Your upcoming movie Headless - in a few words, what's it
going to be about?
Pain. It's about pain.
is one man's journey through a world that was never his
own and his search for a world that is. It is the shaman's journey through
the underworld, but rather than returning, he decides to stay, to become a
festering spirit in human form. It is about the rejection of your very
birth into a world that should never have been.
I'm kidding. It's just some guy killing people for an hour and a half.
It's a slasher. It doesn't have to have a story ;)
Being a special effects artist first
and foremost, how did you end up as the director of the movie, and what do
you think makes you perfect for the job?
Scott Schirmer [Scott
Schirmer interview - click here] and I have been working on
films together since 2001, so there's a lot of trust there and I think we
generally compliment each other pretty well. He realized the potential for
Headless, although we had often spoken of it as something we
weren't really ever going to do. One day he just came up and said, 'So, do
ya wanna direct Headless? Nathan's gonna write the script.' Of
course, the answer, once it was on the table, was 'Hellll yeah!'
I 've directed a film about a dollmaker wizard who steals babies and
buries them in the ground to turn them into wax. Then, I directed one
where a guy with a surgical fetish cuts off the vulvae of prostitutes and
sews them on their faces to bring inter-dimensional creatures into our
world in the worship of a strange god. Next, I directed a film about
a woman who gets tortured and sliced to pieces as a sexual turn on for
herself. I've seen The Exorcist
about 167 times and it keeps getting funnier every single time I see it!
Not to mention the fact that you're talking to a dead guy! Now what do you
think? Do ya think I'm qualified?
With Headless being a spin-off of sorts of the movie Found,
was the Headless-sequence of that movie always intended to be
expanded into a feature film, and how close do you remain to that movie's
version of the story? And with Found's
directorScott Schirmer [Scott
Schirmer interview - click here] producing Headless, will he have any say when it comes to
wasn't initially meant to be a feature. In fact, I think
at that point we wouldn't have had any idea what that would be. We were
just trying to make something that evoked a sense of nostalgia for the
things we loved about these types of movies growing up ourselves. Which
was far easier in a short, chopped format. Now, we have to make the whole
thing. So rather than going back to the drawing board, I thought it would
be best to stick with what we've got and go from there. Headless
remain just as you saw it in Found, minus Marty's imaginations, but where
we left it in Found was not really the end. It's actually where our story
As far as Scott having a say in creative decisions, I would say no. No,
I don't think that's a very good idea.
Nathan Erdel, Arthur Cullipher, with Shane
Beasley looming in the background
Do talk about Headless's
writer Nathan Erdel for a bit, and what has your collaboration been like
Nathan and I have been friends for a number of years. He was the
monster lead in a very well received play I wrote with Leya Taylor, who
also starred, called Bloomington After Midnight. He, along with Kara
Erdel, was also a regular guest/victim on our horror host show, Atomic
Age Cinema! and will continue to be when we return to that. Whenever the
occasion arises, I do my best to return the favor.
We were trying to be ready to shoot in July, but Nathan was busy with
his own projects. So, I thought I'd get the ball rolling. I came up with a
base idea of what this could be and brought it to the group. We all had a
round table where everyone contributed their ideas (yes, Scott too) of
what they wanted to see along those lines. We hashed out the finer points
and Nathan brewed it all together. Prepare to be amazed.
What can you tell us about your movie's intended
look and feel?
It's really going to be like nothing you've ever seen before... except
for these things that you might have seen before... having been described
as a cross between Cannibal
The Reflecting Skin,
American Graffiti, Holy Mountain, Henry: Portrait of a Serial
Pan's Labyrinth, regular Labyrinth and The Monkees' HEAD, with smatterings
of Nekromantik, the Punky Brewster cartoon, the original
Massacre and the original Xanadu. And I think that's true.
It is an ascent into madness. Red, red madness.
Any future projects beyond Headless?
I told a friend I was doing this interview and about this question and
she said 'more love stories.' I kind of snarked out a laugh and she said,
'Well, that's what you do. You make love stories.' And I realized she was
right. So, more love stories.
I'm doing some f/x work on a movie that Gavin Brown is in called Above
the Fruited Plains, directed by Geoff George, which is actually shooting
right now. I also had a small part as a thug. After Headless, I'll be
doing f/x for Leya Taylor's directorial debut, a wider audience thriller.
Scott's got a secret project going on that I'll be doing some fx for and
acting in a creature suit. Shane has a short film in the works and we both
want to get back to some Atomic Age Cinema! stuff.
If and when all goes well with Headless, the next film I'll be
directing is called Smut - it's only a porno if it turns you on.
