Tell the Buried.com readers a bit about yourself and your background.
Way back in seventh grade, I attempted to make a stop-motion movie with my dad's 8mm camera. I had some difficulty, not just due to my inexperience, but also because the camera could not shoot single frame! I ended up pushing the shutter switch very quickly in order to expose as few frames as possible. Somehow, the 8mm film won first prize in my school's science fair, so I do call myself an "award-winning filmmaker"!
In high school I shot many super 8mm films with my classmates, using a very primitive double-system method - I ran a reel to reel tape recorder with music and narration while projecting the film. The two devices were never locked in sync. This made each showing unique.
Back then, you were considered nuts if you ran around with a camera trying to make your own movie. Now, they have "film schools". This is a wonderful racket and I wish I had gone to one.
This is your first B-movie feature - how did the idea for "Dr. Horror" come up?
I am a big follower of "backyard filmmaking", all the really interesting low-budget stuff being shot all around the country. I'm not a fan of the B-movies made in California - they are not interesting at all. It's product without passion. But there is a lot of creativity in the truly independent world - the world of the no-budgeter in Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, etc. The horror genre, in particular, is in good hands with these folks. I could not do what they do. I am a big fan of the "Alien Agenda/Conspiracy" series. That's my favorite of the "multi-director" projects. "GoreGoyles" looks interesting as well and there is good buzz about something called "Severe Injuries".
As for the nucleus of our film, I set out to make something decidedly anti-market, since there is no big fortune to be made in this end of the business anyway, unless you make a film with EROTIC in the title. That is the only rule I obeyed. "Dr. Horror" is a comedy - a parody of bad B-movies. At one point the cast breaks out into a musical number. Now, this is a tough sell in New Jersey, let alone the foreign cable TV market, but I didn't care.
We went with the anthology format, ala "House That Dripped Blood", "Tales From the Crypt", and so on, mostly because of low-budget logistics. We could take one week to shoot the wrap-arounds and then get specific cast members back at their convenience to do each separate story.
Brinke Stevens co-scripted the last third of the screenplay - what made you decide to bring her aboard in this capacity?
Brinke Stevens and Debbie Rochon are THE two leading low-budget horror heroines. Even their contemporaries admit that it's those two, and THEN comes everybody else.
If I were going to produce a disaster, at least I would do it with style. Debbie's passion is acting - More on her later. As for Brinke, and I know this is politically incorrect to express in the B-movie world, but they still do not take advantage of her acting range. Instead, they give her the same parts over and over. In Iowa, Max Collins gives her roles with real dialogue. Back in California, they dress her up like a witch and put "demon" contact lenses over her Mongolian eyes. Jesus!
Her true passion is writing and she is very prolific, from scripts to travel articles, but she is always so busy that I almost couldn't get her involved. Brinke appreciated the job opportunity, her first actually filmed script since "Teenage Exorcist", but she couldn't commit to it. Two weeks later, she got back to me. She really liked the work-in-progress reel I had sent and took the assignment. To me, that moment will always make "Dr. Horror" a success. There's a lot of in-jokes about Brinke's films scattered around our movie, and some fans have been picking them up! She was responsible for a good deal of the script for "The Perfect Woman" section and she did a terrific job.
Was Debbie Rochon your first choice for lead scream queen?
Casting was the one aspect of "Dr. Horror" where I would not take any risks. It's not the lack of money, lack of good lighting, or lack of good sound that diminishes many of the indie films - it's the lack of good acting. The smartest thing I ever did involving "Dr. Horror" was getting Debbie Rochon for the lead. The part of Valerie Kenton was written with her in mind. We had a meeting where she looked over the fifty-five pages of the script that I had written so far, and she though it was good enough to come aboard for. She was also anxious to tackle a different type of comedy. She's done well with the wacky Troma concepts, but this was an old-fashioned farce ala Blake Edwards or Billy Wilder of the 1960s.
She saved me so much time. I never told her what to do. By the way, you should always see what an actor does with her own interpretation of a script before you give your own suggestions. She was always ready to go, and as you know, low-budget is "rush, rush". She improved some of my more feeble lines. What didn't work, she made work. At one point, near the end of principal photography, she put forth an idea for a visual gag that I ended up shooting and it is possibly the best laugh in the film. This is why Debbie Rochon is always in demand. Of course, she is attractive and her smile adds much production value to a movie, but mostly she puts herself in the exact moment of a scene. You never catch her 'acting"!
