Mad Monsters and Magic!

David Black interviews the master of genre movies, Stuart Simpson

DB – Hi everyone.  Tonight, I am going to be chatting with Stuart Simpson, who is known for some very stylised, off the wall films, such as The Demons Amongst Us, Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla and El Monstro Del Mar.  But Stewart’s history goes back way further.   In fact, way back to 1999 to working on tv shows such as Recovery, The Micallef Program, Welcher & Welcher, Spicks and Specks, and others.

Hi Stuart.  Your film work, since at least 2006, has been crazy, genre films.  Often with bucket loads of blood and slimy monsters.   Some of it looks very guerrilla in the locations that you shot at too.  Yet your start seems to have been in very secure, conservative tv studios.  I gotta ask, what prompted you to go from a fairly safe, regularly paid existence to dive right into the crazy world of b grade, shlock movies?

SS – Well,  I’ve been a freelancer at ABC for 20 years now! I began as a camera assistant on Recovery which was far from conservative. It was an amazing experience and was surrounded by inspiring young people of the same age all doing really cool stuff.   Around that time I started making short films and video clips which naturally lead to my first feature Demons Among Us.   Being a freelancer allowed me to still have the time to pursue my passion for film but I still had to make stuff within my means which was basically no budget productions! And look I love all cinema from Trash to High Art, it’s all relevant to me but in saying that, most of my dvd/vhs collection is b-grade genre stuff. It’s fun.

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DB – You wrote, directed, filmed and edited The Demons Amongst Us in 2006.  I take it that this was a side project while you were still working for the tv studios?

SS – Yeah Demons was a tough one.   It was my first attempt at something long form and since we could only shoot on weekends it ended up taking 2 years to shoot.  Too many characters and locations!

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DB – I noticed that it came out on Troma.  That has to be the dream of many a local indie horror movie maker.  Can you tell me a bit about how that came about?

SS – Yeah being massive fans of Toxic Avenger, Surf Nazis Must Die, etc, we were all pretty happy about that.  Llyod Kaufman had seen the film at Perth’s Rev Film Festival in person but I had flown over there the week after so just missed meeting him.  It was actually one of the festivals volunteers that told me he saw it and loved it.  She even gave me his contact email! So yeah I contacted Lloyd and he was awesome and it ended up on Troma. 

 

DB – The Demons Amongst Us (2006) is highly stylised.  The opening scenes have a Sergio Leone style but in a more Aussie suburban setting.  There is also a bit of a Hitchcock feel in the mounting tension and some of the framing of shots.  I can even pick elements straight out of Will Eisner’s book, “Comics and Sequential Art.”  After that, there are just so many different types happening in the movie that I lost count.  I felt that they all worked and helped keep the viewer off balance as it was impossible to find a comfort zone amongst it all.  I am curious as to how that all came about.  What are your influences, and were you experimenting here to see what directions you would take in the future?

SS – Thank you.  My main reason for the different styles was to help get the audience into the chaotic mindset of the protagonist and his decent into madness.  The last time I watched it years ago, I thought, “man I went a bit overboard with this”,  haha,  but yeah I was definitely experimenting and trying out different approaches to mood and atmosphere.  My influences change from project to project.  Depending on the themes explored I usually research the hell out of it in both film and art/books etc. I think it’s important not to just take influences from cinema otherwise you run the risk of repeating someone else’s style or vision.

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DB – El Monstro Del Mar (2010) seems to be more settled in style.  It still has the Sergio Leone feel with the B&W and washed out colours, but this time brings in a bit of Tarantino.  The first thing that stood out to me was that you had Norman Yemm in this.  Usually, indie movie makers have lots of new or unknown names, but Norman was a well-established actor and his performance in the movie is just amazing.  How did you meet him and how did he come to be in El Monstro.

SS – Norman was fantastic to work with. Even though it was again a very low budget film, he treated everyone and the film like a complete professional. I was having a lot of trouble trying to find someone to play the role of Joseph.  It was harder than I thought casting an older role like that and spoke about it to Richard Wolstencroft  (MUFF director and film maker)  who had a small acting role in the film. He had only just finished up shooting with Norman on his own film, “The Beautiful and Damned” and suggested him.  In this context I thought yeah ok, if he is up for working on low budget genre films like Richards’ then he might be up for being in a giant sea monster film!  I called him and he was really approachable with a great sense of humour and was totally up for it.  After all he had made a low budget horror film back in the 70s, “Night Of Fear”, so he knew what he was in for.

