Victor Miller [Interview]

Victor Miller
Happy Halloween everyone!  And welcome to Day 5 of Trainwreck’d Society’s 1st Annual Week of Horror Celebration!  It has been great to get to share the words given to us by so many fine folks involved in the world of horror, and film in general.  We’ve spoken with some great folks, and today is no different!
Today we have the distinct privilege of speaking with the man who created the original story behind one of the biggest horror franchises of all time.  Yes, this is Victor Miller.  Horror fans around the world should be familiar with his name.  And if not, take a look at yourself in the mirror once again and ask how big of a fan you truly are?  Fans of Friday the 13th definitely know the man as the one of the folks who helped kick off the world of Jason Voorhees as we know it.  Well, maybe not exactly as we “know it” (read further on to fully understand), but he is the writer on which the entire series was based.  The idea of a vengeance being brought upon horny and negligent teenagers and young people was born in this man’s brain when he penned the one and only, the original, Friday the 13th.  Mr. Miller has also accomplished so much outside of the Friday the 13th series, including winning three Primetime Emmys!  We were so fortunate enough to have Victor share a few words with us on our last day of our Week of Horror to talk about the Friday series, his past works, and some beautiful reflection on the world of horror, writing, film, and all sorts of things in which he has had great experience with over the years.  Enjoy, and thanks for reading everyone!
What kind of books did you read in your youth?  Were there any of them that inspired you to become a man of the word, as I like to call it?
I did not pick up words by reading.  I emerged from my mother’s womb speaking. Fiction appealed to me as my first memory is of lying to my mother about what I was doing with the neighbor girl in the bathroom when I was 3 or 4.  I thought in metaphors before I knew what one was. All pre-verbal memories are encoded pictures. From that inauspicious beginning I became me. I kept imagining new selves for myself and that helped me with the screenwriting.  As the middle child I figured I should entertain everyone to keep the craziness at bay.
I’ve heard that you have never watched the rest of the Friday the 13th franchise because you didn’t like that Jason became the killer (or survived at all).  Is this still so?  And would you care to explain further as to why you disagree with the route the franchise went?
Jason was dead. Brining him back to life may have been a revenue stream, but it eviscerated Mrs. Voorhees’ raison d’ murder.
Have you ever attempted to stop or alter the sequels or the “remake”?
I don’t have the rights, so that question is moot.
You have been pretty clear about the simplistic reality in the making Friday the 13th.  You’ve said that it took you two weeks to write and it was made to cash in on the success of Halloween.  So in that respect, if you were able to pull yourself away personally for a moment….which would you consider to be the better piece of work, Friday or Halloween?  
Friday simply because I made a mother become a super-villain, breaking the boundaries of horror and rewarding me with a fantasy mom who would kill to punish anyone who was mean to her kid.  My own mom might have said if I had drowned: “I told you not to go near the water. You are not a very good swimmer.”
Although Friday the 13th is an absolutely wonderful film, I found myself more drawn to 1982’s A Stranger Is Watching.  I don’t read much Mary Higgins Clark, but what you brought to the screen was incredible.  What was it like to adapt Clark’s work?  How much did you change, leave the same, or alter in some way?
If I recall correctly, I had to completely change the approach from Ms. Clark’s narrative style to lay out a story that made visual sense. Like any good novelist, she took twists and turns and wove a really good book that couldn’t be adapted flat out, page by page.
Victor Miller 3How did you enjoy the final product brought to the screen?
I liked it. I was disappointed in the publicity which promised a film from the folks who brought you Friday the 13th. Stranger was not a horror film. It was terror and so our audience was less than thrilled inasmuch as they wanted what they had seen from Crystal Lake.
Did you know if Mary ever saw the adaptation?
I never met or spoke with her, so i don’t know.
What exactly happened between you and Mr. Cunningham during the pre-production of Spring Break?
I wrote a few drafts and he called me on the phone one morning and said they were going another way which is movie-speak for you are fired. Inasmuch as we had been the very best of friends for many years, I was stunned that he didn’t tell me face to face.  End of story.
I understand you have a cameo coming up in the Victor Mathieu’s upcoming film Carnie Ville.  How did this come to be?
All thanks to The BIg Bear Lake Horror Film Festival where we met and I begged and pleaded for a chance to show what a terrible actor I am.  I got to play the shrink who tells the female lead she should go to a Carnival to get over her fear of clowns. In real life I should have had my therapist’s license revoked.  She goes and the rest is first-rate horror from Victor Mathieu.
How did you manage to get in to the world of writing for Soap Operas?
I was asked by a guy I had met through Sean if I would be interested in writing for the soaps. The people, the work, and the regular paycheck closed the deal for me.
What do you enjoy most about writing for Soap Operas?
That it was a group process. My background had been in improvisational theatre and writing in a group is like improvisation while seated around a table, drinking coffee and eating bad Chinese food.  I hate writing alone. I enjoyed playing with other people for money and fun. Currently I have co-authored three screenplays on Skype with folks and have enjoyed the hell out of it.
There has been quite a bit of drama behind the camera for the world of Soap Operas these days it seems.  In your obvious professional opinion, what do you see happening to that world?  Will it ever be the same again?
The trial of O.J. Simpson sealed the fate of daytime. We lost half our audience when the trial began and half of those folks never returned after he was judged innocent. Then came the lightbulb for the bean counters that “reality” TV was much much cheaper than paying actors and storing sets and paying writers all that money.  I love Judge Judy, but she has two sets, a bunch of producers and one major star.  We also saw the beginning of almost every nighttime drama series becoming serialized…. Before that you could run a nighttime show in any order. Now you have to follow the story line just like daytime did.  Daytime drama simply got replaced by cheaper products with comparatively low production costs.
We always ask the award winners this question….So, where do you keep your Emmy’s and is there any significance? 
I am vaguely embarrassed to say I have them on the mantelpiece so that people can see them as soon as they come in. I could not be prouder of the work I did with Agnes Nixon and my fellow writers on All My Children especially. (All 3 Emmys are for AMC)
You obviously have so much to be proud of in your career.  But, what would you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as a published author, screenwriter, and more?
Not being a dick.
What are your plans for Halloween?
To turn off the porch light and watch nighttime TV hoping no one rings our bell. There are 2 kinds of people in this world: people who like to wear costumes and people who do not. I am in the latter category. So is my wife.  In our neighborhood the kids can go through five pounds of free candy in an hour, the dog barks and I am too old to get up every time a Hello Kitty or a Jason knocks. My bad.
Victor Miller2What was the last thing that made you smile?
The people at Monster-Con in San Antonio.  The vibes were fabulous. The warmth and acceptance and outpouring back and forth could not have been sweeter. And the fact that this morning’s Google Horoscope told me not to be a dick.

Tom McLoughlin [Interview]

Tom McLoughlin
Hello Everyone, and welcome to Day 4 of Trainwreck’d Society’s 1st Annual Week of Horror!  We are on the eve of Halloween night, and continuing our 5 day celebration of all things horror with another absolutely wonderful interview.  Today we are honored to have legendary filmmaker and musician Tom McLoughlin share a few words with us.  Fans of the Friday the 13th series will should especially go apeshit over this one, because you guys all more than likely already know Tom has the writer and director of Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI.  Yes, Mr McLoughlin is the man who was put in charge of pulling the beloved slasher Jason Voorhies out from the grave and back on to our screens.  “Zombie Jason” might be a term thrown around from time to time, but no on can deny the elequance and pure awesomeness that Tom brought to the second coming of Jason.  He is the man who brought us Jason right back, before we could actually miss the devilish son of a gun too long.  And Tom has so many other fine film credits to his name as well, including his 1982 cult classic One Dark Night, the less frightening 1987 romantic comedy Date With An Angel (featuring the lovely Pheobe Cates!), 2010’s television movie The Wronged Man, and so damn many more.  Yes, for fans of great cinema, horror in general, and especially the Friday the 13th series, this should truly be a treat.  We are greatly honored to have Tom join the TWS family and extremely grateful for taking time of his busy life to chat with us about Jason, his recently reunited after 45 years band The Sloths, and so much more!  Enjoy!
So, I understand you used to be a mime?  How did you get in to that line of work, and what sort of work did you do as a mime?

