Jon McBride has worked as an actor, director, writer and producer. His low budget horror features have gone on to become cult classics and continue to generate a steady following.
Jon has also appeared in numerous television shows, commercials, print advertisements and industrial films, as well as the NBC soap opera "Days Of Our Lives."
Although Jon has worked on both sides of the camera and in every aspect of production, his favorite past time is acting in horror movies. Especially lower budget B-movies.
Jon just recently appeared in "Feeders 2: Slay Bells" a sequel to the 1996 sleeper hit "Feeders" which is now available on video and was produced by Polonia Brothers Entertainment. He is currently working on a horror novel and soon plans to team up with Polonia Brothers in another joint venture; a sci-fi movie entitled "Robocidal."
1. For those who don't know, please tell us your film credits over the years?
I've worked under various job titles on the movies CANNIBAL CAMPOUT (actor, writer, director, producer), WOODCHIPPER MASSACRE (actor, writer, director, producer), BLADES (actor), THE RUNNING MAN (actor), PASSION FLOWER (stunt double, production assistant), BLIND JUSTICE (production assistant), FEEDERS (actor, director), TERROR HOUSE (actor, director), FEEDERS 2: SLAY BELLS (actor, second unit director).
2. You've worked as an actor, director and producer at various times. Which do you enjoy the most and why?
It really depends on the project. Each job is so different and carries varied weights of responsibility. As an actor I tend to enjoy the roles that are quite different from myself and allow me the chance to stretch and play a totally different person. The best compliment I've ever gotten is someone telling me that they didn't know it was me in the part. I've always thought that was what real acting was all about.
Working as a director is enjoyable in a different way. Directors are usually puzzle solvers. They find a way to make things fit, regardless. There is also a certain satisfaction pulling a scene together and seeing it come alive. Although directing can have it's share of headaches too, especially when you're working low budget. You don't have the cushioning around you that a major production has thus you find yourself having to do much more than directing sometimes.
Producing can have different connotations too. Sometimes producing just means coming up with the money. Other times it's taking control of every aspect from pre-production to post and distribution as well.
Above all, my favorite part of movie making is post production. I am most at ease in the editing bay and absolutely love the process molding all the elements into the best form possible. I can, and have, spent weeks at a time in this sequestered atmosphere and almost have to be dragged out of it. It's nirvana for me. I'd live in an editing bay if given the chance…and enough pizza.
3. You've done some work in TV and on soaps as well, right? How was that?
An absolute blast. There's nothing quite like working on a soap set and the experience was quite different from the way I thought it was going to be. I think working a full time gig on a soap would be one of the best jobs any actor could ask for. Learning all those lines every day can be grueling and a bit unnerving at times but it's wonderful training and a heck of a lot of fun.
I've worked on CAPITOL, YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS and DAYS OF OUR LIVES and I'd have to say that DAYS was my favorite and most rewarding experience, starting with the audition. When I read for Doris Sabbaugh (the casting director) I was understandably nervous but she was, without a doubt, one of the most gracious and pleasant women I had ever met. She put me at ease from the very start and I'll always have very warm feelings for her.
4. Which of your films do you feel turned out the best?
A difficult question. I feel that each one turned out 'best' in different ways. Sometimes it's the lighting, sometimes it's the performances, sometimes it's the music score, sometimes the editing or cinematography or pacing. It just depends. The term 'best' is also subjective to a degree. CANNIBAL was the goriest and one of the most successful but I thought WOODCHIPPER was technically superior and had a better story. I favored the lighting in TERROR HOUSE and the digital FX in FEEDERS. Every movie was best in it's own way. Now, if I had to pick a 'favorite' and not 'best' I'd probably have to say FEEDERS.
5. Do you have a "no-nudity" clause in most of your contracts as an actor? Have you had to perform in such a manner or topless?
laughs Ummm…no to both questions. No one has ever asked me to perform in that manner, nor could I imagine anyone wanting me to. Unless it were a comedy. If the situation did in fact ever arise I wouldn't be very comfortable with it and would have to decline unless a body double could be used or I was paid a huge amount of cash.
