Neil Brown Jr. [Interview]

Brown Jr, NFor anyone who can remember the 90’s, everyone probably remembers it a the era a bit different.  And it has been a sort of unofficial goal here at Trainwreck’d Society to try and showcase as many different aspects about the 90’s entertainment world as possible.  From Nickelodeon child stars to 90’s alternative pop superstars, we’ve interviewed some pretty stellar folks.  And while we have dabbled in the world of 90’s hip hop, we haven’t seem to strike gold on a really beautiful showcase.  Until now.  Not only did we procure the chance to ask a few questions from the man who will be portraying the legendary DJ Yella of N.W.A. fame in the upcoming biopic about N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton, we actually managed to realize that that very man is none other than the illustriously talented actor and martial arts expert Neil Brown jr.

Brown has been around the acting world for quite some time, and has done some wonderful work, including a brilliant guest spots on hit television shows like Suits and The Walking Dead, and appearing in films like Fast and Furious and Battle Los Angeles.  He is a highly skilled actor who has everything going for him.  And while some may see his role as Yella in the upcoming biopic as a “break out” sort of role, we would definitely disagree.  We’d call it just another fine performance by a wonderful and worthwhile actor to take note on.

And with that being said, we are very happy to have had the chance to has Neil a few questions about his career, Straight Outta Compton, and what the future holds for this immensely talented individual.  Enjoy!

How did you find yourself in the world of acting, and what is it that keeps you going?

When I was a kid I won a few youth championships in Karate and Kickboxing. A casting Director and producer from universal studios came to my dojo to check me out for a new martial arts TV show called WMAC masters. They auditioned me, saw that I had a natural talent for acting, and I have been doing it ever since. I was 14 and caught the acting “bug”, I knew this was what I was meant to do. My wife, children, love of the art of acting and a thirst for learning is what keeps me going.

What sort of preperation have you been taking/did take to prepare yourself to perform the role as the legendary DJ Yella in the upcoming NWA biopic, Straight Outta Compton?

I searched all the videos, interview’s, pictures, and songs that I could find of NWA. I spent time with the real Antoine “Yella” Carraby, asked as many questions as I could think of. I studied all of his moves, his voice, his past and present experiences. I immersed myself in the time period that they came up in, and what their music meant to the world and to themselves. It was a beautiful experience. I pray we did them justice.

NeilBrownJr2What drew you to the role of performing DJ Yella?

I grew up listening to NWA, for me to be a part of the film in any capacity was a dream come true. It didn’t take too much convincing for me at all. I jumped at the opportunity, I just wanted to do it right, and I knew having Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Tomica, F. Gary Gray as well as all of the surviving members of NWA involved would get us there.

Another project I noticed you have in production is a comedy titled Rivers 9, which sounds like a very clever take on the Oceans series. Can you tell us a bit about this project? Who will you be performing as?

That movie is just a whole lot of foolishness and fun. I play Virgil Dobbs, a tough guy who knows how to get stuff done. It is in fact a funny take on Oceans Eleven. We had a great cast and crew! Chris W. Freeman brought me on because we worked together on Battle:Los Angeles and I knew he would make a fun movie. I had always been a fan of Vinnie Jones, C. Thomas Howell, Ed O’Ross, Elizabeth Rohm; the entire cast really, and I just knew Jamie Kennedy and I could make people laugh. The project looks awesome, and I just hope the people who watch it have as much fun as we had making it.

Now that you have done everything from racing street cars, to fighting aliens, killing zombies, or being just plain silly in films, what would you say is your favorite genre to work in? 

I’m partial to a gripping drama, but I think any good film should take you through an entire sea of emotions. It should make you laugh, cry, be afraid, be happy, keep you in suspense, and have a great pay off in the end because thats life and I am a huge fan of that. What I do not like is being put into a box for the sake of sales, I like to move people…honestly.

If you could portray any famous character in American history, who would it be?

That’s a great question…….It would have to be Prince. I would love to do his life story. He was and is a musical genius, such an interesting man who effected so many people through his music, his heart, his energy. The boundaries he pushed or rather erased, the careers he started, the boxes they tried to put him in that he effectively destroyed. Love that man for that. It would be a daunting task but I think I could pull it off. Very passionate about that one!

