Your new movie Survival
Knife - in a few words, what is it about?
grew up watching a lot of slasher movies.
We had a great video store nearby that didnít care what kids under 18
rented, and they had a ton of great old horror flicks.
So when Jim Towns [Jim
Towns interview - click here] and I started making movies I really wanted to make a
slasher flick, but I didnít want to make the same slasher flick that Iíve
seen a million times. With Survival
Knife we wanted to make the sequel that we never saw.
Instead of having a whole new crop of victims, we decided that the
sequel should follow the girl who ends up killing the killer and show what
happens to someone who goes through something like that.
How would that affect her psychologically?
How would she get back into regular daily life after such an ordeal?
How did you get involved with the project in the first place? And
to what extent can you identify with the film's serial killer motive?
am always looking for a new project to work on.
Knife there were a few factors that fell into place.
I was given an unexpected month off from work, Jim had just for the
most part finished the script, and Danielle Donahue [Danielle
Donahue interview - click here] had a lot of free time.
The second I found out about my impromptu vacation I asked Jim if
he had anything in the works. He
sent me Survival
Knife. It was
still in an unpolished state, but I had enough to start shooting while Jim
put on the finishing touches.
can you tell us about your writer/producer Jim Towns [Jim
Towns interview - click here], and what was your collaboration
with him before, during and after principal production like? And also do
talk about previous collaborations, and how did you first meet even?
and I met in elementary school. We
used to play with Star Wars and
G.I. Joe action figures together all the
time. Then when I got my first video camera we started making movies
together. We made really bad
Marvel Comics movies and super cheap horror flicks.
Eventually around 2000 I was able to get a nice DVCam camera which
elevated the quality of our productions to something that we could
distribute. We shot Prometheus Triumphant
together, and then we released Stiff.
After Jim moved out west we still wanted to collaborate, so he
started sending me scripts that would be better shot in Pittsburgh than
LA. We would talk and text a
lot during pre-production bouncing ideas off of each other.
He even made a few props that I was able to use.
During the shoot I would send him bits that I had edited together.
I would send him changes that I made during shooting, usually out
of a budgetary necessity, and he could adjust the rest of the script
accordingly. I continued to
send him rough cuts throughout shooting and post production until we both
agreed that it was the final release version.
Knife does get a bit violent at times - so did you ever have the
feeling you might cross a line there, and do talk about your movie's
gruesome bits for a bit?
never felt like I was going to cross any lines.
As much as I love 80ís slasher movies, that wasnít the feel we
were going for. I wanted it to
be a bit more realistic. If
the gore got too extreme, like Dead Alive or Evil Dead
2, I thought it
would take away from the story and what was going on with Penny.
Pennyís struggle was what was most important.
However, the movie does deal with a serial killer so I definitely
wanted there to be some realistic scenes of violence.
We were lucky to find a few really cool guys, Tim Currence, Jordan
Patton, Dylan Thomas, and Eric Henciak, who were able to give us some
amazing gore effects.
What can you tell us about your
directorial approach to your story at hand?
Bruce Lentz, Danielle Donahue
times I really enjoy giving my movies a bit of an exaggerated feel, like
Raimi, early Peter Jackson, or even some of the Coen Brothers stuff.
But for Survival
Knife I thought that would take away from the
story too much. I wanted this
to really tell the story of the girl and her internal struggle.
I saved the stylized look for scenes showing Pennyís state of
mind. I felt the contrast gave
them more impact and helped to drive her character.
about your cast, and why exactly these people?
of the cast are people I have worked with before.
Danielle Donahue [Danielle
Donahue interview - click here] worked with us on a few short films and I always wanted to
have her in a feature. I used
to work for Bruce Lentz at a video store in high school.
He and I would always talk about making movies back then, and we
had him play a bit part in Prometheus Triumphant.
Heís a lot of fun and I wanted to give him a bigger role to play
with. He nailed the creepy
psychiatrist 100%. Lonnie
Thomas was a friend of Danielleís. She
knew we were looking for a few people and she brought him in to audition.
