Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Interviews: EXCLUSIVE

Prank – Alex Weight Interview

FINAL POSTER _billing list 001I managed to get an interview with Alex Weight, the writer/director of new horror film Prank a short in the vein of the fantastical slasher pics of the 80’s – Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween.
Prank tells the story of those three young teenage boys (Richie, Bobby and Sam) who come together for just one night to catch up with an old friend they haven’t seen in years. It’s not until they arrive at their destination do we find out that all is not as it seems.

GEORDIE: Hi Alex, thanks for taking time out to answer a few questions about your new short horror film Prank. I’ll start with an assumption that Prank was influenced by your love of 80’s horror. What inspired the story and your drive to make the film?

ALEX: Hi Geordie, my pleasure. You’re very right, being a child of the 80’s I grew up with the classic Slasher films that defined the genre – Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, Friday the 13th. These movies included an element of fun and adventure, without becoming farcical (excusing maybe some of the later ones) but still delivering shocks. They captured the freedom and excitement of youth rebelling against a grownup world, but now also battling demonic evil. This trope was fun, though watching those kids strive against, essentially the same monster got me thinking.

When Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger found themselves alive again for the first time, was revenge the first thought on their mind? Did they consider tracking down family and loved ones? Making contact with those who hadn’t spurned them in life? Were they re-born with pure hatred, or was that decision to follow destruction considered, deliberated on, then actioned? What if they were innocents? What if their death wasn’t born from a life of pain and suffering but an accident? Now, finding themselves alive again after many years, what path would they take?

This is how Prank was born. I wanted to tell the story from the other side. From the side of the monster. And about the choices that are made in the beginning of that rebirth. Retribution or forgiveness? Revenge or redemption?

Prank_still_2GEORDIE: The first thing that struck me at the location shoot the other week was the high production value of the film. It felt like a feature, the quality and scale of the set ups and the amount of cast and crew on hand was staggering for a short film. How difficult was it to pull the production together?

ALEX:  It was a huge production but I can’t take all the credit for it. It really was Aaron Bush’s (Producer) ability to pull together the huge crew in a very short amount of time that made us able to get the production to that level. I was just the guy saying that I wanted a crane shot, Aaron was the guy who made it happen.

From the beginning I had a strong vision for how I wanted the film to look. A lot of independent and short horror nowadays goes down the “found footage” path. Which definitely has its benefits, cost being one of them. I wanted to break away from this and use more traditional camera setups and staging. Especially if we were going to push the whole 80’s look throughout. Unfortunately, this also means you need a big team and a crew that know what they’re doing.

But since we were still working with a short film budget we had to pull in a lot of favours. Most people out there realise what it means when you say that you’re working on a short film. Everyone knows the limitations you have of time and budget. But we were so lucky that they came onboard anyway.

Prank_still_1GEORDIE: As I mentioned above, it was a very professional set-up and was very impressive to see you and your crew at work. How did the shoot go?

ALEX: Amazingly. Since it was my first time directing a live action shoot I couldn’t have been in better hands. Simon Harding (DP) has a huge amount of experience, once he understood the look and style we were going for he nailed it straight away. Which left me free to concentrate on the performance. Have to say, I was pretty spoilt.

Kayne Taylor (1st AD) kept everyone – including myself – running on time throughout both nights. Which was a massive task since when I first spoke to Kayne he told us we needed three nights. Unfortunately we could only afford two – always the way hey? – Getting it done in that time came down to Kayne pushing us all and staying very organised.

Everyone in the crew had a lot of experience, once they knew we had a plan it made it much easier for everyone to work quickly and efficiently. You lose a lot of time if you have everyone on set and then go searching for shots. We couldn’t afford to do this so we planned out every shot in boards before touching the camera.

GEORDIE: Prank feels very much like an homage to the classic 80’s horror we grew up on; there are a lot of elements that felt familiar from those movies without feeling like anything was lifted from any specific film.

ALEX: I feel horror nowadays has taken a turn for the worse. “Torture-porn” predominates the genre. Movies that just set out to mutilate the protagonists in as many gratuitous ways as possible. The sense of fun is gone, so has the fantastical. The villains in today’s movies are real people, born from the news and reality rather than another dimension. I want to bring back the monsters from the 80s, open the door to the other side and have some fun.

There was also a sense of adventure in 80s horror that I loved. The stories felt more personal, like you were in on the secret. These kids were out there dealing with monsters at night and bullies during the day, but the adult world never really intruded. That’s what made movies like Goonies and Stand By Me so great. We tried to get the essence of that feeling in Prank. Hopefully its there. But a lot of that comes down to casting. That energy and the acting style of that time. I think the kids we had did a great job of trying to capture it. I gave them all a bunch of 80s movies to watch as homework before the shoot.

Prank_still_4GEORDIE: My standard question to all Australian film makers. The Australian film industry is either in a healthy state or at deaths door. It seems to concentrate and be favoured by the critics for focusing on anything but genre flicks; as if evidence were needed Margaret and David At The Movies didn’t even bother to review Wolf’s Creek 2. What’s your take on the current state of the industry here?

ALEX: Yeah, that’s a hot topic at the moment isn’t it? Well, it’s probably been the same for a while, but it feels like the industry has been more vocal about it of late. It’s a difficult subject since no Australian film maker wants to be a traitor to their industry, but at the same time it becomes increasingly frustrating when the industry doesn’t respond in kind.

We took Prank to a few of the Australian funding bodies and were told outright that they don’t support genre films. There is obviously a “type” of Australian film that does get funding. But if you have no interest in making that type of film it becomes very difficult to get your film made. In the end – like many other Australian film makers – we had to go with private funding.

I find it especially frustrating since there is so many good stories out there that just don’t get told. I’m all for art-house cinema, but I also feel that in order to support the industry and keep people in Australia we need to follow the American format a bit more and start thinking about making commercial movies that people want to watch. At the end of the day its about selling tickets. If you sell lots of tickets you’re going to be able to make another movie and keep your crew hired. Then hey, make your movie about the old lady who makes goat cheese for truck drivers in the outback.

Prank_still_6GEORDIE: Australia has a long and infamous history in the horror genre, from the 70’s and 80’s grindhouse schlock through to the more recent success of Wolf Creek, Saw and The Loved Ones as well as the independent Redd Inc. and The Tunnel. What do you hope to bring to the mix with Prank?

ALEX: I love all those films. I think they were incredibly successful at what they were setting out to do. Especially the Grindhouse films. Some are just brilliant in a completely schlock way. But there’s a certain type of film and look that people associate predominately with America. Why? I don’t get it. It seems if you set your movie in safe suburbia, kids on bikes, tree houses etc… people think you’re shooting your film in America. Its like Australia is only made up of the outback, and grungy alleyways in Surry Hills. There’s just a big grey void in between. I want to remind people that we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously, and that a movie can be Australian without pandering to colloquial cliches.

There are a lot of film makers out there who feel the same and doing some brilliant work, e.g. Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook. I’m hoping that Prank can add to the slowly growing pile of commercially viable Australian genre films.

Prank_still_3GEORDIE: The financially successful themes within the horror genre are cyclical; 2 1/2 years ago I asked Courtney Solomon what he thought was the next big thing in horror and he stated that it was the Ghost Stories and the Supernatural. He nailed it, no pressure but what do you hope to see as the next big thing in the genre and why?

ALEX:   Haha! No pressure at all. Sure, why not. Well, let’s take a look at what we’ve had recently. I think the Ghost run has been fantastic with films like The Conjuring, Mama, Insidious etc… but you’re right, it’s probably played out now. Moving forwards it looks like we’re getting another rash of remakes Carrie, Poltergeist… but that’s always going to be the case. I dunno, thats a hard one. I think the whole “found footage” genre has run its course as well. I guess if I’m going to guess, I’d say that horror – more than any other type of genre – is a reflection of the predominate global fear, so… Right now there’s a lot of media focusing on bigger problems people can’t control – global warming, dwindling resources, overpopulation etc… the kneejerk reaction to this is people withdraw, hole up with their own supplies to protect their little family unit. I’d say we’re going to start seeing movies that play around with this idea. Along the lines of where “Take Shelter” started but pushing it further. Families living underground, crazy extremist preper camps. Not quite dystopian, but what people do just before the shit hits the fan.

