Your film Interplanetary
- in a few words, what is it about?
Monsters and mayhem, 40 million miles from Earth!
How would you describe the brand of humour of Interplanetary,
how did you approach the comic aspects of your film while writing it, and
how much of the comedy was the result of on-set improvisation?
there are a few bloody slapstick (splatstick?) bits in Interplanetary,
most of the humor is character-based. I was going for something along the
lines of This Is Spinal Tap or Office Space or Dr.
Strangelove. So I tried to come up with well-defined characters, and I
tried to find the humor in whatever situations I put them in.
of the dialog was very close to what was in the screenplay, though I'm
sure some bits of improv creeped in occasionally.
At least for me, Interplanetary
is highly reminiscent of all these Alien-inspired monster-on-a-space-station
movies from the 1980's. A comment you can at all live with, and your genre
can totally live with that comment! That's exactly what I was trying to
do, make a 1980s-style low-budget monster-on-a-space-station movie.
My favorites of the genre are It: The Terror from
Beyond Space (which was made in the 50s), Alien (of course),
and John Carpenter's The Thing (no space station, but a scary alien
in a remote location).
Other sources of inspiration when writing Interplanetary?
Other than the comedy and
monster movies I already mentioned, I was thinking a lot about 2001: A
Space Odyssey and the classic Star Trek and Space 1999
television shows when I wrote Interplanetary.
How would you describe your directorial approach to your
biggest challenge in directing Interplanetary
was trying to make a
big (or at least medium-sized) sci-fi movie with such a small budget. I
probably spent more time painting set walls and building space helmets
than actually directing.
we had a great cast. All the actors showed up having done their homework,
ready and able to direct themselves if I was distracted with something
All that said, my basic approach to comedy is to have
the actors play it straight. Don't oversell anything, and definitely don't
wink at the camera.
What I especially liked about your film
were the retro-futuristic sets, props and costumes. How did the look of Interplanetary
come into being?
the budget, retro-futuristic was about the best we could do!
that was the plan all along. I knew we'd have limited resources, so the
classic Star Trek
sets were probably the biggest influence on our Interplanetary
sets. Our space suits were mostly influenced by old pulp magazine art,
with a little Space 1999
thrown in there, too.
Other than our awesome space guns (designed and created
by Michael Wade), most of the props were cobbled together from random
junk, specifically a lot of old electronic surveying equipment.
A few words about your 100% analog
homage to those old 1980s alien-on-a-space-station movies, we tried to
make the movie (mostly) with 1980s technology. So we shot on film (Super
16mm) and generally avoided CG.
did cheat a little. There are some digital composites in the movie. We did
the editing on a computer (we didn't actually cut film with a razor
blade), and we did the titles on a computer.
even in modern movies, I think practical effects look better than CG. CG
blood effects are especially annoying.
Where did you shoot your Martian
exteriors, and how easy/difficult was it to find and shoot in Mars-like
locations down here on earth?
than a couple of shots we picked up in a Nevada dry lake bed, we shot the
"Martian" exteriors at a rock quarry near Birmingham, Alabama.
Because of water and vegetation, only about 20% of the quarry is passable
for a desert planet. But, as it is a very large rock quarry, 20% was more
What can you tell us about
your cast and crew?
good people and hard workers. We spent many long days on set and on
location, both in pre-production and during the actual shoot. And on each
of those days, I was impressed with the quality of everyone's work. And I
was flattered that all of these talented people continued to show up for
very little (or no) money to help me make the movie that I wanted to make.
being a science fiction movie, is this a genre especially dear to you, and
fiction is especially dear to me. I went crazy for Star Wars (I saw
it at the cinema when I was around 7 years old). But I've been in love
with the genre for as long as I can remember. Before Star Wars, I
was into super-hero comic books and classic Star Trek
Let's leave the present behind for the moment and
move forward into your past: How did you get into filmmaking in the first
place, and did you receive any formal education on the subject?
found my way into filmmaking relatively late in life. When I was around 30
years old, my hometown (Birmingham, Alabama) got its first film festival
(the Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival). As a fan of movies, I attended the
festival. I saw a couple of good short movies and realized that, if I made
my own short, Sidewalk might screen it (pre-YouTube, there wasn't much of
a market for short movies).
worked on a few shorts with friends, learned a few things about
filmmaking, then wrote my first feature screenplay. That screenplay became
Hide and Creep, which was a fairly successful movie (it played on
basic cable a few times and received some good reviews).
I don't have any formal filmmaking education. That's
one of the things I love about filmmaking--you can learn so much about the
craft by watching good movies and making your own movies.
few words about your production company Crewless
Productions, and your partner-in-crime Chuck Hartsell?
much to say about Crewless. As you might guess from the company's name,
it's a very small operation. Chuck and I came up with the name when we
made our first short, The Seven Year Switch. It's a play on
"clueless" (because we didn't know what we were doing at the
time) and a tip of the hat to director Robert Rodriguez (who wrote the
book Rebel Without a Crew about his first indie film).
wife Stacey (she was my girlfriend at the time) came on board when we made
Hide and Creep--she handles the legal and accounting side of
producing while Chuck and I deal with the creative aspects of producing.
