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An Interview with Bennie Woodell, Director of Fast Zombies with Guns and Death Angel December

by Mike Haberfelner

June 2011

Bennie Woodell on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Two films of yours are about to be released, Fast Zombies with Guns and Death Angel December: Vengeance Kill.

Let's start with Fast Zombies with Guns: In a few words, what is it about?

 

FAST ZOMBIES WITH GUNS!

[Ok, this admitedly was a stupid question. - The editor]

 

What inspired you to write the film in the first place?

 

Originally, it was actually a joke. I was premiering my first feature film, The Chauffeur, and I wanted to have some grindhouse trailers before the screening. At the time my friend was writing a zombie film and he was bouncing ideas off of me and I asked him at one point if they were fast or slow zombies. He said slow and I said, "Oh they should be fast because they're scarier." Then he kept on talking about his idea and it came to me and I slammed my hand down on the counter and said, "What if they're fast zombies with guns? Because you can't outrun a fast zombie and you sure as hell can't outrun fast zombies with guns!" And that was how it was born. I quickly wrote up a mock trailer for the film never intending to make it, and at the screening everyone got a kick out of the trailer. I just kind of put it out of my mind until like five months later people were asking when it was going to come out and I thought it would be a fun film to shoot.

 


So there was no real inspiration like I grew up watching Romero's films or anything like that, it was really an accident that it came into being, and it was a great accident in my opinion. Out of everything I've shot, I had the most fun shooting that film because it was ridiculous and we knew it so we always had a great laugh when we were shooting it.

 

Your depiction of zombies differs from the classical zombie quite a bit. What caused you to make your zombies fast and equip them with guns? And your thoughts about the zombie genre as such?

 

Honestly, and I know there are some die hard zombie enthusiasts out there who will disagree with me, and that's okay, but I have a hard time watching walking zombies. I just don't find them scary at all. I'm sure they were terrifying when they first were released, like the old Universal monster pics, but it's a different time now and I think for me, they're great for nostalgia purposes but not for a good scare on a Friday night. But when 28 Days Later came out I sat there in the theatre on edge the whole time. No longer could you just run away from a crawling zombie coming at you; these zombies were out for blood and were quicker than people it seemed. And adding guns to the mix is really the next logical step in my mind, because now the one thing that people had to defend themselves with aren't a total advantage anymore.

 

But I also didn't make Fast Zombies with Guns to be a scary horror film, some people said they were really scared and had nightmares from it oddly, but I really intended it to have a more action/grindhouse type feel to it and take something that's a really crazy idea and just see how far I could take it within our budget.

 


Death Angel December: Vengeance Kill: Now what is that one about?

 

Death Angel December: Vengeance Kill is a film about a girl, December, who witnesses her Mom and Brother being murdered as a child over her father's monetary debt to Mr. Law. She flees and tries to live a normal life but is attacked in college and that's the switch in her mind. After that she starts training and goes on a quest for vengeance to not only find her family's murderers but also to kill any man or woman who is evil and will harm the innocents of the city she lives in. I always thought she was like a female prostitute Batman. One day she finds the knife that killed her brother as evidence and she is introduced to the killers once again and she goes after them one by one.

 

Your main inspirations for the film?

 

There were a few inspirations honestly. The main films being the girls with guns genre from Hong Kong, like Naked Killer and sub-sequent sequels being the Raped by an Angel series, Black Cat 1 and 2 - gosh there's a number. Also Hong Kong cinema as a whole was an inspiration for that, as well as everything I write. If you noticed, Death Angel December: Vengeance Kill has a lot of traits that are in HK films, like the voice-over narration, the flashbacks, the story structure, the action sequences; it's all Hong Kong inspired because I've been a huge Hong Kong film lover since Death Angel December: Vengeance Kill and have amassed a huge collection of HK films. One film that I paid homage to in Death Angel December: Vengeance Kill was A Chinese Torture Chamber Story 2, I won't say which scene because if you've seen the film you'll know right away.

