Doug E. Doug [Interview]

Douglas Bourne Headshots

 

Hello Folks! Oh, do we have a great interview to share with you all today! Today’s guest is another person that I have been wanting to get on Trainwreck’d Society since the site’s inception. He is an incredible actor who I have been watching on several different formats for as long as I can remember. It’s the incredible Doug E. Doug, Everyone! He iconically portrayed Sanka Coffie in the classic comedic rendition of true events known as Cool Runnings. And with a career spanning 30 years, he has had a lifetime of incredible roles that you all know and love, and we are just so damn excited to have him grace our digital pages today!

A man of several talents, Doug is also a brilliant writer who’s first novel, The Fall of ’87, coming soon! Be on the lookout for that! Below we will discuss his incredible career, Cool Runnings, the new book, and more! So Folks, please enjoy some incredible words from the absolutely brilliant Doug E. Doug!

 

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What initially inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it a yearning you had since your youth, or did you just happen to find yourself in this line work at random?

Initially. I was just trying to cheer people up and stop then from wanting to hurt me. Later I discovered this was a primal form of  entertainment.

What was your very first paid gig as a performer? And were there any sort of lessons learned that stuck with you and affect your work to this day?

My first paid gig was as a standup comedian at the Savage night club in NYC . I learned that even if you do well as a performer some people are reluctant to pay you. I show up to get paid like I wont leave without money now.

It would be remiss of me to not ask at least one question about your infamous role in the 1993 film, Cool Runnings. It’s been 26 years since the film was released, but the love for the film has never faded away. In your personal and obviously knowledgable opinion, what do you believe it is about the film that has made it a staple to this very day? As somebody who lived it at the time, what do you believe made the film special?

It is about the little guy persevering and earning respect. All over the world people have this struggle . They root for the bobsledders in the movie because they are deserving of respect. Everyone is.

 

 

On a personal level, your lead role in the 1997 film That Darn Cat is probably the most memorable and most watched roles for me. Well, full disclosure: I was 12 years old and haplessly crushing hard on Christina Ricci, so that may have been a factor as well. Anyway, there is the old saying, ‘Don’t work with kids or animals”, in regards to working as an actor. And I guess Ricci was in her teens at the time, but you get it. So you did both on this project and it turned out great. With that, how was your experience working on a zany and fun family comedy of this nature?

I love making movies for families and children in particular.

That Darn Cat was a lot of fun. Christina had way too much responsibilty at a young age. I treated her like a kid. It scared everyone who was dealing with her like a porcelian doll.  My goal was to respect the kids in the audience and behind the camera.

You have worked in just about every job possible in the world of entertainment. From acting to writing, producing, stand up, voice over, YouTube….the list goes on and on. With that in mind, I am curious to know what you find the most appealing of all the types of work out there? If for some strange reason, you were forced to only work in one avenue of creativity, what would you want that avenue to be?

If I were forced to do one thing I would write . Nothing brings me more joy.

When you look back on your decade spanning career in comedy, film, television, and beyond, what would you say you are most proud of? Doesn’t have to be a specific project (although it could if you wanted), but when you look back on all the great work you have done, what brings you the most joy overall?

I am most proud of the novel I have just written.  I have always wanted to do it. I just didn’t have the time set aside to climb that mountain.

 

 

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

I have a book that will be available soon it is called the The Fall of ’87. I am also in post production on a film I co-wrote and co-directed called Lil’ Girl Gone. (Im in it too.)

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My daughter coming back home from college on a break.

Peter Tolan [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! And happy November to you all. We are just off a whirlwind of emotions after 31 straight days of horror related fun. And while we love it so much each and every year, it can be taxing to be focused on the frightening for so long. That’s why we are now coming out the gates swinging with an incredible interview with an absolute legend outside of the world of horror. It’s Peter Tolan, Everyone!

Tolan is damn near a magician when it comes to writing hit films and television series. Seriously Folks, his credits are simply astounding. From hit films like Analyze This (as well as That) and the seriously underrated reworked adaptation, Guess Who? and just so damn many more films, which will be discussed below. And then there is the television! We talk about Home Improvement and The Larry Sanders Show below, but how can we not at least bring up even briefly such incredible projects like Rescue Me and Murphy Brown (also mentioned below). He’s also a force behind the project Buddies, that was previously mentioned just days ago due to the appearance of our new friend Robert Zappia.

So Folks, welcome back to the real world of Trainwreck’d Society. Nothing better than adding another incredible Emmy award winning writer to the TWS family. We are so excited that Peter was able to spare some time to answer a few questions for you all here. So please enjoy some words with an absolute legend, the great Peter Tolan!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it an aspiration you can remember having since adolescences, or did you just happen to find yourself in this world one day?

I was not inspired; I was pushed. I was a bit of a class clown in school, and in seventh grade (I think) my homeroom teacher strode over to my desk and informed me I was going to be the lead in the play the drama club was doing – very shortly. She was friendly with the teacher who oversaw the drama club, and when the kid who’d been cast as the lead dropped out, my teacher told her, “Don’t worry, there’s a kid in my homeroom class who thinks he’s funny. I’ll show him.” So I was in the play – which is not something I would have sought out by myself – and I was nervous before going on, but I got that first laugh on the little stage at the Scituate (MA.) Junior High School – and that did it. I was hooked.  Everything that’s happened since grew from the seed planted by that first laugh.

 

What was your very first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still affect your work today?

Hard to remember.  I’m sure I was so happy about being paid that I wasn’t able to focus on learning anything! Years later, when I was in my early twenties, I worked at an improv theater in Minneapolis called Dudley Riggs’ Brave New Workshop (it’s been around for a long time, and it’s still in operation).  I learned a lot there, because I was on stage in front of a paying audience doing seven shows a week in addition to improv sets after the main show.  You can’t be on stage that much and not learn something. And even though I stopped acting after a certain point and focused solely on writing, my writing is completely informed by the hours I spent on that stage in the Twin Cities.  It put a clock in my head in terms of storytelling – knowing how long to spend on one story beat before moving to the next – that sort of thing.  Out of entertainment, my first paid gig was a paper route – where I learned that a lot of people don’t like to pay on time.  Which I still deal with.

 

In 1991, you worked on the debut season of one of my favorite series from my time as a kid in the 90’s, Home Improvement, which happens to star our dear friend and past guest Patricia Richardson. I am curious to know what it was like to work on the early days of this now legendary series? Could you tell that it was going to be a hit right from the beginning?

