1. Tell us a little about your background, where are you from and when did you decide that you wanted to become a filmmaker?
I grew up in Crestline Ohio, a small railroad town. I became interest in the magic of movies at an early age watching late night horror hosts The Ghoul and Big Chuck and little John as well as the Sat. afternoon movies, which were always genre films. I discovered Famous Monsters of Filmland, Fangoria, Cinemagic etc. while working at the local newsstand as a newspaper delivery boy. I began collecting them and reading all the articles on how movie magic was created. Once home video came out and movies became available I had insatiable appetite for horror films. I started collecting everything that I was to young to see when they came outâ€¦Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw, Exorcist etc. Iâ€™d sit around drawing monsters all the time. I wasnâ€™t big into sports and thingsâ€¦instead I preferred to sit in my basement drawing while watching monster flicks. At this point I had never thought about making movies because I was a kid from Ohio and Hollywood was a 3000 miles away and pretty much inaccessible.
I decided I wanted to pursue a career as an artist and took a lot of classes in and out of school and then after I graduated from High school I attended the Columbus College of art and design in Ohio, but it really wasnâ€™t what I wanted because at this point all I wanted to do was draw monsters. I decided to drop out of school and work the summer and then move to LA were I went to Joe Blascoâ€™s make-up School were I thought I might get the training I needed to begin working as a monster maker. But it didnâ€™t really offer me what I was looking for. It was mostly puff jockey make-up school beauty make-ups and such and the prosthetics course was really crude. I actually learned more about doing appliance sculptures and breakdown make-ups from books on make-up then I did at Blaskoâ€™s. So after graduating from the school I hit the pavement running and tried to get a job hustling my extremely crude portfolio around town. I went to Stan Winstonâ€™s and several other studios trying to get work. I finally caught a break when my future partner Howard Berger remembered my resume and needed a replacement at John Buechlerâ€™s MMI studio. Howard got a job working on Day of the Dead and he didnâ€™t want to leave Johns without finding a replacement. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I began working at MMI on films such as Troll, Terror Vision, ReAnimator, etc.
This is really where I learned the basics of creature making because John had a great crew of young sculptors and make-up people who I quickly picked up techniques from. The films were very low budget and most everyone was working for less then 200.00 a week. We usually lived with several other artists to share rentâ€¦and the hours worked were almost around the clock. If we had anytime off we were doing our own sculptures and make-ups trying to better our skills.
Anyway I began working around town on more and more projects as I honed my skills and my portfolio developed. I worked on Night of the Creeps, Predator, Aliens, Invaders from Mars, From Beyond, the Color Purple, Phantasm 2 etc.
Then in 1988 I opened my own studio KNB EFX Group with my partners Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero and we began with several very low budget projects in order to get credits keying our own films. We practically had to pay the producers to work on the films. But once we established a few credits we began pulling in bigger and bigger projects until eventually we were no longer the go to guys for gory movies, but we were the go to guys for more mainstream movies like Dances with Wolves.
Anyway its about this time I started coming up with my own project and Iâ€™d gotten the directing bug after supervising and designing key sequences for a bunch of projects like Tales From The Darkside the Movie and Jason Goes to Hell, Army of Darkness. Iâ€™d designed the gargoyle transformation for Tales from Darkside the Movie, and directed second unit FX sequences on Jason Goes To Hell but I really got the bug after working with Sam Raimi on AOD. Sam would give me a lot of responsibility setting up action effects shots for the film. Heâ€™d always ask us what can you do in these shots come up with something and show me when I come back. So weâ€™d stage all this action with puppets and guys in suits etc. because he wanted to fill the frame with action. Heâ€™d call me a young director in training and years later Sam recommended me to the Wishmaster producers to direct which became instrumental in me getting the gig. Sam had seen the Demolitionist and new what I could do with no money and the producers were looking for someone to pull off a film with tons of effects and have it in theaters in only six months from prep to finish. Around 1988 Iâ€™d written a 24 page treatment for From Dusk till Dawn and spent the next 10 years trying to get it made. Dusk was the first thing I really tried to push as a directing vehicle for myself but I soon found out that it was all a vicious circle. It was hard to get something going as a director if you hadnâ€™t directed before unless you have a project that attracts major talent. I had a script which I hired Quentin Tarantino to write but it was a hardcore horror film and we took it to every company in town only to be rejected by everyoneâ€¦They all hated it! Theyâ€™d call it a vulgar piece of crap. It didnâ€™t even matter that QT had penned the script even after Reservoir Dogs and Pulp fiction. In Hollywood, Horror Films are considered a notch above porn even when they make so much money.
2. Who inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Iâ€™m a huge John Carpenter Fan obviously Iâ€™ve called my company Precinct 13 Ent. And Dusk was my attempt to do a P13 style film with characters trapped in an isolated setting under siege. Thatâ€™s why Scott in the film has a Precinct 13 garage band shirt on in the film. Others whoâ€™ve inspired me are Sam Raimi, John Woo, Wes Craven, Spielberg etc. Iâ€™d grown up watching their films anticipating every new release.
