. I thought that would be a beautiful piece. Then with Ki Wone, a good friend of mine, we got together, started doing pieces for Fangoria and we organised The Howling tribute (#307 and #308). Things just spawned off, and ultimately, Chris Alexander stepped up as editor. He and I hit it off beautifully. His first issue as editor, featured my first part interview piece with the kids of Elm Street (#293 and #294), and there started my career.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE INTERVIEW YOU HAVE CONDUCTED FOR FANGO?
There are lots of them. That is tricky. I love them all. To be honest, I really love when I get people who are seasoned – that is not to say one person is better than the other because they are all fabulous. It is nice when you get Ellen Burstyn, or it is nice when you get someone who you wouldn’t think would be in Fangoria, like Ellen Greene for Little Shop Of Horrors (1986) – that is just as important and valid.
That is a hard one.
WHAT INSPIRES AND DRIVES YOU?
What inspires me is passion for things. What drives me… there is nothing, you have to do it.
WHAT TURNS YOU OFF?
Okay, I don’t like pretension and fakeness. This city is riddled with it. There are a lot of wankers giving themselves titles. It’s like “That’s great, but you are also very rude.” There is also this gross sort of middle class snobbery. I am from a working class background. I am from the western suburbs. I am a person who is ultimately a huge fan and lover of films. I am not an academic. I am not someone who loves things from an arms-length. I am a passionate, crazed, rabid dog, who loves movies. You know, it is hard when you go to functions or meetings or events that are so stuffy and stale.
WHICH PASSION COMES FIRST, WRITING OR CINEMA?
They are intertwined, so both.
CAN YOU SHARE A BIT ABOUT CINEMANIACS AND THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF HOW THE GROUP WAS FORMED? CAN YOU SHARE OUR GROUP PHILOSOPHY WITH READERS?
I have spoken about this a bit in interviews before, but it is a group of people who wanted to screen movies.
PEOPLE MAY NOT BE AWARE THAT THERE ARE QUITE A FEW MEMBERS IN CINEMANIACS AND WHAT I THINK IS DISTINCTIVE ABOUT US IS THAT WE'RE ALL FRIENDS AND CO-FOUNDED THE GROUP BECAUSE OF OUR LOVE FOR CINEMA AND THE ARTS. IN A WORD OR TWO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE EACH PERSON?
Natalie: She is in the purest sense of the word, she is an artist. Someone who just eats it up. She loves art. She is an artist. Quintessential.
Steve: Very lovely, loyal man. Great ideas.
Lisa: Very passionate. Talented. She’s got a real sense of history. She knows what she is talking about.
Darren: Just incredibly talented and quick. Really efficient.
Penney: Very good at organising. Got sort of this warmth and diplomatic sense ability.
Nader: Is this lovely, sweet, really good right hand man.
Vanessa: Loyal and keen to get things moving, and involved.
Anthony: Very charismatic and calming, that’s something. That is very tangible for me. He just says “Shut the fuck up, Lee. Come down.” The person in my position doesn't want to be told to calm down.
Lara: Vivacious and the quintessential front of house woman.
Marcus: Very, very proper. Very, very by the book, which is something we all need as well. It is something that works intertwined with the creativity as well, but he is not one but it is all one in the same.
Rob and Kelly are both very, very sweet. Very into it and passionate and also artists as well. They are very creative.
Therese is just beautiful, and just a brilliant, brilliant resourceful, you know nurturing, another one that is really nurturing, and confident.
Camilla: Beautiful, stunning, vivacious, fun, big nerd – which is good. She is gorgeous and smart and very intelligent and cool.
Georgina: Once again, a lot like Marcus. That kind of really good, sort of plotting, planning and devising. Like Penney as well, and Vanessa – those kind of brains that you need.
Daniel and Yasemin are both brilliant.
REGARDLESS OF TICKET SALES OR POPULARITY CAN YOU WHAT FILM ARE YOU ABSOLUTELY DYING TO SCREEN AT A CINEMATICS EVENT?
I would love to screen a nice print of Willard (1971).
AND FINALLY WHAT HAVE BEEN A CAREER HIGH FOR YOU?
The first book (King of Bangor: A One Act Play (2011)).
WHERE DID THE CONCEPT FOR JOHN DOE: VIGILANTE COME FROM?
Kel Dolen had written a short film a long time ago about a guy who killed 24 'bad' people in 24 hours and then gave himself up to the police. We were looking for an idea to collaborate on and we kept coming back to that one. We started spitballing ideas to expand the concept and eventually John Doe was born.
From there we worked up a very rough outline, a lot less than I like to start with but I went ahead and banged out a draft, a lot of good stuff came out of that first draft. From there we just kept refining it over time.
THE FILM'S SOCIAL COMMENTARY SEEMS PERSONAL. DID YOU TURN TO YOUR OWN FRUSTRATIONS TO HELP TELL THE STORY?
I guess like a lot of people I'm frustrated by the lack of justice in our world today, it's something I'm quite passionate about. But really I'm also part of the problem. I'm happy to sit by and read about it until I'm forced into action by something happening to someone I love. I guess John Doe is my way of trying to be pro-active, trying to bring the issues out into the public arena so we can start a dialogue and work towards fixing the issues that have been around for thousands of years and don't look like going away anytime soon.
DID YOU HAVE ANY PERSONAL STRUGGLES IN ADDRESSING SOME OF THE MORAL AMBIGUITIES OF THE STORY?
Not at all. As a writer I just tried to stay true to the characters, their beliefs, their needs really drove the story. From the characters perspective there was no ambiguity at all, they are all straight arrows, it's simply how they are wired. There were times where I thought we were maybe going too far but we made a conscious decision not to back off from any possible controversy, we really wanted to represent victims and be their voice as much as possible.