He was super cool and was a lot of fun to work with.
Melissa Troughtzmantz came into Prometheus Triumphant
fill in for an actress who disappeared.
She was great. No one
else would have put up with what we asked her to do.
I was so impressed with her that we started dating during the shoot
and we have been together ever since.
I love working with her on set and try to make sure she has a part
in every movie that I do. Most
of the rest of the cast were friends of ours or the other actors.
Everyone was very dedicated and gave tremendous effort to complete
the project. I was really
lucky to work with them.
you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
every movie I make I try to keep the atmosphere pretty light no matter how
heavy a subject we are shooting. I
mean, I make movies because I have a blast doing it, so why not keep it
fun on set. Plus, a good
positive atmosphere keeps everyoneís creative juices flowing.
I like to have people contribute as much as possible.
If an actor or actress has a better idea on how to play a scene, I
always consider it. Usually
everyone on set will discuss the idea, give a few reasons why one way
would work better, and we pick the best one.
I never want anyone to be afraid to bring up an idea.
All of these people are donating their time and energy to the
project. If they want to give
even more by throwing out some ideas, Iíd be foolish not to listen.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of your movie yet?
havenít heard much feedback yet. We
have a good friend in Belgium who we met online.
He tracked us down after seeing Prometheus Triumphant
to tell us
how much he enjoyed it. Heís
a great guy and I send him copies of everything we do.
He really enjoyed it. The
only other audience reaction I have is from a cast and crew screening I
held at a local theater. I
left the doors open to anyone who wanted to come in and watch.
A lady and her daughter came in and told me after the show how much
they loved it. That was a
great moment. Itís rare for
me to get feedback in person from a non-friend or family member, so that
was really cool.
future projects you'd like to share?
am working on a movie called Boxed that Jim wrote.
There have been some casting and weather issues, so there have been
some delays, but I plan on getting back into that one soon.
It is part of my new favorite sub-genre Ė inept criminals.
It will be in the same vein as Killer Joe or Springbreakers.
A couple of people who have no business getting involved in a crime
and have no brains to accomplish the crime at hand, but they try anyway.
Jim and I are also working on a webseries that will have a kind of
dark comic book feel to it.
What got you into
filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on
interest in filmmaking definitely dates back to the first time I saw Star
Wars. I was mesmerized.
From that point on I immersed myself in all things Star Wars. I
read every book I could find, and I watched every behind-the-scenes
special that aired. Thatís
when I really got into filmmaking. When
I saw how a movie was made. I
used to stage scenes with my action figures and take pictures with my
Momís old Instamatic camera, which I guess would be my first attempts at
cinematography. I would also
do ďradio showsĒ with our old tape recorder before I had a video
camera. Then in eighth grade
one of our classmates asked us if we wanted to help him make a movie.
I was ecstatic! Make a
movie! We rented a Sony
Betamovie from a video store and made Evil Dead: Another Story, which was
basically him re-enacting all of his favorite scenes from Evil Dead 1 and
2. But that didnít matter.
I was totally hooked at that point.
I saved up money and bought my own video camera and Jim and I
started making all kinds of movies on our own.
I did go to film school, which really helped me with techniques,
and I went to Special Effects Make-up school, which allowed us to have
better effects, but overall I think the best way to learn how to make
movies is to make movies. Iíve
learned valuable lessons on each and every movie that Iíve made.
You of course have to talk about your
previous collaborations with Survival
Knife's lead Danielle Donahue [Danielle
Donahue interview - click here] for a bit?
and I first worked together on a music video called Voodoo that we shot
for a good friend, George Sabol. Itís
loosely based on White Zombie and features some great music that George
wrote. She also helped us with
a short movie for the On the Lot TV show from a few years back.
More recently she wrote a short film called Scorned that I shot
with her and some other Survival
Knife cast members.
It was an entry for the ABCs of Death 2 contest.
Danielleís great to work with.
