David Schmoeller [Interview]

David SchmoellerHello Everyone!  Happy Halloween, and welcome to Day 5 of Trainwreck’d Society’s Week of Horror!  It has been a great few days bringing you fine readers some great interview from some of the finest folks involved in the world of horror.  And while it might not be fair to say that we saved “the best for last”, as that would obviously not be fair to the fine folks we have already featured – but we are very excited about this one!

David Schmoeller is that sort of guy that fascinates us the most.  When you look at so many horror franchises out there, it is always great to speak with the originator!  Just as we did last year with our interview with Friday the 13th creator Victor Miller, we have another great interview with a man that has left his mark in the world of horror in a major way.  Schmoeller is the man who originally made us shit ourselves over…puppets?  Yes, this delightful jerk of a man managed to take something as simple and cute as puppets, and scare the hell out of us.  Dolls were already ruined thanks to fellow TWS interviewee Tom Thurman (Child’s Play), clowns are a no go (another TWS interview Tommy Lee Wallace and his film adaptation of Stephen King’s It), and…..well, basically nothing is sacred from the mind of the masters of horror.  If you couldn’t guess by now or didn’t already know, David Schmoeller is the man we can hold responsible for 1989’s Puppet Master (but, thankfully for him, not the ridiculous sequels that would be released).  He is also the man responsible for the now cult favorite 1979 film Tourist Trap, a film that any REAL horror buff should know and love.

So with that being said, we are so pleased to have Mr. Schmoeller as the special guest to round of this year’s Week of Horror.  We are fortunate, honored, and extremely lucky to have this wonderful fellow share a few words with us.  So, here we go!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a filmmaker? And what were some of your earliest influences?

I came fairly late to filmmaking. I became a writer at around 15 years old. I went to college with the intention of writing novels. Mid-way through college, I met some friends who were in film – and it just sounded like more fun. So, I started taking film classes and was hooked. I took a class on Italian Cinema and it completely changed how I looked at film. It was transformative.

Tourist TrapLike many other filmmakers we have spoken with (Rolfe Kanefsky, in particular), the Internet and new, easier mediums of film viewing have managed to allow some amazing films to finally receive the credit, at least in a “cult status”, that they always deserved. I definitely believe your 1979 film Tourist Trap is one of these films. Do you think the internet coming around is a good change for cinema? Have you noticed the difference?

The Internet is a good and a VERY bad thing for filmmakers. On the good side, there are many new places for your work to be seen. But the fact that internet, by it’s nature, leads users to expect everything on the internet be free of charge, this will eventually end film as we know it. Piracy will destroy film, at least as we understand it now. And, unfortunately, commerce is figuring out how to impose themselves on the Internet in very ugly ways: ads that you have to watch to get to content you want. It’s becoming alarmingly pervasive. So, I really DON’T think the Internet is going to be good for filmmakers – not filmmakers who want to make a living at making films. YouTube is a good place to load your films to be seen instantly, but you can’t make any money that way. And now YouTube is being totally invaded by stupid ads – and as yet, there is no way to see that desired content without seeing that stupid ad. I suppose filmmakers will figure out how to get some of that ad revenue – but I’m pretty cynical about it.

What do you believe it is about your 1989 film Puppetmaster that has made it a relevant addition to the other franchises in place (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, etc.)?

I don’t think Puppetmaster became a franchise in the same way that Halloween or Nightmare or Chainsaw became franchises. Those films were big theatrical hits – and even bigger on video. Puppermaster was a hit on Video only. So, it just was not as big a hit as some of those other successful franchises. And I’m not sure that it merited 9 sequels – but, I’m sure they all made money for Mr. Band. As to why Puppetmaster was appealing, it has to be those stupid puppets coming to life and running around killing people. Leach Woman coughing-up a giant leach to chew up a man thinking he is about to have great sex is pretty funny.

In past interviews, you have mentioned that producer Charles Band has sort of screwed you out of residuals for the Puppetmaster franchise that has spawned 9 more films. Has a resolution been made on this matter, yet?

No, not at all. I am just one person on a long list of people who Charlie has screwed out of the money he owes them. As long as I was working for Charlie and he needed my services, I would get paid. Once I stopped working for him, I would never get what he owed me. For a while there, in the eighties and nineties, I would have to do another film to get paid for the last one. I liked working for Charlie because he would let the directors make their movies and he didn’t meddle as long as you delivered good films. He didn’t pay much and it was hard to collect what you were owed, but it was so much fun making movies during those days. I wasn’t a filmmaker for the money.

Puppet MasterAnd with or without those factors in mind, what is your opinion of the films that followed your original 1989 film?

I’ve never seen any of the sequels.

In your obviously expert opinion, what do you think it is that makes a “great” horror film, as opposed to “just another” horror film?

A: It helps to have a really great monster (Michael, Freddy, the shark in Jaws, Frankenstein, Annabelle, stupid puppets, etc.). It also helps if your subject touches something in the Zeitgeist of the time or just strikes the imagination of the public (Night of the Living Dead, The Exorcist, and even something like Saw). Sometimes if it is an especially well-made horror film top-notch in all categories – writing, directing, acting, etc – it can be a great horror film (Silence of the Lambs, Prisoners).

Currently you can be found in the UNLV Film Department. How did you come across this gig? How has it been for you thus far?