NeilBrownJrWhat else does the future hold for you? Any other projects in the works you can tell us about?

I’ve been really blessed to have a good bit of projects in the can. River’s 9, Bad Blood, San Patricios, as well as a passion project called Cold: Choices which is about the immensely hard choices our heroes in the military have to make each day that the public have no idea about, just so we can feel safe. I’m a lucky guy, I have the privilege to play pretend for a living, and hopefully make people feel something.

When you look back on your career as an actor thus far, what would you say is your favorite aspect of the business thus far, and what are you most proud of yourself as an actor for?

Just like a fight or car accident, five different people may see those events five different ways. I love that people will watch my work and each person gets something different from it. I enjoy affecting people, and hope I can continue to do that, and get better at it through growth and experience. That is my favorite aspect as well as what I am most proud of.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My wife’s smile.

Elaine Miles [Interview]

5 elaine milesIf you have been paying attention to TWS lately, you may have noticed that the classic television show Northern Exposure has been coming up quite a bit lately (see our interviews with producer Michael Fresco and actor Darren Burrows from October).  I have recently found myself engaged in revisiting the show in its entirety on DVD, and I am absolutely astounded at how wonderful of a show it truly is.  Growing up, I can remember the show being on, but showed a vague interest as it was for “grown ups”.  But, I always knew as I got older that this might just be a show I could learn to love and truly appreciate.  With such an array of strange yet lovable characters, it’s pretty hard not to love.

And one of the characters that we simply can not deny as being one of the most important during its time was Marilyn Whirlwind.  She was the strong, calm, and utterly adorable Native woman who at times acted as the very glue that kept that Woody Allen-like witted Joel Fleischmen in check.  She was the one who had the power to say so much, sometimes without saying anything at all!  Each time she graces the screen, I can’t help but smirk and know that something great is about to happen.

And how was the actress behind this wonderful character?  Well it was none other than one of the happiest accidents in the world of film and television, the lovely Elaine Miles.  Happy accident because the story behind her landing the role as Ms. Whirlwind is one that movies are often made of.  With no acting experience under her belt, Elaine managed to strike the attention of the show’s producers….when she wasn’t even auditioning.  Miles was simply dropping her mother off at an audition in Seattle for the very same role, a character originally intended to be much older.  The producers saw something in her, and took her in.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Elaine went on to work in several more great films, including the classic All-Native American fronted Smoke Signals, and many more before taking a brief hiatus from the acting world.  But, she has never really been out of site.  She moved into the world of stand up comedy, public speaking, and more.  And she has moved back into the acting world as well, and we should all be so damn grateful for that.  So ladies and gentlemen, here are just a few words with one of the greatest television actresses the world has ever know, the lovely Elaine Miles.

Elaine Miles2When I look back on Northern Exposure, which was once the greatest television comedy in history (in my opinion, which is correct by the way), there is no more iconic figure I can think of than Marilyn Whirlwind. You were definitely to the rock in the chaos that ensued in Cicely. So, if you could tell us, what was your experience like during the filming of this beautiful series?

It was scary at first. Being brand new & green to the industry! But as time went on, working with so many people. They taught me the ropes…so to say, LOL. I was told I was the one in a million with the natural ability to act. So I was the needle in the haystack, LOL. As time went on it wasn’t so stressful and it became fun. Meeting so many different actors & actresses was amazing! Doing something I never in my whole life thought I would do…work on screen! :-) That part of my life I will treasure; those crazy long hours of shooting…late nights…early morning…ungodly hot…below freezing! Windy days…wet days! But we did it thanks to cast n crew of Northern Exposure…I am honored I had that opportunity to work on such a successful television show. One we didn’t think would run as long as it did!

Your pair up with Rob Morrow on the show was obviously one with a hidden affection, in a family sort of way, that was absolutely endearing to say the least. What do you believe it was that made your work with Rob more than just a boss and employee relationship? Did you both have a plan of action in making your scenes together so perfect?

