Note: The videos included has been classed as NSFW (Not Safe For Work). This interview will also contain swearing and minor spoilers for some videos.
If there is one thing I miss, then I have to say it is films that make you think! Thankfully we have independent filmmakers who are coming out with some awesome ideas! Today my guest is a Mike from Reel Splatter! They created short films such as My friend Lawrence, The Stall, Long pig and Take my breath away(video above) to name but a few! Mike was kind enough to come out of the bloodbath to do this interview!
3.47: So who are Reel Splatter?
Reel Splatter: Reel Splatter is sort of the umbrella that all of my creative pursuits fall under, be them filmmaking, FX work, writing, ect. It all kind of exists in the same universe. As for WHO it is, that’s kind of hard to pin down. Filmmaking is a collaborative art form and I am extremely lucky to be able to work with the talented folks I do. Each member of the crew has their own creative endeavors as well and together we sort of form a weirdo art collective that works on each other’s projects. With our powers combined, you know like that Captain Planet fellow…Among these very talented folks (in no particular order) would be Julius von Brunk (Graphic design,webmaster,actor), Skot Shaub (VFX, actor, music, writer ), Erik Myrnes (music, editor, writer, director) Dylan S-C (Director of Photography, editor, director) , Kevin Hallman (VFX, Editor, webmaster) and Elias Swinehart (Audio Engineer, Lighting), and of course myself (writer, director, FX, Editor). We all wear many hats on each project, but these are the primary roles we play.
3.47: How did the name come about?
Reel Splatter: Ya know, I don’t honestly remember the exact specifics, but as I recall it came about after several sleep deprived nights many, many years ago when I was working on my first short film back in high school. I was brainstorming out loud and it just kind came out and I never looked back.
3.47: How long have you been making short films for now?
Reel Splatter: I’ve been interested in filmmaking and FX since I was a kid. My first real short film, “Manhunt: I Was An Impressionable Teenager” was completed just a little over 10 years ago. We actually had a little 10 year anniversary party here at Reel Splatter HQ recently to celebrate a decade of putting the laughter back in slaughter!
3.47: Was this something you always wanted to do?
Reel Splatter: Absolutely. I have been obsessed with filmmaking, FX, and Horror since I was a little kid. For me every day was Halloween and I was constantly practising new gore FX on myself with things I could find in my kitchen cabinets and filming little movies with my camcorder. It just kept evolving over the years into what it is now. I don’t think I ever really grew up, I’m still the same weird little kid playing with corn syrup and food coloring making slashed throats out of toilet paper at heart, I just have bigger budgets now, (Laughs).
3.47: What’s been the most challenging situation you face when doing the films?
Reel Splatter: Battling the elements is always hard, especially when you are doing gory stuff, the FX gets messy and when it’s 100 degrees out and you’ve been covered in fake blood for 16 hours wandering around the woods or freezing your ass off in a 26 degree public restroom in an abandoned factory it gets tough. We’ve shot in some pretty horrid conditions, and it’s a real testament to the fortitude of the actors and crew that they can handle it without starting a mutiny and decapitating me on set for putting them through it.
3.47: Where do you get the inspiration from when you write them?
Reel Splatter: I wish I knew! Ideas are always randomly popping into my head throughout the day and I just scribble them down as notes and let them snowball. Long Pig for instance started as the line “Tonight my friends…we eat CARRION!” popping into my head while I was making someone’s pizza at work at my day job. I thought it was a funny line and by the end of the night, I had half the script written in my head. I think a lot of my ideas come from my day to day interactions with people and my personal life, more than a few stories have been harvested from being overly introspective, that’s for sure. Working in food service for so many years has also certainly given me tons of great story fodder.
3.47: The video My Friend Lawrence was very creepy and what I loved was that not a single word was said! Are you hoping to make more like these?
Reel Splatter: (Laughs), thank you! My Friend Lawrence was a very strange experience. What’s cool about it is that the entire project from concept to completion was just a little over 24 hours. Doing a movie like that is absolutely grueling, especially if you’re the one in the bloody whitey tighties covered in raw meat! If you look closely at the shots of me in front of the TV, you can actually see my breath. We shot that stuff in my garage in the dead of winter. It was horrible. The origins of Lawrence started when my roommate/frequent collaborator Erik Myrnes had just bought a new camera and we were trying to figure something out to shoot as a test. The idea of a man with pet meat seemed like a logical choice (what that says about my mind, I’d rather not know) and we started bouncing ideas off of each other. By the end of the night, I had a very strange monologue written out, we drove to the grocery store, bought Lawrence in the discount meat bin and Erik and Dylan started shooting me doing weird shit in our house. The rest is history as they say. My Friend Lawrence was certainly Erik’s baby, so it was really interesting working outside the confines of my normal creative zone and going totally out there with the weirdo David Lynch style stuff. I would love to work with him and Dylan again doing something like that in the future. It was interesting to say the least.