Prank_still_5GEORDIE: An easy one to finish. You’re obviously a big fan of the horror genre, what is your favourite horror film, what you remember from when you first saw it and why it’s still a favourite? Also, any new releases that have impressed you over the last few years?

ALEX: Wow. Just one? It’s not original but I’m going to have to go with Evil Dead 2. It’s just fucking great. I remember everything about watching for the first time. It’s scary, gross, funny. It just has every element a good horror film should have. Shit, any film should have.

So I saw it again recently and was just blown away with how well it’s made. The steady-cam shots are still amazing, the build-up to the first scare is handled beautifully. Some of the lines are so hokey but it all just works because it knows exactly what it is and doesn’t try to be anything different. That’s probably why I like it so much.

As for recent films? The two big standouts for me have been Cabin in the Woods and Drag Me To Hell. Both are incredibly well done. Plus both managed to get that sense of fun and adventure while still having some good shocks as well. I know I go on about it, but it’s just such a hard thing to do well.

Prank_Alex-WeightGEORDIE: I’m assuming that you aim to screen Prank on the festival circuit, when and where will we be able to see the film? Thanks again for your time with the interview. Good luck with Prank.

ALEX: Coming to major festivals soon. Thanks Geordie, been a pleasure. Check out the films facebook page HERE.

8:47 – Nik Kacevski Interview

Untitled-1Check out this short interview with Nik Kacevski, writer/director of the sci’fi short 8:47.

GEORDIE: Hi Nik, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions about your new short film 8:47. I’d like to start by asking where the idea for 8:47 came from and also your decision to shoot the film in one take, which came first, the story or the one-take idea?

NIK: Well, I had specific key visuals in my head for a little while. I actually started writing different versions of it a few years back, but this time around the idea of doing it in one take really made me want to commit to solving how to pull it off. So I wrote the opening section and then came up with the approach of treating it like a play. So I guess the story and approach kind of happened at the same time.

GEORDIE: Having a varied and successful background in Music Videos, Commercials and CGI Animation must have been quite handy when it comes to making your own short film. What were some of the benefits that you were able to apply to 8:47?

NIK: Funny you mention that. My goal for this film was to actually throw away everything I knew and felt comfortable with. I have a background in visual effects and design, so I wanted not to rely on that training. Keep it raw. Be disciplined and purely focus on performance and camera. It was a great exercise. Really forces you to get your hands dirty and nut everything out. But that being said, being exposed to and having experience making music videos and working on feature films, obviously helps understanding the process.

GEORDIE: Most good sci-fi seems to stem from low budget movies that are more focused on interesting ideas than giant effects blockbusters. Do the budget limitations drive you to be more creative, think about something other than the obvious?

NIK: Oh they definitely do. It’s a common theme that we see in films and filmmakers’ careers. Our need to tell stories sometimes forces us to deal with what we have to work with and find solutions. That’s why I really enjoyed the challenge of this film. It was like solving a puzzle; never did I think it was unsolvable. Sure with more money it may have been easier, but it would have also been something different.

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. What is your take on the current state of the Australian film Industry?

NIK: I love, and hate this debate. And I agree, everyone you talk to has a different opinion. I guess I have accepted the up and down nature of our film industry. There are days where I too feel like it is blossoming, then others when there is no hope. But to be honest, to me, it always comes down to the filmmakers. The stories. There are many ways to get your work out there today. We just need to accept that it may not be the traditional way. Aussies are hard workers. And there is great talent in this country. We just need to keep pushing.

GEORDIE: You obviously have ambitions to move into feature film making, how difficult is it raising the capital in Australia to fund a genre feature?

NIK: Seeing as I haven’t quite done it yet, I would say, very hard! Ha! Look, to me, if you can find a story that resonates with an audience, then that path is clearer. Like I said, there are many ways to get your work seen, so I don’t like to have excuses. Just gotta keep writing and making films

GEORDIE: 8:47 has had a few festival screenings already, two fantastic showings at big film festivals: Fantasia in Montreal and Hollyshorts in Los Angeles, when and where can we see 8:47 nationally?

NIK: We want to see how far it can go in the festival circuit. But when the time comes, I’m very keen to launch it online as we have some great supporting material to really expose the challenges on making a film like this. Rehearsal footage, behind the scenes go pro footage. It was an intense process and experience.

GEORDIE: An easy one to finish, what is your favourite classic film, when you first saw it, why it’s still a favourite; and any new releases that have impressed you?

NIK: I love this question. I have a story. As a very young kid I had some friends who’s parents owned a video store. This was back home in Macedonia. We would sneak in and “borrow” films to watch them. Films we were very much not allowed to see. The first film I ever saw was Robocop. Fucked me up real good. Kind of desensitized me pretty quick but I loved the realization of how much cinema can affect an audience. I’m a huge genre fan, I read graphic novels, I watch animated films, and I have a great time. But then I watch a film like PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, and I walk away feeling changed.

Check out the trailer for 8:47 HERE. Hopefully we’ll have a link to the full film soon…

The Killage – Exclusive Interview

Check out this interview with Rita Artman and Joe Spear of ArtSpear Entertainment, producers of independent comedy-horror: The Killage a wacky, fright-filled journey into the darkest recesses of the human intestines.

GEORDIE: Hi Guys, first of all thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions about your recent feature release, the Australian horror film The Killage.

ARTSPEAR: Our pleasure.

GEORDIE: I’d like to start by asking you guys to give us a synopsis and let us know what to expect from The Killage?

ARTSPEAR: The Killage is a slasher comedy about twelve social stereotypes on a recreational work retreat who suddenly find themselves being inventively murdered by a psychopath in a wooden mask who may or may not be one of them. It’s a very typical slasher scenario but the irreverent, absurdist style of comedy is hopefully what sets it apart from other entries in the genre.

The Killage_Crew PromoGEORDIE: Where did the idea for The Killage originate and how you got the project started?

ARTSPEAR: The idea originated through practicality. Many independent production companies, certainly in Australia, start out making horror films because they’re cheap. Gore and scares are very cheap to produce compared to the material things other genres require. We aren’t fans of independent horror films however, so we wanted to do something different by making a comedy that takes the piss out of them. And by doing that, it gives you that excuse – “It looks like crap because that’s the type of film we’re sending up.”

GEORDIE: Combining horror and comedy is a difficult balance to get right, Return of the Living Dead, Shaun of the Dead and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil did a great job by embracing the typical horror clichés and working with them, the Scary Movie franchise didn’t… from what I’m hearing The Killage is very much of the former, how difficult is it to get that balance just right?

ARTSPEAR: I think if you’re going to make a genre parody you need to know the genre very well – watch the quintessential examples and understand the common elements, the genre conventions – and then approach the writing task as the most jaded, cynical moviegoer you can imagine – the guy who’s seen it all before. Write for that person and turn all those conventions upside-down. I found it also helped to have characters in the film that spoke with that person’s voice – asking the questions that audiences always ask when they’re watching these films – “Why are you going into the dark attic alone to investigate that strange noise? Why don’t you come back later with two of your friends in the middle of the day?”. You still make them go in the attic alone, but as long as you let the audience know that you know that this is stupid, they’ll stay with you.

The Killage_CrewGEORDIE: 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 feature? What is your take on the current state of the Australian film Industry?

ARTSPEAR: It wasn’t too difficult raising the money because it came directly from Joe’s savings and his parents. Fortunately the film was incredibly low budget and the cast and crew agreed to deferred payment. If you’re not willing to invest in yourself than no one else should be either. As for the Australian Film Industry, I’m not sure if it can be called an “industry”. I think a more accurate description would be a few pockets of talented people struggling to get their films made. There are many problems with filmmaking in Australia but I think the main one is that the film financing bodies are a joke. For some reason “genre film” is a dirty term to them. It seems that they’re concept of a thriving Australian film industry is one where everyone makes films about suburban outback blue-collar family drama, preferably with Aborigines. They’ll only support films that present the “Australian identity” (whatever the hell that is) or tell “Australian stories”. If you brought an idea for an exciting sci-fi film to them their response would be “What does this have to do with Australia? This is a Hollywood idea.” Never mind that sci-fi is the most successful film genre, historically. The reason why Hollywood is so great is because there’s no restrictions to the type of film you can get backing for – that’s why all our best and brightest leave to go there. Until the film financiers wake up and start supporting films based solely on the script and not on what they might do for the country’s tourism, the Australian Film Industry will not be in a healthy state.

