Your new movie Peelers
- in a few words, what is it about?
Peelers is about the closing night of a small town strip
club when some unwanted guests arrive and all hell breaks loose. We follow Blue Jean, the owner of the club, as she looks to get the
final night off with a bang. Unfortunately, she gets
more bang than she bargained for as patrons and friends around her begin
to suffer from that nasty thing that seems to happen in all horror
Basic question: Why
a strip club? And what were your inspirations when dreaming up
Skew did its festival run and distribution, my sales agent
asked me, "So, what's next?" I actually had a number of
features that I was developing (both by myself and with others) but most
were either comedies, thrillers, or sci-fi. He told me flat out that
I should do another horror. I did have a horror film I was
developing at the time but it wasn't a frontrunner project
(and it wasn't Peelers).
I asked my sales agent what he thought would sell and I'd see if it
interested me. He said, "More blood and more boobs."
Well, quite honestly that didn't interest me. I’m more into
anticipation-building and psychological horror. But I went away and
thought to myself, "I know I can get the blood in there, no problem,
but what about the nudity?" I just wasn't interested in having
gratuitous breast shots. There had to be a reason for it. So,
I thought, "Where would we see nudity and accept it as being part of
the story... a strip club." So I did some research and it turned
out there were not a lot of stripper horror films and of the ones I found,
they just weren't that great. So, I felt there was an untapped
sub-genre of horror there. I went to Lisa DeVita and asked her if
she would be interested in writing the script. I had three requests
of her and they were: a strong female character(s) who kicked ass, a deft
story and some good twists. Devits' eyes went wide and then she told
me a story about an incident that happened to her while she was visiting a
strip club in Las Vegas. From there, Peelers
Oh, and if you want to know that story, just ask Devits. She'll tell
it the best.
can you tell us about your screenwriter Lisa DeVita, and what was your
collaboration with her like?
(Devits) and I met in the industry while we were working at one of the
biggest production companies in North America. She was a post coordinator and I was a colorist. We worked in the same department
(post production) but it wasn’t until I was looking to recruit a decent
female ball player to my baseball team that we actually met and got to
know each other. I had never in my whole life met a girl like this.
She burped, farted, scratched and sniffed her armpits, swore like a
sailor, absolutely loathed shopping and shoes and absolutely loved comics
and baseball. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Needless to
say, we hit it off instantly. So after a few baseball games where
Devits proved her skills and earned a spot on our team, we got to talking
and I found out she was an avid writer who did a lot of journalist type
stories for extra money while writing shorts and features, which is what
she really wanted to pursue. The things that would come out of her
mouth. I thought, if she talks like this, this unfiltered, frenetic
diatribe, I’ve got to see what she puts down on paper. I was just
finishing my first horror feature entitled Skew at the time,
and we began chatting about films in general. When I approached
Devits to write Peelers she was pretty excited about it.
After seeing that glint in her eyes I left her alone for a bit to work out
some of the ideas we discussed for the film. Shortly after, we
worked on the story together but Devits wrote the guts of the script,
which I feel is usually the best way to approach screenwriting, as the
core of the script should come from one person. There were the usual
tweaks here and there but it worked out really well in the end.
being a movie of the horror variety, is that a genre at all dear to you,
and why (not)?
Ha! It’s funny because
although I like horror, it’s not the genre that I would kill to do (see
what I did there?). But seriously, for me, it just comes
down to telling a good story with strong characters. As
a matter of fact, there’s no one set genre that is the be-all, end-all
for me. I have a very open mind to all genres of film
and love elements from all of them. I feel that that
will probably help me make even better films as a director because I’m
open to trying different things. I also enjoy twisting
genres so it’s not exactly what the viewer may expect. But,
since we are talking horror here, I must say that I do love a good horror.
My top three would probably be John Carpenter’s The Thing,
The Ring and the big daddy of them all… Jaws.
To this day, I still don’t like to go swimming.
does have its fair share of blood and guts - so for the sake of all the
gorehounds among my readers, do talk about the gore scenes in your movie
for a bit, and how were they achieved?
played a huge part in Peelers. We
definitely wanted to go with real effects over visual effects as much as
possible. Not that I have a problem with VFX.
As a matter of fact, we have our share of visual effects as well
and they are crucial to the film. Trust me, without VFX
we wouldn’t have had the chance to do many of the shots that just
couldn’t be done practically on the tight budget we had. I
worked with our amazing special effects supervisor Keir Vichert on the
practical effects. After he read the script, he was as
giddy as a kid in a candy store. Early on in our
meetings, he brought so many suggestions to the table on how to do the
shots. We also enlisted our main SFX vendor, MastersFX
to provide many of the rigs needed to pull off certain shots. MastersFX
has done special effects for Elysium, Robocop
and Twilight: New Moon. Keir worked
closely with them to create many of the unique effects you see in the
What can you tell
us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
mentioned, our first feature film was Skew. That
was a POV style movie and some would even go one step further and call it
found footage. For Peelers, I wanted to
get away from that and go with a more traditional style of filmmaking.