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DB – The biggest thing that struck me in El Monstro is the monster itself.  From the earlier scenes with lots of tentacles to the mega huge thing at the end with a vagina détente type mouth that wreaks destruction and leaves goo everywhere.  How did you manage to make such an amazing creature in a low budget movie?

SS – Well that was due to the inventiveness of Nick Kocsis, my long-time collaborator and FX maestro of NK FX, having to create something from nothing basically. There were many different parts to creating the overall impression of the monster.   We had the tentacle ends with gnashing mouths which were basically long ladies evening gloves Nick got from an op shop an covered in liquid latex and painted and added teeth and then puppeteered (both in and out of the water).  We had longer ones that did open and close on those cheap foam pool noodles for more action shots where we needed a bunch of them in the final scene.   And then we had the Monster itself which Nick made from Latex as well so it could be submerged in a pool and shot under water.  The model itself is only about 40cm long but under water looked massive.   We stuck it onto the end of a mob handle and pulled it away from camera and then reversed the footage so the action of the tentacles looked like the creature was leading with them.  The hand puppets in the ocean were puppeteered by our producer, Fabian Pasani, in a diving outfit weighted just right so he was buoyed just under the surface of the water.  So yeah I had some good guys working on it to help pull it all together.

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DB – I’ve discussed Chocolate, Strawberry, Vanilla a couple of weeks back with the writer Addison Heath, so I will skip that and go straight to another one of your amazing monster films.  In your segment for ABC’s of Death 2.5, M is for Mutant/ Baby did a bat thing – again we see amazing creatures.  Instead of one giant one, we see a horde of winged beasties ripping the crap out of people.  Can you tell me a bit about how you made these creatures and managed to bring them to life?

SS – Again Nick Kocsis created a single bat based on some rough designs I gave him out of silicon with a wire skeleton that could be posed and articulated into different positions.  I then mounted it against a green screen and animated it from several different angles with different movements to give the appearance that it could be a different bat.   And then I composited them into the footage, often having to cut out the actors as a separate layer so the bats could pas behind them. It was a very time consuming practice and the first time I’d really done stop animation to that extent but I’m very happy with the way it turned out.

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DB – It’s going to be impossible to cover all of the amazing things you have been involved with film wise here from the shorts, to music videos, to promo videos for Monster Pictures to the features, so I am going to throw this one out to you to discuss the highlights of your movie career, any interesting stories.

SS – Ah that’s a tough one, every project has its stories both up and down.  I’ll never forget when shooting El Monstro out in the bay with two boats, one that I was shooting from and the other that featured the actors. The actor navigating the boat saw that we were veering closer for the shot and decided to slow down but not being an experienced boater speed up instead and ended up mounted their boat on top of ours momentarily. That was pretty hairy, no was hurt thank god. And I have to say it was a highlight getting Glenn Maynard to walk butt-naked, shaved head to to toe, in public for Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla. We really just sort of blocked off the street ourselves with walkie talkies and pretending to be council workers with hi-viz vests and all that. Most of my shoots have an element of guerrilla film making so often I’m just hoping the cops don’t rock up and shut it down.

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DB – With your future plans.  I did notice that Dragon Force is one of the current projects and the ten minute short at Trasharama totally blew me away with the Asian cinema stylisations.  There seems to be a current trend locally to explore the Asian genre with Nathan Hill’s “Revenge of the Gweilo”  and Addison Heath’s “Mondo Yakuza”.  Can you tell me a bit about Dragon Force and why you chose this genre?