The Killage_bloodGEORDIE: 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 The Killage add to the mix?

ARTSPEAR: The thing is, we don’t see The Killage as a horror – we see it as a comedy. And to be honest, I haven’t ever seen a quality Australian horror film. But that’s not to say that there aren’t any – I just haven’t see many Australian films, full stop. I guess what The Killage will add is something that can hopefully be appreciated both by people who like horror and by people who don’t.

GEORDIE: You guys seem to have had quite a dramatic shoot behind the camera, not least with Rita breaking her leg. Apart from broken bones, what have you learned not to do on your next project?

ARTSPEAR: We’ve learnt to schedule more time. That was the biggest problem on The Killage – we could rarely shoot more than one or two takes, we had to shoot in rain, without sleep – all because we didn’t have enough time, and that was because we could only afford to hire the camp for two weekends. We’re amazed the film got completed. We also learnt to put more care into audio. The entire final soundtrack ended up as ADR and foley (sound recorded in post-production) because the on-set audio was mostly unusable, due to rain and low-quality equipment on the second weekend. It was a huge undertaking to record each actor’s dialogue again, but surprisingly it ended up helping the film because it gave us something we didn’t have on location: takes. So in the case of audio at least, we had the time to refine the performances.

The Killage_Rita ArtmannGEORDIE: You’re currently in production on your next feature, Australiens, can you give us a quick synopsis of what to expect, and where people can get on board to help out?

ARTSPEAR: Australiens is a sci-fi action comedy about aliens who come to Earth and attack Australia, much to the confusion of the rest of the world. The story is told from the perspective of 27-year-old Andi Gibson, who had a close encounter with a flying saucer when she was ten and now believes she is Earth’s only hope for survival – a belief not shared by her hypochondriac brother Elliot, ex-boxer cousin Keith, documentarian friend Cam and embarrassing father Dennis, who reluctantly join her in her quest to stop the invaders.

The film should be an entertaining blend of outrageous sci-fi spectacle and absurdist character comedy. We have a Pozible page which has achieved it’s target, anyone who wishes to lend support to the film can check it out here:

GEORDIE: The Killage has had a few festival screenings already, when and where can we get a copy? (I’ll post a link to your website here, if you have any other suggestions I’m happy to post more links).

ARTSPEAR: The Killage is being distributed by Monster Pictures – here’s a link to where you can buy direct: Other than that it should be available in all major DVD retailers, although you may need to request that they order in a copy.

GEORDIE: You guys are obviously big horror fans, what is your favourite classic horror film, when you first saw it, why it’s still a favourite; and any new releases that have impressed you?

The Killage_Poster_smallARTSPEAR: My favourite horror film is The Thing (1982), which we actually make a direct reference to in The Killage. I first saw it on TV I think when I was 12 and I remember, even in these days of computer graphics, being absolutely blown away by the practical effects. It has all the best elements of the genre – isolation in a hostile environment, the mystery and intrigue of discovering the aftermath of  a prior encounter, increasing paranoia and distrust, a truly unique and spectacular creature, and a bleak and tantalisingly ambiguous ending. That, and it has two perfectly-designed big jump moments – anyone who’s seen the film will know what they are – and they caught me completely off-guard the first time I saw it. My other favourites would have to be the original Alien and The Fly.All three films benefit from the understanding that what’s more terrifying than encountering a hideous creature is becoming a hideous creature (or giving birth to one).

GEORDIE: My thanks to Rita and  Joe for taking the time to contribute to this article during what is a very busy time on production of their next feature Australiens. 

Crawlspace – Justin Dix Interview – Part 2

Crawlspace_Justin Dix_bannerGEORDIE: 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. 

CS_4K_TIMED.0000002 copyGEORDIE: 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.

CS_4K_TIMED.0000006 copyGEORDIE: 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.

Crawlspace_ConceptGEORDIE: 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. 

Crawlspace_Poster_Hugh_2012GEORDIE: You’re obviously a big horror fan, what is your favourite classic horror film, when you first saw it, why it’s still a favourite; and any new releases that have impressed you?

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.

Crawlspace – Justin Dix Interview – Part 1

Crawlspace_Justin Dix_bannerWhile awaiting the release of the new Australian horror film Crawlspace, I was lucky enough to score an interview with the film’s writer, director, producer, special effects make-up designer and story artist Justin Dix.

GEORDIE: Hi Justin, first of all thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions about your new feature, the Australian horror film Crawlspace.

JUSTIN DIX: No problem Geordie, it’s been a dream project of mine for over ten years, not specifically the film ‘Crawlspace’,  but to make a feature film not only for fans of the genre, but for myself to create something that I can still enjoy watching again and again. 

Crawlspace_Development ArtGEORDIE: I’d like to start by asking where the idea for Crawlspace started. Would it be fair to say that Crawlspace appears to draw its influences from classic claustrophobic horror films such as Alien and The Thing?

JUSTIN: Yes you could say that, films such as Alien and the Thing are possibly my greatest influences. Alien more for the production design. As I did the production design for Crawlspace myself (including many other roles like storyboarding and FX makeup designing), I was after a very specific look, and with the collaboration of my amazing DOP Simon Ozolins, we created a vision that we are both extremely proud of.

The influence of ‘the Thing’ was the story, not that our stories are similar in any way which they are not, but the feeling of isolation and the paranoia of the characters within confines of our world. John Carpenter is possibly the biggest influence as far as filmmakers I identify with. His early films were so eclectic and had such a diverse range, from ‘Big Trouble in Little China, ‘Halloween’,’The Thing’ and ‘Starman’. I was lucky enough to see a Q &A and meet him at Screamfest this year where ‘Crawlspace’ was playing, which is a huge geek out moment for me. Oh, I also had him sign my ‘Thing’ poster.

GEORDIE: Co-written with Adam Patrick Foster and Eddie Baroo, directed by yourself and I’d assume that you played a major hand in the production design and special effects. This would appear to be very much a Justin Dix film, how different, and difficult was it working on this to your previous work?

Production photos from CrawlspaceJUSTIN: Actually taking on multiple roles for Crawlspace felt very natural and was not a stress at all. I have done this before working on previous feature films for other directors such as Jamie (Urban Legend) Blanks on ‘Storm Warning’ where I Art Directed the film but also Special Effects makeup supervised. It may be a little bit of the control freak in me, but it’s generally more about a cohesive look to the project.

Crawlspace felt no different, and yes part of taking on so many roles was also a budget choice, but it also felt like I was across everything and knew what we had and what we didn’t. So taking on the roles of Director, Writer, Producer, Production Designer,  Special Effects Makeup Designer and Storyboard artist meant that I knew the film inside and out. This is all part of what I believe makes a lower budget film run smoothly; planning, planning, planning, and it did, Crawlspace was one of the most enjoyable film shoots I’ve ever been on.

It was a pleasure to go to work everyday and the crew and cast were amazing and we all had such a good time. I’d learnt some things by working on some lower budget films, and I wanted to make sure we avoided any of the perils and pitfalls which can make a project fall behind or create animosity on set.  A few of my learnings that I utilized for Crawlspace: 

Five day weeks, I’ve done six day weeks and it makes the crew really tired and cranky. 

No overtime, as much as crew members like OT pay rates – if you start doing overtime, you are cutting into your budget and working longer hours. 

No location shooting – of course this can only work on specific movies, but it makes a huge difference shooting entirely in studio as you control the weather, the light, the sound and at the end of the day you can ‘Hollywood Wrap’, meaning you just turn the lights off and in the morning just turn them back on.  Also there is no travel time, which again eats into shooting days.  