She throws herself into the role 100% and is up for pretty much
anything. Itís always a
blast working with her.
can you tell us about your other filmwork prior to Survival
and I made two movies before Survival
Knife, Prometheus Triumphant and
Stiff. Prometheus Triumphant
is a period piece set around the turn of the last century, the 19th
to the 20th, and shot to look like it was made around 1925.
Considering our budget I think it turned out rather well.
It started off as almost an experiment to see if we could make
something shot on digital video look like old film, and it was going so
well that we expanded it to a feature.
Stiff was our first shoot on HD.
It was a quick shoot and more of a character study.
Weíve also done a bunch of shorts that we are going to put
together in a collection called Spare Parts.
I love doing shorts because they give me a chance to try out
different techniques or ideas that I may want to use on a feature, but am
not sure how they will work.
How would you describe yourself as a
am very particular about things, especially the cinematography, so I
always shoot my own movies. This
way if the scene isnít working visually, I can adjust it on the fly and
not waste time shooting something that I know I wonít use.
Also, since I edit my own movies, I have the edit in my head as
Iím shooting. This helps me
work through scenes more efficiently and keep things fresh rather than do
80 takes of a scene to make sure I have the coverage that I need.
For me itís very important to streamline the process because time
is a luxury that we donít have on such a low budget.
Also, by getting the coverage on a scene in minimal takes the
actors and actresses arenít doing the same scene over and over again and
donít lose energy as we go on. So,
I go into a scene with the look in my head, and I describe the scene to
the actors and actresses and just let them go from there.
As we run through it a few times I can make some adjustments and in
no time things are really flowing and I can grab the shots I need while we
have fun with it.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
Different filmmakers inspire me for different reasons.
I love directors like Robert Rodriguez who know how to do
everything. I have always been
a bit of a control freak so I donít like to hand jobs off to anyone.
I want to direct, light, shoot, and edit everything.
However, I am not musically inclined, so I am lucky to have Lucien
Desar as a friend. He is
always willing to lend some music to our films.
I really love the Coen Brothers.
I think they hands down have the best written dialogue of any
filmmakers. I can just listen
to audio from The Big
Lebowski and enjoy it.
I love early Tim Burton. His
style was so amazing. Same
with Sam Raimi. I really enjoy
the cinematography in his films. I
really admire the storytelling in Spielberg and Scorseseís films.
And I especially enjoy the cinematography in Spielbergís movies
since Schindlerís List when he started working with Janusz Kaminski.
Clint Eastwood gives his characters such life and depth, and his
complete lack of pretention is inspiring.
After hearing too many stories of ďauteursĒ who have to do 80
takes of a scene, it is refreshing to hear that directors who make amazing
movies will do sometimes just one take, which seems to keep the actors on
their toes. No one wants to be
the one who necessitates a second take!
And finally David Fincher is absolutely incredible.
Everything about his movies is amazing.
I mean, he even made the story of Facebook interesting!
movies, eh? Thatís a long
list. But here are my absolute
favorites in no particular order, except maybe close to alphabetical
because I looked at my Blu-rays to compile the list.
The Addams Family, Back to the
Future, Beetlejuice, The Big
Nights, The Dark
Knight, Die Hard, Domino, Bowfinger, Ed
Wood, The Dark Crystal, Evil Dead
2, Fight Club, The Frighteners, Ghostbusters,
The Incredibles, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, Toy Story
The Road Warrior, The Matrix, Million Dollar Baby, The Muppet
Movie, Poltergeist, Reservoir Dogs, Goodfellas, Seven,
The Shawshank Redemption, Snatch, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
2, The Thing, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Unbreakable,
Wall-E, Wild At Heart, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Phew!
And of course, films you really
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
are very few movies that I outright deplore.
I just love movies and can watch just about anything.
I donít enjoy the cheesier romantic comedies or overly
pretentious social commentaries, but Iíll watch them if only to feel
justified in my opinion of them afterwards.
And there are many movies that arenít all that good as a whole,
but may have some parts that I really enjoy, be it amazing cinematography
or editing, or a particular sequence that always takes my breath away.
But I canít think of any movie that made me angry that I watched
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
Dimas High School Football Rules!
Thanks for the interview!