It's a horror movie about a 3rd shift porn store
clerk/janitor having to deal with a growing cult of porn ghouls in his
video arcade conjuring strange, amorphous creatures made of an aether
plasm that conforms to desire and what happens when he succumbs to
pheromones and temptation with one of these things (Scott has been
referring to the sculpt as 'pussychicken') and starts making babies. Part
of the subplot has to do with videocassettes as an agent of mystery,
magic, sexuality and evil. Although we see Headless
on VHS in Found, I
feel like it would have been shot on 16mm in 1978. So, you won't be seeing
those style of video effects in Headless, but as a big VHS fan, I'm
excited to be able to work with some of those effects in Smut. It's gonna
be a wild, wet ride.
Having talked about Headless
all that much, you of course also have to
talk about Found and your
work on that one for a bit!
With Found, it was
clear pretty immediately that this was something that was filling a niche
in the horror genre. Nothing like it really existed. I mean, it's true
there's nothing new under the sun, save perspective... and this thing had
a perspective! All along we were saying things to each other like 'has
this not been done before?' and then we'd kinda go through our collective
banks and say 'no, no I don't think so' or admit 'yes, but it's only been
done really well here, so let's go for that or better as best we can'. And
those are the kind of movies I always want to make.
When you begin on a project, if you're not the initiator, you're not,
at least I'm not, always as attached to it. As Scott is fond of saying,
you have to fall in love with it. Once you have, you feed it and it grows
and it takes on a life of its own. If everyone is in love with it, it's
hard for it not to be nurtured into something pretty solid. And that's how
it was with Found. Our core group really cared and thusly, the rest of the
crew really cared and worked their damnedest to make it into something
wonderful. I'm not saying everything was peaches and cream, but I'm
looking forward to that same sort of passion and commitment on Headless.
And I think I'm going to get it.
What got you into the filmworld to begin with, and did you receive
any formal education on the subject?
I've told the E.T. story a few times, so I'm going to tell a different
one here. When I went to kindergarten, they had the set of inflatable
Letter People. I loved them so much and naturally wanted some of my own.
But they weren't for sale to the public, or if they were, I'm sure they
weren't cheap and likely, my parents couldn't afford them. So, my grandma
made stuffed versions for me. I'm pretty sure that is what cemented the
idea that what I couldn't buy, I could make. There were no Clash of the
Titans Medusa or Charon or Bubo figures when I was a kid. No Dark Crystal
figures. No Glomer or Gollum. I had to wait forever for E.T. or Yoda.
What's a kid to do? You have to make it with whatever you've got or can
get a hold of. My mom helped me make a Wishman (1 glorious pilot episode)
doll out of a headless ventriloquist dummy (Howdy Doody?) and pantyhose
stuffed with cotton balls. Those things were even more special to me
because I had to put my time and energy not just into making the thing,
but into learning how to make it.
Movies, specifically horror/sci-fi/fantasy movies, were my drug of choice
as a kid. Anything with monsters or creatures from outer space. Anything
that invoked a sense of wonder, that I could attack with my vicious
wondering. Having been such an avid fan and being fortunate enough to
still be growing up in an age of advancing film technology, making
monsters and making movies was just a natural path for me. Every skill I
gained I began to relate to those things, or writing stories. When you're
working without money, you need a different set of skills than when you're
working with money. As a young man, I learned to work without money. As a
slightly less young man, I'm hoping I get to learn to work with it at some
I attended Joe Blasco in 2001. 9 weeks of 93% things I already knew and
a rocking 4 weeks of excellent advanced prosthetics, animatronics and
creature building education. I had a good time, but if I were doing that
today, I think I wouldn't pay for school, myself. I'd opt for spending the
money on renting space, getting materials and spend a lot of time on YouTube, instructables and on fx forums. I'd probably go for the whole
catalogue of Stan Winston videos, though. Those are boss.
What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Headless
(in whatever function)?
I know I'm going to end up leaving out a lot. There have been projects
too numerous that have been put on the back burner, fallen by the wayside
or been abandoned for whatever reason.
I started attempting to make movies in 6th grade and
didn't really succeed until 10th grade when I started taking TV Production. I didn't really get serious about
it though because
drugs and girls. I grew up in Orlando, but it wasn't until I moved to
Bloomington that I found opportunity or vice versa. At the behest of my
then wife, I answered an ad in the paper for a film looking for actors. I
asked the guy if he needed an fx guy and he said 'Ya know, I hadn't
thought a lot about it, but yeah!' So began my relationship with Scott
Schirmer interview - click here] on his 2001 project, House of
Hope. I made a few shorts with
Scott after that and started putting myself out there around town. Got
into a film co-op that led to further relationships and projects like
Atomic Age Cinema! and the Dark Carnival Film Festival (now
International Film Festival). In 2004, I co-directed an occult film called
Not Dead, but Dreaming which definitely influenced the way I've done
everything since. In 2007, I wrote, directed, did s/fx for and starred in
my first film which Scott was the DP on, The Adipocere Child. 2009 was
Come and Bloomington After Midnight. 2010 was s/fx for Lewis (Anthony
Sumner [Anthony G. Sumner
interview - click here]), Crestfallen (Jeremiah
Kipp [Jeremiah Kipp
interview - click here]) and I directed and did fx for Roses,
written by Terrence Dellinger, which was the winner of the screenplay
competition at Dark Carnival. 2011, finishing up Psycho Street
(Musclewolf Productions), which Lewis
was a part of, some fx for segments of Closed
Casket (Desmondo Azteca) and, of course, Headless, Deep Dwellers and
ultimately, Found. Since then we've helped to bring together a local
annual Krampus Night, by providing a contact to smuggle some Krampus into
the area. We made some mutant superhero vegetables for Street Freaks: The
Chest last year. Now I'm looking forward to stretching my visceral talents
and putting all of my learning to the test with Headless.
