Your new movie Chopping
Block - in a few words, what is it about?
short: Itís about really, really bad choices. Itís about what happens
when desperation takes over in your ďday to day lifeĒ and what
youíre willing to do to get out of it. Sidney Lumet has probably made a
really dramatic movie based around that concept. I took the concept and
threw in blood, F-bombs and acid.
have dreamed up the story for Chopping
Block together with John Taylor and Michael Malone [Michael
Malone interview - click here] - so what was
that process like, and how did you come up with the idea of combining a
kidnapping comedy with a slasher flick?
a huge fan of Seth Rogen, Danny McBride and that Apatow style of comedy.
The loveable loser slacker who finds himself in these comedic situations.
I wanted to tell a story about that sort of character who accidentally
stumbles into a horror film. I had been kicking around a few concepts but
hadnít really been able to lock anything down. John & I were working
together at the time and we would just spend our mornings pitching
concepts back and forth. I threw the idea of "Horrible Bosses meets
the 13thĒ at him and he was all about it. It took me a
month or 2 to write a draft I was happy with sharing. I sent it off to
John and he gave some heavy feedback on it. From there, I did a few more
drafts and we were good to go.
contribution came LATE in the game. Of course he had ideas and feedback
throughout pre-production and production but the real genius of
Michaelís storytelling came on day 8 of shooting. We had a few issues
during filming that impacted our schedule pretty heavily. Because of this,
we lost a few days of filming and unfortunately had to wrap the film on
day 8 (of a 10-day shoot). We went into day 8 with an impossible number of
pages to shoot. Michael stepped up to the plate and really helped me
rework the final 20 pages of the film ON set, an hour before filming. It
was chaos but it was the good kind of chaos. Without his story
contributions, we might not have been able to finish this film.
What were your
sources of inspiration when scripting Chopping
Iíd say the
main sources would be those R-rated studio comedies (Horrible Bosses/40-Year-Old
Virgin/Neighbors) mixed with the slasher films I grew
up with. ďHow would Jason Bateman do against Michael
questions. I was inspired by stuff like that but I also took a lot from
real life. Iím a dad and that monologue Steve delivers late in the film
is 100% all my fears. So I littered it with personal stuff throughout to
give the film the heart it would need.
You of course have to talk about
Block's very own brand of humour for a bit!
I have a ďbrandĒ of comedy that has followed me for 3 features now. I
like to call it ďchaotic comedyĒ where you put regular people in
INSANE situations and see what happens. Thereís a lot of comedy in that
but also a lot of messed up stuff that can happen. I think it shows in Chopping
Block how different people act when thrown into that sort of
thing. Donnie and Steve are calm as can be but Richie isnít exactly
suited for high stress situations. Itís all in the setup of the idea of
the execution of the characters.
being a comedy, Chopping
Block doesn't shy away from quite a bit of gruesomeness - so for
the sake of all the gorehounds among my readers, do talk about the blood
and guts in your movie!
knew going in the focus of the movie was COMEDY but I wanted to make sure
when things got bloody, everyone got bloody. We had a great effects team
made up of Mike Dobrzelecki and Matt Scott. They spent the majority of the
shoot prepping for the final 3 days of shooting. I remember telling Mike
over the phone ďWhen we get into the effects stuff, I want to be covered
in blood at the end of the day. I want everybody covered in blood!Ē They
delivered BIG time. Those guys did an incredible job with a small amount
of time and small budget. We couldnít have made this film without them!
What can you tell us about your
overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
very loose. My main focus on set is to make sure everyone is having fun
and that everyone is happy and taken care of. Iím not big into
storyboarding or shot listing beforehand. Not everyone agrees with that
kind of approach and believe me, it costs time but I really like to get on
set with everyone and see what works best instead of trying to be some
kind of demanding auteur. Filmmaking has to be collaborative and I donít
limit that collaboration to just the key members of my crew. I open the
floor to everyone. If an actor has a shot idea, I listen. Iíd rather try
something once then make people feel like they are walking on eggshells.
This is supposed to be fun and there HAS to be collaboration.
talk about your cast, and why exactly these people?
Iíll try and break it down best I can.
Malone [Michael Malone
interview - click here] was someone I had been trying to work with for a while. He was
supposed to pop up in my 2nd feature but it never happened.
When I locked down the concept and script, he was the 1st
person I went to. Heís very talented and charming. He took over the role
of Donnie and ran with it. We were extremely lucky to have him.
