What's up Gravedigger? We're here, drinks in hand, ready to answer your questions.
Q: Tell us who is involved with the movie…
The producers/writers/directors for "The Van" are: Tyler Burk (Part 1), Aaron Burk (Part II), Brad Paulson (Part III).
BRAD: We all met at MSU (Montana State University) where we received our less than higher education in film school (or so they called it) Mostly it was just our teachers forcing us to watching long and painful European art crap along with their own crap which none of us would ever have watched unless we were forced to. Oh yeah, and one other thing: they all hated horror!
AARON: My brother Ty and I had been making movies since we were little toads. I went out to MSU and a year later my brother followed, where we continued to make films. I met Brad at school and I had been disturbed by some of his movies. I knew I had to meet him since we shared a universal love for horror. We've been friends ever since.
BRAD: I met Aaron when I auditioned to be in one of his horror movies: "The Hireling". It was like "Mazes and Monsters" done on the super cheap. The part required someone who could be angry, drunk and get his head chopped off. I figured I had experience with at least two of those elements and thus got the part. Which is really cool because I saw two other dudes audition before me.
AARON: I think you auditioned for the role of "Decapitated Party Boy".
BRAD: I remember that as the official title. Yes.
AARON: Ty and I moved to LA a few years after graduation and spent the next year bitching at Brad to leave Montana.
BRAD: It was difficult for me to quit my high-profile line-cook job at a greasy spoon. It's important for men to know their way around the kitchen these days. But, Aaron and Ty convinced me. I packed up, said goodbye to all my kitchen groupies and joined them in the land of smut and sunshine.
AARON: Shortly thereafter, we formed "Tri-Toad Productions".
BRAD: Because... there's three of us...
AARON: And we're all toads. Hey, Brad. Want to explain to the readers what a "toad" is?
BRAD: Sure. A toad has many meanings. Not unlike the term smurf. For example: if I were to "toad up" to someone, I would be either their trusty sidekick, kissing their ass or trying to gain favor.
AARON: If someone's kissing your ass excessively, you would say, "Damnit! Stop toading me so hard!" Toad can be used as a verb or a noun. For instance: "Dude, go fetch me a beer". In our parlance, it would be, "Toad. Go toad me an ale".
BRAD: Exactly. Or, if we're talking shit about someone we'd say, "Could you believe what that toad just said?" Or, if they've shown us dishonor, we label them as a "bad toad". There are several other uses of the word, but they all take too much time and brainpower for us to explain now.
AARON: Back to the topic at hand. Everyone produced, wrote and directed their own segments as well. It was pretty much a three man crew the whole way. When it was one person's turn to direct, the other two would fill in with the camera, lighting, carnage effects, making beer runs, etc. We all wore a lot of hats. Q: How did the idea first come about, about a cursed VAN?
BRAD: We were all hanging out when Ty approached us with the idea. He mentioned how fucking creepy vans could be and how they would serve as a good vessel for the ghost and/or evil presence.
AARON: I liked the idea right away. I've always thought vans were particularly scary because you can never see what's really going on inside of them.
BRAD: "The Van" started as a short then evolved into a feature length anthology where we would all get a chance to collaborate and make our own "Tales From the Crypt" or "Two Evil Eyes" type of flick.
AARON: We were going to write our own unrelated short horror stories. Ty was going to do "The Van" and Brad and I were going to do completely unrelated shorts. Although we came up with some really great ideas, which I'd like to see developed at another time, nothing seemed to gel with the short about this weird, evil van.
BRAD: We tried to incorporate these shorts as one movie and something wasn't right. We talked about how we wanted to make a different kind of anthology. Something other than just a horror host introducing each segment.
AARON: We decided to substitute the horror host intros w/super shorts of people getting slayed.
BRAD: The shorts in between each segment evolved into Rusty Guzner (Colin Malone) killing people in the van.
AARON: Finally, the obvious occured. Why not make three short stories about one demonic van.
Every car usually has more than one owner so we thought, what if one of the owners turned the van evil? How would that effect the other owners and how would that tie in as a whole?
BRAD: The really cool thing about Ty's idea was that by the end of the first meeting we had come up with the basis of what would eventually become the feature. Q: Why was it decided to have different directors do segments?
AARON: Everytime you get more than a couple people together on a project you have a power struggle for who wants to direct and it tends to kill the creative energy you have. We all wanted to direct and be boss of our own segment. It seemed the perfect opportunity since there were three parts.