I was working at Disney on a show called Carol and Company, starring the great Carol Burnett.  (I wrote a couple episodes of Murphy Brown at the same time, but technically Carol’s show was my first job in LA.) When that show ended, I should have had a clear exit to join Murphy Brown, but for some reason Disney held me back and said I’d have to work on the pilot and first six episodes of Home Improvement before I could go to the other show.  While Home Improvement was not my complete cup of tea, it was very funny, Tim made for a great lead, and it smelled like a hit from very early on.  In fact, Matt Williams (one of the creators of the show) – knowing that I was leaving for Murphy – told me flat-out, “You should stay. This thing’s going to be huge.”  I responded, “I have no doubt – but I came to LA to work on Murphy Brown, so I feel like I sort of have to follow that initial dream.”  But yeah, very early on it was in the air that Home Improvement was going to be big – and that rarely happens – where people just know.”  This was a long time ago – back in the days where the writing staff took a keen interest in the ratings – and mostly because the numbers (for both Murphy and Home Improvement) were huge.  I mean – huge.  I look at the ratings now and see popular shows pulling down a 1 share. I mean – how do you get excited about that?

 

The following year you moved to the absolutely legendary series, The Larry Sanders Show. It’s a brilliant program that deserves every bit of the acclaim it has received. I am curious to know what it was like to work on such a revolutionary project? And how was it to work on such a hilarious project? Was it as much fun to work on as it has been for audiences to watch?

Sanders was interesting in that we were keenly aware we were doing something very different, but as opposed to thinking it was going to be a big hit out of the box, we actually wondered if it would work at all!  So as much as we were excited about doing something out of the ordinary, there was a lingering sense (during the first season) that the whole thing could just crash and burn.  I remember very early on getting exactly what Garry was going for; he and I were in sync and doing a lot of the rewriting on the scripts – which was challenging but really enjoyable.  In terms of the “fun” of working on the show – yes, it was quite satisfying to be doing “adult” work (and I’m not referring to the language we were allowed to use; I’m talking about writing behavior as opposed to jokes), but it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Rip Torn, while absolutely brilliant as Artie, could be a massive pain in the ass to deal with.  He was a bully, and he’d target other people in the cast or directors or crew members (never Garry) for punishment; it was pretty terrible.  Garry and I finally had to sit him down to confront him about it, but he was ready for us!  He just sat down, spread his legs wide and stared us down – knowing he had us by the balls – because he was so good in the show, he knew we couldn’t fire him! I’m a fairly even-tempered guy; I rarely lose my cool.  But I had a roaring fight once with Rip – that ended (once the dust settled after a number of months) with me writing a script for him – secretly about our working relationship – that won him an Emmy!  Which just goes to prove: the entertainment business, she is sometimes not fair.  One more thing about Sanders – in stark contrast to Murphy and Home Improvement – nobody watched it!  Those were the early days of HBO, so the only audience we know of was people in the business.  They loved it!  People in the rest of the country, whenever I’d mention what I working on – they’d scratch their heads.  It was only in the later seasons that it become slightly better known – and even then, only slightly.

 

 

Your 2008 film Finding Amanda is an absolutely brilliant and touching story that you both wrote and directed. I am curious to know where this story came from on a personal level? What made you want to put this story out into the world?

The bare bones of the story happened to an acquaintance of mine; he had a niece who – he was very surprised to find out – was working as a prostitute in Las Vegas.  He asked if I had any connections in the Vegas Police Department (because back in the day I was a bit of a gambler and spend some time on the Strip) and wondered if I’d go with him to Las Vegas to maybe look for her and get her some help.  And in that moment – sick gambler that I was – I thought, “Hey, great.  I get to go to Vegas!”  Like, it had nothing to do with helping this poor woman; it was all about me having a good time.  And I caught myself in the moment and thought, “That’s a movie.”  So the details about the young woman and the prostitution are all made up; the details about Matthew Broderick’s terrible gambling – pretty much all from my actual life.  I mean, I lost millions of dollars betting the horses.  My wife at the time worked on the film, so we’d be shooting those specific scenes – where Matthew’s character would be stealing checks from his wife’s checkbook and lying to her – and I’d look over at my wife on the set, and she’d just be shaking her head, like, “You sick bastard.”  I guess more than anything I wanted to tell a story not about redemption, but about the first baby steps toward redemption – because addiction of any kind isn’t cured easily, and representing that in a film seemed false to me.  But seeing characters taking very small first steps – that interested me.

 

We always like to ask our statue holding friends this two part question: Where do you physically keep your Emmys? And does their physical location hold any sort of significance and/or symbolism?

I’m not a huge fan of awards.  I’ve won a number of them (and have been nominated for a great, great many more), but the truth is – I only wanted to win one: the Best Writing for a Comedy Emmy Award.  For whatever reason, I just wanted to be in that rarified company.  So I won it (with Garry, for the series finale of Sanders) and then I stopped caring about awards altogether.  I don’t even put my work up for consideration – because the whole award thing – who really cares?  All the times I won an award, you know what I was thinking about?  The thing I was writing at that moment– not the thing I was winning the award for.  But to answer your question: some years ago, I lived in quite a fancy home in Pasadena, and my office was off the foyer inside the front door.  The Emmys were on the mantle above the fireplace, but when you prominently display your Emmys, visitors see them and want to pick them up. It’s like a compulsion!  And then – because the awards were heavier than they thought – when they moved to put them back on the mantle, they’d hit the mantle – and soon little chips of paint would be missing.  That’s when we discovered the mantle wasn’t stone; it was wood painted to look like stone.  They’re currently on the buffet in my dining room – a little more out of sight.

 

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

I’m currently writing and executive producing a reboot of the 90’s show Mad About You with Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt (the original stars), and we’re having a hell of a good time doing it.  The shows are quite funny.  It will appear on Charter/Spectrum – twelve episodes – six dropping on November 20th, and the second six dropping on December 18th.  It’s a multi-cam – and I haven’t done one of those in many years, but it’s been fun flexing those muscles again.  In January I start an overall deal at FX – for whom I did Rescue Me – so I’m looking forward to rejoining that fold.

 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Probably seeing one of my lovely kids.

Jack Sholder [Interview]

Welcome to grand finale of Trainwreck’d Society’s Annual Month of Horror Showcase! We have a fully loaded month of all things horror for you fine folks! October is our favorite month for this very reason, and we are so excited to share 31 full days of film showcases and interviews with some of the finest folks from the world of horror, just as we have been doing for the last 6 years. What started as a simple 5 day showcase, has now blossomed into a full blown month long event. You’re going to love this! Enjoy!

