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An Interview with Brendan Steere, Director of The VelociPastor

by Mike Haberfelner

August 2019

Films directed by Brendan Steere on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie The VelociPastor - in a few words, what is it about?

 

Itís a genre sendup about a priest who loses his parents, inherits a mysterious ability to turn into a dinosaur, and is convinced by his hooker friend to use it to fight crime. And ninjas. It rules.

 

With The VelociPastor being a creature feature, is that a genre you're at all fond of, and some of your genre favourites?

 

Oh, absolutely. Iím a massive fan of movies like The Thing and The Blob, as well as lower budget stuff like Track of the Moon Beast and Equinox. Thereís a Japanese creature feature called Goke: Body Snatcher from Hell that was a big influence on The VelociPastor directly.

 

(Other) sources of inspiration when writing The VelociPastor?

 

There are a whole bunch of movies I could cite (Hausu, Black Dynamite, anything by Brian Trenchard-Smith...), but honestly the biggest source of inspiration was just my childhood. I was trying to recapture the feeling of watching a crazy, bad movie for the first time with your family.

 

You just have to talk about the dino-suit used in your movie for a bit, and were there any special challenges filming action scenes with a man in a monster suit? And did you ever consider using CGI instead?

 

Oh were there ever challenges. Youíre completely blind inside the suit - and I mean COMPLETELY blind. There arenít any hidden eyeholes or anything - itís just solid foam rubber. Youíre also nearly deaf, and the costume is so hot that you have basically 2-3 minutes of costume time MAX before you need to get the performer out and let them breathe. My brother and I played the dinosaur in the movie because I didnít want to subject anyone else to how miserable it was to operate.

 

No, there was not a single moment we considered using CGI. Itís a creature feature, and in my book itís a cardinal sin of the sub genre to not use makeup or a suit for that. A CGI dinosaur would have

absolutely been the death of the project. I wouldnít have done it without a suit.

 

Also, there's plenty of blood in your movie - so why don't you talk about the gore effects in The VelociPastor for a bit, and how were they achieved? And was there ever a line you refused to cross in your film regarding blood and guts?

 

We worked closely with SFX makeup artist Jennifer Suarez-Scuccimarri to get the gore right. She and I talked a lot about ďhow fakeĒ or ďhow realĒ to make things work, depending on if the scene was meant to be funny or a little more menacing. All the blood effects are also practical, or at least mostly practical - I have no problem using CGI to enhance a practical effect, but the effect itself should be based in something tangible and real.

 

Honestly, I was just saying to my cinematographer the other day that Iím a little disappointed we didnít push the gore farther. Iím low key a gorehound, so in my opinion I should have made the film WAY bloodier. Maybe the sequel will be. Haha!

 

At least for me, The VelociPastor was also a very humourous film - do you at all agree, and if so, do talk about your movie's brand of comedy for a bit!

 

Absolutely I agree! That was 100% the intent. I think if you wanted to define the brand of comedy, it would be something like if you crossed Monty Python and What We Do in the Shadows. Most of it is grounded in the reality of the characters and their world, but the film will every once in a while get a bit self-aware and the joke will come from that.

 

What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

Far and away the thing I had the most angst about during filming was the filmís tone. I knew that if we didnít get the tone exactly right, the whole thing would fall apart - either people wouldnít be invested enough, which could lead to them getting bored, or the film would take itself TOO seriously in which case the central conceit would fall apart. I decided early on that I would edit the film myself, because I knew what the tone was but found it difficult to articulate. Mostly it can be boiled down to ďdonít take things too seriously and have fun with it.Ē If there was something happening in a scene that WASNíT fun or funny, there had to be a damn good reason for it.

 

Do talk about The VelociPastor's key cast, and why exactly these people?

 

So, only a handful of the cast are professional actors, notably our two leads Gregory James Cohan [Gregory James Cohan interview - click here] and Alyssa Kempinski. I had worked with Alyssa before on my feature Animosity. She had a smaller part in that film, and I sort of discovered how talented she was while working with her, so I resolved to give her a bigger part in the next one. She exceeded my expectations - fantastically talented person. Greg we found through casting, and he just seemed to get the tone so completely that I HAD to cast him. There were a few times on set that I would defer to Greg because no one else seemed to get the humor quite as much.

 

The rest of the cast were friends and family. I cast them because 1) they were free and more importantly 2) itís a bad movie, and I assumed ONE of them would be bad. They all turned in superlative performances, much to my chagrin.

 

A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

It was far and away the smoothest and most fun set Iíve ever been on. I know itís a clichť to say ďWe weíre like a familyĒ, but it really did feel that way often - people just really believed in the material and showed up every day to do their best. Itís a rare thing to have that kind of atmosphere on set and Iím very proud we achieved it. I think it allowed us all to chase the fun of the project more and realize it more fully.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of The VelociPastor yet?

 

Oh itís been insane. People seem to genuinely love the movie, which has been such an incredible validating and humbling experience. For example, we played at Texas Frightmare in Dallas, and one of the attendees had seen the film earlier that week in Chicago and flew herself down to Texas to see it again. In the same week!! Itís been a lot like that, just people showing genuine love and support the whole way.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

Well, obviously Iíd like to do a sequel to The VelociPastor. I donít know if thatís next or a little down the road, but itís coming. If this becomes my Evil Dead franchise I would be VERY okay with that. I also realized recently that one of my favorite movies The Killer Shrews is in the public domain, so... you never know. Haha!

 

What got you into filmmaking in the first place?

 

I loved making backyard movies with my friends when I was a kid. At some point I realized that I actually liked the creation of the films more than just hanging out with buddies, and I just followed that. When I was around 14 I saw Reservoir Dogs for the first time, and it gave me the vocabulary that what I wanted to do was direct. I never looked back from there: itís been writing/directing ever since.

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to The VelociPastor?

 

I made a few shorts in film school that Iím proud of and had some success, including the original 2011 short film that we based The VelociPastor on. In 2014, I made a  feature film called Animosity, which is vastly different from The VelociPastor in tone. The lead performance in Animosity is one of my favorites Iíve ever seen, and I take very little credit for that - the actress Tracy Willet is just phenomenal. Itís worth seeing just for her, to be honest.

 

How would you describe yourself as a director?

 

Was it Hitchcock that said you basically just shoot your fetishes? I realized recently that there are two things that connect almost all of my films: ďthe woodsĒ, and people in peril. Both Animosity and The VelociPastor have their plots kicked off by an injured female character rolling violently down a forested slope. So, I think thatís a pretty good summary of my work: find a pretty girl and throw her down a hill.

 

In terms of working on set, Iím very open and collaborative. If that line in the script isnít working or sounds awkward? Fuck it, change the line. Actors are creative people, gaffers are creative people, PAs are creative - listen to their suggestions and implement them if they better serve your story. The worst thing a filmmaker can have is too much ego to see when theyíre wrong.

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

Edgar Wright, Quentin Tarantino, Park Chan-Wook, Hideaki Anno, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Guillermo del Toro.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Solaris by Tarkovsky, Pacific Rim, End of Evangelion, Antichrist, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, The Thing, and the list goes on.

 

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

 

I absolutely fuuuuucking hate Dunkirk, and most of Christopher Nolanís later films. Their continued critical acclaim baffles and frustrates me. Also Suicide Squad is one of the most bafflingly awful films Iíve ever seen released by a major studio. Fuck that movie.

 

Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

http://www.thevelocipastor.com

http://www.brendansteere.com

And Iím also very active on Twitter - @brendansteere, letís bro out.

 

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

 

Linguistics are a hobby of mine, and Iím dying to shoot a film in another language, or do a Babel/Inglourious Basterds kind of thing where the spoken languages actually effect the plot as it plays out. I speak okay German and pretty bad French, so maybe something with those? 

 

Actually one of the stealth jokes in The VelociPastor stems from this: ninjas are a Japanese cultural staple, so it was very important to me that they never speak Japanese, because the joke was ďdumb white people wonít realize the differenceĒ. Sure enough thatís proven mostly right. Haha! 

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

My pleasure, thank you as well.

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
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directed by
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