Kester is someone I consider my good luck charm. Heís been in all 3 of
my films and will continue to be in my films. Very early on, the role of
ďSteveĒ was actually written for Bill Moseley. Raymond was going to
play another member of the group but more in the supporting role. Bill was
attached for a few months but the more I looked at it, the more I realized
I would rather have Raymond play the role of Steve. Some people will look
at that as a hard decision but for me, it was no question. I wanted to put
Raymond front and center. We were good friends and we are both fathers
sharing a lot of the same concerns. It was a no-brainer early in the
process and he knocked Steve out of the park.
Sams popped up briefly in my 2nd film but I was instantly stuck
in the ďdevelop everything for herĒ mode. I wanted her to be a main
focus in whatever my next film was. She was initially cast as the ďfinal
girlĒ but I decided to rewrite it and make her one of the main
kidnappers. She brings such a unique presence to set and she is so funny
and talented. She had to play this character in 2 different styles and
that had to be challenging on such a short schedule. Sheís on her way to
a special career and Iím lucky to have been a small part of it.
Wilson [Bryan Wilson interview
- click here] produced the film but is also a very talented actor. Heís been
someone Iíve been dying to cast for years and it finally worked out to
have him in the role of ďWillĒ. It was impossible to keep a serious
face whenever he would deliver a line or a simple expression. Heís a
comedic gem that more people should (and will) utilize down the road.
Raaen was also a producer on the film but he fit the role of Richie
perfectly. This is Alexís 1st acting role and he was such a
pleasure to have. Thereís a certain youthful innocence to that character
that Alex was able to nail. And he only cusses one time in the film.
Thatís an incredible feat in itself!
Jay Madison came on late BUT man was she a blessing. It was very important
to me to cast the right actress in that role. I came across her via Dustin
Mills' [Dustin Mills
interview - click here] Facebook and was struck by her look and commitment. I immediately
sent her a message offering her the role and she accepted. She was on set
the least amount of anybody but we had a blast. She is so talented and
dedicated to the genre. It shows in everything she does! #boyset
Edens was in my second film and was always attached to the role of Sadie.
Heís a killing machine in this film BUT Cliff is the nicest, most
supportive person out there. I really hope this role leads to some more
stuff for this guy. Heís the next Kane Hodder. MAKE IT SO OTHER
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
was a special shoot that Iíll never forget. We had 8 days to make this
thing and we all banded together in tough situations to finish it. It
brought us closer and made us a family. Iíd go to bat for any of them
and I hope they would do the same for me. I was incredibly lucky to have
every single person on set helping make this silly little slasher comedy.
almost compare the on-set atmosphere to a frat or clubhouse of some kind.
We were always taking jabs at each other. Someone was ALWAYS the butt of
the joke. I think we would compare it to a summer camp with your best
friends. You know, a summer camp where someone is spraying you with blood,
cussing at you and making you repeat lines 20 times.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Chopping
reaction has been incredible. My biggest fear was people not understanding
that it is a comedy first and foremost. I wanted that to be clear and
thankfully, it has been so far. We sold out our premiere and weíve gone
on to screen at a number of festivals and unique screening events.
film is now getting out there in a MUCH bigger scope and people really
seem to understand what we were trying to do. The biggest takeaway has
been the number of nice things said about the cast. There is not a Chopping
Block without the chemistry of those main 5. Without them, Cliff
doesnít work. Melissa doesnít work. Tia doesnít work. The script
doesnít work. Those 5 give our film a solid ground to stand on.
Any future projects you'd like to
most immediate: My 2nd film, The Impersonators, will be out
later this year. I co-wrote and produced a web series with Michael Malone [Michael
Malone interview - click here]
called Bethlehem that will be hitting YouTube in November.
than that, Iím weighing my options. We have A LOT of them. Iím
adapting the new book from Todd Rigney (Found) and weíre just trying to
figure that out right now. Iíve done 5 drafts of the script so itís
about as ready as it can be. Itís called Mírth and itís sort of
A Nightmare on Elm
Street meets Trainspotting. So itís just figuring out
HOW and WHEN to do it. Iíd love to do it next year, so weíll see.
working on multiple scripts and looking at multiple options. I was just
sent a unique script Iíll describe as ďif 1980ís Spielberg made Blue
ValentineĒ. Itís something SO different from what Iíve done
and something that really has my attention. And it might be the perfect
ďnextĒ project. My biggest thing right now is growing as a filmmaker
and not sticking to the same stuff over and over. Iíve made 3 genre
comedies and Iím hungry to do something different. Mírth and this
script are VERY different so weíll see.
