Your new movie Wakers
- in a few words, what is it about?
is about a girl named Blessing living in a waking nightmare. Her
world makes no sense, her mother is a materialistic religious fanatic, and
someone or something sinister is killing her friends. As the adults in
(and in one case, out of) her life continue to ruin it further and drive
themselves to the brink of sanity, Blessing has to face the killer head on
as it undergoes metamorphosis from an unseen force to a human being. It's
a lot funnier than it sounds.
What were your
inspirations when dreaming up Wakers
- and to what extent do you identify with Blessing, actually?
My inspirations came from two very different sides of the cinema
spectrum; On one end, I was inspired by conventional horror films like A
Nightmare on Elm Street. One the other end, I was inspired by the films of
Ryan Trecartin like Center Jenny and A Family Finds Entertainment and Guy
Maddin films like Archangel and
Careful! In addition, a lot of
the plot points came from dreams (both good and bad - and perhaps, some
wet). That's why the tone of the film tends to be jarringly inconsistent,
as it can shift from looking like a more conventional horror film to
looking like a nonsense cluster of fuck shit (and I don't use that term
as a negative).
How do I identify with Blessing... see that's interesting because the
character was designed specifically for Blessing C.S. to play, considering
their first names are even the same. I suppose I can identify with her in
the sense that I've been in places where I feel like I'm having a
nightmare I can't wake up from, but the film is not by any means a
projection of my own life, or at least not an intentional one. A lot of
the things Blessing says are completely improvised and at times Blessing
fully immersed herself in the role, so some of what you're hearing are
just things that Blessing would actually say in real life, just obviously
in a completely ridiculous context.
film is rather trippy in structure - so did you ever run the risk of just
losing your plot when conceiving Wakers?
To some people, I lost it entirely, and to others, I saved it from
becoming dull. I think what one takes away from its plot depends on what
they want to see in the first place. If you're going in expecting a horror
movie, you're going to get a complete nonsense film. If you go in
expecting a wacked out art film you're going to get something with a lot
more of a structure then you'd expect.
did the project get off the ground in the first place, and how did
legendary indie studio Troma
I had just completed my first feature film Glamarus, and if
you'd believe it it makes even less sense than Wakers. It was an
interesting movie and it got a pretty warm reception, and it was also
produced by Scott Shaw who is one of my filmmaking inspirations. Before
Glamarus even premiered I had started thinking up a follow up film. I
finally knew I COULD make a feature, so now I wanted to try something more
ambitious, with special effects and a larger cast and more locations. So
during the premiere of Glamarus, my friend Blessing came early. She had
previously been in one of my short films Mark of Sandar and I
thought she was a great scream queen, so I said to her: "I'd like you
to star in my next movie." She agreed to do it, and within three
weeks after the premiere of Glamarus, we're shooting Wakers.
Troma's involvement is interesting because now I'm a full time employee
there. At the time I wasn't. I called the Troma office and asked if I
could meet with Lloyd Kaufman about being in my film and before you know it, not
only is he in my film, but they're letting me use props from their movies.
To most, a 500,000 dollar movie is not a big movie, but to me it's a
blockbuster, because that's 500,000 dollars more than I spent on my movie.
So being able to use props from films of that caliber was a real honor.
Pretty soon after that I got a job at Troma and they're helping me with
the feature I'm currently in production on, and now I'm doing some of the
visual effects on their new film Return to Nuke Em High Vol. 2. It's funny
how Lloyd and I first met during the production of Wakers and now I see
him nearly every day.
you play with the conventions of the slasher genre - a genre at all dear
to you, actually, and some of your genre favourites?
