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An Interview with Christian Ackerman, Director of Wisconsin Project X

by Mike Haberfelner

May 2011

Films directed by Christian Ackerman on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Wisconsin Project X - in a few words, what is it about?

 

In a small town, a mad scientist creates these humanoid monsters that escape from his lab, they run amok through the streets destroying/Killing everything in their path, and the small town underdogs have to stop them somehow someway.

 


What inspired you to write Wisconsin Project X?

 

truthfully, I went to a showing of Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror, and before watched George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, Sam Rami's Evil Dead-films - and that was the fire starter for me to make this film.

 

You tell your film's story mainly in close-ups, seem to have eliminated wide range shots and the likes from your specific cinematic language altogether. Why is that?

 

To me, it makes it more interesting to watch, it's different. Handheld closeups, it adds more chaos to a scene that is chaotic, it helps add an extra layer for the tone I'm achieving. My pal, Thomas Robinson, cinematographer, thought out of the box, from traditional compositions. I love the impact raw insanity you can achieve with handheld in-the-face shots, it just adds more energy to the picture. With close-ups you can personalize more with the characters and ha ha hide the lack of sets for a no-budget film, ha ha. That's just my style I guess, too.

 

How would you describe your film's brand of humour?

 

Very very dry sense of humor. I thought it was hilarious to have a shot of our heros armed with guns, axes (cardboard ax), and bright rainbow colored plastic coffee filled squirt guns, ha ha. I mean, that's just crazy funny to me. And, the humanoids explode when dowsed with Rami's brand Coffee, ha ha! I love that stuff.

 

Wisconsin Project X's approach to the zombie genre, and some of your genre favourites?

 

My approach to this genre was to have absolute fun, if it wasn't any fun, it wasn't worth the effort! Horror doesn't have to be so intensely disturbing. It can gross you out and scare you, make you jump; that's what I like in horror movies -- the fun in them. My favorites are as mentioned in the first question, plus old-school Peter Jackson Dead Alive & Bad Taste, Zombieland, Return of the Living Dead, Darkman, Drag me to Hell, Creepshow, Jaws, Predator, and El Mariachi. These are the films that are some of my many favorites.

 

A few words about your cast and also yourself as an actor?

 

My cast are not professional actors. They were made up of my wife (who plays Tessa), friends, and family. I myself, am not a professional actor, but I'm a professional mime. My background in mime helped with the body movements for the humanoids in the film. I just place myself in my movies because it's so fun. I love acting, I played almost all the humanoids in the movie, so fun. Plus, I like playing pretend still. What can I say, I'm a kid at heart still playing bad guys and good guys in the sandbox, but now the sandbox is my movies.

 

As far as I know, Wisconsin Project X was made on next to no budget. Is there anything you would have done differently provided you had sufficient funds?

 

Yah, we had no budget absolutely no budget. I mean, I used duct tape in my humanoid make-up effects. It all came from my empty pockets and the empty pockets of the ones who helped on the film, ha ha. If I had a budget I would pay my actors and crew. I would have shot it on a HD camera, instead of a Digital 8 camcorder, I would enter more film festivals, I would have more props & costumes, hired a special effects crew, get a lighting crew, would have real explosions, more car stunts, more stunts, got at least one professional actor (Bruce Campbell), and paid myself so I could take time off my day job to just film the movie. Even if I had a budget, I would still do some things the same. Like there would have to be a few humanoids made up in duct tape make-up and I would still use a lot my friends & family again.

 

A few words about your production company FastCoast Productions, and the philosophy behind it?

 

It is kind of in the title of the company "Fast" - Get good running speed, then "Coast" through your "productions" as long as you can with the little money you have. All makes for a great ride. Just do it, if you have an idea to make a film, there is nothing stopping you, except yourself. We make High Impact Raw Insanity no-budget-low-budget films fueled with exploding creativity. Fun and entertaining is behind all our work.

 

Let's go back to the beginnings of your filmmaking career. How did you get your start in making movies, and did you recieve any formal education on the subject?