3.47: Without going into too much spoilers in any of your films but what a twist in Long pig(video above)! Are there any Japanese movies that you really hate when it comes to been remade for the American market?
Reel Splatter: Long Pig was a lot of fun to write. I wanted to really play with the audience’s expectations and screw with the genre clichés of both Japanese and American horror films. It’s extremely entertaining to see the audience reactions at film festivals during the plot twists, no one knows what to expect and it really keeps them off balance. As you can probably tell from the opening scene of the movie, PG-13 ghost movies are not my favorite thing in the world. It was a trend in modern horror that I absolutely hated. They were as awful and formulaic as the slasher flicks of the 80’s and I thought they would make excellent parody fodder. The movies we were making fun of in particular were One Missed Call and Drag Me To Hell (which was a generic PG-13 ghost movie with a Sam Raimi Evil Dead flick mixed in randomly).
3.47: Testosteroso’s song Bambi sandwich fits the bill perfectly as the end song! How did you find that track?
Reel Splatter: I am absolutely in love with that song and I don’t believe there is a more fitting tune to end Long Pig with. Testosteroso is the massively kickass band of my good buddy/collaborator Skot Shaub. He was working on the VFX for Long Pig and he played me Bambi Sandwich off of their new album, Four Fathers and I fell in love. I begged him to let me use it and the Testo guys were cool enough to say yes.
3.47: What’s been the hardest short movie to make so far?
Reel Splatter: Definitely The Stall. It took over 2 grueling years to finish and the conditions we were shooting in were absolutely hellish! We had to do major reshoots for the tentacle FX stuff and the abandoned factory restroom were filming in was alternating between 100 degrees in the summer or 26 degrees in the winter. Fitting over a half dozen people in such a small space in those temperatures, mixed with all the slime, blood and 14+ hour days led to some pretty horrible experiences. It was all completely worth it in the end, but next time I’ll just build my own set instead of shooting on location!
3.47: You got your film showed at film festivals as well which is awesome! Is it hard sometimes getting your one to be shown? For example they won’t show your one for various reasons?
Reel Splatter: Film fests can be a tough thing sometimes. Every festival is different in terms of what type of films they are looking to play and what kind of content they will allow. It can be difficult for us sometimes because the Reel Splatter movies kind of walk the line between genres and are a little hard to classify sometimes, add to that our penchant for graphic violence and our sometimes offensive sense of humor and we’ve certainly gotten rejected from some festivals. Generally speaking though we’ve been very lucky, most of the horror festivals and certainly the audiences have been extremely receptive of our films. Our short, “Demonstration of The Dead” actually won the Fan Favorite Award at Horrorfind Film Festival in 2010 and our newest, The Stall is about to play at its 8th festival (with a few more coming up), so we do pretty well on the festival circuit.
3.47: You recently became a one of the organizers and judges for the Horror Night event of the Rumschpringe International Short Film Festival in Lancaster, PA, what was it like?
Reel Splatter: It’s certainly a fun experience. I was a judge for another festival LAFF (Lancaster Area Film Festival) for 4 years so I am certainly prepared for the stress of it. It’s really difficult to see so many excellent indie horror films and have to select so few of them to play.
3.47: The cover of The stall is pretty bad ass! You kept it in the same retro feel that we all love to see for posters! Who designed it?
Reel Splatter: An extremely talented artist named Marc Schoenbach from Sadist Art Designs did the poster for us. I saw his work on his website and fell in love. I grew up stalking the horror section of my local video store absorbing all the lurid old 70’s and 80’s VHS covers and dreamt of the day I could have art like that for a film of my own. I chose the retro route with The Stall because the lighting and subject matter just lent itself so well to the style and Sadist Art knocked it out the fucking park!
3.47: So far you sell t-shirts and of course DVD’s of the films you made, are you hoping to branch out to other areas as well?
Reel Splatter: I sell the occasional FX piece at film festivals now and then. I do these really nasty ornaments that look like a slab of human skin with our logo carved into it and they are always really popular. I call them the Gein Collection by Martha Stewart. In addition to the movies and FX work, I also write short stories, they tend to run on the much darker side than the movies with far less comedy though. I’ve been published three times so far in anthologies by StrangeHouseBooks so we are always hawking those books as well! If you’re interested, check out my bleak and snarky food service zombie apocalypse story “Play Place” in Zombie! Zombie! Brain Bang!, my incredibly nihilistic post apocalyptic Christmas story “I’m Dreaming of a White Doomsday” in A Very StrangeHouse Christmas and if you have the stomach for it, my disgustingly nasty horror erotica tale, “Appetites” in Strange Sex, all of them are available on http://www.Amazon.com
3.47: Its awesome to hear you and Baron Julius von Brunk are best friends! How long have you guys known each other for?
Reel Splatter: Me and the good Baron have known each other for the better part of a decade. We actually lived across the street from each other and attended the same high school. Eventually we crossed paths and all that birds of a feather nonsense. We’re both fucking weirdos so we got along famously.
3.47: What’s the best advice you been given?
