MC: Yeah, it's a direct sequel featuring the further adventures of private investigator Jack Steele from "Pleasures." Although this time do to scheduling conflicts, he's played by a different actor (Larry Gamber in this film). I figure if Batman can be played by a different actor in each film, surely we can get away with it in our cheap garbage movie!
We've changed the setting this time around, and dropped Jack off on a cannibal island, so "Isle" is designed to be a parody of the Italian cannibal films of the late 70s, early 80s. Mark Leake, who wrote the script, is looking to spoof a niche genre within Italian horror with each of the "Damned" films. If we get around to doing a 3rd one, it'll be more of a mid-eighties thing along the lines of "Demons."
SS: Your films seem to be heavily influenced and inspired by Italian exploitations of the late 1970's and early 1980s. What made you to decide to do this?
MC: It's a time period where filmmakers were able to get away with a lot more in terms of sleaze. Also, since the majority of films from that time period (with a few notable exceptions) are generally pretty bad and cheesy, it's ripe for parody. Also, I think those types of films hold a special place in the hearts of everyone involved with the flick.
SS: Being a low budget filmmaker, you don't have access to as much time and money as say Michael Bay. What is your creative process? Do you film when you're able to secure funds?
MC: We generally go from paycheck to paycheck to fund these things. All the money was put up by myself and Mark Leake, with no outside funding. That's something that we'd like to change down the road, because actually having a real budget to pay our cast and crew would enable us to shoot for a month solid, rather than just on the weekends over a year and a half. What we've done on Isle probably could have been done in a month if scheduling wasn't such a nightmare.
SS: What filmmakers have inspired you as a director?
MC: I'm a huge Peter Jackson fan... particularly to see his humble beginnings making "Bad Taste," which was shot over a period of 4 years on his own money, on the weekends, with his friends. That's what we're doing (although I might hang myself if it got streched out over 4 years), but that's pretty inspiring. It's the same thing with Eraserhead, or the first Evil Dead film.
I also grew up watching the Star Wars films, John Woo (his Hong Kong stuff). I volunteered with Troma for a few gigs, and was able to learn a lot from Lloyd Kaufman, by seeing first hand how they operate. I'm also just really inspired by my friends who are getting out there and making stuff on micro-budgets, like Doug Sakmann (Punk Rock Holocaust), Alvin Ecarma (Lethal Force), Ryan Graham (Livelihood), and other local guys like Dave Kratz (who is shooting Isle with us), Armando Valle, Sillicon, and Better Hollywood Productions.
SS: Pleasures of the Damned featured many American taboos. Do you consider yourself a fighter of political correctness?
MC: Well the films we're spoofing are sleazy, so it was done more out of parody... we're not out looking to offend anyone, and hopefully the goofy execution of the script for Pleasures and Isle shows that everything is done as a goof. Obviously the films are not for everyone, but the folks that enjoy that little niche of Grindhouse style stuff usually enjoy it.
SS: Are your films meant to be watched while intoxicated?
MC: It probably helps... Pleasures was designed to be a film where the audience can provide their own running commentary along the lines of MST3K.
SS: What advice do you have for aspiring independent filmmakers?
MC: Get out there and make something! You'll learn way more by "doing" than you will from a textbook. Also, I always hear people talking about waiting for investors so they can do their dream project, and then it never gets made... it's all talk. Just do it... figure out a way around your budget limitations. Keep your locations easy to access and your actors down to just a few. It only takes one dude to call up and cancel, and then you have to call 10 other folks to tell them the shoot's off. Also, just watch a lot of movies... not just the "good" ones. See what works and what doesn't. Go to film fests, and watch other micro-budget stuff. Network with other filmmakers in your area. Don't set out to make a "Hollywood" movie because if someone's given the option between watching "The Omen" or your cheesy $1000 knock off, they're gonna pick "The Omen." You should revel in the fact that you have the opportunity to do something different, since you're in total control.
SS: When can we expect Isle of the Damned to be finished?
MC: We should be finished shooting in September, and then we've got a lot of editing and sound design work to do (also low budget filmmakers should remember that sound is half of your picture, it's not just about the visual), so hopefully end of '07 or early '08. I'll keep you posted, so long as I don't hang myself first!