Any words of advice for indie filmmakers?
Well, I suspect a lot of people wouldn’t want to work like we do. But, if someone out there really wants to make a movie for under $500, I can tell you our secret. Only work with what you’ve got. Don’t write your script and then try to figure out how to go about making it. Do it the other way around. None of the movies we’ve made have been our “dream projects.” We’re saving those until we have better resources. Think of something you can do without too much fuss and don’t plan on things you don’t know how to do yourself, unless your good buddy knows how to do it. If you’re a wiz with computer FX, then that’s cool; if you’re not, don’t put them in the script. Unless your parents own a barn and a Home Depot, don’t build sets. Figure out what you can use for free to up your production value (outdoors is always free, and easy to ‘light’). And do not try and fool people. You won’t get away with it. Our best sets were our parents’ houses. Rather than trying to redress them to make them look like rooms in an office or hotel, we just had all our movies take place in large suburban homes. Lame? Maybe, but we also made four features in three years for a total of about $2,000. How do you shoot places for free? One of your friends has to be assistant manager of something. Also, never forget the all purpose lie of “We’re students making a student film.” Police like to hear that when you’re filming at a public park after hours without a permit. It is also a good way to shoot in a restaurant, or whatever, after hours. In Stabbing Me we knew we wouldn’t be able to show any gore FX, so we had to rely on sound FX. Making stabbing, hacking and sawing sounds is cheap and easy and fun. I recommend stabbing a pumpkin. Works great. Pumpkins are cheap too. The key to getting away with all this low tech nonsense: try to make the content of your film fast and good, and most people will look past a lot of the crappy stuff.
What prompted you to move to Hollywood, with no connections?
If you want to be a stage star you have to move to New York. That’s how it works. You can succeed in filmmaking and not live in Hollywood, but you know what? It is hard work and we’re lazy. Hollywood is gross and hot and the people kind of blow, but this is where the action is and sometimes it is fun to be where the action is. Someday we hope to escape back to Minnesota, but not just yet. As for the connections, here’s some advice for fledgling filmmakers who are using having no connections as an excuse not to leave Oklahoma or wherever; connections are 95% bullshit. A lot of people think they have good connections, but most don’t. Your dad is the CEO of Universal? That’s a connection. You just met a guy who works for the producer of “Blade” at a party? Not a connection. Maybe he’ll look at your script? Well, he probably has a script that he wants the producer to look at, too. If he can find a way to get co-writing credit on your script, you might be in business. Hollywood is weird because it is this massive throng of people all scratching and clawing at each other, trying not to drown by using each other to stay afloat. Chances are the person you think is your big connection is just better at lying than you and actually needs you just as bad or more. …Like no business I know…
How did you go about selling “Dorm Daze?”
Well, like the idiots we are, we just moved out to LA with no plans of any kind. We had no connections and even stupider, NO NEW SCRIPTS. We had nothing to show agents. I refused to get a “ladder climbing” job, like working in the mail room of a studio or being a PA on a film (you know, the kind of stuff you’re supposed to do when you move out here.) Pat did not seem particularly happy about this scheme, but he stuck to the plan as well. PA jobs suck, because you don’t get paid jack and you have to work insane hours and it usually takes years and years for you to climb up. We’d already been making movies for years. We wanted to move faster. So like the geniuses we are, we got jobs that would clearly move our career forward in no way. I got a job at Cousin’s Subs and Pat got a job at Hollywood Video. Well, fate apparently liked our stupid plan, because we had only been living in LA for six months when Scott Hillenbrand, who would later turn out to be half of Hill & Brand Entertainment, came into Hollywood Video renting a stack of zombie movies. And when someone in Hollywood is renting a bunch of one kind of film, it only means one thing. Here is a retarded summation of what occurred.
PATRICK: Writing a zombie movie?
SCOTT: Thinking about it, my lad. I co-directed “King Kobra.”
PATRICK: With Pat Morita. I saw that!
PATRICK: I write movies!
SCOTT: Here’s my card, boy. Send me your finest two scripts!
So we sent him our finest zombie script, which we had just finished writing a few months before, and the only other script we had printed out, “A College Sex Comedy,” one of our failed college projects that we had decided wasn’t appealing to anyone. Well, they didn’t even read our zombie script and promptly bought our sex comedy (now “Dorm Daze”) and speeded it into production. It was all quite weird. We celebrated selling the script at Burger King, in case anyone was wondering.
The interview continues in part five of LAIR OF THE SCHLOCK WORM>>>
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