Your movie The
Spirit Gallery - in a few words, what is it about?
me it's about putting your trust -- dedicating your life -- to something
unseen. It could be positive, as love is; or negative, as in ideology or
cults or "true" religions.
The Spirit Gallery
being set in art circles, is that a world near and dear to you, and is The
Spirit Gallery based on any actual experiences with artists,
agents and the like?
has always fascinated me. But what is "art"?
think the first art was magical and transformative, the earliest being the
paintings found in the Lascaux caves which are 20,000 years old. Great art
can transport us and probably did the artists of Lascaux.
a rare happening, but it happened to me seeing Tutankhamun's Golden Mask
when it toured back in the 70s. There was art, magic and a transcendent
experience all wrapped up in one. I think it inspired Catch's
"masks" in the movie.
the agent, is a bit "on the nose" but yeah, anyone in the arts
have to deal with people like him.
Speaking about art, what can you
tell us about the actual artworks featured in your movie?
paintings were done by a friend of mine named Frank Garvey. He called them
"Wall Of Ashes" and they are a kind of modern day Hieronymus
Bosch. Frank was making videos based on his paintings in San Francisco and
I used his cameras making The Spirit Gallery. He's in the the movie; the
sleazy guy outside the art opening telling Haul to come back in and meet
some Japanese collectors who "wrap their sushi in 100 dollar
sources of inspiration when writing The
originally thought of it as The Picture of Dorian Gray played backwards.
Spirit Gallery features some quite amazing practical special
effects - so do talk about those for a bit, and how were they achieved?
a mad genius named Rod Matsui. I met Rod on a different horror video
project called Dark Romances. This is back in the mid 80s when I was
directing Tales from the Darkside. Dark Romances
was intended for the Playboy Channel and was
supposed to be a series of erotic horror shorts. It never made it to
Playboy but was released on VHS and might get a DVD release soon. Anyway,
Rod created all the boil and slime effects and the masks.
can you tell us about The
Spirit Gallery's approach to horror?
up Catholic, going to Catholic schools, I had the non-verbal horror of
scourging and crucifixion drummed into my head since before I could
remember. Obviously a lot of that spewed into The Spirit Gallery.
to horror in general I love the classics -- the 1930s Dracula,
Frankenstein and The Mummy are still my favorites.
about your directorial approach to your story at hand?
a kind of a dance with the actors -- but it is all about the actors. Also,
as a director do your home work! Have a shot list, but keep it flexible
enough to incorporate things that happen during the shoot.
can you tell us about your key cast, and why exactly these people?
we auditioned them at Garvey's studio in San Francisco. Jim
Burkhart, who plays Catch, acted in Garvey's videos so I knew him. Holly
Riddle and the rest just answered an ad and got the parts.
few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
was a tough shoot. No money and a very small crew jumping around San
Francisco. I try keeping a relaxed set but sometimes it can get tense,
like seeing the strings moving what we called "the bacon face"
at the end of the film. But overall everyone was very dedicated and did a
made The Spirit Gallery
almost 25 years ago - so watching it now, how does that make you feel?
well old -- and grateful that Tony Masiello and his SOV Horror are reanimating it. It had a very limited VHS
release in the 90s and I kind of forgot about it. But watching it again I
have to say it still works. Of course, there are a million things to
improve, but it holds up and many reviews have had great things to say
think if you like "Love, Lust and Severe Mutation", as the tag
line goes, The Spirit Gallery
is worth a watch.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
I've been writing plays. My first called Villainy ~or~ Holmes' Own Story
about America's first serial
killer was produced last year in Los Angeles and may be getting three new
productions next year. I have two others in the pipeline -- Death, with
Benefits based on the true story of the
"Killer Grannies of Santa Monica" who took in homeless men,
insured them for millions, then murdered them for the money. It's like Arsenic
and Old Lace with more arsenic and less lace. And Doctor Dee,
based on Queen Elizabeth I court astrologer Dr
John Dee, who thought he talked with angels, and may have been the
inspiration for Shakespeare's Prospero in The Tempest. That looks like a 2020 Hallowe'en production, so get yer
got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
Seeing Citizen Kane in high school on 16mm and then Un Chien
Bunuel and Dali completely by accident in Chicago. Bunuel became my
favorite filmmaker, and there is an obvious Catholic connection there.
studied film at Columbia College in Chicago and got a scholarship
sponsored by William Friedkin, who started his career in Chicago.
What can you tell us about your
to IMDb me -- the gory facts are all there.
According to my information, The
Spirit Gallery was the last film you've ever directed - why is
that then, and did you ever feel the temptation to return to the
a weird business and there's been many a project that I wrote or co-wrote
that's been optioned but never made.
think in my heart of hearts I'm more a writer and that's why playwriting
is so appealing. Samuel Beckett was my first art god -- seeing his Endgame
changed my life.
Since I'm pretty fond of Stuart
Gordon's Stuck, you just
have to talk about that movie for a bit, and what was it like working with
to school in Chicago I was a fan of Stuart's Organic Theater, which did some pretty amazing and bizarre
productions. Plus if you wanted to see naked women, Organic Theater
was the place
to go! I didn't know Stuart in Chicago, but met him much later in Los
Angeles doing a book called Lurker in the Lobby, which is a kind of guide to films based
on HP Lovecraft stories. I should mention that I'm a huge fan of HP
one of my student shorts was an adaptation of HP's The Music of Erich
Zann, which is still in distribution.
Me and my co-writer Andrew Migliore interviewed Stuart for Lurker in
the Lobby and
I pitched him a script I wrote called Deathbed,
saying it was about everything you could do in bed. He dug that. The film
was made through Charlie Band with Stuart producing. That led to Stuck
other projects, the aforementioned optioned-but-not-made kind.
based on a true story that happened in Fort Worth, Texas in 2001. A
homeless man hit by a car, stuck in the windshield, hauled down the street
and dying in a garage. The woman who hit him was named Chante Mallard --
Google her for the full story. Anyway, Stuart found the story and we were
both struck and strangely inspired by the insanity of it.
the star of Stuck --
Stephen Rea -- was directed by Samuel Beckett in Endgame,
so circles within circles...
whoever else who inspire you?
Bunuel above all -- then Whale, Welles, Kubrick, Polanski, Lynch --
the great 70s directors like Coppola, Scorsese, etc. The 70s were
fantastic years for American filmmaking. I got to see Lynch's Eraserhead
it was originally released as one of the first "Midnight Movies",
and that was a profound and inspiring experience.
done by the aforementioned.
and of course, films you really deplore?
grew up loving comic books, but the comic book CG franchises that keep
growing like cancers are amazingly boring to me.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
support Tony Masiello's SOV Horror in his mission to preserve shot-on-video
features of the 80s & 90s: http://www.sovhorror.com/p/about.html
you're interested in The Spirit Gallery
or Tony's other films you can get
them there -- perfect stocking stuffers for the coming solstice.
else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
thanks for your interest -- greatly appreciated.
for the interview!