Your film Renfield: The Undead, which you have written,
produced, created the effects for and starred in, has debuted only recently.
In a few words, what is the film about?
Renfield: The Undead is a reimagining and sequel to Bram Stoker’s
told around the
character of R. N. Renfield. We begin in present day. Dracula is dead and
the house of Dracul is out of order. Mina Harker and her son Quincy Harker,
now both vampires, are on a quest to resurrect Count Dracula and bring
order back to their world. The only thing stopping them is Renfield. He is
a very powerful, very mad vampire and in his possession are Dracula’s
earthly remains. In order to resurrect Dracula they have to retrieve his
remains from Renfield and perform a blood rites ritual. Renfield is
currently hunting in Bayou City where he is being hunted by the local
police force. The police think they are hunting a serial killer. Those
are the main story lines, the film is about Renfield acting and reacting
your film as "the world's first comicbook Dracula movie" -
explain! And is it true that Renfield: The Undead
already been (or is going to be) turned into a comicbook?
wrote this movie as a 1980’s comic book movie, in that style. The movie
opens with a sexy girl reading the Renfield the Undead comic book and we
enter into it. We are working on the graphic novel of the movie, it is
being done by Melissa Nichols and I, we hope to premiere it sometime in
2012. If the response is good, we will continue the book as a serial.
all characters in Bram Stoker's Dracula,
what drew you to Renfield exactly, and how close to you stick to Stoker's
concepts and vampire mythology?
all goes back to 2004. My Creature FX company Facades FX Make-up Lab was
contacted to provide the make-up and Creature FX for a new stage
production of Dracula. I attended the auditions to see what we would have
to work with. The play script called for all of the Horror FX elements
from the novel, Dracula beginning older then getting younger, the bat and
wolf beasts, blood, fangs, etc. At the auditions the Director, a lady named
Bonnie Hewett, had learned I was once upon a time a classically trained
actor and asked me if I was interested in auditioning. I passed, but as
the night went on the character of Renfield came along and nobody was
playing it scary. In my mind they were missing it. I got the script sides
did my very best Dwight Frye inspired reading [Dwight
Frye bio - click here] and creeped the entire
theatre out thus secured the role as well as the FX work.
It was through
that journey as both an actor and FX artist exploring Stoker’s text and
all the writing’s I could about Dracula and Renfield I realized there
was an untapped resource for a great vampire movie here… not just a
vampire movie… A DRACULA MOVIE. In 2005 I wrote the first draft of the
screenplay. Then we work shopped it for years. A stage version called
The Curious Mr. Renfield was created from the 1895 elements of
screenplay as well and we did a staged reading of it to help raise
interest and budget money. Most of the key cast members of the Dracula
story in the movie began their journey with that staged reading. That is
how it all got started. I studied the old texts and folklore about what
makes somebody become a vampire, as we were not interested in doing a
Twilight or Anne Rice version of Dracula, we wanted to do it old school.
(We do have a different vampire script along those romanticized
themes in development though.)
Other sources of
inspiration for Renfield: The Undead?
F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu and Stoker’s book were my main sources and my
imagination from a lifetime of watching the 1960’s Dark Shadows TV show,
all of the Hammer Horror Films, Dan Curtis'
Stalker, and Buffy
Vampire Slayer and of course Marvel
Comics' Tomb of Dracula and the Blade
movies and TV show.
few words about your director Bob Willems, and how easy was it to hand
your vision over to someone else?
also co-produced with Melissa Nichols and me. We have known each other for
20 plus years and My FX company have done work for him on well over 50
projects. When it comes to setting up shots there is nobody better. He
created some really great pictures in this movie. Bob is also a very
relaxed director. He does not micro-manage a performance. He will not give
you a note unless it is necessary and then it is just a few words to make
it happen. He asked me at the beginning of shooting if I also wanted to
direct the movie since I had been working on the project for 5 years by
then and knew it better than anyone. I told him no. With all I had on my
plate he needed to direct it. And we created something really cool
A few words about your
special effects creations on Renfield: The Undead?
Award winning over the top blood and Fang-fest. I have always loved the
Charles Band Empire and
Full Moon-movies. They always have great creature
FX and I thought that was the best style to create the Make-up and
Creatures for the comic book Dracula movie we were making. When our
vampires bite, they take out chunks of flesh, more like you see in zombie
movies. We explore every look of the vampire that has been done in movies
of the past. For Count Dracula though we kept it close to the source Bram
Stoker, with a hint of Murnau’s Nosferatu thrown in. Renfield’s
Vampire look is definitely inspired by Nosferatu
and Tobe Hooper’s
Salem’s Lot. In Renfield: The Undead
we created Vampire
Creature FX, biting Fx, stakings, stabbings, cross burns, decapitations,
disintegrations, and a lot more. Not one day went by in the 35 days of
shooting that we weren’t doing some kind of special make-up or creature
effect work. And as a result at the 44th Worldfest Houston our
Make-up FX received the top honor of the festival for Special Effects
mentioned, you also play the title role in Renfield: The Undead.
