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An Interview with Levi Anderson, Star of Creeper

by Mike Haberfelner

March 2015

Films starring Levi Anderson on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Creeper - in a few words, what is it about? And what can you tell us about your character in it?

 

Itís a look into the disturbed psyche of a sexual predator (or 2 or 3 actually), my character, Oliver, being the lead pervert. He suffers from a sexual disfunction that turns him homicidal, until a woman enters his life that he feels like he can truly love and overcome his demons.

 

What did you draw upon to bring your character to life, and how hard was it to identify with some of the darker aspects of Oliver's nature? And without meaning to be mean, how much of Levi Anderson can we find in Oliver, actually?

 

There are two parts to Oliver, the quiet and forgettable version of Oliver that goes to work everyday, and then there is the disturbed predator that comes out at night. I think everyone has some disturbing thoughts, fantasies, and curiosities. How do you know what is proper or behavior if you canít identify what is immoral? A lot of personal and social problems that people tend to deal with come from blocking those things that may be offensive or disturbing to them, rather than facing them and dealing with them head on. With the character of Oliver, I had a chance to dig into some of the darker parts of myself and explore what would make someone behave like this, and also ask where/how do the rest of us honestly know where to draw those lines that keep us on a moral track? It may be hard to believe, but I am quite an introvert, especially when developing my creative material, and then I switch on to become fully animated when I perform. So that part of Oliver, the passive-aggressive man that he is, that was something I could draw from easily. As to the sexual perversionsÖ well, I was a ďlate bloomerĒ myself so I dealt with quite a bit of sexual frustration as an adolescent. I had a very depressed heart for a long time - not a broken heart, but more of a suicidal one. If I hadnít eventually gotten laid (with willing participants, mind you) in college, who knows if I would have turned a darker corner, as Oliver does.

 

How did you get involved with the project in the first place?

 

I have been active in our local film community in Southern Oregon for years now, mostly behind the camera. Iíve been a cameraman and key grip on most of the jobs where Iím not on-screen, and I crossed paths with Ron Huffstutter [Ron Huffstutter interview - click here] while working on some short films in the area. I think he was actually a production assistant on the short Self Inflicted that I co-produced and starred in for a good friend director Ross Williams. After that I shot a short film Prowler for Randy Granstrom of Killer Valley Films, and in that short Ron was on-screen in the opening scene and then helped out behind the scenes for our other shoot days. He and I had a similar sense of humor and affection for film. Ron isnít afraid to just say whatís on his mind and doesnít shy away from controversial topics, which is something I could really appreciate. I canít remember when he asked me to read for a part in his debut film, but when I asked if I got to show my ass or masturbate at all, he said ďOh hell yeahĒ and I was sold.

 

To what extent could you identify with the film's horror theme, and is that a genre at all dear to you?

 

Growing up, I was in love with reading scary stories and watching horror films. Probably at an unhealthy early age, as by the time I was reading Stephen Kingís It at 10 years old, I was already obsessed with Freddy Krueger, had a solid stack of EC Comics in my collection, and Tales From the Crypt the TV series had just started airing on HBO. I think Scream was the last horror film that I thought was any good for years, as the genre had seemed to just become crowded with gore & torture, but no scares. The Blair Witch Project was the first to scare me like a kid again, I think cause so much of the monster is in your head, and I tapped back into when I saw the first Nightmare on Elm Street movie when I just couldnít fall asleep for days. When I got into filmmaking around the year 2000, so many of the projects I was involved in were horror themed. I think itís because we all had no budgets, and you can have a lot of fun on the cheap with zombie makeup and lots of fake blood & guts. I got drug back into the genre, slowly. I still wasnít watching horror, but I was making a lot of it, and I loved being able to just ignore the last decadeís films and think ďWhat would Wes Craven do?Ē I think when Sam Raimi came out with Drag Me to Hell I fell in love with watching the genre again, and have now been catching up with a lot of the underground and indie stuff I missed while I was on my horror hiatus.

