Your film The
Puppet Monster Massacre - in a few words, what is it about?
Puppet Monster Massacre
is sort of a send up or homage to the films
I grew up watching on cable late at night. Movies like Killer Klowns from
Outer Space, Puppet
Master, Aliens, Pumpkinhead, Ghoulies, Return of the
Living Dead, Night of the
Creeps, The Deadly Spawn, The Thing, Fright
Night etc. Mostly 80's horror, but there are a few nods to classics like
House on Haunted Hill and Night of the Living
Dead. It's a basic horror
premise with all the trimmings executed with a cast of Henson style
first question that I think pops to pretty much everyone's mind even by
only hearing the title of your movie: Why puppets?
I don't think anyone has really done a horror film quite this way before.
Meet the Feebles is the closest thing, but I don't consider it a horror
film. Doing a puppet film was just something that seemed fun and original.
can you tell us about the creation of your puppets, and to what extent
where you involved in that process, creatively?
and Mr. Squiggums were purchased online, but the rest of the puppets were
made specifically for the film. The human puppets were created primarily
by my mother, Kim Mills. She does a lot of sewing so we just purchased
some patterns on the internet, bought some baby clothes from a thrift
store and there you have it. She worked from my sketches and every puppet
came out perfect. I made the monster in my living room out of foam, hot
glue, Crayola Model Magic, clear nail polish, wire, and a bunch of other
stuff. I just sort of slapped things together until it looked like a
creature. I started with a rough sketch but I knew I wanted it to be cross
between a gremlin, a xenomorph, and pumpkinhead. So, I just sort of worked
toward that idea.
you tell us about the whole filmmaking process making a film starring
puppets, what are the advantages and disadvantages as opposed to filming
The advantages of using puppets are that they
are never late, they never bitch, and they don't have "no nudity
clauses" in their contracts. The disadvantages are that they have no
legs, they have one facial expression, and they can't move their arms
particularly well. We shot the film entirely in front of a greenscreen in
my living room. We couldn't afford puppeteers, so I had to perform every
puppet in the film. On a typical shooting day it was just me and my
assistant director (Brandon Salkil) filming furiously into the night
fueled by passion and dangerous amounts of Amp energy drink.
Puppet Monster Massacre is an obvious hommage to/spoof of 1980's
horror and monster movies. Why that, and some of your genre favourites
from that era?
Simply because I love them. 80's horror
films had a sort of magic and theatricality to them that we just don't see
very often anymore. The films of Fred Dekker, Tom Holland, and Charles
Band are huge influences on me. They understood how to have fun, and how
to be self referential without overdoing it. Its hard to pick favorites
but I would say Monster Squad, the Puppet Master-series,
Night of the Creeps, and
Pumpkinhead are on the top of my list.
Other inspirations when writing The
Puppet Monster Massacre?
My biggest writing
influences are probably Edgar Wright, Matt Stone, and Trey Parker. Edgar
Wright has a knack for simultaneously pointing out how ridiculous
something is, while at the same time showing a true love and understanding
for it. That's something I wanted to do with The
Puppet Monster Massacre. I didn't want to do
cutaway humor (like Family Guy), or just big abstract gags, or just direct
references with no real joke. Matt Stone and Trey Parker are geniuses.
They somehow manage to be crass and clever at the same time. I don't know
if I achieved their perfect balance, but I was definitely trying.
How would you describe
your directorial approach?
I'm very hands-on when it comes
to the artistic and technical aspects, but I'm pretty hands-off when it
comes to my actors. I like the technical side of filmmaking. I like
designing, doing special and visual effects, editing, and cinematography
and things like that. Not that I don't like working with actors, I do. I
just have a real "you know how to do your job, and I know how to do
my job" approach with them. I like actors who bring something to the
table, respond well to criticism, and can work well without me holding
their hand. If I had an actor who fussed and held up my production for 3
hours because he didn't understand his motivation, I would flat out fire
him. I don't care if he's Brad Pitt or Pauly Shore. When budgets are low
and schedules are tight, I don't have time for that business. Everyone has
a job and everyone is there to work and have fun. The actors who are most
valuable to me aren't necessarily the best or most famous. The people I
keep around are the ones who are dedicated and willing to work, because
they love the project.
I'm pretty sure your film has
been likened to Meet the Feebles and The Muppets Show quite
a few times. Your thoughts about these comparisons, and do they at all
They don't bother me. I would like to think we
are closer to The Muppet Show than Meet The Feebles, though. I love Meet The Feebles, but its really grimy and dark. I like to think that
Puppet Monster Massacre is a
little lighter in tone. Its nice to be compared to successful projects.
Having made one puppet feature, could you
ever be tempted to make another one? And are there any future projects
you'd like to talk about (both with and without puppets)?
think at this point we are definitely doing a sequel. People seem to like
it and it's selling well. I have a million ideas for sequels so it won't be
a cash-in. I love the world and characters we have created and I would
like to visit them again several times. Currently we are working on a
grindhouse style zombie/slasher film called Zombie A-Hole. I'ts live action
and its chockfull of naked girls and blood. Its a smaller film than The
Puppet Monster Massacre,
but it will be a lot of fun. We are about halfway through production and
are on hold at the moment. Our star had some medical issues and is off his
feet for a few weeks.
did you get into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any
formal education on the subjects?
I have always wanted to
be a filmmaker. I remember being very young and watching a special on TV
about how King Kong was made at my grandma's house. I was hooked. I was
growing up in the golden age of "behind the scenes". Amazing
films like Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park were coming out and there were
tons of specials about their productions and special effects. It all just
sort of clicked in my head and made perfect sense to me. When I was 12 my
dad bought my mother a VHS-C camera which I immediately confiscated. I started out making stop motion films with my action figures and silly
putty. In high school I was lucky enough to be involved with a local
access soap opera where Tony Howell taught me the basics of camera and
lighting. After that I just learned from the internet. Shows like FilmRiot
& Backyard FX have inspired me and taught me so much. I went to
college for a year, hated it, and never went back. It was more valuable to
me to learn by doing.
What can you tell us
about your filmwork prior to The
Puppet Monster Massacre?
Puppet Monster Massacre is my first feature. I have done lots of shorts and tests, but
this was my first big undertaking. It took a year of my life and a lot of
literal blood, sweat, and tears. I am very proud of it.
Directors who inspire
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Charles Band, Roger Corman [Roger
Corman bio - click here], Robert Rodriguez,
Guillermo Del Toro, Kevin Smith... that's the short-list.
Your favourite movies?
that's difficult. King Kong,
The Princess Bride, A Fistful of
Dollars, Pumpkinhead, Jurassic Park, Terminator
2, Django, Once Upon a Time in
UHF, The Odd Couple, Monster Squad, Iron
Monkey, Hellboy, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Creepshow,
Night of the Living
The Changeling, House on Haunted
Hill... the list goes on and on. I just
love movies. I can generally find something to love in even the stupidest
... and of
course, movies you really deplore?
don't understand the appeal.
website, Facebook, whatever else?
Anything else you are
dying to tell us that I have merely forgotten to ask?
erasers make excellent puppet nipples.
for the interview!
No, no, no... thank you!