Saturday, August 13, 2011
DEMONICA CHATS WITH ALAN ROWE KELLY DUCHESS OF THE INDIE SCENE
Usually this is the point of where I make some sort of offensive of color joke about aids or a minority but today I think I shall refrain from my usual banter because I am in the presence of grace and extreme talent. Yours truly had the pleasure as of recently of sitting down with indie horror goddess Alan Rowe Kelly of I"LL BURY YOU TOMORROW and THE BLOODSHED fame and I can't tell you enough time what a genuine and nice person Mr. Rowe Kelly is. Below you can read the interview and I suggest this time you little fuckers really read this. Alan really knows what he is talking about and has a genuine love for sleazy films and just the art of film production in general. ENJOY !!!
Have you always had a love for obscure cinema or fringe entertainment as I call it ? What are some of your early influences?
Oh yes!! The weirder the better. My early influences were always B-Movies, in horror, sci-fi and drama. I always seemed to embrace their feel more. They seemed more attainable in their simplicity- which I
learned later was simply a low-budget.
You have an amazing eye for film composition. Did You attend Film School or was it all self taught?
I was completely self-taught. I had many years experience behind the scenes as a make up artist and stylist for commercials, TV and fashion shoots. I received the very best education by watching some of the most talented people at work; directors, producers, cameraman, photographers, grips, art directors, lighting technicians, sound men, models and actors. Everyone’s job was of equal importance and the goal was time management to bring the project in on time and on budget. Through art directors and photographers I learned how important it was to fill a frame, create a gorgeous picture and set a stylized mood for the viewer.
I thought being a stylist was what I would be doing for the rest of my life. But as I got into my early 30s, I started to see the writing on the walls. I was on a set once in the early 90s doing hair for a famous TV actress and they brought in a famous make up artist whom she requested for make up. The artiste’ had been known for his innovated style in the 70’s, but not much had evolved for him since his heyday. So, with his lapdog Yorkie in tow, he took 2.5 hours to paint her face lightly and literally left me 15 minutes to do her hair. He had to ‘perform’ because of who he was. Then in his 60’s, he was still known for his name but the work was no longer there and it was evident that he needed this gig and the cash just as much as I did. The parade has passed him by. That is when I saw my possible future standing in front of me - talking about the glory days of stars and fashion with no concept of change and resting on the laurels of a past fame no one else remembered. It actually frightened me and got my wheels spinning quickly to “what else can I do?” The fashion and beauty industry can be a very cruel business. So as the years passed I discovered a hidden talent for writing and became more involved in productions doing wardrobe, script supervising and working as a production assistant in any way I could. Make up was still my mainstay, but I wanted to know about everything that went on behind the scenes. I was taught well and I watched, listened and absorbed from everyone on those sets. So when the opportunity knocked to actually make a feature horror film, I grabbed at the chance in hopes of making my hidden dream come true. I haven’t stopped since. And I’m still always learning.
What are some " sleazy " films that you have loved that have also inspired you to make horror films?
It all depends on what you consider Sleaze. That can range anywhere from Ed Wood to Andy Milligan (THE GHASTLY ONES) to Doris Wishman, Bunny Yeager and John Waters. What some folk consider Sleaze, I would consider Schlock, Exploitation or Grindhouse.
Basically everything under the ‘Something Weird’ label has a great amount of sleaze content (which I love) from David F. Friedman’s ACID EATERS, Herschell Gordon Lewis’ BLOOD FEAST & 2000 MANIACS (Also produced by Friedman), Larry Buchanan’s COMMON LAW WIFE, The ‘MONDO’ film series, Joy Houck Jr’s NIGHT OF BLOODY HORROR, MA BARKER’S KILLER BROOD, Richard Galbreath’s NIGHT OF EVIL, SHANTY TRAMP –
I could go on for pages with this one!
Who are some of you personal favorite " sleaze" directors of any genre that have inspired you to make films?
Al Adamsom always come to mind first! His films were very popular on the Saturday double feature horror bill at the Drive-in when I was a young kid. I always thought his leading lady/wife Regina Carroll was a sight to behold! lol! Terrible but GREAT movies and she was terrible but GREAT in them! Lol! I adore Russ Meyers. I consider him more of a cult director though many categorize his storylines as sleazy. And I loved Alan Ormsby’s CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS. It may not be exactly sleaze, but there’s an underlying current there that really hit home to me, especially in the dialogue and innuendo. And of course, John Waters would have to be on top as far as leaving audiences agape! I can’t get enough of his films and his amazing troupe of actors. Much like Woody Allen, Waters directs his performers to act in a particular style (probably because most of them couldn’t act), so there is continuity and purposeful pacing throughout his films. I think he’s a genius and he still makes me laugh out loud. Mink Stole’s opening scene as the paranoid hysteric Peggy Gravel in DESPERATE LIVING is truly one of the funniest damn things I’ve ever viewed!