What got you into filmmaking in the first place,
and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
wasnít always my focus. I used to want to be in the NBA until my grandpa
(and everyone else) told me I sucked at basketball. They were 100% right
so I focused on writing. I mainly wanted to be a screenwriter. That goal
(and quite honestly) the effort took me absolutely nowhere. I decided to
just make my own films in high school but unfortunately that never
happened. I finally made my 1st film in 2010. So, I would say
the desire to just do it myself got me into filmmaking.
didnít go to film school or anything like that. I grew up on movies and
spent most of my youth renting movies from a video store. I read
screenplays and acted out scenes with action figures. That was my
ďtrainingĒ. Some might say it shows haha.
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Chopping
made my 1st film in 2010. It was a micro MICRO budget zombie
comedy called Beverly Lane. We self-financed it and self-released it and
it received incredible reviews and won some awards. It was the film that
truly opened the doors for me.
that, I made a segment for the popular horror anthology The Collective
which was well received. I directed my 2nd feature in 2013.
Itís a superhero comedy called The Impersonators, that will be released
later this year on a limited Blu-ray run. That film went on a festival run
and received great reviews. It features an incredible cast including Josh
Arnold, Ellie Church, Jas Sams, Raymond Kester and more.
that I was brought on by Horrorhound and Cedar Point to direct a music
video for Harley Poe for their Halloween celebration. That video has
racked up over 30k views.
How would you describe yourself as a
Iím very laid back
and VERY collaborative. Like I said before, Iím very loose with my cast.
I always make sure to do what I call a ďthird takeĒ. We do the 1st
2 takes BY script and then the 3rd take is all improv. I let
the actors take the scene wherever they want to take it. Iíve learned by
doing this that they aim to nail the 1st 2 takes perfectly so
they have more time to play around on the 3rd take and more.
Some of our best stuff comes out of those takes because the pressure is
off at that point.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
is a BIG question. Iím inspired by a ton of filmmakers. I grew up
wanting to be Spielberg, Carpenter and Lucas. Iím a huge Edgar Wright
fan and I think that shows in my work. I adore Guillermo Del Toro. I love
Spike Jonze, James Wan and David Cronenberg. I worship Stanley Kubrick but
I could never make movies like him (good haha). I love Paul Thomas
Anderson and Judd Apatow. I love what Gareth Edwards and Rian Johnson are
doing. Iíd say my biggest inspirations RIGHT NOW would be Jeff Nichols
and Jeremy Saulnier. Saulnier made a silly horror comedy with Murder
Party and followed that up with 2 incredibly different dramatic revenge films.
Iíd love to follow that route. I could go on and on. I think you
can find inspiration in every filmmaker out there because itís not an
easy thing to do. Every person who has made a film as accomplished
answer that could go on and on. The ones that have had the biggest impact
on me? The Star Wars-trilogy (and now new films that continue to inspire),
Jaws, Poltergeist, E.T., A Clockwork Orange, Shaun
of the Dead, Fight Club, Alien,
The Foot Fist Way, Pan's
Labyrinth, Mememto, There Will Be Blood, No
Country for Old Men, The
Shining, Taxi Driver,
The Conjuring and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
The films that have made a huge impact on me recently? Spring, The
Invitation, Swiss Army Man, The Neon Demon, The Witch,
Hellion and The
Force Awakens. And even though itís not a film, Iím obsessed
Stranger Things at the moment. I just love how it is such a
HUGE nod to Spielberg, Amblin,
Carpenter, King and more. You can clearly see the inspiration and the best
part about that is Stranger Things will influence the
younger generation so weíll hopefully see a whole new cycle of Amblin-esque
... and of course, films you really
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Haha! I try not to
focus too much on things I donít like. I canít get into the Transformers,
Lord of the Rings and The Fast and the Furious franchises. And I
really dislike movies that TRY to be bad.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever
can find me on Facebook and Twitter (@joshuathehull).
production company is here: http://1019pictures.com/
as well as Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/1019pictures/) and
Block is on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ChoppingBlockMovie/)
and Twitter (@ChoppBlockMovie).
Impersonators is on Facebook
and Twitter (@IMPsMovie)
a pretty easy guy to get in touch with haha.
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
You know, Iím just
looking forward to seeing what happens with everything. Iím excited to
Block out everywhere. Our distributor, LC Films, is doing a
killer job getting the film out. Iím excited for people to finally have
a chance at owning The Impersonators. And Iím eager to get the next
Iím looking at
doing a sort of career reboot at this point. Iíve been doing comedy
stuff for 7 years. Iím older (not any wiser) and looking at telling
stories that more people can connect to. Iím trying to be a better
filmmaker and with that, a better husband and father. I donít want to
make microbudget horror comedies for the rest of my life. I want to make a
Star Wars movie 1 day (hey, theyíre making 1 every year for the rest of
forever Ė donít laugh) I WANT to make big studio movies. I want to
make small studio movies. I just want to make movies. So thatís what
Iím going to do!
Thanks for the interview!