I’ve been a university professor for the last 14 years at UNLV here in Las Vegas. I was very lucky to get the job – a professor in film was given a better offer just a week before school started and they needed someone to teach directing at a very short notice. I was living in LA at the time and commuted to Las Vegas for a year. They then offered me a tenure-track position as an Assistant Professor and I took it. Best thing that has ever happened to me!

What are your plans for this Halloween?

This year Halloween falls on Nevada Day – which is a state holiday – so, I am going to stay home and work on my new screenplay “Dead Angels.” I hope it’s the next movie I direct. (see davidschmoeller.com)

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Jim Carrey on SNL doing the funniest spoof of the Matthew McConaughey Lincoln Car commercials. (I like McConaughey as an actor – but what was he thinking, really?)

Jimmyo Burrill [Interview]

Jimmyo Burril1Welcome Everybody to Day 4 of Trainwreck’d Society’s Week of Horror!  The week of scares is almost wrapped up, so we are bringing out the big guns to put it lightly.  Today we have an awesome interview with one of the modern time’s finest creators of spine tingling and gut wrenching horror films you could possibly enjoy today.  He is a man who has impressed the likes of Herschel Gordon Lewis, Lloyd Kaufman, and more importantly, a shit ton of viewers who have made his work a wonderful cult following for the delightful psychopaths and fuck ups all across the globe.

Jimmyo Burrill, along with his lovely wife April Monique Burril, are responsible for the delightfully disgusting Chainsaw Sally franchise that has swept the nation, as well as the world.  On the surface, Sally is simply a sick twisted tale of masochistic proportions.  But, in reality, it is a brutal display of the power that women can have, and how it gender holds no restraint when it comes to kicking ass and taking names.  And beyond all that, it is just a brilliant piece of cinema that will hopefully always be remembered, even if it is only in the last week of October when we all feel it is okay to have the shit scared out of us, and it might just be okay to become a bit squeamish when he normally wouldn’t do so in, let’s say, the previous May.

Beyond his work with Chainsaw Sally, Jimmyo Burrill is a man who has influenced so many others, and has worked in basically every realm of entertainment you could imagine.  He is a versatile actor, musician, filmmaker, visual gigolo, etc.  He brings to the screen something wonderful each time he places his big scary hands anywhere in the vicinity of art.  He is a visual mastermind who deserves to be recognized even far beyond the TWS world.  But, we are oh so thankful that he has agreed to share a few words with the likes of us savages and hellhounds.  So Ladies and Gentlemen, please allow me to introduce the man who needs no introduction…. Mr. Jimmyo Burrill!

How did you become involved in the world of horror?  I understand you were primarily a directingmusician beforehand, right?  What made you want to join the world of filmmaking and acting?

I have been a horror fan since first grade. My parents made the haunted house at my elementary school, so I was into it. Then in 6th grade I stayed up late and saw Alice Cooper on the Midnight Special. This started the ball rolling to where we are today. I played in a band, Next Window, as a teen… and loved being onstage. Later, I got into musical theater, and regular plays on a local level. To me it took the place of being onstage with a band… As I got into it I realized I loved acting… and then directing. But I studied every part of theater… tech, lighting, sound, stage design. I wanted something more my flavor so I wrote a few musicals with my then writing partner, James Taylor. We did very well locally. The big one was Silver Scream, a sort of Haunted House musical…. Very much like Alice Cooper’s Welcome to my Nightmare. I had not idea about getting into film because of my passion for stage, but then, for the hell of it, decided to shoot an on location film of Silver Scream.. .. and I fell in love. That’s the path… and it’s been weird and spontaneous.

What is it to you personally that makes the horror genre so wonderful?  Especially the world of indie horror that has such a cult following?

Freedom, and unpredictability. This is straight from the mind that thought it up to the final product. If you were an oil painter, for instance, you would not come up with an idea, then try to get funding, and do business meetings trying to get someone to see your vision, believe in it, and back you up. You would not need a team. You would not need actors, or editors. It’s straight from the artist to the canvas. Indie film is as close as we get to that with movies.

How do you feel about the current state of of the horror world with the remakes, internet, etc. sallycover4all having an impact?  Are things better?  Worse?

It all cycles. A few years ago vampires ruled… now zombies. The next wave will it and zombies will wash into the background again. Eb and flow…. The natural movement of things. If it’s bad now… which I don’t think it is… it will be good again soon. Ever go to a diner and they have one of those dessert displays that rotates around so you can see all the lovely sweets? Same deal with entertainment…. Just have to wait for your flavor to come around.

Were you initially surprised by the success of your cult favorite film, Chainsaw Sally?  Or did you just KNOW that the premise was going to be a hit?

I had never made a film… a real film before. And if you were to ask pros in Hollywood, I’ve still not made a real film. We had a tiny budget, and a load of inexperience. I am grateful to anyone and everyone who takes the time to watch our flicks. If you don’t like it, wish you did. If you do, COOL! I hope to bring you more ASAP! Since I had done nothing in the film world before, I had no expectations. No clue what was going to happen. I think the biggest surprise was seeing all of the Sally tattoos popping up. THAT blew us away.

If you had to rank the Top 3 Deaths from any of the projects you have been, or will be, involved with, what would they be? 

I love the Bugs Bunny machine we made in Season 1 of the show where Sally and Ruby are tormenting a cheerleader who is just mean. She is strapped to a guillotine with her neck under the blade. She has a catheter (a tube for urine) and is being force-fed water. The bottle for her urine is on a see saw… on the other end is a burning candle. Above the candle is the rope holding the blade. All she has to do to live is not pee. THAT was fun. I like Sally digging Angel Eyes heart out with a spoon… and I love the other heart removal in the bathtub scene of the Good Sisters. However, the ones I have for the new projects top all of those.

Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming project, The Darling Clementines?

By far the most fucked up thing I’ve ever written. I can not say much but there will be parts that are uncomfortable to watch. Once again a female driven horror story… as that seems to be my thing. It will be our first real, big budget film. And I DO plan to shoot it on film. HD is pretty… I don’t want pretty.. or filters…or CGI… I want to make a gritty, brutal film.

ChainsawSally-gringhousedesk4What does the future hold for you?  Got any other projects you’d like to pimp out to the readers?

The big news for us is the Chainsaw Sally animated series. I love writing and designing this! It was my childhood dream to be a cartoonist. I have made my living as an artist for over 30 years, so this is a perfect project to come around. Picture what you know of Sally, with no restraints of budget, physics, gravity, and reality. This will also open her up to a much larger audience. I can’t wait!!!!

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What are your plans for this upcoming Halloween?

Celebrating my 16th wedding anniversary with April.  We were married on Halloween 1998, in costume.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I actually smile a lot… not that you can tell from my pics.  The last thing that made me smile was the sunrise today though the trees.

Note from the Editor:  A happiest Annivesary to Mr. & Mrs. Burrill!  May your partnership continue to be fruitful both on and off the screen!

Jake Helgren [Interview]

Jake Helgren1Hello Everyone!  And welcome to Day 3 of Trainwreck’d Society’s Week of Horror!  Today we have a very special interview up with one a man who is not only one of the hottest writers and filmmakers in the modern horror world, but the world of film in general!  FilmMakers Writing Competition winner Jake Helgren has been popping up in all different sorts of genres lately.  While he has broken into the business with a vast collection of great scripts, he has recently released his directorial debut, which is indeed a horror film entitled Varsity Blood.  Much in line with his previously acclaimed work on Bloody Homecoming, Jake takes us into the dark world and oh-so-terrifing world of high school with this excellent blood filled reincarnation of one of America’s favorite past times – watching beautiful teen kids get brutally murdered on screen.

While much of Helgren’s future as well as past works, are not exactly in the vein of the horror world (like the family-friendly-and-oh-yeah-there’s-a-dog film A Belle for Christmas which is fronted by Dean Cain and Haylie Duff), he is a man who has obviously mastered what it means to write, and now direct, a quality horror film in a day and age when it just doesn’t seem to happen that often.  Stories like Bloody Homecoming and Varsity Blood tend to seem all too familiar.  But (as you will read in the much better spoken words of Jake below), when a really great writer can get a hold of an age-old idea, something beautiful can be made.

So ladies and gentlemen, check out a few words with the wonderful writer/filmmaker Jake Helgren!

Your latest film, and your directorial debut, Varsity Blood was absolutely brilliant in its own right. How did you come up with the concept for this film?

Varsity Blood was an idea I came up with back when I was 18 and just started screenwriting (I’m 32 now). I was a cheerleader in high school myself — as were my sisters, who play the cheer coach and teacher at the dance in the film — and so I always thought a stunt-gone-wrong would be a great motivation for some slasher-style fun. I have been obsessed with slasher movies since I was 11 or 12 from seeing them late on USA’s former Up-All-Night programming, and obviously Varsity Blood pays homage to many of those films (the Friday the 13th franchise especially). And at the end of the day, what slasher fan wouldn’t love to see a high school mascot offing the school’s jocks and cheerleaders? I know Girls Nite Out did a similar schtick with the giant bear mascot, but I always thought an Indian warrior could make for a fun killer in a film.

The film has a setting that could be compared to the works of Kevin Williamson in the 90’s, or pretty much any horror film in the 70’s and 80’s that features teenagers…but, it still seems fresh and new! How did you manage to take an age-old concept and make it original? What were some things you were trying to avoid when writing and filming?

still from Varsity Blood.

still from Varsity Blood.

Thanks for that. Tons of people (and some horror critics, even) go on and on and on about how slasher movies are completely unoriginal. I beg to differ — it’s just that the slasher subgenre has a VERY specific template and set of rules the filmmakers must abide by (Randy told us all about it in Scream). I decided to go the non-postmodern route with VB and make it straight-up 80’s slasher all the way (we did the same with another horror film I wrote and produced on called Bloody Homecoming). People can say all they want that there is nothing original in my film — but when have you seen a killer warrior with a fighting ax and bow/arrow? And having seen all these films, I know at least half of the motivation behind the killings (a double twist) hasn’t been done before, either (same with Bloody Homecoming and it’s fireman and motivation behind the killings).

I think what makes making a slasher movie so challenging is the ability to stick to the template, yet finding some fresh and new spins to add to what slasher fans want, which, at the end of the day, is the classic formula. I don’t expect the people who don’t get it to like it — just for the diehard fans of 80’s slasher to appreciate what we’re bringing to the table. When I’m writing, I try to avoid one-dimensional characters — if the characters are fun, the people watching the film will have a fun ride with them (at least as long as these characters are still alive). And if you can generate some modicum of sympathy for your cast of victims, I consider that a job well done at the end of the day.

You won the Elite Prize for Comedy in the FilmMakers Writing Competition a few years back for a screenplay you call Frivolity. What was the story about, and is there any chance we may get to see this award winning script brought to the big screen any time soon?

