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An Interview with Justin Timpane, Director of Ninjas vs. Vampires

by Mike Haberfelner

May 2011

Films directed by Justin Timpane on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new film Ninjas vs Vampires - in a few words, what is it about (apart from the obvious)?


It's part horror film and part superhero origin story. It's the story of a regular guy who unwittingly finds himself caught up in a war between Ninjas and Vampires. He'd just as well stay out of it, but when the girl he loves (who, BTW, has totally rejected him) becomes a target, he decides to "man up" and become a Ninja himself.


What were your main inspirations for writing Ninjas vs Vampires?


Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Clerks, The Karate Kid, X-Men-comics, and the classic 80's slasher films.


Why did you choose vampires as your ninjas' opponents this time around? And your favourite vampire movies, books, comicbooks, etc?


Honestly it came out of the story of Ninjas vs Zombies. Ironically, this film doesn't require NVZ first (I actually like it better showing folks NVV first, then NVZ as a prequel). Plus I like Vampires as bad guys (not as sparkling emo teenage romantic leads. That's right, I'm looking at you Edward freaking Cullen). Buffy and Angel (I am NOT contradicting myself! I didn't like them as a couple... but separately they worked REALLY well) are my fave Vamp mythology, although I really like some of what Underworld does and I think True Blood has some interesting ideas.


For a low budget indie movie, your film features quite a few pretty accomplished action sequences. How did you manage to bring these to life?


Credit where its due: For the fighting, PJ Megaw and Daniel Mascarello did our choreography and training. Our actors trained for weeks beforehand, and I think it shows. FX wise, Brian Anderson of ADF Studios and Michael Mead made most of the gunplay, magic, and even some blood and weapons. I was able to come onto set and have 75% of it done for me.


Your ninjas all have very distinct personalities. Who do you identify with the most?


Well, in NVZ they were all me. I had wanted to be an actor/musician/artist and it never really came to pass ... so I put a LOT of myself in there. In NVV, they have grown beyond just being reflections of my own insecurities, and probably I relate to Kyle the most. Cole is the one I would look up to most and Aaron is my superhero wish fulfillment ... but Kyle, for all his idiosynchrasies is the most like me.


A few words about your main cast?


Only a few? Mostly theatre actors, attractive, talented ... I'm pretty lucky as a low budget filmmaker to find people who can pull off action and comedy and be pretty to look at and have extensive performance resumes and pull off some heartbreaking stuff and ... you get the idea ... oh, and they are troopers - cuz everyone gets worked to death a bit. I consider them all to be like family and most of us still hang out - last week I did a poker night with "Kyle" and "Aaron" and "Alex" and our producer Brian and our compose .r.. then 2 days later I hung out with "Cole" and "Kyle" again while "Lily" hung out with my wife. "Manson"'s family (heh) and mine went to a concert last month, etc, etc - and most of these folks weren't really close friends before the movie.


You also make a quite hilarious cameo in your movie as Reefer. What can you tell us about that character - and why did you have to kill him?


HA! Thank you! Reefer is the interesting exposition guy - inspired partly by Will Ferrell in Wedding Crashers and Gary Oldman in True Romance ... with a bit of Jason Mewes thrown in - although there was a cut part about him smoking bark that was inspired by a high school friend. That scene was shot by a friend of ours, Gary Ugarek (Director of the Deadlands-films), because I wasn't able to adequately direct myself. So that was fun. Why did he have to die? Its a horror movie - some folks die, especially the pot smokers ... plus he knew too much (and I died in NVZ too ... I might have to die again in the next one ... TRIFECTA!).


In many ways, your film seems like a comicbook come to life. Is this a comment you can at all live with, and is there a truth to the rumours that your ninjas are presently actually being turned into a comicbook?


I CAN live with that. I LOVE that. I am a huge comicbook fan ... both movies have significant scenes in a comic book store, and yes, Ninjas vs Zombies issue 1 is already on newsstands and on the ipad as part of the Cloud9 comix app.


Your ninjas originally appeared in Ninjas vs Zombies. Did you know back then that you wanted to turn the concept into a series? And a few words about Ninjas vs Zombies of course?


MOST of the actors were in NVZ (Bishop was Eric, Manson was Fitz) - as well as the returning characters. It was important for me to have this one pay off the first, to remain in continuity (even the one HUGE change, the character of Ann, is referenced in the final scene of NVZ as having the "Mystical Wiggins", indicating that she was now using magic) - but I also wanted it to work completely alone ... so one could watch it and NEVER know it was a sequel. I think in both cases we succeeded. As for a series - we always have in mind what the next one could be ... but we would never leave it on a true cliffhanger - the story wraps up nicely and then we tease at a possible next one. So we could end at any time, but if not, you know where we would go.