We've received some criticism that some of the 'bad' guys are a bit cartoonish. The reality is they were ALL based on real people, it's exactly how these people behave in the real world, it's quite possible that those voicing that criticism have been lucky enough to not meet people like that, but I can promise you these kind of people do exist. I guess it's a double edge sword, on the other side a lot of people have said how real the film feels to them (in a good way). There's no doubt the fact the film is ground in reality makes it unsettling for some people as they are forced to confront the fact that in the back of their minds they know these horrible things are happening to good people every day and they don't give a shit. As long as it doesn't effect them, as long as they are safe they ignore it. Reality is we all do.
WERE YOU CONSCIOUS OF BALANCING A POWERFUL STATEMENT WITH AN ENTERTAINMENT VALUE?
Definitely. We very much wanted to make the film entertaining. We were striving to make something entertaining, a film that would take you on a ride, create an emotional response within you and leave you questioning your own morals around the subject of repeat offenders, the justice system and vigilantism. Hopefully it works on all those levels.
THERE IS A STRONG PETER FINCH/NETWORK "CALL TO ARMS" MOMENT IN THE FILM. WERE YOU EVER CONCERNED THAT THE FILM'S ACTIONS WOULD SPILL OUT OF THE SCREEN?
I guess there're two answers to that question. If the viewer actually gets the true message of the film which is not to go out and kill people but rather work towards creating a community where we all look after each other, then I have no problem with that at all. If however someone were to see the film and then decide to put on a mask, grab a baseball bat and become a vigilante, well.... I guess there're actually two answers to that scenario also. If they were to harm someone who didn't deserve it then yeah, I have a big problem with that, on the other hand if the person they were going after was a repeat offender who was planning to offend again... well... I'm not sure I have a problem with that at all....
HOW DID KELLY DOLEN AND YOURSELF COME TO WORK TOGETHER?
A friend and I were looking for a Director for another project and my friend saw Kel's previous film at MUFF and suggested we have a meeting. Even though that project fell through Kel and I really hit it off and wanted to find a project to join forces on.
VIGILANTE FILMS ALWAYS DRAW A STRONG DIVIDE AND CRITICISMS OF THE DEPICTION OF VIGILANTISM ARE INEVITABLE. YOUR FILM HAS ALREADY PLAYED AROUND THE WORLD. HAVE YOU FACED MUCH BACKLASH?
To be honest I don't think enough people have seen the film yet for us to really know if that will become an issue. The big issue with independent film is the lack of money for print and advertising. We had a very small theatrical release in the USA, there wasn't really enough P&A to give it a real chance. Locally we are getting an even smaller release as there's been zero support from most of the the Australian Distributors. It seems there is a real disconnect between the distributors and the 'man on the street' when it comes to this film. We've had a number of test screenings and scored really, really well. All we can put it down to is that the distributors are wary of the controversy and any potential backlash.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE FOR THE FILM TO OVERCOME?
The film has had obstacle after obstacle put in front of it since the day we wrapped shooting. Up until then except for an issue with one of the actors we'd had a dream run. Every step of the way since then has been like pulling teeth. Despite all that we got to around about where we wanted to in the end. Once we hit the sales cycle we came up against other obstacles. We would screen the film to the head of a distribution company, he or she would love it, and I mean really love it. They would then take it back to their marketing department who would scratch their heads and say 'we don't know how to sell this' and the deal would fall through.
I'm no marketing genius but vigilante activity is on the front page of newspapers around the world every single day. I would have thought embracing the controversy rather than shying away from it would be the way to sell the film. So I guess now the film still has it's biggest obstacle to overcome, and that is to find a way to get to it's audience. I'm still confident the film is going to have an impact, but it's got to find a way to be seen by the public at large.
WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR THE FILM IN AUSTRALIA?
There's a limited theatrical release starting on October the 16th and the DVD/BD release is happening the following week. I'm not sure yet what the plan for VOD in Australia is.
WHAT ARE SOME FILMS THAT HAVE INFLUENCES YOUR WRITING?
Wow, impossible to answer this one. I think I would have to say every film I've ever seen. You're always analysing, asking yourself why did they make that choice, was that in the script or was that the actor or director's choice. I think you actually learn more by watching bad films than good films. It becomes clear really quickly what works and what doesn't work. After watching any film I always l ask myself what would I have done differently, how, in my opinion could I make the film better.
But I can say that certain scripts have influenced the style I try to use. Parts of the script for 'Basic Instinct' are sublime. The way Eszterhas paints such a vivid picture with a minimum of words is fantastic. I try and write so that my scripts read really fast, so I use the absolute bare minimum of words. It's ironic but most producers and directors hate reading scripts so you have to try and make the read as fast and as enjoyable as possible.
YOU ARE ALSO A NOVELIST. CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND AND WHAT LEAD YOU TO WRITING?
I read voraciously as a child and pretty much up until the point I started writing, then I stopped reading altogether, although I am making a point of trying to read more now. I guess in reading all those books I developed a vivid imagination and then of course one day I watched a film and said the same thing everyone says at one point or another. "That was shit, I could do better than that!' and then the journey started. I wrote a novel which I thought was genius but of course it was terrible and in trying to understand why it was terrible I started to study story telling, the mythology of stories, hero's journey, all of that stuff and then I discovered screenwriting and fell in love with the challenge of writing visually.
BOOK OR SCREENPLAY... WHICH IS MORE CHALLENGING?
They each have their own challenges but for me at this moment in time I'd have to say book.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE FILM?
Another one that's impossible for me to answer. THE MATRIX comes to mind, as does THE CROW, SE7EN', FIELD OF DREAMS, POWDER, PREDATOR, TERMINATOR 1 & 2, TOY STORY 1 & 2', THEY LIVE, THE PRESTIGE', THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, INK, FORBIDDEN PLANET, REDBALL, TEARS OF THE SUN, and a bunch more that don't come to mind right now. Some of those I only like certain sequences, or the 'feel' of. For example I thought MINORITY REPORT would have been absolutely fantastic if the the film had ended in the hotel room, the question we needed answered was answered in that room, the extra thirty minutes killed it.
ONE OF THE FOCAL POINTS OF OUR WEBSITE IS "GUILTY PLEASURE MOVIES". DO YOU HAVE ONE?