Frivolity is a teen comedy in the vein of a John Hughes 80’s film (I love me some John Hughes!). It’s about a closeted gay guy in high school and his best girlfriend stirring up some trouble with the popular kids in order to expose them for the jerks they are. He pretends to be straight to get close to most popular girl in school, only she turns out to be much nicer than all the people she hangs around. To top it off, the best girlfriend (a wacky Anna Faris-type) goes after the most popular guy in school because she thinks he’s also in the closet and she has a thing for gay dudes. Frivolity and hilarity ensues. I would still love to see that film made some day, and I’m proud it won Best Comedy of that festival back in the day, but there isn’t much of a demand for a big-budget teen film with a gay male lead these days — hopefully one day that will change. And maybe sooner than later — my buddy Darren Stein (who wrote/directed Jawbreaker from 1999 with Rose McGowan), just did an awesome John Hughes-esque teen comedy last year called GBF which features a gay lead — so if you’re into these kinds of films, you should definitely check that out. And maybe some day Frivolity will follow suit!

While you have mentioned that you are a huge fan of slasher films, and have actually released two horror films yourself, the world of horror doesn’t seem to be your primary means for expression, as you have written family friendly movies, romcoms, and more. How do you approach each individual project? Is the writing process for developing a blood gushing horror tale similar to a family friendly film about Christmas and/or dogs?

Well it’s tough because as a low-budget filmmaker you’re always working within the confines of a specific market — and these kinds of markets always have a demand for something specific (i.e. a Christmas movie with dogs!). I approach al my projects exactly the same — to write an entertaining film with characters you want to spend an hour and a half with, and to see succeed overcoming some cool obstacles. Romcoms, family friendly movies and horror movies I think all have a great deal in common, because as I mentioned before, you’re working within the confines of a very specific template in any of these genres — the audience simply EXPECTS certain things. As an example, in a romcom, you always have the boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back scenario — my job as a writer is to find a way to tell that story, but with an all new set of themes, characters and situations. I think it’s a lot of fun and great challenge to do that, no matter the subgenre.

still from Bloody Homecoming.

still from Bloody Homecoming.

The brilliant young actress Lexi Giovagnoli seems to appear in so many of the films you write and/or produce. Surely this isn’t a coincidence, so when you are writing these characters, is it Lexi you are visualizing in the role? And what is it that you personally makes her a choice actress to display your work?

Lexi is an amazingly talented actress and I just adore her (I always say if I could be John Hughes, she’d be my Molly Ringwald). I think she has a great deal of versatility, and I’m always happy to put her in a film. I didn’t already know Lexi when she was cast in Bloody Homecoming, so it’s just a relationship that has grown over time, and it’s been incredible to watch her grow from a teenager into a talented young woman. These days, I am usually writing roles with her in mind if I know I’m going to somehow be involved with the production, and since she’s always a total champ and pro onset, I know we can count on her to carry the film, which gives me much peace of mind. But I hate to be too selfish with her — so I really hope she gets the chance to work with lots of other amazing directors and producers in the very near future!

What sort of other projects are we going to see from you in the near future? Anything you’d like to pimp out right about now?

Well I have two films green lit for 2015 so far: one is called A Dogwalker’s Christmas Tale (enough said), and the other is a thriller called The Suicide Note. I am excited about both projects as I will be co-producing them, and am hoping I may get the chance to direct at least one of them as well. I also have numerous other scripts in various stages of development on projects that I won’t be too involved in the productions of including a Pretty Little Liars-esque women’s thriller, an epic, low-budget disaster pic, a faith-based comedy drama, possible sequel in the works for my Dean Cain/Kristy Swanson/Haylie Duff film A Belle For Christmas, and even a biopic I am really crossing my fingers will happen! There’s not much I can reveal about the projects at this point in time, but hopefully they’ll come to fruition!

As the old saying/question goes…..What’s your favorite scary movie?

My fave scary movie is a toss-up between Scream and the original Black Christmas. The original slasher, and the revival of the slasher. Both films are superbly phenomenally written, produced, acted and directed films, and films I can watch over and over. But it’s hard to narrow it down — I have so many!

What are you plans for this coming Halloween?

I will be at a Halloween party of a friend of mine who is a big-time screenwriter in the biz who I shall refrain from name-dropping (I know, fancy ;). Yet I have NO clue what I’m going to wear this year!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

The last thing that made me smile — I’m going to Oktoberfest this weekend in Germany, actually, and I’m ALL SMILES!

David Blyth [Interview]

David BlythHello All!  And welcome to Day 2 of Trainwreck’d Society’s 2nd Annual Week of Horror.  We have a special treat, and some special involvement on this interview.  We are very excited to showcase a brilliant horror/thriller filmmaker known as David Blyth.  Our dear friends at the wonderful PR company October Coast  have been constantly updating us with the latest in hottest in horror, suspense, and so much more.  And we couldn’t be any more excited about them turning us on to both the brilliant new film Ghost Bride, but also the films amazing creator David Blyth.