How would you describe yourself as a director, and how as a special
As a director, I think my strengths lie in my own acting ability and
sales experience. This gives me a leg up in terms of dealing with actors
and getting the performances I need from them. Also, I understand what fx
are supposed to look like on camera, so I know the best way to shoot it.
Unfortunately, I really only seem to understand weird and horrific things.
Making things seem normal or everyday is not my strong suit. Fortunately,
I have help.
As a special effects artist, I will save your production money and offer a
better product than many who will do less for more. I can make something
gruesome out of anything and something beautiful out of nothing.
Filmmakers, special effects artists, whoever else who inspire you?
I'm a weird guy and I like my entertainment weird. David Lynch, David
Cronenberg, Alejandro Jodorowsky. One of my more recent favorites has been
Jimmy ScreamerClauz [Jimmy
ScreamerClauz interview - click here]. I really love his Where
the Dead Go to Die. Very
disturbing, fateful stuff.
Storywise, the weird tales. Lovecraft, Thomas Ligotti, Bentley Little.
Blood, sex, tentacles, magic and dreams. I also have a healthy education
in occult literature. The werks of A.O. Spare, Phil Hine, Peter Carroll,
Kenneth Grant and William S. Burroughs have all had a gigantic influence
on the things I create.
As have all the weird, midnight movies, cheap sword and sandal movies,
bizarro sci-fi and stop motion strangeness I devoured as a kid.
F/X Artists also have to be good at weird for me to dig on them. Stan
Winston, of course. Tom Savini needs a mention. I think Steve Wang is
terribly underappreciated, He is fucking ASTONISHING! And I miss seeing
Screaming Mad George around. Maybe I just don't get out enough. Definitely
Carlo Rambaldi, the same person who was responsible for E.T. was also
responsible for bringing the first Alien to life from Giger's designs and
a most satisfying tentacle sex scene in Possession. I think the person who
has had the most influence though, is probably Jim Henson. Talk about
bringing characters to life!
Your favourite movies ... and of course, films you really deplore?
Videodrome, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Scarecrows,
Dr. Caligari, Gremlins, Orphan, The Child, Pumpkinhead,
Lost Highway, Lords of Salem, Holy Mountain, Mad
Love, In the Mouth of Madness, Where
the Dead Go to Die, The
Haunting... the list really goes on for miles and miles. I was
only listing midnight genre movies, but I love all sorts of things.
More than I hate, but I do feel hatred.
Gareth Edwards' Monsters - I hated that fucking thing.
You are not allowed to make a movie called Monsters and not have it
filled with monsters. And if you are going to hold your monsters until the
end, you're a dick, but ok they better be more than just giant light-up
octopodes! I might have thought that was cool, but you made me swill
through so much tedium to get to them, I just didn't care anymore. It
committed the cardinal sin. It bored me. Yeah, yeah, humans can be
monsters, too, but I didn't go to a movie called Monsters to watch a human
drama. If you had called it Dull Human Drama With Some Sorta Cool Stuff At
The End, I would have applauded and thought 'Wow, that filmmaker really
achieved what they set out to do and it was not disappointing in any way'.
Instead, Monsters, sans monsters. A loose, acidic turd irritating the
bowels of cinema history. I was afraid for his Godzilla, but I think it
turned out ok. Still, IT WAS NO PACIFIC RIM! THAT MOVIE KICKED SO MUCH
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, Kickstarter, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Our website is forbiddenfilms.net
Friend me on FB @ facebook.com/arthurcullipher
The Kickstarter for Headless has 8 days left as of this writing so
definitely go here if you want to get cool stuff! Lend a hand in making
something mindblowing and GIVE US YOUR MONEY!:
Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten
Actually, I recently finished designing my own Tarot deck.
It's called The Tarot of Forbidden Media and it contains 81 pieces of some
of my Other Art. I'll be receiving the sample packs from the printer this
week, as a matter of fact. They should be available by the end of the year
(fingers crossed), but I'll give you guys a sneak peak at a few of them [scattered
across this interview].
Thanks for the interview!