What can you tell us about Phil Nichols, the actor?
was trained in all areas of acting, performing, directing, as well as
technical aspects. My main acting mentor was a man named Cecil Pickett. He
has trained many names including Dennis and Randy Quaid, and Brent Spiner
of Star Trek fame. His daughter is famed actress Cindy Pickett she was in
Ferris Beuler’s Day Off and Sleep Walkers. I began my profession career
with Tony award winner Edward Albee, and performed in many Shakespeare
plays, my favorite role there has been Richard III.
few words about the rest of your cast?
cast of Renfield: The Undead
was a perfect storm. It is a mix of movie and
theatre veterans. Paul Damon is a Welsh actor he plays Detective Cranston.
He brought such a neurosis to the role. He is wonderful. Keli Wolfe plays
Dr. Johnson. This was my first time working with her, she stepped in when
another actress we had cast as Dr. Johnson became unavailable. She is a
talent and brings a great range to Dr. Johnson. It is fun to watch her
journey through Mr. Renfield’s world of Madness, Monsters, and Blood.
Roxy Hixon plays the undead Mina Harker, she brings a menacing beauty to
the undead queen. Roxy has been with Renfield: The Undead
since the stage
version The Curious Mr. Renfield - here she played Lucy Westenra. John W.
Stevens makes his feature film debut as one of the scariest Draculas
since Max Scheck in Nosferatu. John played Dracula in the
Curious Mr. Renfield. Sam Martinez is a brilliant character actor and
plays Willard Caine, a reporter writing about the serial killings. Other
supporting cast of note Tyler Tackett plays Quincy Harker the half vampire
son of Mina and Jonathan Harker, and Calvin Lafition masterfully plays
Detective Landon. Shelly Boozer as Officer Craig.. .she plays a police
officer who get bitten and turned into a vampire. Denise Williamson plays one of Count
Dracula’s brides, and Julin plays the young girl reading the comic book.
What can you tell
us about initial audience reception?
love Renfield: The Undead. I created a vampire everyman antihero. They
laugh they scream and they have a very good time watching Mr. Renfield
deal with things. In England last fall we screened at the
Bram Stoker Film Festival… the film had not reached its final cut and
it was nearly 3 hours long - comments were made
about the film being too long but they loved Mr. Renfield. Gavin Baddley
of Metal Hammer Magazine called my performance and character “the iconic
Renfield”. The film is now a tight 110-minute thrill ride
to the darkside. In the states it’s getting awards and rave
reviews. Everyone is having fun with this movie. It is a
1980’s B horror comic book Dracula
movie that doesn’t pretend to be
anything it’s not, and people love it.
When and where will
the film be released to a broader audience?
have worldwide distribution through The Phoenix Group. They are actively
marketing the movie globally and it is being reviewed by NBC/Universal
for showing on SYFY or CHILLER. If you want to see this movie then email
SYFY / CHILLER that they should pick up Renfield: The Undead.
The Undead has just been released, you are already working on your
next project, Project Pangea: Dinosaurs Unleashed! What can you
tell us about that one?
Pangea is a project I came up with the story for and my sister and
business partner Melissa Nichols wrote the screenplay for. It’s a
dinosaur apocalypse type story along the lines of the Roger Corman
Carnosaur-movies of the 1990’s all set in a small Texas town. Cold war
Russian era science runs amok. Melissa has used elements of
Stalin’s actual Project Chimera and the current paleontology research as
the basis for the story. Facades Fx is creating some great
dinosaur creatures, and Roxy Hixon is onboard to play Dr. Petrova that’s
about all I can give away. We’re in the financing phase as soon as we re
through that phase we’ll begin making more announcements about casting.
Project Pangea: Dinosaurs
Unleashed! will also be your debut feature as a director. Why did you
choose to direct that one, and how would you describe yourself as a
have won awards for directing shorts and plays and I’m at the time in my
career to begin directing features. Since this script is more Creature FX
heavy than Renfield: The Undead, it just made sense for me to direct it.
I’m a low-key director as well. I don’t micro-manage my
performers. I am very involved in the casting so that to me
is a big part of directing the actors, casting the right people for the
kind of story you want to tell out of the screenplay.