3. Tell us about your latest film “The Rage” starring Andrew Divoff.
Hidden in his makeshift laboratory deep within a secluded forest, a scientist fallen into madness, has created the ultimate virus which he plans to unleash against our capitalist society. When his experiments on innocent victims donâ€™t go as planned, the abominations heâ€™s created break free and escape into the wilderness. The infection spreads as vultures devour the remains of his freakish monsters, transforming the birds into mutations driven by â€œThe Rage,â€ an insane blood lust for human flesh.
Iâ€™d been trying to find a project to re-team with Andrew and we wrote this especially for him to star in.
4. I understand that the film is being shot, edited and even the sound production is being done in-house. Sounds almost indie! Where there any pros and/or cons to producing the film outside of Hollywood?
All my films have been independent films… My first film The Demolitionist was made for under a million dollars and shot in 24 days with non-studio financing. Wishmaster was a 6 million dollar feature shot in 33 days for an independent distributor Live Ent, (later Artisan and now Lions Gate)
The best thing about producing my own film here in Ohio without Hollywood influence and financing is there are no other cooks in my kitchen. Demo was pretty cool as Don Borchers pretty much let me do what I wanted as long as I could pull it off on time and budget, but on Wishmaster there was a much bigger company / machine behind it. Everyone had their own ideas and it was a constant struggle trying to keep the stay true to the idea.
The hardest part of making movies in or outside of Hollywood is finding the money. The struggle is the same.
5. Tell us about your upcoming project “Dead Calling” starring P.J. Soles, Charles Cyphers and Ellie Cornell and others.
Iâ€™m attached to the project as director but the film is still not a go project. The producers are still working on there distribution and financing deals. So I think itâ€™s a ways off.
6. From your experience, what do you think is the most important thing for a Director to bring to a set?
You have to be prepared and have a definate idea about what you want. You also need to be able to think on your feet. Itâ€™s a collaborative medium so if you donâ€™t work well with people you shouldnâ€™t be there.
7. Along with being an acclaimed director and effects artist your also a writer. Some of your titles include “From Dusk Till Dawn” which you also provided effects and “The Demolitionist”, which you directed. Do you have any future writing projects in the works.
Everything Iâ€™m doing currently Iâ€™m collaborating on with other writers and filmmakers. John Bisson, John Esposito, Gary Jones, David Benullo, David Goodman are all filmmakers who are friends and who I have story ideas that weâ€™ve developed and worked on together.
I optioned a family sci fi project called Junk a few years back to Dimension films with Wes Craven attached but the project got stalled in the studio process.
Iâ€™m working on a film called Whacked that Iâ€™m doing with John Bisson and John Esposito but we are a ways off, as we have to first complete The Rage.
8. How about future directorial projects? Give us the scoop!
Iâ€™m attached to a couple of projects such as Dead Calling and Frost Bites (written by Dave Benullo) and I have several projects that Iâ€™m developing do direct as well.) But right now The Rage is my priority.
9. What do you think makes a scary movie scary?
Whatâ€™s scary for me is when you canâ€™t trust the filmmaker. As a director you want to make the audience not trust you. If they trust you then they will know whatâ€™s coming. You want to always try to keep them off balanced.
10. Do you have any advice to aspiring filmmakers?
Just keep pushing and never take give up. Itâ€™s a hard road and there are always people who put you down or criticize you or your work. You have to have a thick skin and not give a shit what they think. My wife gave me the following quote, which I keep taped to the side of my desk and I look at it whenever I feel overwhelmed or frustrated with the Industry.
“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood: who actually strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows the triumph of high achievment: and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”- THEADORE ROOSEVELT
11. When all is said and done, what 3 things would you like for people to remember about you?
My Loyalty, and that I never do anything half assed, and God willing my wife and me raise two honest goodhearted productive kids.
12. Here’s where we give you a word or phrase and you give us the first
thoughts that pop into your mind.
Toxic Shock TV: Bad Ass!
Favorite Genre: Action and Horror
I donâ€™t really have any. I have disappointments but never regrets. I donâ€™t dwell on the past. Itâ€™s all a learning experience.
There are several but Iâ€™ll refrain from saying who they are. In this industry you never know who youâ€™ll end up working with.
The funniest thing that has ever happened to you on a set:
Having several hundred Japanese extras laughing at me when I had to run into the Sumo wrestling ring on Goldmember and shove a cool suit umbilical up fat bastardâ€™s ass. I didnâ€™t even think about what I was doing. The camera was rolling and I looked over and there was this long blue cord hanging out and I just ran in quick and pushed it up inside. Suddenly everyone on stage busted a gut.
Your biggest “break-thru” moment:
Getting Dusk Produced because it gave me enough money to sink back into The Demolitionist which I only received $1,200.00 (yes that was hundred) dollars to direct. Welcome to moviemaking.
You can only watch three movies for the rest of your life, which three:
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Debbi Does Dallas
You can only listen to three ALBUMS for the rest of your life, which three:
Highway to Hell
Back In Black
Rob Zombie (Hillbilly Deluxe)