Your new movie Tailypo
- in a few words, what is it about?
is a story about a reclusive man named
Levon who lives alone in a cabin in the woods with his hunting dog Jasper.
Hungry and desperate, he fires a shotgun into some movement in the woods
and clips the tail off an unseen target. Starving the way he is, he takes
it back home and cooks it up. That evening he begins to hear faint
whispers in the dark, as the creature wants what is his.
is based on an old folk tale, right? So what drew you to the story in the
first place, and how true did you remain to your source?
Yeah its Appalachian in origin, but
Tailypo doesnít have one specific author or version. It was a campfire
tale passed from generation to generation. Lots of different authors have
put their spin on it, and I've heard versions called Tallypo, Tailybones,
and even a variation called Bloody Toe which substitutes the tail for his
toe. Some version use a gun, others use an axe to cut the tail. It really
has been interesting seeing the same story through so many different
storytellers mouths. Mine is just one of many versions.
My earliest recollections are
honestly a bit hazy. I heard it as a small child growing up in my small
home town of Edgewood Texas. My kindergarten teacher Caroline Hooks told
us a version around Halloween, as did another teacher of mine named
Darlene McEnturff. I had always remembered my grandmother telling it to
me, as well as a babysitter I had as a small child named Lisa Munro (who
had probably heard if from those same teachers years before). My mother
also says she told me a much more watered down version of it, as she never
really went in for scares. It is all really foggy though, as in that I couldnít tell you who told me first, or who told it best, or even what
version any of them told me.
I just remember it being one of the
first stories that really frightened me. It stuck with me, and Iíve
carried around for a long time in my mind. So I went in to tell it trying
to use the basic structure, but give the character of Levon a voice that
was my own in a lot of ways.
sources of inspiration when writing Tailypo?
Well I looked at a lot of creature
movies, and the old Tales from the Crypt television show. I wanted it to
have that kind of look to it. A bit off kilter, kind of other worldly in
smoke and shadows.
We definitely used Sam Raimis Evil
Dead films as reference for are woods. I admire those films a great deal.
Story wise, only a few things come to
mind. I named the dog Jasper because Jamie, my girlfriend at the time (who
is now my wife), had recently lost her dog. Seeing that bond broken, and
the grief she was going though helped me create the bond between Levon and
Jasper. Film is cool in that it can make you live forever.
can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?
it was interesting because for the majority of the film only one actor was
on screen. I talked with my director of photography Josh Ickes a lot about
mood, and how I wanted the darkness to kind of stream into the cabin. We
had Ranger in the role of Jasper the dog, and that was interesting because
I did most of my directing for him with a pocket full of pepperoni sticks.
And David Chattam [David Chattam
interview - click here] who played Levon spent a lot of time just hanging out
with the dog before we shot, just getting to know him. David had also lost
a really close pet in a very sad way. We talked about that experience, and
he drew on that a lot I know during certain scenes.
talk about Tailypo's
lead (and sole on-screen actor) David Chattam, and what was your
David was simply just wonderful. He
had come into audition for my film The
Lashman, and honestly I wasnít
even going to invite him as he was way younger than what I had originally
envisioned for the role of Carl Degas in that movie. But another filmmaker (and Iíve kicked myself because I canít remember who) told me to
let him audition, and he was a revelation. He came in and just blew me
away in the audition for Lashman. Totally changed my mind about how that
character should look, which is always great for a writer. But when we
shot that movie, Dave was only on set for a single day, and we were a bit
rushed at the location. He had come prepared, and a lot of great ideas
about who the guy was, and was able to get the southern cadence I wanted
down perfectly. I didnít forget it.
So when I finished Lashman, I had
already been carrying this idea for Tailypo around for what seemed like
forever. It's hard to do a lot with shorts, but I had the luxury of having
the Doc Gangrene character and I knew we could build a
TV show or movie
around shorts. I started writing it with Dave in mind to play Levon. But I
didnít tell him about it until I had the script finished. I called him
up one day and asked him to read it, and explained it was really just 15
minutes of him monologuing to a dog. He had never heard of the Tailypo
monster, but loved the idea. We had to work out some scheduling where we
both could shoot it, as he was working on other projects and I was
producing another film at the time. I honestly donít know what I would
have done had he turned it down.
We had a few lunches together, and I
went to his place in Nashville and we just read the script over and over
and over. He told me his ideas about the character, and I explained a bit
about who the guy was to me. Once we got to set to shoot it we had already
done most of the heavy lifting on direction and it was really just a
matter of blocking it out and shooting it.
You of course also have to talk
creature for a bit!