 

Aside from Hong Kong cinema, I was thinking about films like I Spit On Your Grave, Thriller and other sexploitation films from the past. I even showed Leena I Spit On Your Grave before we started filming so she could see what the rap- revenge genre was like.

 

Your thoughts about what I would dub the avenging angel-subgenre as such?

 

I absolutely love the avenging angel genre, or the girls with guns genre as I've always called it. They are always creative because the women they use in the films are always incredibly sexy and beautiful, and they figure out ways to exploit that to the woman's advantage. With a guy killing movie, it's pretty cut and dry you know; brute strength plus big fire power equals killing and vengeance, whereas with girls they figure out ways to get where they need to be to get the job done. A great recent example from the US was Sucker Punch. I absolutely loved that film and thought it was very creative in what the girls were doing; dancing for the men to get the items they needed. It was creative and interesting. But look at say Chow Yun Fat in The Killer, he walks into the restaurant, knocks on the door and just blows people away. Exciting and awesome, yes, but think of how differently a woman would have had to do that in a true girls with guns flick. And that's why I love the genre.

 

Both Fast Zombies with Guns and Death Angel December: Vengeance Kill were done on rather low budgets. Would you have done anything differently provided you had sufficient funds?

 

Yes! Yes! Oh God Yes! I would have hired a gaffer with a full grip truck, an on-set sound guy, a post sound guy, and a visual FX artist. I had great special effects artists on set who did a fantastic job with the little money we had, and if we had more money they could have done so much more as well.

 

Both films feature excellent action sequences, especially considering your budgets. To put it bluntly: How did you do it?

 

Action sequences themselves don't cost a lot of money, the real trick is understanding how a good action sequence is put together. I originally did theatre in High School, and spent a lot of time doing stage combat, going to theatre camp and doing stage combat for weeks straight; so I had a grasp on how to construct a sequence. I remember when I was first starting to think about directing, I would sit down, look at my surroundings and see an action sequence unfold in my mind with what I was looking at. Then on top of that growing up, all I watched were action films. I would watch Rambo 2, Young Guns, The Terminator, Predator all on a daily basis pretty much. And once I got into HK cinema, I really studied how they constructed their action sequences because they were so vibrant and full of energy. I firmly believe you can do almost anything without money as long as you understand and fully grasp what you're trying to do.

 

Incidently, both Fast Zombies with Guns and Death Angel December: Vengeance Kill feature memorable performances by Leena Kurishingal, Will Cummings III and Charles Ramsey. A few words about these three, and how did you initially hook up with them?

 

I first met Leena in Production 2 at Columbia back in the summer of 2004. We became really great friends right away and worked on a lot of stuff together at Columbia, and then we just kept working together after graduating. She is an absolutely wonderful girl who has a lot of heart and really does a great job on screen. She really carried these films and I am so incredibly lucky to have met her and worked with her.

 

I met Will Cummings III on a film I was the DP for, Clubless: The Legend of Victor Montango, and he was a joy to watch in the film. So when I was getting ready to make Fast Zombies, I knew I needed him in the film and we haven't looked back! He's an incredibly professional actor and really takes things seriously, but he always comes in with great ideas on how to make the character or scenes better.

 

Charles Ramsey auditioned for The Chauffeur many years ago, and I cast him as the headmaster of the orphanage. He was on set for I think one day, maybe two, but he did a fantastic job in that film and knew we'd work together again, which we have many times. Charles is one of those actors that just loves what he does, and you can see it. When he's not acting he's still on set helping out with whatever and having a great time with everyone.

 

While Fast Zombies with Guns and Death Angel December: Vengeance Kill are about to be released, you have already premiered your latest feature, The Sad Café. What can you tell us about that one?

 

The Sad Café has been my baby for the past six years. It was supposed to be my first feature out of film school, but then things happened and I went a different direction, but I finally came back to it. The film is my homage to Hong Kong cinema about a hitman who falls in love with a girl at the café he frequents, but is afraid to pursue it due to what's happened in the past with a previous relationship. He finally decides to go for it but then has to live with a life altering decision not only for him, but for her as well.

