You recently worked as writer and producer for a film called Peelers. What is the plot for this?
Peelers takes place on the closing night of a small-town strip club.
Some unwanted guests arrive and ruin all the fun. And it’s up to
our leading lady, Blue Jean, to save her bar, her friends and her family
and stop the bloodbath that ensues.
Is there a web page devoted
to this film and/or your works?
Absolutely. Check out: www.peelersthefilm.com. We have all
the info on the film such as reviews, interviews, screenings, the trailer
and more. It also gives you access to all that social media crap
people are so fond of.
This was your second horror feature, right? What was your first?
Second one for Sevé Schelenz (the director) [Sevé
Schelenz interview - click here]; his first was the cult
hit Skew. But for me, technically, I lost my filmmaking virginity on
was my first full length feature film (I’ve done
a few shorts). Definitely a memorable initiation process (though it
felt more like a hazing). I learned so much and took on so many roles,
many of which I had no idea how to fulfill, but I just had to learn as I
went along. I often look back in amazement at how we pulled it off.
It was a beast but it was also one of the best times of my life.
Did you study film in a school or learn as you went along?
Both. And I love both methods. I know that many filmmakers
say that film school is a waste of time and the best way to learn is
hands-on and I totally agree for the most part. I learned more in a
week of pre-production on Peelers
than I did in my whole entire stint at
film school. Hands-down the best way to learn film is to decide to
make a film and do it. But there’s something magical about going
to school and learning everything you can about movies. I mean,
where else do you have a class where you get to sit in a beautiful theatre
with your friends and watch classic films and then discuss them
afterwards? Plus, it’s the only type of education where you
actually get to escape reality. It’s a little piece of heaven. A
writer’s dream come true.
Getting back to Peelers. Has this film been entered in any film fests or shown to any
You bet. I think we just hit our 50th festival mark. It’s
been crazy, an absolute whirlwind. But we’re excited to get Peelers
out there and share it with the world. We’ve had lots of
positive feedback so far, which is wonderful. Many people from
across the globe have reached out to us to say that they saw the film at a
and really liked it. But more than just the film, they enjoyed
the entire experience of watching it with the audience. Something
about the film just gets the crowd going, they’re having a blast while
watching it and they all get into it. I’ve been to a few fests so
far and I’ve witnessed it for myself. It’s just a fun, gross-out
movie that gets the audience excited. I love that they’re totally
along for the ride with us.
How did you come up with the title, Peelers?
Well, we struggled a lot in the beginning with the title. I came
up with titles like “The Black Pole”, “Stiletto Slaughterhouse”,
and “Strip Down Deadly” to name a few. The director, Sevé Schelenz [Sevé
Schelenz interview - click here], hated them all. So we did research on the whole title
phenomenon and found that the most memorable horror film titles are just
made up of one word, one statement… Jaws, The Thing, Alien,
Predator, The Omen, The Exorcist.
Hmmm… maybe we should’ve called it “The Peelers”. Anyway, so we
both agreed that it needed to be a one-word title. And “Peelers”
has so many connotations to it…so many things can be peeled off…like
clothes in the case of the strippers, your skin from being killed, your
faith in human decency as you watch our film, hehehe.
What would you
say are the strengths of this film as opposed to other works out there?
I think (I hope) that its strengths involve the pacing and the balance
of gore and humor. One of the best comments we get from critics and
audiences alike is that the pacing is great throughout the entire movie.
There are never moments where you’re bored or disinterested. The
film moves well from scene to scene and keeps the audience engaged from
start to finish. I have to credit this to the director/editor, Sevé.
I learned a lot from him in this area. Because if it had been left
all up to me, trust me, you would’ve gotten long, drawn-out scenes of
just witty dialogue and banter. Sevé has such a great sense of how
to keep the story moving along and I’m sure that comes from his editing
background. It certainly helped my writing on the second and third
Do you have any other projects in the works?
You bet. But I’m all over the map. As a writer, you’re
always told to stick with one genre until you master it, then move on to
whatever genre you like. Well, I’ve never been one to listen to
the “helpful guidelines” for writing, or riding a bike, or sex, or
anything else really, so I’m doing whatever comes to me and gets me
excited about writing. I’ve finished the first draft of a sci-fi
novel, a family comedy feature film script and a children’s book.
It sure would be fun to be the stripper-horror writer who transitioned
over to writing children’s books.
Now that Peelers is finished, looking back, how satisfied are you
with the finished project?
Not gonna lie, there are always a few passages of dialogue that make me
cringe. But I just blame them on the director for having changed it
from what I originally had and move on. I’m kidding. Overall,
I’m happy with what we’ve got, it’s a fun ride with some
over-the-top action. There are moments that I absolutely love, that
turned out better than what I had envisioned, and there are moments that I
want to fix-up, wish I had written better, wish we spent more time on.
In the end, I see it as a semester in my freshman year of filmmaking.
