Q: ACID BATH reminds me a lot of early Ted Mikels (THE CORPSE GRINDERS) and Herschell Gordon Lewis…what was your influence in writing the story?
That's a huge compliment and a very difficult question to answer. My filmmaking partner Annette Martinez and I have been inspired by so many great filmmakers, the list would be endless! Our stories are influenced by movies from almost every genre and by other forms of art as well. As far as movies in particular, we enjoy everything from THE ELEPHANT MAN, to GRUESOME TWOSOME, or METROPOLIS, UN CHIEN ANDALOU, STREET TRASH, JAWS, HE NEVER DIES, or NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD for example which we give a big tip of the hat to. There's also EVIL DEAD, BAD TASTE, AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, or VIDEODROME. There's also all of the Hong Kong action flicks like Jackie Chan's SNAKE IN EAGLE'S SHADOW, or Yu Wang's MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE, and John Woo's THE KILLER, etc. We also love all of the vintage titles that are distributed by SOMETHING WEIRD VIDEO.
As for direct influences on ACID BATH specifically, our first concept was based on a completely different treatment that was heavily influenced by Shinya Tsukamoto's TETSUO: THE IRON MAN. Eventually we felt it was too heavily influenced and we decided to take a different path because there's already a great movie just like TETSUO… his! Ha ha! Brian De Palma's DRESSED TO KILL is a very slick and polished movie that showed us what we needed to try and achieve in regards to the slasher genre. We have a brief moment in our intro that spoofs the shower scene. DRESSED TO KILL set a standard that Annette and I knew was a high watermark for slasher flicks because the raw extremeness is there but it's carried out in a very refined manner that shows a high level of skill. I can't say we achieved anything close to that but it was definitely an influence that encouraged us to try our best for quality. DEATH WISH was also another influence in terms of the underground street elements.
Not to be forgotten, of course, is the influence of comic books. One of the best things my father ever did for me as a kid was introduce me to comics. One day he came home with a big box of comics that he got somewhere and there were all these great titles like PLOP which had covers by the late great Basil Wolverton. Sergio Aragones, creator of the barbarian spoof classic GROO also did a bunch of short comics in PLOP. Apart from those there were all the other popular titles like Spider-Man, Hulk, Captain America, Kamandi, and a whole slew of horror comics from the 70's like Dracula, The Werewolf, Swamp Thing… the list just goes on and on. Artist Jack King Kirby also single handedly created many, if not most, of the main staple characters for MARVEL COMICS and he should never be forgotten. So, in the 70's I was a mainstream comics fan, then a few years later in the early 80's I saw HEAVY METAL the animated motion picture and everything changed! After I discovered HEAVY METAL MAGAZINE my interest in comics shifted to more adult themes. Richard Corben is the artist whose work most influenced HEAVY METAL the movie and I love his work tremendously. He's been a very influential artist that I'm lucky enough to call a friend. He's a fantastic underground filmmaker as well. Apart from Richard Corben, there are also all of the other early HEAVY METAL artists such as Moebius, Vaughn Bode`, Caza, Voss, Juan Gimenez, Liberatore, Enki Bilal, Angus McKee, et al. Katsuhiro Otomo's AKIRA (the animated feature and the comic series), is another of my all time favorites.
Q: What is your background as a filmmaker?
When I was growing up, movie theatres were like a daycare center for me. I spent a lot of time there. My parents weren't around much when I was a kid and my older brother ended up taking care of me. He and his friends had older buddies that worked at theatres, so the cinema was always a main hang out for us. They'd go make-out with their girlfriends in the back or smoke weed or drink and I got to hang out and watch all kinds of great movies like PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN, DEMON SEED, WHITE LINE FEVER, et cetera. That was my early education in cinema appreciation. I've also been an artist since I could hold a pen so I was making crude attempts at design and flip book animation since very early on. When STAR WARS came out it caught my attention in a big way, from then on I became extremely fascinated with Sci-Fi and special effects.
Around age fifteen I started writing a lot (still have bad grammar, too). It was at that point that I began to work out short film concepts. But, in all honesty, I still had no idea that what I was trying to create was movies. To me they were just stories that I was working through in my head. I never really gave myself enough credit to think I could make anything of my art. It was all just fantasy play in my head if you know what I mean. Eventually I decided I wanted to do comics, so a few years later I ended up doing a bunch of short comics and reviews for free press zines. During that time I wrote and drew my own comics and I also interviewed comic creators like Richard Corben and Jan Strnad or Harvey Pekar and Joice Brabner who ended up having their personal story told in the movie AMERICAN SPLENDOR. During that time Annette and I had met and started developing movie ideas. Her background is in the Performing Arts and mine is in the Visual Arts and since we both like to write, everything fell into place creatively. It wasn't until several years later that we actually picked up a physical movie camera because we didn't have the means yet and growing up neither of us had movie cameras at home. We did have 35mm still cameras and were both interested in photography. At age 16, Annette was given a professional 35mm still camera and was given the responsibility of documenting all family events from that point on. They were very supportive of the arts and she was encouraged to further explore photography.
