David Black chats with Addison Heath
I’m chatting today with Addison Heath, who has been involved in some really crazy movies such as Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla, The Perfect Nonsense and Mondo Yakuza. Hi Addison. I was looking at your IMDB and saw that back in 2011, you did a short called Brethren. Although I haven’t seen it yet, I noticed that the people involved are very much the same people as in many of your movies. Can you tell me a bit about Brethren and how you all came together?
Brethren was actually the first time that I worked with Glenn and Stuart. It was a fun little short we threw together in a day. It’s basically a domestic comedy about two brothers reuniting after some time apart. It was a raw little film and was a bunch of fun to make. It was a huge learning curve.
There is a big gap between Brethren (2011) and Chocolate, Strawberry, Vanilla (2014), and then things seem to be happening, one movie after another. Was there something that happened in that interval that is particularly interesting? Like a time of development or self-reflection?
During those couple of years we were trying to get a few projects happening but to no avail. We had been trying to get producers involved and trying to get some financing but it never came together. It was during that time that we decided to make Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla as it was something we could do without financing or assistance.
Chocolate, Strawberry, Vanilla was the first of your movies that I saw and that’s what got me addicted to your projects. The idea of having an ice cream man as the main character is pretty much out there and the movie plot of his obsession isn’t exactly normal. What I can’t understand is why so many, including myself, can identify with him and got so drawn into the story? Can you shed any light on the thought process that goes into creating such an offbeat movie?
CSV was a fantastic experience, very collaborative. We knew we wanted to make a film with Glenn as he is an amazing character actor. So the film was written with him in mind from the get go. The character was based a little on people I knew and a little on my own past feelings of loneliness. We wanted the movie to be darkly funny but also deal with genuine human emotions, so I put a lot of my own personal feelings in to that character and I think that’s why maybe some people can relate to him. It comes from a deep, personal place.
Under a Kaleidoscope(2014) was next on the imdb list. The poster artwork looks very 60’s psychedelic. I’ve heard a bit about it but haven’t seen it, so I will have to just throw to you on this one. Please tell us all about it.
Under A Kaleidoscope was my feature film debut as a director and it was a great experience. 90% of the film is set in one apartment so we gathered a bunch of creative people around us and just started shooting. Overall it took about 8 months to wrap and it was an intense shoot but it got us prepared for bigger productions. The film is about an agoraphobic named Caleb Loomis, played by Kenji Shimada. He makes friends with an abused neighbour Beatrice (Kristen Condon) . She tells him about her partner Rog “The Hatchet Man” Smith (Aston Elliot), a heavy-hitter in the underworld. Together they plan to help her escape.
This was another very personal piece and also the first time I worked with Kenji. The bromance blossomed on this film and he has since become not only one of my best friends but one of my main collaborators. We wouldn’t have been able to make our subsequent films if it wasn’t for this one. I am very proud of UAK.
Also, the 60’s psychedelic poster was designed by an amazing Japanese artist named Tokio Aoyama. I absolutely love his work and recommend anyone going and checking it out!
Driveby was an interesting short. Each time I watched it, I picked up different things that I missed the first time. Especially as it has a twist at the end, so re watching it has new meaning. Being a short movie, I’m not sure what I can say without revealing the plot or spoiling it, so once again, I will throw to you just to chat about it.
Drive-By was a fun collaboration between Black Forest Films and Icorgan. Dan MacDonald previously did the sound work for Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla and we had become friends after the project so I was honoured when he asked us to create a short to go with his soundscape. Dan is extremely talented and gave us such a beautiful, haunting piece of music. As soon as I heard it the ideas started coming. It was also great to be able to work with Tim Jason Wicks, Tamara Donnellan and Chris Cochrane. I had previously worked with Tim and Chris and had been wanting to work with Tamara for a long time as I’d been a fan. It was shot in a day with a skeleton crew and it was a total blast to make. The basic story was something I had wanted to make for a while, a revenge film in disguise. Plus we owe a big nod to Shane Meadows film “Dead Man’s Shoes” which I believe is a modern masterpiece.
