Crawlspace – Justin Dix Interview – Part 2
GEORDIE: Since Rogue, Greg has spent his time as an executive producer but now has two features in pre-production in a directing capacity, one of them the long-awaited sequel to Wolf Creek, how close are we to seeing Mick Taylor again?
JUSTIN: Greg is in pre-production with Wolf Creek 2 right now, since then Greg’s company, ‘Wolf Creek Pictures’ has been and continues to attach itself as one of the production companies and Greg as Executive Producer for films like ‘Red Hill’ and of course ‘Crawlspace’. There are several other production that are in early stages of development that ‘Wolf Creek Pictures’ is attached too.
GEORDIE: The Australian film industry is either in a healthy state, or at deaths door, depending on who’s sound bite we hear from one week to the next. How difficult was it raising the capital in Australia to fund your debut feature? What is your take on the current state of the Australian film Industry?
JUSTIN: It’s a very good question, my answer to that is that we have not been in a healthy state for a very long time. Of course when you hear about films like ‘The Sapphire’s’ and ‘Red Dog’s’ success here in Australia, but they don’t really translate overseas and these success stories are once in a blue moon. When our films travel abroad, they are generally regarded as being in the art house or specialist category as we have consistently produced drama and we rarely make action or genre films that rely on special effects because they are considered expensive genres. But these are the sort of films that have true commercial success internationally. I also disagree that these films are too expensive to produce, the average American action film with a star like Jean-Claude Van Damme or a Jim Caviezel has a budget of 3 million dollars, and then you have the 1 million and under horror model in the US which has spawned an incredible amount of success stories from ‘Saw’, ‘Insidious’, Paranormal Activity”, ‘I Saw the Devil’ and recently ‘Sinister’ and many more which have gone on to make hundred and hundreds of millions of dollars, which in turn create opportunities for new film makers. But, an average Australian film in a genre with no international appeal is around 4-6 million dollars and would be very lucky to ever see it make money back. I feel here in Australia we have become lazy film makers due to government funding and handouts. In America, they don’t have any such entities and have to work for a living – so the projects are based on commercial viability, about how to make money and how to get bums in seats.
To truly have a healthy film industry we need to be producing at least one hundred films a year. This would not only keep the crew and actors in Australia really busy, but create hundreds if not thousands of new jobs for people wanting to get into the film industry here. They would need to be of commercial value, and I don’t mean ‘American accents’ – those days a long gone, and in fact it did not hinder ‘Crawlspace’ one bit, it was mentioned on many occasions that it was the point of difference that made it unique. At the moment we produce somewhere between twenty five to forty feature films a year if we are lucky. In Hollywood they produce anywhere between four hundred to six hundred feature films a year, they have a film industry.
We also need to embrace the commerciality, action, sci-fi and horror, these films breakdown the language barrier that comedies and dramas will suffer for in overseas markets. Now, nobody goes out to make a bad horror or action flick, but if you do, there is still a market for that- but if you make a bad drama or comedy, there is zero market for it. Hell, there is barely a market for a good Australian Drama or Comedy, even in Australia, not something we like to say out aloud, but it’s true.
GEORDIE: Australian film has a long history of quality horror films, from the classic schlocky 70’s and 80’s fare through to the box office success of Wolf Creek, and to a lesser extent the independent flicks such as The Tunnel and Redd Inc. What will Crawlspace add to the mix?
JUSTIN: Crawlspace will add into the mix exactly what I was saying in the previous answer, that we can make these types of films here, and I mean big looking action set pieces with huge production value at an economical cost, without reverting to Aussie actors doing American accents.
Thank God for Sam Worthington, that lad is paving the way for many an Aussie actor in Hollywood to use their natural accent. I’ve always felt that ‘Mad Max 2’ aka ‘The Road Warrior’ in the US, paved the way for the post apocalyptic film genre and America has been running with it ever since, where as we kind of went in a different direction wanting to be taken a little more seriously.
What I wanted to do with ‘Crawlspace’ is get back to that kind of Aussie film making. Who’s to say that America has cart-blanch on Alien conspiracies, post apocalyptic wastelands, found footage poltergeists or zombie apocalypses. I wanted to do an Aussie film that could slot right in there but without compromising the Australian content. Hell, ‘Crawlspace’ is set right in the middle of the Australian desert, just under it, in a real base called Pine Gap. Basically known as Australia’s Area 51- this is our backyard people, and it’s ripe for great stories and movies to be made.
I’m so looking forward to getting back to the days of ‘Ozploitation’ a time in the late 70’s and 80’s when break-neck-action and schlock-horror were the staples of Australian cinema.
GEORDIE: Greg has been associated with the term ‘Splat Pack’ with Alexandre Aja, Darren Lynn Bousman, Neil Marshall, Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, James Wan and Leigh Whannell. What have you planned next, will we be seeing Justin’s name on that list soon?
JUSTIN: I would love to be considered to be part of the ‘splat pack’ one day, we will just have to wait and see. Next for me is one of three feature films I already have written and have been pitching in LA – ‘Declassified’ ‘Riding Hood’ and ‘High Moon’. Of course having ‘Crawlspace’ as a finished film helps enormously as a calling card and with my background in Production Design and Special Effects make-up I’m able to present the projects in the pitches in various visual ways including set design, make-up tests and storyboards. This goes a really long way as they can see you have a real handle on the visuals and how you are going to achieve what is in your script.
GEORDIE: Crawlspace has had a few festival screenings already, when and where can we see Crawlspace nationally?
JUSTIN: Crawlspace had it’s public world premier in Spain at the Sitges film festival in October. Sitges is recognised as the foremost genre film festival in the world, it was huge with over three hundred films showing over the course of the festival and international guests such as Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Dario Argento and many more in attendance. It was an amazing festival and I was able to attend with thanks to Screen Australia.
From there I went over to L.A. to Screamfest Horror Film Festival for the US premiere of ‘Crawlspace’, again meeting many other fantastic film makers (and the iconic John Carpenter), but also picking up the coveted Screamfest awards for best special effects make-up and best soundtrack which was brilliant.
The film then has done the rounds of a few Aussie film festivals and is due for a simultaneous VOD and limited theatrical release in the US from the 4th of January 2013. From there it will start to be released worldwide on multiple platforms, including Australia, sometime in Jan or Feb.
JUSTIN: Yes, I am a huge horror fan, in fact a get really scared in movies. Friends of mine find this hilarious because I write and work on horror films creating all the effects, but I love cinema and I get very easily drawn into the screen and enveloped into the world on it. My favourite films would have to be John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ and ‘American Werewolf in London’ and as far as the Thing remake goes, well it suffers from having a superior film that was made almost thirty years before it being so good, and I’ll say it again as I did before – CGI, just because you can, does not mean you should.
GEORDIE: A huge thanks to Justin for giving up his time to answer a few questions. Keep an eye out for Crawlspace on limited theatrical release and VOD in January and February 2013.