are some slasher films I love, and many I can't stand. A
Nightmare on Elm Street, as I mentioned before, is one of my favorites. They're
imaginative, visually beautiful, and most importantly you can empathize
with the victims. However I really do not like slasher films that make you
hate the victims and make you want the monster to kill them, because what
is the point of rooting for the monster? You know he's going to fucking
kill them because there's usually only one or two people left, (and of
course it's always the virgin white cisgender straight girl) so you might
as well just take a nap. I love slasher movies that make you WANT the
characters to live, because when they die, it hits you hard and makes you
feel something. I guess Wakers is a bit of a play on both sides - I regret
that I didn't add more dimension to some of the victims because I think
they deserved that. My goal in terms of the slasher element of the film,
however, was to make the audience empathize with Blessing. Her character
pukes, she curses at her mother, she makes out with girls, she trips
fucking balls because she isn't a Madonna. She deserves to live just as
much as anyone, and my goal is for people to root for her and not the
would you describe your directorial approach to your story at hand?
suppose my approach was, "make it happen". It's crude, and I
think the movie's kind of crude, and that's part of its charm. This
actually pissed some of my actors off, but often I'd just say to them,
"Do this." "You're scared, be scared." I wanted them
to interpret that in their own way and even if the actors didn't like
having to do that I liked what they gave me and I adore the performances I
got out of people.
features performances by Troma-head
Lloyd Kaufman and Blondie-keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen - now what was it
like working with them, and how did you get them even?
both absolutely fantastic people. Lloyd was so accommodating and really
helped me out. Matt came all the way out to my parent's house to shoot his
scenes which I really appreciate. I mentioned earlier how I got Lloyd.
Lloyd agrees to be in most people's movies. With Matt, I met him and his
wonderful wife Laurel during a performance of theirs at an art gallery
that my godmother Reverend Jen (who plays the psychic in the movie) was
reading at. Matt's just an all around cool guy so when I asked him to be
in my movie and showed him some stills, he was pretty into it. I'm really
grateful to both Lloyd and Matt for helping me out and seeing the value in
a no-budget movie like this.
can you tell us about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?
Why not these people?
There's a pretty big cast (I think 35 or so people) so I doubt I can
cover everyone individually for risk of making this interview the length
of a novel. A lot of them were young queer people who I knew because young
queer people in the city all kind of know each other a little bit. A lot
of them had also appeared in my movie Glamarus. Rose Cosenza and Christian
Saravia in particular have an interesting backstory. I met Rose in Long
Island and for my first movie Glamarus I have some scenes where,
basically, I followed her around with an Iphone camera, saying hardly
anything. She brought me into probably the most beautiful place I've ever
been in my life, an abandoned squat by the old railroad tracks in Long
Island. I found a license plate on the ground that said
"GLAMARUS" and I named the movie after it. Pretty soon after
that, she started dating this really nice kid Christian and I suppose they
became to my films what "Brangelina" is to Hollywood, so they
appear together as a couple in Wakers. They were, at the point of our
shooting, homeless but are now raising money to live with their new
adopted parents at
- so if anyone reading this could, I'd appreciate if you could help them
Reverend Jen, who plays the psychic, as I mentioned before is my real
life godmother. She wrote and starred in her own movie Satan Hold My Hand
and she recently published an absolutely fantastic book, June,
a semi autobiographical account of her life in the sex industry. Robert
Prichard who plays Bug Lord in some of the film's most nonsensical scenes
was in The Toxic Avenger, and the star of
Class of Nuke Em High. Since
then he's owned his own theater and now has his own radio station called
Radio Free Brooklyn, where he gives underground NYC artists the chance to
broadcast all the crazy beautiful shit mainstream radio won't air. Azul
Zorilla who plays the first victim (shocker, the character's named Azul)
actually starred in a much bigger budget film Stand Clear of the
Closing Doors"that was the darling of the 2013 Tribeca Film
Festival. Max Husten is also an amazing ambient musician who does
both music and acts as the "Information Man" in the movie.
I do wish I could get to everyone but there are a lot of them. They're
all awesome and interesting and certainly and I'm grateful to
everyone who appeared in the film.
talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere!
think Blessing said it best in the short documentary about the film (now
available as part of the Wakers
VOD Special Features package on VHX!!
