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Justin Channell
Horror Interview by The Gravedigger

Q: What is your background as a filmmaker? What got you interested in "indie" productions?

Well, I've wanted to make movies as long as I can remember. In fact, my first conscious memory is of being at a movie theater. But it all really got started when I was in junior high and met up with Joshua Lively and Zane Crosby over our mutual love of THE EVIL DEAD. We were renting a bunch of horror movies on VHS at the time and one of the first ones we ended up renting was "Cannibal Campout." That's definitely the first of the micro-budget indie movies I ever saw. About then, I started to pay more attention and realized there were several people getting their very-low-budget movies in stores. That made us start to think that we could be on the shelf as well and it kind of snowballed from there. I ended up getting to run a freelance fan site for Troma about that time and doing interviews with filmmakers Troma had picked up movies from really helped me learn a lot.

Q: How did the idea for WINNERS TAPE ALL: THE HENDERSON BROTHERS STORY come about?

I had come up with the idea back in 2010 when the horror VHS resurgence was really picking up. At first, I thought I'd do a straight-foward fake '80s VHS movie, but then other people started to do that. I'm a big fan of the British show Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, which has a similar framing device - a horror author finally getting to present his "masterpiece" TV show with interviews from the cast and crew placed throughout. I thought that same kind of style would work out for making a mockumentary about regional horror films. A lot of the time, the behind-the-scenes stories of low budget movies are more interesting than the movies themselves, so I thought it would be fun to explore crafting my own making-of story for movies that didn't really exist.

However, I started to shoot the real documentary segments and lost interest, so it sat on the shelf until Josh, Zane and I were ready to make another feature together and I pitched it as something we could do quickly and for little-to-no money. Then we started to come up with fake movies and crafted the backstory behind our would-be auteurs.

Q: Chris LaMartina portrays the fanboy who "discovers" these filmmakers. I noticed on imdb.com that you were an actor in Chris' PRESIDENT'S DAY-do you meet him then?

Oh no, I met Chris at a HorrorFind Weekend back in 2003, I think. We were introduced through Henrique Couto, who I had also met in person for the first time that weekend. Henrique introduced him as "my wop, Chris," and it wasn't until later that I was chatting with him on AOL Instant Messenger and I realized he was "Henrique's wop." He wasn't exactly thrilled to have that moniker.

Anyway, we both had our films distributed by Henrique's small DVD label, Freak Productions, and also both contributed short films to an anthology Henrique put together with us and Andrew Shearer called Faces of Schlock Vol. 2 back in 2005 (which was then later rebooted as a new anthology movie). I think President's Day was my first time actually working with him though. He and his collaborator Jimmy George run the most professional micro-budget film set I've seen though. I've even been to a LaMartina family dinner, where his nephew did one of the meanest impressions of a firetruck I've ever heard.

Q: How long did it take to complete, from planning to final edit?

Surprisingly, not long. We had 3 days of principal photography where we shot all of the scenes with Joshua Lively before he moved to Las Vegas, then one day in Baltimore where I shot all of Chris's interviews in about an hour or two and another day or two of pickup shots. All of my other films spent at least 6 months in production as we shot around peoples' schedules, but this one was completely finished and heading out to reviewers within 5 months.

The majority of the time spent editing was getting the look of the movies-within-the-movie right. I spent an incredible amount of time trying to make it look like Super8 or 16mm short ends before cropping it and dubbing it to VHS. Unfortunately, the drop to VHS resolution makes most of that work completely unnoticeable.

Q: What was the oddest thing that happened while making the movie?

Definitely the rainstorm we had on the day we shot the bulk of "Cannibal Swim Club." We hadn't planned for that to happen and thought we were screwed until we improvised and wrote it into the movie. I like what we came up with more than what had been scripted, so it was a blessing in disguise, especially considering how often weather causes problems for micro-budget filmmakers. It was the rainiest summer in recent memory and we felt like we had taken on mother nature and won by the end of the day.

Q: Is there going to be a sequel?

I can't say for sure, but there's potential. It's a really fun format to work with and I love the Henderson Brothers as characters, so we've been spitballing some ideas. Time will tell.

find information about Justin Channell at imdb.com find horror stuff by Justin Channell

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