Feb 14, 2008

Interview with Christopher Alan Broadstone

Christopher Alan Broadstone recently agreed to an interview with Soiled Sinema. He is best known as the aspiring filmmaker of the award winning trilogy "3 DEAD GIRLS!"

SS: Thanks for doing this interview. How did you get started with your filmmaking and what advice would you give to any would-be independent filmmaker?

CAB: I was born in Oklahoma City and raised in Dallas, Texas. Many years ago I moved to L.A. with my band, THE JUDAS ENGINE. Although TJE had a CD under its belt, was playing gigs regularly, and had a new demo recorded, it was brutally murdered by circumstances about eight months after our arrival in California. I was suddenly a lost soul and too burned out to pursue music anymore. My only opportunity lay in some good luck I’d had in meeting two professional film producers. They read the unpublished (at the time) manuscript of my novel PUZZLEMAN, liked the story, and wanted to get it into script form ASAP. I took the challenge and launched into an endless screenplay writing exercise that eventually went nowhere. I could never please two producers of different minds and myself too. I also wrote a second feature, LOVE ME, based on an old short story I’d written many years before, but was nearly thrashed to death by criticism upon completion of the first draft. It was then that I realized the only way anyone was ever going to take my cinematic visions seriously, or even understand them, was if I took control and made a film myself. My first choice was SCREAM FOR ME, based on another of my short stories –– a little tale that people either loved or absolutely hated. I had quite a bit to prove to the world, as well as to myself, so I wanted to shoot a movie that broke rules. In the case of SFM, that meant dealing with controversial subject matter, male nudity, sexual violence, excessive language, back-to-back monologues, a one-room location, and a lead character that constantly wore reflective mirror sunglasses. Most all of those challenges are considered bad luck for a first-time filmmaker. (Or even a pro.) As for my advice to would-be independent filmmakers? Uhhhhh, don’t even start. If you can keep from it. Get out while you can!!! While you still have your sanity. Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! LOL! Thing is I can’t really give advice, because my films have come from my heart, and a whole lot of thought (translation: lying in bed for endless hours, staring at nothing, and trying to see everything), and also from suffering with the project itself. That last statement, in translation, means: (simply) I’m married to the project. In other words, I’m ultimately committed. But I’m also ultimately committed to make the marriage work. Divorce is not an option. I either go down with the bitch (the ship), or I figure out how to keep a sinking, potential goddess afloat. Fortunately, with all three films, I’ve done enough Hitchcockian fore planning to have guaranteed a reasonably successful voyage. Of course, the designers of the Titanic would’ve said the same thing. Difference is, at least with filmmaking, you can take the time – if you want to (if you have the will power, the patience, or the insanity to) – to simply let the ship sink. And then you can reevaluate the disaster and figure out that you sometimes just have to reinvent the wheel. That means going back to your original ideas (your script) and putting it all together as you had hopefully planned to do. It’s really so simple, but also incredibly, painfully complicated. Everything you need will be there, if you just plan ahead enough. Even so, you always have to find it all again, in the end. In the editing. So here is my real snippet of advice, it’s better to shoot something than nothing at all. You can’t edit a shot if you don’t have anything to work with. Simple as that.

SS: How exactly do you think up these variations of classic tales but with a Clive Barker-ish twist?

CAB: I was writing the first draft of my novel, PUZZLEMAN, many years ago, and was trying to sleep one night but couldn’t. So I picked up the first BOOK OF BLOOD and read the MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN and I realized that what I was already trying to do was possible. I realized that gore and death could be poetic and beautiful, as well as motivation for story. That’s the really important part. If the gore/brutality doesn’t drive the story forward, then it’s useless. It’s just a joke. A shock factor. A laugh. As it is in most horror films. I think that’s why what I’ve done has worked. The gore (or lack thereof) in connection with the story elements and characters creates an environment that sucks in the viewer and then doesn’t let them go. Before they know it, they themselves are part of the story. But that also comes down to technical issues as well. You can’t have even one bad edit or any bad audio. Because no matter how powerful your characters and story, in this modern age, picture and audio quality can make or break a film. Simply put, everything (story, characters, acting, shots, editing, and audio) has to work perfectly to make even a reasonably good film. Even a reasonably good, bad film. LOL!