Well here we are, Folks! We done did it! Welcome to Day 31, our final day of our Month of Horror for 2019. And we have an absolutely incredible interview to share with you all today. It’s Jack Sholder, Everyone! Jack has been working for quite a long time in the world of horror, writing and directing projects you know and love. In fact, this is personally a pretty huge moment for me, as Jack is actually the man who brought to the world what I consider to be my personal favorite horror film of all time. And that would be the brilliant second installment of the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, Freddy’s Revenge. As he will even say in the words below, I found this to be one of those rare occurrences (although less rare in the world of horror) that the sequel was actually better than the original. It’s a real Godfather (or Critters?) moment in this respect. I fucking love this film, and always have. I’ve even had a burning desire to ask one very specific question, which I do below, that has been burning at my soul for damn near a lifetime. And I finally got to ask it!

Yes, I am so happy that Jack was able to take some time out of his busy schedule to headline our 2019 Month of Horror series. He is a damn fine person, and this absolutely marks a highlight here at Trainwreck’d Society. We love all of our guests equally, of course, but of the 500+ we have had, Jack ranks up there as a true inspiration and the person behind a project that I have been in awe of for as long as I can remember.

So Folks, please join me in welcoming the absolutely legendary Jack Sholder to the TWS family. Enjoy!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment and filmmaking? Was it an early aspiration you can always remember having since your youth, or did you just find yourself in this world one day?

I always loved art. In the beginning it was classical music. I studied to be a trumpet player, and if I’d been just a little bit better that’s what I would have done. Then it was literature, mostly poetry. I dropped acid while a student at the University of Edinburgh and decided that words were meaningless, so that was the end of writing. My girlfriend loved movies and we saw a lot. The good ones really affected me, and I thought it would be great to be able to make them. It never occurred to me that this was a nearly impossible dream. It still surprises me that I actually succeeded through some talent and an equal measure of luck.

What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any kind of lessons learned from this project that still affect your work today?

I think it was playing trumpet in the Philadelphia Accordion Orchestra, an organization run by an accordion school where every instrumental part was play on an accordion except, for some reason, for trumpets and timpani. I was around 14 and got fired because someone heard me say I thought the accordion was the worst instrument ever invented. I guess you could say I learned not to bite the hand that feeds you, though I’ve bitten a few since. I did a lot of performing when I was young and into my 30’s, and I loved the fact that the trumpets sit in the back of the orchestra, or sometimes we’d play in a pit if it was a show, so everybody could hear me but almost nobody could see me. That’s a lot like what it’s like being a director. Unlike an actor, I can go to the supermarket or the mall and nobody knows who I am.

In 1985, you directed the second installment, and hands down my favorite one, of the legendary Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. I am curious to know what intrigued you about this franchise, and what it is you believe that you did differently in your installments?

Many may disagree, but I was never that impressed by the original and I felt I could make a better film, so I wasn’t intimidated in that respect. The main thing that scared me was how the hell to make it. It had a great many special effects, none of which I had the slightest idea how to do, and I only had 6 weeks to prep the movie since Wes Craven had just quit and I had to take it over. Fortunately, I had an experienced special effects guy, an old timer, and a terrific director of photography, Jacques Haitkin, who had shot the original Elm Street and knew how to do everything.  The only rules I was given by New Line were to keep Freddy dark and to make it scary. Also, keep in mind there was no franchise at the time. Elm St 2 was an attempt by New Line to wring a little more money out of the original and, if all went really well, to do an Elm St 3. Fortunately for both New Line and me, it went well.

 

 

One specific, and not entirely scary even, moment always stands out to me in Elm Street 2, and I am dying to ask you this question: There is a moment when the teacher drops a human heart onto a table, and some kid yells “YEAH!”. It makes me laugh so hard EVERY time I watch it. Was this scripted? Was this a bit of the Jack Sholder touch?

It was in the script. With so little time to prep the film, and with a script New Line was happy with, I pretty much shot what was on the page. What I will take credit for is my point of view, namely, what is the real story the motivates the plot and all the characters? For me the movie was about teen sexual anxiety which Jesse is in the throes of and which Freddy represents. I know the film has developed a reputation as an icon of gay cinema, and that interpretation is certainly valid and interesting. But that is not what I was going for even though that’s certainly one aspect of male teen sexual anxiety. I will take credit for the casting, performances, the way it was shot and edited. I feel the most important part of a successful horror film is to create characters the audience care about, otherwise it’s just an exercise in empty scares and special effects. Hopefully I did that.

In your own personal opinion, what do you believe it is that makes the horror genre special? What sets it apart from other genres you have worked in?

I’m not an expert on watching horror films, only in making them. But I think the good ones deal with people’s deep-seated fears and insecurities. And it presents those things in a way that is essentially safe. You’re sharing it with others, whereas you face your own fears alone. There’s almost always some laughter, at least in my films. And it’s only a movie. It’s over when the lights come up. Kind of like a rollercoaster: one moment you’re plunging to your death, then you’re not. It also is a genre that really makes use of the language and tools of cinema in a way that, say, a rom com does not, so it’s fun to watch on that level.

What is your favorite scary movie?

The one that scared me the most was Wizard of Oz when I was about 5 years old. I was terrified when the witch melted. Horror films in general don’t scare me since I know they’re not real, and there are things in life that truly do scare me.  But I did find The Exorcist pretty scary. And also the Spanish film Rec, not the mediocre American remake.

Do you have any plans for this coming Halloween? And fun traditions that you try to stick to every year?

It was fun to take my kids trick or treating. But they’re grown now, and I live on a somewhat remote road, so no kids ever show up. I certainly don’t dress up. I leave that to the actors and the fans.

 

 

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

I’ve got a vampire movie very loosely based on Carmilla, a novel written ten years before Dracula, that I’m hoping we can put the financing together for. Like any good vampire movie, it’s about a lot more than vampires, and the script is terrific. I’m also involved in a bio pic about a woman, child of British parents, who grew up in Calcutta in the worst kind of poverty and deprivation, lost five of her sibling in childhood to malnutrition and disease, who worked her way out of poverty, moved to the UK, became wealthy, and went back to Calcutta to set up charities to help people who are in circumstances like those she grew up with. She won the Mother Teresa Award a few years ago. It would seem like quite a change for me, but it’s actually the sort of film I thought I’d be making when I first dreamed of being a filmmaker.

What was the last thing that scared the hell out of you?

My Great Pyrenees, Beau, almost dying of accidental poisoning.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Beau coming home, healthy again.  And a few episodes of Seinfeld I’ve been catching up on. Particularly the one where George and Jerry take someone else’s airport limo and end up in a Nazi rally and the Yada Yada episode.

 

 

Mark Torgl [Interview]

 

Welcome to Day 30 of Trainwreck’d Society’s Annual Month of Horror Showcase! We have a fully loaded month of all things horror for you fine folks! October is our favorite month for this very reason, and we are so excited to share 31 full days of film showcases and interviews with some of the finest folks from the world of horror, just as we have been doing for the last 6 years. What started as a simple 5 day showcase, has now blossomed into a full blown month long event. You’re going to love this! Enjoy!