BRAD: This way we wouldn't have to be just lowly toads on one person's movie. It keeps everyone's ego in check as well. Working as a team is a hell of a lot better than trying to do everything yourself.
AARON: I think the concept of each person getting a chance to do their own movie added to a real sense of collaboration for the entire project. Q: How did you go about casting? Talk about the actors that you cast.
BRAD: Casting the main killer (Colin Malone) was easy. He was this sleazy dude (and I mean that in the nicest way possible) who lived right next door to me. Every night noise boomed from his apartment. He was really loud and obnoxious. One day I rented this movie called "Art House" where he played himself as a local cult/cable access host for "Colin's Sleazy Friends". I soon discovered this was an actual show where he interviewed porno stars and rock stars and was completely disgusting, yet charming and charismatic as the same time. I showed Aaron and Ty his "Best of Colin and His Sleazy Friends" tapes and we all laughed our asses off. We immediately launched a campaign to get him to be our star for the movie. After much self toading of "The Van" concept and writing the part specifically for him, he agreed. Little did he know what he was in for. The great thing about Colin is he's the sleazy dude that Hollywood would never put in a movie like this. With Hollywood, it would just be a Fabio playing a sleazy guy. With Colin, it was all there to begin with.
AARON: We knew that getting Colin would be essential for the project. Considering our movie was super low-budget and we needed a name. Colin provided that.
BRAD: He's got a large fan base.
AARON: Casting the movie was done through "Backstage West" and at the restaurant I worked at. That's the thing about LA., actor's everywhere. Ty's project was up first so we took out an ad in "Backstage West" looking for males and females 18-24. We received over 500 submissions. From there we could cast the other two movies really easy. A funny story about the star of Part 2 (Nick Daly) is that the advertisement in "Backstage West" asked for a tall, good looking, jock type. Nick responded. The problem is he's five foot one and mentally challenged, which is exactly what I was looking for with my movie.
BRAD: To finish the casting for Part 3 we held the rest of the auditions at one of the local "Starbucks". Never do this. Actors get embarrassed screaming about how they want to torture a serial killer in front of a staring crowd of hippie, coffee drinkers. They also think you're really low-budget because you can't afford an actual audition space. We couldn't do it at our apartment because, I guess it's against the law or something.
AARON: Warning to would-be filmmakers: never judge the attractiveness of female actresses by their headshots. I had my heart broken several times.
BRAD: How true. The airbrush is a highly underrated art form. The funny thing is, the most unflattering headshots made for some of the hottest women we ended up casting. And vice versa.
AARON: Whatever they're paying photographic retouchers: it ain't enough. These guys can work miracles.
BRAD: Another warning: never try and negotiate nudity with your female leads at a local "Starbucks". They somehow don't take you seriously and can't fully comprehend your intention of using nudity for the sake of art.
AARON: If you want to get a chick naked, you've gotta say so upfront. Once you've cast them in the role (and have shot half your movie) it's too late.
BRAD: More true words. After all was said and done however, we really lucked out with casting.
AARON: I'd recommend casting people you know in your daily life who are aspiring actors (there are plenty in LA). You know them, they know you and their personality is what's gonna come out on screen. Q: How long did it take to complete THE VAN, from pre-production to final edit?
AARON: The initial concept was in April of 2002. Part 1 started shooting in July of 2002 as well as pre-production for Part 2. We started shooting Part 2 right after Part 1 wrapped. Then, Brad started. It was like an assembly line. The cool thing about it was we were constantly switching hats and we were always busy.
BRAD: And Ty somehow always got the job of picking up the hot women and taking them to the set each day. I got stuck with taking Colin on his eternal quest for self medication.
AARON: Finally, we wrapped Brad's over Halloween weekend. Although, we didn't Trick or Treat, it was one of the coolest Halloween's I've ever had.
BRAD: We shot the finale of the movie at Aaron's Uncle's gothic-style house. It sat on a cliff and was a really kick-ass location. Plus, it served as a little summer camp style get away for us. For three days straight, all we did was party and make the movie. A bottle of Jack makes for great crew morale, by the way.
AARON: Great nights, but horrible mornings.
BRAD: The editing was the biggest pain in the ass.
AARON: And that's saying something considering there were was so much ass pain in the movie.
