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Daniel Zirilli
Horror Interview by The Gravedigger

Q: First, tell us a bit about yourself and what got you interested in filmmaking.

Daniel: I grew up in La Jolla California, which is a beautiful, but conservative, beach community. I thought I was going to be either a Lawyer, or a Marine Biologist- but when I came to LA to go to Pepperdine University (A fantastic school) I realized that I could be whatever I wanted to be. I started promoting dance clubs- such as SANDBOX (the first really happening club in the Santa Monica Promenade), shooting documentaries on the club scene and music videos for my band (DOGTAG). In my senior year at Pepperdine- I wrote a script (GLASS CASTLE) which I thought was great, but really sucked (most new writers think their works are masterpieces) but a film company on the Culver Studios lot liked my script enough to hire me after I graduated. They started a music video division that I worked my way up in- from production assistant- to practically running the Music Video company. It was good to be on the Lot, and I learned fast... but the president of the company was really shady- so I also learned what NOT to do. I left, then worked my way up in another company- and the same thing happened- I did all the work- the owner got all the credit & money. So I stepped off and opened my own company in 1990: popart film factory, and directed a music video for a pop song I wrote as a solo artist ("Fight 4 You" which still could/should become a hit for another artist) the song was produced by B.T. (famous for trance/electronic music). Bottom line: on a Sunday I finished editing my video, on that Monday I showed it to a record company guy- Steve Pena, who said: "We don't want to sign you as an artist- but Damn that video is great". He gave me $3,000. to direct a video the next weekend- for Bell & Dre "She's Gotta Have it" which I shot on film, in one of the clubs I was promoting. I was in the game (thanks Steve) and from that point on I did one music video after another until I was working with The Rolling Stones, and 200+ others. After about 7 years of back to back music video's- I moved to the Florida Keys to write the screenplay to my dream project- the true life of bootlegger, mafia-hustler, gunrunner, turned Mayor of Key West- Capt. Tony Tarracino. This is an Epic, so I'm still looking for proper financing for the Capt. Tony story. From the Keys, I directed a film "Winner Takes All" with B-real from Cypress Hill, Flesh from Bone Thuggs & Harmony, Domino, Rappin' 4-Tay, and AMG (I also played a Mafia underboss in it). Then went into pre-production on a 3.1 million dollar film "Bats" (as director/co-writer) but at the same time- the other Bats (with Lou Diamond Phillips) was going to beat us to the theaters... so our financier backed out. I ended up paying the crew out of my own pocket (30k!) and got beat back down to the minor leagues. Since then I've directed/written and or produced 6 films, and just got funded for 4 more... but they are very lowbudget. I guess the moral of my story is: You might have to get beat down a little, in order to move forward. But stay in the game...

Q: Which do you prefer-the creative process for a music video or for a feature?

Daniel: I just shot a music video for The Poww Brothers "Faithful" and a commercial for "Da Fam" in between my last film "Latin Kingz" and my next one "Vengeance". I think music videos and films are really the best mediums for directors to be creative and develop their style... as opposed to commercials and TV where many decisions are made be committee. I love music & film, so music videos are cool, but I was born to tell stories... write & direct feature films.

Q: Tell us about VOODOO MARDI GRAS... ..how long the production was, any anecdotes, the cast...

Daniel: Voodoo Mardi Gras is actually the foreign title of the film, it was released as Voodoo Tailz, November 5th (2002) in the US. I had the idea in my head for a few years... believe it or not there is a Morality Tale in there. I always thought in was dangerous for girls to get so drunk and act so crazy in a massive crowd like at Mardi Gras... So I wanted to show a possible outcome for irresponsible behavior, in a way that young people can relate to. In this case- one of the girls gets drugged and kidnapped. New Orleans was a perfect setting... the locations in which the story takes place have a ton of production value and texture: The French Quarter, a voodoo shop, a riverboat casino, a cemetery, the swamps... We shot the whole film in 10 days on 16mm for only 75k! Which is really hard to do, and part of the reason the film has flaws. Bottom line: You need to make the best possible film you can with whatever budget & time you have- and accept that it is not a perfect world. I choose my cast and crew carefully, because everyone needs to be on the same team, and everyone on this film (except 2 people) did a great job and I thank them. And thank you (executive producer) Quan Phillips for writing a check a day early, and saying "go make your film, and call me when you get back". Those are beautiful words from a financier. A few months before I shot Voodoo, I produced a prison drama in New Orleans for director/actor Moon Jones called "15-to-life"... so I had a great production base going into Voodoo. My leads are all talented, team players, and I thank them: Merlynne Williams, Stephanie Tremblay, Cyd Casados, AMG, and Moon Jones. Stefanie Tremblay was actually Miss New Orleans at the time we were shooting, and she was great at charming people for locations. There is some behind the scenes footage at the end of the film where she is tied up, dress ripped to shreds, with blood all over her, and she says "Hi, I'm Miss New Orleans, do I look pretty?". It was funny. Stefanie and Cyd Casados (Blood Feast 2) were very patient during that shack scene. They were tied up laying on the floor of a swamp shack in (fake) blood for hours. Stefanie's father came knocking on the door, and we told him of course it was a closed set...