My marks were alright but I can do better. So I hope I’ve learned
my lessons well so I can ace my exams in my sophomore year.
you have any interesting behind-the-scenes tales to tell about the filming
Too many to count. But the one that comes to mind off the top of
my head is the day I had to pick up one of our lead actors from the
airport. He was not only the main bad guy in the film, he was also
our stunt coordinator. He was coming in from Los Angeles and I was
waiting for his arrival in my car at the airport. We started
shooting in two days. An hour goes by and he still hasn’t shown
up. I call Sevé to see if he’s heard anything on his end.
Nothing. No information on the guy’s whereabouts. Finally,
my cell phone rings, it’s our actor. He sounds pretty shaken up.
He’s being held by customs and is being denied entry because he
doesn’t have the proper documentation to work in our country. I
tell him to explain to the officers that he’s not working, he’s
volunteering. It doesn’t matter, they won’t let him in. So
it’s two days before we go to camera and we’ve lost our main bad guy
and stunt coordinator. When they say that the film industry is all
about hustling, in that moment I finally understood why. We had to
hustle our asses off and find a replacement within 48 hours. And
amazingly, we did. Sometimes you just get lucky.
What do you think constitutes a good film script?
For me it’s all about set-up and payoff and emotional resonance.
Anybody can write about naked dwarves dancing in the rain talking
backwards but if there’s no reason for it, then that’s not good
storytelling. Because there is no story. You’re just being weird
for weird’s sake and that’s easy, anyone can do that. It’s
also pointless and boring as hell. The challenge is giving purpose
and meaning to your weird elements. And that’s not something everyone
can do. But the one’s who can do it, that’s true talent.
Take a movie like In Bruges for example. Great characters, biting
dialogue, elements of eccentricity (aka the weirdness) and a story that
sets up everything for the brilliant payoff at the end. Now that’s
a great script. Film is visual storytelling, so while I understand
that beautiful or weird images on the screen are there to entice the
viewers, I don’t believe that it should be the only element to the medium. There has to be a great story too.
In fact, I’ll take a great story over great visuals any day. I’m
a writer so I’m used to letting my own imagination come up with the
images so I don’t rely on the ones on screen. I do appreciate them
when they’re there of course. But if you’re all about the images
I say go paint still life and hang it in an art gallery. I want a
story that resonates with me, something I might never have given any
thought to, but suddenly I’m fully invested in it. I want to see
how these characters come out on the other side.
And a bad one?
It involves a simple test. And it works for me every time. I call
it the “So-What” Test. If by the end of the film you’re left
feeling “Yeah, so what?”, you’ve got a stinker on your hands.
Take any film, Pulp Fiction for example. You watch that movie and at
the end your face is melting and you’re screaming, “Oh my god, did you
just see what I just saw? That just blew my fucking mind! What
was in the brief case?” You’re searching for the answers, you
care, it hits your smack in the guts and you want to know more. But
you watch a film like Ishtar, which stars two great actors, and you’re
wondering why these two characters are sitting atop a couple of camels
riding along in the desert with barely enough energy in the scorching heat
to carry on a conversation. By the end you’re left scratching your head
and rubbing your eyes to stay awake, wondering what the whole point of it
is… So what? Exactly.
In the future do you plan to produce more
films from your scripts alone or are you open to producing scripts from
While I fully support and encourage all my fellow screenwriters to keep
writing and getting their work out there, I have absolutely no desire to
produce other people’s scripts. I have way too many stories to
tell and get out into the world. But, I definitely would help out a
friend who wanted to get their script produced if they asked. I just
wouldn’t seek it out as my “next project”.
Do you see the independent films scene growing, weakening or remaining as is?
I’m not going to sugar-coat it, independent filmmaking is brutal. And
I’m not complaining, I’m just making an observation. I love what
I do. But every single day you have at least one, if not twelve,
moments where you just want to throw in the towel. That’s the
reality of it. Being an indie filmmaker is like being a baker.
Everyone wants a piece of your pie but you’ve already run out of eggs,
milk, flour and sugar. And all those ingredients have to come from
you because no one is going to get them for you. You have to lay
your own eggs, milk your own tits dry, pound the dandruff out of your hair
into flour and squeeze every drop of sugar out of your own bloodstream.
But no one cares what you did to finally make the pie, they just want
access to that pie. It ain’t for the faint of heart, that’s for
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But just like everything these days, I see the indie film scene
becoming oversaturated. Thanks to Big Brother and his love-child
known as technology, waging the war on inconvenience. So by making
everything more convenient and more accessible to everyone, there’s a
lot more crap to sift through out there. Whether that’s growth depends
on how you look at it. Weeds grow but nobody wants an overabundance
of them around. And then you have to be on top of all this
ever-changing technology, which just makes it an ongoing, hair-pulling
venture of trying to keep up. Rather than focusing on the
storytelling, we focus on who has the latest tech toy. So, on the
flip side, is this easy access making the industry weaker? I don’t
know, but it sure as hell makes it overcrowded and therefore much harder
to get any sort of recognition. But who doesn’t love a challenge,
right? It keeps us on our toes.
Never. Ever. Give. Up.
Thanks for the interview!