The study of mime came when I was 19 years old and my rock & roll years were coming to a sad end. The music scene had changed for the worse.  Many of our legendary rock heroes had died of drugs. During this time I felt if I wanted to continue to be a front man of a band I needed to bring something unique to my performing style. Having had a few people ask me over the years IF I had studied mime after seeing my stage act, I decided to look into the art form. I studied under a local Hollywood teacher Richmond Sheppard. When Marcel Marceau come to L.A. to perform I sought him out. He invited me to come to Paris in 6 months cause he was opening a school. I suddenly just clicked into this new direction. I got the one and ONLY normal job in my life and worked my ass off to make as much money as I could..which wasn’t much. I left my girlfriend, family, and friends to go to France where I didn’t speak a word of French and knew no one. Of course I freaked out at first when I realized what I had done but then…I just changed. I guess the art, the culture, the devotion to the study of mime, dance, acrobatics, improv-comedy, and acting just totally took me over. I learned I had a gift for comedy. Writing skits and performing. I was truly the ‘starving artist in Paris’ living on almost no money, stealing food, and smoking cigarettes while drinking cafe and talking about changing the world through the arts. I returned to the U.S. a year later penniless. My girlfriend had left me, most of my friends didn’t know what to make of me, and I felt directionless. I took to the streets to perform with a hat down. Whatever I made that day was how I ate that night. I began teaching mime classes to earn extra money. I wrote more comedy material and began touring with stage shows. Woody Allen hired me as a robot on Sleeper. I did a lot of movie roles that required special physical movement in films and TV. Was featured in over 50 commercials. I created The L.A. Mime Company and we were regulars on the Dick Van Dyke series on NBC in the mid-70s, then Don Krishner’s Rock Concert. It was an wild and unexpected ride for many years. Then I earned an Emmy nomination for my writing on the Van Dyke & Company series. Around then I was making my transistion from performer to writer/director with the plan to make movies. My first film One Dark Night happened in 1981.

Your debut film One Dark Night has been deemed a cult classic since it’s release over 30 years.  What did making that film teach you most about the world of filmmaking?
Well, the thing you learn from making your first film is…’you got a lot to learn about making movies’. But honestly I can say that after after I finished my 40-something last film. You always have more to learn cause there are SO many factors to making a film. So many people involved. Opinions. Egos. Huge aspirations with very little time and money. That’s another reason I want to remake One Dark Night. I’d love to have another shot now that I know so much more to improve on it. And to bring in things that I had no knowledge of at the time. Most people say you can never go back again. I say “I’d like to find that out on my own by trying.”
In your professional opinion, what place do you believe the Friday the 13th franchise has in the history of horror franchises?  What makes it special and different?
Had you asked me that question a few years back I would have had a totally different answer then today. As of the last couple years and THIS year in particular the passionate devotion to our 80’s monsters has increased ten fold. I can’t tell you why exactly. But I can now officially say it as the love and nostalgia that the Universal monsters of the 30s had on us kids of the 50s. We saw Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, The Mummy, and their sequels on TV. We read about them in Famous Monsters magazine. We loved them! In my case, the more my parents forbid me to watch those movies,  read about them, draw them, and write stories about them the MORE we had to! Was it early rebellion against parental control or did we so indentify with the monster’s pain into vengeance that it made us feel more powerful. I don’t know. BUT now Jason, Freddy, Chucky, Leatherface, The Shape (Halloween) are as beloved to this generation. It’s amazing!! The merchandise, fan sites, retrospectives for Jason. I get more fan mail then ever before. Most everyone grew up watching all the sequels on VHS or DVD. And they watched them over and over when they were quite young. So what might have scared them initially was now really cool and you connect with them on some level.  A incredibly well made documentary has just been released based on Peter Bracke’s extensive book on the Friday the 13th’s,  Crystal Lake Memories
.  This takes you 2 days  to watch the entire DVD !!!!  I mean other than the 007 franchise what other series of sequels could compare to to this?
So what makes it special or different? The documentary takes on that question and answers it in many ways. For me it’s partly the nostalgia of growing up with Jason, the story structure is simple and familiar, plus the identification with a wordless faceless monster that no one can stop…ever is very primal fear inducing.
Tom McLoughlin2What was it like joining the franchise to make Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI?

My first reaction to the offer of writing and directing the SIXTH Friday the 13th after he was killed in the Final Chapter then it wasn’t even Jason who was the killer in part five was…”hell no!”

That’s NOT the kind of horror movie I wanna make. My first film ONE DARK NIGHT wasn’t perfect (I am in the process of creating a remake, with a bit of prequel) but at least that is more in the Gothic horror vein I connect with. I was an Edgar Allen Poe fan from the age of ten. So when the producer Frank Mancuso Jr. said he’s fine with gothic style. I said “Can I add some humor to the proceedings? I can’t go in to this if it’s not a fun ride with scares.”  He said “Fine. Just don’t make Jason funny. And figure out how to bring him back to life.” So off I went. Needless to say my childhood horror influences taught me the way to bring a dead body back to life ….a serious fuckin’ blast of lightning. And away I went with this challenge. As it turned out, the movie was one of the most fun adventures in my movie career to date.
Oh so many years later, what do you think about your addition to the franchise?  If you could change anything about the final product, what would it be?

Now I’m labeled with starting the ‘Zombie Jason’ period of the series. Before mine he was a deformed child, then a vengeful killer hiding in the woods with his head covered by a potato sack. Part 3 in 3-D he found the hockey mask and he became more creative with his kills and more unstoppable of a killer. By The Final Chapter he was more violent, faster on his feet, and really aggressive to his teen victims especially if sex was involved.  The boy Tommy who finally chops him to death and kills him is set up to be the next Jason. A New Beginning led us to believe that Tommy was possibly the new Jason but then it turns out to be a pissed off ambulance driver and then Tommy in his room in the last scene leads us back to Tommy as next our Jason.

I asked Frank if I could skip the connection and just pick up the story from Jason is dead and buried. People want to forget this tragedy ever occurred to their lovely Crystal Lake township. In fact they even change the name of the town to help forget. But apparently Jason never received that memo buried 6 feet under. When hotheaded Tommy breaks out of the psychiatric hospital he’s been imprisoned in for years, he wants confirmation that the maniac is truly dead. Of course he blows the deal by over-reacting and aids in Jason’s resurrection.
Would I change anything?  No one’s ever asked me that I don’t think.  FIRST..I’d want all the trims that were taken out of the kills by the MPAA put back!  They were NOT gory but cool and very creatively exucuted by the special effects team.  Second…More time and budget on the more unusual sequences (for a Friday the 13th film) like the underwater fight, the car chase, and add even more intensity to the scenes with Jason and the little kids (you’re very time restricted shooting young children at night), and probably some other things.  Now that I think about it…I’d love to have done a more of a stripping while having sex in the scene with Nikki and Cort.  What if just as the lovely Darcy DeMoss pulls off her sexy bra…BANG…Jason pulls the plug and the scene goes dark. Jason kills our anticipated peek of her naked. I love the idea of Jason screwing up our luring.  To me that would be a funny twist on what we think we’re about see. I can hear the males in the audience groaning and the girls laughing.
Moving beyond the world of film….you are also quite the musician!  Could you give us a little history and back story of your garage rock era band The Sloths?  How did the group come into existence?

THAT’S a feckin’ looong story.  Check out http://www.reverbnation/thesloths65  to get a better explanation and some clips and our upcoming shows.  But in the simplest version…I was a rock singer from 1963 to 1969. As the original Sloths were disbanding they merged into a group The May Wines that I joined.  Both bands did exactly the same songs on the Sunset Strip in the 60s opening for The Doors, Love, The Seeds, even The Animals and so many other great bands bands. We were all in our mid-teens then. Eventually by the time the bad days hit; The Stones Altamont concert, the Charles Manson murders, the deaths of Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, on & on…we all thought the dream was over went other directions.

Cut to: two and a half years ago I get a call from a lawyer, it’s one of my old band mates. Turns out the little 45 record The Sloths made in 1965 MAKIN LOVE just sold for $6650 on eBay. Some music magazines wanted to interview the surviving members on what happened to us over these last 45 years. After the interviews I said what if we get together in a garage like the old days and just jam. Some of us, including me, had been away from music playing, singing, and performing for decades.  These jams lead to practices, that led to a show in San Diego, then suddenly it just took off on it’s own. So far we’ve done over 60 shows, have recorded two new songs the bass player Mike and I wrote (LUST and WANNA NEW LIFE on CD and iTunes), we are heading to the Ponderosa Stomp Music Festival next week Oct 5th in New Orleans, and the Purple Week-End Rock & Punk Festival in Leon, Spain in December.  IT IS ABSOLUTELY SURREAL that a bunch of dudes in their 60s are playing GarageRock with more energy and passion then when we were teens. Some dreams don’t die. They just take longer then others to come true. The message here is ‘Never give up your dreams, kids’.
Tom McLoughlin3What else is in the future for The Sloths?