Make sure the crew are fed really well.  These are the basics and there are plenty more, but you would be surprised at how these will give you more shooting time, less stress and keep everyone really comfortable, making for a happy crew.  Of course not all film can be done this way, but I wrote Crawlspace specifically to be done this way, knowing that it was my first feature film and wanting  to eliminate any obstacles I could foresee prior to even getting into it. I would recommend anyone considering doing their first feature film, but has not written it, to do the same.  

Production photos from CrawlspaceGEORDIE: The wide open spaces of the Australian outback have been used as horror backdrops for numerous films; you chose to set your film beneath it. What is it about claustrophobic settings that manage to instil paranoia and fear so effectively?

JUSTIN: Again, this came down to making a film that could be filmed completely in a studio.  We used Studio One at the Dockland Studios in Melbourne, by the way. I really loved the movie ‘The Descent’ as it really made me feel very claustrophobic watching it, and I always remembered this and thought it was a great and clever way to manage the paranoia but on a budget.  

So you could say that it also influenced me when it came to making Crawlspace. A little bit of trivia by the way, ‘The Decent’ was originally called “Crawlspace’ but they changed the title during production.  I actually found this out from Lesley Simpson who has been in all of Neil Marshall’s films including ‘Dog Soldiers’ ‘Doomsday’ and ‘The Descent’.  Les now lives in Australia and we have became great friends, so I had to put him into my first film.  He is one of the first people you see in the movie.  

I figure he was a good luck charm for Neil, so now he’s mine.  

GEORDIE: I’m a huge fan of The Loved Ones, on which you were Special Effects Make-up Supervisor, can you tell me what it was like working with directors such as Sean Byrne and Greg McClean (Wolf Creek), who is one of your producers on Crawlspace, what you took from those previous working experiences and applied to your own feature?

JUSTIN: I love working on film, period. Be it my own or someone else’s, and working with other directors gives me a real buzz as we are all working together to bring a vision to life. I have been fortunate enough to work with some real talent in the Australian film industry and can honestly say that we have become friends and supporters of each other’s careers and aspirations. 

Apart from working with directors that I respect, but also helping them bring their visions to the screen, I found that I very quickly became friends with people like Sean Byrne, Greg Mclean, Jamie Blanks and Patrick Hughes, as we all share a common vision for the Australian film industry – and that is to take it more into the commercial world of cinema patronage, back to the glory days of ‘The Road Warrior’ ‘Patrick’ and even films like ‘Razorback’ which was Russell Mulcahy’s first feature film.  

The Australian film industry has become a little to insular, concentrating on culturally significant films shot in the outback of Australia, or period dramas, or urban gangland crime stories like ‘Animal Kingdom’. I’m not bagging these films but it’s all we seem to produce, even though we know we are capable of so much more and competing in the world commercial market. Did I answer the question, probably not, I get a little passionate about this sometimes. 

Crawlspace_btsGEORDIE: Running your own very successful Special Effects Studio must have been quite handy when it comes to making your own horror film. What were some of the benefits that you were able to apply to Crawlspace?

JUSTIN: Having my own special effects studio, Wicked of Oz, and the background of running departments such as the props and miniatures on productions like ‘Charlotte’s Web’ helped enormously when it came to Crawlspace. In fact it really came into play way when writing the script, they say write within your means or what you know you can get your hands on. 

Not that this should ever restrict your vision, but it helps with writing something viable that you know you can shoot. With myself, my background allowed my mind to go anywhere or do anything, the only restriction I put on myself was keeping it all practical if possible. In camera always looks the best and I’ve always felt that ‘Out of adversity, comes creativity’ I believe that CGI is not the be all and end all.  if you can do it in camera, ‘You Should’ it will save you money at the back end.  It’s so much more exciting seeing it on the split right in front of you and with CGI just because you can, does not always mean you should. Meaning that a CGI does not mean it’s going to look or be better, an example, and I’m not naming any film in particular but a CGI werewolf leaping from taxi to taxi then onto buildings does not mean it’s going to look better or give you that visceral feeling of a werewolf running through the streets of London snapping at the heels of pedestrians.  

I’m a huge fan of the films of the 80’s for many reasons, but one in particular because they did all the effects in camera and to this day we still hold them up as the benchmarks of what we as film makers want to achieve, but I think new film makers are not given the choice of practical and have been brought up on a diet of Digital, hence the magic of some of those early films like ‘American Werewolf in London’ ‘The Thing’ and even ‘The Dark Crystal’ has been lost. I know that’s where my focus is, I want to be surrounded by this stuff on a film set, not have a wrap around green screen with a dude in green figure hugging spandex suits with pin pong taped to their heads, where’s the fun in that?  

Deane Taylor

Director, Writer, Art Director, Production Designer, Story Artist, Layout Supervisor, it would appear that Deane Taylor has covered most pre-production positions on countless animated productions over the last 30+ years. Although Deane has worked with classic animated shows such as Popeye, The Flintstones, Casper, and Scooby-Doo,the excellent Cow and Chicken as well as features like Happily N’Ever After, he is most well known for his superlative work on Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Still incredibly busy on a variety of projects, Deane has been kind enough to answer a few questions about his influences, his art and his work on that classic film.

GEORDIE: With the imminent release of ParaNorman and Hotel Transylvania it would appear that the influence of The Nightmare Before Christmas is stronger than ever, are you still surprised at how popular the film remains after all these years?

DEANE:  I used to get really surprised but not so much anymore. I worked on the game in Japan and the President of Walt Disney in Tokyo told me that history has shown it gets a new audience every 3 years and can go as low as 4 years old. The film has been criticised for being too dark which I believe is rubbish.  “Dark” is often confused with depth of detail and distinctive, original character.I think it has elements of a modern-day fairy tale told with strong humorous undertones . To me, those are the ingredients for classic. ParaNorman has the flavour too…brilliant. I actually did a bit of early concept work on Hotel Transylvania for my very good friends David Feiss and Tony Stacchi.

GEORDIE: Your design style is very distinctive, looking at your work and the work of Tim Burton, recently on show at the Gallery of Victoria, it would seem that you guys are a perfect fit to work together. Can you explain how you came to work on the project and how your working relationship developed?

DEANE: Henry Selick looked at a hundred or so art directors but in visiting animation studios across the States his eye was drawn to faxed cartoons that I’d done,  that were on the pin-boards in a number of places. (yes…it was that long ago) This was pure dumb luck in my opinion…these sketches were just me having a laugh with mates I had worked with around the world at different times. Henry saw Tim’s style and thinking in this work and he contacted me for that reason. I was working out of Sydney at the time, but found myself on the job in San Francisco within weeks of that contact. I met with Tim on two occasions. Once for 3 minutes, and again for 4 minutes. Having said that, I believe it was enough. He is very clear in his thoughts, and his style very obviously unique. My brief was to make it look like Tim’s work, and we’d hear about it if it didn’t.  Rick Heinrich’s was put on the project as visual consultant.  They had worked together as early as Vincent and much more.He was Tim’s eyes and ears, and he is an amazing artist. As an art department we worked very closely with him. I have had  a much more direct working relationship with Tim since that time (specifically on the game ) and have found him just as direct and clear as I had before.

GEORDIE: The art direction for The Nightmare Before Christmas is iconic, I can see an incredible blend of Gothic Noir, Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Dr.Seuss and Edward Gorey. Can you describe some of your personal influences and where you drew some of your inspiration from?

DEANE: I really only looked hard at Tim’s work. In that, I saw heavy influences from Edward Gorey and another favourite of mine, Ronald Searle. As you’ve accurately mentioned… Caligari and Seuss are in the top ten also. The way I saw it was that Tim had really blended the flavours of all of these things and brought his own stamp to it, and that’s what I should do as well. We as an art department stayed true to this while allowing additional detail to develop. Kendal Chronkite in particular, brought some very tasty design work into the process, and Henry had the eye to allow it.

GEORDIE: The background work on this film is as much a ‘character’ as the actual characters. Do you have a favourite piece, and speaking of characters, is there a particular character that you identify with?