Yeah, for sure. Thatís actually
really interesting as so many people came together to bring it to life. I
had a lot of ideas about how I wanted the monster to look. I knew i wanted
to keep him in the shadows, but at the same time it had to have claws and
teeth and those glowing yellow eyes. Thomas Berdinski who scored the film,
as well as The Lashman for me, put me in touch with Dustin Mills out of
Ohio [Dustin Mills interview
- click here]. At that point I had never heard of Dustin and I had talked
with a few other people about creating the monster but no one had really
clicked with me. Dustin was very familiar with the folk tale, and was
excited to hear I was turning it into a live action movie. He is a film
maker in his own right and had made all these great underground movies.
Really subversive stuff, but with large ideas. He had made one called
Puppet Monster Massacre that i think may have been his first film. He
apparently didnít have anyone else he could depend on to show up and
make a movie. So Dustin just shot it with puppets, playing the parts
himself. I loved that DIY approach, and his designs on some of his other
stuff were cool.
I had these great pieces of concept
art that Dennis Vincent had done for me, as well as maquette that he had
used to design the poster. Dennis had done all the great Lashman posters
in different color ways for me, and initially wasnít going to be able to
do it as he was in production on his film The Cosmic Creature, but we had
so much fun doing those Lashman
posters he carved out some time for me.
Anyhow, I sent that stuff to Dustin along with some pictures of old
monster masks, as well as real life bobcats and lynx. We used a picture or
Pei-Mei from Quentin Tarantinoís Kill Bill films as a reference for the
eyebrows on the Tailypo. He sketched out some stuff and we did it all over
the web. He would send me videos of his progress, and I remember in one of
them he was watching Evil Dead 2 in the background I think, and I knew we
were going to get along splendidly.
The rest of the creature f/x fell to
Brad Edwards. He had worked for me as artist on the Florida Georgie Line
lyric video for the song Dirt that I had produced and he did a whole lot
with very little. He made the tail you see in the beginning of the film
and sculpted the claws to give them a glow. The actual body suit was
really just some old pajamas spray painted black with tufts of fur
strategically placed. It was good in that it forced us to keep the monster
in the shadows so you didnít see the basketball and soccer ball design
bleeding through the paint.
Joseph Drake was in the body suit and
did all the actions totally blind as the mask didnít have eye slits, and
we shot all his scenes at night. I puppeted the mask by hand myself for a
few shots, but Joey was a real trooper living in the suit for the duration
of the shoot.
And the voice acting is also really
interesting on this one. Danielle Gelehrter is a friend of mine. We
collaborated a few years back on The Dreadful Hallowgreen Special
was a Halloween themed television special which paired her character of
Penny Dreadful with Larry Underwood [Larry
Underwood - click here] as Dr. Gangrene
(whose TV show I directed). We had done that all from opposite ends of the country, and she
had also done all these great recordings as the phone operator at the end
of Lashman. Just wild voices and characters. But
that's beside the point.
I emailed her after we had the movie
shot, and a rough cut together. She had never heard the legend of Tailypo
so she read the script, and watched the first cut. She did a marathon on
reading up on the legend and then we got on the phone to talk about it.
She did a few voices for me, and was right in the same mindset as me on
how the creature should sound. I gave her a few specific instructions on
things, and asked her if she would just record some demos on her phone and
email them to me so I could temp them in. She did a ton of them, and then
left town to visit family and we were going to do the recording in a
studio up in her neck of the woods when she got home to New England. But
the performances and recordings all were so good, that we ended up just
using them. So by the time she got back from vacation we actually had the
whole movie finished up.
So I guess to recap, We had Dennis
putting together art, Dustin designing the head, Brad doing the body suit,
tail, and claws. Joe Drake in the suit, and Dani doing the voice. All of
those people came together to help realize the monster and bring it to
life in their own unique way. A monster with several teeth you could say.
is mostly restricted to one location - so what can you tell us about your
location, and what kind of a strain was it to keep things interesting
being that limited, location-wise?
Well, I never really felt that
limited with it. I wanted it to seem desolate and out of the way. I called
my dear friends Tim & Carole Emery at the Copper Canyon Ranch up in
Hopkinsville Kentucky. I had already made a few things up there, and I
keep going back because they are just so pleasant to work with. Just down
home people who really treat you like family. It's a working movie set, and
western Guntown year round. I was familiar enough with it to know we could
use it to seem like an out of the way place.
The exteriors of the cabin is usually
used as their general store. We redressed it along with help form Tim and
his son Chad Fuller who was our production manager for the film. The
interiors were the inside of the Bella Union Palace Saloon which we
converted into a lone bedroom cabin. We cut the room in half to give us
room with the cameras. We built a new fireplace, and put together some
makeshift stuff with antiques they had laying around.