Mondo Yakuza and The Perfect Nonsense seem to have come out almost back to back. I saw both at the cinema in the same year. I think I saw The Perfect Nonsense at MUFF and Mondo Yakuza at Monsterfest. Both are again over the top, genre movies that are fast paced. The Perfect Nonsense seems is a bit trippy. It’s like a spiritual journey into the absurd. Again, I am curious about your thought process on this one.
We actually shot those films almost back to back and that’s why they share a similar cast/crew. The Perfect Nonsense was a very experimental film. I wrote a 15 page treatment/story arc which allowed for a bunch of improvisation. We were using actors that we love working with and we really trust so it turned out to be a really fun shoot. It was also shot over 5 days which was a challenge we set ourselves. We loved Warp Films “Five Day Features” concept and wanted to see if we could try it. I had a lot of fun making that film.. it’s an absurd little comedy and I’m super proud of it. It started as “Gummo” meets “Alice In Wonderland” and we just ran with it.
Mondo Yakuza is a bit more straight up for me. A fast paced, gang related crime movie but still a bit out there. Seeing as this one has just been released, tell us about it and why the readers should rush out and buy it. If you don’t, I will, because I just loved it.
Mondo was our most ambitious film that we had made before making The Viper’s Hex. It’s a love letter to Seijun Suzuki and Takashi Miike. While making UAK, Kenji and I would discuss a yakuza character and always wanted to try and make a bullet ballet. Kenji is also an accomplished stuntman so he was game for every crazy idea we had. The story was written by Glenn, Kenji and Myself. It was a very collaborative effort. My partner Jasmine Jakupi and I shot the movie which was a first for us. We were going for an old grindhouse vibe.. gory, ridiculous, tongue-in-cheek. It was an epic effort from our producer Dylan Heath too.. He worked tirelessly to get the film made.
Why the readers should buy it?.. If you enjoy gory, silly 80’s action films.. Mondo is for you!
And finally, you have a few movies announced to come out, but I am guessing that first on the list is Vipers Hex, which you just wrapped up filming in Japan a few weeks ago. Aside from this being a monster movie, I know nothing about it and want to hear more.
We wrapped The Viper’s Hex on January 31st, 2017. It’s co-directed by Jasmine Jakupi and I believe it’s the best project I’ve ever been involved with. It was shot entirely in Tokyo , Hakuba and Nagano in Japan with a full Japanese cast. It’s a horror/revenge about a haunted hostess named Kiyo (Saya Minami). She falls pregnant to a foreigner named Anchin (Kenji Shimada). After learning of Kiyo’s pregnancy, Anchin promptly runs away leaving Kiyo heartbroken. Kiyo turns to her only support, a spirit known only as The Viper.
I don’t want to say much more about it at this stage as we are playing this one pretty close to our chests. It was a wild shoot.. We went from shooting guerrilla on the streets of Tokyo to the top of a snowy mountain in Nagano throwing blood everywhere. It was equal parts the most fun I’ve ever had and the most stressed I’ve ever been. Fortunately we were working with the greatest people on Earth!.. We owe a lot to two Japanese based companies that helped us greatly – Team LittleBIG and Silk Purse Enterprises. We had curve balls thrown at us from the get go and they supported us through everything. It’s truly an honour being able to work with them.
TVH is a decidedly darker film than we have ever made.. This is a bleak and often brutal film. It’s truly our dream project and we couldn’t be happier with the cast and crew we had. It was the best experience of my career so far.
So, what are your future plans? What sort of movies can we expect to see from you and your team over the next few years?
We will be embarking on a webseries this year. I can’t say too much about it quite yet but it will be a genre anthology.. Think The Twilight Zone meets Tales From The Crypt.
We are also planning another feature to shoot in Japan in 2018, another horror/revenge film. The idea is that The Viper’s Hex will be part one in a trilogy of revenge themed films that by the end of 2019 will make up our “Tokyo Vengeance Trilogy”.. You heard it here first!
Thanks for supporting us and being a true cinema warrior!
Thanks for your time Addison. Any links you want to share can go here