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An Interview with Jon Bristol, Director of Head

by Mike Haberfelner

September 2014

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Your upcoming movie Head - in a few words, what is it going to be about?


Short words? Heh, kids. Camping. Decapitation!


The central question of course, why puppets, and how do they fit into a horror film?


Puppets are what we've been doing with Elmwood Productions from day one. People tend to think of puppetry as genre. But in reality it's a medium to tell a story. Action isn't a genre, animation isn't also. It's how stories are told. And puppetry is the same. Here in America we're just so used to puppets being for family shows we forget how powerful they can be as storytellers, and actors. And for horror, I just can't find anywhere an example of puppets being used as the characters. Not just some monster (like Chucky or the Puppet Master flicks) to terrorize the heroes and victims. In this film, the puppets are all the parts.


What were your inspirations when dreaming up Head?


I was raised on horror films, and stories. My mom was a huge Stephen King fan, and loved things like Tales From The Crypt and old monster movies. And since Elmwood began I've wanted to do one, and so has my co-producer, Russ Bird. We touched on horror/comedy with our web-series Steve the Vampire, but I wanted to do a straight one. After a long day a while ago I watched Evil Dead 2 late one night and though "Why not?" It got put on the back burner for a while. Then in the middle of a bad snowstorm a few winters ago I spent the weekend typing and enjoying coffee and beer, depending on the time of day. And Head began.


What can you tell us about the films look and feel, and its approach to the horror genre?


We're really going for a throwback to the late 1970's to early '80's look. My Bloody Valentine, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and so on. But with just a little more gloss. Honestly we're not breaking any new ground in the storytelling aspect of it. When I wrote the original draft I intentionally wanted to hit all the clichés of the genre. But I still wanted scares and shock. Using puppets in the film I think will also give it that uneasy feeling that a lot of horror films just don't have. We're so used to puppets being family entertainment, that now, with blood and violence, it may be jarring for people. I like that aspect.


You of course have to talk about the puppets in the movie for a bit - oh, and about your puppeteers?


The puppets are in the Henson/Muppet tradition. Moving mouth puppets, with rod to move the arms. I made all the puppets too. When designing them I was aspiring to make them somewhat familiar looking. You may look at them and think "Hey, that looks like this actor or that actress", and that is intentional. I also didn't want the puppets to look too perfect. Like the Muppets do now. I wanted them to look more like the 1970's, and earlier, Muppet style. It was more raw then. And the puppeteers. Man, these cats are awesome. I trained a chunk of them, and one of our lead puppeteers, Nick Foreman, has been getting the new puppeteers ready for the film. I'm lucky in a way. I've been blessed with a few naturals, like Mike Finland, who joined Elmwood in 2011 and has become the best guy we have! All the puppeteers on this film are people I hope stick around to go further with us. It's a good mix of our usual gang and newbies. And my co-producer on this one serves a mention. Rick Passmore. Not only has he been working his ass off, he smells OK too. Nothing like feet at all.


As far as I know, the film is currently in its fundraising stages - so what can you tell us about your fundraising efforts?


I was hesitant to do a Kickstarter. I've been avoiding doing it for years. The rest of the Elmwood crew finally talked me into it for this project. It's time for new gear. The tech has changed so much in the past five years, and we've gotten so much better at what we do, that it makes sense to step up our quality all around. So far we're doing well. People are really supportive and like our incentives. Many crowd funding projects leave you waiting months for any turnaround on the investment. We're offering up downloads of our first feature film, Josh and Todd: The Story of A Man and His Puppet, as soon as the champaign ends. SO you get one movie right away, and later, you'll get Head too.


Once your funds are raised, how do you plan to proceed, and even if it might be too early to ask, any idea when and where the film might be released onto the general public yet?


