Q: HEADER is an intense, often hard to watch horror movie. Why decide to do something so extreme?
At the time, none of the authors I was reading had movie adaptations. I felt there was a niche for this type of extreme horror that was going untapped. As I started to produce Header, I realized there might be a reason this hasn't been attempted before. It's almost impossible to get a movie like Header distributed. Then there's the fact that name actors aren't going to want to be attached, and investors don't want to risk their money with what they consider to be brutal smut. I did it for the challenge. When Lee wrote it he was breaking new ground. He took a chance to do something he loved without anyone telling him no. I was able to do the same thing when I made Header into a movie.
Q: HEADER is a surprisingly faithful adaptation of Ed Lee's novella. What did you find was the most challenging aspect of working on the script?
The narration in the book was just as rich and entertaining as the character's dialogue. Adapting the book into a script meant loosing that, which made some of the scenes feel a little more serious than in the book. I punched up Grandpap's character and made him lovable. He's the nicest devil butt lickin' bastard you'll ever meet. When he dies I wanted the audience to feel something, even though he was the antagonist. I also needed to punch up the ATF officer's story. So I weaved in a nice backstory for him and his girlfriend. They came from a big city, they were saving up to get married, she hated going from a jet-set city life to slow-poke provincial life. So I had to show why Kathy would do what she does, as well as why Stewart would go through such lengths to make her better. Their plans were put on hold, their love was in jeopardy and he was willing to do anything he could to get back what they had. Kathy would rather escape reality than face it head on. When everything comes around full circle it makes their actions more plausible. In the book Kathy was his wife, but that meant she'd be entitled to sweet government health care benefits. There wouldn't be a need to run drugs for money. As his girfriend, she doesn't get squat, so Stew has to break the law for them to get by. I also couldn't afford to do a silicone body cast for Betty Sue. Her character was supposed to be pregnant and Travis would bang her on the hood of his car and suck milk from her big sloshy titties. It seemed gratuitous and slowed down the momentum of the story. And I couldn't afford to set anything on fire. That involves a lot of permits, firemen, equipment, insurance, etc., so I had to rework what Stew does after he shoots Dutch and Spaz.
Q: Were Ed (Lee) and Dallas' (Mayr) cameos intended from the get-go?
I always planned on having Lee in the movie as a cop. When John Boorman made Deliverance he cast James Dickey, the author, in a small role in the film as a sheriff. I wanted to do the same thing with Lee.
Q: How did you wrangle the Jack Ketchum cameo?
Dallas and I had been getting to know each other at the time, so I asked Dallas to audition too. Dallas had acted before so I knew he'd get a kick out of it. Lee was a different story. Having Dallas in the same scene as Lee helped put Lee at ease and made the experience so much more rewarding. He'll be able to look back and remember doing something special with a dear friend of his. I think it turned out great. I've since bunked with Dallas at Necon and visit him when I'm in the city. I can't think of a more entertaining individual. If you ever get the chance to hear him read his work aloud, jump on it. You'll get goosebumps.
Q: How did you go about casting the other actors? Did any of them have problems with the content?
We used the traditional channels of indie filmmaking. We cast in NYC and advertised in Backstage. We didn't have the money to use a casting agency, or SAG actors for that matter. It was too expensive to fly day players back and forth from NYC, so for the smaller roles I used actors from Rochester.
None of them had a problem with the content while we were shooting. It was like a little family on set. Lots of emotions and comradery, but no one was ever taken back by the content. We were just having fun.
Dick Mullaney was the only one to give me a hard time before the shoot. He was perfect for the role as Grandpap. But he really had to overcome his doubts about performing as Grandpap. He's in his 80's, a lovable grandfather, and I needed to do a little convincing - 3 hours worth. He eventually came around. And I'm so happy he did. He was the gem of the production.
Q: Where was the movie shot and how long did it take to shoot?
We shot it in Western NY in parts of Williamsville, Springville, and Ellicotville. It had the hilly terrain we needed to have it feel like West Virginia. We couldn't afford to have a production in WV, and Mike Anthony knew some folks out near Buffalo with lots of land to play on.
I scheduled an aggressive 20 day shoot. 18 to 20 hour days with way too much rain. We walked around in hip boots and parkas half the time. You'd never know it watching the movie though. We actually finished a day early. Mike and I are good that way.