BRAD: We made the mistake of assuming the editing would be as easy as the casting. We put an ad in "Backstage West" and the "Hollywood Reporter". To make a long story short, we wasted several months trying to get someone to edit our movie for free.
AARON: The bottom line is: if you want something done right. Let me say this again. If you want something done, you've gotta do it yourself.
BRAD: The biggest problem was: number 1: we had no budget. Number 2: we didn't just need an editor. We needed someone to be involved in the entire post process.
AARON: And in all fairness, this is way too much to ask for someone not involved directly in the project. We did this all ourselves. It was only fitting we completed it by ourselves.
BRAD: All I've gotta say is thank God for DV technology and cheap, non-linear editing. It is the best friend low-budget toads like us could ever have.
AARON: We've been saying we should have been doing this years ago, but then again, the technology simply wasn't there. Q: What is your favorite aspect of the movie?
BRAD: For me, it's the fact that we injected our own personality into the movie. So many movies will bore the hell out of you. Our movie's got it's flaws but at least it's entertaining. There's an easily marketed, high concept with an indie style involved. That way you can have things you can never see in a Hollywood movie: like a greasy redneck talking about how much pussy he got in his van, or a chick in a bondage outfit dumping a bedpan filled with feces over a serial killer's head.
AARON: Absolutely. Doing a movie this low-budget, you're your own boss. I don't know if we're ever gonna get this kind of freedom again. To take an idea that forms in your mind, conceptualize it onto paper and then shoot it without any interference of any kind, is really satisfying.
BRAD: Except for our own self protest. Or protest of each other.
AARON: This movie has a really homemade feeling to it. It may not have a lot of budget, but it has a lot of heart and character. I've always felt the best gifts were always homemade.
BRAD: Our main goal was to please horror fans and metalheads everywhere. We set up a test screening after we finished for that reason. Who gives a shit if "Magnolia-fan" doesn't like it. They weren't gonna watch our movie anyway.
AARON: My favorite aspect of this movie was working day in and out with my best friends. It was definitely closer to playing than it was working. Although it took a long time and it was a lot of hard work at the end it all, it really felt easy.
BRAD: I second that. We've all had industry jobs. It's so much better not to have some jackass in a power position looking over your shoulder and trying to take all the carnage out of your movie.
AARON: If your boss is going to be an asshole, all the better that it's you.
BRAD: Here, here. Q: The movie has a definite 70's feel to it... was that intentional?
BRAD: Yes. We're all fans of the greats like, or course, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". We could go on and on about how much we toad these movies. More than that though, what we really wanted to get away from is the post Scream movies Hollywood has been making over the past few years. WB type stars in safe, PG-13 movies. I think Hollywood has really forgotten how great horror movies truly were.
AARON: I don't know if Hollwood has anything to do with true horror anyway. All the best horror movies in my opinion: "The Saw", "Night of the Living Dead", "Evil Dead", "Dead Alive", "Halloween". The list goes on and on. They've all been independents shot outside of the Hollywood system. Whether you want to call them 70s style or not, they're no frill movies with artistic independence.
BRAD: Fortunately, I believe there's a ray of shining light for horror fans with movies like "Wrong Turn". As long as the pendulum keeps swinging in that direction we're in for some good times.
AARON: The independent film spirit is alive and well in horror films especially. I think we're gonna see some good stuff in the next few years.
BRAD: Horror has always been looked down and seen as a lower genre. I hate it when successful horror filmmakers always feel like they've had to defend the fact they're actually making a horror movie. Horror is one of the most creative and ripped off genres and I really believe the indie guys will be keeping it alive and hopefully influencing Hollwood itself to make a better product. Q: Future projects?
AARON: We've got a beauty we're writing right now.
BRAD: The horror fans will not be disappointed, although "Magnolia-Fan" will protest hard.
AARON: We should be completed with the script by the fall and hopefully into production by Nov. 2003. We're very excited about this next project. It's a great chance to apply all we learned on making "The Van" into something bigger and better. Remember. Get out there and shoot. Filmmakers make films and video makers make video, or whatever.
BRAD: True that. And remember kiddies: People who make movies, make movies. People who talk about movies spend all their money on fancy cars and all their time in bullshit, Hollywood clubs with all the other Fabios who just talk about making movies.
AARON: People who make movies, make movies. People who make people, are having sex. Be on the lookout for the next Tri-Toad Production around the end of the year.
BRAD: Give or take a few months. Peace out, Gravedigger. Thanks for having us.