The last 15-16 mins, particularly the last 10 of INK, I think FIELD OF DREAMS and POWDER would have to fall into that category also, same with THE CROW. You know there are probably a bunch of others but like everyone is these days I'm overwhelmed by the amount of content we have access to so I don't really seem to have time to watch older movies anymore. I guess I'm always looking for the next guilty pleasure. I'd probably also add the TV shows ARROW, SUPERNATURAL, and even the TEEN WOLF reboot, the kids love it and I seem to find myself watching it with them.
IF YOU COULD RECOMMEND ONE FILM, ASIDE FROM JOHN DOE: VIGILANTE, THAT PEOPLE SHOULD SEE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
That's a hard one. Can I say our next film? (laughs) Oh, maybe AVATAR, oh wait, everyone has seen that one. I'd have to say the film hasn't been made yet, it would be a film that speaks to the human condition and shows us just how much we've lost our way, how far off the path we are, but it would have to somehow have a lasting impact on people and be the precursor to global change. And it would need to be entertaining. I've got this script in my drawer.....
DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING ELSE IN THE PIPELINE THAT YOU'RE ABLE TO SHARE?
For sure. Kel and I are in the process of setting up our next film, it's going to be a horror film that has elements of SAW and BURIED, it looks like we may be trying our hand at crowd-funding for that one so everyone should keep an eye out and pitch in $5 for the project. :-) I'm currently doing a re-write for a film about a legendary Australian sports person, can't say much about that one except that it's a very exciting project. I have a TV pilot doing the rounds in the states that I would love to see get up, it's in the vein of THE EQUALISER, with a bit of JACK REACHER and JOHN DOE thrown in. And I have some new spec scripts I'm working on, and some other specs that I'm pitching. That's about it, fingers crossed at least one of them can get going.
AND FINALLY I WILL LEAVE YOU WITH THE LAST WORD. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT JOHN DIE: VIGILANTE?
Nothing. I'd really like people to go into it with an open mind and to just go with it and see where it takes them.
STEVE, THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME AND GOOD LUCK WITH THE FILM.
Thank you for having me!
JOHN DOE: VIGILANTE opens in select cinemas on October 16 and will be released to home entertainment through MONSTER PICTURES on October 22.
My own awareness of independent American filmmaker SHANE RYAN is relatively new. It was through my own involvement designing the poster art for Albert Pyun's latest film that his name caught my attention. When I began to research his work I realised that I was already familiar with so much of it. His AMATEUR PORN STAR KILLER trilogy had already found its way into my collection and other titles like MY NAME IS A BY ANONYMOUS and WARNING PEDOPHILE RELEASED have been under my radar thanks to various publications and message boards. Working entirely independently with budgets that could fill the front pockets of his jeans, Shane's films are confronting and controversial. Some critics have labelled them as vile and reprehensible while others have heralded him as a visionary and a pioneer. He captures the world through his lens in an honest and often shocking way and he makes no apologies for any of it. Since I began delving deeper into his catalogue and started interacting with him he has become a filmmaker I admire immensely. His films express so much emotion and I can't help but feel that we're seeing an ongoing exorcism of his own inner demons and frustrations towards the world around him. His work has started to consume me and influence my own approach to filmmaking and I had to invite him to discuss his career. Lucky for all of us he was more than happy to share.
What's one of your earliest movie memories as a child?
Commando, maybe. I remember having a huge crush on Alyssa Milano and thinking Vernon Wells was unlike any action film bad guy (although that implies I had seen other movie bad guys onscreen but he was the first to stick with me and be remembered); Bennett seemed real and even spoke highly of and respected Arnold's character, which made it much more menacing to me, especially as a child. And now I've been in movies with him! I do have a faint memory though of when I was maybe 3, being in the theatre with my dad and seeing a preview before the movie even started that freaked the shit out of me, so my dad had to take me to the lobby and calm me down. He told the story years later, I believe it was a trailer for a John Carpenter film.
Did you grow up in a film-loving environment?
Yes and no. My dad works in the business so I started learning about film from a very young age. I regularly attended Charlie Chaplin film nights at the grandson's house of Charlie's cinematographer, got to hang out with Lita Grey (Chaplin's ex-wife) as my dad works in film restoration so Chaplin films were of course on his list. My first "pro" film job was even helping restore Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse. I spent 20 years of my life hanging out at my dad's work - Image Entertainment (Major Laser disc Distributor back in the day, now Blu-Ray/DVD/Theatrical), where I even remember my dad working on Albert Pyun films! Image is where I really learned how to edit movies, and where I would hang out with filmmakers, actors, John Wayne's kids (when all these people came in for commentaries), and basically where I just got a major lesson on the history of cinema and could learn through the living family members of legends. I even got to QC the release of a Bruce Lee film as a kid (I believe it was Enter the Dragon).
My mom, however, was very athletic. She was a horse vaulter, martial artist and loved to ski. Did I mention she's blind? Not only does that make her accomplishments as an athlete amazing and inspiring, it also goes to show that my own mother has never and will never get to "watch" a film, including my own.
I think both my parents have taught me a lot in very diverse ways. So, with my mom it was minimal to no TV. She wanted me out and about. I hated sports but I did love being active, so I think the two balanced out. Which is why I think Jean-Claude Van Damme became my biggest influence. He was a film guy, but he was known for amazing athletic accomplishments in film. So, he was the perfect combo for me. Bloodsport is what got me into him at a very young age, which really sparked my love for movies. It also motivated me to be active, and start taking karate, which I think my mom loved since I just couldn't handle team sports like baseball and soccer and such. It also got me wanting to make karate films so my dad got to start teaching me how to edit and make films. Although I can not forget Shô Kosugi. I did have a love of ninjas before I heard of Van Damme, so I was all about Ninja Turtles, Revenge of the Ninja, and Enter the Ninja; those were my favorites until Bloodsport. I guess this was all around the same time I saw Commando, so not really sure which was first big movie memory.
At what age did you decide to pursue filmmaking?