DEANE: It’s no accident that the environments play into the character so heavily. I believe they really have to, to be believable. I wanted to create illustrations that you could fly in and around. Kind of a pop-up book. The sets were realised with amazing accuracy to the sketches, and in the rendering of the surfaces we went in and painted the hatching as a guide, which really added to the expressionistic finish. We used  fat water-colour brushes and black ink. The ink was crushed from hardened coal from the Altai Mountains. Just kidding…it wasn’t THAT long ago. As far as favourites…I am still very fond of Jack’s study, the Evil Scientist Laboratory, the treehouse and Oogies lair. Coincidentally, these were mostly the first sets produced and I believe have the strongest essence. The treehouse interiors especially: you should freeze frame through that sometime and look at the painted lighting and other detail. In characters, I have a very soft spot for Lock, Shock and Barrel.

GEORDIE: You’ve worked in traditional 2D, 3D and Stop-Motion animation; can you explain the difference in approach that was required to bring your designs to life?

DEANE: I think design principles remain largely the same despite the medium but I have to say that the years of having to cheat production value into the limitations of 2-D cartoons was the biggest influence in achieving the style of our sets. Fake perspectives, distorted architecture and scene planning were pivotal.  Forcing the viewers eye to look at what you choose to reveal is my preferred way to work. More often than  not it’s about what you don’t see rather than what you do. It’s like Keith Richards guitar playing. He knows when to shut up.

GEORDIE: On the audio commentary from the Nightmare DVD, Director Henry Selick talks about how the 1933 King Kong and Night of the Hunter (two of my all-time favourite films), were big touch stones for him throughout the duration of the project. Were there any particular films you could point to as major influences for prep or while you were working on the film?

DEANE:  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari obviously, but also the early Universal Frankensteins and Dracula’s…the really early ones. Simple and direct, these films were about three course meals, not pizzas.

GEORDIE: Our influences and tastes change and develop as we age, what were you drawn to as a kid, and what are some of the constants you always return to, or one that simply had a lasting effect on you?

DEANE: The turning point in art for me was seeing huge prints of Ronald Searle’s’ designs for The Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. They were probably huge because I was a runty eight year old but I can clearly remember thinking that an adult had done these, and that he was doing this for an actual job.  I though they were beautiful to look at, and they were funny. After that I tracked down the St Trinians books and feverishly tried to copy them. Ronald Searle became my personal tutor, though he probably still doesn’t know that. After that…Wizard of Id, BC and Mad magazine, who I eventually did work for. I still keep a lot of Searle’s work handy, for inspiration.

GEORDIE: What advice would you give to any aspiring young animators, story artists or art directors?

DEANE: You have to keep your eyes and ears open to new influences as well as your heroes. Look for the strange, and understand what it is that makes it so. This can be remote tribes, cultures, weird architecture and of course the minute detail of nature. It’s all out there waiting to be interpreted with a fresh eye or a different wrist. Look for the backstory, the “why”

GEORDIE: You seem to be constantly busy, what can we expect from you in the near future?

DEANE: I love visual storytelling and in recent years am more convinced that  this should be done with a conscience. It’s easy to produce a well told story, but I believe it should matter. I’m in development of an animated property that I believe does this. It’s a mix of styles that draws heavily on the flavours that have shaped my own work for the last 30 plus years. I’m very excited about it, and look forward to bringing it to fruition with a crew of seasoned veterans and new generation artists. I look at new work all the time and am hugely inspired by the freshness and skills that are scattered around the world.

GEORDIE: Thanks to Deane for giving up some of his (VERY valuable) time to do the interview, and for sharing his thoughts and inspiration. For more of Deane’s sketches, pearls of wisdom, and often hilarious recollections, check out his blog:   

Redd Inc. Interview – Part 2

GEORDIE: Australia has a long history of offering something different to the horror genre, from the 70’s schlock through to modern hits such as Wolf Creek, Saw and the criminally overlooked The Loved Ones. What will Redd inc. add to that culture?

JG: Hopefully we’ll be considered to fit in with that esteemed list. We think we’ve added a unique twist to the genre by taking a place that so many of us are all too familiar with, the office, and give a whole new meaning to the idea of being chained to your desk. Again, it’s amazing to me that no one has set a horror movie in such an horrific location before!

AOC: A lot of Australian horror is set in the outback because that is a huge part of our cultural identity. But what about horror for people who don’t go camping in creepy, rural settings? What about the 9-to-5’ers? What if your BOSS was genuinely insane? That’s the cool ‘what if?’ scenario Redd Inc. brings to the table.

SS: indeed Redd Inc. is a new view on the horror genre, one that includes genuine suspense and scares but also some clever comedy so that the audience can really enjoy the ride… that has always been the ideal intention, to be scared but to also enjoy it, and to stand out from other films.

DK: I don’t really see REDD INC as an Australian film. Its setting is the office – it could take place in any major city – from London to NYC to Sydney. Having said that, I would be honoured if REDD INC were mentioned in the same breath as films like “Wolf Creek”, “Saw” and “The Loved Ones”.

GEORDIE: What were you influenced by during the development of Redd Inc?

JG: That’s too broad a question for me. If you mean what movies was I influenced by: Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, Hostel.

AOC: Oh wow. Well a mix of old school horror – The Evil Dead, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Argento’s Deep Red – and more recent stuff like Martyrs, Audition and Seven. Also I was reading a lot of horror: Bentley Little, Richard Laymon, Jeff Strand and Jack Ketchum. Although to be fair I would have been doing that even if we weren’t making a movie.

SS: The idea of taking a similar approach to other timeless, enjoyable and successful films that achieved the majority of their effects in-camera and without the over-use of visual effects…… Films such as the Romero zombie flicks Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead.. Also Friday the 13th and Evil Dead…..  Absolute favourites that stand up to repeat viewing over many years!

DK: I was careful not to watch too much horror during the development of REDD INC. I didn’t want to be overly influenced by any one filmmaker or style. I wanted to keep my approach as fresh and original as I could. I guess my main influence towards the story and filmmaking approach of REDD INC was to make it “real” insofar as it has its own logic and reality.

GEORDIE: The elephant in the room question. What was it like working with Tom Savini? I presume like most horror fans you would have been a little starstruck at first?

JG: What a guy. He is a generous spirit who lives in the moment and who gave himself utterly to the scenes and the people he was working with. We have extensive coverage of his involvement in our making of doco which will be released eventually with the Blu-ray and DVD.

AOC: It was a literal dream come true. I got to pump blood with my childhood hero, TOM SAVINI! Even as I write these words I can’t quite believe it all happened. He’s a total gent and he did amazing work with the MEG team. He also tells the best stories and brought such a great energy to set. The days when Tom was there had a kind of magic about them. Plus some of the things we have on the DVD/Blu-ray are horror fan GOLD. We also gave him the Australian nickname “Savvers” which he loves.

SS: After watching and enjoying his work for so many years, it was an absolute honour.  Tom doesn’t really allow you to be starstruck, he has such an approachable and warm personality.  He has been so generous with his time, experience, advice and enthusiasm, it has been so much fun and we cannot speak highly enough of his contribution to Redd Inc.

DK: Working with Tom Savini. VERY COOL! He was the consumate professional and a gentleman in every sense of the word. A real joy to work with. He brought a calm atmosphere to the set, and a bloody menace to the screen.

GEORDIE: Films like Funny Games, the Saw series and the recent spate of torture porn have a strong streak of sadism in them, with psychological as well as physical torture. Dario Argento said recently that all taboos are fair game now… What are your thoughts on the current state of the horror genre?

JG: If they’re not really ABOUT something as well as being unnerving and scary then they’ve lost me. I like a little story and meaning with my elevated heart rate.

AOC: Yeah, I agree. Story is king and having something to say is really important. I watch pretty much everything that comes out in the horror genre – and a lot of it is amazing – but I do feel sometimes we get a lot of style and not much substance. I miss the horror-as-social-allegory element that Romero brought to the table with Dawn of the Dead. With Redd I think we’ve made an office giallo. It has a lot of tension and surprises and a really kinetic energy, plus twists and turns along the way. It’s the kind of film that I’d like to watch.