Who knows? We thought there was no future. Thought it would be ‘maybe’ our Wednesday Boys Night.  Like poker night.  Never thought we’d appeal to a younger music crowd. But they look our show band approach to the music. And I do some pretty wild antics on stage. Many nights I shock himself when I become this persona. But I LOVE every second of it.  I think of this turn in my career is doing a ‘Rob Zombie in reverse’.

In your career spanning 5 decades, what would you say you are most proud about when it comes to your massive genre bending career?

Immediate answer to that…my son and daughter.  Hannah is a lovely young woman currently working on the TV series GLEE.  My son Shane graduated Chapman University/Dodge College of Film as a screenwriting major. He’s been working his way up the film production ladder taking every job he can land as he writes his screenplays. At this point he has far more credits then I’ll ever obtain and on some pretty cool projects like The Driver, The Dark Knight, and TV movies, series, cable shows, and Webisodes.

For me I’m focused on the future for my pride. I love the current films I’m writing and preparing. I love my new part time teaching film gig at Dodge College. I’m excited for the future of these gifted young filmmakers.  And finally I have some..unique, plans for my post-life existence.  Sound strange? There’s a five minute short documentary on the Bonus disc with the Crystal Like Memories DVD.  It’s called ‘Legends Never Die: Hollywood Forever. And yes, I’m serious.
You recently returned from a workshop with Cirque du Soleil.  What drove you to do such a thing?  What exactly did it involve?
  That’s (laughs) a very good question. It was a two day symposium and workshop given by the Cirque at Chapman University.  The main reason I went was to check out the performing talent at the school for my film students. Film makers need talent to film and I thought it was a great way to see what these actors and dancers had to show. It was a sort of early audition process for the Cirque for them so they were at their best. I must say…there were some mind blowing performers there. Stunning. My head was filled with story and character ideas. The room was alive with creative energy! Plus sitting cross-legged on the floor with these dancers and actors brought me back to my days in Paris in the early 1970s.  Back to when I was a performing arts student with mime legend Marcel Marceau. But that’s a story for another day.
What are you plans for Halloween?

Every year I do something of a horror nature. It’s a must! Nancy has already decorated up the house and I usually create some ‘look’ out front. Haven’t figured out what yet. Sometimes Jason’s coffin and tombstone from part 6 is dragged out on Halloween. Both are the real thing. And both are heavy as hell to drag out. My friends and I always go to as many ‘haunted walk through’ places during October. We have some epic ones here in L.A. as well as the old stand-bys Universal Horror Nights, Knotts Scary Farm,  and the Haunted Ghost Ship of the Queen Mary. We used to create our own elaborate maze with a cast of frightening characters. It took weeks to construct and days to tear down. It was always the brainchild of Alan Banks who knows how to build a scary maze of thrills. Nothing is more fun then scaring willing victims in a live environment. Great adriniline rushes for all!

Tom McLoughlin4What was the last thing that made you smile?

Yesterday. Watching these young extremely talented dancers give their entire spirit and passion to the dance. To see all the months and years they have devoted to making their bodies defy gravity. To bend and contort into positions you’d think were impossible with the human body. And watching the intensity in their eyes as they willed themselves to achieve the unachievable. They have some much ahead of them and the possibility that some of them may actually full fill those dreams made me incredibly happy.  My cheeks were sore at the end of the day from how much I smiled.

Christian Grillo [Interview]

Christian Grillo
And we are back everyone with Day 3 of Trainwreck’d Society’s 1st Annual Week of Horror!  We are counting down the days until every horror fan’s favorite holiday is upon us, and we are celebrating the world of horror by speaking with some of the business’s finest contributors.  From filmmakers to actors and more, we are speaking with some incredible folks.  So, without further delay, let’s jump in to today’s fine gentleman who was kind enough to share a few words with us.  Today we have the pleasure of featuring independent filmmaker Christian Grillo, the man behind the 2012 indie hit Deer Crossing, and the creator of the upcoming science fiction thriller Apocalypse Kiss. He also works alongside his lovely wife on the popular horror themed television show Roxsy Tyler’s Carnival of Horrors.  He is a man who needs no introduction in so many different circles of fine folks creating beautiful work, especially in the world of independent horror films (not to pigeon hold Christian, as he will justify later on).  His 2012 film Deer Crossing absolutely blew me away.  It was as though the idea of have such a low budget was in no way going to phase this man and keep him from creating a very wonderful film, which I believe he most certainly did.  So how about we grill this poor guy about making that film, his upcoming works, and what he thinks of the world of horror in this day and age.  Enjoy!
Can you tell us a bit about your 2012 film Deer Crossing?  What was your inspiration behind creating this film?

Deer Crossing was my second feature film and the first to reach such a wide audience. With its release on REDBOX and Netflix and many online outlets and actual DVD rental locations, I felt that I had made some kind of impression on an actual audience that was not familiar with my work. The backlash of negative feedback was actually very refreshing to me. I learned that I was on the right path to succeeding something that I really wanted… people to feel something again from a film.  Most of my favorite films were the ones that the masses either didn’t like or didn’t understand, Blue Velvet, Jacob’s LadderTrue Romance, Hardware. I have never been a fan of the widely accepted PG-13 cinema that is so abundant today. I wanna be inspired when I watch a movie, not fed adverts and safe pre-established franchises. I understand the business in the “Movie Business” but it shouldn’t be all dollars and cents. This was my inspiration from day one when I wrote Deer Crossing, to pull the rug out from under people and remind them that Movies and Art in general are not always meant to be safe. Reading review after review on redbox has proved to me that the American audience is a bunch of hypocritical children. I was given half star after half star rating with comments like ” This movie is disgusting” or “This movie needs to be pulled from redbox, children shouldn’t watch it” or “This movie is so disturbing I couldn’t stop thinking about it”… Yet they gave it a half star rating. When I watch a film that is labeled as a Horror/Thriller and it does any of the above to me I would think that the director accomplished his goal. To bring horror into my life.