At 7 was when I first started making my own films, I believe. I tried making a feature when I was 10 and again when I was 15. But I always hated the idea of directing. Especially in my late teens, everybody thought I wanted to direct, and I would get pissed at them for saying it. My passion was acting and writing, I simply made my own films so I could tell stories I wanted to tell and play characters I wanted to play. Nobody was directing me in my own scripts so how else was I going to make things happen than by doing it myself? I despised the idea of being a filmmaker. But when I was 20 I started working on a feature film and became obsessed, and before I realized it I was now an adult, and I was professionally pursuing filmmaking.
How did you get into it?
It started because of my dad showing me how to edit. He first showed me what an edit was when I was 5. It was fascinating because he showed my friend and I how to make us disappear with a simple jump cut. So, then when I was 7 that's when I attempted to actually make a film that I could edit.
Who have been some of your biggest influences in filmmaking?
As a kid it was definitely the Van Damme ordeal. He was the big spark, and what made me want to be in movies and write scripts. But the film that got me into wanting to make films I saw when I was 19. It's called The War Zone. Tim Roth the actor directed it, and the film instantly changed my life, what I viewed as art, and the way I believed that film could affect somebody. It simply moved me beyond words I know how to express thinking back in that moment after walking out of the theatre.
Do you feel restricted being an independent filmmaker or liberated?
Both. I get very upset, sometimes daily. I think "I have no money, I can't support myself, I have to do every fucking thing on my own, I'm 34 goddamn years old and still struggling at this when I got friends barely out of high school getting paid for it, I lose relationships, my own sanity, I have to promote myself, personally deal with haters and death threats, let people insult me over and over, work a dozen full time film jobs without pay just to be able to finish my mother fucking movie cause I wear every stupid hat, I hate this fucking shit, I want to quit, this sucks." That's a pretty daily fit I throw. But then I think, "what if I had 50 million dollars to make this? That would be awesome, I'd be able to buy dinner and shit. Probably have a small apartment. Pay off at least some of my debt. I'd also get to work with sets, big time actors I admire, have an editor, a d.p., lighting, producers, publicists, composers, and a hundred other people working with me. But shit, I couldn't just think on the fly like I do and have control, or let go of control; let's shoot over here instead of there, let's tell this story instead of that, let me change this edit here, this actor there, let's run down the street and shoot this in 5 minutes, let me make another cut of this, and script - what script?" - etc.
Get it? My whole way of making movies has come from having no money, just going with the flow and seeing where the ideas take you. Let it have a life of it's own. Let it became a true work of art. Having nothing makes me strive for something, everything, anything; and that's the ultimate form of creativity, is the need and want and desire to express your thoughts, feelings, emotions at all costs; to struggle, lose and sacrifice along the way. To have feelings behind it all, not just money and creatively-mindless business bullshit.
So, is that restriction or liberation? I've never had a budget to tell the difference between being indie or mainstream, so what do I know?
What inspires you?
Life, mainly. I might see something in a movie and think it's cool, or inspiring. But I get inspired by true stories, animals, people, locations, emotions.
Aside from funding what is the biggest challenge to making films so independently?
Finding people who "get" me. If you "get" me then making the film is easy.
After that it's editing. Editing is where I make or break the whole thing, and it's all up to me completely at that point, so it's very stressful, insanely time-consuming, and the biggest love it/hate it part of it all.
You have become quite prolific with the amount of work you have produced in a short period of time. What drives you?
You know I was not letting anything drive me for nearly 2 years. I almost completely lost interest in film just after I shot The Owl in Echo Park. Which sucked because I got some great footage and fun times making that. But I just suddenly lost it. I was alone, lonely, depressed, penniless, still couldn't find acting work after all the contacts I've made (which I still strive for after all these years) and movies just didn't entertain me or awe me anymore (making them or watching them). I started and ended an entire relationship since then, spent a year being sort of a dad to someone else's kid who I grew completely attached to, and I felt better acting as a father-figure than as a filmmaker, then got heart broken over losing her (the girl and her daughter), ended up insanely distraught after that, I think even suicidal. Then Albert asked me if I wanted to star in his movie, and it was very, uh, weird. A guy who's films I grew up watching, even remembered my dad working on them at Image, wants me to star, like "star" in his film when I can't even get one-liners in anything else? Oh, and I have like 3 days to memorize an entire feature script, with dialogue on every page??!?! Since I could never get acting work I didn't think I could even memorize more than a page. But something hit me that day, it just said, "do it mother fucker, you got this. You ain't got shit else, so what will you lose by giving it a shot?" And if you succeed, you know you're an actor. I thought I was going to completely fuck up, and then I didn't. I really think that experience changed me. A lot. That was only like 12 weeks ago, and yes since then I started making several more features, got more acting work, made several more shorts, have been working on scripts, got more distribution deals, I mean, what the fuck? Really.
So, again, I should thank Albert for taking that chance on me. I think him randomly doing that, and believing in me, somebody I grew up on, saying "you did good, you got this," it got me my drive back. I really haven't felt this way, this motivated, in over a decade. Granted I'm still penniless, struggling, feeling lots of envy, not all the shoots are going good, in fact many have gone horribly wrong, two features the damn actresses actually quit on me and fucked the film from finishing! But it doesn't stop me anymore; every hang up I brush off, say "fuck you and oh well I'm on to this now." And, well, I guess you can call that "drive."
Your Amateur Porn Killer trilogy is perhaps your most renowned work. Was it always intended as a trilogy?
Hell no. It wasn't intended as anything. I made it as a fluke during another down time in my life. I was going to shelve it and then decided to see what a few people thought. One critic really, really despised it and two loved it in ways I wouldn't have thought people would react. I suddenly felt like I had something, maybe my "War Zone" (though it's nothing like it and I wouldn't compare it to the brilliance of that film) in the way that it evoked tremendous emotion while being a film about rape, and, more importantly to me, manipulated rape. But a sequel never ever crossed my mind at any point in my life, for any film, let alone doing a trilogy. And now we're setting up a 4th spin-off, basically franchising it. Who woulda thought? Definitely not me.