 

The film is told in a way that would be a cross between a Wong Kar-Wai, John Woo and Johnnie To film. There's a lot of voice-over narration and art cinema aspects throughout the entire film, then there's the action sequences and underworld dealings that bring the story to other places. I am very proud of this film and am getting ready for the festival circuit with it. This is also the kind of film that I originally intended to do when I began film making. The horror films were never my original intention.

 

A few words about your debut feature, The Chauffeur?

 

The Chauffeur... that was a great first feature film out of film school that people really seemed to enjoy. I took the film to some horror film conventions and met a lot of great people who I still talk to, to this day all because of the film. Hopefully someday it'll get a release somewhere because it is a fun little slasher film.

 

Before The Chauffeur, you have directed quite a few shorts. What can you tell us about those?

 

Those were all films I did at Columbia College Chicago, and all were pretty much action films. If you look at those shorts and watch The Sad Café, you'll see that even in film school this was the direction I was going.

 

Any other films you'd like to talk about? Any future projects?

 

Well, I'm starting to write my next feature film, Sweet Sorrow, which was a short I did at Columbia. I'm maybe a third of the way through the script and I'm hoping to be able to raise the money to shoot it sometime next year.

 

A few words about your production company, Jiang-Hu Productions - and what does the name actually mean?

 

Jiang Hu is actually the world of the triads in China and Hong Kong. When I was at Columbia I had to think of a name for my production company (I didn't HAVE to, but I'm a firm believer that finer details are what make things professional and authentic), and I thought to myself since my major influences all come from triad films, why not just name my company that. This way people who know about the world of Jiang Hu will know what kind of films they're going to see when they put in a Jiang-Hu Production, and those who don't know about it can ask and they can learn something. It's really a tribute more than anything; if there were no films out there involving the triads, I don't know what I would have gotten into otherwise.

 

You have also worked on quite a few films by quite a few other people in quite a few positions. What can you tell us about your work for other directors?

 

The films I've DP'd were a lot of fun to do. The comedies for E.S. Productions were with guys I was involved in theatre with in high school, so when we get together to film, it's reminiscent of those days. They've all grown leaps and bounds since the first film, The Next Level, and I hope they continue to make more stuff.

The films for TK Productions helped me meet some great people as well. I was introduced to Tom Kleine by Charles Ramsey actually, and he got us working together and I enjoyed it. One Year/One Week just got picked up for distribution so I'm really excited to see what's next!

 

How did you get involved in filmmaking in the first place, and did you recieve any formal training on the subject?

 

I originally started doing acting, and then I went to Illinois State University where I realized I was not a good actor at all, but I loved directing action sequences for fight choreography, so I decided to try my hand at making action films. And yes, I graduated from Columbia College Chicago in 2006 with my Bachelors in Film/Video with a concentration in directing.

 

Directors who inspire you?

 

Wong Kar-Wai, John Woo, Johnnie To, Chang Cheh, Chor Yuen, Andrew Lau, Jackie Chan, Stephen Chow, Park Chan-Wook, Kim Jee-Woon, Robert Rodriguez.

 

Feeling lucky ?
Want to
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Find Bennie Woodell
at the amazons ...

USA  amazon.com

Great Britain (a.k.a. the United Kingdom)  amazon.co.uk

Germany (East AND West)  amazon.de

Looking for imports ?
Find Bennie Woodell here ...

Thailand  eThaiCD.com
Your shop for all things Thai

Something naughty ?
(Must be over 18 to go there !)

x-rated  find Bennie Woodell at adultvideouniverse.com

Your favourite movies?

 

1. Ashes of Time (the original, not redux)

2. The Killer

3. Infernal Affairs

4. Chungking Express

5. Fulltime Killer

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

Big Mama's House!

 

Your website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

My website is www.jianghuproductions.net and you can find me on facebook by looking up Bennie Woodell. If you add me on Facebook, please send me a note saying hi and that you found out about me from this website!

 

Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

No I think we're good.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

No, thank you for taking the time and interest to talk with me!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD

 

 

Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...

 

Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!

 

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