Deer-Crossing-DVD-Artwork-Christian-GrilloNow that some time has passed since the film’s release, how do you feel about the finished product that is Deer Crossing?
 Looking back I think I could have done a better job with some things and made some different choices in its design. It’s not a masterpiece… but most films aren’t. It was my second film and I think I take something from each one that teaches me how to do a better job each time.
When somebody walks out of a theatre, or turns off their DVD player, after watching a film of yours, what are you hoping they will feel and/or think? (Aside from just “liking” it?
 Just the fact that they think about it is gratitude enough. I watch so many movies on Netflix that I can hardly tell apart anymore. They all have the same story, the same plot, the same faces, the same concept. If anything I would like people to say “Well… that was different”. If they can say that I win.
What, if any, are some of your favorite horror films you have seen this year?
 Sad to say I haven’t seen any horror films this year that I can honestly say I liked. I have found myself growing bored with the genre. Same shit different day. This is why we see so many remakes these days. The people who actually have the money to make films lack the imagination. I am told that The Conjuring is pretty good…. I haven’t watched it yet.
Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming film Apocalypse Kiss?  What inspired you to create this story?
 My wife Carmela had suggested to me that she wanted to play a lesbian serial killer in a film. I liked the idea but I felt that this idea alone would need to be explored in an environment that was bigger than what we have used in the past. It would have to be somewhere that created the characters, not the characters creating it. Hence a futuristic backdrop. Apocalypse Kiss wasn’t just another film project for me, it was a David and Goliath story. Not the film itself but the fact of making it. I have always wanted to make a film that transported people to another world… Star Wars, Hardware, Aliens, Mad Max. Most ultra low budget film makers don’t even attempt to achieve a film like this because it’s just to difficult and costs too much money. This inspired me. I’m not just a writer/director because I like to say “Action”. I like to make things, create things, and do the impossible with my team. This is what I love about movies. I wanna be lied to and told that there is another world out there. I wanna be shown this world and made to believe that it exists. But foremost, I wanna be shown this world through good old fashioned tricks created by imagination. Like the movie Hardware, Apocalypse Kiss was shot mostly in one building. My team and I created 9 sets. These sets are the world of Apocalypse Kiss. USA 2052. Now I’m not saying Apocalypse Kiss should be held up to the standards of a film like Blade Runner but the Apocalypse Kiss does transport you and does it for what Ridley spent on Decker’s wardrobe. Apocalypse Kiss received multiple offers, some before the film was completed. It now has a home at MMI with a Global distro deal. BAM! You feel that Goliath?
What was it like to give direction to the legendary Lloyd Kaufman?
Most people don’t know but Lloyd is actually my biological father. He doesn’t know it yet, but it’s true I swear. Actually Lloyd was great. He was my first choice when selecting a cast for the film and I wouldn’t want any one else to be the President of my world than Lloyd Kaufman. He’s a fucking rebel and he don’t give a shit. I love this man, he has been doing what I wanna do for over 40 years. Make movies, and make them his way. On set Lloyd was very humble. He cracks jokes, runs his own camera for behind the scenes, and is ready like a pro actor. He doesn’t try to interfere, he takes direction and knows his shit.  To work with a man who inspired me to do what I do since I was Ten years old is like meeting your hero. It’s even better when your hero is a great fucking guy.
Your main focus has been on horror films, but you have been known to sight inspirations like Robert Rodriquez and Adrian Lynne.  So tell us, have you ever thought about breaking out in to a new genre?  If you, what genre(s)?
 It’s funny cause I always get pegged as a horror guy. Booley, my first feature was a black comedy… a satire. (You can catch this on VUDU) Though it was about a serial killer I would never call it a horror. It’s a weird comedy. Deer Crossing is about the human animal, the guy next door who keeps women locked up in his back yard and a government too corrupt to care. To me this was a crime drama, yeah it’s got horror elements to it but I still don’t think of Deer Crossing as horror. Now… Apocalypse Kiss is a complete Sci-Fi thriller. It’s not scary or even meant to be scary. So to answer your question… I think I have already broken away. Comedy, Crime dram, Sci-fi… I try to break away every time. It’s the audience that says I’m horror. “Or horrible”. Well if that’s not enough, my next film is going to be a kids film. I’m not kidding.
Apocalypse KissWhat are you plans for Halloween?
 I make no plans, front porch, candy, kids in costumes.  Last year my neighborhood canceled Halloween because of an early snow, only half the residents knew this. The township said they would reschedule the following week. Shittiest Halloween ever. Hope this ones better.
What was the last thing that made you smile?

My cat Bazinga bites my ass when I’m sitting on the toilet. Makes him feel freaky I guess. Hey… you asked.

L. Michelle DeVito [Interview]

Michelle DeVito
Welcome everyone to Day Two of the Trainwreck’d Society’s First Annual Week of Horror Celebration!  We are keeping the ball rolling each day this week, and we have a great interview up today for you fine folks with independent horror gal Michelle DeVito!
As many of you may remember, way back in 2011 we did our First Annual Trainwreck’d Society’s Person of the Year.  The recipient of that award was given to none other than the no-budget horror filmmaker Steve Sessions.  While his name may not conjure up any remembrances of his work, we still felt that his hard work and dedication to his craft deserved to be celebrated.  Sure, since then we have spoken with “bigger names” in the world of horror alone, but this is not to discredit the fine work that so many members of the independent film world (horror or not) have done.  And this definitely goes for the actors as well.  That is why I am so excited to have Michelle DeVito featured on Day 2 of 5 this week.  She is a brilliant actress who has tirelessly racked up over thirty roles (of all magnitudes) in just a couple of short years.  Most recently she can be seen in Nothing Left To Fear, which was produced by Slash from Guns N Roses.  And she will also have a part in the forthcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  She is a hard working, New Orleans livin’, bad ass kind of lady who deserves her time to shine.  And it definitely shall come.  We are honored to have Michelle featured this week.  Enjoy!
What has drawn you in to the world of acting?  How did you get started?
Growing up, I was always fascinated by the big screen. Always daydreaming of being up there myself. However, being from a small town and being somewhat alternative, I thought those dreams were pipe dreams and never took them seriously. It wasn’t until two years ago that it did become a reality. I was playing roller derby in Baton Rouge and a teammates best friend is a casting agent. I was looking to do something different; So, he helped me get into doing background work. My first production was HBO’s Treme and ended up being a series regular for the final two seasons. Since then, in the last 2 years I have been in 37 productions. It has been a crazy whirlwind of awesome!
You are based out of New Orleans.  Please tell us, what is it like in the acting world on the bayou?  Is there a lot of work to be had? 
The acting world here is much like New Orleans itself… Like no other! I love the unique characteristics that the local talent bring to the productions being filmed here. The horror genre is popular here which is a perfect match for New Orleans.

Michelle DeVito3How was your experience on the set of Nothing Left to Fear, which was produced by Slash from Guns N Roses? 
NLTF was my favorite production to work on! I love horror movies and Slash! Being a long-time fan of GNR made it a huge thrill. As well as the story-line being so easy to follow and get in to. My role was that of a member of a small town, in which the story takes place. The entire cast became close during the production and we still see each other often. I am quite excited that it was released just a few short weeks ago.

Not to sound too corny but,…..What is your favorite scary movie?  
That is an easy one. Poltergeist! I was really young when it came out and ever since seeing Carol Ann staring into the tv screen, static screens have always freaked me out!

What would you consider the sweetest gig to land? 
The sweetest gigs to me, are the shows I already watch or various certain remakes. This last year I was cast on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and did quite a bit of work on it. It was a huge thrill to work with Gary Oldman. He is such an amazing talent. Its due out in the spring of 2014. I also worked with 2 favorites, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, on True Detectives, which is starting this December. Right now, my current “hopeful” is Pirates of the Caribbean which is slated to begin production in fall 2014.

Have you ever considered getting behind the camera in some way shape or form?  Have you already?
No, my preference is in front of the camera, but I have a huge respect for the talent behind the camera. What goes into each shot, angle, set, wardrobe… etc, is astounding. The detail and work that goes into the “magic” of the movies will never fail to amaze me.

What other projects do you have in the works?

Right now I’m bouncing between a few series, Ravenswood and American Horror Story, as well as working on Will Smith’s Focus and Ryan Reynolds Selfless. I have several that are due out this winter, Barefoot, 13 Sins, The Lookalike and Grudge Match. It has been an exciting year!

Michelle DeVito2What are your plans for Halloween?
I’m not quite sure about that (LOL).  I’ve been working so much that my  planning has fallen to the wayside. Thankfully, being in the film biz, has connected me to some amazing makeup artists to help with costuming. I will probably go to some home parties and do my best to torture my liver!  But, Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without visiting The 13th Gate, in Baton Rouge, and the House of Shock, in New Orleans. Gotta get my scare on!
What was the last thing that made you smile?

My personal life and my work has me grinning from ear to ear these days. It was a long bumpy road to where I am currently at. And, now that I’m here… I’m enjoying every minute!

Tibor Takacs [Interview]