Why do you think it has resonated so much with people?
Many different reasons for many different people. Some for all the wrong reasons. But a "bad" person, or a "perverted" person, is going to be inspired by something, anything, everything, at some point. For the people who seemed to really "get" the films for what I hope are the right reasons; I guess the first one just struck a nerve. It let you know that this is real. Real rape is not as fun, or as horribly dramatic, to watch as movies make it out to be. It can be a real, slow, drawn out, seedy, sick, manipulation of the mind. And you should feel guilty for having wanted to see it. You should think about it long after it's over. Question it. Question yourself. Question the world. And I think the film hit quite a bit of people that way. The ones who praised it, at least. Even ones who despised it still seemed to have "gotten" it, and yet some who loved it seemd to have completely missed the point. Then again did I really have a point? I made this in 3 hours with no money or time to think and no script or any real idea of where I was going with it. So, again, who the fuck knows. Although maybe this sick stuff is just in my blood, so it comes out naturally. And it resonates because I don't force it, I don't force these ideas, they're real, they're there...I just let them out.
A recent release of Amateur Porn Star Killer was converted to 3D. What's with that? Do you recommend it?
Not at all. That was a decision made up and done by the distributor. It's being released again as a box set trilogy in 2D, the way that it should be.
Some of your films feature children working with very controversial material and themes. How has it been working with kids and how have their parent's been behind the scenes?
My best experience was working on "A" because of the kids, and "Owl" because of Kevin Gage. People over 50 bring character, people under 20 bring wonder. That's what I've realized with this question. Kevin barely has to do anything, I just enjoy watching him; he's got his experience, his life, and his struggles written all over his face. Kids have everything ahead of them; their exploration with the world, their hopes, their fears, their confusion about how and why and what to understand.
As far as dealing with the subject matter; you know, behind scenes, it's all just fun and games. "A" seems very intense on screen, but everybody's laughing between takes, the parents were all there watching the whole time, the kids were even being coached between takes since I was lucky enough to get a kid's acting coach for the film since she happened to be one of the moms. And dealing with the kids is so easy for me, they're so easy to get along with; no diva bullshit, telling me I shouldn't shoot this way, they don't even complain that they're tired or hungry. They say never work with kids or animals but I say never work with adult actors, that's my biggest hassle. Again, maybe it's the way I shoot. Improvising for kids is probably just a joy, because they have that full imagination still. Adults, especially adult actors, want lines, want order, want professionalism; but I just wing everything. The way I shoot there's no sitting around for hours on end, you're always getting to act and goof around and since there's no script you can bring a lot of your own ideas, which kids can have a lot of. So, I love working with kids. I find it pretty easy, even with the subject matter. You just have to find the right parents along with the right kids. Again, people who "get" you.
Your films feel incredibly personal. Do you find the emotional connection to them exhausting?
Yes. Mainly the editing phase. While "A" was a blast to shoot that part only took 4 days. I spent a year editing it. It drove me very insane. I used to be a self-harmer and I don't know if it was from watching images of it over and over in the film, or because I was going through another breakup, but randomly one night when I was editing I had a relapse - hadn't had one in years - and I flipped out and went crazy and sliced open about 2-3 dozen cuts in my arm. I became so suddenly frantically depressed and randomly practically delusional that I didn't realize how bad I cut myself and I started bleeding all over the place. I thought I was going to have to go to the hospital but first decided to film it, then I edited it into the film during the cutting scenes. So, you want to talk about emotionally exhausting, or sacrificing yourself to your art, to your fucking film, this one was it. It literally, nearly, killed me.
To someone who has never seen one of your films where would you recommend they begin?
My Name is 'A' by anonymous. I don't really suggest my other films at this point. I gave everything to that movie, so it's all I really got to fully offer until I do it again.
Then we tried it again and I started missing lines but she kept going and it again worked out very well. And that's what having a great co-star is for; no ego, like somebody bitching saying "stop, so and so doesn't know their fucking lines." We, as actors, connected, and figured out how to guide the other one threw it, so it was great experiencing that as actor-to-actor. She was great and I thought we were perfectly cast together (so a major thanks should go to Chad Clinton Freeman from Pollygrind since he was the dude who foresaw and recommended we be paired up for it).
Since Albert couldn't talk to us during the whole film because it was just one take we really had to just find our characters and our direction from him before we did it, so that was interesting. He gave me suggestions and ideas but then just kind of let me role with it, and I really just decided to let myself be my character during the take. Not act it, be it, and it was quite exhilarating and the only way I think I could have pulled it off. So, it was truly an amazing experience and like I said, it got me my drive back. I only wish the experience could have been longer. I wish I could have had more time with Albert, hearing his opinions, suggestions, directions, trying new things, really getting to work with him more.
The film came together so quickly and was shot within a matter of weeks of conception (so it seems). Did such a speedy production scare the shit out of you?
Oh yeah, I almost passed on it, but that's when I said to myself, "you just gotta dive in man, if you pull this off, you can pull off anything," cause one reason I think I've always feared acting was because I didn't know how to memorize lines. So, I scared myself shitless into figuring it out by taking this film on with practically no prep or rehearsal time, or time to even memorize. And scaring the shit out of myself worked.
How would you rate your own performance in it?
Oh, come on now! I just wanted another take. I wanted to make it better. But Albert seemed to be really siked about it and said we didn't need it, so.
Who are some of your favourite filmmakers?
I don't know if I have "favourites" I just like filmmakers who stick to their own vision. Albert seems to always fight battles to stick to his own and never gives in. "You don't like my ideas? Fuck you I'm gone." You gotta admire that. And when he's not working with studios he seems to be able to do it his way. I admire people who have that attitude like Vincent Gallo and Jim Jarmusch. John Cassavetes would just improvise with friends and hand the camera to anyone, that's incredibly inspiring. Gus Van Sant likes to let things happen naturally like in Elephant and Last Days, really allowing the actors and film to create their own life and just by starting with a basic idea, and that I find amazing. Tony Scott was always pushing the envelope in action even on huge budgets and getting away with it and constantly got studio backing. I mean, look at Domino, wow, talk about pushing the envelope. His work, his visual style, was like a painting at times. Filmmakers like them are my favourites because they are actual artists creating something, doing their own thing, fighting their own battle, with or without budgets and studios, always pushing the envelope for their own personal needs. Now that's art. And to me, that's cinema, and that's a filmmaker.
