Ron Ford -- known for writing and directing such interesting micro-budget fare as "Hollywood Mortuary" and "The Crawling Brain," as well as for scripting the 1994 video hit, "The Fear" -- recently moved the base of his Fat Free Features from Los Angeles to Spokane Washington. But the move does not seem to have slowed him down. He recently finished principal photography on his first Spokane-based horror movie, "The Snake-Man."
Q: So why the move north?
RF: To be closer to our families, basically. My wife is from here, and my family isn't far away. We're not getting any younger, my wife and I. And there have been health issues on both sides of our families, so we wanted to be closer. Fortunately, some of my LA financiers stuck with me through the move, because we got right into production just three months after I got here.
Q: That would be The Snake-Man. How did you organize that so quickly, being so new to an area?
RF: It was only possible by connecting with local filmmakers in the Spokane area, via the Internet, long before the move. Through Kevin Lindenmuth I learned of Spokane film makers Andy Kumpon and Wayne Spitzer, and their excellent short films "Last Stop Station" (Kumpon) and "Shadows in the Garden" (Spitzer). We became friends via e-mail. Then, later, they became part of my cast and crew.
Q: In what capacity?
RF: They each play major roles in the movie. In fact, Wayne plays the Snake-Man himself. Also, they are two of the main cameramen who shot the movie. Through them I met the other skilled locals who became members of the crew. Eric Gollinger shot much of the movie, as well as being instrumental in post, and playing a role. And of course there was effects guy Mitch Tiner.
Q: He made the impressive reptile man costumes?
RF: Yes, he designed, sculpted, cast, built and painted both of our creature costumes; as well as creating dozens of other effects for the movie. He's just an amazingly talented guy who has done this stuff all his life for fun. He loved having an actual movie to create his creatures for this time.
Q: How did the story come about?
RF: When the executive producers first approached me to do a picture for them, I submitted several ideas. One was just a sketch about a man slowly becoming a creature due to alien infection. But the creature is not evil; the people in the story were the true monsters. That idea was the one they wanted me to run with. It was called "Infected" at that time.
Q: There are aliens?
RF: Not any more. That part of the story changed. His infection is now from decidedly terrestrial sources. But the humans remain the monsters and the creatures remain sympathetic. The creatures themselves have a lot of screen time, and they have to remain believable and sympathetic. Like I said, Mitch did a terrific job bringing them to life.
Q: What's the story?
RF: It's different than anything I've done before. A man becomes a reptile creature due to an accident. He shuns society and hides in the deep forest. One day he rescues a woman who is wounded and dying. He gives her some of his DNA to save her life. She lives, but the reptile DNA starts to change her. Their relationship is the center of the story. That's all I really feel comfortable giving away. -- It's a love story.
Q: A love story?
RF: A love story with monsters. And gore. Ripping arms. Heads torn off. Spilling guts. Eyeballs hanging out. Something for every member of the family.
Q: Was it tough finding actors in Spokane, as opposed to LA?
RF: You have to look a little harder, but there are lots of good actors here. There is a thriving arts scene. I am also a professional actor in the theater, so I know several good actors from auditions and performances. One of the main roles in The Snake-Man was played by Stuart McKenzie; a fellow cast member in the first play I was cast in after moving to Spokane.
Q: What was the major difference, working in Spokane as opposed to LA?
RF: Scheduling people was very difficult. In LA I had crew people who were available whenever you paid them. They didn't have day jobs. And the actors all had jobs where their bosses would let them leave work for auditions. There are lots of jobs like that in LA. Sometimes it was a pain in the butt to get all the actors we needed together, because some of them worked weekends, and others worked weekdays. But we finally got it done. But I'm used to shooting in six to eight days straight, depending on the schedule. But this was very spread out. It took about six weeks. And that brings up the other big difference between working in Spokane and working in LA. The weather. In LA you have clear skies pretty much most of the time. We shot The Snake-Man over the autumn months. When we started it was sunny and hot. The day we finished we were fighting freezing rains, hoping that the rain didn't show in the sky. Before that, we had to reschedule one of our shooting days on account of snow.
Q: What else in the near future?
RF: I've been talking with the same people about doing another for them. We have a title and an idea, but I can't really say until we officially move ahead on it. But definitely look for The Snake-Man in 2004.