Post-production! We'll be using the funds for so many things on this, new audio gear, editing gear, and DVD prep, and so on. I hope to be holding screenings in the first two months of 2015, and from there hit horror conventions, comic conventions, anywhere we can to screen it. If you have a wall and want us to screen it, we'll come with our projector. I love showing our movies in all kinds of places. We even screened Josh and Todd at a nursing home. I think we may have inadvertently horrified some of the elderly with a monster puppet dropping F-bombs! Hahahaha! And then we'll be doing more with our old buddy Steve the Vampire!


Any future projects beyond Head?


Right after we're done shooting we'll be jumping head first into our next web-series called The Risley Brothers. It's about two brother who own a bar, and everything than could possibly go wrong. And then a feature film called Debacle, best described at "Pulp Fiction meets Dude, Where's My Car". Both with puppets as the casts.


What got you into filmmaking and puppeteering to begin with, and did you receive any formal education on either?


No formal education at all. I didn't go to school for this. Puppetry or film making. I've always been hands on, and always the type to want to figure it out and do the rehearch. But never much of a "student" in tradition sense. I'm a self taught puppet maker, and puppeteer. And film is very much along the same lines for me. I loved the two things all my life. SO I started doing them! Sounds easy when I put it like that. But like Jim Henson said; "If it was easy everyone would be doing it"!


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Head?


We (Elmwood) started in 2002, with a show that went nowhere, but learned so much. By 2006 we created a web-series called Steve the Vampire and we really got the ball rolling then. It's the story of a adult vamp, that is stuck looking 13 (when he got bit) so no one takes him seriously. Then we moved onto to a bunch of shorts before shooting our first feature film Josh and Todd in 2008 and 2009. We've had great responses to both, online, and at screenings. We've also completed two other web-series; G@mrz, about a group of tabletop role-player, and Animal Behavior, about a man and his two murder plotting pet cats. And we've done music videos, and so many shorts! Too many to even wrap my head around. Sometimes I'll watch them on YouTube just to remember!


You of course have to talk about your company Elmwood Productions for a bit, and the philosophy behind it!


Elmwood Productions… If we had a motto I'd say it would be "We like it! Hope you do too!" Hahahaha! We do this because we enjoy it, and if other people like it that's amazing. I think it shows in the work that we are having a good time. And people like to see that and feel it. We're like a little family. Some of us have been together in this since 2002, over ten years. We gotta love each other to keep going! 


Filmmakers, puppeteers, whoever else who inspire you?


I'm inspired by the people around me, family, friends, pets, and so on. And I'm inspired to do good work, even in horror, because it's too easy to just be lazy. Good work brings good to you, and your world. And my personal philosophy - "Pants Optional"!


Your favourite movies? ... and of course, films you really deplore?


My top five movies (and it's always changing) - Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Muppet Movie, Jaws, Evil Dead 2, The Forbidden Zone… and Under the Cherry Moon. I love that stupid movie. I could list dozens of movies I love and have inspired me. But I don't want to bore anyone! And I've only walked out on two movies in theaters in my life: Navy Seals and Tomb Raider, hahaha… And I've never seen a whole Harry Potter movie. And I'm OK with that.


Feeling lucky ?
Want to
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?

The links below
will take you
just there!!!

Find Jon Bristol
at the amazons ...


Great Britain (a.k.a. the United Kingdom)

Germany (East AND West)

Looking for imports ?
Find Jon Bristol here ...

Your shop for all things Thai

Something naughty ?
(Must be over 18 to go there !)

x-rated  find Jon Bristol at

Your/your movie's/your company's website, Facebook, Kickstarter, whatever else?


The website is, and you can get to our Facebook, YouTube, etc, from there! And Head has a production blog at, where we update everything we can, from goofy behind-the-scenes videos to info on the cast and crew, and so on… And of course the Kickstarter! - it ends on October 8th 2014… We'd love all the support possible!


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


Thanks for taking time and interest in the crazy stuff we're doing out here!


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

Legal note: (re)Search my Trash cannot
and shall not be held responsible for
content of sites from a third party.

Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

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

out now on DVD