If you were to have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Adam. I want to know why the fuck he let Eve talk him into stupid shit like eating something specifically forbidden by God of all beings. He set a bad example that still plays out to this day; women talk men into doing stupid shit that they know they shouldn't be doing. Thanks Adam.
What are some of your personal favourite films?
Taxi Driver and Rocky are my two favorites. As well as Jackie Brown, Chinatown, Out for Justice, The French Connection, Michael Clayton, The American, Bully (2001), Heat, Man on Fire (2004), Collateral, Rocky Balboa, Swingers, The Postman Always Rings Twice (either version), Hollywoodland, Training Day, Made, True Romance, Zodiac (2007), Lilya 4-Ever, Vanilla Sky, The Kid (1921) and Badlands. I'm sure there's plenty others.
What is a guilty pleasure movie that you are not ashamed to admit to loving?
The Recruit. I don't know why, I watch it more than anything. Al Pacino is just fun in it. And the idea of randomly becoming a bartender-turned super undercover CIA agent who hooks up with Bridget Moynahan is just too good to be true that it's simply a really fun film to live vicariously through on a regular basis.
The other is State of Play. I actually love what it has to say about journalism, the difference between a "blogger" and a real writer; almost like the difference between a hack and an artist. Somebody who wants instant fame, like Rachel McAdams' character, versus somebody who will take their time, say fuck the fame, and live dangerously to get the truth for their story, like Russell Crowe's character. And then it's all tied in with murder and conspiracy, just makes for a fun Hollywood film which actually has a message I love.
FakeShemp.Net is based in Melbourne, Australia and I ask most of my guests if they have any favourite Aussie films. Do you?
The Rover is easily the best film I've seen this decade. And that director's previous film Animal Kingdom was also one of the best films I've seen in quite a while. I know I tend to see quite a bit great Aussie films, I just don't usually remember the names of everything cause I watch all kinds of films from all countries.
So what's next? Do you have anything in the pipeline that we should keep an eye open for?
Oh too many things, actually. Albert's Cheryl Cooper film, still editing The Owl in Echo Park, acting in Samurai Cop 2!, would love to be in Albert's new Kickboxer film, acting in random things here and there, got a small part in Sean Cain's Jurassic City along with Vernon Wells, Kevin Gage, Robert LaSardo and Ray Wise, finishing up the script for The Birmingham Cycle (a woman revenge film I'm hoping Van Damme's daughter Bianca Bree can star in, along with say, Zoë Bell!), working on a spinoff to Amateur Porn Star Killer (called Ted Bundy had a Son), on the side I'm making this film about school shootings and bullies and victims, finally getting a release (I think) for The Girl Who Wasn't Missing (and My Name is 'A' by anonymous, of course), have several anthology films coming out (Dysmorphia, World of Death, Theatre of the Deranged 2, Paranoia Tapes), I think American Girls is also finally coming out (a film I co-produced), and whatever else I can get my hands on!
Shane, thank you for taking the time. Your work inspires me and I look forward to what else lies ahead.
Thank you very much, Sir.
Once a unique and random genre, 'found-footage' films have become common-place in the modern cinemascape. With Hollywood trying to tap into the no-frills formula and almost every newcomer taking advantage of it, the genuinely good entries are few and far between. It takes something truly special to resonate and recently I caught the trailer for a new Australian found-footage film called THERE'S SOMETHING IN THE PILLIGA. It immediately struck a chord with startling imagery and no holds-barred intensity. With thoughts of BOGGY CREEK in my mind my eagerness to see this intriguing film has been niggling at me. It has been directed by Dane Millerd, who's background is in journalism. He recently took the time to answer some of my questions and provides some fantastic insight into the film and where the idea stemmed from.
What is your earliest movie memory?
Star Wars - I loved it as a kid and still do. My parents tell me I knew it word for word.
Were you raised in a movie-friendly environment?
Yes - plenty of movies and books. Anything that would broaden the horizons.
How old were you when you decided to pursue filmmaking?
Around 15 I decided I would like to make films. My journalism degree has helped though I always saw it as a component of being a script writer and director. I love to tell stories.
What has been your film education? Film school? Self Taught?
Self taught and from some good film makers as well. I have been lucky enough to work with Paul Denham and the late Graham Irwin who worked with Jack Thompson, Ray Barrett and Simon Wincer.
Can you tell us about There's Something in the Pilliga?
It's about four people who should've played golf! Seriously, it's about how one man (Jay) tricks a cameraman and two girls into a trip in his truck to see a friend in the outback when unbeknownst to them he is using them as bait to find the Pilliga Yowie (Bigfoot). Things go from bad to worse from there. It is a found footage POV genre film 100% Australian!
Where does the inspiration for the film come from?
Covering stories out there as a journalist as well as from my cousin. One of the females is based on my cousin to give it authenticity. Plus there is also loads of local legends out there about yowies.
The trailer looks intense. Can you tell us about some of the techniques you used to capture your atmosphere?
Filming on location and mostly in a colder time of year. That always works. Plus I like to keep some info from the cast to surprise them!
How long did the film take to shoot?
On and off over 3 years - a long time. All told from script to now it's taken 8 and a half years.
What about casting? Where did your players come from?
I already had an idea who I wanted but had to wait to get Leoni Leaver. The original lead actress didn't work out and Leoni was on the other side of Australia. I sent the script to her and she nailed it. In many ways she carries the film with Brendan Byrne (who plays Jay).
Was the low budget restricting or liberating?
Haha - sometimes both. Depending on the job.
Were you influenced by any other films?
Many. Wake In Fright, Razorback, Deliverance, Wolf Creek, Chopper and of course Blair Witch.