We took advantage of what was available at Community College and covered as much ground as we could. Collectively we've studied things like drawing, painting, ceramics, illustration, music, mass communications, cinema as literature, computer graphics, drama, etc. That's when Annette and I decided we needed to take the plunge. We had a background that was good enough to get started and we had been developing scripts and storyboards for several years so we borrowed money and got a camera. From then on we started making our own shorts and began working out ideas for the small screen. She and I have also both worked on other people's productions to gain real experience and also to avoid being too insular. We've worked as props makers, casting assistants, done grip work, 2nd AD work, lighting, make-up, acting, writing, editing, and all kinds of other fun stuff. Our film school education has come in many forms and is in no uncertain terms based on the "learn by doing" approach. Neither one of us has gone to a proper film school but we show our movies to our friends that have and we let them critique our work. Independently we've written, produced, directed and cut a number of shorts and music videos. In 2003 we completed CANNIBAL MANIAC, which is a 23-minute experimental horror/action short that's been screened as far as Brazil. That received some notice and a couple of awards such as "Best Special Effects" and "Most Horrifying Short". At the end of 2004 we also cut together a music video for THE ACCUSED from Seattle. NATIONAL EMBALMING SCHOOL aka.,"NES" can be downloaded at our home site and was backed by the good folks at SOMETHING WEIRD VIDEO.
Last but not least we have our first feature length movie ACID BATH which has made its way into the Hollywood studio system and is being passed around by various established filmmakers that are currently producing horror films. Most of them have been very nice and extremely supportive and others of them have been very quiet. The only thing I make of that quietness is that either they hope no one else has seen the movie and they can rip ideas without being found out or they're scared we like butcher knives a little too much! One producer we were put in touch with straight out said, "You could make an entire movie about a killer using just the vintage footage the way you guys did". Well… we did! Hey seriously, people "borrow" ideas too freely in the movie industry and we've even had people close to us take our ideas and sometimes even give them to other filmmakers to develop. My question is this, why not include us to help them make their movies rather than steal the ideas and give them to someone else that will only make a generic copy? We understand there is a collective unconscious and strange similarities do occur from movie to movie but filmmakers are always looking for ideas and sometimes people's ethics get thrown into the shitter. That's unfortunate. The positive side of things is that because of ACID BATH we have come to know some excellent industry professionals that are very much in support of what we're doing and we genuinely appreciate their friendship. ACID BATH is the new chapter in our development, it's fast, chaotic, pays tribute to the masters, and strikes out on it's as a movie. We're blazing the trail as best as we can for better or for worse and we make no apologies for that. We want to entertain audiences and we take lots of chances!
Q: You and Annette Martinez, in addition to being the producers, also have parts in the movie…were these written specifically for you or was it more a matter of filling a part?
It was sort of a combination of both. We knew that ACID BATH would take us a couple of years to complete so we needed actors that would always be available in order to help tell the story. We're lucky to have had several very dedicated actors who were willing and able to commit to their roles for an extended period of time. Because of peoples work schedules and normal every day responsibilities, most of the scenes were shot on weekends, and other off days. That limits the amount of shooting time available. In order to aid productivity Annette and I played characters because we were always more or less available to work on short notice or under other inconvenient circumstances. We also love movies tremendously, so being able to contribute as actors is great fun despite the fact that it's one of the greatest challenges.
Q: Talk about the other actors involved…
The other actors involved are a mixture of close friends and various actors that we auditioned. Chris Macedo for example who plays our main sicko is a good friend that's been a part of almost every movie we've made. He played a kick-ass punk/raver looking Park Ranger in CANNIBAL MANIAC. He does a lot of great work and has a natural understanding of the filmmaking process. Matt Ursin who plays a bounty hunter and does some flashy stuff with the nunchucks is a martial arts weapons expert and another good friend of ours. Santos Ivey is a huge movie nut that we've known for a few years now. He saw our last movie and liked what we did so we all decided to work him into the cast and before we knew it he had created his own character! He took off completely on his own and created that Crime Boss persona. He's a great guy and is nothing like the character he plays in the movie but he really understood that role.