 

I started really making features when I was in High School. I had been making short films since I was allowed to use the family camcorder. But, High School is where I really started trying to make feature films. All my friends would come over and we would make a movie. I'd hook up my karaoke machine, VCR, CD-player, VHS camcorder, and start editing my films that way. Then, teachers would let me show them in my class. To my surprise the kids liked my movies and I was asked to show them in my art class, drama class, and chemistry class. Right out of High School, I worked shortly at NBC KECI News Station in Missoula, MT as a camera operator. I then took some media art classes at M.S.U. Bozeman, MT--never got a degree, though ha ha. Then, I got a job, 10 years now, with the local TV Access Station MCAT. I've always been around this type of art (filmmaking) and just got experienced that way. You think my films would look better, in quality ha ha. I found no matter how my movies looked, people still liked them. They wanted to be in them and wanted to watch them. I guess it is in the eye of the beholder in whether your film is good or not. I can't stop making movies. It's just too much fun.

 


A few words about your movie Catastrophic Denouement?

 

Catastrophic Denouement was the short psychological thriller 25 minute film that gave me hope in my filmmaking career. Hope, because I won my first ever film competition. I received an award for Non-Professional Original Teleplay through Hometown Video Festival 2003.

 


What can you tell us about your animated/live action puppet Halloween children's movie Midnight Mansion House of Haunts?

 

That's funny, here at the local television station, they asked me to make something for Halloween. I thought, I'll make a movie. So in three days I put this crazy halloween movie together in my little apartment. I entered that in the Best of the NorthWest Video Festival in 2005 and won Excellence in Video Art/Animation. I just did basic 2D animation and blue screen special effects with puppets and my stuff animals I had.

 

Virtual 3000?

 


Virtual 3000 is also a live action/animated piece. I tell people it's like Roger Rabbit meets the Power Rangers. I'm proud of that movie because that was a major step for me. Making a feature length animated/live action movie takes a lot of time. I'm most proud that my little sister and brothers love that movie. The craziest part making that film is one of the main characters is an animated character. That was a challenge. I watch it and cringe sometimes because it is so cheesy, but at least cheesy on purpose.

 


Unknown Emmissary?

 

My friend wanted to make just a plain action movie. He had this vision of a car speeding down a dirt road and a lone gun man facing off with the car. He shoots the car and the car spins out of control. Ha ha, sounds like a movie to me, I said. So, I put my filmmaking hands to the plate and we made a fun action piece. Used catchup for blood, baby powder for mussel flashes, and the usual cardboard & duct tape.

 


Both your films G.R. and Zombie Spoof seem to anticipate Wisconsin Project X already, at least to a point. A few words about these movies?

 


G.R. is a remake of a black & white version G.R. that I made in High School. I just love that movie and wanted to remake it. It was inspired by the movie Darkman. I wanted to make a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde slash Darkman movie. This movie is where I discovered how to use duct tape for makeup special effects. I accidentally left my liquid latex makeup at home, but had all the prosthetics. I didn't want to drive 20 miles back home. So, I grabbed the duct tape and went to work. 

Zombie Spoof, is a very sentimental movie of the good old days. It was made during my senior year at high school. I was going to move to another state. So, it was the last fun ride of VHS camcorder after school moviemaking with my buddies. We had a blast making that film. Silly and funny -- It says it in the name - Zombie Spoof. The interesting thing was that movie was made all in camera, literally. I would press the record button on the camcorder my pal would start saying a line, I would stop recording, move in for the close-up, start recording, and so on. We could play back a completed edited scene just after shooting it. Once all done shooting the movie, I'd run it through my karaoke machine and VCR from the camcorder adding sound effects and music. It's such a bad, but so good movie. Then, I wanted to show it on my local access television station (MCAT), and remastered it taking out all the original copyrighted music. I replaced it with music I composed with a computer. So, now anyone can watch it.

 

Any other movies you'd like to talk about, any future projects?

 

I'm planning on making another zombie movie, working title Christian Ackerman's Zombies of the Living Dead - it will be like a way better and scarier Zombie Spoof, and right now I'm working on a little film called Terror Vortex, a psychological thriller. Terror Vortex is a movie I'm making on a small Kodak Zi8 handy cam that shoots in HD 1080p. I'v adapted two wide angle lenses and a telephoto lens with focus pull to it. I'm just doing it to see if I can make a movie all on a small camera. It's like a test and if successful it will be coming out soon to the public. I just don't know when. My wife and I are expecting a new addition to our family. First time Mom and me first time Dad, so excited. That's my next project you can say ha ha. Then, junior will end up in Dad's movies for sure ha ha.