SS – Dragon Force X as you say started as a short film.   Its played really well at Monsterfest last year and won audience award in the short film category.  I’m currently in pre-production for a 12 ep webseries in that 80s action/supernatural/horror/adventure genre.  My reason for the genre came out of travelling around Vietnam last year.  I was there for a holiday with my partner, Raphaelle, and I was shooting footage with the new iPhone 7.  I was amazed at the quality and inspired by the awesome locations I just had to shoot something that I could edit with when I got home. I thought what can I shoot here without sound and with bad acting i.e. me.  I instantly thought of the great supernatural/psychedelic/martial arts films shot in South East Asia like the Boxer’s Omen, Mystics in Bal, Raw Force, etc. So I wrote and shot and sort of making it up as we went along but after awhile it all came together and then when we got home I shot a bunch of green screen fx and overdubbed the whole film (including American actor Walker Hare for my voice over) with an awesome and very authentic sounding 80s sound design by Dan Macdonald and original synth score by Jesse Breckon-Thomas.  It was a heap of fun for everyone involved so I’m looking forward to expanding this story and characters.  Only this time its been amped up to 11 with multiple countries and crazy story lines. Keep an eye out for Dragon Force X!

Thanks for chatting to me today Stuart.  Any links you need added go here …..

DRAGON FORCE X: www.facebook.com/DragonForceX

FILMS: http://www.lostartfilms.com/films

STUART: www.facebook.com/simpson666

 

 

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Shootin’ the Sh*t with Axle Gunn

David Black interviews actor, Axle Gunn.

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Hi everyone.  This time, instead of interviewing a director, I am chatting to Axle Gunn, an actor.  Axle has been in Aussie movies and TV shows, on and off, way back to at least 1993, and even has his own section on Fizzy TV.  In fact, he is the face of Fizzy TV.  Hi Axle.  You had a funny story for me the other week about how you got into acting when you were living on the Gold Coast, can you tell us about that?

Hey mate, thanks for interviewing me on your blog.

The situation happened as I had about half an hour before I commenced work, and I just was looking in the local paper and found the ad in the jobs vacant.  It read “wanted actors ,extras for tv film and commercials.  American accent required.” So I thought it must be an agent for Americans.  So i thought, bugger it I’ll ring em up and just do the american accent.  I was quite confident with it as I had been mimicking the Looney Tunes and characters off those American soapies for the fun of it when i was a kid.  So i rung the agency up, bunged on my accent, they believed it, and asked if I could come in and see them,  so i went in and sold them on it.  Suffice to say they signed me up and i got my first screen test for an American tv series, called “Time Trax.”   It was a support role.   I wasn’t successful though.

The agent would hold weekly workshops and invited me to attend.  Normally it was paramount that you complete their course, but i managed to surpass that necessity.  I arrive at the workshop thinking this will be good, as i’ll be amongst fellow Americans, and every single one of them was Australian.  Then the agent said, I don’t think you will like what  we;re goin to be doin today…  it was working on their American accent. But they said,  you can sit there and be our critique.  So there i was critiquing their accents, and they were appreciative as they said that I had helped them.  Then after a couple of weeks, I’m being asked if i would work for the agent as an American accent tutor.  Apparently I was that convincing, that after about three months, I told them I wasn’t really American.  They thought i was having a lend of them.

 

You did a fair variety of shows from 1993 – 2000.  There’s a sword and sorcery one in there called The Beast Master.  Another is an Asian genre movie called Golden Dragon 2.  There is even a Paul Hogan movie in there called Lightening Jack.

Yeah I just kept on goin for auditions and I think with the assistance of work-shopping in honing my craft, I was fortunate to land those gigs.

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After that, you went to China for a few years.  Did the experience of living within a foreign culture have a major bearing on your acting and how you interpret things nowadays?

Interesting question that one.  I can categorically say that living and working in China certainly was an experience in itself.  The Asians are completely different to Western  culture/countries.  In their way of thinking, their work ethic.  I found it sometimes difficult doin’ business with them, cos quite often I would be employed to do voice overs for videos,  and the script( more often than not) that they would expect me to read was not  possible, as it was either way to wordy or full of grammatical errors, so I would say,  listen just give me a few days to make the necessary amendments so we can record it.. but that didn’t fly with them,  cos it was all about losing face being their primary concern as opposed to just getting the job done.

 In answer to the question, no i don’t believe it has had any major bearing affect on my acting ability, and if it has then I’m not consciously aware of it.