 

Happy Halloween Eve, Folks! We are reaching the end of our 2019 edition of our Month of Horror. And if there is one aspect of the world of horror that we simply can not stress enough to be absolutely wonderful and exhilarating, it has to be the world of Troma! Over the years we have featured dozens of key players who have done some absolutely amazing work in within the proverbial love child of Lloyd Kaufman. Therefore it seemed only fitting that when we were handed the opportunity to talk with one of the most legendary figures from the world of Troma, it would have to be during the grand finale of this whole event. We have showcased Troma figures in and out of the Month of Horror for years now, but this one is HUGE! It’s the motherfucking Toxic Avenger himself, Mark Torgl!

Mark is a delightful human being who portrayed the ultimate nerd turned superhero(?) just 35 short years ago in what could arguably be Troma’s best film, The Toxic Avenger. The cult following behind The Toxic Avenger and Troma in general is hands down one of the most fanatical groups of people the world will ever know. Loners and shut-ins, gore porn junkies, and comedy horror aficionados all know and love this film and production company for obvious reasons. It is a masterpiece of a B-Horror film. When one wants to even begin to have a conversation about the best B-Horror films of all time, it is practically a crime to not talk about this masterpiece of indie horror cinema. And Mark Torgl is a key figure behind it all. And what an absolutely fascinating figure he is in and out of the world of horror. By weekday Mark is an award winning television editor who has worked on some damn fine programs. And then comes the weekend where you can catch him at any given Con anywhere in the country keeping the spirit of The Toxic Avenger with very personal and forthright appearances.

Mark is a truly incredible person, and we are so excited to have him grace our digital pages on the second to last day of this year’s Month of Horror series. Also, I would implore you to check out the incredible documentary Mark has put out recently entitled The Toxic Tutu, which he will discuss below. It is actually available on Amazon Prime, so if you are up on that, it’s free! You have to see this incredibly unique and so much fun documentary that is detailed and again, just so much fun.

So Folks, please enjoy some wonderful words from the brilliant Mark Torgl!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment and filmmaking? Was it an early aspiration you can always remember having since your youth, or did you just find yourself in this world one day?

I was a completely normal kid, I liked to capture flies and tie a string around their necks and fly them around as my pets. I had a large mayonnaise jar where I kept my collection of toenails like all kids have. I was inspired by Surreal filmmakers like Bunuel and Dali and Lynch while attending Michigan State University. I loved the way they stretched the normalcy of life into fantastical ideas. Bunuel’s “Un Chien Andalou” especially made me want to pursue film in some way.

 

 

 

What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any kind of lessons learned from this project that still affect your work today?

I worked with Troma on their film The First Turn On the previous year before Toxic Avenger. I was going to New York University Film School and Troma put a notice on our Job board to come work on a real feature film, it also said there was no pay, just good experience.  I met with Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz and they asked me what I wanted to do on the film?  I said I wanted to be the Script Supervisor so I could work with the director. Lloyd said ok you can be the Script Supervisor, what else do you want to do? I said, “I like writing”, Lloyd said, “Ok you can write some additional scenes, what else do you want to do?”  I said, “Can I direct?” Lloyd turned around pulled down his pants and said, “Only if you tickle my ass with a feather”. So I just did script super and additional writing. I didn’t sign on as an actor, but typically everyone on the crew of a Troma film ends up in the movie somewhere.  When the actor who was hired to play a major role, Dwayne a socially awkward super nerd, didn’t show up, Lloyd said, “Mark you go in and do the part”. The rest is history.

Dwayne was the obnoxious boyfriend of the sexy sleep away camp counselor. I had a famous scene where I met her parents and spread mashed potatoes and gravy through my hair, and fellated a corn of cob at dinner. I learned later that they had auditioned Madonna to play the camp counselor before she hit it big and they rejected her. It would have been epic to act with Madonna, oh well. The next year when they were auditioning for Toxic Avenger, after auditioning, they said hundreds of kids; Lloyd and Michael said what they were looking for  was the super geek nerd character like what I did in The First Turn On. They called me up and said, “If I want the part of Melvin, it’s mine.” I accepted and also did the script supervising. I still couldn’t bring myself to tickle Lloyd’s ass with a feather.

Working for Troma on my first gig has definitely affected my work in entertainment today, I now like to get paid.

 

 

In your own personal opinion, what do you believe it is that makes the horror genre special? What sets it apart from other genres you have worked in?

That sounds like an essay question worth 50% of my grade. Horror is the ultimate thrill escape! The same way people like roller coasters, they like to be scared and then to survive. I think that is what makes horror so repulsively appealing.

 

 

 

We are huge fans of the world that TROMA films has assembled over its time. You have appeared in several TROMA projects, including possibly the most renowned one of them all, The Toxic Avenger. So how do you enjoy working in the TROMA world? What makes it unique in your opinion?

 

Working on the set of Toxic Avenger was about as surreal as it gets! The sheep I had to kiss in the humiliation scene in the gym was full of jumping gnats and fleas and other unsightly bugs and worm like things.  After the transformation scene, the makeup I was in would not come off, after the makeup department tried unsuccessfully to remove it, they took me to a nearby YMCA where I went to scrubbing at the makeup in the shower they used for the swimmers. When a group of young boys went to the showers after their swim lesson, they came upon me, a naked 20 year old man violently scouring what looked like melting skin. I’m sure they were tromatized for life after seeing me. 

Troma movies are shot on a shoestring budget so there’s always some problem to overcome. When we shot the scene in Shinbone Alley where Toxic beats up Cigar Face, we disrupted a street person’s living area and he started waving a gun at us. The car in the chase scene when it flipped on it’s top, the roll bar protecting the stunt driver collapsed. We all ran to the car and saw only the passenger side collapsed, the driver was ok. Lloyd said if the driver died it would have been the end of Troma.  As far as I know no one has ever died on a Troma set. But stuff like this happened all the time; I could go on for pages.

 

 

 

What is your favorite scary movie?

The Toxic Avenger of course.  I’m also a huge Stanley Kubrick fan.

 #1 A ClockWork Orange A life changing journey.

#2 2001 A Space Odyssey An inspirational journey of evolution.

#3 The Shining. Redrum.  Are some of my favorites.

 

 

 

Do you have any plans for this coming Halloween? And fun traditions that you try to stick to every year? 

I might be doing a convention in New Jersey. I used to enjoy the parade in NYC, I now attend the West Hollywood parade or have a party at my house. I hear they are trying to make Halloween a holiday that always falls on the last Saturday in October, I think that is a great idea. 

 

 

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

I’ve been working on an homage to Toxic Avenger called Toxic Tutu.