Mr. Blyth has been working as a filmmaker for over 40 years, and has stacked up some very nice credentials on the world of art house style horror that pushes the limits just about as far as they can go.  With films like Wounded, Exposure, and Death Warmed Over.  Not to mention an almost unrelated, but super cool, run of episodes of the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

And from what I can gather, the New Zealand based Mr. Blyth may have created his finest film to date with Ghost Bride, which is “a dark modern fairy tale intertwining modern cross cultural relationships and ancient Chinese superstition.”  And we are being told that “though no less disturbing, Ghost Bride is more of a supernatural thriller than a horror movie like David Blyth’s previous effort Wounded.”  And hey, we are not opposed to breaking the mold every once in a while.  So we are already big fans of this project.  And with being said, please help us give a warm welcome to our next interviewee, Mr. David Blyth!  Enjoy!

Ghost Bride hits DVD in November. Has this been a long time coming for you?

I started working on the script for Ghost Bride in 2011 and we shot the film in 2013.
This was my tenth feature film.

still from Ghost Bride

still from Ghost Bride

Do you find it easy to watch your own work – or are you too critical?

When I watch my films I am aware of my own compromises and mistakes but try to see them as moments in time full of conscious and unconscious story telling.

What makes a good horror film?

Good characters that you can follow in a tight convincing story line with lots of unexpected shocks.

Do you remember the first one you saw and what impression it made on you?

Halloween by John Carpenter was the first major horror film that completely opened my mind to a world of possibilities in horror.

still from Ghost Bride

still from Ghost Bride

Where did the idea come from for the film?

I found a website on the internet dealing with Asian Paranormal investigations and it featured a transcript of a Ghost Bride ceremony, where a young recently deceased male was joined in marriage with another dead female and then placed in a double coffin in the ground. The theory behind this practice is that if the young man’s spirit is married for eternity he won’t come back and annoy the living bringing them bad luck.

Have you discovered you’re a loyal fan base for the film?

Ghost Bride is more a supernatural romance than a hard core splatter film like my last horror film Wound. So Ghost Bride has a much wider audience appeal than Wound.

The film is premiering on DVD in the states; do you think there’ll be a time where we’ll even need – or have – a cinema?

Most films seem to be bypassing the multiplex these days.  There will always be cinemas like we have museums today for watching spectacular storytelling, but for the bulk of people in the digital age the new platforms for viewing cinema are now on personal devices.

ghost2

still from Ghost Bride

The film has been getting some good publicity over the past month or so, is that a testament to how popular the horror genre is?

Ghost Bride has a unique story line that deals with the different concepts around marriage in the West and the East. Where in the West you can only be married when you are alive and in the East where you can be married after death for eternity.

 

Learn more about Mr. Blyth, his work, and the upcoming Ghost Bride at the following sites:

http://www.ghostbridemovie.com
http://www.woundmovie.com
http://www.davidblyth.com

Linnea Quigley [Interview]

Linnea QuigleyWelcome Everybody to the 2nd Annual Week of Horror here at Trainwreck’d Society!  If you were around last year, you might remember how this works.  We are here to give you a week’s worth of interviews from some of the greatest minds and talents from the world of horror, new or old, indie or mainstream, whatever.  Each of the people we have are featuring is special in their own right, and held a very dear place in the world of horror that we all just can’t get enough of.  So without further ado, let’s begin Day 1!

Scream Queens.  We all know what one is.  In fact, we’ve probably picked out our favorite one at some point or another.  Scream Queens rose to incredible amounts of cult fame in the 80’s, and their legacy has yet to falter.  How it all started, or who started it all, really doesn’t matter (Jamie Lee can’t have everything!).  We love Scream Queens, with their raunchy and delightful spirit.  Their unashamed nudity.  Their overall vast amount of straight badassery!  We love them.  There may never be anyone quite like them in the world of horror.  And one woman who embodies the brilliant overall spirit and charisma of a Scream Queen is without a doubt the legendary Linnea Quigley.

Linnea Quigley rose to fame in the anything goes world of the 80’s horror scene as the premiere Scream Queen of her time, ultimately landing her a brilliant role in Return of the Living Dead, and many more wonderful projects.  And she has been relentlessly working ever since.  With over 150 projects under her belt, she has refused to slow down.  She’s written a couple of books on the matter that have been called some of the most insightful words ever written about the genre, and whenever a documentary about horror and/or the Scream Queen label, you can bet your sweet bare ass that they will come calling for Linnea.

So without even further ado, we are proud to present our interview with the lovely and insanely talented, Linnea Quigley.  Enjoy!

Linnea Quigley2In your own personal and obviously professional opinion, what does it mean to be a “Scream Queen”? And what do you personally believe it is about them that is so fascinating to viewers? 

I think a Scream Queen is someone who has done and also loves horror films and embraces each role and the genre.

You seem to have a relentless work ethic, appearing in multiple films each year. So, how do yo do it? What keeps you motivated to keep working?

I keep motivated from the responses I get from people AND I love the work when you love something its never a chore and it feel like I’ve managed to do something in life its amazing how people remember from all those years I’ve been working.

I’ve also come to learn that you are quite the musician yourself, having been The Skirts. So do you still play and/or perform these days? Is The Skirts reunion in effect?

I was in the band but the bass player Haydee is on the other side of coast from me. Man I would have loved to have kept working and kept doing gigs its so cool that some of the music I wrote and played is in some movies and documentaries its a great feeling. I hope to get together with her soon and play somewhere I miss that a lot.

What do you consider to be your all-time favorite gig over your long and illustrious career?

My best projects were Return of the Living Dead, Night of the Demons, and Sorority Babes. Well, it’s hard to name just one all of them have their memories and hope to do another book about them soon.

