Read an exclusive Toxic Shock TV interview with director Jon Knautz on his recent film “Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer” starring Trevor Matthews and Robert Englund ( 2001 Maniacs: Beverly Hellbillys, A Nightmare on Elm Street ) as Professor Crowley.
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’m from Ottawa, Canada, and I’ve wanted to be a filmmaker since I can remember. Probably around 8 or 9 years old. Before that I wanted to be a ninja.
2. Who inspired you to become a filmmaker?
I can’t say that there was one individual person that inspired me, but I would definitely give credit to my Dad for exposing me to filmmaking. When I was a kid, my friends and I used to put on plays for my parents. We would drag them down into the basement whenever we had a new routine to show them. I never thought about it from my parent’s perspective, but that must have been annoying after a while. One day my Dad introduced me to the home video camera so that we could record our plays and watch it ourselves. The camera was a giant piece of equipment from the 80’s. It hooked up to a two component VCR. Basically the whole thing just sat on a table next to a TV in my basement. My Dad showed me how to point the camera and record things. He even showed me how to make things disappear by recording an object, then stopping the recording, moving the object out of frame, then pressing record again. At that point he made a “popping” noise with his mouth. When he played it back the object would disappear accompanied by my Dad’s awesome “Pop” noise. After that I was hooked. I pretty much made everything in my house disappear and reappear. Somehow, from that point, I moved into filmmaking.
3. Tell us about your latest film “Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer”, how did the film come about?
I think ultimately it came about from Trev and I just really wanting to make a feature film. We’ve always thought monsters were cool, and we figured we weren’t the only ones. We thought it would be fun to make a monster movie the old school way, ya know, no CGI. At first the story was going to be told in more of the classic “Slasher” format, where a bunch of college kids are killed off by a giant Tentacle Monster at a cottage (probably cause we were drunk at Trev’s cottage when we came up with the idea). But as we were developing, we kept adding to the Jack character, until we decided to make it more of a hero story, with Jack becoming a Monster Slayer.
4. I understand that “Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer” is your first full length feature film, how did your experience directing
the film differ from the other films you’ve directed.
The one main difference I really noticed was how much longer the shoot lasts. It can get pretty tiring shooting a short film for only 7 days, but Jack Brooks went for about 40 days. Thank God for Red Bull.
5. You’ve worked with Trevor Matthews on several of your other films. Was the part of Jack Brooks written with him in mind?
Yes it was. I like to base my characters off of myself or people I know. It’s always a good base to start from. It can help ground you as a writer. I knew Trev had the energy to play Jack. The anger issues were totally inspired from â€œPunch Drunk Loveâ€. Trev and I used to crack up watching Adam Sandler lose it in that movieâ€¦so entertaining. Trev definitely doesn’t have an anger problem but we thought it would be fun for him to play around with that concept as a character in a movie. I don’t believe Trev was really thinking of playing the part initially, but the more we talked about the character, the more excited he got. So when I actually sat down to write the script, I just kept picturing Trev as Jack. It totally helped me write the script.
6. From your experience, what do you think is the most important thing for a Director to bring to a set?
I wish I could say that it’s a hundred percent focus on the creative execution of the film, but having people skills is just as important. Film sets can get pretty stressful and sometimes people can get emotional considering how long a shoot can go on for. Being the director means you’re responsible for leading the team. And to keep people on course with following your vision you have to respect everyone on set and make the time to have discussions with them when need be. No matter how stressful and busy you get, it’s important to keep your cool at all times. That’s how you get the best out of everyone. Because at the end of the day, all that matters is what’s in the can.