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?
ZOMBIES WITH GUNS!
[Ok, this admitedly was a stupid question. - The
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.
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.
Angel December: Vengeance Kill: Now what is that one about?
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
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
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?
absolutely love the avenging angel genre, or the girls with guns
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.
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
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
especially considering your budgets. To put it bluntly: How did you do it?
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
other films you'd like to talk about? Any future projects?
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
few words about your production company, Jiang-Hu
Productions - and what does the name actually mean?
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
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
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?
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!
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.
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 ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
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?
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
No, thank you for taking the time and interest to talk with