And, of course, what would you say is the worst? 

My worst was probably Animals it was filmed at this mosquito filled nudist camp and its very corny. But the people were nice so its hard to say since everything is a learning process.

Linnea Quigley3Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects, as I noticed you have several in the works?  And what are your plans for Halloween?

Right now I have a lot of things lined up I have cons booked all through October and also films lined up. So I will have a working Halloween! Busy.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

The last thing that made me smile was one of my dogs who took a dip in pool jumped in bed all wet on me they constantly have me smiling.

 

Darren Burrows [Interview]

Darren BurrowsIf you read our last interview with director/producer Michael Fresco, you should already know that I am currently on an emotional vacation to the remote Alaskan town of Cicely, Alaska.  My feet are still planted in southern Spain at the moment, but my heart is in Cicely as I discover for myself just how beautiful the hit comedy Northern Exposure truly was, and always will be.

That being said, I have found my favorite Cicelian to easily be the kind hearted and genuinely sweet Ed Chigliak.  There just isn’t anything in him that is NOT meant to be loved.  The half Native American-half white film buff is the sort of person we all hope to have in our lives, and should be eternally grateful when they do enter our lives.  Each time his smile lights up the screen, it is like the sun breaking through the clouds.  In fact, of all the discredits that Northern Exposure received, the fact that Darren Burrows did not take home at least two Best Supporting Actor Primetime Emmy’s, and maybe a Globe as well,  for his role as Ed is shocking and unjust.  But, those are really just statues in the end, although they have been given out to some very deserving folks at times.  But, I digress.  The real point of everything here is…..we got Darren Burrows!  Yes, I have to say that I could probably just close up shop here at Trainwreck’d Society right now!  I have managed to steal a few words from the man who played my favorite character on my favorite television show of all time.  Mission accomplished.

For those of you who have not had the joy of experiencing NoEx for yourself, well there is obviously something wrong with you but that’s okay, Darren should still be no stranger.  May comparisons have been made between this great man and other legendary actor Johnny Depp.  With their chiseled good looks as a youth that have not faded as they reach maturity, it is easy to see that Johnny was the 80’s man, and Darren was the 90’s man.  Which can be truly seen with all its glory as they co-starred with one another in John Water’s lovely bit of weirdness that was Cry Baby .This was until we started to soften up a bit towards the end of the 90’s, but that is a whole other story.  Mr. Burrows even happened to appear in a great little television movie entitled The Siege of Ruby Ridge, which we should all know as the adaptation of our old friend Jess Walter’s book Every Knee Shall Bow.  He has also had great performances in films like The Hi-Lo Country, Speilberg’s Amistad (which if you are a NoEx fan, you will know that is this a BIG deal), and Nonames.  Most recently he brought on a tour-de-force appearance in one of the finest films of 2014, Love is Strange opposite John Lithgow and Alfred Molina.

I am just too damn excited for words to explain how wonderful it is to have Darren Burrows join the Trainwreck’d Society family.  And it’s not only for his work on Northern Exposure, although I have to admit that is a huge deal for me.  Mr. Burrows is an amazing actor that we are so proud to have associated with this site, even if it’s just for a couple of days.  So finally, good folks….Mr. Darren Burrows!

When was it that you knew you wanted to join the world of acting?

I started taking acting classes after I got out to California…. I was 16 years old. I left Kansas to find my dad. I found him and he was an actor, so I signed up for acting classes thinking that would give us something in common to talk about… I’m not sure I ever did make the decision that I was going to “be” an actor, things just sort of ended up that way.

If you can recall, what was your very first paid acting gig? And how did that go for you?

My first paid acting gig was 976-EVIL. It was Robert Englund’s (of Freddy Kruger fame) directorial debut. He cast me for the role of a hoodlum named Jeff and that got me my SAG card. I think I was 19 years old. I learned so much on that job, beyond emotion and dialog; how to hit my marks, fight scenes, special effects. It was a huge thing Robert did for me.

Darren Burrows2How did you first hear about the casting call for Northern Exposure, and what drew you to the role as Ed?

The first I heard of Northern Exposure was a call from my agents about this summer series that was just supposed to be eight episodes up in Washington. One of my agents at the time had got it into his head that because my dad had played Native Americans I should too. He wanted me to audition for the part of this Indian kid in the show. I pointed out to him that I had white skin and light hair. He tried to convince me to put dark skin toner on my face, dye my hair black and go in for the part but I passed. Two or three weeks later my agent called again and said the part had been changed to half Native and half white. He begged me to just put some black temporary dye in my hair and go in. I finally relented but I told him I was going to play the part a little differently, in a less conventional way.

In your own words and opinion, who was Ed Chigliak? How did you go about tackling this delightful character?

At a certain point during the filming of the first episode I made the conscious decision that I would/should play Ed in such a way that made him all that is good and best within each of us as human beings. That Ed having grown up an orphan and being a genius with 150+ I.Q. had recognized the potential within himself of a clean slate. The opportunity to be whomever he chose and he would choose; a consciousness of innocence and love, over the knowledge of good and evil

You recently released both a book entitled Northern Exposed and a documentary entitled Return To Cicely that has caused quite the buzz. Can you tell us what fans can expect from both the book and the film? And what inspired you to finally do such a project after all these years?

