You’ve now worked for more than 20 years as an actor, which is amazingly difficult to do.
Tell me about it.

What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in smaller budget filmmaking over that time?
I find myself traveling farther and farther in order to do movies in general. It used to be that you could just go to the valley, you were here, but now you find yourself in Bulgaria, or Luxembourg. You’re going, “What? Wait a minute. This movie takesplace on a tropical island, why am I going to Bulgaria?” I mean really, it’s farcical. It’s all about money. Where can we get it done cheap and get away with it? Like “Beyond Re-animator”: Shot in Spain. Why? Because that’s where the deal was.

Are the challenges getting smaller films made any different today from when you first started?
I’d have to say it’s a lot harder than it used to be to get things done. Usually when you work in the lower budget stuff its all for the same reasons…personal reasons, and by that I mean that the people who are creating these movies have a personal fire in their belly, a real drive to do something. They believe in their material and the enthusiasm is certainly there. But fewer and fewer people are interested in doing the little independent films anymore. There’s less money to be made I guess, there’s no return.

That can’t be good news for the horror genre, which has had problems over time sustaining any sort of quality.
It’s changing. Coming up with Stuart Gordon and all of those guys, there was a real sort of focus on the writing, on the written word. Stuart was from the theater. And I find now its sort of , “Yeah, well, whatever you want to say.” I’m never particularly comfortable with that kind of filmmaking. Sometimes these scripts don’t have much of a spine and I find myself, more and more, being a sort of doctor on the set. It’s a nice challenge but a little disconcerting. Out of a sense of survival, and trying to retain my own modicum of credibility, I’ll go “I can’t say that. This doesn’t make sense.” A lot of people won’t develop a character, they just think from gag to gag. They’ll say, “Next we’ll be filming the Big Sequence!” And you’ll think, “Why? Does this make sense?” It’s a bunch of sound and fury and blood, signifying nothing. Nothing’s at stake. But overall I’d have to say that my biggest fear is the whole switch from film to digital.

Specifically, what concerns you about digital?
It’s the texture of it. You can tell. It’s very hard to light it, to give it a richness and depth, a contrast and texture. There’s something about film that gives it a magic and quality that lends itself to the imagination, whereas digital just seems so clinical and hard. The result is that people’s eyes are getting brainwashed, especially with these junky reality TV shows, which are all digital. There’s no performance, no story, its all about editing. There are concept writers, but no actual writers. They don’t have to pay actors, they don’t have to pay directors necessarily, or much of a crew. There are no special effects. There’s none of the things that are part of the process, meaning there’s no overhead costs for the networks. And all of the people that are in these things want to be actors. How depressing is that? Give me a break. They humiliate themselves in front of millions of people, and everybody with their TV dinner just laughs it up, not being able to critically discern it from a good movie. Meanwhile, character actors like myself are sitting here going, “Excuse me, but what did I train for?”

So these shows not only suck, but they’re also hurting people in the industry. Nice.
It’s just a house in Van Nuys with a bunch of losers in it biting each others head off, and that’s it. At least 50% of the activity on a television project is cut.

The interview continues in part three of BEYOND JEFFREY COMBS>>>

Posted on November 12, 2004 in Interviews by

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