Q: What sets it apart from other VOODOO movies?

Daniel: It sucks more. Just (half) kidding. Again- there are flaws in the film, but it is a fun movie that has a dramatic ending, with dynamic cinematography (by Neal Fredericks), great editing (by Vince Anido) a wicked score (by Nick Rivera, who scored the last Hellraiser film), set in amazing locations, with a cool multi-ethnic cast. It's just a slice of pop-culture that is not Camp, but also does not take itself too seriously. Thanks to sites like www.buried.com for giving ink to these little films, the underdogs... Another reason to watch Voodoo Tailz/Voodoo Mardi Gras on dvd is for the filmmakers commentary. D.P. Neal Fredericks and I speak about how we made the film in detail, and there is a lot to be learned from the good & bad about the process. With such small budgets- it's entirely within the reach of up & coming filmmakers to shoot films at this level. I welcome correspondence with people who are making films, and I can also get worthy films distributed. They can contact me through my website at www.popartfilmfactory.com

Q: Your director of photography, Neal Fredericks, worked on BLAIR WITCH. How did you two meet and how has that helped the production?

Daniel: Neal actually responded to a post I had on the internet for crew. Even though Blair Witch had a grainy look- I knew he could shoot clean 35 film, and I hired him to dp a music video I directed Playa Hamm featuring Jewell "2dacurb". Next, I brought Neal to Tahiti with me to shoot what we consider our best film to date: "The Stonecutter" (written by south seas painter Aad Van Der Heyde, I directed & produced it) A 35mm art film/fantasy shot in Moorea and Marlon Brando's private Atoll: Teti'aroa. It is a beautiful family film, with a universal message, that literally transcends all races and age groups. I know that is a marketing kiss of death to be all things to all people- but from my Thug friends in Ingelwood, to kids, to grand parents, to trendy/jaded L.A. types... everyone who has seen it, loves it. It's a true independent movie, told in a very unique narrative style, with stunning cinematography. If anyone judges Neal based on The Blair Witch only- this in the antidote. We need a Studio that will take a chance on it, (it deserves a limited theatrical or Art house release) because if the public see's the Stonecutter, it will be a wonderful success that is good for the world. We were working on it when 9/11 happened (I was in New York at the time, and saw the Twin Towers fall) and I really believed then, as I do now- that there is room for positive films- like the Stonecutter, and thriller/horror films like Voodoo. Neal is great to work with- because on the Stonecutter- I was very strict & specific about all the shots, and on Voodoo I was very loose, and some of the shots that Neal did on his day off, were the best shots in Voodoo. He and Joe Solari (1st AC) woke up before sunset and ran around Blair witch-style with his camera as the sun was coming up in the swamp. I've hired Neal already for 4 more films...

Q: Will there be more horror films for you in the future?

Daniel: I want to continue to direct diverse films- next up is Vengeance- a Latino Gangster film that I co-wrote & am directing in January. I also have a Horror script called "Suckers" which takes place in the Florida Everglades that I wrote with Bruce McAllister & Patrick Smith, and a horror/thriller called- "The Binder"... that takes place in the Rare/antiquarian book world (I am a collector). It has an amazing "hook" that I can't reveal for now. Also- I greenlit a film for Neal Fredericks to shoot/produce, with comic book artist Robert Napton directing. It's called Diablo, which I am executive producing. And... The sequel for Voodoo Tailz/Voodoo Mardi Gras is called "Voodoo Carnival" which takes place in Brazil during carnival (2004).

Q: Anything that you want to add?

Daniel: I'm always looking for cool projects, scripts, and even finished films, because I have fantastic distribution- for TV, foreign, and home video/DVD. Your readers can feel free to email or send materials to the address at my site www.popartfilmfactory.com And... I have not cracked the theatrical level yet- so of course I'm looking for bigger budgets/theatrical distribution... so I can have a chance to tell important stories on the level I am capable of...

Thanks for your support.

find information about Daniel Zirilli at imdb.com find horror stuff by Daniel Zirilli

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