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After returning to Australia, you came to Melbourne and was in a tv show called Hearbeat.  In that, you played a busker.  That brings me to your musical history.  We both played on Darkness Visible’s song Breaking Point and I know that you don’t get that good on guitar without a lot of practice and years of experience.  So where did that all start?

That simply commenced from an album I got given to me,  It was the Skyhooks album called “guilty until proven insane”  That album was a real turning point for me.  There’s a track on it called “point in the distance”,  and every time I heard it, when it came to the guitar solo,  I saw the same visual … It was of this guy just ripping into the solo completely oblivious to his current surroundings, in a smokey bubble.  It just sounded cool and looked cool,  and i thought, right that’s it,  if i never learn another thing on guitar, I’m bloody well learning that,  cos i wanted to be that bloke in that smokey visual, so i got me  an axe and took lessons and I said to the guy,  I know nothing on this, and I want to learn how to play this track.  He said I would be better off learning something a lil less complex as this one had about 15 chords in it, and had intricate changes,  but I explained why I needed to learn it, and  he appreciated my tenacious disposition.  Suffice to say after I learnt that,  the next question was, “right  what next can i learn on this”.  I never looked back.

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Between 2004 – 2011, you travelled Australia.  Would you say that getting out and experiencing life has helped you as an actor?

I can understand and appreciate that question. I think if anything given all the different experiences I had encountered overseas and also working around Australia has heightened my intuitive perception and made me more attuned to that. Normally when I get a script I don’t try and interpret it.  I just read it and I find my intuition just provides visuals in front of me.  I actually see it playing out as I’m reading it.  If it reads well, that’s what invariably happens. Suffice to say, I know what my character’s like as well as how he interacts with the other characters in the script. Then all I do then is fine tune it,  i.e.  break up the dialogue even try and break words up,  and throw in relevant pauses and then then think about whats being said to me and how I, or my character would react.

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From 2011 to now, you’ve been pretty solid with the acting.  It’s one film after another.  What have been some of the main films for you and highlights?

Yeah its been good.  I tend to acquire more gigs through referrals as opposed to applications,  which is quite complimentary as its a clear indication that people like my work. I would have to say that there’s been a multitude of highlights and enjoyable times on set and a few terrible times on set, but I accept that, as that’s all part of the journey along the way to the destination. Tracy is a feature that I have been working on, that was a definite highlight, as I got to use an assault rifle poignant to the character, apart from that, I was working with a lot of terrific talented people whom most of them I call good friends.  RED sky candidate was another highlight.  I kinda find it difficult to really answer that question briefly, as there are normally highlights on most projects i work on.  The  tormentors being one of them. I’m also working on another project with that same director, him being Darren  Downes. I love his style of directing. I’ts so easy going on set and we always end up with golden moments. This current project I speak of is called “Jumping Trains”.  I’ts a web series, light hearted comedy about this 50 year old bloke who has been working on his album for the last ten years,  stays at home plays guitar and watches tv and gets so engrossed in the shows that he’s delusional and regards them real life and quite often is perplexed by certain situations.

I would have to say one of the major highlights would be when Fizzy tv made me the face of their site. Its an american VOD site and they have this Australian bloke, i.e.  me,  being made the face of it.  That’s pretty cool!! I’m absolutely humbled to have that honour to be bestowed upon me.

I appreciate the different styles of directors and having to adapt to their style fo directing. some like to have a skeletal format n just find the objective and just impro from there with the inclusion of certain things. then others like to stick to the script. either way im able to roll with it.

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And where do you want to steer your career?  Is there anything specific that you want to do?

My aim is to head to the USA and be in demand for all those massive budgeted projects and work on them either in support or lead roles . I feel like i’m ready for that now and feel quite confident in carrying my own on their sets. However, I wouldn’t decline an offer in the U.K either.  I’m open to both.

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Any links you feel are important can go here –

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4913019/

http://fizzy.tv/

https://www.starnow.com.au/axlegunn

https://www.facebook.com/axleator

https://twitter.com/axemanz

Tomboys – a blood stained tale of vigilante justice and pathos

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Hi everyone.  This week features my first ever review for Oz Indie Cinema.  I’m covering Nathan Hill’s “Tomboys” from 2009.  For those that haven’t seen it, I’ll do my best not to give away any spoilers.  I will say straight up that Tomboys was difficult to watch, but not for bad reasons.  It’s a relentless story that explores revenge, vigilante justice and peer pressure.  As hard as it is to sit through such a harrowing film, it was even harder to tear myself away.  Just as you think you know where it is going, Nathan throws a curve and you are just forced to keep going to see what happens next.