6. Who are some of the people you enjoy working with the most?
It all boils down to personality for me. I like to work with people who a) love what they're doing, b) want to be there rather than feel they have to be there, c) have a fairly good sense of humor, d) don't take themselves too seriously, yet e) are prepared and professional in what they do.
Recently, working with Mark and John Polonia again was a great experience. I've done four movies with them so far and can't wait to do another. These are the type of film makers that everyone should get to work with if given the chance.
7. What are some of your favorite horror films? Any that influenced you as an actor or to pursue a career in low budget films?
My favorites are so varied. I grew up on them and couldn't get enough. Creature Features was a big deal for me as well as anything that looked remotely scary on TV and I stayed up all hours of the night to see anything that even hinted of horror.
The original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was the first movie to seriously effect me and definitely influenced me to some degree. THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN was another even though it's technically regarded as sci-fi, however I classify it as horror since it scared me on a deep, primal level. DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT is another gem in my book and a must see for any low budget movie maker. Others that come to mind include EVIL DEAD, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, THE INNOCENTS, THE CHANGELING, THE DEAD ZONE, THE STEPFATHER, THE FLY (both versions), THE NIGHT STALKER, RE-ANIMATOR, THE HOWLING, DAWN OF THE DEAD, HORROR HOTEL, THE NANNY, FIEND WITHOUT A FACE, THEM!, THE STEPFORD WIVES, THE OMEN, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (original), …and just about any old black and white Universal movie.
In high school I lived for the weekends and a night at the drive in or local theater that showed the low budget horror fests. I vividly recall that period in my life with huge affection and have always thought it was a great time for Independent Horror with titles like WITHOUT WARNING, PIECES (the line "He killed her while she was still alive" has to be one of the best EVER), PHANTASM, THE PROWLER, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, DON'T GO IN THE WOODS, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, MOTEL HELL, INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN…now those were exciting times for horror aficionados. Sure, some of them wouldn't make it as classics but they certainly were entertaining. Usually I went with friends who were into horror too although I recall some truly disastrous dates where my taste in movies was simply not appreciated. Which leads me to my one and only advice on dating. Never take a girl you've just met to see MOTHER'S DAY.
I remember thinking to myself how much fun it would be to act in these types of movies. I never thought that watching a Hollywood film. The low budget horror films just seemed to fuel my imagination more and whenever someone asked me what kind of part I wanted to audition for my answer was always "A really gory horror movie." Maybe it was the FX makeup, or that for some reason I thought it looked like the people in those movies were having a good time…I'm not entirely sure. But to this day I'd rather be in a horror movie than any other genre.
Recently I've been watching a lot of Italian horror movies after a friend turned me on to them, specifically Argento and Fulci and I really enjoy their style. TENEBRE and HOUSE BY THE CEMETARY are standouts so far but I still have many more on my viewing wish list.
8. Seen anything scary lately ??
Definitely. I loved THE SIXTH SENSE and thought it was one of the best movies I'd seen in a long time. Go see it if you haven't already.
9. Does the term low budget tend to put people off when discussing movies ?
It depends on who you're talking to. If you're using the term with Hollywood high rollers, yeah. The term 'low budget' seems to be taboo. Those people want to spend money, and lots of it. The bigger they can raise the budget, the bigger their cut will be and that's the name of the game for them. They aren't concerned with films of a low budget nature and couldn't make one even if their lives depended on it.
In the real world however, I think that people are becoming more and more attracted to the term based primarily on the success of BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. I hope that the newly generated interest in 'low budget' now isn't just a fad. It takes a very special type of person to make a low budget movie and I admire each and every one of them. Personally I would much rather watch a movie that someone shot for a couple hundred bucks than 90% of the stuff that comes out of Hollywood. I've always felt that there is no real talent required in making a movie when you have fifty million to spend however making a movie for nothing is another story entirely. Those people are true film makers in my book.
10. What are some of the biggest problems that come up when working in b-films?
That's an easy one. The biggest problem is lack of money. Without it, you're much more vulnerable than if you had a big fat budget. Your control is excruciatingly limited. Factors like actors schedules, locations, FX, props, etc. are restricted and there is only so much you can do with what you have available.