SS: I enjoy being scared, especially in a make-believe, movie kind-of way…. I want to enjoy the ride and have fun with it…. I don’t mind the physical violence stuff if it is not all too serious and nasty, give us a bit of relief in some way that makes it a guilty pleasure so that we can enjoy the scare and I think that’s the best recipe for the genre.

DK: For me it’s all about story, no matter what the genre. I’d liken a good horror film to a roller coaster ride at a fair ground. You can have the shit scared out of you in a safe environment and live to fight another day. Having said that, I like a good scare and gory moments… but as a rule I think that less is more.

GEORDIE: Hollywood has been remaking so many of these classic auteur horror films, driven by demographics and brand-familiarity, like the way Halloween is ubiquitous in other movies. How can Horror get out of that loop again?

JG: There are plenty of originals getting made amongst the remakes. They’ve got to break through to get noticed though so maybe it’s just that the remakes are sucking all the marketing air away from the originals. My guess is that independent distribution of horror over the internet will make a big difference to redress the balance over the next few years.

AOC: I’ve been joking for a while now that for Redd Inc.’s poster we should have the tagline: “It’s not a remake. It’s not a prequel. It’s not a reboot – You’re welcome!” However, I’ve met a lot of people who are making new, innovative horror so I’m not cynical. I think 2012 is going to be a great year for horror.

SS: Remakes can sometimes bring a new life to a great film.  However there is a big fan base out there that are always looking for new, original, exciting product.  Redd inc. is that film for those fans in 2012.

DK: In a sense a remake is like a sequel – people wanting to have some kind of “sure bet” in an industry that is fraught with uncertainty. Hopefully REDD INC (and its sequels) will be given a fresh lease of life in 20 or 30 years with an exciting batch of remakes. I would take it as a great compliment.  🙂

GEORDIE: Where to next for Green Light Productions?

JG: Redd Inc 2 of course!

AOC: Yeah, we have such an awesome story for the sequel.

SS: Looking forward to it!

DK: Count me in.

GEORDIE: When and where can we see the movie?

JG: First festival screenings will be announced over the next month or so and theatrical dates will be posted on the website

GEORDIE: Finally, your favourite classic horror film, when you first saw it, why it’s still a favourite; and any new releases that have impressed you?

JG: A lot of the classics don’t stand up for me anymore because I’m just older and wiser and I guess I have my bar set higher than before. In terms of highest impact on first viewing I’d say watching the old Hammer Dracula movies starring Christopher Lee when I was 11 or 12 years old because I watched them at midnight when my parents thought I was in bed and discovered the joy of scaring the shit out of myself! Of course they’re laughable now.

AOC: John Carpenter’s The Thing is probably the movie that blew me away the most when I was a youngster. The score, Carpenter’s meticulous direction, Rob Bottin’s amazing FX, the cast and the palpable sense of distrust and paranoia all add up to one of the greats. It was the film that made me take notice of film as an art form. Also the first two horror movies I ever saw were Creepshow and An American Werewolf in London and they both still rule. Recently I dug Martyrs, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Super and Theatre Bizarre (which has a segment directed by Tom Savini called Wet Dreams).

SS: Evil Dead has got to be my favourite, classic horror film.  It was so scary the first time I saw it as a teenager. It still is, if you let yourself get swept up in it, even after many, many repeat viewings.  I think it is still a favourite because it has that element of humour that doesn’t let you take it all too seriously, and it’s not too realistic and that’s the great part about making these sorts of crazy films because it’s just make believe.  I don’t think a lot of the new releases are scary enough, they concentrate too much on being nasty and shocking, rather than the suspense and scare elements that make great horror.

DK: AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. Loved it then, Love it now.

GEORDIE: Thanks again for the opportunity to put a few questions to you and your team about Redd Inc. Best of luck with the project. I’ll post as many updates as possible nearer release date.

Redd Inc. Interview – Part 1

A few weeks ago at the Tom Savini Q&A at the Vanguard (more of which soon); I had the pleasure of meeting Redd Inc. co-creator Anthony O’Connor and I asked if I could interview him and the Redd Inc. team, they were kind enough to take some time out from their busy schedule to do so late last week. Below are questions and answers from Jonathon Green (writer/producer), Anthony O’Connor (writer), Sandy Stevens (producer) and Daniel Krige (director).

GEORDIE: Firstly, thank you for the opportunity to put a few questions to you and your team about Redd Inc.

JG: Our pleasure.

GEORDIE: Tom was awesome; I was starstruck for most of the night… I couldn’t begin to recall how many times I’ve seen his work on screen. He was generous, open, funny and very humble face-to-face in the bar afterwards, a true legend.

JG: He’s a great guy.

GEORDIE: The website synopsis for your movie states: “Redd Inc. is the story of a capricious, officious and vicious boss (Redd) who traps his victims and forces them to work in an horrific office of his own insane creation. They are tasked with a seemingly impossible job which they must complete or face a grisly “termination”. The casual reader could assume that there are elements of Saw-like mental and physical torture involved, or should we expect Redd Inc. to take a different approach?

JG: Redd Inc. has a few brutal kills in it masterfully rendered with the help of Tom Savini but takes a very different approach to other films. Redd considers himself an office boss and is simply after results from his workers, he’s not interested in torturing them or teaching them a lesson. He’s all about achieving important work goals which become clearer as the movie progresses and which twist the story in new directions. He is clearly deluded but the pain he inflicts is a means to an end which he believes is entirely justified. I think Redd Inc. could be better described as horror/thriller/satire than horror/torture porn.

AOC: Redd is the kind of boss who takes corporate office culture to its logical (albeit INSANE) extreme. He gets no pleasure inflicting the punishment. For him it’s nothing personal. He’s just a boss, trying to get a job done. He even gives his staff members five written warnings before it’s time to… re-evaluate their positions. Admittedly he etches said warnings into their flesh but it all makes sense to him. There’s method to his madness.

SS: Redd offers up his own version of reality and some unique office-related one-liners that explain and justify his actions… This is where the satire and dark comedy add a different element, to alleviate the tension and give some relief at times so the actions are not as horrific as the torture porn version of the genre.

DK: While the situation could sound like “Saw”, REDD INC really has its own style and tone, which has elements of comedy and humour to alleviate the moments of true horror. As for the character of Redd – he’s a charming person who just wants people to do their jobs and to do them well. As in any workplace, if a task is not completed, there are consequences.

GEORDIE: Your online ‘Act 1’, ‘Act 2’ and ‘Act 3’ challenges were a unique way to cast both in front and behind the camera. It was original and I suspect due to budget restraints, one borne out of necessity, how did the process originate and evolve, and did the results surprise you?

JG: We are proud to be the first dramatic feature film in the world to do this. It would have been cheaper to create the elements we crowd-sourced ourselves so it was not borne out of necessity but we were keen to test new, innovative ideas and to include our potential audience in the process of making the film. It evolved by just thinking about what we would like to see happen and how we could develop an audience for the film… it just seems so obvious with YouTube and all the other ways that people get to self-actualize today that this should happen. Frankly, I was surprised that no-one had ever done it before. The results are very impressive. The contributions are amazing fitting perfectly into the movie and the experiment was a huge success.

AOC: Do you remember reading FANGORIA in the 80s when they’d have an open call for zombie extras in, like, Day of the Dead and similar? I used to get sooo frustrated because I was in Australia and had no way of getting there. These days your geographical location is largely irrelevant – especially for the parts we wrote for our online crowd. We got entries from literally all over the world, which was amazing and gratifying. What was surprising is how seamlessly the entries fit into the film.

SS: it is a global marketplace and in offering people an opportunity to be involved at an early stage, it is a way of attracting a worldwide fan-based audience, who we hope will remain engaged throughout the process and will want to see the end result and buy a ticket to see the film!

DK: It was an exciting and groundbreaking idea to cast certain roles from the world wide web. We got all sorts of entries. There’s some very talented people out there… and there’s also some very, well, enthusiastic people out there! From a directorial point of view, the challenge here was to make sure the performances gleaned from this process were tonally coherent with the rest of the film.