Has the film screened for any audiences yet and if so, what has the response been like?
Yes and the responses have been unanimous in their praise. That said - I know it won't be everyone's cup of tea but it will be someone's shot of whiskey!
When will get to see 'There's Something in the Pilliga'?
Soon - we have been in negotiations with distributors now so either late 2014 or early 2015.
How do you view the Australian film scene, particularly the genre scene?
I'm hoping it will be better when Pilliga is released!
What are some of your favourite Aussie films?
Bad Boy Bubby, The Loved Ones, Chopper - too many to name. Some of the movies that inspired me would also make the list.
What are some of your personal favourite films in general?
I have a big thing for 70s movies especially classics. Apocalypse Now, Deliverance and Taxi Driver among many others.
Who is your favourite filmmaker?
Do you have a guilty pleasure movie you love and aren't afraid to admit?
Haha - What Dreams May Come is the one.
Do you have any plans for another film?
Would you care to share with us? A sequel to this film - There's Something Else In The Pilliga.
Dane, thank you for taking the time. I am genuinely excited about your film and cannot wait for the opportunity to see it. Good luck with it.
Having spent my childhood loitering the local video stores I became with JEFF BURR long before seeing any of his films. The cover art for VHS titles like LEATHERFACE, THE OFFSPRING and PUMPKINHEAD 2 had left an impression on me and when I finally caught up with his films, I was hooked. Before I understood the ins & outs of filmmaking, I knew what I liked, and what I liked was style. Jeff would never consider himself an auteur but his films are all so distinctive that he certainly is one within the B-world. If ever substance is lacking, he compensates with strong textural aesthetics and vibrant colour schemes. What you are about to read is epic. This is something special and Jeff offers insights on his own career, people he has worked with as well as discussing influences, back-stories and personal creeds. If you're a filmmaker you will find this fascinating and if you're just a good 'ol movie lover then you're about to get a rare look-see into the work of one of my favourite B-movie directors. Jeff Burr also happens to be a genuine and super nice guy and having bantered back and forth with him for this interview he has become one of my favourite humans.
The cover art for Chopping Mall mesmerized me for years. During the mid 80s when Friday nights were spent at the local video store I would always slink away from my parents and sneak over to the horror section. I was addicted to the gross and gory covers and one day I was able to sneak this movie under my mother's nose. I watched Chopping Mall over... and over... and over... Its director was JIM WYNORSKI and he had me hooked. He was one of several directors who fuelled my love of genre and to this day I hold him in the highest regard.
His career began as an editor cutting trailers for Roger Corman and since his first film, The Lost Empire (1981) he has written, produced and directed an incredible catalogue of 150+ titles and given the B-world some of it's most outrageous creations. From Transylvania Twist to The Wasp Woman... Return of the Swamp Thing to Busty Cops... and most recently movies like Camel Spiders, Dinocroc Vs SuperGator and Piranhaconda. Jim's flare for kitsch is obvious and as you will see from the following interview, his tongue is planted firmly in his cheek. With a wicked sense of humour and a take-no-prisoners-fuck-off attitude Jim's legacy of trashy cult cinema continues.
Having my film idols give me their time still blows my mind and having Jim Wynorski on board is yet another box ticked. When I approached him for this interview he agreed and told me to make the questions interesting and not the "same' ol same' ol ones again"... well... I'm not sure I delivered but I at least asked the questions which I was interested to know...
What’s the last movie you watched?
Just this morning – JOURNEY TO THE 7TH PLANET. Loved it, despite the cheesy sets and efx.
What’s a question you’ve never been asked in an interview before?
What’s your Visa Credit Card number?
Would you care to answer it now?
4567 3456 2341 0066 (161 on reverse)
Would you consider coming to Australia to make Kangasaurus or Koalaconda?
I would love to go down under. I have a friend or two there. And yes, of course, let’s do MARSUPIAL! while I’m visiting.
You seem to always have something in the works. What can we expect from you next?
Here’s a list of the next five – all true titles:
THE SHARKANSAS WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE
HOT BODY INC.
THE DOUBLE D RANCH
Jim, thank you for taking the time. Your films have been in my psyche since I was 6 years old and they have helped fuel my love of genre.
AFTERWORD: I am curious about Jim's response to my question regarding exploitation films and whether or not they still exist. He names The Conjuring, The Call and You're Next as three recent examples... were this a live interview I would have probed this a little more. These types of horror movies have become almost staple and are now accepted in the mainstream and so I wonder if the definition "exploitation" has changed? I'm sure there is no concise answer but I'd been keen to hear some of your thoughts. Feel free to add comments below. Cheers - Shempy!
Few Gen-Xers walked away from the 80s without knowing and loving The Monster Squad. It was a film for our generation and it endures to this day. Director Fred Dekker tapped into childhood fears in a way which was both scary and exciting and along with Spielberg, Lucas and Dante he helped build a generation of resilient and adventurous kids. In addition to Monster Squad Fred also brought us the classic Night of the Creeps and the ill fated (yet audacious) Robocop 3. He is also responsible for some of the best episodes of Tales from the Crypt, including The Thing From The Grave. With writing credits on Star Trek Enterprise also under his belt, Fred Dekker is a respected and sought after cult figure with fans flocking to conventions and screenings just to shake his hand. His work has certainly influenced my life and I feel really fortunate to have had the opportunity to pick his brain. What a guy!
What was your favourite movie as a kid?
A few come to mind, but let's go with the original KING KONG which was huge for me (no play on words intended). I probably saw it 50 times.
What lit the fire and your passion for film?
My dad was a movie buff from way back, and he'd point out the character actors from old black-and-white war films on TV. He took me to the drive-in, where I'd wear my pajamas and bundle up in a sleeping bag in the back of our family station wagon to watch films like PLANET OF THE APES and WHERE EAGLES DARE. His influence was formative.
How did you first get into the industry and what was your first job in it?