It’s the almost true story ff whatever happened to Melvin The Mop Boy, Mark Torgl of Toxic Avenger. I made this film with director Joe Nardelli. Joe and I went to film school together. So I’ve known Joe for over 30 years. 5 years ago I was contacted by the Mad Monster Party Convention to make a guest appearance. I called Joe and told him about it.  Joe said, “ I’ll come and bring my camera and we’ll document it”. So Toxic Tutu evolved from a 3-day convention documentary to a 5-year feature length narrative film production. Toxic Tutu is now available world wide, streaming on Amazon Prime, GooglePlay, Vudu, Apple I Tunes, and available on DVD at Amazon, and other outlets.

 

 

 What was the last thing that scared the hell out of you?

I was making a guest appearance at Comic Con sitting in with the Troma Group when a dude showed up and pulled up his pant leg. He had a tattoo of my face on his leg, scared the shit out of me.

 

 

 What was the last thing that made you smile?

My day job as a TV editor. I enjoy working in dark stale rooms with producers looking over my shoulder as I create magic. I love the fact that I have never had to pound the pavement as an actor looking for work. It’s inevitable though that every once in a while I get that call, “Could you do this part for us in our new movie?  We loved you in Toxic Avenger”. I’ve recently done a role in a new movie, The Monkeys Paw and a Mercedes The Muse production of Mopboy I was also in Greetings From Tromaville! And Troma’s new movie Return To Return To Nuke Em High, I have a very disturbing self-pleasuring scene in this movie! Lloyd’s wife the Comish, objected to the scene, and it stops the movie into a freeze frame while she complains. Ha ha ha.

 

 

And a few more photos for you all, courtesy of Mark himself:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lin Shaye [Interview]

Welcome to Day 29 of Trainwreck’d Society’s Annual Month of Horror Showcase! We have a fully loaded month of all things horror for you fine folks! October is our favorite month for this very reason, and we are so excited to share 31 full days of film showcases and interviews with some of the finest folks from the world of horror, just as we have been doing for the last 6 years. What started as a simple 5 day showcase, has now blossomed into a full blown month long event. You’re going to love this! Enjoy!

 

Hello Folks! We have a very exciting interview to share with you all today! We have an incredible actress who we have been yearning to have on the site for quite some time. Pretty much since the inception of the site! And in recent weeks we have also be doting on a project that she was the lead role in entitled Room For Rent, having featured the film itself as well as having the film’s screenwriter and director featured here in our Month of Horror series. It’s the great Lin Shaye, Everyone!

Horror fans would obviously embrace this incredibly talented actress for her work in the Insidious and a plethora of other incredible projects, including our old friend David Dubos’s forthcoming NOLA-base thriller, Bayou Tales. Others will recognize her for her amazing character work in legendary Farrelly Brothers hits like Dumb & Dumber, There’s Something About Mary, and our most prized and personal favorite here at TWS, Kingpin which features our dear friend Vanessa Angel. Lin has amassed such a large body of work both within the horror genre and beyond. She has appeared in some of the most legendary films in the horror genre including A Nightmare on Elm Street, Critters 2, 2001 Maniacs, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, and just so many more! We are so excited to have an absolute on-screen legend at the top of our Month of Horror!

So Folks, please enjoy some incredible words from the absolute legend, Lin Shaye!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of acting? Was it an early aspiration you can always remember having since your youth, or did you just find yourself in this world one day?

What inspired me primarily is simple:   l love storytelling!…when I was little, I had no real “neighborhood friends”…(only my big brother Bob who definitely  would not play with me…!….but ironically would tell ME scary stories and also ironically would go one to becoming a champion of story telling himself, as he later created New Line Cinema, and some of the great Horror films of our time!)  …I spent lots of time by myself, with my dolls, and stuffed animals..I gratefully had a voracious and vivid imagination filled with detail and flights of fancy..I loved taking the clothes out of my closet, (much to my mom’s dismay!) and with my imaginary “stuffed friends”  I would dress up in different outfits, and me and my gang would make up stories where I would act out all the characters, and be the voices of all the dolls and animals.  I also loved pretending to be “someone else”…

What was your first paid gig in the world of acting? And were there any kind of lessons learned from this project that still affect your work today?

My first “paid gig” was when I was finally doing plays in New York.  I always pursued theater in high school and college though never thought about it as any kind of a career…it was just fun, and something I seemed to be good at….”pretending” to be other people…Most of the theater I did however was “equity waiver” which meant a play would run for 6 weeks, and the actors received NO PAY…I did not care in the least….My first “equity show” was at the Chelsea Theater Center.  It was The Screens:  a 5 hour play by Jean Genet.  5 hours….there was a dinner break for the audience!..I was non-union at the time.  I ended up understudying  the role I had auditioned for and wanted, but did not get, (which was usually the case!) and was given one line as a non-equity member in the ensemble…when I finally got to go on as “understudy” for a wonderful character I had auditioned for, (described as “the ugliest girl in the world,”  who wore a burlap bag on her head, covering it completely for the entire performance) that made me eligible to become a member of Actor’s Equity…the coveted and necessary union to be in, if you were serious about theater in New York…I think then, they “paid me”…the lesson learned?  Never give up, and you never know what will lead to what when you persevere….even if it looks bleak at the moment!

 

 

I absolutely LOVED your performance in the recently released film Room For Rent. I am curious to know what drew you to this delightfully bizarre tale? And how was your experience in making this wonderful film?

Thank you for seeing Room for Rent.  My “experience” with it is long and intense…and I love the character of Joyce almost more than any I have played.  The short hand is:  I had worked with Tommy Stovall the director 2 times before, and always loved and respected him.  He lives in Sedona…not a part of the “Hollywood scene”…a great person and talented artist.  He sent me the script on 2 separate occasions.  I did not like it at the first read…it was about “a psychopathic killer…blah blah blah…”  nothing new or interesting to me.  It did not impress me either on the second read, and as I was “turning it down for the 2nd time…and on the phone with Tommy…I tacked on to my “decline”…” you know?…it would be so much more interesting if this woman is not “crazy” but a victim of her circumstances, stemming from an abusive husband who pretty much “kept her as his ‘maid'” for the years of their marriage, and how, with his demise, she was left with no money and zero skills on how to navigate life for herself in this world…”  ..a woman who would lose herself in romance novels and fantasy because of her pain and loneliness”…bingo…yes…that was a good idea.!!!..and that was how Joyce began to evolve and  decline into a deranged madness when she felt betrayed. I actually wrote all the “romance novel” passages!….trying to marry the ideas in the novels  to the life and problems she was having for real!   I believe there are many women we will never know of,  who are “kept captive” by the men in their lives today..even with all the “me too” awareness, etc. now..and probably always….still all over the world, who are never allowed to experience love, freedom or themselves.