I must also add that no one has done more to help get the word out about "Dr. Horror's Erotic House of Idiots" than Debbie.
How did you go about casting the other parts? Talk about the actors and the characters.
Debbie was a big help in casting the film. She recommended Trent Haaga for the part of Mark Adams, the guy who thinks he's hot stuff. I truly cannot say enough good things about Trent. He is a wonderful, funny, talented actor and quickly becoming a triple-threat in the independent film world. Trent's an experienced screenwriter as well. Michael R. Thomas is a long time friend of our associate producer, Rich Scrivani, and he agreed to come aboard not only as a featured player but our key make-up artist as well! He's a veteran of several E.I. Cinema productions and "Dr. Horror" is, in my opinion, his best showcase. To be honest, a lot of B-stars wanted to appear in the movie. They seemed to sense that our production was more than a bit unique
How did you get Conrad to give a good performance? (ha ha ha)
Conrad is such a staple in the B-movie world that the project wouldn't be complete without him appearing in it. However, we could not treat his involvement as a "goof". It's easy to just let him be Conrad Brooks, i.e., do his own thing or grab his characterization from an alternative acting universe. We worked on him, and Conrad worked as well. Halfway through shooting, I realized that Conrad was more attentive to George Ann Muller's blocking directions than mine. She is far cuter than I am, and that helped.
You've had the premiere showing in NYC - how was the response to it?
Overwhelmingly positive. The audience laughed throughout the film. The got all the B-movie references and Zacherley got big laughs every time he appeared. Debbie received a standing ovation after the end credits. You must understand that this is a two-hour, ten minute film and has an intermission, and yet it held the crowd. I did lose one person - Mike Raso of Surrender Cinema came just to meet one on the stars, Rachael Robbins, and tried to conduct his business during my event! During intermission, he was at a table with her and some contracts. He left right after he was finished, and never approached me or gave his thoughts or even said hello. I thought, from producer to producer, that he was a bit unprofessional with that behavior.
I received so many inquiries about another theatrical showing that I attempted to get a Saturday night showing at a place called VideoTheatre which is located way downtown. Like an idiot, I sent them two versions, one with intermssion and one without, and TWO entry fees. He cashed the checks, but never took the time to tell me the status of my potential showing Finally, the owner told me that my film was not MTV enough for his crowd, and that only friends and relatives would come to see it. It was a pretty rough letter and a copy hovers over my desk as a reminder to keep "Thinking Different".
You spoofed three different directors in the movie…why did you choose these particular three?
I actually tried to spoof the typical B-movie genres, and just attached the directors that normally handle them. They are the best at what they do, but they are not my low-budget heroes. Fred is the master of the "cinematic cliché", and I chose to parody his "Hybrid", because it's made ENTIRELY of clichés!
Jay Lind is at the other end of the spectrum - he truly believes he is creating art, and who can argue? But technically, he casts fate to the wind, with changing chroma balance and a rough audio mix. His passion is there and he is the opposite of Fred, whose work is not meant to be "art", but looks and sounds totally like a movie should. Jim Wynorski is a guy with a great sense of humor, who has made many of the "erotic thrillers" and I'm sure he will get a kick out of our "Deadly Passion of the Body of the Valley of Desire". We actually do a fourth parody with "The Zombie Husband", which pokes a bit of fun at Tempe and Full Moon, which insists that all zombies have to act and walk like those from "Night of the Living Dead". Rumor has it that they've viewed the section and liked it.
I should also mention that all the moviemakers we've parodied are far more successful than I am in the B-movie world, so the laugh will always be on me!
Anything else you wish to add/talk about?
I am very grateful for the interview and the opportunity to spread the word about our movie. If anyone is interested in getting the special edition DVD later this year, please check back to www.scrabo.com and we will keep you posted.
With that out of the way, I want to remind everyone of the wonderful no-budget films that are available through the Internet by many talented producers around the country. Many charge just 10.00 for their DVD(!) and we should get over the "Blockbuster" habit and support these films. You can also get the opportunity to actually e-mail the filmmakers and stars and tell them your reaction to their work, and how special is THAT?