Q: Tell us some background information on yourself.
I saw SCANNERS, ALIEN and TAXI DRIVER at way too young of an age and have never been able to get the images of those films out of my head. As a young kid I shot my first film, a Peckinpah-esque animated Super-8 sci-fi short. For the film I made these little claymation figures complete with clay intestines. The characters "exploded" when hit with a laser beam.
I crewed feature films in Tucson, Arizona where I grew up, then moved to Los Angeles to attended film school at The California Institute of the Arts (Calarts). Calarts drove me nuts so I took a year off and got some experience as an assistant editor. I returned to school, reinvigorated, and started a show at Calarts called Great Exploitations on the school's cable station. A foul-mouthed puppet named Arthur Panda hosted the show and would introduce films like Cannibal Holocaust, and Radley Metzger's semi-hardcore sadomasochistic masterpiece The Punishment of Anne. I began writing Killer Me around the same time.
Q: What was the inspiration for making KILLER ME?
Calarts tends to be a very experimental school and my interest in exploitation clashed with the faculty. I had received a great scholarship to the school but once they discovered the kinds of films I wanted to make they cut my scholarship in half. In response I began to write a slasher about a film student who offs his film professors one by one using various pieces of production equipment, a deadly tripod with knife legs, chopping off fingers with a splicer and fun with an electric generator. Writing the script was fun but the story quickly took on a serious bent. I eventually dropped the film school element completely. I ended up with Killer Me, a love story about a would-be serial killer and his stalker girlfriend
Q: The tone of the movie is very subdued and is a more realistic portrayal of a serial killer, rather than the larger than life Hollywood versions like Hannibal Lector. How much research did you do on serial killers before you did the movie?
I read several true crime books about serial killers while writing Killer Me. One thing I found interesting was the way many serial killers cope with guilt. Serial killers have been known to occasionally release a victim instead of murdering them, as if some glimmer of conscience has broken through. Sometimes it is this act of mercy that causes their downfall. In Killer Me, I wanted to create a character who is haunted by his own actions, who does not want kill still is compelled to do so.
Q: Who was the director of photography?
My DP was Neal Fredericks (The Blair Witch Project). Back when I met Neal, The Blair Witch Project was yet to be released, just "an interesting project" he'd shot out in the woods with some friends. I interviewed numerous DP's before contacting Neal through an Internet job board. My first question to all the DP's was "Can you shoot 35 camera setups a day?" The usual response was laughter, then "It'll look like crap." Neal, on the other hand, said, "I can shoot as fast as you need me to shoot." Then I saw his reel and his work looked better than all those DP's who'd claimed they couldn't shoot a film so fast.
Q: What really makes the movie is the acting and the chemistry between the two leads. How did you go about casting?
I am very happy with the acting, especially considering that no one in the film is a name actor and several actors had little previous experience. The talent pool is unbelievable in Los Angeles but you have to weed through a lot of fat. I found most my actors when I put an ad in Back Stage West advertising "meals, credit, no pay". A few days later I received close to 5000 headshots. I auditioned several hundred people over about a six-month period for Killer Me. The female lead, Christina Kew, auditioned within the first few weeks. I wanted her in the film from the moment she walked into the room. Finding the male lead was much more difficult. I initially secured a great, fairly experienced actor but his agent advised against doing the film because it would prevent him from auditioning for television pilots. This is a problem when shooting a film in Los Angeles in February and March. A few weeks before the scheduled shoot we were still without a main character. I put a second announcement in Back Stage West, another 2000 headshots. During a second hectic bout of auditions I met George Foster. He looked like a cross between Harvey Kietel and Robert DeNiro. During the shoot Neal turned to me and said of George, "the camera loves this guy". Not only does he look great on film, there is a natural vulnerability to his acting. Understated, yet intense.
Q: How long did it take to complete the film, from pre-production through the editing?
The actual production of the film was only 18 days, but the film took about 3 years from pre-production to final sound mix…that doesn't include the additional year to write and polish the script. And then it took two years on the festival circuit to find a distributor. Post-production was slow because I kept running out of money and had to take on jobs to pay for the film. The sound alone took about a year because I could only work on it one to two days a week when I could afford the time and my sound designer wasn't busy with clients that could afford his normal rate. I wanted to do a very layered sound design as opposed to a wall-to-wall sound score, which took a long time.
Q: Any anecdotes about the production?
The one I always like to tell is about the day we shot without a permit in Griffith Park. One of our takes was blown by a loud moaning sound in the distance. A production assistant ran into the woods to investigate. She returned looking somewhat shaken. "I think they're finished." Turns out, the location was a haven for gay swingers and prostitutes. The place wasn't subtle about it. Joggers ran by in tight pink biker shorts. Guys were literally sitting on top of trees checking out the foot traffic. Neal found a love note on one of the paths describing explicit acts that would be performed at a certain place and time. Several crew members actually witnessed sexual acts. Against this backdrop a park ranger managed to find our little crew and busted us for shooting without a permit! He said the park had very strict rules about shooting and would not tolerate such behavior.
Q: How has the response been to the film?
The response has been phenomenal. Considering we shot this film without any knowledge of what we were getting into, without any industry insiders pushing us, we've been very fortunate. At first no industry people wanted to see the film. We had several screenings where people were really into the movie. One screening I literally sent out 400 post cards to distributors and agents. The audience loved the film but not one distributor or agent showed. Then we got very lucky. I sent blind submissions to all the top film festivals and The Telluride Film Festival decided they wanted to screen Killer Me. During the festival run we received several positive reviews from various critics and met with most of the larger indie distributors. The response was good, but none of them wanted to pick up the film because of the lack of name talent. Finally Vanguard Cinema decided to take the film.
Q: Anything you wish to add.
Just that I'm currently securing financing for my next script, a martial arts comedy called Dojo, something like Karate Kid meets Rushmore featuring what I hope will be one of the greatest arm-breaking sequences ever seen on film.