My first gig was writing the script for Steve Miner's planned 3D GODZILLA film. It was never made, but it was a wonderful experience and Steve rallied some amazing artists to design and storyboard -- people like William Stout, Dave Stevens, and Doug Wildey who created "Jonny Quest."
How did the movie “House” come about? You are credited for it’s story but not it’s script.
HOUSE was an idea I wanted to direct. I intended it to be shot at my parent's Victorian house in Northern California -- one character, very low budget, very run-and-gun. When other things came up (like writing NIGHT OF THE CREEPS), I handed script duties to my pal and college roommate Ethan Wiley. Then Steve Miner loved it and got Sean Cunningham to produce. The movie they made was a lot different in tone from what I had intended, but I'm glad people liked it.
Night of the Creeps was released that same year. As a first time director it must have been a scary prospect. Can you tell us how you came to direct the movie?
I wrote the the script in about three weeks then gave it to my agent and said, "I want to direct this." I had an unfinished 16mm short film, which we showed the studio to prove I knew where to aim a camera. Next thing you know, I was in charge of a $6 million movie. It was sudden and terrifying.
Your next movie, Monster Squad, drew influences from the classic Universal Monster pictures. Given that Tristar produced your film, what difficulties did you face recreating the Universal Monsters.
As you can guess, the Universal make-ups are copyrighted, so it was a tightrope walk to make them recognizable while not treading on the copyrighted elements. Luckily, we had the great Stan Winston and his team designing the monsters, so it was kind of hard to go wrong. And I'm on record in thinking our Creature is one of the three best monster costumes ever made for movies (the others are ALIEN and the original Creature).
Both of these movies have gained huge cult followings over the years and continue to screen around the world. Has their longevity amazed you?
Another movie you wrote was Ricochet, starring Denzel Washington. This was directed by Russell Mulcahy who has a highly stylised approach to cinema. Did this movie turn out the way you had envisioned it?
I had actually written RICOCHET as a Dirty Harry movie. When Clint Eastwood deemed it "too grim" (which is funny if you've seen a Dirty Harry movie), the producer Joel Silver took in a different direction. I met Kurt Russell about starring in it with me directing, but eventually it became the movie you know. I counted seven things of mine left in the finished product. Great cast though, and Russell is a Facebook friend.
One of my favourite movies growing up was If Looks Could Kill. Again you are only credited for “story only”. Were you involved at all and did the final cut bare any resemblance to what you had originally written?
This was an original script I'd written called TEEN AGENT, which was my attempt to blend the Anthony Michael Hall character from John Hughes' films with a James Bond adventure. The final product is not at all what I envisioned, not the least reason being they cast a "cool" guy to play the nerdy lead, which kind of defeats the comedy. I'm not a fan, but the movie has its moments. (Trivia: the female lead was named "Mariska" after my college friend Mariska Hargitay -- who went on to star in "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit")
You directed Robocop 3. Can you tell us a bit about how this came to you and what it was like to work with the legendary Frank Miller?
I was a huge fan of Frank's comics work, particularly his take on Batman (which redefined the character and influenced every incarnation since -- including the Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan films). Frank had written ROBOCOP 2 with Walon Green, and when I came aboard #3 I learned he had written a draft for that one, too. Rather than toss it, I fought to keep as much unused material as possible from both of his ROBOCOP scripts. The fact that the studio wanted a PG-13 made things tricky, since Frank's voice as a writer is not exactly "family friendly." I'm sure he thinks I destroyed his vision, but a lot of ROBOCOP 3 is his -- especially the Japanese/samurai element and the notion of a corporate, fascist police force. I loved working with him, and I loved making him laugh.
I couldn’t ask you questions without mentioning Tales From The Crypt. What a show! Your episodes were among the series best. How did you become involved?
I was thrilled to be asked to write the first one by Robert Zemeckis, and continued to hang around for the first season. Each episode was a little movie, and I got to work with my heroes, Like Bob Z., Dick Donner, Walter Hill, etc., etc. It was a dream.
What have been your highest and lowest moments in the industry?
Highest would be the one-two punch of making CREEPS and SQUAD back-to-back. Lowest would be the critical reaction to ROBOCOP 3.
You haven't produced much over the past few years; will you return to the directors or writers chair?
Believe me, we writers scribble a lot of scripts that are never shot, so I've actually never gotten OUT of the writer's chair! As for directing, I'm definitely available but the phone doesn't ring like it used to.
What defines good “genre”, to you?
I think when a fantastical idea is treated seriously and with realism. The second you start making fun of the genre you're in, you're entering "camp" territory and that's something I just have no taste for. Good genre is work that has integrity and is true to itself. I'm also tired of remakes and reboots. More originals, please.
If you could have written one film in the history of cinema, which would it be?
Great question. I'd love to have my name on THE TERMINATOR or BACK TO THE FUTURE.
Do you have a favourite film?
What inspires you?
Great movies, great television. Sometimes music and art. Right now I'm in total awe of "Breaking Bad." I feel like I've never known how to write for television, and Vince Gilligan has kind of shown me how it's done.
Who have been some of your favourite filmmakers of the past few years?
Honestly, my heroes are mostly old school (or dead). But apart from Spielberg, Kubrick, Peckinpah, Coppola, guys like that, I'd say more recently: Paul Thomas Anderson, Alexander Payne, The Coen Brothers, Lars Von Trier, Rian Johnson. I admire Shane Carruth, but I can't begin to decipher his films. There's also an English director I've discovered recently named Andrea Arnold, whose work is sensational. Oh and Alfonso Cuaron. CHILDREN OF MEN was amazing, and GRAVITY looks even better!
What is a question you have never been asked in an interview?
"What's the great, unmade Fred Dekker film?"
Would you care to answer it now?
Thought you'd never ask. The feature film of JOHNNY QUEST, based on the 1960s animated series. I had a deal to make it in the 80s, then later wrote a script for Warner Brothers, but it was never made.
I am based in Australia and a question I ask most of my guests is whether they have any favourite Australian films. Do you?
I'm afraid my answer is going to be rather predictable: THE ROAD WARRIOR. George Miller is god.