How would you say have you grown as a director from Ninjas vs Zombies (which was also your debut feature) to Ninjas vs Vampires? And are there aspects about the first movie you would want to change from today's point of view?


Oh my. Yes, as a writer and a director I feel I have learned a lot. I LOVE Ninjas vs Zombies, its my firstborn.. but Vampires is clearly a better made film. Zombies might be more charming in its naivete, but Vampires is slicker, brisker, more exciting. Specifically, in Zombies, I wish I has shortened the first act and had a more central character ... but - it's like Clerks vs Dogma. Which is better? Clerks is fresher, more raw, charming BECAUSE it is imperfect. Dogma is MUCH more polished, and is my preferred film of the two. Some disagree. That's how I feel about the two films so far. I love them both for different reasons, but I could never go back and make Zombies again.


Any plans for a third Ninjas vs ...-movie?


Yup. As long as we feel people will watch (by buying the ones before) - we will make more. Meantime, the comic series will break new ground, and we are looking into videogame possibilities.


A very basic question: Why ninjas? And your favourite ninja movies, books, comicbooks, etc?


To quote the book in NVZ: Its kind of obvious. Ninjas are AWESOME. When I was a kid I would take rope and metal and make a hook and try to climb stuff like Batman. Who doesn't want to be a Ninja? Favorite Ninja stuff? Well i LOVE the ninja influence on Batman and Wolverine. I LOVE Hong Kong films (Drunken Master 2 or Legend of Drunken Master is my all time fave).


Is it true that you actually started out as an actor before moving into direction?


Yup. I did a lot of theatre and a few indie flicks. I guess before Ninjas I was best known as (SPOILER ALERT) the killer in Timewarp Films' Dead Hunt. I also wrote music for some movies as well.


What made you take the director's chair, and did you recieve any formal education on the subject?


I always wanted to. In high school I used to create videos and in College I directed 40 min films. I have a degree in theatre and a semester in video production. I was also a trained portrait photographer. So ... going in I had 2 films finished, experience and education designing and building sets, makeup design, costume design, actor direction, etc. Still ... it's not my success as much as the success of the folks around me. Cory Okouchi is a project manager who helps me plan, Brian oversees effects, Daniel Ross handles PR, Daniel Mascarello does a little of everything, he and PJ do the fights, Michael Mead made the costumes from my designs, Kelly Timpane (my wife) handles the business end, Tuomas Easton is a great composer ... we got a lot new help and a lot of folks who are as experienced as me or sometimes more! So really, the successes we make is from a great team.


Directors who inspire you?


Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon, James Cameron (most of his work), Alex Proyas, Quentin Tarantino, Matthew Vaughn, David Fincher, Wes Craven, Tim Burton - I feel like these are boring answers - everyone likes these guys ... umm ... Sam Raimi ... kind of the usual suspects ... which reminds me, Bryan Singer (hee hee).


Your favourite movies?


Horror: Nightmare on Elm Street 3 or Scream. Martial Arts: Drunken Master 2. Comedy: Clerks 2 or Fight Club (yup, its a satire). Drama: Moulin Rouge, Good Will Hunting, The Abyss (special edition). Sci Fi: Empire Strikes Back or Serenity. Comic book: X2 or Kick-Ass (possibly The Crow). All time? Tie between Empire Strikes Back and Serenity (possibly Army of Darkness)


... and of course, movies you really deplore?


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Wow ... Twilight, Freddy's Dead, Attack of the Clones (yet I love it too), X3, Mortal Kombat Annihilation, Batman and Robin, The War of the Worlds-remake. There are a lot ... most of them are ones where I had some expectation. Except Twilight. F**# Twilight.


Your website, Facebook, whatever else?,,,//" target="_blank">, - you can Facebook-like us from a LOT of those pages.


Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


We have HOURS of podcasts! I and folks form the movies host 5 shows on the Endlight Podcast Network - its all kind of NSFW - some cursing and stuff ... but it's pretty hilarious stuff ... we have a Trek podcast and a Pop Culture one and an Entertainment show, and a comedy one called the Suckcast - go to !!


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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and shall not be held responsible for
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Thanks for watching !!!



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



Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...


Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!


Bauliche Angelegenheiten
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