Before going into the movie further, I want to give a bit of background on Nathan Hill first.  So far, the film makers I’ve interviewed could both be said to be part of the “digital explosion.”  One of the reasons why so many films are coming out nowadays is due editing software and cameras becoming cheaper and therefore more accessible to creative people.  But Nathan’s history with film making goes back way before this, from when it was far more difficult to make a film.  The very first movie listed on his IMDB is “The Hidden” from 1993.

For a backgrounder on Nathan, I’ve decided to borrow his bio from his IMDB listing.

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Nathan Hill is an Australian actor, writer, producer and director who specializes in making multi-genre pictures for a global audience. His debut to the stage was playing Peter Pan as a youngster. Nathan pioneered the 4-year Advanced Diploma of the Screen at Footscray Film Dept., Victoria, Australia. During film school he landed a lead role in the feature film Radio Samurai (2002) and also played a vampire in Queen of the Damned (2002). His graduation piece The Strange Game of Hyde and Seek (2004), a 30 minute film that screened at Shriekfest in Los Angeles, was a finalist the following year for the full-length version of the movie for the Shriekfest screenplay competition.

Returning home he shot his first feature Tomboys (2009) and further acted in the mockumentary How to Be a SexStar (2010) that opened the Australian Film Festival in year one. Gloom with a View (2008) in which he played the lead, won Best Pilot at Comedy Gold Channel 2009. Model Behaviour (2013), in which he acted, produced & directed won the California Film Awards in 2013, the DV Awards and was a finalist at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival. Nathan has continued to act in all mediums of the entertainment world. He has won awards for his filmmaking across the globe. His interest lies mainly in directing horror and thriller style genre movies.

And now, back to the review.   Despite Tomboys being from 2009, the themes explored are very timely.  The media is constantly covering stories where the general public is screaming out about law and order, and how the courts are letting us down by letting convicted rapists off on bail, only to see them reoffend.  Social media is rife with people calling out for vigilante justice.  And this is exactly the topic that Nathan has explored in Tomboys.  And what really gets me is that he explores it from so many more angles than I have seen touched in the myriad of op eds and current affairs stories that have been coming out.  The movie goes well beyond a cheap revenge flick though due to the excellent writing.  You can see that the writer has delved deeply into the emotions of each character and how the group will interact.

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The opening of this film is nicely stylised and it builds the tension so that you have no doubt whatsoever of what you will be getting into.   Asher Pope is credited with the music and it works in perfect synchronicity with the editing.  Imagine your heart beating.  How slow is it when you are relaxed and how fast when you are tense, and how ballistic it goes when you are ready to jump out of your skin! Well, Nathan’s editing of shots and Asher’s choice in music work together to control the next hour and 20 mins of your life …. And it’s an experience that you will never forget.

The choice of camera angles and composition are pure art.  In one shot, Kat is simply looking into a mirror.  We are drawn into the moment by Candice Day’s brilliant acting and probably would have just sat there, drinking in this reflective moment, when we see Naomi behind her, in the reflection.  While Kat is looking straight into the mirror, Naomi is standing sideways and looking toward the victim, who is off camera.  It’s a beautifully set up to draw us into the next shot.

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But a brooding moment can often be the technique to relax you and have you off guard before you are assaulted and knocked off your seat by the most emasculating and painful scenes imaginable.  Yes, this film has something for the gore hounds, but it isn’t simply a shock and splatter movie.

We have 5 female characters, portrayed by Candice Day, Naomi Davis, Sash Milne, Allie Hall and Sarah Hill.  Each is very different and quite believable.  Throughout this entire nightmare ride, we journey through seething tension to blood stained action, then back again.  This is carried by realistic interactions between the girls.  All do a spectacular job of acting and bringing this story to life.