Do you prefer straight up slow burn horror or " sleaze " films such as those by Joe D' Amato , Jesus Franco , Doris Wishman, etc.
That’s a very hard call because I like both. I haven’t a favorite sub-genre in horror- I love ‘A Pictures’ to ‘Grade Z Schlock’.
Doris Wishman films are a riot (Double Agent 73- my god!) - especially her commentaries that have her croaking out insults between a good heavy smoker’s cough! And movies like Thomas Casey’s SOMETIMES AUNT MARTHA DOES DREADFUL THINGS, Nick Millards CRIMINALLY INSANE, Andy Warhol’s HEAT, William Girdler’s ASYLUM OF SATAN, Michael Armstrong’s MARK OF THE DEVIL (I still have the free vomit bag!) and Ted Post’s THE BABY with my all time favorite, Ruth Roman.
On the other side of the scale I love films like Richard Wise’s THE HAUNTING, Jack Clayton’s THE INNOCENTS, Curtis Harrington’s GAMES, and Robert Aldrich’s HUSH, HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE that take their time and really build on the viewer’s imagination.
Movies have filled my life as far back as I can remember. It seems like they were always there for me to disappear into. It’s virtually impossible for me to have a favorite because I have seen so very, very many films and continue to watch them voraciously.
What was the last GREAT underground or sleaze film you recall seeing ?
Just watched Desperate Living the other night- laughed till I cried! Edith Massey, Liz Renay and Susan Lowe- too much insane fun!
Any directors working currently in the genre that you admire a lot?
Bart Mastronardi and Anthony Sumner. I have been working and collaborating with them for years. They just make filmmaking so painless and easy. There is no stress, everyone knows their jobs, no egos loosing control on set + a lot of laughs and boatloads of artistic creativity. They LOVE and live for what they do. Most recently I worked with Mike Watt and Amy Lynn Best on their film RAZOR DAYS - again, a super smooth shoot that went off without a hitch! Other directors I’d be very interested in working with are Eric Stanze, Mel House, Jeff Dylan Graham, Richard Griffin, Justin Alvarez, Peaches Christ, Billy Clift & Ivan Zuccon. These artists put so much energy and passion into their work. You can see it in every frame and their actors rave about them as directors and human beings. I would love to be in any of their films! (HA! Talk about shameless self-campaigning!)
Can you tell me a little about your production companies Southpaw Pictures and Tiny Core Pictures and some of the projects you maybe or wish to be developing at both?
I developed SouthPaw Pictures in 2006 while doing THE BLOOD SHED because I realized we needed an umbrella to work under, legally and professionally. So far we have produced 3 features and co-produced quite a few shorts for other production companies. TinyCore Pictures is Anthony Sumner’s company in Chicago. We’re lucky enough to work on each other’s projects because we share the same work ethic and think only of the picture and it’s outcome. It doesn’t matter to either of us who has the stronger picture at the moment or who’s name goes above the title. Bottom line is we just love to work together and create.
Is it extremely difficult in these times of financial crisis to get an Indie film funded and distributed? How does it compare to when you first started doing I'll Bury You Tomorrow?
It hasn’t changed at all since I'll Bury You Tomorrow…lol! After 12 years we still scrimp for money and push ahead to create regardless of our financial state. If you sit still waiting for that big budget to come, you’re dead in the water. There are definitely scripts I love and want to see on the big screen- but they demand a lot more money than my present projects. So while we wait and campaign for those to happen, we continue to create smaller films that are character driven, edgy and different. Distribution has come easier because we are developing a name. It’s a new learning experience with each film in regards to getting the best deal to fit an individual project. The business is constantly evolving and we try to keep up with all the latest info on companies, regions, demographics and placement. It’s truly the final and most important step in getting your film out there. You could have the most creative film ever, but if a solid deal isn’t made, it will just disappear and become part of another company’s catalogue. You really have to work just as hard as your distributor – even more - to get your film noticed and seen. This is where the real work begins!
Do you prefer to work mainly behind the camera as opposed to playing dual roles (Actor - Director )? Is it a more difficult process to pull double duty on your films?
Not at all. This is how I began, so it seems normal for me to pull off the duties of writer/director/producer/actor at the same time. I’m involved in all aspects of my films, especially post-production. I just can’t hand a film over to someone else and let them at it. I have to be 100% involved in order to get my style across.