In the last two decades, you have built
yourself quite a reputation as a special effects and special makeup
effects artist. Would you like to talk about some of the films you have
FX created 3 Bigfoot creature suits, prosthetics, hands, feet, and
dentures for the Boggy Creek creatures including a chief Bigfoot creature
that is very nasty, he has sores and wounds on him, really cool. We also
did all of the kills with the gore. It was a hard shoot on location. They
were on a shoestring budget.
Distance aka Paranormal Experiment
FX created a face melting effect on Kathy Lampkin (the tea lady in the
Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes) and Glen Morshower (Transformers,
and evisceration of a young girl and a flesh sack that serves as the
portal through which the creatures emerge into this dimension.
FX created several animatronic killer Javelina hog puppet heads.
Ventura Goes to Africa
worked for Matthew Mungle (Oscar winner for Bram Stoker’s Dracula) and
John Jackson (Oscar Winner for Frieda) applying prosthetics to create
African tribes people out of Local Texas actors.
worked as a puppeteer and assisted Tom Burman (Planet of the Apes, Nip/Tuck) applying the Powder make-ups to stuntmen.
Facades FX created a lot of gore and carnage FX for a bombing aftermath. We worked
primarily with Oscar Winner Jeff Bridges and Mason Gamble.
am the co-creator (The Fiendish Dr. Phil) along with Melissa Nichols
(Ms. Monsterella) of the Reel Fx prosthetic make-up kits that have become a
staple for indie film makers, Halloween partiers, and haunted house
enthusiasts the world over.
have sculpted many limited edition collector mask busts. I was very active
in that work from 1996 to 2007. My busts have been collected worldwide and
are highly sought after. Two of my Hammer Horror Frankenstein monster
busts wound up in the Hammer
Films tribute display at the Bram Stoker Film Festival last fall…
it was a nice surprise to bring Renfield home to
Whitby and be greeted by some old fiends of mine.
What got you into the special effects
business in the first place, and did you recieve any formal education on
always wanted to be an actor but never had “the looks”, and I found
that by mastering make-up like one of my idols Lon Chaney I could get
roles. It got to the point people were requesting more make-up work from
me than acting so that became my focus to make a living. Back
then there weren’t any specialty schools in Make-up FX other than the
Joe Blasco school and I couldn’t convince my folks to pay for it, so I
went the traditional theatre training route all the while teaching myself
make-up FX. I began writing to make-up Fx Legend Dick Smith and in the
beginning he did not see much hope for me, but I kept at it practicing,
experimenting and he began to share his knowledge with me. When he wrote
his advanced make-up Course I was in some of the first students to take
it. I also corresponded with Todd McIntosh the make-up artist from Buffy
the Vampire Slayer. He gave me a lot of tips and tricks as well. That’s
basically how I went about it. Over the past 25 plus years I have
developed my own techniques that work for me working in Houston Texas.
Special effects you'd really like to create
but didn't have the chance to so far for whatever reasons?
had always wanted to do a Dracula movie and that is a life’s dream
fulfilled with Renfield: The Undead. I want to do a project on Werewolves.
I have written one that I will make after Project Pangea if nobody
else’s comes in. Dinosaurs Unleashed is another one of those dream
projects for me. I was always fascinated by them and actually studied
geology and fossils in school.
artists who inspire you?
Carl Buechler, Henry
Your favourite movies?
of the Empire
movies, all of the Fullmoon
movies, Roger Corman’s movies [Roger
Corman bio - click here], the Hammer
films [Amicus story - click here],
the Universal monster films, the Samuel Z.
Arkoff AIP films,
House of Dark Shadows as well as the big budget stuff.
Films that inspire me are Murnau’s Nosferatu,
The Wizard of Oz, the
original Planet of the Apes, the Star Wars movies,
the Jurassic Park
movies, The Exorcist,
Amadeus, Ian McKellen’s Richard III, the Harry Potter movies,
the Lord of the Rings movies, King Kong (original
and all remakes), Cutthroat Island, Pirates of the Caribbean,
the Terminator films, etc. For TV I like Dark Shadows,
Stalker, Bones, CSI (all of them),
Dexter, Burn Notice, White Collar,
Mad Men, Walking
Dead, Masters of
Horror, and Tales from the Crypt, Buffy,
Angel, and Blade…
and of course, films you really deplore?
won’t say deplore… I have learned in the course of my career not to
knock anybody’s work unless I know exactly what that filmmaker or Fx
artist went through to get the movie made. Having said that, if you took
all three Twilight movies and did some hard editing as we did on
Renfield: The Undead,
you would wind up with one pretty good movie.
Facebook, whatever else?
the Undead, Facades FX lab, and Project Pangea all have facebook pages.
was a great interview thanks for doing it!