I think Rob & the producer’s had an idea of what they wanted. The original Marilyn was supposed to be older…motherly type native woman. But when I went in they liked the feisty side of me…I’m the complete opposite of the character Marilyn. I have no patiences…I talk a lot…LOL. The chemistry of Marilyn & Dr. Fleischman was written for us and it all came together with Rob Morrow and I. He is a wonderful actor…taught me so much in the 5 years we worked together! We had some good laughs with some of our scenes. Was hard to keep a straight face at times! We also worked great as a team…got our scenes done quickly! :-)

During the 6 season run of Northern Exposure, did you feel a sort of weight on your shoulders or the burden of responsibility of representing Native American women across the country? 

Yes, I did feel a great weight on my shoulders…representing Native people in general…later it became more about Native Women. It was tough at first. I had to deal with Alaskan Natives who didn’t like it because I wasn’t Alaskan Native. Some people wrote in saying I looked too Asian or Hispanic. But I am an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribe of the Umatilla Reservation. Meaning 3 tribes…Cayuse, Umatilla & Walla Walla. I am Cayuse from my mother & Nez Perce from my father side. So I am full blood native. Also some people didn’t like the talent show scene where I wore my own traditional dress and danced. Something Alaskan Natives were not pleased with! So it was tough at first. But the Native people lightened up after a few years, LOL.

2 elaine milesYour role in the iconic indie gem of a film, Smoke Signals, is also one I absolutely adore. And with that, I have always wanted to ask you something….Where you actually driving that car backwards during the shoot? How exactly did that work out?

Smoke Signals :-) lol yes, I did end up driving the car backwards myself. The stunt driver was too tall…couldn’t fit the hat I wore…so Sherman [director] asked me if I could do my own driving? I said OK let’s try it…so early the next morning the stunt man worked with me to drive backwards, 3 hours before shoot time. That was fun, bahahaha, I did it…I made dust even…it was the funnest thing I ever did in a movie! LOL, Another part I was honored to do and be a part of…the first written…directed…produced…main characters all Native movie! Made history with that movie for sure :-)

I understand you have are an accomplished stand up comedian? How did you find yourself moving into this line of work in addition to acting?

Yes…people who really know the real me know’s how crazy I can be! One time I was dared to do open Mike at a bar. So I did it was scared as hell because it was non Native audience but I did it n they laughed. Once I get on a roll there’s no stopping me lol its fun doing it but tough for women to get bookings. But that’s ok…now we have a lot more talented crazy comedians out there that are breaking through just fine :-) my fav is Tanya Jo Hall OMG if you have a chance to see her go…one crazy Native woman! lol

When you look back on your career thus far, what do you believe is your greatest accomplishment as an actress, stand up comedian, and more?

My greatest accomplishment was being a Native woman on a weekly television show as a regular cast member. I was told I was the most recognizable Native Woman being seen weekly on an international television series. To this day I can walk in a store n some people still get all star struck after 19 years of being off the air.

If you could portray any little know Native American figure in history, who would it be?

I think I would like to portray my great grandmother. She was one of a few survivor’s that made it to Canada during the Nez Perce war. She was pregnant with my grandfather n gave birth to him in Canada. When I was little my Grandpa use to tease us n say we were Canadian too! lol they lived up there not quite a year then were sent back to what is now Lapwai Idaho. I would be honored to play such a warrior woman for sure!

7 elaine milesSo, what does the near future hold for you? Anything in the works you would like to tell our readers about?

I hope to get back into acting. I purdy much gave up my career when my mother was alive to care for her 24/7. She had colon cancer. She passed away 7 years ago this February 2015. I’ve done 2 movies in that 7 years. 1 short video. So I’m hoping to get back into the industry. I am working on getting my S.A.G. card back…finding an agent…get my foot back in the door so to say. Crossing fingers it all goes as planned. Wish me luck lol

What was the last thing that made you smile?

The last thing that made me smile…my step daughter’s little girl getting 3rd place out of 9 pee wee barrels…3rd over all pee wee’s…my little cowgirl :-) she comes from horse people Comanche & Mescalero Apache! :-)

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.

 

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