One of my pieces in the upcoming GALLERY OF FEAR titled DOWN THE DRAIN is actually the first time where I only directed and produced. It was a totally new experience that threw me off a bit because I wasn’t in front of the camera. But breaking that ice made me more involved in the actor’s performances and the production. I realized that playing supporting roles in my films are much easier than starring. I get to shine a bit and then go back to focus on the project as a whole. At my age and with whatever camera presence I may have, I’m realizing I’m better in smaller doses or as part of an ensemble cast (unless it’s a short or an anthology piece). I do have some scripts in mind for myself in leading roles, but they are tailor-made for me and will only happen when the time and budget is correct. You just have to be sensible and realistic about these things and do what’s right for the film. The last thing I would ever want is to cast myself in a role I should NOT be playing. You have to know your limits and abilities. And I don’t mean that negatively. You just have to use common sense.
Can you tell us a little bit about THE TALES OF POE?
Oh YES! TALES OF POE is an anthology and the current brainchild of Bart Mastronardi. It is one of the most creative experiences I have had to date. Bart has already wrapped his first segment, THE TELL TALE HEART with the gorgeous Debbie Rochon, Lelsleh Donaldson, David Marancik, Joe Quick and a truly amazing performance by Desiree Gould. Bart gave me a great role in the vein of a very ghoulish Nora Desmond! The beauty of the POE tales are that they are open to so many interpretations. Bart has brilliantly readapted the story by placing it in the 1950s and switching the genders of the main characters to female. It’s a great twist and with Dominick Sivilli’s fantastic cinematography, they have brought a unique new storyline to this ageless tale. The segment we are now working on is THE CASQUE – based on The Cask of Amontillado. Bart gave me the green light to write and direct a new version of this classic and we put quite a new stamp on the theme; Gay Marriage - gone very, very
It stars Randy Jones (of The Village People and he’s magnificent!), the very handsome Brewster McCall and myself in a deadly love triangle of greed, deception, murder and revenge. Bart is lensing the production and with great help from producers Robert Kuiper, Amy Lynn Best, Mike Watt and David Marancik, it has become it’s own animal in the vein of a 70’s Italian Giallo/Film Noir ala’ Double Indemnity. It’s been too much fun to shoot! In addition, I have the remarkable talents of Jerry Murdock, Zoë Daelman Chlanda, Douglas Rowan, Susan Adriensen, Amy Lynn Best and Carl Burrows. As an added bonus we have maestro Tom Burns lending his fabulous scoring and sound design to the entire film.
Bart also has some more great surprises in store for his third segment. He is collaborating with the uber talented Michael Varrati and has an amazing cast lined up of classic Final Girls that include Friday the 13th Part II’s Amy Steel and TCM II’s Caroline Williams!
How is it working with Bart Mastronardi on that film? He did a stunning job with VINDICATION I must say, a very haunting nerve wracking film.
Working with Bart Mastronardi is truly the very best experience. We met when I was assembling the creative team for THE BLOOD SHED and we have been working together ever since. What he brought to that little film was a world all of it’s own. It’s stunning to look at.
I worked with him on his debut film VINDICATION as an actor and behind the camera. He was a caring and very meticulous director, always even keeled and a most gracious host.
As cinematographer on THE BLOOD SHED, A FAR CRY FROM HOME, CRITIC’S CHOICE, BY HER HAND SHE DRAWS YOU DOWN, RAZOR DAYS and TALES OF POE, you get a film style that is innately ‘Bart’, but at the same time he creates something separate and unique to the storyline itself. He always raises the bar with each new film with inventiveness, art, color and style. I can’t imagine doing a film without him and I must admit to a little postpartum when we are on separate film shoots. So any opportunity we do get to work together is a much anticipated event for me.
It has become a trend in the past several years to remake horror films. What is your take on this trend??
I’m all for it if the stars align correctly. Some remakes have been fabulous while others just become the product of cheap Hollywood cashing in. But some that I have seen (Dawn Of The Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, My Bloody Valentine, Halloween) I think are terrific. Remakes are a natural progression in films and always have been since the advent of The Talkies in 1929.
Actually, Anthony Sumner and I were set to do a remake of a famous 70’s Grind House film a short time back until I foolishly involved myself with the wrong people and had it swiped out from under me. Bad Drama - bad Karma - and an all-around hideous experience. It really opened my eyes to this business and those who will do anything to grab onto you to move ahead. 2 years of pre-production, legal research and gathering funds were just flushed down the drain because ‘I’ did one very wrong thing. I released my script and business proposal to this interested party without having them sign a confidentially agreement. So 6 months later and no word from that party resulted in my discovering their intention to proceed with their own version of the same film. The most pitiful part about it was that I read it in the press and was never once contacted or notified. It was a very big blow, but at the same time my own fault for not knowing better. That’s when I learned there is just as much bad business in the independent industry as there is in Hollywood because so many are desperate for attention and fame, no matter the cost. But I quickly moved ahead with my own original material. I realized the more attention I give to negativity and those who bring it is one less day I have creating and developing my own material. And that I WON’T be robbed of. And one day we may still make this particular film, but presently we have much more interesting and creative projects in production. C’est La vie!