GEORDIE: I love that you guys are ‘fiercely independent’, that seems to be the way to produce original horror these days. From Blair Witch through to the Paranormal Activity series and this latest mammoth opening for The Devil Inside; even the Australian release The Tunnel from last year. How difficult has it been to stay with the project over the last year and a half without major financial backing?

JG: Very difficult but we have stayed determined and were continually re-energised by the quality of cast and crew attracted by the script.

AOC: I think having more than just one element helped a lot. We had the script, which Jonathon and I would keep rewriting – never settling for a “just okay” result. There was the website which gave us instant feedback from our online community and there was the novel: Nothing Personal – which ties in with the movie, Redd Inc., in a really cool way. So having a variety of irons in the fire is a good thing. Also we got to meet amazing people like Tom Savini who gave us a shout out and an interview waaay before he was on board supervising special make-up effects. We also had a lot of people who would give us honest feedback. Having people who will remain honest with you in the scripting stage is a must. You might kinda hate them at the time but having people challenge you along the way really helps hone your story.

SS: it has been fantastic to collaborate on a film that does not have the restraints imposed by a studio, government organisation or other outside entity. To be in a position to make the best creative decisions with the group of people that have written, developed and slaved over the project and who have the most passion and commitment to the film, decisions that can be made on the run, on the day, on the set.  A privilege and a way to remain true to the idea, no matter how crazy….. I agree that is why a lot of original horror films are made this way, with low budgets, so that there can be that freedom.  We watch these films and know what the fans want to see.

DK: The completely independent approach to making REDD INC was a creatively refreshing and invigorating one. While it was a relief not to have to deal with the frustrating yard-sticks that government bureaucracies or studio figures can impose, we had to be careful not to go off “half-cocked” so to speak… Jonathon and Anthony were very diligent with script development – we all wanted this thing to be the best it could on the page before the trigger was pulled on production. Because of this REDD INC was probably more of a collaborative process than a film made through more “conventional” means – from the script development to casting, right through to the shoot, solving problems on the run and making sure we kept it fresh and original. We were all there every step of the way easing this baby from the page to the screen. It was an inspiring film to make.

GEORDIE: Is it harder to get a movie made now? Have changes in the local movie business made it harder for you to get this film made?

JG: Not at all.

SS: I don’t believe it is ever easy to get a film made, it is a hard slog every time, you have to believe in the project every step of the way to be able to have the energy to get through it all!

DK: Filmmaking is an exercise in persistence and patience no matter what the job. You really have to have inspiration and belief in your material or you won’t go the distance.

GEORDIE: It’s great to see Nicholas Hope back in another dark role, he was awesome in Bad Boy Bubby. What can we expect from him as Redd in the movie?

JG: You can expect a bizarre, twisted character in Redd who is exceedingly cruel in his determination as a deluded boss-from-hell but who develops a strange, uncomfortable empathy as the movie progresses. Nicholas is amazing in this role. He relishes every moment and transfixes audiences with his off-centre characterization.

AOC: When Jonathon and I were writing Redd Inc. we would talk about our dream cast. Hope was always at the top of the list for Redd because he just inhabits those meaty roles. I still love Bad Boy Bubby but with Redd, Hope has given us a truly iconic movie monster. Honestly he’s going to blow everyone away with this.

SS: It is great to see Nicholas back on the big screen, he is a wonderful, talented, dedicated performer. Nicholas brought Redd to life from the page in a way that has thrilled us all and we can’t wait to share him with our audience.

DK: It was a great joy working with Nic Hope. As a person he’s a true gentleman, and as a performer he’s dedicated and focussed on his craft. Whenever we were doing a scene, Nic would always have an internal logic for Redd’s actions. His performance approach really brought the character of Redd to life in an exciting, entertaining and terrifying way.  What more can a director ask for?

After Dark Originals – Courtney Solomon Interview

On Tuesday night I had the pleasure of meeting Courtney Solomon, CEO of After Dark Films at the Australian lunch of After Dark Originals at the Chauvel Cinema in Sydney. Although he was obviously jet-lagged and tired after a long day of interviews he was gracious enough to spend some time with me for a short interview before attending an on-stage Q & A. Below is a transcript of the interview.

SOCIALPSYCHOL It’s been 6 years since you wrote, directed and produced ‘An American Haunting’, concentrating on the production side of all your projects since. Do you miss that aspect of the creative process and think that you might return to it one day or do you now prefer to oversee a varied slate of prjects? You seem to thrive on the latter.

COURTNEY Even though I’m now busy sourcing material, reading scripts and producing the movies, I still manage to stay involved on set. For example the movie we’re about to see 7 minutes of footage from, Re-Kill, was just shot in Bulgaria and I was on set initially at the start of filming. It was great fun, we managed to shoot off over 38,000 rounds of amunition and use around 4,000 squibs… it’s a zombie movie. I also love giving opportunities to young up and coming directors and seeing them bring their take to each project.

Re-Kill – unseen footage (rel 18th Oct 2011) from After Dark Films on Vimeo.

SOCIALPSYCHOL Australia has had a long history of horror production, from the shlock of the 70’s and early 80’s through to some quality modern day movies such as ‘Wolf Creek’ and ‘The Loved Ones’ as well as creative independent releases like ‘The Tunnel’. Do you envision setting one of your ‘After Dark Originals’ titles down under at some time in the future?

COURTNEY That’s the 5th time today I’ve heard about The Loved Ones, I’ve gotta pick up a copy of it before I leave, and everyone knows how well Wolf Creek has done. Of course, Australia has produced some great horror movies over the years and we’re looking to develop or remake an Australian film, any suggestions which one?

SOCIALPSYCHOL Turkey Shoot could do with an update and better budget.

COURTNEY If we go ahead with an Australian production we’ll look to use an Australian director. We did distribute the Australian film Dying Breed a few years back, we screened it at Horrorfest.

SOCIALPSYCHOL The After Dark ‘Horrorfest: 8 Films to Die for’ concept is a perfect platform for horror fans who can be a notoriously difficult crowd to please, especially as horror seems to have ‘themed cycles’, from vampires, to zombies to torture porn to next months popular theme, what do you envision the next big change to the genre and how do you try to anticipate the demand?

COURTNEY Yes (laughs), they’re a difficult crowd to please. Horror is cyclical, we’ve had the big vampire thing due to Twilight, whatever you make of that, and of course zombies have been around for a while now and are still popular. We haven’t really seen a good werewolf movie in a long time, I think that ghost stories, the supernatural is probably the next thing to come around again. I love the genre, especially stories based on historical fact or events.

At this stage Courtney was ushered to the theatre for his on-stage Q&A, the first video clip of which can be viewed here. Courtney was asked what he’s learned from working with great actors such as Sissy Spacek and Donald Sutherland on An American Haunting.

After Dark Originals: Q&A with Courtney Solomon from After Dark Films on Vimeo.

Check out the After Dark website and facebook page for more info on the After Dark horror community

Shock Horror: The Nightmare Begins

A few months ago I saw an advertisement that got me very excited. It was for the upcoming Culture Shock convention: ‘Shock Horror’; Freddy Krueger was coming to Australia! Robert Englund has since been joined on the bill by fellow Nightmare on Elm Street star, Heather Langenkamp; Candyman himself, Tony Todd and documentary maker extraordinaire, Thommy Hutson.

I decided a week or so ago to investigate this event a little further and submitted 10 questions to Culture Shock Events. Many thanks to Darren Roweth over there for all his help in achieving this, as well as answering question 8 with some great local news. As a bit of background, Shock Horror: The Nightmare Begins is a joint venture between Culture Shock Events in Sydney run by Rob Brown and First Contact Conventions in Melbourne run by Scott Liston.  It is the comments of these two gentleman I have sought for this interview. Enjoy.

1. You guys are primarily known for events that focus mainly on the sci-fi and fantasy genres, what made you decide to organise a horror specific event?