I also knew Peelers was going to be a bigger
film with the number of characters in it so that was going to be a fun
challenge. I wanted to give life to these great
characters and the environment they were in. I knew we
had a strong script so my job was to show that on the screen. I
have an editing background so I knew that I could make good transitions
from scene to scene. What I wanted to focus on on-set
was not only the blood and guts, but achieving a memorable visual stamp to
each scene. I worked with our great DP, Lindsay George
on that feel. I even went further to make sure I got my
“money shots” in all the important areas needed. They
worked out great and give a real vibrancy to the film.
talk about your cast, and why exactly these people?
threw out a wide net for the casting because we had so many characters for
Peelers. When I made Skew, the pool of actors
was quite small because it was a really busy time for production and
therefore, casting was a struggle. For Peelers, it
seemed the opposite. Surprisingly, we had a lot of
talented girls show up to auditions. I say
“surprisingly”, because we were worried that actresses would hear
“stripper horror” and think we wanted ditzy, damsel-in-distress types
with fake boobs, when really we were going for something different,
something against type for Peelers. We
wanted characters with brains, women you could sympathize with who come in
all shapes and sizes, confident in their own skin. So,
we were worried there would be a lack of actresses wanting to audition
because how could they know this coming in to cold auditions? Thankfully,
we were pleasantly surprised, which made it tough to make our casting
choices due to all the talented options. However, when
it came to our lead character, Blue Jean, it was tough to cast her for
different reasons. None of the girls really fit the role. As a
matter of fact, we really only had two viable options in terms of who
could play her. Funny enough, Wren Walker came in late to the
audition process because her boyfriend saw our ad and encouraged her to
read for Blue Jean. She almost didn't come in. Luckily she
did, and she nailed it. Wren just owned the Blue Jean role right off the
bat. When we made our final decisions and offered her the role, she was
a movie like Peelers,
location is key - so you have to talk about yours, and what were the
advantages and challenges filming there?
A single setting
concept can be the kiss of death from an audience point of view.
There is this natural perception to think that the more locations, the
bigger the film, the more the audience will want to see it. My sales
agent strongly recommended that we have multiple locations if only to have
them in the trailer to show off the film. From a production point of
view, a single location is the way to go. It is the best answer to
the one main obstacle of indie filmmaking: budget. As mentioned, I
come from an editing background so thinking about how scenes transition
from one location to another is a part of that. It's something I can
bring to the screenwriting process as well. So, I sort of treated
each room in the strip club as a separate location. We were very
conscious of giving each room its own look and feel. Not only
through production design but through lighting and camera angles as well.
Our DP, Lindsay George was amazing to work with. An indie
fllmmaker's dream because she was fast, had a great eye for composition
and understood lighting. Peelers really doesn't feel
like it's all in one location, when in fact it pretty much is. There
are a few other cheats that can make your film feel bigger from a location
point of view. But that’s a whole other conversation.
What can you
tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
you make a true independent feature film, you're always worried about days
running over. It's a constant fear in the back of your head.
Luckily I had the experience of our last film, Skew to draw
from and we also had a great first and second A.D. on Peelers.
So, for the most part, the shoot went according to plan. I mean,
there are always hiccups... like trying to find a baby for production
right up to the last minute before shoot day, but that’s a story for
another time. Another way of staying on schedule is giving yourself
more time in pre-production and rehearsals. This is the key to indie
filmmaking. The more issues you can encounter and solve before
production, the better. This also helps with the mood on set.
No one's as stressed out because the prep has been done. Of course,
you also set the tone of production pretty early on. I got to know
most of the cast and crew ahead of time and that made things more
enjoyable. It's funny, you always hear cast members say, "I had
a great time on set. It was so much fun." Well, that's
great to hear but it's not really the case for the producers and the
director. Yes, we are pretty pumped to be on set and making a movie
but it really is up to us to get all the shots needed or there's no film.
So, not really a party for us, but if I hear the rest of the cast/crew had
a good time, that's awesome.
$64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?
just started our festival run with Peelers. As
a matter of fact, we just started submitting to festivals and in no time
have already gotten into seven of them. We’re pretty
stoked. We had a good feeling about the film, but we
didn’t expect this type of attention so quickly. We’re
quite honored to have such positive vibes on the film so far. We
just had our world premiere at Palm Beach International Film Festival and
we were runners up for the Best Horror Feature Film. We
are following this up with festivals in Iowa, Utah, Texas and Ontario,
Canada to name a few. Hopefully by the time you print
this, we’ll be announcing another one! Check out our
website or follow us on Facebook/Twitter to get all the details.
