Your new film I Sold
My Soul to Satan - in a few phrases, what is it about?
In a nutshell, it's a commentary on our culture's lust for celebrity and
immediate gratification. I live in LA and it's almost comical what people will
do to become famous... Like selling their soul to the Devil ON TV!!!!
What were your main sources of inspiration for I
Sold My Soul to Satan? And do you have any personal interest in
Actually, I knew nothing about the occult going into this
film. My team and I were listening to the podcast Coast To Coast AM with
George Noory, it's all about conspiracy theories, UFOs, ghosts and other
crazy shit. One particular episode had the "sell your soul to the
devil hotline". All these people called in talking about how they
sold their souls for surprisingly trivial things, and I thought "what
a great idea for a doc or reality TV show."
A few words about the focus point of your documentary, Kai
Blackwood: How did you find him, and what kind of a guy is he off-camera?
found Kai by placing a Craigslist ad: Sell Your Soul To The Devil ON
Off screen Kai is pretty much the same as onscreen. He is very likable. He
has this vulnerability that is very disarming. His life is a total mess
and you kind of want to take care of him.
can you tell us about the casting process for I
Sold My Soul to Satan, which is only touched upon in the film? And
a few words about some of the guys who did not make the cut?
we did was post a few Craigslist ads. That's it. That's what made it
really crazy for me. I mean who in there right mind would sell their soul
to a guy on Craigslist? But, if there is a Devil, in this day and age, I'm
pretty sure that's how he would do it. It seems thoroughly modern. As for
the guys who didn't make the cut, they fell into three categories.
Desperate people, psychopaths and narcissists. The desperate people made
me want to cry. There was a point where I said to Alex (my co-producer)
"I can't do this anymore, it's too sad." When they told me their
stories I just felt horrible inside. The narcissists got me over that
though. One woman confided in us off camera that she was getting ready to
leave her husband because he didn't make enough money. We almost used her
instead of Kai, but she was so despicable that we felt people would hate
her and not want to watch the film. The psychopaths scared us. There was
this one guy who we didn't even want to interview. He frightened us. We
made up an excuse to get him out of there as fast as we could. He had this
vibe like he would knock over a gas station and kill the clerk for 10
What can you
tell us about your on-screen expert Jymie Darling?
terrific to work with. She has a good heart. The woman used to work at JPL
(which are the people who design the Mars Rovers and Space Shuttles) where
she was blown up in an explosion. That's when she got involved in the
occult. She was actually trying to talk Kai out of selling his soul but I
edited those parts out. I'm so ashamed of myself for being so
manipulative... but hey, that's show business!
one's soul to Satan is of course a highly speculative subject. Were there
moments while filming I
Sold My Soul to Satan when you decided (or were at least tempted)
to ditch the documentary approach to go for the spectacle of it all
Oh yea. I think it would make a great reality
show! I probably would have gone down that route too but my wife Annelie
kept reeling me back in. She was against me doing the project from the get
go, she's a very good and spiritual person, but once I got started, she
wanted me to keep it authentic.
I Sold My
Soul to Satan is just about to be released, you have already shot
another documentary, Good Virus. What can you tell us about that
one yet, and the philosophy behind it?
I'm glad that you
asked! Good Virus - Kindness Is Contagious is the polar
opposite of I Sold My Soul To Satan. My wife was giving me
such a hard time for always treating such dark subject matter so I decided
to do a film all about being nice. At the heart of Good Virus is the
question: "What is the nicest thing that anyone has done for
you?" We interviewed cutting edge scientists from top universities
like Harvard and Berkeley as well as authors, theologians, roller derby
girls, CEOs... the list goes on and on. The amazing conclusion is that
nice guys actually finish first. They live longer, they have better jobs,
better salaries and better relationships. It's quite amazing and has
actually changed my life.
Let's go all the
way back to your beginnings: What got you into making movies in the first
place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
used to make a living as a photographer and did quite well. I shot for Levi's,
Kellogg's, Disney, Sony Music. Lots of high-profile companies.
There came a point though where I wanted to create my own projects.
Photography for the most part is very commercial (if you want to make a
living at it) and as soon as I finished a fun job, I'd have to be hustling
up my next client and my next gig. It got to a point once I started making
money at it that I'd do this great photo but I'd have to put a shoe or a
computer or a candy bar in it. I got into film because the projects can be
more personal and they last longer so, rather than hustling every couple
of weeks, I figured I'd only have to do it once a year or so. Boy was I
wrong, but that's another story. One of the things that I really like
about film is that you can tell a more involved story and reach a lot more
people. I think that's what keeps me there.
far as I know you have two patented imaging techniques to your name. Would
you like to elaborate?
I would, but just briefly. I made a
name for myself as a photographer by making super saturated color images
when everyone else was doing tasteful black and white images. basically it
was taking two exposures lit with saturated colors and sandwiching them
together and playing complementary colors against one another. The reason
I don't want to go further is that computers became very powerful and then
everyone was doing it digitally and my patents became, basically,
irrelevant. I guess I keep it on my resume because it sounds good (I
really should take it off though, it's time to move on).
A few words about your career in
A guy's got to make a buck and I'm pretty good
Sold My Soul to Satan, you have made a handful of feature films.
Why don't you talk about those for a bit?
I love feature
films and I'd love it if I could do more of them. I kind of screwed up my
first one though. I was a photographer and knew nothing about film-making.
We went horribly over budget. Because the budget was so small to begin
with I also had to be director, producer, a little bit of an editor and a
composer. It was brutal. I co-directed with my wife and we fought all the
way through it. All the investors got pissed off with me. The studio
released the rough-cut straight to DVD (we didn't have enough money to
finish it). It was a spectacular fiasco!!! When you fail, fail big! I
think the idea was good though. It was a dark comedy about a machine that
turns the carbon in human beings into diamond. Once the movie came out, a
company even started doing it for real. The other two were low budget
films with my friends. I guess I've been lucky that they all got
distributed and we could make enough money from them to keep making
projects you'd like to talk about?
Everything on my horizon
is Good Virus related right now. It really did change my outlook on
things. Not what you want to hear from a soul-broker I'm sure!!! I have an
eco-friendly clothing line and a book in the works based on the Kindness Is
documentary versus feature filmmaking - where are the differences (apart
from the obvious), and which do you actually prefer?
them both equally. What I like about documentary is that you meet all
these fascinating people and learn from them. I like it that the budgets
are lower and they can be made without being beholding to too many people.
I'm not much of a salesman, I like making things and with the docs I am
able to spend more time making the film (of course it's mostly digital
now, but you know what I mean). What I like about narrative features is
that whatever you can think up (theoretically) you can put down on film. I
don't think I will do another one though unless someone gives me a whole
lot of money to make it with. I don't want to do the producer/director
thing again, but I would love to do a big budget movie where I get to blow
who inspire you?
Terry Gilliam and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Your favourite movies?
The Adventures of Baron Von Munchausen, Amelie, Time Bandits,
Micmacs and City Of Lost Children.
and of course, films you really deplore?
You know, after
making a few of them myself, I respect anyone who is able to finish a film
and get it seen. It is such a hard thing to do that even if I don't like a
film artistically, I respect the ability of the filmmakers to get the
film's website, Facebook, whatever else?
- You have to read the comments, they're amazing! It's like devil
worshipers vs religious extremists!!!!
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
can't think of anything. Great questions! Thanks.
for the interview!