SS: I really liked the impish camera work in the short "HUMAN NO MORE". Did you string a camera up or crawl around the ceiling? How did you do that? Seems similar to the non-linear camera style of Irreversible.

CAB: Yes, extremely nonlinear (as with all my films). HNM was very, very hard work and required tremendous pre planning. Every shot was choreographed to marry up to every other shot, in a way that would imply a single, endless perspective (a continuous POV). And yes, if you watch the HNM extras on the DVD, you’ll see that I really was crawling around at the ceiling -- on homemade catwalks and peering through many pipes. In many sequences, the pipes were used as a cutaway to marry different shots and to make them seem like a continuous perspective. In post-production, I also used many different experimental methods in Final Cut Pro to make the production footage marry together even more seamlessly. I nearly drove myself mad with it, to be honest. But in the end, I did not divorce the project and I made the marriage work. And I think the film works. I realize it’s not the most popular of all three of my films, but it is the most personal – and the one drawn from my deepest pain. And, with the amazing performance of Tony Simmons, I think that one day true fans will see this is my VERTIGO. Hitchcock’s best film, in my opinion. It’s also one of his most personal films and, until recently, one of his most unappreciated.

SS: The mask in MY SKIN! looks almost exactly like the one in the upcoming Hollywood addition to the over-used snuff category "The Poughkeepsie Tapes". Is it me or does that seem like a total rip-off?

CAB: No rip-off. Not intentionally, anyway. I don’t even know what you’re talking about, and I also made MY SKIN many years ago. The mask, however, is an old school tradition in Venice at carnival time. I ran across it at a store up on Franklin Avenue in Hollywood and fell in love with it. I still have it, in fact. For me it was a way to make MY SKIN! and the character of death surreal and theatrical, which would immediately sell the over-the-top, uber-stylized, and somewhat campy, Hammer horror-esque nature of the film. I just wish I could have used the mask more. Maybe this "The Poughkeepsie Tapes" is ripping me off. Of course, I’m just ripping off human history. So let’s sue each other, for godsake!

SS: How the hell did you find that creepy bastard Tony Simmons? His each performance horrified me a little bit and how did you alter his appearance so easy? From being incredibly muscular and menacing as Madman to old, attention to detailed, and howling as Death.

CAB: I met Tony by the sheer luck of fate. I’d put out a casting call for SFM in “Backstage West”, a trade mag here in L.A. When I submitted the ad info I stated that the film contained “some nudity” and that there was “no pay” for the actors. When the ad was printed, however, it read as “some nudity” and “some pay”. I freaked out and called immediately to complain. “Backstage West” now informed me that because of increasing sexual abuse issues at auditions, they had recently changed their policy on films with nudity: if an actor has to perform nude, he/she has to get paid something. Now exactly how problems of sexual abuse would be solved by offering “some pay” is still beyond me, but whatever. At the time, I was mainly concerned with having to explain to the actors I called to audition that “Backstage West” had misprinted the ad and there was actually no money to be had at all. What an embarrassment. To my surprise, however, everyone I called (about 30 people for each of the three parts) accepted the chance to audition anyway –– including a very mean and scary looking guy named Tony Simmons. I fell in love with his headshot immediately, but was terrified by the fact that he looked like he’d enjoy nothing better than beating the hell out of anyone that looked his direction –– especially some no-name filmmaker suddenly telling him sorry, there really is no pay. I was also terrified that because he so looked the part of Madman, he probably couldn’t act worth a shit. But my fears were unfounded –– Tony’s audition blew me away. No other actor even came close. The following week I offered Tony the part, and he accepted immediately. A couple years later, when we were shooting MY SKIN, he confessed that he never answered ads that stated “no pay”. So, that’s why I say that the sheer luck of fate brought us together. If “Backstage West” hadn’t changed their policy, and arbitrarily changed my ad info, Tony never would’ve sent his headshot. He also told me that the only reason he went through with the audition was that when he read the sides I’d put out for the call, he was blown away by my writing; especially the voice of Madman. A match made in heaven. Or maybe I should say hell, considering the content of SFM. As for changing him into Death for MY SKIN!, it was really just a matter of lighting, camera angles, a little makeup, and the brilliant Tony Simmons inhabiting the character. Viola!

SS: I noticed you wrote a lot of the lyrics and performed most of the music on the OST's. How did you manage to do that so efficiently?

