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An Interview with Jonathan Lewis, Director of Black Devil Doll

by Mike Haberfelner

February 2008

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You have recently directed a film called Black Devil Doll. Can you tell us, in a few words or phrases, what this film is about ?


Rape, Violence, Revenge, Sex, Murder, Mayhem, and a Muthafuckin’ Puppet!


Who came up with the idea of the black (lover and) killer puppet, and what can you tell us about the creation of the actual prop ?


The producer/writer Shawn Lewis came up with the idea along with co-creator/writer Mitch Mayes. They also came up with the design and look of the doll, the original sculpt was done by Dan Payes. Mitch Mayes put in long hours building and creating what you see today (from the clothing to painting and constructing Mubia). He’s a natural puppet wrangler.


Your film does pay tribute to the blaxploitation genre of the 1970's. What can you tell us about your fascination with the genre ?


Even though I am to young to have experienced the blaxploitation genre myself my brother Shawn was a huge fan so from an early age I was watching stuff like The Mack, Dolemite, Trouble Man, etc... So it was my first introduction to black heros, I guess you can say its a childhood thing, it really stuck with me. And being black myself and growing up in the black community I'm a first hand witness to racism, police brutality, and racial profiling. So those films were a great fantasy, an escape, watching these black heroes, even villains, stickin' it to the man...


Other major influences on Black Devil Doll ?


Other major influences would have to be things like Trilogy of Terror. I had some influence from that film when creating the storyboards for Black Devil Doll.  You can sort of see that when you watch the film. I’m sure there are other influences in the film, it just happens subconsciously. But other than the mixture of many genres including horror, blaxploitation, exploitation, etc… this is honestly like no other film I have ever seen. It has a real cruel dark side; it has a sick and twisted humorous side, and a kick ass rough and fun side. It is definitely one of a kind.


The film's music by the Bamboo Gods sounds pretty awesome in a retro-sort of way - at least from what I've heard so far. How did you find the band, and what can you tell us about them ?


They actually found us. They heard about the film and were very interested in being a part of it. They have a style all their own. But it is reminiscent (to me at least) of an Italian Goblin-esque feel to it [Goblin profile - click here], but it’s mixed with a lot of good funk and that 70s blaxploitation funk vibe. They also did the music on the trailer Hobo with a Shotgun. That was supposed to be a grindhouse type of trailer which worked well.


But the Bamboo Gods just seemed like they fit the mold for Black Devil Doll. They had that feel and another great thing they did is they scored the film without even seeing the movie, which is really cool.


I think it is fair to say your film is in some ways offensive (which in my book is not necessarily a bad thing). How difficult (or in fact easy) was it to get a proper cast for a film like this ?


Well, it was really difficult. Most of the actresses that came to read for us knew the film was about a killer puppet but when they actually sat down and read the script and what would be required of them, they absolutely freaked out and wanted nothing to do with it. One girl that said she was on board came to the read through, took one look at the script and said no. We also had actors who wanted us to change the script, which was never going to happen. It was a long hard search but we finally found our cast.


Your film is advertised with the words This film depicts totally awesome scenes of murder and rape. Could you elaborate on that, and is political correctness at all an issue for you ?


First and foremost, political correctness is NEVER an issue with neither me nor anyone on this crew. We set out to make the film we wanted to make. If there is one thing we all knew going into this movie; it’s that in order for it to work and come out the way we want it to look and feel we would have to go all the way. That meant never ever hold back. So in all its filthiness and horror, the advertisement directly reflects us as the filmmakers in respects to what type of movie we are making and what exactly we are trying to accomplish.


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The film's URL and/or mySpace ?


The Black Devil Doll website is and the myspace page is


Let's move away from the film for the time being to shed some light on your career so far: Your initial claim to fame was a series of short montages back in 2003. What can you tell us about them ?


Well this all started when I was in college in Northern California. I was always into film especially horror due to my brother Shawn Lewis who was also the creator of Blackest Heart Media for many years and later started Rotten Cotton Graphics. But in 2003 I was taking film as a minor in school. I had a few field assignments in which I first seriously got behind the camera. Anyways I got bit by the film bug and the rest is history. I actually took it upon myself to check out all the equipment and start learning how to use it. I created shorts while teaching myself how to use the camera and editing systems. Using all the hot girls on campus as the stars of these shorts - some of them were pretty good and were requested for the schools creative arts awards ceremonies.There is one about suicide called Lost Little Girl, another about a big chase scene called The Chase, another was called Time 2 Go. There were many others too. But I was entirely self taught.


