BJ McDonnell [Interview]

Photo by Dustin Pearlman

Hello Folks! We have an absolutely wonderful interview for you all today! And I have to say that I had completely different intentions as to why I wanted to get some words from the brilliant filmmaker and DP BJ McDonnell on the site in comparison to why I am even more excited to have him on now. BJ has worked as a cameraman on some of the finest projects you know and love in the last couple of decades. Whether it is Marvel blockbusters, Rob Zombie horror flicks, or just about any big budget comedy film…BJ has been there. He is a staple in the world of cinematography, and has done some damn amazing work.

But, what I was at first just mildly interested in was his work with the band Slayer. He wrote and directed a couple of very infatuating music videos for this iconic metal band that I was interested in knowing about simply to try and impress my dear friend and recent interviewee, Adam Mattson. But, what happened was that I became a huge fan of the band based almost solely around the amazing videos from Slayer that BJ happened to have directed. Holy Shit Folks, they are SO good. One of them is below, and I suggest you check out the rest. What a fucking ride he sends you on, and it’s just a brilliant example of the brilliance that lives inside such a wonderful artist.

So, please enjoy this amazing interview with the brilliant filmmaker and cinematographer, BJ McDonnell!

What inspired you to get into the world of filmmaking and cinematography? Was it something you felt destined to do from a young age? Or did you just find yourself in this line of work one day?

My Grandfather sparked my interest in filmmaking. He was an actor named, Leif Erickson. As a young child I was exposed to filmmaking as a career. My grandmother pushed me to pursue my dreams of films. I also would make short action films with my best friend Jesse with old VHS cameras. We loved doing that. Why not make a career out of what you love right? So I went for it.

What was your very first paid gig in the world of filmmaking? And is there anything from this project that you learned that you still use to this very day?

My first paid gig I worked as a grip. I can’t even remember the name of what the project was. I was overwhelmed and had to jump in head first. I guess what I took from that is always be confident and make decisions on your own.

I absolutely loved the music videos, which are more like extremely well down short films, with the legendary group Slayer. How did you come to work with this group so frequently? What drew you to the band and made you want to work with them so often?

I’ve always been a punk rock / metal head. Slayer just kinda fell into my lap honestly. I went for a interview at nuclear blast records. They were looking for a horror director to do the first video off their new album Repentless. My view on what should be done is make a video Slayer has never had before. We don’t have censorship like MTV anymore and most videos are seen on YouTube. I wanted to make a brutal story driven video like they use to make in the 80’s. I pitched my idea for a prison break for Repentless.  It was a simple story of a prisoner who would stop at nothing to get what he wanted. He wanted the head of another cell mate in a different section of the prison. So he created an all out prison riot to get to his destination. Basically do what you gotta do without any remorse , REPENTLESS. The video was a hit and that spawned two other videos as a prequel and a sequel. It was a fun project because I had to create a storyline off of a middle story.

BJ on the set of Jack Reacher


You have been heavily involved in the wonderful Victor Crowley franchise known as Hatchet. You even stepped into the director’s chair for duties on Hatchet III. How did you become involved with this franchise initially, and what inspired you to step in and direct the third installment?

My friend Sarah Donahue got me a interview to do Hatchet 1. The guys were looking for someone who loved horror films. When I was interviewed I totally threw out John Carpenter references as well as Wes Craven, etc. because of my knowledge of horror I was hired.

I stepped into the directing chair because Adam didn’t want to direct the third installment. He was busy writing a tv show about himself. When I directed the third one I wanted to open up the world and make it more action and cinematic. I wanted to blow up the Crowley house and have a SWAT team battle kill. I presented that to Adam and he wrote it into the script. It was blood sweat and tears making this film. I learned a lot of what to do, what not to do, etc…..

While the world of horror is far from being a mainstay as a genre for you, it is a genre that you have had so much great success with over the years. We absolutely love the world of horror here at TWS. So much so that we dedicate an entire month to you it even! So I feel compelled to ask what it is that you enjoy most about the world of horror? What sets this world apart from other genres you have worked on?

Horror filmmaking is more explorative. We don’t have to follow certain guidelines that regular films have to use. We can break the mold and get very creative with it. From storylines to camera angles you can be more free with your decisions. I also think it’s more a rollercoaster thrill ride that sets a tone for people to flock to see these films. I love doing horror. I would say action films are close to that too.

Of all the sets you have worked on, what projects do you remember having the best craft services, either for uniqueness or variety or whatever made it memorable to you?

Hahaha never had a craft service question before. Hmmmmm…let’s say craft service on commercials are usually the best.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I’m looking for the next directing project. I’m still shooting as a cameraman and I’m headed to do Annabelle 3. It’s important to find a project I believe in. I learned that if you direct something just because it is there it usually has no heart. You gotta want to do the project and put your heart and soul into it. So I’m looking for that next project that just jumps out at me.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

I’d say getting married to my best friend.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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