As for Chuck, I wish we had more time to make movies
together--we both have day jobs and other responsibilities that cut into
filmmaking time. But it's always fun when we work together. And I think we
do good work when we get together. We have complimentary skills and seem
to bring out the best in each other.
the beginning of your career, you have made quite a few shorts. Why don't
you talk about those for a bit?
and I made four shorts before Hide and Creep…
Seven Year Switch is a comedy about a guy who is trying to build a
time machine. I wrote the script and co-directed it with Chuck. We shot it
on video and converted it to black and white--it was our version of an
episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer
for Tat is a little one-minute short based on an idea of
Chuck's. It's basically a camera test (we were trying out a 16mm Arri
camera) that we edited into a little movie.
Reciprocity is a comedy about a family rivalry that gets out of hand. Chuck wrote
and directed it, and I produced it. Reciprocity is the first proper
movie we ever shot on 16mm film.
Call is probably our most popular short and was part
of the inspiration for Hide and Creep. We shot and edited Birthday
Call in just a few hours, as it was conceived as a gift for a friend's
birthday, and we had to rush to get it done so we could send it to him on
his actual birthday. Directed by Chuck and me, and I wrote the screenplay
(well, what there is of a screenplay).
the spirit of Birthday Call, Chuck and I (and several of our
friends) recently made a short called Bait as part of a local
48-hour film festival (where all the movies shown were conceived, shot,
and edited in 48 hours). It came out pretty good, I think. Hopefully,
we'll get it posted online sometime soon.
What can you tell us
about your first feature film Hide and Creep?
was a great learning experience. And I'm proud of the finished movie. It
really came out any better than it had any right to, considering that we
barely knew what we were doing when we started it.
Hide and Creep
was also quite successful in its way. We made enough money to pay all of
the expenses involved in making the movie and to pay off most of the
deferred fees. And the movie played on the SyFy (then
Sci Fi) channel
several times, which was a huge deal for us as first-time feature
other films of yours you'd like to talk about, any future projects?
have a few ideas for movies brewing at the time, but nothing concrete yet.
I'm proud of Interplanetary, but it was a tough movie to finish and
took a lot out of me. I can't see myself directing another movie before
will be doing cinematography on a movie next year for my friend Shane
"Trap" Traffanstedt (he played the monster in Interplanetary)
called High Falls.
I play drums in a few bands, including Delicate Cutters. The Cutters
released an album earlier this year (called Some Creatures), and
we're already working on another album that we're going to try to release
around March 2012.
who inspire you?
Kubrick is my favorite director. John Carpenter might be my second
favorite. I also like Orson Welles, Hitchcock, and Spielberg. Tarantino
never fails to entertain me. Neither do the Coen Brothers. Brad Bird has
made three amazing animated films. Wes Anderson is great. I like David
Fincher and Steven Soderbergh a lot--both of those guys make entertaining
movies and aren't afraid to experiment with new ideas and/or new
technology. And Guillermo Del Toro is some kind of mad genius.
Your favourite movies?
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Strangelove is at the top of my list--so funny, so bleak.
John Carpenter's The Thing is also funny and bleak. But more of the latter.
Those two movies probably affect my filmmaking decisions more than any others. A
few other favorites: Touch of Evil, North by Northwest, 2001: A Space
Planet of the Apes, Jaws, The Empire Strikes Back, Star Trek II: The Wrath of
Khan, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Fight Club, Out of Sight,
State and Main, Lost in
Translation, The Life Aquatic, The Incredibles, Pan's
Labyrinth, and Inglourious Basterds.
and of course, films you really deplore?
since you asked, I did see three really terrible movies relatively
Spirit is one of the worst movies I've ever seen. It
fails on nearly every conceivable level. And it fails fast. I had to turn
it off after twenty minutes or so.
couldn't finish The Green Hornet, either. It is a movie with no
reason to exist. Michel Gondry should know better. So bad.
The only reason I finished Transformers: Dark of the
Moon is that I'd paid to see it in IMAX 3-D. The picture and sound
quality were top-notch, really impressive. Everything else was awful.
Unlikeable characters involved in a nonsensical plot. And it seems like
the movie is seven hours long.
Facebook, whatever else?
websites are rarely up-to-date, but my Tacos and Beer blog
is sometimes up-to-date. I'm not a Facebook fan, but I love Twitter and
can be followed @crewless.
If anyone wants to check out my band Delicate Cutters,
our website is http://www.delicatecutters.com
Anything else you are dying to
mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
and Hide and Creep are both available at amazon.com. And they're both cheap! And both make good holiday presents
for horror and/or sci-fi fans!