Your movie Stopped Dead
- in a few words, what is it about?
Stopped Dead is about 4 friends on a vacation who get
themselves into trouble and quickly find themselves running for their lives.
In theme, Stopped
Dead is somewhat related to the movie Race
with the Devil, which is even mentioned in your film - so what can
you tell us about the similarities and differences between these two
Ah, what can I tell you, indeed? Without
giving too much away, on the surface, the idea of running from a gang of
killers after witnessing a murder seems a lot like the classic film, but
the real connection was the RV. I thought it was brilliant how they made a
compelling suspense film with such a simple single “location” We nod
our heads to the movie once or twice with the scene with the dog and the
mention of it, as you said, but I think in the end we went in a totally
What were your inspirations when writing Stopped
I tried to write Stopped Dead
like an old “Movie of the Week”. I cast my power players from
past movies, created characters that on the surface people could instantly
relate to, but who would show deeper layers as you watched and then put
them into a familiar scenario with a twist that would lead to mystery. I
wanted that 70s “road movie” feel, but had the budget and schedule
more of a day on a 60s soap opera. So really, a lot of the writing was
inspired by knowing our limitations and wanting to push past them whenever
Quite a portion of the movie is restricted
to the inside of a van - what kind of challenges did that pose,
direction-wise, and had you had a larger budget, do you think you would
have done anything different, location-wise?
we had a MUCH larger RV in mind and it was a loaner. Free. When that fell
through I considered cutting open a junker and using that so we could shoot a bit more “professionally”, but in the end our only way to
have the Running RV for the shots we needed was to rent what we did. Most
of the locations we parked in were donated or allowed to us VERY cheaply.
for challenges of shooting in that little RV, there were many. Lighting
for one. We couldn’t run the A/C when we shot, so we needed to keep it
cool in there. Instead of my regular video lights I used hardware store
clamp lights and CFL bulbs to keep the heat down and light soft. Such a
small space, this worked most of the time and when we were parked I could
light it from outside with a monster light.
You’ll notice the curtain to the back is kept closed most of the time.
Our P.A. and our equipment was back there. A lot of the roads we took were
too bumpy to put stuff underneath and we needed access to that stuff
Finally, my entire cast pitched in as crew. And I mean everyone. Debbie
Rochon interview - click here] helped shake the RV when it was supposed to be moving and wasn’t.
And they’d script-supervise while we did driving shots, in which I would
give Bob (Joel D Wynkoop [Joel
D. Wynkoop interview - click here]) directions while he was acting. Not film
directions. Directions to where we were going. Our schedule was so tight
we shot scenes while driving to other locations.
you describe your directorial style on Stopped
Dead to begin with?
I’m not sure
I could describe my style. I generally pick the best actors I can, stage
them where I need them and let them do what they do. They all worked on
each other’s performances and I mostly directed the technical side of
Two of your leads are played
by horror mainstays Debbie Rochon [Debbie
Rochon interview - click here] and Joel D. Wynkoop [Joel
D. Wynkoop interview - click here] - so what made them perfect for
their roles, and what was it like working with them?
Joel D. Wynkoop
had worked with Joel and Debbie both several times before Stopped Dead
and both had proven to be low maintenance, high output pros. I wanted Joel
to play Bob because the character was so quiet and passive and that would
be a big departure from Joel’s past characters. I thought it worked well
to show his evolution from mousy friend to heroic leader throughout the
I had been wanting to put Debbie in a film with Joel (they’ve been in
several of mine, but no scenes together) for a long time and this seemed
like the best film to do it with. As little as we had it was the most of
my own money I had ever put into a movie, and if you’re going to do that
you include all of your power hitters. That’s why Kevin and Karen White
are in there along with Mike Christopher as one of the police officers.
can you tell us about the rest of your key cast?
and Karen White (Dante and Minerva) are a real couple and were my go-to
people for shoots like this. Quick, little rehearsal time and needing
actual dramatic performances (even though a lot of the movie is darkly
comedic). They always deliver. Mike Christopher, who you may know as the
Hare Krishna Zombie, is an excellent character actor and I can always
count on him to bring me a character beyond the lines I’ve written.
Johanne Marie Maurasse I met for the first time after she sent in a video
audition. She’s a SAG actress in N.Y. now, so expect to see her a lot
more as you flip channels and visit theatres.
words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
was horrible, but fun. Long days, cold nights and lots of times cooped up
in that RV. We shot every moment we could. The cast had to actually eat in
the restaurant scenes because there weren’t going to be any more food
stops. I think we had the RV for 8 days and some of the other shots had to
be done while we had it, like the motel scene, so we had to do those in
that timeframe too. It was quick, grueling, hard work, but I think the
general atmosphere was a positive one. We could see our progress as we
were going and we enjoyed what we were creating.
Stopped Dead you've
made quite a few movies, most notably probably the Alien Vengeance-series
- so do talk about the series for a bit?