The inspiration for the book and DVD’s was always the Northern Exposure fans. They wanted it. In fact the entire project was funded in advance by NoEx fans via an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign. So it was never meant to be a stand alone endeavor. It’s strictly for Northern Exposure fans. As to what fans can expect? This, from returntocicely.com site: “This 228-page book is filled with insights into the filming of all your favorite episodes of Northern Exposure. Memories of the cast and the crew and theories about what did happen to ultimately get the show cancelled. The DVDs (there are 2) take you to the locations for all the key episodes to see what they look like today. The surviving cast members give their thoughts on those days and what made the show great. DVD extras include the building of the Trebuchet and Dr. Fleischman’s house, plus a backstage tour of the studio in the final days of the show’s production.”

Darren Burrows4What sort of emotions were rekindled when you were revisiting the past in such a grandiose manner? Was it an overall good experience?

When Northern Exposure ended after five years I sort of packed it all up in a box put it away and moved on… so revisiting it was it was like taking down that huge dusty box that had been sitting for all those years and unpacking it. It turns out there was more than just a television show in the box. There was a whole period of time in my life. It was more than I imagined it would be and I found all sorts of treasures I’d forgotten about.

Had Northern Exposure been given the proper treatment, what do you think would have happened to Ed and the rest of Cicely had the show been able to keep going?

That’s really the million dollar question isn’t it? …I think that Ed and Cicely would have gone on, continuing to grow and evolve much like the characters have done on Cheers, Friends or any other show that strikes a chord with the viewers and people out there. During its height NoEx was syndicated in forty-two countries around the world so it’s not such a stretch to see that continuity.

Hailing from the Northwest, I am very aware of the Roslyn, the very small town that stands as most of what we saw as Cicely. It is quite isolated, but extremely beautiful. How did you enjoy your time out there when the show was filming? How did the local residents respond to the show being shot in their backyard and main streets?

I loved shooting Northern Exposure there in Roslyn and the Cascade Mountains. As you say it’s very beautiful. It was a lot of work and long hours as well. The show caravanned up for 3-5 days out of an 8 working days an episode schedule to shoot all of our exteriors in the winter weather. Sometimes we’d get snowed in and the work days were always more than 12-15 hours long. Shooting Northern Exposure was certainly a disruption on the daily life there. Some of the residents were for it, some were against.

Can you tell us a bit about your latest film, Love is Strange? What will we be seeing you do in this film that so many are raving about?

Love Is Strange takes place in New York City. It’s a multi-generational story of love and marriage. As such we have John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as Ben and George as an older gay couple of 39 years finally tying the knot. I play Ben’s nephew Elliot and my wife Kate is played by Marisa Tomei and then we have Joey, Elliot and Kate’s son played by Charlie Tahan. Each of these people are at different times and stages in their love and relationships. All is thrown into turmoil when George loses his job and Uncle Ben must temporarily move in with me and my family until he and George can get their situation sorted out.

Darren Burrows3What else does the future hold for you? Any other projects in the works you would like to tell us about?

What the future holds for me I suppose remains to be seen. As of the answering of these questions I’m getting ready to head up to Wisconsin for a little film festival my friend Nick Langholff and I started a couple of years ago called the Driftless Film Festival. Life is certainly an adventure.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Why, this question made me smile :)

Michael Fresco [Interview]

Michael FrescoSo in the past few week, I have been embarking on an incredible journey.  While I may be in one location the physical sense, my mind has moved on to a more enthralling and albeit more entertaining place.  That place is Cicely, Alaska.  For the shameful few who don’t know such a place, Cicely is the fictional town setting for the greatest American television comedy that ever was, the wonderful Northern Exposure.  Recently I have been marathoning the show quite zealously to say the least.  It has been a truly enlightening experience to finally, after so many years of watching various programs, to find what I now considered to be the greatest television comedy of all time.

And with that being said, I felt the need, make that desire, to gain a bit of insight about the inner workings of this lovely show.  And just as I expected, there were some very genius folks behind this brilliant show.  One of the finest examples would definitely be the incredibly talented and widely experience director and producer Michael Fresco.  Fresco was one of the great human beings we should be oh-so-thankful for ever having been birthed, if not for the soul reason of bringing us the great Northern Exposure.  Of course Mr. Fresco had been bringing us quality television prior to NoEx, and has definitely continued to do so to this day.  He started off his on the also brilliant show St. Elsewhere, and has since directed or produced several runs of hit shows such as My Name Is Earl, The O.C., Providence, Better of Ted, Raising Hope, Subergatory, and oh so damn many more.

The man is also a bit of a mystery, which is in some ways enlightening.  From the brief e-mail correspondence I have had, the answers to the following questions, it is easy to peg Michael Fresco as a man who simply enjoys his work and what he does, all the while seeking little notoriety or glamour.  I mean, this is a guy who has worked diligently for over 30 years to create some of the finest television in history….and I can’t find a photo in Google Images to use of this mysterious creature? (The above image being the closets thing I could find.)  And the same could be said for a couple of his brothers, who are also renowned television writers and directors in their own rights.  In fact, Mike and his brother Victor collaborated nicely on Better of Ted and My Names Earl, the latter being finding Victor as a consulting producer on the show’s entire run.  (Note:  Victor Fresco was also the genius behind the short lived Sean Saves the World which, while obviously a bit corny and “just missing something”, was a wonderful show I was deeply saddened to see disappear.  This wonderful show would have killed it in the 90’s.  But I digress, it is Mike’s time right now.  Sorry Mike.)