Beyond the world of horror, you also appeared in one of my favorite comedic films of all time, and gave another incredible performance. And that film was of course, 1996’s Kingpin, which also happened to feature our friend and past guest Vanessa Angel. So somewhat of the same question, how was your experience working on this insanely hilarious film?

Kingpin is still my all time favorite.  also truly long story.  The Farrellys did not want to see me for the role:  “the angriest ugliest woman God ever let loose on the planet”…their words…not mine.  I created that entire character…again in my bedroom all by myself !…wardrobe, hair coming out of my nostrils (actually eye lashes!) filthy hair, disgusting smoker, etc. and BEGGED over and over and over again to PLEASE LET ME COME IN AND READ.!!..but the answer was always:  “we love your work, but just don’t think you are right for this.”…..Finally a week before they were supposed to start shooting, I  got one of the producers on the phone and begged!!  BEGGGED!…telling him   “I have an entire presentation I have worked really hard on to show them”  He was in a good mood, liked me from Dumb and Dumber and said “Ok…sure, come in tomorrow”..OMG….Dressed totally as Mrs. Dumars I drove to Santa Monica to their office, sat on the floor (there were no casting chairs left!) for half hour while casting walked by me over and over…finally looking down in disbelief uttering:  “LIN???? I thought you were a homeless woman off the streets…we were just going to call the police!”…I guess I “nailed it”…!….or they were too afraid of me to say “no!”..

In your own personal opinion, what do you believe it is that makes the horror genre special? What sets it apart from other genres you have worked in?

Horror to me is special because it deals primarily with FEAR….experiencing fear with others in a safe place, is wonderful….and especially because it IS all “pretend,” but allows you to delve into your taboo places in public and safety.  Adrenaline is an addictive and  legal drug…

What is your favorite scary movie?

Favorite scary movie?  The Shining.

Do you have any plans for this coming Halloween? And fun traditions that you try to stick to every year?

I have no plans for Halloween….the most I have “celebrated,” since being a Panda and a Flapper as a kid.! ….has been at the Blumhouse Halloween party the last 2 years…!…Being “anonymous” is really fun..That is my favorite kind of costume, generally….Knowing people don’t know who you are is surprisingly freeing!…

 

 

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

Lots of goodies coming:  Grudge …a reboot of the original, produced by Sam Rami and directed by Nicholas Pesce (The Eyes of My Mother)  opens wide on January 6 2020!…I have a fantastic role and you will all be scared to death!..  I am also in the New Penny Dreadful for Showtime….a fantastic series unlike the last 3 seasons….it is all about Los Angeles and the evil and corruption that existed in 1938…a fantastic cast, and fantastic character…Also a film called Gothic Harvest, was released on DVD and Digital on Oct. 15, 2019 and will be on DVD Nov. 5, 2019,…AND.. my brother Bob Shaye who created New Line Cinema is releasing a film he directed,  called Ambition. which will also have a VOD, digital and DVD release later this year…….I gratefully have a cool role in that as well……all really cool stories!

What was the last thing that scared the hell out of you?

DONALD TRUMP.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

My dog…..and this last question…… xx

 

 

John Harrison [Interview]

Welcome to Day 28 of Trainwreck’d Society’s Annual Month of Horror Showcase! We have a fully loaded month of all things horror for you fine folks! October is our favorite month for this very reason, and we are so excited to share 31 full days of film showcases and interviews with some of the finest folks from the world of horror, just as we have been doing for the last 6 years. What started as a simple 5 day showcase, has now blossomed into a full blown month long event. You’re going to love this! Enjoy!

 

It’s Day 28, Folks! Halloween is damn near upon us, and we are still rolling with some incredible interviews. Today’s interview subject is a man who has done some legendary work in the world of horror in the past, and right up to this very day! It’s John Harrison, Everyone! John has done so much incredible work as a filmmaker and composer on so many incredible projects, including the acclaimed Romero 1985 follow up film Day of the Dead, the television adaptation of Dune, 1982’s incredible Romero/Stephen King collab Creepshow, and more recently directing a handful of episodes of the reboot of the aforementioned Creepshow that is available now on Shudder and is getting some damn good reviews for damn good reasons.

John is also an executive producer behind yet another television adaptation of the the legendary tale of Dune that is slated to release next year, and we could not be any more excited about it. He has done some incredible work within the world of horror and beyond, and we are so excited to share his words with you all today. So Folks, please enjoy some beautiful words from the brilliant John Harrison!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of filmmaking? was it an early aspiration you can always remember having since your youth, or did you just find yourself in this world one day?

I’ve always loved movies and theater. When I was in middle school, our classes were taken to the symphony and theater as part of our ‘cultural education’. At the time, the American Conservatory Theater was in residence in Pittsburgh where I grew up. A fantastic theater company (in residence since the 60’s in San Francisco), doing all kinds of unbelievable work. Everything from Shakespeare, to Pirandello, to Albee and Pinter. I was blown away. I’d never seen anything so good. The experience made me want to be in that world somehow. So I studied theater in boston, then film and TV later in Pittsburgh. My partners and I then put a small production company together, which led to meeting George Romero. The rest is history.

What was your first paid gig in the world of filmmaking? and were there any kind of lessons learned from this project that still affect your work today?

I had an internship for a while at WQED in Pittsburgh, and there were small films we did for that PBS station. But my first professional paid gig came through our small production company my partners and I had. It was a documentary about drug addiction for a local foundation. Relatively low budget. great experience, trying to produce a half hour film, soup to nuts, and deliver on budget and schedule. That kind of indie production was what it was all about in Pittsburgh back in the day, and the skills we developed have always stayed with me.

In 1985 you worked on the now legendary film Day of the Dead. It remains to this day as one of my favorite horror films of all time. I am curious to know how your experience was working on this amazing project?

It was my second time working with George Romero as his assistant director and composer. (the first was Creepshow). It was a difficult shoot. Weeks and weeks in an old limestone mine in the middle of winter. But it was great fun. we were young, and george had a way of making everyone on the crew feel important. Of course, I had the luxury of being next to him the entire time, from prep, to shoot, to post. The best film school I could have ever wished for.

 

 

In your own personal opinion, what do you believe it is that makes the horror genre special? what sets it apart from other genres you have worked in?

The brilliance of the best horror is that it deals with the human condition and all of its rawness in an archtypal and primal way. Horror has existed as a medium for as long as we’ve told each other stories, in all art forms, from Euripides to Dante to Goya to Shelley, Stoker, Poe, and of course, the founders and staples of 20th and 21st century horror – Lovecraft, Cronenberg, King, Rice, Barker, Craven, Romero etc. The fact that it remains a genre used by these artists throughout history speaks for itself.

What is your favorite scary movie?