And the time is here!  Welcome everybody to Day 1 of the Trainwreck’d Society’s 1st Annual Week of Horror!  We are pleased to kick off the festivities today with our first of five interviews to be featured this week.  Today we have a wonderful interview with the even more wonderful filmmaker and screenwriter Tibor Takacs.  Tibor is the mastermind behind such horror and thriller films as Rats, The Gate, Sanctuary, and……Sabrina The Teenage Witch(?).  Most most recently Mr. Takacs completed a great film called Spiders 3D, which regular readers might recognize as a project we featured a few months ago when we interviewed one of the film’s stars, scream queen Christa Campbell.  It is an amazing thrill ride of a film that is as fun as it is thrilling.
I found and interview with Tibor Takacs to be a wonderful jump start to our celebration of all these that scare the hell out of us.  There isn’t much out there that can send a grown man in to a sweat filled panic, than an innocent little spider.  So watching one menace an entire city and chase down humans could very well be one of the most frightening things one could imagine happening.  So enjoy Day 1 of 5 with the illustrious Tibor Takacs!
What inspired you to get in to the world of filmmaking?
My parents were avid movie goers and I was on a diet of mostly european classics till I was about ten years old. We then moved to a new city and lived downtown where there was a movie theater on every block. I started seeing more American fare 2 or 3 times a week. When I was about 12 I started doing my own films on super 8 and video. My Dad bought one of the earliest portable consumer video setups. It was an Akai 1/4inch BW video recorder and camera. Reel to reel. I did a lot of experiments the video tape was cheap. As time went on the projects got bigger and people wanted to pay me to do it. For a while there was a detour into punk music and live theater. When one of the stage plays turned into a movie project it became a fast track learning experience in the film business.
What was your very first gig in the film world?  Does it still have an effect on you today?
I had my first pay film gig working at a big film equipment rental house during the summer while I was in University taking general courses. There I saw the film business first hand and met a lot of people. Professional film making was way less of an artistic endeavor than I ever imagined. After a few months of this I figured out that I wanted to just direct my own films. This question of “Is film making a business or art” is a question I deal with everyday of my professional life.
You’ve worked on all sorts of projects, from family friendly TV movies, up to bloody gore filled horror films.  Tell us, what is your most enjoyable genre to work on?
I enjoy them all. I just love telling an entertaining story. My fantasy has always been to be able to transcend and move between different genres in my career, I’ve been lucky and to an extent I’ve succeeded. The business has evolved to the point that every director needs to be a specific brand and crossing into different genres is difficult.
What is a genre you have yet to work in that you would like to?
I’d love to direct a pure straight drama. Genre films can include some straight drama but the catharsis in the film usually involves some kind of spectacle and or supernatural phenomenon that can easily dwarf and the distort the natural human emotions that you are trying to portray. It would be a pleasure to be able to focus on just the real emotions of the characters and go for a pure naturalistic performance without black comedy or irony to muddy the waters.
Tibor Takacs2One of your more recent films Spiders 3D was your first film done in 3D, which turned out great!  What was the experience like popping your 3D cherry, so to speak?
I’ve always had plans in the back of my mind to do a 3D project. Over the years I’ve kept up technically with all the hardware and software that became available to make 3D better and easier. I had visited one of the high profile 3D companies and was part of a test for someone else’s project, I saw what they were doing and heard how much they would charge and thought this is kind of a boondoggle. There’s a lot of new stuff off the shelf that will give you pretty amazing results and it got to a point about two years ago when I said “Hey, I can do 3D for just a little more money than 2D” if I produce the 3D myself; meaning that I rent the equipment hire the stereographer and handle the post. Creatively shooting Spiders in 3D became a natural extension of what I try to do on any film: which is to manipulate depth in shots to help tell the story. So it wasn’t as big a deal as one would think. Spiders was done on a basically on a 2D schedule. We were getting 30 to 60 setups a day w 2 rigs much like you would on a lower budget genre movie in 2D. We did however avoid changing lenses that often. The CGI was a little more involved I’d say by a factor of 1 /1/2. 3D post is not 2x the work bur 1 1/2 times the work. I found it very fun and satisfying to be able to manipulate the image in one more dimension.
What sort of other projects do you have coming up in the near future?  Anything else coming in 3D?
Lots of stuff being talked about but nothing locked down yet. I’m hoping my recently completed BUNKS kids comedy pilot for FreshTV with Fremantle/Disney gets picked up as a series. I don’t have anything coming up in 3D at the moment.  The demand has slowed for anything but blockbusters in 3D.
What is your favorite scary movie?  Why?
The american version was great, but my heart is with the original of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. It is the perfect genre movie that has the right blend of visceral action and human emotion. The relationships are offbeat and out of the ordinary but at it’s core It’s really just a great love story told beautifully with some gore.

On set of "Lies and Illusions" with director of photography Zoran Povovic.

On set of “Lies and Illusions” with director of photography Zoran Povovic.

What are your plans for Halloween?

Answer the door and pass out the treats, I love seeing which characters spark kids imaginations and what creativity they bring to their interpretations. Then watch The Exorcist.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Yesterday when my son (AKA) Young Replicant told me he was officially nominated for ‘Best New Director’ at this year’s UK music video awards.

Sam Brown [Interview]

Sam BrownIt is no secret by now that I am huge fan of the legendary sketch comedy troupe The Whitest Kids U Know.  We’ve had two of them on the site before, and today we are absolutely ecstatic that another one of these fine gentlemen has agreed to speak with us!  Sam Brown is a crucial member in the WKUK and is responsible for some of my personal favorite moments from the television show and live performances.  Sam brings a brilliant sense of mild mannered showmanship that is vital to the all of the success that WKUK has seen in the past.  Picking a favorite cast member is like trying to pick your favorite child:  you KNOW which one is your favorite, but you are too afraid of hurting the others so you tell them you love them all equally, although that his horse shit.  So I am just going to be honest…..  Today we are featuring my favorite Whitest Kids cast member.

And if his comedic brilliance isn’t enough, he apparently has the stamina of a god damned race horse.  Lucky NYC fans will have a great chance to catch Sam performing at Piano’s at 9:00 p.m. for the Sam Brown and Greg Johnson comedy hour……all after he runs a literal marathon!  Yes, Sam is repeating a venture he did a few years ago of hosting a lovely after party for the New York City Marathon.  This is some all new sorts of craziness in my lazy ways and eyes.

And even more great news!  If you are looking to break in to the comedy business, or just want to impress your co-workers with some wit and wisdom from the comedy world, Professor Brown may just be at your service.  Keep on reading below to find out how he might be able to make you not just a much funnier person, but probably a better person altogether.  So on that note, we are absolutely honored and humbled to introduce Sam Brown!


What made you want to join the world of comedy?  Was it always something you thought you would do when you were a kid?

I come from a pretty funny family (in my opinion) so being funny just used to be how you got noticed. Besides that I remember always being drawn to characters like Gonzo from the muppets that celebrated being weird which later turned into an admiration for performers like Andy Kaufman. I always wanted to be different and not in that obvious teenage rebelion way that now means heading down to your local hot topic. I remember when it came time to take Senior photos in high school since I’m from Cape Cod the thing everyone would do was get thier picture taken on the beach, so I thought it would be fun  to take it a little further and actually get chest deep in a full suit and tie in the ocean. It was freezing because it was only march but the pictures turned out great. It was like a Pink Floyd album cover. Unfortunately the yearbook editor decided that itd be best to crop the pictures at my shoulders so it only looks like I’m standing in front of the ocean. That bitch.

Of all the televised sketches in history, what would you consider to be your favorite sketch, whether you were in it or not?

Definately not one of my own, what kind of ego maniac do you take me for? How about I give you a few and if its too long you can just cut some out.

MONTY PYTHON: The Arguement Clinic. The writing masterfully evolves where once you get what they’re doing, they do it in a new way. I mean there’s no one right way to write a sketch but really thats how you should do it.

SNL: Steve Martin’s Christmas Wish is definately up there. A sketch that has a brilliantly written build up slowly transforming a genorous man into someone who is lustful, greedy and out for revenge.

THE STATE: they did an intro once where David Wain explained that in the group they all had different jobs and his was the editor and while it wasn’t as glamorous as being the star it still had its perks. No jokes just thirty seconds of talking before the intro. Then they roll the intro which at first seemed to be the one they always had but slowly more and more shots of David Wain were cut into it until finally its just all him then they cut to the group shot and he actually is spotlit. This was very influential to me. It showed me that in sketch you could break your show for the sake of a joke.

Sam Brown WKUKAlright now some vanity…when were you on the top of your game during the show?  AWhat was your favorite role to play?

For me there was really two modes of the show, writing and performing so each has thier own high point for me.

As far as writing I think when Trevor and I came up with the Jaws sketch is a moment I look back on fondly. It just felt like a different joke and ultimately what I am trying to do is get someone to laugh at something in a different way. That one makes me proud.

Performing: anything where I get to yell a lot. Normally I’m a really mellow guy but from time to time I totally lose my temper so when I get a roll where I can go off I can channel that pretty well (Cubicle Boss, Loveliest Bride, Sam’s Miss March Audition).

How are your experiences on the road with the guys after all these years?  Have you all grown closer over the years or you all just tolerating each other at this point?  Or is it all the same kind of man love as it was so many years ago?

Its tough but I love it. It isn’t being stuck with the same four other people all the time that makes it tough. Its just travelling. Flying has quickly become one of my least favorite activities on the face of the earth. Not even because of a fear of death or anything. Its just the constant nickle and diming. I feel like pretty soon airlines will charge you money not to sit on a bear trap. Its the other guys that actually make it bareable for me. WKUK is something that I still feel the whole is greater than the parts. There’s a certain energy that we have together that I could have faith in before we had a TV show. I felt like if I can just make these guys laugh we can really be something and now all these years later (13?!) and I still feel like if I can make them laugh we can be something greater. I’d put up with whatever the airlines can throw at me for that. I’d proudly sit on that bear trap.