Our glamour girl Lauren jenifer Gates flew in from New Jersey to L.A. in order to shoot her scenes. Lauren, who plays Delish, is a buddy of Annette's. They met in an acting class 5 years ago. Some of her many talents are singing, directing her own projects, and she has also been featured in PLAYBOY MAGAZINE. Tomiko is a very accomplished actress we found online. We had to schedule her shooting day about 2 months in advance because she's always working but she set aside a day for us and she was great. Strangely, that day that we shot with her almost everything went wrong but she never complained and she gave us an awesome performance. Erin Neumeyer is an actress from our auditions. We liked her a lot because she was able to let go and allowed us to push her in that role. Sue Nami is a very talented child actress whose first role was at age 4 in a college theatre performance. For that role she received an award of recognition by the KENNEDY CENTER for Theatrical Arts. She's a gifted musician as well and has been in a few of our previous movies. Ilya Vostok who not only did great work as our street walker Trixie, was a real trooper and sat through a full day of gore make-up applications by Jason Sanchez. We use Ilya's image a lot in our promo pieces. Lola Zabagabe is a nutty chick we know from way back, she looks killer in a leopard pattern coat and groovy shades! Ellen Webber is an actress who auditioned and got the part of the TV show host Kathy Knight. She was very convincing and was perfect for the role.
Other cast members such as the guys that play the extra guards later in the movie were co-workers that have been in other short films. They really pulled through for us by jumping in towards the tail end of the production. We shot a bunch of material after hours at the company where I used to work. It was a great thing to be able to do that and I was lucky that my boss at that time was cool enough to let us do our thing there.
One of the best characters in the movie is played by Film Threat's own Eric Campos. We met him at a film fest and he liked our work so we kept in touch and later asked him if he'd like to be in our next movie. It was a big challenge to try and come up with something that would do him justice because we knew he wanted a hardcore death scene. We had a lot of fun working with Eric. Much like almost everyone else in the movie, he gets fucked up!
My uncle is also in the movie very briefly as a crazy guard. Annette's dad is also in there and he did a killer job with his character. He's got a lot of natural talent and acting is second nature to him so we gave him a challenging role and made him work! Haha!
Erich Muller is another actor we got ahold of through our auditions. He has a different martial arts background than our other actors so it was fun to have him help us mix things up a little. He assisted with the fight choreography for his scene. That guy is very dedicated to his craft in every respect and was willing to kick around in the dirt. I hope we get to work with him again; he's very good at what he does.
Q: The acid bath scenes are quite gruesome. How did you go about doing the effects?
Thanks Gravedigger! Annette and myself using various off the shelf materials did almost all of the effects. We like to do everything practically unless there's an effect that requires something we can't create with our hands and imaginations. We use a lot of the staple tricks, corn syrup and food coloring for blood, liquid latex, homemade dummies, smoke, make-up, appliances, props, etc., and we also do a lot of CG effects in subtle ways that help convince viewers of certain things.
In addition to our effects work, Jason Sanchez who studied at Joe Blasco's School of Make-Up in Hollywood created some amazingly gory effects. He's the artist responsible for the acid bath scene where you see actress Ilya Vostok's breasts and upper body all blistered and chemical burned. Jason has a studio in Long Beach, CA., and he currently teaches make-up artistry. His effects looked really gross in person and came across very nicely on screen.
Q: What was the most difficult aspect of making the movie? What was the easiest? How long did it take to complete the picture?
ACID BATH took us two years to complete and it really kicked our ass! When I say we by the way I mean Annette, myself, and everyone involved. We all worked tirelessly until we felt the movie had been pushed as far it could go. One of the toughest aspects was trying to fulfill our vision without compromising so much that the movie would lose its edge. Despite our "never say die" attitude we ultimately accepted that there were some things we wouldn't be able to do. There wasn't much that was easy about this project but what helped were all the laughs along the way. Most of us live in scattered locations around Los Angeles so it was a great excuse to meet up and have some fun. For example, filmmaker Augie Arredondo who made THE HOLY TERROR helped us out on 2nd Camera, & did some 2nd AD work. Former co-worker Bill McDonald took on the role of Props Master and built the rocket launcher. Their work and everyone else's helped create that special magic that gives the movie its charm.
Q: Are you working on any other projects?
Currently we're working on several projects. We have a few scripts in various stages of development and a completed treatment by the name of MARTHA SPLATTERHEAD that's being passed around. That's another project we've had in development for awhile which is based on an original property by Thomas Niemeyer. If we can find somebody with enough guts to back that movie, audiences around the world will be in for the ride of their lives! While on the subject of Tom Niemeyer who is the guitarist of THE ACCUSED, I would like to add a few words about all of the bands that supported this project. They're all very cool and we appreciate their contributions to ACID BATH. Without them our soundtrack would've never happened and we wish them much success in their musical endeavors. Special Thanks to THE ACCUSED from Seattle, FLAWED from San Fernando, CA., Haut Chachi's from Canada, MACAKONGS 2099 from the capital city of Brazil- Brasilia D.F., NEW MAXIMUMDONKEY from Los Angeles, RAIVOPAAT from Finland, ROMAK AND THE SPACE PIRATES from Orange County, SLOBOT from Spartanburg SC, and THING from Canada.
Until next time, stay tuned for another WARPED REALITY PICTURES genre mixing abomination.