So, it truly makes me wonder why he would even want speak with the likes of Trainwreck’d Society at all!  But, I am damn honored and excited that he did.  So without further ranting, check out a few words with one of the finest television producers/directors the world has and will ever know!

Better Off Ted S01-S02 720p WEB-DL DD5.1 H.264How did you find yourself involved in the world of television?  Was it always your dream to produce and direct fine television programming?

I stumbled my way into the world of television.  Once I was involved, and without a lot of planning…actually mostly due to a series of lucky breaks…I got my chance to direct.  All that was clear when I graduated from UC Santa Cruz was that I wasn’t qualified for many jobs.  I could work at a gas station, or at a fast food place, or be a gopher for a TV production company. OK, a TV production company seemed like fun. Through a family friend I got a job running errands for Laugh In.  While is was a blast to work there, unless I wanted to be a writer (not a possibility for me) there was no real opportunity to “move up” in that world.

After 9 months or so I left Laugh In and became a gopher for a commercial production company.  Commercials proved to be an excellent, excellent training ground.  Each commercial was a complete production in and of itself, but more importantly, I learned the discipline of telling a story in 30 or 60 seconds. Not a frame to waste. I worked in commercials for several years, gradually working my way up to becoming an Assistant Director.   I made a lateral move to television (more work, less money) when I got the chance to be one of the alternating ADs on St. Elsewhere.  Bruce Paltrow and Mark Tinker had the reputation of being really good to their employees, giving first-time directors a shot, and promoting from within the company. During my second season there as an AD, the director I was supposed to work with dropped out and Bruce and Mark gave me my first episode to direct.  It was a tremendously supportive environment, I got lucky and my episode was well received.  They brought me back the next season into the rotation as one of their regular directors.

Because St. Elsewhere was so well respected in the world of quality television, and because I got asked back for multiple episodes, I was able to get directing jobs on other shows.
I still dream of producing and directing fine television programming.

You have done several long running gigs on shows a director, with credits such as the absolutely brilliant Northern Exposure, Providence, My Name Is Earl, and The O.C. just to name few.  But, I was wondering what it is like to step on to the set of a show to director one single episode for a story that has already been established?  How to you tackle these sorts of jobs?

I watch as many episodes as I can, read all the scripts I can, and try to understand the characters I’ll be working with. Then I’ll watch the episodes again to try to “get” the style, the format, and the idiosyncrasies of the show. Once I’m in touch with the emotionality of the show, I’ll re-read the script, alter my consciousness, and try to imagine images that will enhance the emotional content, further the story, and occasionally be arresting (or at least interesting) to see.

Northern ExposureAnd as for your previously mentioned work on Northern Exposure, which you were also a producer on and happens to be the greatest comedy to ever hit the small screen (in my opinion of course, and of course I am right), I just have to know what it was like working on something so truly original and brilliant?  Where you aware of how fresh and original this show was while you were filming, or did it take some time?

It was a blast to work on Northern Exposure. I moved, with my family, to Seattle.  We all loved living there. The scripts were terrific, sometimes transcendent.  The writers were so smart and  successful in creating a reality that was quite different from the one all the rest of us share.  That reality had its own validity and it was so easy to buy into, it could happen in that place and with those characters. Add to that the wonderful, wry comments those shows made regarding the world we live in and what we all do to get along with each other…hard to beat. And yes, it was clear at the time this was a special show with a unique vision.  A treat to be part of.

As many TWS readers know, we absolutely love the Northwest for so many reasons.  And I am particularly fond of the locations in Washington that the Northern Exposure chose to use as an Alaskan background, towns like Roslyn and North Bend.  So as I always want to ask visitors to the area…what did you think?  How was your experience filming in The Great Northwest?  Is there anything that makes it a unique experience?

Loved and still love the Pacific Northwest.  Many of the crew and many of the guest cast were local hires.  They were all pretty terrific.  At that time it seemed like there was a pretty deep pool of talent in all categories.  This was a great job in a great location. After NoEx was over, and we moved back to LA, we bought a place on Orcas Island…just didn’t want to leave Washington we liked it so much up there. Coming from LA, the land of eternal summer, the weather while not necessarily unique was new to my family and me. There was something about going up over HiWay 90, into the Cascade Mountains, in all sorts of inclement (and beautiful) weather that had unifying effect of the cast and crew…were the roads open? would we make it up there? would we make it back? Lots of talk and comparisons regarding foul weather gear.

In your obviously illustrious career thus far, what would you say you are most proud of?  

I’m most proud of what it feels like to work on my sets.  No yelling, no screamers.  Everyone is treated with courtesy and respect.  We’re ALL in it together with the same goal.  The sets become mutually collaborative and everyone has a contribution to make.  It makes for a great ride.

In the years to come, are there any projects you feel you absolutely MUST create that you have not already?

Nothing I feel I MUST create.  I’m refreshingly free of original ideas.

If you could direct a mini-series or film about any historical event in American history, what would it be?

I don’t have a favorite event or epoch in American History.  Tone and characters rule for me.  While the time period will impact on every aspect of any show, it’s secondary.

My Name Is EarlWhat are you up to these days?  Any projects out there you would like to tell our readers about?

I’ve got several interesting and very exciting projects I’m working on with different  collaborators.  They’re all secret.
What was the last thing that made you smile?

Every time I see my pregnant daughter, I smile.  She was just here this last weekend. She is as cute as can be and is going to have her baby in mid-October.

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