Oh, and distribution will obviously follow the festival run so stay
tuned for that over the next six to nine months. The
more fests we get into, the longer that road will be traveled to get a
buzz out on Peelers and the sooner it will be available to
all the gorehounds who want to see it!
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Peelers
It really is too early to tell what the overall
reception to Peelers will be. In this
very short amount of time it has proven to be quite amazing though.
Audiences have loved it so far and there have been loads of
interest from sales agents and distributors. We’re
quite excited to be a part of this journey with the film. I
think some incredible things will be coming out of all these Peelers
screenings. We have been quite pleased with
everything so far in this early part of the process and this is only the
tip of the iceberg!
Any future projects you'd like to share?
or I should say, “we” (Devits and I) have many projects in the works.
I’m working on some of my own films and some with Devits.
Presently we have a finished script for a family comedy and a draft
of the first book in a sci-fi trilogy, which is meant to eventually go to
screen. We also have a handful of other projects in
different stages of development. From comedy to
thriller to sci-fi to another horror, it’s all there. We’ve become a
tag-team that works really well together because we both agree that the
most important thing above all is story. When story is
your number one priority, you spend a lot of time in the early stages of
creation to make sure you get it right. I think the
reason it’s such a great partnership is because we are, for lack of a
better term, “un-offendable”, which is very rare to find in a person,
let alone two. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we call
each other on everything without the drama and the hurt feelings.
We are also dreamers at heart who share a dogged determination to
never give up. Plus, we both share the same outlet when
we need a break: beer and baseball.
got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
I think my fascination with movies
went further than a lot of my friends’ did when I was young.
As a kid, I bugged my parents constantly for a camera to shoot all
these skits and ideas I had. Eventually my folks broke
down and bought me a state of the art video camera at the time: a VHS.
I proceeded to shoot anything and everything I could, using my
family and friends as actors. I’m sure my friends
were very happy to see me move to Toronto, Canada where I studied Film and
Video at university. After receiving a BFA degree at
York University, I began working in both the production and post side of
the film industry. I leaned more towards post and
worked in editing and coloring while writing at home in my spare time.
Eventually I completed the script for our first film, Skew
and everything moved on from there.
would you describe yourself as a director?
I would probably
describe myself as a patient director and a bit of a perfectionist.
Both those things are hard to be when you’re working on an
independent film. You don’t really have the time or
money to do all the things you want to so you have to cut corners.
So I try to balance it out by having an open mind and by being a
really good editor, haha. I will tell you though, that
one of the most important things for me to do before going to production
is to be prepared as much as possible, and that means a long
pre-production. Everyone, and especially the actors on Peelers,
were surprised at how much prep time we had before we went to camera.
Initially they thought decisions based on auditions would go by
quickly and we’d go right into production. But for
me, getting to know the actors, letting them get to know each other and
rehearsing lines and actions made for a better film and a much smoother
who inspire you? And your favourite movies?
are so many amazing directors out there, both big and small. I
have learned so much, not only from making films myself but by watching
others as well. I would say Tarantino has a huge
influence on me. From storytelling to composition to
long shots to characters owning the screen. What he
brings to the screen, every time, is a pure passion and love of
filmmaking. Whether you like all his movies or not, you
can’t argue against the fact that he absolutely loves film. On
the flipside, I think Robert Rodriguez has a great command of frenetic
storytelling. He seems to approach it from an editing
point of view, which is where it all began for me, in the edit room.
It’s funny because Peelers is being described as
Tarantino meets Rodriguez, which is a huge compliment for me. As
for specific films, I have been influenced by so many. I’m
not a one-genre guy at all. I love to see all types of
films. As a matter of fact, Oscar season is one of my
favorite times for checking out movies. No matter how
you cut it, this is the time of year when some of the best of everything
comes out. Off the top of my head, my top three films
would have to be Pulp Fiction, Die Hard and Pee
Wee’s Big Adventure. But, I also have to say,
I’m a sucker for a good comic book movie. Go Marvel!
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
things Peelers can be found at
That’s the place where everything gets updated for the film. If
you want to be a part of the ride, like us on Facebook as we post
something there daily on the film. That can be found at
And, of course, follow us on Twitter
You can also go to our IMDb page
I think that’s enough gory fat for your fans to chew on.
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
please support independent film! Not just Peelers,
but all the great indie films out there. We were at
Palm Beach Int’l Film Fest and there were loads of great films there
that need your attention. Especially in the horror
scene. I have seen some exceptional independent films
that are better than some of the stuff Hollywood is putting out right now.
Seek them out!
for the interview!
And thank you so much for the interview, Mike.
I had a lot of fun answering all your cool questions. I
hope all your fans and horror fans in general get a chance to check out Peelers
when it’s playing in their town. I guarantee that
everyone will have a great time with it! Good luck with
all your reviews and interviews for your site. And keep
the pen sharp and flowing!