The dialogue they deliver forces you to think about issues such taking the law into your own hands when you have been wronged and you just know that the justice system will fail you.  If you did take things into your own hands, then what is the right balance and how far is too far?  Can one person pay the price for another person’s actions, if that person is also guilty of the same crimes?  Whatever the answer is, I found a perverse delight in seeing the ordeal that Daniel Rankin was put through as Kyle.  Sorry, but Daniel did a superb job of playing an arrogant bogan and I have always wanted to see this type get their comeuppance.

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At many times during this movie, I thought I knew where it was going, but this is no clichéd piece.  It always twists a tiny bit away from where you expect.  Even right up to the end.  Obviously I can’t give that away, but I know what I would have done in that situation.  What does happen however, is still very believable.  But, if you really want to know what I am talking about, then you are just going to have to watch the movie, aren’t you?

You can get Tomboys at – https://www.ozflix.tv/#!/browse/film/2633/tomboys

It is also obtainable at – http://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Tomboys-Blu-ray/14123/

And if you would like to see more movies by Nathan Hill – http://www.nhp.net.au/content/shop.html

Girls, Massacres, Murder and Tarnation

An interview with the diabolical Daniel Armstrong by David Blacksheborg-massacre-dvd-ctc-packshot-web

Daniel Armstrong you are the leader in producing Ozploitation movies today.  You’re best known for Fight Like A Girl and Murderdrome, and more recently the Sheborg Massacre.   In post production, you also have Tarnation.  Can I ask you what possess someone to make such insane movies?  Afterall, many of the earlier Ozploitation movies of the 1980’s, such as Turkey Shoot and Dead End Drive in, had budgets of a few million and barely scraped in 50k at the box office.  It isn’t for the money, is it?

Hahaha thanks for that introduction! DIY film making is definitely not about making money, there is none to be had at this end of the gene pool. Back in the day low budget/guerrilla films had legs on VHS and then DVD. You could reasonably expect to make money back on the right kind of guerrilla flick in the 80s. I can’t tell you how many distributors have told me that 20-30 years ago the films I’ve made could make some money. Actually I can, it’s just one, but the point resonated with me. I’m stuck in the 80s.

Guerrilla film is what people used to call “indie” films by the way, although I prefer the term DIY film myself.

So what motivates me? I guess there are two main things, one is a love and passion for cinematic story telling, and the other is a desire to get better at it. Experience is the best teacher, so to get better at anything I usually just do it, end to end, as many times as possible.

Why “crazy”, “quirky”, or “ozploitation” style subject matter? There are a couple of simple reasons. I’m stuck in the 80s, in particular I’m stuck in the “10 movies for 10 dollars” aisle of the video library. I have a real love for the schlock sci-fi and horror flicks of the 80s. Another reason is market related. Most films are sold on cast. The first question a distributor will ask about your film is “who’s in it?” – that’s the reality. Without celebrities attached you need a sharp angle to get any interest. So I decided that working in a niche telling quirky/crazy/call-it-what-you-will stories in horror and schlock sci-fi genres could help with that.

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I’d like to cover each of your features in order.  Can you tell us about Fight Like a Girl? 

This was the first feature I attempted. It’s actually called FROM PARTS UNKNOWN and the tagline is FIGHT LIKE A GIRL, but the UK changed the name to FIGHT LIKE A GIRL, in the US and Canada they named it FROM PARTS UNKNOWN FIGHT LIKE A GIRL. So it’s the movie with two titles rolled into one, and no tag line.

This was a really ambitious film, I was attempting to write a character arc for a feature for the first time, I failed to achieve what I envisioned on that count. The positive of the experience however is what I learned about how to approach writing the protagonist’s character arc. That aside I love this film more than any of the others. It was an amazingly positive shoot, and I learnt so much from it, and the end result has plenty to be proud of. It’s certainly imbued with passion and a positive spirit that I think comes through. I also shot way too much coverage, and absolutely fracked up the post production process in so many ways I can’t even contemplate listing them here. We do, and we learn, and we progress from our experience.

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And now for Murderdrome.  I can see a bit of a theme here in that you go for a lot of female heroines.  Is that why you chose female roller derby?