What are some films you feel could use a good ole fashioned restart?
I like the more obscure ones that had great storylines and characters.
Remaking so-called classics is a very big responsibility to take on. If I had my choices it would be great to re-imagine films like FROGS, MUTINY IN OUTER SPACE, VOODOO ISLAND, THE WITCHES (AKA THE DEVIL’S OWN), THE DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE, BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW, CRIMINALLY INSANE – Oops, did I just spill the beans on that because I’m going to be in it? lol!).
I finally saw a mesmerizing art film for the first very time called THE BALLAD OF TAM LIN 1969 (AKA THE DEVIL’S WIDOW). This was Roddy McDowall’s only directorial outing starring the still breathtaking Ava Gardner, Ian McShane, Stephanie Beacham and Joanna Lumley. It’s gorgeously filmed, mod, deep and quite psychedelic. Just a stunning film that could have a whole new life of it’s own in the right hands.
As a filmmaker how do you feel about digital cinema in general? What kinds of camera do you use to film most of your productions?
What’s there NOT to love about digital? We have been working with the Canon 7D and it is a fabulous piece of equipment. You can do SO much in post with the picture. My last film GALLERY OF FEAR, which took 3.5 years to produce, is our final film in standard definition. I loved that format as well when it was popular because I had the very best cinematographers in Bart Mastronardi, Dominick Sivilli and Anthony Sumner. I feel it is not about the camera as much as it is the cinematographer. Today anyone can pick up a camera, point, shoot, and call it a film. But if don’t have an artist behind the lens utilizing the equipment to it’s fullest capacity, then you have a very boring and ordinary looking movie. Independent film is all about taking chances, expanding, creating and developing something unique and different.
Even in your most " insane " roles your wardrobe and make-up is immaculately in unison with your character. Do you get to select the look of your characters and what they wear?
Thank you for noticing! Again, my early years in fashion design school and working as a stylist has been a great education for me on set. Directors trust my instincts and that gives me a lot of freedom when developing my characters. I do insist on doing my own hair and make up for a character unless it involves heavy prosthetics – then I leave that to the artists on set. On my own films I always dress my cast, whether from their own wardrobe or bought. Wardrobe and make up are so important. My goal when dressing actors is to put them in clothing that not only fits their character, but also reads well with the cinematographer’s color palette. I never use anything ‘trendy’ or too fashion forward because I don’t want a film to look dated 20 years later. So I restrain myself by using more classic and non-descript wardrobes that won’t overtake the actor – unless their character demands a particular sense of outrageousness. This goes for hair and make up too. Unless you’re producing VALLEY OF THE DOLLS or STAR TREK, make up and hair should be seen and not heard! Lol!
Is it hard work to sell and promote a film once it is completed or while the film is in production? Is it more difficult to promote domestically or internationally?
This final chapter of a film is just as hard as the first chapter of financing a film. You may be lucky enough to have a distribution deal already set, but for most of us it is off to the marketplace as soon as the film is complete. A lot of filmmakers can become very frustrated with this process, and understandably so. You’ve worked so hard to get to this point and are physically and emotionally exhausted by the time you say ‘it’s finished’.
One thing I have learned is that sales always plummet in June, July and August because the average viewer is out doing other things and spending money elsewhere. So allow yourself time and plan out your strategy.
Fortunately with our respected genre comes unlimited resources, both foreign and domestic, to get your film known by simple word of mouth. Film festivals run abundant in the horror industry and it doesn’t hurt to take your movie ‘on the road’ for special screenings in key cities. It’s always wise to have some budget money set aside just for promotion. You can do a lot with very little if your creative.
What are some important tools or suggestions you can give on promoting an independent or no budget film?
Be completely involved, but also be HUMBLE and not a pompous jerk.
Promote on movie review pages, Internet sites, Blogs, forums, social networks and magazines. Screen at conventions, film festivals and make yourself and your cast members available to any interested party that wish to speak with you. It always helps to accumulate some good review quotes from noted critics/reviewers to set the tone for an upcoming release. Be persistent, have great visuals, artwork and trailers to represent the film properly, and excite the viewer. But you also have to learn balance on how not to over saturate your film and when to pull back a bit. Your timing and pacing has to be right. If you over promote your film when it’s unavailable for sale for another 8 months or has yet to find a distributor, then viewer’s may loose interest and their buying wanders to the next film that is available.
Promotion is just as much hard work as making the film itself.
And if YOU don’t believe your film is any good? Who will?