The Alien Vengeance movies are a complete departure from
except that you’ll recognize cast members. It’s my return to rubber
monsters and each movie is made with a decade in mind. The first feature
was a 70s schlock drive-in outing, while the shorts and Rogue Element
have that 80s kind of movie and horror TV vibe (I hope). The most recent
short, Onyx Origins went back in style (not time) to the late 50s
and early 60s sci-fi, and when we shoot Alien
Vengeance 3D I’m hoping give it an early
90s kind of kick. The CG will still be minimal and probably sloppy, like
most low budget movies back then were. Mostly, though, the Alien Vengeance
world is one in which Debbie and I get to play out comic book style sci-fi
fantasy. Col Onyx is a caricature and even though her appearances have
been scarce so far, the whole series has been building up to her big push
to squash this alien invasion.
you've made a short called Crazy Fishman vs the Fish Stick Guy -
which is much too good a title to not say a few words about it - so please
Ha! Crazy Fishman is my favorite
creation. He started out as an alien form hinted at in the Alien Vengeance movies
seen the hand in three of them) and was finally totally revealed to
actually be a mutant in Onyx Origins. While talking to a friend of
mine, Martijn Berndsen, about something we could do quickly that would be
fun, I mentioned that I thought it would be funny if Crazy Fishman had it
out with the fisherman from the fish stick commercials. Martijn had the
beard and the costume, I had Crazy Fishman and my wife had a day off, so
we shot the silly short about a Fishman who gets revenge for the death of
his brother against the guy who turned him into a fish stick.
Let's go back to the beginnings of your career: What
got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
A friend of mine,
Gregor Joackim, convinced me at a very young age that I wanted to make
movies. All I’ve ever wanted to do is write, but once I had a camera in
my hand I couldn’t help but want to write stuff for in front of that
lens. My formal training was four years of college with concentrations in
video production and film theory at the College of Mount Saint Vincent. We
had a horror course there and it’s really when I decided to concentrate
on that genre, which I didn’t do then until many years after my
According to my information,
your first feature was Dark Rose: Feedin' and Breedin' - so what
can you tell us about that one, and lessons learned from it?
was writing a story online about a vampire hunter called Rose Lenoire. She
was the sole remaining member of a werewolf clan. (This was all pre-Underworld and
Twilight.) A reader liked the idea and wanted to see it
on film. We went over the budget and settled on video. S-VHS video at the
I learned far too much to list, but the main thing was that I had a lot to
learn even after all of my schooling. So, I set out to make three shorts,
each adding a new part of production as we went. The first was
silent, so we didn’t have to worry about sound. It was called Z
and is a fun little romp of a movie. You can find it on our website. Sort
of like a live action Road Runner type of cartoon. Next, in The
Challenge, we added dialogue and night shooting. Finally, in Hit or
Miss we added cast. Not a lot of it, but significantly bigger than the
single person in Z or the 2 people and an alien in The Challenge.
There was also an amazing fight scene choreographed by Mia Morse. From
that one I learned, have a good fight coordinator.
films of yours you'd like to talk about?
Stopped Dead is definitely one of my favorites of my own movies,
but I’ve got a soft spot for all of them. I’d really like to encourage
people who enjoy it to see Savaged and Indiscretions. They’re
distinctly different movies, but all three were based on the idea of
isolating the main characters so we could experience their drama and
suspense with them.
Also, I’d love for people to check out our sci-fi comedy The
Simplest Things. It’s the smallest budgeted thing I produce besides
the Johnny Pitchman-stuff, but I really enjoy it and would just like
people to see it.
projects you'd like to share?
Vengeance 3D is coming. Eventually. I hope. There have been a lot of
changes recently, but the story for this movie has been rattling around my
head for two years now and if I don’t get it out there my ears might
fall off. We’ll get to see a lot more of Col Onyx (Debbie Rochon [Debbie
Rochon interview - click here]). The
3D in Onyx Origins was a testing ground for the 3D we’ll use in Alien
Vengeance 3D. I think there will only be key scenes in 3D so you’re not wearing
the glasses just to watch conversations, but when an airplane flies into
your living room you’ll want the glasses on. ;)
What can you tell us about
your production company Hocus
Focus Productions, and the philosophy behind it?
a film production company Hocus
Focus Productions is a get-things-done
sort of place. When I have an idea for a movie I want to make it and the
company allows me to do that. We convert 3D content and shoot HD for
outside sources to pay the bills, and you’ve got a movie you need made we
can probably make that happen too, provided you have a reasonable budget.
If you have an unreasonable budget we can probably work with that too.
would you describe yourself as a director?
really have no idea how to describe myself as a director. I sort of feel
like a producer and cameraman who lets his cast run around doing their
lines and I catch as much of it as I can. I try to have a good time while
I do it and I hope that comes out in the finished product.
who inspire you?
There are lots of
filmmakers I admire, but my biggest inspirations have to be Val Lewton,
Roger Corman [Roger Corman
bio - click here] and Don Dohler. All guys who did as much as they could with
what “little” they had. Little being relative to their environments
and stations in the business at the time.
Your favourite movies?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
love the old monster movies. From the Universal Monsters of the 30s and
40s and the Hammer creations of the 60s all the way through the rubber
monstrosities of the 70s and 80s. Anything with the stop motion magic of
Ray Harryhausen makes my list. If the creature can be described as “Atomic”
or “Colossal” or ever “Challenged the Earth”, chances are the
movie makes me smile.
and of course, films you really deplore?
very rarely see a movie I have negative feelings that strong about. Most
of the time the trailer and buzz will be enough to let me know I wouldn’t
enjoy it and so I just don’t see it. Hard to hate something you’ve
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
can be found at www.hocfocprod.com
About Us on that page is all of our movie pages. We’ve also got a
section to see some of our stuff for free.
You can also find some of our 3D conversion work of old PD movies at
www.bcinema.tv and of Fangoria’s Fangovision 3D page.
for the interview!