You and the rest of the WKUK have a fan base is unlike any other out there. 

Thats not a question. How long have you been doing this? But yes, I like them. Thats one of the things I like about doing a live shows, meeting the fans. It can sometimes be longer and more work than the actual show but signing stuff and taking pictures with everyone can be the most rewarding part. When I was seventeen my mom brought me to go see John Waters speak which I thought was pretty cool, so when I see parents bringing thier kids to our shows and telling us that our show has brought them closer it makes me feel good.

Has there been any progress made on the WKUK movie?  Is it still in the works?

Yeah, we’re still plugging away at it.

How much time do you figure you spend on Twitter and Facebook?  Do you justify it as “work” as many of us do?

Not enough. Its like homework for a comedian and I’ve always been bad at doing my homework. I would love to delete my facebook but I need it to advertise my shows and classes so I would see that as a pretty selfish act considering how often I work on shows with other people. Twitter is a good joke writing tool but sometimes I am just too down myself to hit send. Either that or I am just not funny enough.

I understand you are going to be running the New York Marathon this year, and following it up with a stand up show….what the hell man?  I would think you would allow yourself to sit down after a run like that.  How has the training for this event been for you?  And can you tell us about the post-run event?

I ran it six years ago and did the same thing and it went great plus this is both an easy way to plan an after marathon party and pack a show. I’m really excited though, the people on the line up are some of my favorite people to spend time with and its at Pianos which is where WKUK performed weekly for years so it’ll have a homecoming feel for me.   The training is good. This is actually the third marathon I’ve trained for since I trained last year and hurricane sandy had other plans but I’ve run my long practice runs and now I’m in the taper weeks where I rest more than train. I feel good.

I also understand you are looking to be doing some sketch comedy writing workshops in the L.A. are this winter.  Would you like to pimp out some details on what you are offering?

This is one my favorite things to do. I never took classes myself which made it really nerve racking at first but the more I just vocalized what I found to be true in my experience the more I discovered that through thirteen years of writing sketches I figured out how to do it. Now its just a matter of talking about something I’m very passionate about with people that hopefully share that passion. In the end I feel like I’m learning along with the students.  To top it all off I do this all through a really small comedy school, Miles Stroth Improv, that has some of the smartest and funniest comedians I know teaching thier classes.  Find out more info at

Sam Brown PosterWhat else does the future hold for Sam Brown?  Any new projects in the works?

Well my birthday is on Saturday so theres that. Mainly though I have a movie that some other comedian friends and I raised money to make. We didnt really raise much money either so its going to be a challenge but I feel like adversaty can create a better outcome in the end.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

While I was writing this my dog, Party Dog, farted. He farts a lot and it always smells awful but also always I laugh.

Jim Piddock [Interview]


piddock3It has been brought to my attention recently that television is where all the best writing is these days.  This theory has been proven time and time again with the popularity of cable and network shows constantly being on the rise due to new lack of restraint on television audiences that has been in place for well over a decade now.  And some of Hollywood’s biggest names in front and behind the camera are showing up on the small screen more and more often.  Case in point:  HBO’s soon to be released on DVD, Family Tree, written, directed, and produced by the great Christopher Guest and Jim Piddock.  Guest and Piddock are old chums.  Jim has been featured in the Big Guest 3 films (read below for further details) that are easiley some of the best ensemble projects I have ever seen.  Piddock, beyond his acting chops on stage and on the screen, he is also a writer with credits to his name such as The Man featuring Samuel L. Jackson, The Tooth Fairy featuring Dwayne Johnson, and the 1992 erotic thriller Traces of Red, featuring James Belushi and Lorraine Bracco.  Yes, Guest and Piddock have had individual success in their long and storied career.  And now we are fortunate enough to have had the two team up to create what you will surely find to be one of the funniest shows on cable television today.  And as we already made clear, that is a hard feat to reach in this, the golden age of television writing.  And we were fortunate enough to be able to steal a few minutes from Jim to talk about his latest projects, past works, and what else he has on his plate these days. So enjoy!

You’ve had great success on the stage, in films, and on television.  Tell us, what is your preferred method of acting, if you have one?

They’re all rewarding in different ways, but as I get older I find the routine of doing film or tv easier to navigate and maintain a balanced lifestyle. I wouldn’t rule out going back to the stage, if the right project came along, but it’s not that high on my list of priorities right now.

You have appeared in what I call the Big Guest 3 films – Best In Show, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration, all directed by your pal and fellow legend Christopher Guest.  These movies just seem like they would be so much fun to work on, especially with the immense amount of improvisation.  Tell us, is this so?  What have your experiences been like working in this setting?

I think every actor who works on anything that Christopher directs will tell you that the improvisation part is very nerve-wracking, but the on-set experience is as good as it gets. It’s highly actor-friendly and relaxed. First of all, you’re hanging out with a lot of other actors you admire and have mostly worked with multiple times and, secondly, we work very quickly compared to most productions, so there’s a lot less hanging around. When a group of very funny, talented people get together, there’s generally a lot of laughter and very few people hiding in their trailers when they’re not on camera. 

The Family Tree

The Family Tree

You have also recently teamed up with Guest as a writer/producer/actor on the new television series Family Tree, which will be released on DVD and as a digital download on October 29th.  Can you tell us a bit about the show?  Where did the concept for this show come from?

The show originated over a lunch that Christopher and I had around the time he’d been looking into his own family history a little bit. We liked the idea of an ongoing series about a rootless and impressionable young man trying to find his bearings in life, and establish meaningful relationships and purpose to his existence, by delving into his genealogy.

Apart from the endless and varied comic potential of the premise, we also felt it tapped into the larger, cosmic themes we all ask ourselves at some point: who am I, what is my place in the world, and where do I fit in the grand chain of history?

What did you want viewers to take away from this show?  Do you think viewers have or will get what you are hoping to convey?

I think we wanted people to be amused primarily. But, in addition to laughing, we hoped they’d be emotionally engaged with the main characters and care about what happens to them. And judging by the overwhelming majority of responses we’ve had to the show, from both critics and viewers, I believe we succeeded in that. I have heard from so many people, almost all of whom I don’t know, who said they felt genuinely bereft after the last episode of the first season ended. Which is very gratifying because it means that after 8 episodes they were emotionally invested in the series, and in the journey of the characters and the stories we were telling.

Based on the critical acclaim alone, has there been any stages of pre-production for a second season?  If so, is there anything new you would like to accomplish during a second season?

Not yet, but Christopher and I met for a couple of hours recently to discuss possible season 2 ideas and we came up with about 15-20 episodes ideas in a very short space of time. We also have a great ending for the final (or possibly just the second) series which will be even more unexpected than some of the surprising directions we’ve already taken.

familytree2You also have a project entitled Russell in development, in which you wrote and shall be an executive producer on as well.  I know it is early stages, but can you tell us a bit about this project?

It’s a family movie about an Australian conman who has a spell put on him by an Aboriginal shaman and undergoes a body-switch with a koala. You know, that old chestnut.

What would you personal consider your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

Working uninterrupted in show business for 35 years.

Is there anything in your career that you have yet to do that you are working towards getting done?

There are many other projects I’ve written and am attached to produce which I’d desperately love to see come to fruition. But, as an actor, the one thing I’d love to do is play a regular character on a long-running series. I’d love the chance to live with and develop a character for a length of time. And the money probably wouldn’t hurt either.

While it seems as though you are constantly working, you must take a break now and then.  What do you do for a little “me time” just to de-stress if you will?

piddock1I still play football (soccer) once a week. And I spend an awful lot of time watching football and baseball. But I also like to read and travel when I can.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

The fact that I had to encourage the waitress I had at dinner last night to google me because she didn’t believe I was who I said I was. For some reason it amused me that, after all these years and all I’ve done, I still felt like I had to justify myself to someone half my age. And while I was eating.