Q: Who did your special effects? They are very well-done.
I went to Horrorfind and spoke to Tom Savini. I sent him the script and he really liked it, but there was a conflict with the shooting schedule. He was working on something else at the time. So he put me in touch with his special effects make-up program at the Douglas Education Center in PA. I wound up getting four of their top students. We paid them all and gave them a great learning experience. Everyone learned something shooting Header, especially myself. This was my first movie. Usually first time indie flicks are about teens or college of something small scale. Instead, I'm dealing with ATF officers, homicidal hillbillies, pyrotechnics, squibs, guns, drills, and elaborate make-up effects. Alex Marthaller was the lead FX artist, so we met up prior to production and went over everything I envisioned. He and I really got along and shared the same ideas for the movie. These guys punched individual hairs in Grandpap's stumps, made a sick head rig for the Chessy Kinney Header scene that had a plaster skull, gelatin brain, and blood bladder that pumped once the membrane was sliced open. Very skilled people. The school really prepares their students for the working world. Like I said, I told them what I wanted and they delivered. Right out of school. They all really came through and did an amazing job. Tom should be very proud.
Q: How has the response been to the movie so far?
It's been surprisingly well received for a being a first time director and having no budget. 99% of the industry reviews have been positive. Some say it's the best grindhouse movie of the 21st century. We set out to make a grindhouse flick, not a horror movie, and that's exactly what we accomplished. It's funny that we made it years before the whole grindhouse kick took off though. And I'm extremely glad Fangoria has been supportive over the years. They really helped us reach a larger audience. They knew we had something special. What we lacked in money, we definitely made up with creativity.
People familiar with Lee really love the movie. And Lee himself likes it, which means the world to me. I did it for him as much as I did it for myself.
The general public doesn't like it so much. Good. Fuck 'em. It's not for them. They have no idea what we were up against making it. How difficult everything was. If they only knew all the shit I had to overcome to get the movie to where it is. Everyone seems to be a critic these days. I truly believe there are other things people should take a stand against in this world - hunger, genocide, health care, taxes, sustainability - but for someone to criticize someone's movie, a little creepy movie that isn't hurting anyone, a movie that was made for squat, yet appears to have had a budget three times that of what it was, someone's artistic endeavor, my passion, then they can suck my dick as they swing from my balls of steel. I was brave enough to make it knowing it wasn't for everyone. But nowadays everyone's got a blog about something. Everyone's got a soap box to shout from thinking their opinions on art actually matter. I'd love to give them all a Header. But yeah, the horror community really digs the movie.
Q: Also, you used a pseudonym for director.... why do this?
Lee uses one. Dallas uses one. So I used one. Plus, If I make a kid's flick, I don't want it to be associated with Header. All my extreme work will be an Archie Flancranstin production. For anything else, I'll use my real name.
Q: Do you plan on adapting any other Ed Lee or maybe even a Jack Ketchum novel in the future?
Totally. But you know how much money was given to me to make Header? NONE. Mike Anthony and I had to use our own money. Every single problem I had with Header was due to the lack of money. So we're trying to find people willing to finance our next project. Andrew van den Houten seems to have the Jack Ketchum work covered. And he's doing a great job with it. Maybe we'll collaborate on a project together. I was supposed to help Nutman with The Crossings, but he's been MIA. So we'll see. Lee and I have written a script based on one of his extreme works. I just need to get the money to produce it. I've also written a couple scripts of my own. Header was just the beginning for me. I'm looking forward to making many more movies.
Q: How can people purchase HEADER?
Surprisingly, I'm seeing it all over the place. The easiest way to buy it is over at amazon.com and www.synapse-films.com. And there's a SHITLOAD of torrents. Torrents really hurt productions like this. Please don't use them. I'm not Hollywood. You're not sticking it to the man if you download Header for free. I'm glad my movie is out there, but it's still a business. I'd love to stop eating tuna for dinner everynight. Authors and filmmakers are the last one's to get paid in the chain of distribution. Torrents hurt indies to the extent that sometimes there's nothing left to pay the folks who actually made the movie. But I digress, just keep telling your friends about it. Throw a Header party and have fun. I hope we made something that will be talked about for years to come. Enjoy!