Too many to list. But one that had a profound effect on me as a kid was Robert Wise’s interpretation of the Shirley Jackson novel, The Haunting Of Hill House. It was a great influence on me. and it’s still scary as hell.

Do you have any plans for this coming Halloween? Any fun traditions that you try to stick to every year?

Since I just directed episodes of the new Creepshow series (on Shudder TV now) I’m going to spend Halloween at Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights where they’re doing a Creepshow homage.

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

Obviously, I’d love everyone to tune in the new Creepshow, executive produced by my pal, Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead). We tried very hard to honor George and Steve King’s original style, and I think we were successful. it’s going to be a really good show.

A paranormal thriller I wrote is off to publishers at the moment, and we’re hoping it’s out next year. while I wait to find out if Creepshow gets picked up, I’m finishing another novel, this one a supernatural psychological thriller. (i get bored easily, in case you hadn’t guessed).

What was the last thing that scared the hell out of you?

The nightmare I had last night. I really can’t remember it much, but I remember finally realizing it was a dream and had one hell of a time waking myself up. At least I think I did.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Waking up. I think.

 

 

Robert Zappia [Interview]

 

Welcome to Day 27 of Trainwreck’d Society’s Annual Month of Horror Showcase! We have a fully loaded month of all things horror for you fine folks! October is our favorite month for this very reason, and we are so excited to share 31 full days of film showcases and interviews with some of the finest folks from the world of horror, just as we have been doing for the last 6 years. What started as a simple 5 day showcase, has now blossomed into a full blown month long event. You’re going to love this! Enjoy!

Hello Folks! Welcome to the final week of our Month of Horror series! It’s hard to believe that it is almost all over…for this year. Today we have some incredible words from an absolutely amazing writer with an incredible story to tell. It’s Robert Zappia, Everyone! Robert is not only a legendary figure in the world of horror, he is also an accomplished television writer and screenwriter outside of the genre as well. As he will discuss below, he was a wonderful driving force behind the writing of one of our most beloved sitcoms, Home Improvement, featuring our near and dear friend Patricia Richardson, and so much more.

In the world of horror, Robert is the man who would bring us the return of Jamie Lee Curtis to the Halloween franchise with Halloween: H2O, which is a personal favorite of mine, as it came out right around the perfect age for me to begin enjoying horror films, and seeing an addition to this legendary franchise in theaters was an incredible event to my 13 year old self. I am forever grateful for this film. It featured 100% more LL Cool J than the original film, and for that it was worth the price of admission and more.

We are so excited to have Robert grace our digital pages and share some words with you all today. So Folks, please enjoy some incredible words and beautiful stories from the brilliant Robert Zappia!

What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment and filmmaking? Was it an early aspiration you can always remember having since your youth, or did you just find yourself in this world one day?

My father was an Emmy award winning editor. So I guess you could say I grew up around the industry. He edited all the Norman Lear shows (e.g. All in the Family, Maude, Jeffersons, etc…), in the nineties he edited shows like Roseanne, Boy Meets World, Home Improvement and on and on. He helped develop the Avid multi-camera hardware/software, as well. From an early age I saw literally how a story was put together visually. How it could be changed by changing the order in which you placed scenes or cut scenes and so forth.

But I think the real moment that I saw myself getting into the world of entertainment was when I saw Star Wars at the ripe ol’ age of eight. That was a seminal moment for me. I saw it at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. I still get goosebumps when I think of that opening shot of the seamlessly endless Star Destroyer flying overhead.

Initially, I thought I would be a director. Even through my years at U.S.C. I thought that’s where I’d find myself. But for various reasons, I came to the realization that what I enjoyed the most was taking an idea from inception to completion on the page. After that, it seemed just seemed like labor to take it from the page to the screen.

What was your first paid gig for writing? And were there any kind of lessons learned from this project that still affect your work today?

My very first paid gig was an episode of Home Improvement. I was 23 and my first script was writing for the number one show on television. No pressure there. Lol. Let me back up a bit…well, a lot…

When I graduated from U.S.C. I expected there to be a line of studio execs with scripts in hand clamoring for the my talents. Not so much. Not one studio. Not one script. Not one job offer. Well, one…a production assistant gig on a new television show on NBC called Carol & Company. And I think the main reason I was offered the job was because I had a car phone – an absolute rarity in 1986. Carol Burnett was making her return to prime time with a new series created by Matt Williams (who had written for The Cosby Show, A Different World and created the hit sitcom Roseanne). Having no other options that didn’t involve flipping something on a grill, I took the job with a smile. And boy am I glad I did….

I’m not saying being a production assistant was fun. It wasn’t. You’re basically an errand boy with a title that sounds kind of cool to people who don’t really know any better. My first spec I wrote was a half-hour Carol & Company that was 72 pages long (they’re supposed to be about half that – and no, I wasn’t going for a two-parter). I would come in to work after the writers finished working on that week’s script (typically around 3-4 AM to make copies for the cast and crew). So in I come at 4 AM with my 72 page “half-hour” script. I go right into Matt William’s office – who had probably been up for 48 plus hours straight at that point – and I asked, “Matt, I just wrote this spec Carol & Company. Would you read it?” And God bless the man, without skipping a beat, he said, “DId you really? That’s great. I ‘d love to read it.” He asked that I be patient with him because his schedule was pretty heavy (gee, you think?) and that he would definitely read it and get back to me. And that’s exactly what he did – maybe three weeks later he called me into his office…

He spent close to an hour with me going through the script, giving me notes, etc… It was fantastic. I was getting paid to learn from one of the most talented creative forces I’ve worked with in my career. It suddenly made making a writers’ room full of cappucinos (no Starbucks in those days, kids) worth every froth job gone bad. Matt told me what books to read (The Art of Dramatic Writing, Write That Play, Screenplay by Syd Field, etc…). I read them all. Twice. Then wrote another script, then another and another. Each time giving them to Matt to read and getting his notes. I remember on one of my scripts Matt telling me to rewrite it without the jokes. I remember thinking, “Huh? It’s a sitcom – situation-COMEDY. No jokes?” Matt’s point was that I was writing to the joke rather than letting the character and situation create the humor. That was such a great exercise and a valuable lesson that I’ve never forgotten when writing comedy.

Matt was about to create a new show and he told me he wanted to promote me to a writer’s assistant so I would be in the room with the other writers and could learn even more seeing the “inner workings” of the writing process. That new show was Home Improvement. What an incredible experience it was seeing that show created from the ground up. Being in the writers’ room was an invaluable experience for me. It was my job to take notes as the writers pitched out the show. It was great to get into their minds and see how the process worked…how they broke a story…how they rewrote an episode…etc… It really demystified the process for me.