In 2004, you co-founded the Black Sunday Film Club. A few words about the club.


Well that all started because of my extensive collection of rare films and the lack of film history and culture at Menlo College at the time among the student body. Two friends of mine and I decided its about time we do something about it.

We started screening films in the Pit which was the campus movie theater. We screened Sunday night at 9pm every week. But we stuck to our guns and screened only the most obscure films, cult films, horror, sci-fi, Asian, Art House, Just the coolest and craziest films we could show. Within the first month of starting the club we became huge and the biggest club on the entire campus. The newspapers did articles on us and everything. We even had two festivals in which our first one we had the cast of House of 1000 Corpses attend as special guest.


Your first feature, Campus Terror, did not entirely meet your expectations. Would you care to talk about it anyhow ?


Well I wrote a script for a slasher type film. We had nothing but problems from the start. First the actors were the problem; actually they were the entire problem. As Dario Argento says, “actors are cattle”. But yes the actors kept missing the days we were shooting, and having problems with what they were doing in scenes. It got so bad we had to hire three different villains! Then we ended up changing the story mid way. Part of it was poor pre-production on my part and bad actors that ruin the movie.


Next came the short The Dream Audition ...


That was just a short we decided to shoot because we had nothing else to do. A buddy of mine and I were up drinking at like 4 or 5 in the morning and created the entire outline. Then I wrote the script in the next week. We casted and shot a true story about my friends band breaking up.


The Telephone, your last movie before Black Devil Doll, pays, among other things, tribute to the Italian giallo and was rather well-received. Please tell us about this one.


The Telephone was my tribute to the Italian giallo and the director Mario Bava [Mario Bava bio - click here]. It was a great experience. I had a great time making that movie. It was in the LA and NY underground film festival, and the HD/DV film festival in LA. There is a lot of Bava, Argento, and Carpenter in that movie. Its shot in black and white and I was really trying to get that giallo or Italian feel. Down to the score, it was very Goblin. UltraViolent Magazine did a review on it as did some others. It was a fun movie. My partner on that film was Mike Amaya who drew the storyboards, helped cast and much of the pre-production work. The actual crew for production was the Black Sunday Film Club and my good friend who is a great AD Elliot Robinson.


Your major influences as a filmmaker ?


So many, that’s a hard question. Dario Argento, Carpenter, Mario Bava [Mario Bava bio - click here], Cronenberg, Hitchcock, Fulci [Lucio Fulci bio - click here], Peter Walker, Ridley Scott, George A Romero, Wes Craven, Alfred Jacobs, there are so many too, the list goes on. But I find influences everywhere like in authors Richard Matheson, John Milton, Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen King, and Clive Barker and the list goes on and on.


Films you really liked (both recent and all-time favourites) ?


Wow… That’s another impossible question. All 600 or so films in my collection. I’d be here all day listing! You can kinda get an idea through the style of films I have mentioned.


... and those you deplored ?


I hate shitty remakes of good films. Why don’t they take bad movies and remake those. Why do we need a remake of good movies.


Would you say that horror is your favourite genre ? And what do you think about the genre's current state ?


I would say yes Horror is my favorite genre. Well, its good and bad. Its bad because we still have studios or suits making shitty mainstream movies or suits messing up good movies that give the genre an even worse reputation. Also it makes the movies I go to see a disappointment. But the genre is looking good because there are still a lot of directors not afraid to make some really good sound horror for people 25 and older. I get sick of so called hardcore horror concepts marketed to 12 and 13 year olds. Plus there is a huge independent market that is growing larger and larger. That brings films to people that otherwise would never get to quince their thirst for Real Horror. Now these people won’t have to go blow their brains out! It brings hope.


Any future projects ? What can we expect from Jonathan Lewis past Black Devil Doll ?


Black Devil Doll 2, She’s A Whore, You Fat Fuck, An Undesirable Death, and a few other projects that are in line.


Anything else I've forgotten to ask but you're just dieing to share with us ?


Thank you for the support.


Thanks for the interview.


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD