What made you want to become a filmmaker?
I grew up loving movies. When I was about eight, my dad gave me an 8mm camera and I started making horror films every weekend. When I was ten, I had my first ever public screening at my primary school of a film called “Trent Park Massacre.” The funny thing was that kids under seven were banned from watching the movie.
Do you prefer docs or narrative films? And why?
I love both. Both can be exciting and moving – or both can be boring as Hell.
What interested you so much that you wanted to make a documentary about backyard wrestling?
I’d just finished directing a swimsuit video for Women Of Wrestling and was at a PPV when these two little kids gave me a tape because they wanted to get on the show. I took it home, popped it in the VCR, and there they were – two twelve-year-olds, smashing each other over the heads with light bulbs. This was really my first exposure to backyard wrestling. I went on the Internet and typed in “backyard wrestling” and found thousands of backyard wrestling federations all across the world, with names such as “Suicide Wrestling,” “White Trash Wrestling” and “Fucking Extreme Wrestling.” I emailed about a hundred of them – and a week later got an email inviting me to go see two brothers fight to settle it once and for all in the “3 STAGES OF HELL.”
First stage: The brothers battle in a barbed wire ring.
Second stage: One gets buried alive in the scorching desert sands.
Third stage: The most vicious. A grave is covered by a plank wrapped in barbed wire and then set aflame. One will be thrown into “THE PIT OF HELL.” There was no way I was gonna miss this, so I called up some friends and we hopped into a car and drove nine hours up near Reno, Nevada. That night, after the match, I ended up in the Emergency Room with one of the brothers. When I heard his mom was gonna turn up, I thought she’d come in screaming at her son for doing what he did, but shockingly she was more concerned about whether or not he had had a good match. It was this moment that I decided to do a doc on backyard wrestling.
How does backyard wrestling compare to organizations like the WWF?
Backyard wrestling is a direct imitation of professional wrestling, so there are a lot of similarities, but the major difference is that the wrestlers competing are generally not trained and thus not “professional.” The other big difference is that the kids sometimes use weapons such as light bulbs, staple guns, barbed wire, glass and fire.
What surprised you most about the world of backyard wrestling?
Actually the love and respect the wrestlers show each other.
Have you ever wanted to try it yourself?
You expose this world, warts and all, hell, forget the warts — bloody wounds! Were you ever squeamish or scared during filming?
When you’re driving to places unknown and meeting people for the first time it was sometimes pretty hairy. In Tucson, Arizona, home of one of the toughest federations, a little kid in the audience pulled a knife out on my photographer. By chance my photographer was a second-degree black belt, disarmed the kid and sent him and his friends running. But that whole incident really helped us get respect with the group. In Modesto, California there was another situation where I thought I was going to be caught in the middle of a gang fight, but luckily it never happened.
Is backyard wrestling truly a worldwide phenomenon?
Yes. It’s wherever wrestling is shown on TV. I was even going to go to a place in Russia to film a fed there, but the area had some sort of civil turmoil, which prevented it.
Can someone really make a living as a backyard wrestler?
No. It’s even really difficult to make a living as a pro wrestler unless you’re part of the WWE.
What were audiences’ reactions to some of the more gruesome scenes of violence?
Well, when the film (which wasn’t finished at the time) premiered at SXSW, a guy fainted. I actually didn’t find out about it until the next day when people asked if it was a publicity stunt. A lot of women walk out of the film – especially in the first 15 minutes. But not only do they walk out, they walk out screaming angrily. I was shocked when I first saw this occur.
Everyone wants to know this so I have to ask, what was the budget and how long did it take you to make it?
I think Barry Blaustein’s Beyond The Mat had a budget of $5 million. That was a documentary about professional wrestling with a big professional budget. My doc about backyard wrestling had a backyard budget. It took about two years to make.
What are some of the scenes you had to cut?
I had to cut a lot of Rob Van Dam, who is currently one of today’s biggest wrestling superstars. Otherwise, I also cut quite a few federations, which didn’t really capture my interest.
How did you go about finding these strange characters?
I would learn about other backyard feds by speaking to existing wrestlers I was following.
What is your relationship with your newfound wrestling friends like?
It’s really good. I think a lot of it’s because I knew wrestling talk and could chat to them on their level. One of them, The Lizard, I speak to a lot. We really became good friends.
Have they taught you any moves?
Only the one I did on you up at Sonoma.
What do you hope audiences get out of the film?
A fun, exciting, enlightening time.
Tell me what you’re working on right now.
I am looking for investors for my next movie! If anyone’s interested they can get my email from www.thebackyardfilm.com.
Posted on August 21, 2003 in Interviews by Chris Gore
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