Order now at disckpictures.vhx.tv!!),
we had a very very loose environment where no one had to worry about being
yelled at if they were late, there were no higher-ups to answer to. It was
me, a camera, and the actors. My favorite shoot was probably during the
final "battle" scene. Blessing and I rode a taxi to the set
which for me is a big deal because I hardly ever ride in cabs (nor do I
shoot on actual sets). That day felt like we were shooting a bigger movie,
as we had lights and a big space and this beautiful huge wheel my friend
Kat Green built as well as a giant light up skull. It was like a Batman
villain's lair. The dream sequence scene where Blessing hallucinates
"Death's Temptress", a girl with blue lips and horns, was also
interesting, because at that point principal photography of the movie was
nearly over, so the cast and I were walking around Manhattan and we saw
this wild art gallery. I asked the guy if I could shoot in the space, and
he was about to leave to get a slice of pizza, but he said "sure, why
not?" and he stuck around for 10 minutes. So suddenly everyone's back
in costume and we're shooting in this beautiful gallery with a wide angle
lens. So I guess a lot of the shoot was like "let's do this and let's
try to make it crazy. Here's what we have to work with, let's go."
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Wakers
A lot of artists or people interested in underground
stuff loved the film, a lot of horror fans hated it. I can see why. I look
at it as a horror film but really it's a completely experimental movie
playing off of horror tropes. I do believe it's a good film (although I
can't say I'm not biased) and I'm happy that there's a small group of
people who really like it and I'm hoping with my next movie I can reach a
wider audience by retaining the experimental side but making the film a
bit easier to watch.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
Yes! I am very close to finishing filming on my third feature Dark
Prism, which is three connecting stories about people thrust into some
really crazy situations. I think the best thing to compare it to is Cloud
Atlas or Black Mirror, so imagine that with no budget and my visual style,
and a lot more nudity and blood. It pays homage to new horror like Carrie
and Rosemary's Baby, horror comedy like Troma
films and Killer Klowns and
the like, and old horror like The Old Dark House and the
Allen Poe films. It's a unique experience because I'm approaching the film
as if I'm three different directors so although the stories are very
closely related they're also completely different in pacing, visuals and
even acting. I'm pretty excited about it and I think it's one of my
Speaking of three directors, I'm also the co-director, cinematographer
and editor on an upcoming film called Werewolf Bitches from Outer
which is written by Reverend Jen who also directs the film. It's a
slapstick comedy parody of horror sci-fi films where werewolf women from
the planet Uranus (you can imagine the puns already) descend to Earth to
kill evil or annoying people, largely asshole men. It's certainly not a
"Dylan Greenberg movie" per se, as I stepped in to co-direct
midway through the production (before that I was doing some music for the
film and I had a supporting role). It's a Reverend Jen movie, and if you
haven't seen her stuff I'd suggest looking it up, especially her new book June and her last
feature Satan Hold My Hand. She's an
incredibly talented NYC artist and as I mentioned before she is my
got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal
education on the subject?
I got into filmmaking when I was
about 4 or so. I was watching Free to Be You and Me, and there is a scene
during the movie's musical number "Brothers and Sisters" where
the singers start disappearing on stage. I was bewildered, because I
didn't know what a stop cut was. I asked my mom how they made the people
disappear like that, and she didn't really understand what I meant,
because I was four. Since then I just couldn't stop with movies. I picked
up this old VHS camera my mom won in a raffle and started making these
awful little creations on it, taking this giant camera everywhere I went
in arms that could barely hold it. My mom ended up getting a little
digital camera for pictures and I found out it took video too, and quickly
enough I figured out how to import into our old computer and eventually
how to edit on Windows Movie Maker. I kept making movies and kept editing
constantly and all the time, amassing over 300 videos on my old YouTube
channel (although a lot of them are not very good, I had it since I was
9, so its just kind of an interesting chronicle of my stuff). I recieved
some formal education by attending weekend classes at the New York Film
Academy but most of what I learned was self taught. See, the trick to
teaching yourself to be a prolific filmmaker from a young age is to not
have any friends for a very long time.