Kevin Hamedani [Interview]

Kevin Hamedani2
The world of independent filmmaking is rapidly changing and, in so many ways, improving.  Much like the heyday in the 90’s, there is so much talent lurking behind the big red curtain of Hollywood that have so much damn talent that it is almost ridiculous.  Only these days, it seems easier to get recognized.  Of course this is not an all inclusive observation as there are definitely still thousands of un-tapped souls out there trying to “break through”, whatever that really means these days.
One fine soul who has managed to move beyond the curtain and create some amazing work in his own way is the illustrious Kevin Hamedani.  Back in 2009 he brought the world his brilliant take on the zombie takeover with his excellent debut Zombies of Mass Destruction.  And most recently he takes on the world of film festivals with his amazing new feature, Junk.  The greatest bit of irony being that Kevin has had some great success in the film festival world.  But, that is enough explaining, lets talk to Kevin himself to see what he thinks of this day and age of filmmaking and what it means to be an artist in his time.  So check it out!
What initially drew you in to the world of filmmaking?

I remember being about 7 years old and watching Back to the Future over and over again. I then started writing short stories around that time. So I’d say at a very young age I just knew, for better or worse, that I was obsessed with movies and wanted to make my own.

You made your directoral debut in a feature film with 2009’s Zombies of Mass Destruction.  How was that experience?  What sort of things did you learn as a first timer in the feature film directing?

It was a great experience but also very frustrating. I knew very little about how a film set worked so I made a lot of mistakes. Luckily I had a wonderfully talented and experience DP John Guleserian who helped me make it through. One big lesson I learned from him was when I was blocking a scene and I had the actors stand close together like it were a stage play. That’s when the DP said: “This isn’t a play! Why are they standing next to each other!” That was a HUGE wake up call. I learned then that you can and should use the space around you because the camera will find the actor…big lesson.

How did you come up with the idea for your latest film, Junk?

My co-writer Ramon Isao and I were at the Austin Film Festival in 2009 for ZMD when we  met another filmmaking duo who had a similar  script they wanted to pitch to a big actor guest at that year’s fest. That planted the seed for JUNK. That and the fact I had done a year of film festivals and that world is bizarre, incredibly exciting and filled with colorful characters. I had yet to see a movie that took place at a fest so that was the final push to make JUNK.

Junk1Where you at all surprised about the backlash several film festivals gave the film by not letting it in?Yes, very. I did a private screening once the film was complete in Los Angeles,  A friend of mine, Scott Sanders (who directed Black Dynamite) took me aside after the screening and told me how impressed he was. That was big coming from him because Sanders is the most brutally honest friend I know. But then he said we probably screwed ourselves w/ film festivals by making a movie about it. I didn’t believe him but eventually I realized he was right. Even my hometown of Seattle rejected JUNK w/out so much as a rejection email. I think this movie really pissed some programmers off. That’s too bad. i thought they’d have a sense of humor but they take themselves very seriously. The ironic thing is that I made this movie with love for film festivals, but the reaction has lead me to really despise that whole world. So many great films fall through the cracks due to politics, lack of star power, etc…

What was it like wearing all those damn hats during the making of Junk?  Do you think you would do it again?

It wasn’t fun. I will never act and direct again unless I have a bigger budget.

Is there any other aspect of filmmaking, or any other field in general, that you are interested in jumping in as well?  Stunt player, maybe?  Craft services?  Anything? 

Music composing would be the only other job on a film that I could potentially do. I love music and play a little but I’m not very good so it wouldn’t be that great.

You had a stellar supporting cast on Junk, including James Hong, Brett Davern, Jake Johnson, and so many more.  How happy were you with the cast and the supporting characters?  Did you manage to have your vision told accurately through the characters?  

I am so happy w/ my cast. Leads and supporting. I managed, somehow, to keep my vision intact.  With the supporting cast and the colors they bring to JUNK, it resembles the crazy world I intended to create.

I am told you are a Seattle native.  Being from the Northwest as well, I have to ask…..What sort of influence to you think your homeland has on your work, if any?

The Northwest has a beautiful, gloomy feel to it which is why I’ve shot both my features there. It’s a beautiful place with an underlying haunting, cold pulse that brings more layers to your work than you intended.

What is next for you?  Any new projects in the works?

I have a few projects in development. I hope this family drama called Prince Ali moves forward. It’d be a great change to do something that isn’t a comedy

Junk2What was the last thing that made you smile?That’s a hard one….I don’t know.  I met Vince Gilligan recently and had a nice long chat with him about The X-Files, Breaking Bad, etc… I had a smile for a week after that….

The Slants and the Trademark Race Case [Feature]

The_Slants_pressshot03_hiresPortland, Oregon-based Asian American dance-rock band The Slants has been fighting the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for nearly four years over the right to to trademark their name. The USPTO previously refused the band’s application on the grounds that the term is disparaging to persons of Asian descent. The application process began in 2009, with appeals from the band including numerous articles by Asian American media sources, letters of support from Asian American activists, an expert report by noted linguistics scholar Dr. Ron Butters, several independent national surveys, and a case file totaling over 2,000 pages of evidence. The USPTO stood by its rejection, however, citing for evidence and citing the ethnic background of applicant/band manager, Simon Tam.

In 2011, The Slants filed a new trademark application with no “Asian-related” content, but was again rejecting on the ground of disparagement, even though no new evidence of supposedly disparaging use of the trademark was cited by the Trademark Office, which essentially cut and paste its earlier rejection.

Ronald Coleman of Goetz Fitzpatrick LLP, the law firm representing The Slants and a leading commentator on trademark law, says “As it stands now, therefore, there is nothing our client can do, or not do, if he wants to register the SLANTS trademark.  The Trademark Trials and Appeals Board says he personally supplies, the offensive “context” to what is an otherwise plain English word just by being too Asian.”

According to U.S Trademark Office records, over 760 applications have been received for some variation on the term “slant.” However, “The Slants” is the only one in U.S. history that was denied based on an accusation that it was disparaging to persons of Asian descent — even though the band’s most recent application made no reference to Asian heritage at all. In its papers, the Trademark Office admits that, unlike most ethnic terms, the term is not inherently offensive, which is why it hasn’t been a problem in the past. Yet, Trademark Office attributed it to the band because “it is uncontested that applicant is a founding member of a band…composed of members of Asian descent…thus, the association.”

The Trademark Office justified making its decision based on Tam’s race, saying “we are faced with a term that necessarily identifies people, i.e., the live performers. Thus, those who attend the live performances will necessarily understand THE SLANTS to refer to the persons who comprise the musical band.”

Tam says, “Their reasoning had nothing to do with our intentions or whether or not Asian Americans were actually being disparaged. Their only justification for applying an accusation of disparagement on our case but no other applicant was based on my race. In fact, the implication is that if we weren’t Asian, there wouldn’t be any problems because people wouldn’t associate our name with an obscure racial slur. And while it’s true that the people in the band can be identified by a band’s name, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the members literally embody the name of the band. No one thinks ‘The Rolling Stones’ are literal masses of undulating rock or that ‘Led Zeppelin’ is a metallic reincarnation of the Hindenburg blimp.”

The law states that a “substantial composite of the referenced group must find it disparaging.” Despite this requirement, the Trademark Office failed to cite any Asian American individuals or organizations that were actually deeply offended by the name, relying only on a media report of an incident in 2009 where an invitation for The Slants to perform at the Asian American Youth Leadership Conference was cancelled.  In fact, those very event organizers wrote a letter to the Trademark Office, clarifying that the reason for the withdrawn invitation was due to lyrical content and logistical procedures, not the band name itself. The event still published the “The Slants” on the event website as well as their program, and received no complaints at all.

In fact, the band has had a history of constructive involvement with the Asian American community. In addition to performing at anime conventions and Asian American festivals throughout North America, the band regularly lead workshops on social justice and antiracism. They are often featured by some of the most influential voices in the Asian and Asian American communities, including Angry Asian Man, the Asian Reporter, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and many more. Furthermore, they’ve led numerous fundraisers for charitable causes, including helping raise over $34,000 for the Japan Red Cross weeks after the Fukushima disaster.

Despite the band’s longstanding history and involvement with the Asian American community, the Trademark Office continued to deny The Slants’ application, using wiki-sources, anonymous websites and obscure reference books to support its decision.

Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons, an Executive Director for the Asian Pacific Network of Oregon and longtime policy advocate for the API community, states that “the use of the name The Slants by the musical group of that name does not disparage or offend the Asian and Pacific Islander community, both because of the explicit claiming of the term in a collective sense and because of the obscure nature of the term as a racial epithet. The reclaiming of an obscure term that has been used to discriminate has a constructive impact when used by a group that also self-identifies as Asian and/or Pacific Islander.”
After an appeal to the Trademark Trials and Appeals Board, the Trademark Office’s rulings were upheld. Attorney  Coleman explains, “We are planning an appeal to the Federal Circuit, and in anticipation of this result we have already lined up a number of civil rights groups who expressed great interest in filing amicus briefs if it came to that.”