However that can also be the best asset to a b-movie. Lack of money creates incentive and ingenuity which sometimes makes a low budget movie shine.
11. Any strange or memorable moments happen to you over the years while working on a movie?
One of the most memorable moments happened on CANNIBAL when we were shooting a scene in the woods involving our female lead running from a machete wielding psycho. The two were supposed to appear running over the top of a hill and down towards the crew and camera. Once we were rolling someone noticed that a forest ranger had stumbled onto our set…except he didn't seem to know it was a set or even see the camera and crew. What he did see was a bleeding girl screaming at the top of her lungs and running from a large man in an aviator helmet waving a gore streaked machete. I saw the horrified look on the ranger and had one of those instant flashes of dread, just knowing that he was going to draw a gun and shoot our actor. We immediately stopped the camera, made ourselves known and somehow talked our way out getting thrown in jail.
On another occasion we had been shooting at an abandoned camp ground which could only be accessed by hiking from the highway and we all parked our cars and vehicles in an area directly across from a very swanky restaurant. At the end of the day most of the cast was covered in fake blood…and I do mean covered. The expression on the patrons faces in the restaurant as they watched the gore streaked cast file out of the woods and into their cars was priceless.
Recently while watching the Steve Martin movie BOWFINGER I remembered a particularly insane idea that was hatched during the CANNIBAL shoot. One of the cast members lived near JAWS star Roy Scheider and mentioned that he did a lot of jogging. We planned to set up the camera in a hidden area, capture the unsuspecting Roy jogging on tape, insert one of our killers jumping out of the woods and swinging a machete at the camera, then cutting to a shot of blood splattering and adding the credit 'AND ROY SCHEIDER AS THE JOGGER.' Needless to say our better judgment won out and we abandoned that idea.
The black and white rape/dismemberment scene in CANNIBAL was one of he first scenes shot and was done on Easter Sunday. Somehow Easter's never been the same for me. I just know I'm going to Hell for that.
Looking back it's a wonder we didn't get arrested at some point during that shoot.
12. Are there any actors or actresses you'd like to work with in the future?
The question really should be, are there any that would want to work with me? To be honest, I've never considered acting to be my strong suit. The main reason I end up being in my movies is because I know I'm going to be on the set and available at any time. Nothing can be more frustrating than waiting endlessly for an actor to show up and by casting myself I don't have that worry.
But, yes, there are many actors and actresses I'd love to work with if given the chance. Far too many to even try to list.
13. What else do you do other than work in the film industry if anything?
I've also been involved in the music industry and have worked on quite a few music videos that have been shown on MTV. I've produced longform videos for MCA artists including Tom Petty, Heavy D. & The Boyz, Stephanie Mills, Spyro Gyra and The Lightning Seeds.
14. What was your least favorite movie to work on?
Probably BLADES but not because of anything to do with cast or crew, all of who were great people. BLADES was simply an exhausting shoot from start to finish and I was toast by the end. Late night shooting coupled with the horrendous distance it took to get to the location just wiped me out and it's tough to focus and act when you're totally exhausted. Actually, I was so tired when we shot the first scene in the movie that I had to make a crib sheet with some of my lines and taped it to the back of the Doritos bag I was holding. And having to continuously eat those Doritos take after take didn't help my queasy stomach either.
15. Any directors you'd really like to work with?
Just about anyone who has a good story to tell.
16. Do you have any thing new coming out that fans can look for in the near future?
Yes, a few things actually. I just finished making another movie with the Polonia brothers called DWELLER. It's about three bank robbers who lay low in the woods after a heist and are ultimately stalked by a creature from another dimension. Kind of a SLIDERS meets PREDATOR sort of thing. My character is totally unlikable in this, a real villain, which I loved doing. I think playing good guy roles can get rather boring. It's the villains who have all the fun. The movie is being edited at the moment and will hopefully be completed in a few months.
I've also just signed a deal with Imperial Entertainment who is hoping to shoot one of my scripts within the year; a vampire story.
17. Do you have a special movie idea or script that you'd like to see get made sometime before you get out of the business?