What can you tell us about
your filmwork prior to Wakers?
I directed a feature film before this called Glamarus which is even harder
to understand than Wakers. It's completely experimental and not horror
influenced at all. It creates a certain mood that kind of feels like
you're floating. Well, at least it makes me feel that. It has a lot of the
same castmembers as Wakers. I've also directed numerous short films which
are on my youtube channel
which has many of my videos from when I was 9 to now. One of my favorites
is a horror comedy short called Mark of Sandar which was the first film I
ever made that stars Blessing. If it weren't for Mark of Sandar there
wouldn't be Wakers.
would you describe yourself as a director?
That's such a
hard question to answer without sounding really pretentious, for me at
least. I guess I would describe myself as very efficient but also
completely impractical. Like I've always thought of myself as a Roger
Corman type [Roger Corman bio
- click here] because I can work and film very quickly with a tight budget,
but that's also me being egotistical. The difference is that the stuff I
create doesn't make any sense and doesn't appeal to most mainstream
audiences. I'm really proud of my visual style however and I think I'm
starting to find a signature look.
who inspire you?
Alright, Guy Maddin, Nick Zedd, Roger
Corman [Roger Corman bio -
click here], Eric Fournier, Samuel Shanahoy, John Waters, Dario Argento, Ryan
Trecartin, Jim Sharman, Jim Henson, Godfrey Ho [Godfrey
Ho bio - click here], Don Dohler, Jim Wynorski [Jim
Wynorski interview - click here],
Harmony Korine, Lloyd Kaufman, and George Melies. There's probably more I
Your favourite movies?
now? I think one of my favorites is Guy Maddin's films Archangel and
Careful!, Gummo, (ugh I know
everyone and their mother likes Gummo), Trecartin's films A Family
Finds Entertainment and Center Jenny, Argento's Phenomena, and probably
and of course, films you really deplore?
I really dislike
The Dark Knight and I think it ruined the superhero genre, although I
don't hate Christopher Nolan. However, I DO hate Clint Eastwood and
everything he has ever directed and I think he is the king of dumpster
shit people who ruins movies for everyone. American Sniper belongs in the
dirtiest dumpster along with Mr. Eastwood's other garbage monstrosities
such as Gran Torino and Trouble with the Curve as well as
which is a movie better suited for a man made from cheese than an actual
human being. I hope Clint Eastwood falls down a flight of stairs and I
think he is a morally bankrupt sad excuse for a human being and certainly
a director. Him and his garbage conservative propaganda films can go to
Hell, which is probably where Clint Eastwood, the overlord of Hollywood
scum, came from in the first place.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
My website is:
To stream my movies Wakers
or Glamarus go to
You can now stream either the 94 minute cut or the original 2 hour cut
My Facebook page where I post about all my projects, both cinema and
musical, as well as many weird little 15 second videos can be found at
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
I guess I didn't mention I'm also a musician! I just released an album
called Come On! Come On! Betty Bomb! that's on
Itunes/Spotify/everything else now, and I released one before that called really secret elevator which is a pretty fun little pop album.
I also wrote a children's book about being nonbinary called Sid
Doesn't Feel Like a Boy or a Girl! which is available on amazon as
well as downloadable as a free educational resource in pdf format at
Lastly I am now branching out and distributing other people's work
(especially movies) for a 25% distribution fee so if anyone would be
interested in not making a ton of money but having someone honest and
actually reachable distribute their work, hit me up at
Also, if Clint Eastwood, ultimate cinematic piss boy, is reading this
right now, fuck you, useless imp.
for the interview!