When I wrote MURDERDROME I wasn’t writing a feature. It was a series of 5 minute episodes I was planning to launch online. I wrote this after FROM PARTS UNKNOWN and didn’t feel ready to attempt another feature. I wanted to write something short and focus on characterisation. So I aimed for an ensemble cast of big, cartoony characters to work with. The objective was to write something brash, feisty, and fast paced with these characters carrying everything.

Putting roller derby in a film had been an idea kicking about in my head for a while. Initially I envisaged them as a gang, like the gangs from THE WARRIORS, roaming around a neon future city with some other themed gangs after them. When I started to focus on actually writing something someone suggested making a slasher. I immediately slammed the two ideas together and came up with MURDERDROME.

Re female protagonists, obviously that comes with roller derby. As an aside I always default to “she” instead of “he” when creating a character, unless there’s a reason for a character to be male.

Oh, on a final note, I shot the film in the episodic format mentioned above. It would have had a total run time of about 45 minutes. It only became a feature after I met with a distributor who assumed I had a feature. I nodded, then went home and added a heap of montages to see if I could get the thing to resemble a feature film. Did it and got away with it, just like OJ.

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And now my favourite Ozploitation movie of all time – Sheborg Massacre.  It’s way over the top, blood drenched and has my favourite actress, Whitney Duff in it.  Give us all the inside gossip on this one.

To stick with my theme of learning from experience, in writing SHEBORG MASSACRE I wanted to create the sort of protagonist character arc I envisioned for FROM PARTS UNKNOWN and include the brash, feisty and fun characterisations from MURDERDROME in the script. I also wanted to make a schlocko sci-fi with a cyborg.

The first draft was called SHEBORG PRISON MASSACRE. After some effort I failed to find a suitable location to use as a prison. I redrafted and renamed the script SHEBORG PUPPY FARM MASSACRE and set it almost entirely at a puppy farm, because we had access to a suitable location. The “PUPPY FARM MASSACRE” got dropped at some point because it freaked too many people out and it became SHEBORG MASSACRE. In the rest of the world it will be known as SHEBORG, because our sales agent felt that made it, and I quote, “more cool”.

We shot on weekends from July through to October in 2015. From memory we rolled out about 30ish days shooting.  The shoot went pretty smoothly overall, although it was a huge grind and we were all getting burned out towards the end. DIY is hard on the mind, body and emotions – it’s definitely not a game for the feint of heart. We got through all of that and held a premiere at the Lido Cinema in Hawthorn sometime in July 2016, and the film releases on DVD and Bluray across Australia this April through MONSTER PICTURES.

You note that SHEBORG MASSACRE is  “blood drenched” so I will make special mention of our Art Director/Set Builder/Special Effects Engineer/All Rounder Anthony Hatfield who is the man responsible for the blood and the drenching. Knowing I wanted blood spraying I asked Anthony to prepare some means to easily splash blood around that was portable, easy to reset, and had some velocity. He built a device we came to call the “blood flecker”. Essentially a wooden bucket with a power drill driven paddle that blood could be poured into at one end and propelled out the other. Sheer genius.

If I had to point to one thing I did absolutely right in SHEBORG MASSACRE it was casting Whitney Duff and Daisy Masterman in the dual lead roles of Dylan and Eddie. I wrote Eddie with Daisy in mind, she played a small role in MURDERDROME and I felt she was underutilised in that film. We auditioned for Dylan by having applicants read with Daisy. Whitney was the final actor to audition, and she and Daisy seemed to fall in love at first sight. Their chemistry on camera was immediate. No one else who auditioned for us had that immediate repartee, and totally believable sense of comradeship, comfort and fun that Whitney and Daisy had. It’s their performance and relationship on screen that makes the film.

tarnation

Daniel, I am going to save Tarnation for last.  I first want to know about two earlier movies that you have on your imdb.  Both are shorts and I haven’t seen them, but after seeing a few of your movies, I am curious.  What can you tell me about Z3d52 and Snake Eyes.

From memory Z3D5 was a photo shoot concept we had planned and for some reason we decided to do it on video instead. It’s a silent zombie apocalypse flick, made probably back in 2006? I was really into zombie movies back then. It also features a beautiful car I owned at that time, a 1975 Triumph Stag, long since written off sad to say.