Oh, I have many. My file cabinet is crammed full of scripts, outlines, and ideas for all sorts of projects. My vampire script is a real favorite and the type of movie that I've been wanting to see made for a number of years now primarily because it pulls no punches and is 100% horror, much in the same way that I feel NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was. I've always felt that true horror is something brutal and savage and unrelenting, not a very safe place to be in. I'm always disappointed when I see a horror movie sugar coat itself or try to be cute instead of scary. Granted, there are many different types of horror however the type of horror movie I've been waiting for just never seemed to materialize so I decided to write it myself. That's what writers should do anyway. Always write for yourself, never for others.
18. Anything that fans out there would be surprised to know about Jon McBride?
That's another difficult question because I don't really know how I'm perceived. Some might find it surprising that I write a lot of comedy, especially after reading some of my darker material. I've found that once a person gains any sort of notoriety whatsoever they are usually pigeonholed into that particular genre. I've found it amusing that some people think I can only write horror but then the people who only know me for my comedy material find it surprising when they learn about my horror background. But then, it seems to me that most people into horror have a good, albeit twisted, sense of humor. The two seem to be entwined somehow.
A lot of people don't know I was in a band called SILENCE for a while. I played keyboards, wrote some of the songs and sang back up vocals. We even made an album that John Ashton of THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS produced. Don't bother looking for it though. We never got a record deal. The experience was a lot of fun though.
Basically I'm just a big horror fan like everyone else who visits this website and constantly on the look out for yet another movie to watch. One of my favorite past times is still watching horror flicks with friends, comparing them and exchanging bits of trivia.
19. Do you collect any type of horror stuff (tapes, magazines, etc.)?
You bet! I have quite a collection of Fangoria magazines and a ton of horror TV shows and movies on video which just gets bigger and bigger as the years pass. I also have quite a collection of movie posters that I've been collecting all my life and really treasure them, especially my HOWLING poster. It's one of my all time favorite movie posters.
20. What is the state of American Horror films today in your opinion?
Uh oh, now you asked for it. Insofar as the major studios go, I think the American Horror film is about as bad as you can get these days. And not just bad. BAAAAAAD! I'm talking bottom of the barrel stuff here.
Most of the movies I've seen have been uninteresting, unoriginal, dull, blatantly terrible movies that make me feel I've been ripped off both time and money wise. Case in point; THE HAUNTING. I was absolutely appalled at this one. I mean, here you have one of the most powerful production companies in the world with infinite financial resources and a vast talent pool and that's what they offered the movie going public? There was simply no excuse for it. Of course, at that level, it's not about movie making or craft. It's about money and profit. The studio heads these days are accountants and lawyers and making movies to them is an assembly line job. It's not about a love of film making. And I think things are only going to get worse before they get better.
However, when it comes to low budget American Horror films, I think it's a very exciting time and the opposite is true. With the advent of video and the Internet some very talented people are finally getting a break and able to get their material out into the public eye. I think the movies shot on video that I've seen recently have been quite entertaining and very well made. Just recently I saw one called BLOODLETTING that I enjoyed tremendously and would highly recommend. I've also enjoyed the ALIEN ADGENDA movies and applaud everyone involved. I think low budget Indy film makers are the ones who will ultimately keep horror alive and evolving because Hollywood simply won't or can't do it.
21. Any last thing you'd like to let the fans know? How they might get some of your movies?
Just to thank them for their kind words. I'm really thrilled that people have enjoyed some of my stuff. To be honest I'm still amazed at the number of people who have seen some of my movies and it's a little overwhelming at times. I never thought that some of them would get the attention they did and I'm grateful for that. Even if I never get to make another movie I'm happy that I was able to make a minuscule offering to the genre I've loved for so long.
And to any aspiring movie makers out there…JUST DO IT! Don't listen to anyone. Don't be discouraged. Don't take no for an answer. Don't be swayed. You don't need a lot of money, exotic sets or fancy equipment. Just grab your camcorder and some friends and begin shooting. Starting is half the battle.
Most of my movies can be found in video stores and various b-movie/horror tape sites around the Internet.