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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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: http://www.pozible.com/australiensfilm
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: http://monsterpictures.com.au/shop/the-killage 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?
ARTSPEAR: 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.