SNAKE EYES was a short I wrote in order to work with Brendan O’Shea as DOP for the first time – Brendan has since shot MURDERDROME, SHEBORG MASSACRE, TARNATION and a shirt load of music videos with me. It also features Jenna Dwyer (FROM PARTS UNKNOWN), Josh Futcher (also in FROM PARTS UNKNOWN) and TOMMY HELLFIRE (MURDERDROME, SHEBORG MASSACRE). I think it may also have been the first time we shot with a Cannon 5D, back when they first appeared and DIY film makers went all nuts over them.

Is there anywhere we can see these two shorts?

I’m pretty sure they are both on my Youtube page, along with other short films I’ve made or been involved with.

And now for the upcoming movie – Tarnation.  It’s got Satan, demonic unicorns and goo.  At least, so far, that is all I’ve been able to glean from it, aside from the zombie kangaroo and facehugger thingy.  This one has me curious as it looks to be more over the top and crazy than the rest.  Tell us about it.  Now!!!

It was about this time last year we shot TARNATION. So we dove into this one while SHEBORG MASSACRE was still in post production. I had a few objectives in writing it. One was to focus the story on a sole protagonist and move at a slower, more reflective pace than my previous films. SHEBORG MASSACRE hits you like a manic Gorilla throwing neon paint at your face for 90 minutes  – I wanted to have a crack at slowing that down and give the audience more opportunity to get inside the head of the protagonist.

The central conceit is about battling the good and evil within yourself, it’s both literally a figuratively a battle between Heaven and Hell within the psyche of the protagonist. To this end we have included a demon unicorn, zombie kangaroo, a flying, unicorn headed, demon, Satan, a rap battle in Hell, and a bunch of other pretty weird concepts. The conceit is that these beasts and incidents spring from the unconscious mind of someone trapped in Hell, and they are inspired by a fairy tale that’s fallen into a horror movie.

I wrote the part of Oscar (the protagonist) with Daisy in mind. She’s one of the most expressive, and versatile actors I’ve had the pleasure of working with and I was keen to give her the responsibility of carrying a story on her shoulders. I also asked Emma Louise Wilson (who was The Sheborg) to come back in a supporting role and flex her comedic muscles – she didn’t have a great opportunity to do that in SHEBORG MASSACRE so again, I wanted to get the benefit of her doing her thing on screen for TARNATION.

I can’t give much more away about the film at this stage, except to say we’re still in post production and hope to host a premiere in Melbourne around the middle of the year.

And final question Daniel,  what are your plans for future movies?  Are you still going to be making Ozploitation movies or are you going to try something different.

We’ll see what comes. More sci fi I would hope but it will depend on the opportunities (mainly financial) that life offers over the coming year.

And here is the part where I chuck in all the relevant links to your sites.

Me Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/StrongManStudio/

 

A Journey through creative minds!

Welcome to Oz Indie Cinema.

Just ten months ago, a friend asked me to be an extra in his movie Cult Girls.  I was totally blown away by the experience of there being an armourer with real guns, stars like Jane Badler, a crew of make up artists, big lights, cameras, dollies and gibs and a horde of extras.

At first, I thought it was something unique, but pretty soon, I was being invited onto more feature movie sets like The Last Hope, The Perfect Nonsense and The Manifesto Chronicles: The Betrayal.  I couldn’t believe that so many feature movies were being produced in little ‘ole Melbourne.  I also got invited to some film festivals where I saw recently finished feature movies such as The Sheborg Massacre, Red Sky Candidate 5238 and Mondo Yakuza.

The quality of the indie movies coming out of Melbourne is very high, although the budgets are sometimes shoe string.  This means that the people behind these movies have to be extremely creative and innovative.  I’m often amazed at how some of these directors manage to make movies that look like they have multi million dollar budgets for just tens of thousands of dollars …… but in a place like Melbourne, where talent and enthusiasm abound, I suppose it’s more a case of finding out the details and secrets because the raw materials needed are already there within the people themselves.

I’m hoping to interview some of these talented people over time and bring you their stories.  Let’s go on a journey of discovery together and uncover their secrets and find out just how their minds work.  Each week, I will endeavour to bring one new story.

Enjoy!

David Black