“I’m glad to be moving away from the bureaucracy of the Trademark Office,” says Tam. “I hope that the federal court can take an objective view of our case, not only in light of the work we’ve done in the Asian American community, but on the merits of free speech as well. Whether one finds our band name agreeable or not, I think we can all come to the consensus on the fact that nobody should be denied rights simply because of their race.”

The band is currently seeking help from individuals and organizations who would like to assist. Interested parties should contact band manager Simon Tam at
Also check out the band’s WEBSITE, to check out the beautiful dance rock sound the band creates amidst the struggle.  And stay tuned for another feature of The Slants right here in the near future.

Lisa Hammer [Interview]


In the 90’s it meant something completely different to be an “underground filmmaker/musician/artist/etc.”.  Just as the terms “alternative” and “independent” have become so skewed lately that it is hard to tell what or who is true to its/their origin and might be considered “underground”.  Of course, many technological advances have been made to make such a jaunting insight a true reality, some of which really isn’t such a bad thing.  But for me, and I hope many others, these terms meant nothing more than the act of being an artist with a specific taste and desire to create only what they feel is worthy of being shown, at least in their own heart.  Sure there are common characteristics such as being off-putting or risque that seem to be a commanility as well that most likely were the initial push “underground” as they say.  But in all actuality, that was the point!  Doing something different!  Different only in the manner that is pleases your own eye, even if it isn’t something you are used to seeing or hearing during the prime times or spot lights of our lives.

And in the 90’s, and thankfully to this day, there has been one woman who was and will always be in the upper echelon of the underground world.  Yes, I understand the bizarre sound that may make when you say it out loud (sort of like an “Anarchist Leader”, right?), but it is the truth.  There will always be somebody who’s work stands out amongst the rest of the rest of the rest.  And that woman is without a doubt the brilliant musician and filmmaker Lisa Hammer.  She has been grinding the gears of the weird for several decades, creating some of the finest underground works to date.  Whether it is masterminding German Expressionist masterpieces, or doing voice over work for Adult Swim cartoons, this is a woman who may not do everything she wants, but she certainly does only what she wants.  So ladies and gentlemen, please welcome, the lovely and talented Lisa Hammer!

What initially drew you in to the world of German Expressionist films?

In film school I saw Sunrise by FW Murnau and I was mesmerized by the beauty and timelessness of the story and the gorgeous scenery and cinematography. The film made me cry with no words spoken, only titles. That is so powerful. From there I was hooked.

Who would you consider your greatest personal influence in the medium?  

It’s a mash-up of Murnau in my silent films, Cocteau with my surrealist fairy tales, Bunuel for my sacrilege, Lynch for my dream imagery, Busby Berkley for the musical aspects, and John Waters for my camp. I aspire to reach the comedic genius heights of: Peter Bogdanovich, Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Blake Edwards, Roman Polanski and George Cukor, to name a few. Too many to name!

Can you tell us a bit about your involvement in Miranda July’s Joanie4Jackie film anthology?  How did your participation in the anthology come to be?

She asked me to submit my film Empire of Ache with Dame Darcy for her video chain letter project, (the short films created by several women circulated the world for a few years.) I don’t really know how she heard about us, it just came out of nowhere but I was very happy to participate!

You have been in the world of music and film for a lot of years now.  In your expert opinion, how do you feel the worlds have changed with the introduction of technology, social media, etc.?  Are the changes positive, negative, or both?

Since the technology for both music and film has become affordable and easy to use, anyone and everyone is both a filmmaker and in a band now. The market is flooded with artists and amateurs. Andy Warhol’s prediction that everyone would get 15 minutes of fame has actually happened. It’s great to see so many people being creative, but I think I preferred it when there were only a handful of us, it was a bit harder to create our films and music, but we got much more attention. Now it’s hard to get noticed at all, thank god I already have a history and a group of loyal fans! The trick now is to get noticed and it makes me want to go back to school to study marketing. Ha!

On that note, what do you believe the term “underground” means today, as compared to what it may have meant 20 years ago? 

20 years ago I was noted as one of the very few underground experimental female filmmakers in the industry, I got a lot more attention from magazines and distributors. My colleagues were very few and also got tons of attention. People like Nick Zedd, Jim Jarmusch and Richard Kern, to name a few in the NY circle.  Now I don’t see an underground per se, I see everyone grabbing a cheap digital camera and uploading their films and web series to youtube. It’s hard to find the actual underground film projects, you have to sift through lots of amateur shorts and web series, and an awful lot of videos of cats doing silly things. It does raise the bar for filmmakers, as we have to create the best work of our lives and get it into festivals and create a buzz in the industry. The competition is healthy.

Lisa Hammer3What do you personally believe to be the highlight of your career thus far?  What accomplishment(s) make you the most proud?

I have so many, every film has been my favorite, from the insanity of Pus$bucket, to the artistry of The Invisible Life of Thomas Lynch, where I got to mentor with amazing director James Merendino (SLC Punk.) I loved filming POX where I got to write with Ben Edlund (Firefly) and Doc Hammer (The Venture Brothers) and direct an incredible cast in a haunted silent film star mansion in Hollywood (I lived there!), and recently the filming of  The Sisters Plotz with my partner in crime Lisa Ferber has been one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life.

I’ve been really lucky. I have been blessed to direct the amazing talents of celebrity guest stars: Eve Plumb (The Brady Bunch), James Duval (Donnie Darko), Clayne Crawford (Swimfan), Allen Lewis Rickman (Boardwalk Empire), H. Jon Benjamin (Archer), Jonathan Katz (Dr. Katz), Arden Myrin (Mad TV), Leo Allen (SNL), Aryn Cole (All My Children), Yelena Shmulenson (A Serious Man) and I lived through directing Courtney Love! I get to work with my talented husband Levi Wilson (Not Fade Away) on all my projects, which is the best thing of all. We have so much fun on every project. 

Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming film The Sisters Plotz?

The Sisters Plotz is a frothy romp through the world of three eccentric heiresses who live in a townhouse with their butler, who is really an earl, but is slumming it. These kooky aristocrats have no idea what year it is, don’t know how to do anything for themselves, and rely on their servants to do everything for them. It’s a slapstick musical comedy with amazing songs by Lisa Ferber and May Feinsinger. We all get to sing and dance, but it’s not corny, it’s a bit surreal and campy, as if John Waters and Busby Berkley had created a love child. Lisa Ferber wrote it and I helped create the story, and then I directed it. Eve Plumb plays our sister Celestia, a Dada poetess. Levi plays the sarcastic butler, Reginald. Lisa Ferber plays my sister Whimsellica, a dreamy painter, and I play the dangerously recreational inventor, Ladybug.

It started as a web series and got to be a top 5 most watched video on Funny or Die. I decided it needed a longer format to tell the whole story. I’m editing the feature film right now and it should be done by 2014. And… we added a PIE FIGHT.

You are a filmmaker, screenwriter, musician, composer, so on and so on.  Of all the trades you have racked your resume with, what is your absolute favorite?  

I am more talented at music than filmmaking, but I seem to gravitate towards directing film. I’m really a mediocre filmmaker, so maybe I am striving to improve in areas I lack in? I really have been neglecting my music a bit, but I’m a little sad as my wonderful guitarist from Radiana (Steven Deal) passed away a few months ago, and I feel lost without him. By 2014 I will seek out new band members and continue the band in his honor. It’s hard to sing with a broken heart.

Least favorite?  

I love all of it! Except: I hate creating shot lists and breaking the script down to make a budget. If anyone out there wants to help me with line producer duties on the next film, please email me! Hahaha!

With so many different forms of art already under your belt, is there any form that you have yet to tackle that you would like to? 

Lisa Hammer2I’m an aspiring novelty inventor. A few of the inventions seen in The Sisters Plotz are actual inventions I am developing. I just need help from a patent lawyer, if any readers are patent lawyers, also please email me. Hahaha!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My absurdly gorgeous Himilayan cat, we call her Missy Shitepants, as she has long white hairpants and she often doesn’t clean them well. It’s pretty gross but it makes me laugh. Also the Hulu show “Quickdraw” makes my sides split. And my awesome husband Levi, who cracks me up constantly.