Rob – Horror is another genre that often bleeds into the sci fi and fantasy realms. In some ways it is hard to distinguish between the boundaries of these realms. I think it is a natural progression to look at horror themed events. Having said that I have always been a fan of some horror films. I loved the old b&w movies and a lot of what we would consider classic horror films from the 70’s and 80’s.

Scott – There is a lot of cross over between sci-fi and horror, and not just with the actors from the shows/movies. As you can see the guys we have lined up for November also have some serious sci-fi cred and we would have happily hosted them for that style of show. Who would ever forget Robert as Willie in the original V. But also some of the best sci-fi has enormous element of horror in it, look at Event Horizon. That was hard core sci-fi and but one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen.

2. Are you planning to have ‘Shock Horror’ run as an annual event on the convention calendar? And if so, how do you see the event evolving?

Rob – Shock Horror will hopefully become one of our branded events, a lot like OzTrek. It may not be a yearly event however more likely a number of events throughout the year and perhaps in different cities as opportunities arise to run them. Shock Horror 2 is already planned for early 2012 with a definite theme.

Scott – We never really plan for anything, these shows just sort of happen. Regarding event evolution, I guess we just like to do the best that we can and make sure then everyone has a good time…including us. So as long as that happens and we can make ends meet, then I’m sure Shock Horror will be around for a while.

3. You’ve started your first ‘Shock Horror’ event with some huge horror icons, none more so than Robert Englund, how difficult is it to acquire stars of that status?

Rob – Robert is an icon of some standing. It is often hard to acquire guests such as Robert. Sometimes it is the cost of acquiring them and also it is often a question of availability at the time you are looking at hosting them. Robert was always someone I have wanted to do an event with. Not just because he is Freddy Kruger but I also loved V and his character was a favourite. Tony Todd likewise. I actually admire Tony more in his roles on Star Trek and most recently ‘The Man from Earth’ than his role as Candyman. With Robert on board both Heather and Thommy fell nicely into place.

Scott – The thing you find is that actors want to be found. That’s the nature of their business, a casting director might see them in a show and have a role that would be perfect for them, so they need to be able to get in contact with them to make that happen. When you look at it, we are just casting agents and we do the same thing, we need to be able to track them down to offer them a job.

4. Debuting with horror icons Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp and Tony Todd is a massively impressive start, how do you follow up a event like this?

Rob – We actually don’t concern ourselves with topping ourselves each event. It would be unrealistic. Basically we will run an event we would like to go to ourselves. Sometimes the guests will be more high profile than others, sometimes they won’t. As long as we and our attendees have fun and the guests are happy.

Scott – Lol, I have thought about that myself and wondered if we had peaked too early, but I guess if someone wants to suggest the next headliner I’m all ears. Although I do like the idea of Doug Bradley.

5. There will be an obvious interest in your event from fans of ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’, was it a conscious decision on your behalf to pair ‘Freddy’ and ‘Nancy’ as well as Thommy Hutson together for your event?

Rob – As I mentioned before with Robert on board it was natural to look for A Nightmare on Elm Street stars. There are a lot out there from the movie series and I am sure we may see more of these actors as guests at future events. It certainly was a conscious decision and I am hoping we get a lot of fans to attend the event.

Scott – Well we had Robert booked first and then we were contacted by a few actors from the Nightmare series, but I was trying to not make it a Nightmare show, but when I was contacted by Thommy and Heather, I couldn’t really say no. I mean who wouldn’t want to see Robert and Heather together, that’s a photo I want to have taken.

6. Heather Langenkamp has recently produced a documentary ‘I am Nancy’ will this be screened and/or available at the event?

Rob – At this stage scheduling on the day is a little way off. I am sure it is possible we might ask Heather if we could do a screening of the film. Thanks for the idea.

Scott – We are working on something for the Melbourne end that might see “I am Nancy” screened at a full cinema, but I do hope that we will have it available at the show as well.

7. If the focus of this event is ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ are there plans to do similarly themed events for (examples) ‘Friday the 13th’, ‘Halloween’ or the ‘Texas Chainsaw’ series?

Rob – The theme of an event is usually an offshoot of the guests we have available. The usual process tends to be we get a guest and then work something from there. Shock Horror 2: Dead Downunder has actually worked the opposite. I have fallen in love with the new TV zombie apocalypse series ‘The Walking Dead’ and just knew I wanted to do something with that.So Shock Horror 2 will be a Walking Dead themed event. It will be fun and I am sure not the last zombie themed event we will do. 

Scott – We hadn’t really thought of that, but it is something that the shows might evolve into as you said earlier. Friday the 13th is a good idea, it would be great to have a few Jason’s all in one place.

8. Horror seems to be regaining ground locally with the success of indie film ‘The Tunnel’, and having Tom Savini work on local horror movie ‘Redd Inc’; do you have plans to incorporate Australian filmmakers in the future?

Rob – It would be great to incorporate Aussie film makers and guests into the equation for future events. It is strange though, in our usual genres of sci fi and fantasy, Australian audiences seem to be less interested even if the show is popular here. I hope that this isn’t the norm amongst local horror fans and that any aussie horror film maker or actor would be well received. 

Scott – This is something we discussed in the early stages and we have always had the intention of supporting the local scene, but the problem is they don’t seem to want to support. We have contacted many local guests etc and it always seems to fall into their too hard basket. I guess most people are always trying to get something out of them, and they find it hard to understand what we do and why we do it. We’re fans first…that’s why we do it!

Darren – As a long time horror fan the local scene is something I have closely followed and supported.  Films like ‘Razorback’, ‘Undead’, ‘I Know How Many Runs You Scored Last Summer’ and more recently ‘The Needle’ have shown what the Australian industry can do.  We hope Shock Horror will, like the US conventions, be a venue for both studio and independent film makers to show their product by screening trailers or shorts.  We have invited several independent film makers to come along to Shock Horror so we shall see what happens.  We have also approached Roger Ward (‘Turkey Shoot’ and ‘Mad Max’) to come along to the Sydney event and he is looking forward to it, which is something we hope to continue in the future.  

9. You guys obviously have a love of film, do you have aspirations as filmmakers or any plans to branch out into production or distribution?

Rob – I love my film and TV, but no, I have no inclination to be a part of the industry. I enjoy being interviewed on TV and being asked to be a guest on a show to talk about what we do but that’s where my ambitions end. By day I am a high school history teacher. Shaping the minds of our kids. A scary thought. I am also an archaeologist and have a heap of fun making a trip overseas each year to work in the field. Both careers are a long way from the film or TV industry…unless you want me to film a documentary series about working in Pompeii.

Scott – Lol, we all have day jobs and do this as a hobby (albeit an expensive hobby). When we no longer enjoy it, we’ll stop doing it. But no, we don’t have any plans to become producers or anything like that, we’re happy doing our thing as we do it.

10. Your favorite classic horror film, when you first saw it, why it’s still a favorite. And any new releases that have impressed you?

Rob – Favourite horror film..mmm…that’s a hard question. Two really stick in my mind because they had lasting impact. Firstly the original Exorcist. As a kid it scared the crap out of me. The haunting music at the start and the howling of the desert dogs as archaeologists unearth a demonic artifact. Still makes hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The other was Evil Dead. Saw that as a teenager, strangely enough in a senior history class at school as it was end of year and our teacher wanted an easy couple of periods. Loved the film. Scary and some funny moments at the same time. Lately not a lot has really grabbed me. The remakes don’t have the same impact as the originals and others are more thrillers than horror. I guess the Saw franchise has done well.

Scotty – Creature From the Black Lagoon…it’s awesome, the effects are classic, the music really makes it and adds to the suspense. Took me ages to track down a copy and I can’t even remember the first time I saw it.
I thought the first SAW film was awesome. I wasn’t going to see it, but there was a girl at work who watched it and had nightmares because of it, so I thought this is great, I must see this. So I waited till I had the house to myself on night, waiting until midnight, turned off all the lights and put the film on. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be, but as a suspense/thriller I thought it was great.

Thanks to Rob and Scotty for their time, and again to Darren for organising the interview. Don’t forget to check out the event here.