Reel Splatter: The best advice I’ve ever been given was by a very good buddy and mentor of mine, horror author Brian Keene. He told me to bleed for my art and to write what I know. The best art is personal and I try to inject my views and experiences into everything I make.
3.47: What advice can you give to others who want to be like you?
Reel Splatter: If you are doing it for money you already failed. There is no money in indie film, that’s not why you do it. You do it because you love it. Be practical. Find a job that will pay your bills so you can make films in your free time, there is nothing wrong with that. Make friends with uncertainty and above all else, never give up. Filmmaking is grueling and hellish sometimes so be prepared for trench warfare and understand that sometimes the best things from the most horrible conditions. As an indie filmmaker your ability to think on your feet and come up with a solution to a problem on the fly is key. Do what you can with what you have. Be MacGyver.
3.47: YouTube has become a bit of a problem for some but given the chance to change it, what would you get rid of or change about it?
Reel Splatter:I have such a love/hate relationship with YouTube. On the one hand, it’s the best place for exposure, on the other hand it’s so over saturated with absolute garbage and there is no quality filter. The fact that anyone can now have their work seen is a blessing and a curse. People have to wade through so much crap to get to anything decent, but the attention span of the average youtuber is about 30 seconds. That’s fine if you have a sports drink commercial, not so fine if you are trying to get your film seen. As far as what I would change, I would abolish the Nazi regime copyright algorithms that auto detect copyrighted content and is wrong roughly 95% of the time. YouTube says you are guilty until proven innocent in such cases. I have had to fight them over a dozen times for music copyright claims against The Stall, the soundtrack of which was completely 100% original composition by Erik Myrnes comprised of strange synth noises and ambient rumbling. Despite this we had to fight a copyright claim by a Japanese pop song (?!) that literally had nothing even remotely resembling the soundtrack we had created. YouTube locked the video down until we went through the appeal process which took several weeks and then they just ignored the fact it ever happened and reinstated the video. It was beyond frustrating. I would also do away with their content restrictions. Nudity and violence are part of art. There is no reason it should not be allowed on the site provided there is adequate warnings before the videos so people are aware of adult content.
3.47: So far all the films have been stand alone but are you hoping to make an sequel to any of them?
Reel Splatter: I have been toying with the idea of sequels for a few of them but nothing ever really stuck in my head. Womb For Two has been percolating lately as a potential animated sitcom, so perhaps that will be the first?
3.47: What equipment do you use for filming?
Reel Splatter:I started with a vhs camcorder back when I was in elementary school and over the years have upgraded through the different phases of camera technology. Currently we shoot on a Cannon 60D DSLR. Between the lot of us, we have access to a full range of professional audio gear, camera rigs and post production computer stuff. Everyone contributes something.
3.47: Do you get people asking you at times can they be a extra or play a role in your next film?
Reel Splatter: I get asked that constantly. I am delighted that people want to be involved, but very rarely are they prepared for how grueling and not fun the experience can be. When it comes down to it, it’s sweaty, sticky, occasionally slimy and above all else, its work. People don’t seem to realize that. We aren’t some random kids playing with cameras in the backyard. We take the projects very seriously. That’s not to say it’s not fun, and we certainly fuck around plenty, but it’s really hard work and you have to have an inhuman amount of dedication to get through it.
3.47: Given the chance who would you love to work with?
Reel Splatter: My filmmaking idols are David Cronenberg, John Waters, and Peter Jackson. I would kill to be on one of their sets!
3.47: What do you do in your spare time?
Reel Splatter: Spare time? What’s that? When I’m not slaving away at the pizza shop or spraying things down with fake blood, I like to write. I read constantly too, there is never a time where I’m not in the middle of a book. I love to play old video games, 90’s PC games and Sega Genesis in particular. My favorite game of all time is Harvester, an outrageously fucked up and bizarre live action FMV PC game from the glory days of the early 90s. If you’ve got the stomach, go to http://www.GOG.com and buy it, you will never be the same. And of course watch movies. Watching movies is the most important film school you will ever experience.
3.47: What can we expect from you in the future?
Reel Splatter: I’ve got a couple more short films cooking right now, one of which, “Clown Shock” involves clowns, chainsaws, and time travel. It’s the most violent thing I’ve ever written and one of the strangest too. That’s probably next on the chopping block and after that I have few more I want to do that are a little more serious in tone, and then onto “Masterwork” Reel Splatter’s first feature length film. All I can say is that it’s going to be hilarious, depressing as hell, and very, very bloody.
3.47: Final question! Anything you want to say to your fans out there?
Reel Splatter: THANK YOU! From the bottom of my twisted, blackened little heart, thank you all for the tremendous support you’ve given us over the years. Seriously, there has been so many times where I wanted to pack up shop and find a big people job but your encouragement kept me going. I have never met a more loyal and supportive group of nutcases in my entire life and I love every single one of you. Now go buy Reel Splatter dvds…
3.47 would like to say a massive thank you to Reel Splatter for spending the time doing the interview! Until next time guys!