CAB: As for my lyrics and music...I did write the lyrics for IN THE MOONLIGHT (MY SKIN!) and SOUL IN A HOLE (HUMAN NO MORE), but the amazing Brian Sussman wrote and performed the music. I was, however, a professional musician for many years and used some of my previous band’s (THE JUDAS ENGINE’s) tunes, which I also wrote the lyrics for. In SFM I used the song WORLD SCREAM (from our debut CD) and in HUMAN NO MORE I used a never distributed track called I AM A WALL. Both tunes are available for download at: http://blackcabproductions.com/MP3.TJE.html
Alas, a past life much missed. Enjoy!

SS: How did the audience reactions to SCREAM FOR ME vary? You should have seen my face when I found out what was happening. Did anyone leave the showing?

CAB: Yes, some have walked out. LOL! When the film screened at the New York City Horror Film Festival (at which it won Best Short Film) I know five people walked out in the first 10 minutes. Ironically, I ran into two of them as they were going back into the fest later. It was two women complaining about the violence of the film and wondering how and why anyone could make such a terrible thing. I then shook their hands, gave them a DVD, and said I was the writer and director. LOL! The look on their faces was worth a million dollars.

SS: You mentioned that these films were very personal and could be an exorcism of your own demons. Care to explain?

CAB: Well, in some ways there’s not really much to explain. On the other hand, the personal part has really been about the challenge of just making a solid, good film. One that connects with me and, hopefully, one that will magically connect with others. But with every film...well, it’s turned into the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Technically, philosophically, emotionally. I wonder why I even want to continue sometimes. But it’s simply something that’s in me. And it has to come out one way or another, or I’ll die. Whether it’s through music, writing, or filmmaking, it has to come out. It’s the only way I know how to justify my existence. (For whatever that’s worth.)

SS: After writing a novel (PUZZLEMAN), do you have any more planned exploits in film?

CAB: For years I’ve been about 300 manuscript pages into writing a novel called HEATHER’S TREEHOUSE. It isn’t nearly as complex of a story as PUZZLEMAN, but it’s definitely as visceral and graphic. It’s also less angry and philosophically gloomy. It should be a fun read, if I can ever get the time to finish it. Speaking of which, I’m about 60 pages into a shorter novel I plan to call M. That one is a very personal story and is written in first person with a stream of conscious feel to it –– definitely very different from PUZZLEMAN or HEATHER’S TREEHOUSE. I also have two feature screenplays I’m dying to direct, LOVE ME and RETARD (Best Horror Feature Screenplay – A.K.A Shriekfest 2004) which I wrote with actor/writer John Franklin (who played Isaac in CHILDREN OF THE CORN and CHILDREN OF THE CORN 666). And I have two more scripts I need to finish writing – which will hopefully star Tony Simmons. And a couple children’s stories I’d like to do. And the list goes on. There’s lot’s and lot’s to do. But whether or not these projects are produced by Black Cab Productions, or some bigger studio or publisher, is up in the air right now.

SS: Last but not least, what is your process of coming up with such a terrific monologue ala HUMAN NO MORE? It is near impossible to not be affected by that scene. Many thanks for this interview. I look forward to your name slapped on more cinema in the future.

CAB: Thank you for that. The monologue was something I worked on very hard. Very, very hard. I really had to externalize my own pain – really get to my core emotions and stare straight into the abyss. And, I’m afraid it’s true, the abyss did stare back into me – and it showed me two faces. The 9/11 disaster and the love-of-my-life suddenly walking out on me without any warning. I was angry at the world already, and then I was thrown into a dark basement, not unlike Detective Nemo in HUMAN NO MORE, without a soul to hold onto. I did have my family, fortunately (although long distance), but I had lost the most precious gift I’d ever been given. It was like being addicted to the most powerful drug in the world, and then suddenly having it taken away. Detoxing hasn’t been easy. Part of that detox was the making of HUMAN NO MORE and the writing of the infamous monologue. I thought it would release me. But, sadly, it really hasn’t. I’ve been told I have an amazing ability to externalize my pain through writing. And I guess that is my true gift. But it is rarely a pleasant one. So enjoy. I’m just here to entertain. :)

Be sure to check out his award winning collection at Black Cab Productions

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