Your movie The Divine Tragedies
a.k.a. Blood Brothers
- in a few words, what is it
It's a serial killer movie for the philosophically minded. Think Henry:
Portrait of a Serial Killer by way of Zulawski's Possession.
As far as I know, The Divine Tragedies
loosely based on a real murder case from the 1920's. So what can you tell
us about that one, what fascinated you about it, and how closely did you
stick to the facts?
The Leopold and Loeb case was
fascinating to me. The real case is quiet different than the direction I
took, but there was something about a pair of cold-blooded intellectuals
who wanted to experience the taking of a life that really dug itself into
my imagination. We don't stick too closely to the real-world events, but
there are easter eggs throughout for those familiar with the landmark
Other sources of inspiration when
writing The Divine Tragedies?
John Carpenter, David
Lynch and David Cronenberg for damn sure. They make movies like no one
else and they left a serious impact on my perception of filmic language,
so I knew instantly I wanted to tell this through the skewed lenses
they used for their films. When you see the film, you'll be able to see
where there influences come through.
With the multitude
of serial killer films around, what do you think will make yours stick out
of the crowd?
Ultimately, it will stand out because it
isn't really a serial killer film. It's about two half-brothers who let
their ego run away with their imagination and it warps their perceptions
of reality. It doesn't live in the grimy world of the serial killer genre,
but flirts with it. It's not about blood and guts, it's an
intellectually-minded study of the world around us and how reality and the
people in our lives influence what we ultimately become and perceive to be
the truth. It's a thinking man's carnage film. Plus and we've got
some bizarre, never-before-seen visuals that will hopefully live on in
What can you tell us about your
directorial approach to your story at hand?
My idea since the beginning was that the camera was God. The audience is
watching the movie, the unfolding of these events, through the eyes of
God, who doesn't necessarily cast any judgements on the characters, but
is there floating amongst them like the breeze. So I knew I wanted the
camera to move a lot, but budget and time was a factor. Setting up dolly
shots takes time, and steadi rigs are expensive. But my DP Kyle Stryker
brought on his pal Mike, who owns a rig called a Movi. This is basically
a handheld set up that allowed us to get these long, sweeping,
uninterrupted tracking shots in less than half the time of tradition
equipment. With this little baby we were able to get that God POV I was
looking for and the film looks so much more cinematic because of it. But
that's the technical side.
For the performance side, I wanted the actors to really understand what
was happening. So many times you watch a film and you can tell an actor
is "phoning it in" or really just not connecting to the
material. It was imperative for me that Graham Denman and Jon Kondelik [Jon
Kondelik interview - click here] knew who Charles
and Thomas were, respectively. The same goes for the whole cast. You
always want your guys to live and breathe the characters, but that's not
always possible. However, this cast really delivered that and you will
see Barbara Crampton and Ken Foree especially act like you have never seen them before.
killer films usually suggest quite a bit of violence and gore - so how far
does The Divine Tragedies
go in that department?
I find it quite a beautiful film. I wrote it from a very honest and
melancholy place, wanting the experience of the film to genuinely
mean something to the characters and hopefully the audience. I'm reminded
that there are some extreme, graphic moments when fresh eyes watch the
film and are taken aback by the sequences. But this isn't a gory film for
the sake of gore. That's when blood becomes boring. I wanted all blood
shed to mean something. No one will be wallowing in entrails in this one,
but there is one incredibly fucked up scene that people will be talking
about for a VERY LONG time, and it's not in there for whimsy's sake, it's
a part of the character's perception of the world and so makes it an
organic piece of the story, which is the only way blood and guts can
really be sold.
talk about your key cast for a bit, why exactly these people, and how did
you get them?
Well, I had invited Jon Kondelik [Jon
Kondelik interview - click here] and Graham Denman over for a movie
night one night because I wanted to show them this amazing film called
COMPULSION with Dean Stockwell and Orson Welles. It's a version of the
Leopold and Loeb case and I told them that I had always wanted to make
this story and I saw them as these two killer characters. As soon as the
movie was finished, Jon commissioned me to write the script and we were
shooting the film 3 months later. It was truly just a thing that was
meant to happen, I suppose.
Hiring Ken Foree, Sean Whalen and Barbara Crampton was a no-brainer. I'm
a huge fan and when their names came up during casting, it was a simple
decision to go out to them. Sean was the first I cast, I actually wrote
the role for him and he said yes immediately. Ken and Barbara read the
script, and I'm not ashamed of blowing myself a bit, but they absolutely
loved it and were disturbed by it, but knew it was something they had to
be a part of, which I will forever be honored by.
What can you tell us about the actual
shoot and the on-set atmosphere?
I like to run a happy set.
I don't want anyone grumpy, because that fucking brings me down. So I like
to make my crew one big happy family. Everyone walked away smiling and sad
to see it end, and that made me very happy. People were impressed from day
one with the stuff we were getting and that is majorly important. If the
crew smells that they're working on shit, they will do shit work in
return. If everyone is on their a-game, especially the director who is the
captain of the ship, then the production will be a smooth one.