 


You also have a background in stageacting, most prominently as The Mime. Why don't you talk about that aspect of your career for a bit?

 

I've been performing the art of mime and slapstick vaudeville comedy since I was 7 years old. I've been really successful with it winning a few competition here and there. My true home of my Mime performance is with First Night Missoula in Montana. I've been performing at this event for over 15 years now. This last show there, I performed at the MCT Community Theater and had over 300 hundred people show to watch me perform. I couldn't believe it. I made the local paper in the Missoulian about the whole thing. My mime act is a mixture of slapstick comedy, traditional pantomime art, Charlie Chaplin-like acts, break dancing, lip sync singing as Elvis, getting stuck in a box, and my calling card body shake or electrocution act done all to swinging upbeat music.

 

How does working on the stage differ from working in front of/behind the camera?

 

There is a big difference, totally. I've noticed on camera, that less is more. And, on stage, more needs to be even more. One thing I love about making art on camera, is that you get a number of takes to make it right. One thing I love about the stage is once you've performed, you're done. No more takes. I love both though a lot.

 

Actors (or indeed actresses) who inspire you?

 

The actors (actresses) that inspire me: Bruce Campbell because his choice of movies and acting style, Michael J. Fox for his comedic timing and now how he doesn't let obstacles get in his way, Sandra Bullock because of her style of realism to characters, Jodie Foster because of her ability to set the tone for a film, and Edward Norton who's just a freaking awesome character actor. I have much more but these are the choices of a small sample of my top pics for inspiration.

 

Directors who have influenced you?

 

Spielberg because of how young he was when he started and how he's never lost his love for the art form, George Lucas mainly because of his documentary-like style filmmaking for example in American Graffiti -- I love that movie. Sam Raimi's ability to use the camera movement to generate powerful imagery, Peter Jackson, his kid-at-heart fueled movies -- very epic, John Hues, Robert Rodrigez action pack filled full moving movies, George Romero, Fred Dekker, Joe Dante, Sylvester Stallone - I just love his directing style and story telling. The big one for me as a kid growing up would be Robert Zemeckis I love the Back to the Future-movies and of course Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Geez I have a million, lets see ... American Werewolf in London, Star Wars, Jaws, Captain EO, 5th Element, Hellboy, Night of the Creeps, Monster Squad, Critters, Evil Dead-movies, Back to the Future-movies, Zombieland, Night of the Living Dead (original), Dead Alive, Gremlins-movies, Ghostbusters-movies, Last Action Hero, Die Hard-movies, Predator and Predator II, American Graffiti-movies, Terminator 2, Terminator Salvation, Rocky-movies, Rambo-movies, Expendables, Tremors... the list will go on forever ha ha.

 

... and of course, movies you really deplore?

 

There are a ton of movies I dislike, but I can't think of them right now ha ha.

 

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Germany (East AND West)  amazon.de

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x-rated  find Christian Ackerman at adultvideouniverse.com

Your/your film's website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

http://www.christianackerman.com  

http://www.fastcoastproductions.com  

http://wpx.christianackerman.com  

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wisconsin-Project-X/261643734803

 

Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

Well, Wisconsin Project X is available on Pay-Per-View & Video On Demand on Bresnan, Verizon FiOs, AT&T, Dish, and many more providers everywhere for only a few months right now. It also is available to save the DVD rental on NETFLIX right now and hopefully soon will be available on their instant queue/download streaming. It will be available through Brain Damage Films on July 5, 2011 at many other vendors too. If anyone out there is willing to invest in my next movie, I am looking for film investors to budget my next film ha ha. And, many thanks to you for doing this interview and review of my movie. Many thanks to the cast & crew of Wisconsin Project X.

Plus, my old school movies like Original G.R., G.R., Catastrophic Denouement, Zombie Spoof, Midnight Mansion House of Haunts, Virtual 3000, The Mime, and Unknown Emissary are available on my websites and through amazon.com and many other venders. They are available on DVD that is fully loaded with extras and on Video On Demand too.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

No problem, thank you so much!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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On the same day
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and your Ex wants
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you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

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directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD

 

 

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