I continued to write specs and turn them in to Matt. At the end of the first season Matt told me he felt I was ready to tackle a script for the show. My own episode! That was definitely one of the high points in my career.

In 1998, you left your mark in the extremely popular and beloved Halloween franchise with the wonderful Halloween H20. I am curious to know how it feels to be a part of this legacy? And what made you want to become a part of this world?

I’d say being a part of the Halloween legacy was a dream come true, but truthfully, I never even thought it was a possibility. The original Halloween was one of the first horror films I ever saw. I had seen the original as a teen and it scared the wits out of me. I couldn’t look out a window without imagining the Shape standing there in the yard. And the iconic theme song was one of the first I learned to play on the piano. The thought of one day actually writing an installment of the franchise just hadn’t entered my mind. The job actually came about in a circuitous way…

I was working in television at the time writing for sitcoms. I had written for Home Improvement and had finished work on a short-lived sitcom starring David Chapelle called Buddies. During that hiatus, I wrote a spec sci-fi feature called Population Zero. Writing feature films was always my ultimate goal, so every hiatus I would write a new spec with hopes of selling it. And while Population Zero didn’t sell, it did catch the attention of an executive at Dimension Films named Richard Potter.

My agent arranged for a general interview with Richard. We talked about the spec script and such. I clicked with Richard from the minute we started chatting. Just a really good, down-to- earth exec. Richard said they’d really like to work with me but the only writing assignment they had open was a direct-to-home video release of Halloween 7, would I be interested? WOULD I BE INTERESTED?! Uh, yes….yes, I would.

ANY chance to be a part of the Halloween franchise was such an exciting thought (whether it was released theatrically or not)! But as you know, once Jamie Lee Curtis signed on it became a whole other level of awesome.

 

 

Beyond the world of horror, you also wrote for a number of years on a brilliant television series, which features our dear friend Patricia Richardson, entitled Home Improvement. So how was your experience working on this legendary show?

In a word…AMAZING.

In a few words…the cast and crew were like family. It really was a special group of people; many of whom I’m still close friends with today.

In quite a few more words…

My first spec I ever wrote was when I was production assistant on a half-hour show called Carol & Company (starring Carol Burnett). The show was created by Matt Williams (at the time he had just come off the hit show Roseanne that he created). The spec for the show I wrote was 72 pages long (they’re supposed to be about half that – and no, I wasn’t going for a two-parter). I would come in to work after the writers finished working on that week’s script (typically around 3-4 AM to make copies for the cast and crew). So in I come at 4 AM with my 72 page “half- hour” script. I go right into Matt William’s office – who had probably been up for 48 plus hours straight at that point – and I asked, “Matt, I just wrote this spec Carol & Company. Would you read it?” And God bless the man, without skipping a beat, he said, “DId you really? That’s great. I ‘d love to read it.” He asked that I be patient with him because his schedule was pretty heavy (gee, you think?) and that he would definitely read it and get back to me. And that’s exactly what he did – maybe three weeks later he called me into his office…

He spent close to an hour with me going through the script, giving me notes, etc… It was fantastic. I was getting paid to learn from one of the most talented creative forces I’ve worked

with in my career. It suddenly made making a writers’ room full of cappuccinos (no Starbucks in those days, kids) worth every froth job gone bad. Matt told me what books to read (The Art of Dramatic Writing, Write That Play, Screenplay by Syd Field, etc…). I read them all. Twice. Then wrote another script, then another and another. Each time giving them to Matt to read and getting his notes. I remember on one of my scripts Matt telling me to rewrite it without the jokes. I remember thinking, “Huh? It’s a sitcom – situation-COMEDY. No jokes?” Matt’s point was that I was writing to the joke rather than letting the character and situation create the humor. That was such a great exercise and a valuable lesson that I’ve never forgotten when writing comedy.

Matt was about to create a new show and he told me he wanted to promote me to a writer’s assistant so I would be in the room with the other writers and could learn even more seeing the “inner workings” of the writing process. That new show was Home Improvement. What an incredible experience it was seeing that show created from the ground up. Being in the writers’ room was an invaluable experience for me. It was my job to take notes as the writers pitched out the show. It was great to get into their minds and see how the process worked…how they broke a story…how they rewrote an episode…etc… It really demystified the process for me.

I continued to write specs and turn them in to Matt. At the end of the first season Matt told me he felt I was ready to tackle a script for the show. My own episode! That was definitely one of the high points in my career. What a thrill it was to be 23 years old and writing for the #1 show on television viewed by more than 20 million people each week. It was surreal and I’ll be forever grateful to Matt for the opportunity.

In your own personal opinion, what do you believe it is that makes the horror genre special? What sets it apart from other genres you have worked in?

For me, fear is such a primal human emotion. The whole “fight or flight” response that’s been baked into our DNA. The horror genre taps into that fear. And if done well, can generate that same adrenaline rush we feel from a terrifying experience – all from the safety of a darkened movie theater. There’s no other genre that can emulate that adrenaline like horror. That’s what makes it special to me.

You have an absolutely massive body of work, according to IMDb, in just about every job available in the world of film! So with that, what would you say is your favorite part of the filmmaking process? If you were strapped to only work in one gig, which would it be?

I have a love-hate relationship with writing. I LOVE having written. It’s the writing part, that can be torture at times. From FADE IN to FADE OUT it’s a constant wrestling match – wrestling with words, wrestling with characters, wrestling with story…and on and on. With that said, there’s NOTHING like taking a blank page and filling it with characters and story.

So, when you ask if I were strapped to only work in one gig, it’d be writing. Creating something from nothing. It’s intoxicating (and probably speaks to my need for “control”). And if I could ONLY write in one genre, it would definitely be the thriller/horror genre. I love films where the stakes are high. And there are no bigger stakes than life and death.

What is your favorite scary movie?

If I had to pick one favorite I’d say Halloween. And If I had to pick the scariest scary movie, I’d say The Exorcist.

Do you have any plans for this coming Halloween? And fun traditions that you try to stick to every year?

Now that our kids are grown, our Halloween tradition has changed from taking them from door-to-door collecting candy to staying home and handing out candy. Of course, I always sit down an

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

We’re slated to start filming a supernatural thriller I wrote called The Devil’s Flame early next year. I’ve been sworn to secrecy, but am excited for the fans of the genre to see this one. Here’s the logline: Based on true events. In response to this “astonishing” increase in demand for exorcisms, the Vatican opens a secret exorcism training academy where a young, gifted nun defies the church leadership to join her colleagues in the battle of good versus ultimate evil. If you’re a fan of exorcism films, I believe this is going to deliver the goods (and the evil)!

What was the last thing that scared the hell out of you?

My son’s college tuition statement.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Typing FADE OUT. Makes me smile Every. Single. Damn. Time.