Any idea when and where The Divine Tragedies
might be released onto the general public yet?
are weighing some nice offers right now and looking at a 2015 release.
future projects beyond The Divine Tragedies
you'd like to share?
am also currently working on a western script I wrote called A
Magnificent Death from a Shattered Hand, which will be directed and starring Thomas
Jane, with Jeremy Irons and Nick Nolte in the cast as well. We are hoping
to roll in 2015, if all goes smoothly, but there have been so many delays,
I can't say for sure. I will be working on a sequel to my 2013 film Hansel
and Gretel that takes place 1 year after the events of the first one and
is currently titled: Hansel vs. Gretel. That one will be out for Halloween
2014, I believe.
got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
I was an only child, so movies,
books and TV became my siblings. I had a rocky childhood, so disappearing
into fiction was a welcomed activitiy. I realized I had some aptitude and
love for the creation of the medium, so I decided early on, around the
age of 7 or so, that I would devote my life to writing and making movies,
to hopefully inspire someone like I had been inspired, or at the very
least to entertain folks for a few hours. I went to film school, got an
associates degree, and never looked back.
Your directrorial debut was, I
believe, The Monster Man - so what can you tell us about that one,
and lessons learned from it?
I shot this one right out of film school with my best friends as cast
and crew. I learned so much about marketing and editing and basically
every facet of filmmaking on that that I wish I had skipped film school
and used the money to make a bigger first film.
I did just that with my 2nd one, Corpses are Forever, which I am happy
to say I shot on 35mm, something that is now a rarity. I wore many hats
on that one too and burnt myself out, but I met my wife Jessica on that
set so it has extra special memories.
Quite a few people might
know your The Haunting of Whaley House - so do talk about that one
for a bit!
The Haunting of Whaley House was my 3rd film and I loved every minute
of making that one. I was hired to make a haunted house picture based on
the true ghost stories and history surrounding the infamously haunted
Whaley House in San Diego. I was pretty much left alone to make the film,
and that's one of the reasons a lot of people notice the fact that it
stands out from the typical haunted house film. We had very little money
and very little time, but the cast was solid and we got to tell a fun and
creepy, thrill ride. I got to work with friends and we just became this
big, wonderful family unit. It was a fantastic experience and one of my
favorite films that I've made.
Veronique Von Venom: Horror Hostess Hottie
- you just have to talk about that one!
This was a fun web
series I shot with my pal Mindy Robinson [Mindy
Robinson interview - click here], who appears in The Haunting of Whaley House.
It's basically Elvira as a valley girl, and is available on
You have also
written the ingeniously titled Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark - so you
obviously have to talk about it, too!
This came to me from
the producers of The Haunting of Whaley House. It's the 3rd in the illustrious
series and I was honored that they came to me with it. I wasn't sure I was
the right guy for the job at first, to be honest, but when I found that we
could have a bit of fun with it, I jumped on board for the challenge.
would you describe yourself as a director?
Jeez, I don't
know. I'm passionate. I'm very detail-orientated. I like the actors to
find small moments that make the scene feel more alive, and I will work
with them on that. I never want to direct something that someone else
wrote, I don't think I could be happy with that. All directors are control
freaks and I insist on the words coming from me, whether I change them on
set or not.
working on films, you have also written quite a number of books, right? So
what can you tell us about your books, and about Jose Prendes, the writer?
Writing novels is so much more satisfying, because at the end of the day
you aren't getting any notes from people that divert or change the
course of the story you first envisioned and fell in love with. Sure,
you have an editor, and they will occasionally provide good advice, but
for the most part you can tell them to make sure you just spelled it all
correctly and they can fuck themselves with their opinion. Scripts are
the quick and easy midnight snack, and novels are the sumptuous main
course. In between movies, I usually write a book or two, just to
refresh and embrace the world of words again.
I wrote a novel called Sharcano, which was about the apocalypse brought
about by sharks from hell, and that has been doing very well on Amazon
and in bookstores, and I will plunging into the writing of the sequel
titled Sharks of the Living Dead. So you will all get a chance to
finally see the zombies versus sharks battle we have been waiting for.
There will be third book, whose title I can't reveal yet, but it will
cap off what I call the Sharkpocalypse Trilogy.
Then I have a series of young adult adventure novellas titled Elementary,
My Dear Watson, which features a young Sherlock Holmes and
John Watson on this very first cases as 12 year olds in elementary
school. Volume one is out currently and I am prepping to write 2 and 3,
with a possible cartoon series in the works down the road.
writers, whoever else who inspire you?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
I'm inspired by
madness, actually. But great, big, bizarre visionaries who have done
things their way and were celebrated for it. Da Vinci is so fascinating.
Rasputin is another mind-boggling character. Sun Tzu, Ernest Hemingway,
Elmore Leonard, Napoleon, Howard Hughes; these guys inspire me to reach for
bigger and better. As for filmmakers, I'd cite John Carpenter, David
Cronenberg, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and David Lynch as guys who broke the
mold of cinema, redefined it, and made it their own. That inspires me
greatly to do the same, or at least die in the attempt.
Jaws, It's a Wonderful Life, Monster
are my three films.
... and of course, films you really deplore?
many too name. But in general, I HATE THE LIVING GUTS OUT OF ROMANTIC
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Divine Tragedies can be followed here:
The Haunting of Whaley House can be followed here:
for the interview!