We were up there on two different
occasions to shoot with our actors, and then do pick-ups. Me and Josh
Ickes actually came back a third time just to shoot the cabin, as I just
felt it needed a creepier vibe. We fogged it up and lit it in a way that
made the woods more eerie. That Evil
Dead touch I was talking about. Each
time we came to Copper Canyon, Tim & Carole welcomed us with smiling
faces and beans & cornbread. A really wonderful experience.
Cameron on set
Do talk about the
shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
It was a pretty small crew, myself,
Josh Ickes my DP, Kyle Kelly my first AD & editor, Chad Fuller,
Joe Drake, Tim Emery, and Dave Chattam [David
Chattam interview - click here] for the biggest part of the shoot.
It was a lot like a camp out really most of the time. We were shooting
well into the night. First time in the summer of 2014, and then back again
in December for pick-ups. We actually reshot some stuff as it was just too
lush and green for the atmosphere I wanted. When we came back in the cold
of December and Dave had to strip down to his undershirt to match footage,
the whole crew did the same in solidarity. I think he appreciated the
gesture. Joe Drake was the only one who stayed warm in the body suit.
$64-question of course, where can your film be seen?
If you want to see it on the big
screen, youíll have a quiet a few opportunities as we plan to tour it as
a stand alone short film until we get the anthology completed. Weíve
been invited to three festivals thus far that Iím not at liberty to
announce just yet. And weíve submitted to quiet a few more and are
waiting to hear back.
However, you can see it at my website
under the short films tab or direct from YouTube
I'm leaving it open for people to
watch FOR FREE and embed on their own websites. I encourage viewers to
post it to their blogs, Facebook, Tumblrs, and Twitter pages. Shoot me a
message and let me know what you think of it.
And if you really want to give me 64
bucks, we could use that for the next oneÖ
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of your movie so
Yeah, that part has been really
cool. I feel like itís two audiences. The first are familiar with it, in
the sense that they have recollections of this story from their own
childhoods. I've had a lot of people reach out to me and tell me the
variation that they were familiar with, and how this helped conjure up
certain feelings and memories they had forgotten. The other portion of the
audience are people who had never heard of the story. So I get to be their
introduction into the folklore of it, which his kind of cool.
I really did this, considering kids
like me. I have two young daughters who I wouldnít let watch a movie
like The Lashman because its a movie tinged towards adults. Not a lot of
horror movies are made for the younger generation these days. I wanted
children to be able to be scared the same way I was as that kid back in
Edgewood, Texas years ago. It's cool hearing from parents who have shown it
to their children.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
Yeah, I'm actually working on a lot of
stuff at the moment. My hope is to collect a lot of short films into an
anthology hosted by Dr. Gangrene.
The Tailypo will be a part of that. And
I actually just produced another short tentatively titled The Haunted
Song with my D.P. Josh Ickes in the director's chair and starring the
fantastic David Dittmore. It's an original story that Josh wrote and that takes
place in Nashville, and it was cool to see Josh steer the boat on this
I'm doing post production now on
another short based on the H.P. Lovecraft story The Beast In The
Cave which has Wynn Reichart in the lead role. Larry Underwood [Larry
Underwood - click here] did the
adaptation. We just did that a few weekends back. And Iím not sure
exactly how its going to land yet, but should surface soon.
I'm excited to be producing a new
feature film for director Matt Riddlehoover to follow up Paternity
Leave which we released earlier this year. Matt just finished the
screenplay along with Dustin Tittle. Itís an original story, and I'm not
at liberty to divulge much just yet. But you should see some familiar
faces back for this one. We start rolling on that one soon. And Paternity
Leave is still on its film festival tour circuit and will be hitting
DVD in November. I'll be out in San Fransisco in a few weeks to screen it
at the Castro Theater during the California Independent Film Festival.
Look forward to meeting everyone at the screening. You can check out the
trailer and other screening info at www.paternityleavefilm.com
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
And I'm doing a lot of music videos
and documentary stuff with Lloyd Aur Norman for the Villain Place label. I
directed a series titled The VP Underground I'm excited about, which
lets musicians share a bit about songwriting. We have a real DIY
philosophy over there, and it's a great place to work with.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
If you go to either
you can find links
to my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc. It has a lot of my older
work on it too. I'm all over social media, and love chatting with people
about the movies, so feel free to say hey or ask any questions you might
Tailypo can be found direct on
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
For all that we talked about, Iíd
be remiss if I didnít say a bit about Kyle Kelly who worked on set, as
editor, and in designing the poster for the movie. Him like many people on
movie crews do the thankless job of putting these things together, and
following up by sharing the movie. I couldnít have made this one without
Same goes for Thom Berdinski who
turned out a great score for the film. Really eerie vibe that helped set
the atmosphere. A real joy to collaborate with. I'm glad to have him as a
for the interview!
Really enjoyed this one. Thank you for all