 

What can you tell us about Creeper's director Ron Huffstutter [Ron Huffstutter interview - click here], and what was your collaboration like?

 

I remember there was a lot of touching. Heís a real hands-on director. For example, when rehearsing for the first masturbation scene, he gave me a demonstration and we Dutch-Ruddered for a good hour or so to find the right grip and pacing for Oliver in that moment of his story. Just kidding, but honestly, even though we were dealing with dark subject matter, behind the scenes we were having plenty of fun. Going back to that first masturbation scene, we were shooting in the garage of our Gafferís parents, and just before the camera started rolling, his dad came out and asked if he could watch a little behind the scenes. Ron asked if I felt comfortable with that, and of course if youíre going to pretend to masturbate in front of 6 people, why would a 7th make any difference? As soon as he saw me start tugging it out next to his workbench, he said something like, ďHuh, no different than what I do out here most daysĒ and we all just cracked up.

 

Do talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

The production was a great time. We have a real tight community of indie filmmakers here in Southern Oregon, and itís really like an extended family. When youíre shooting without a budget, everyone has to lend a hand wherever they can, and the great thing is that with this cast & crew, everyone did just that. There were times our director was holding the boom mic, and times when I helped set the lighting - it was truly a team effort.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

Iíve got a number of things in the works, right now. I have been active in the film industry for years, behind the camera, but I havenít directed anything narrative since my early college films, so Iím really excited to direct 2 ďmini-featuresĒ as I call them for Tunnel 13 Films this spring and summer. I canít really let the cats out of the bags yet, but I have a feeling these are going to be a ton of fun, both for us to make and for our audience to enjoy. The first will definitely be on the campy side of the horror genre, but with some very deep questions about the social responsibility we face with current science & medical knowledge. The second will be more of an action thriller with a touch of sci-fi/fantasy. Aside from those, I am anxious to pursue more acting gigs.

 

What got you into acting in the first place, and did you receive any formal education on the subject?

 

No formal education, no. I was the Crooked Tree in an elementary Christmas Play one year, no lines, just did a little dance. In middle school I never was drawn to drama, and our high school was too small to even have a drama department. I did run the spotlight for a school play one year, but that was mainly because my buddy and I could get out of study hall and got to sneak candy and girls up into the spotlight booth during rehearsals. We were late on most of our cues, haha. I was always the class clown, though, so I guess I was still looking to be in that spotlight even without a venue. When I enrolled in college I signed up to major in theatre on a complete whim (my cousin had just graduated from a theatre program and thought that I had a knack for performance). Once I was in the program, though the professors were real downers. They browbeat the students, denied me acting classes until Iíd done nearly two years worth of study and other theatre aesthetics classes. I know their theory was to weed out the weak players, but I just thought that the took all the fun out of it, and my drive to perform waned. I dropped out of theatre altogether, but stumbled upon some video production classes. The professors there were a complete turnaround from the theatre department. They gave us a quick rundown on some camera gear and 3-point-lighting, and then just set us loose with full creative control. It was completely eye-opening. From there I took every video production course they offered, and used my student loans to buy a camera and computer to shoot my own stuff. I forgot about being in front of the lens for a few years, but was performing stand-up comedy once a month with my buddies, so eventually we started filming short skits. I basically did slapstick, funny faces, and pratfalls in every video until a dark comedy, Self Inflicted gave me the opportunity to explore a real character, a sado-masochist at that. I think that is the film that Ron saw which got him interested in casting me as Oliver in Creeper. Iím glad he did, because itís awakened a desire in me to really pursue bigger roles now, and I hope to get more chances to expand my range.

 

Besides being an actor, you're also a cinematographer, right? So what got you behind the camera, and what can you tell us about your approach to cinematography as such?

 

I kind of covered the first part of this question in my last answer, but Iíll take this chance to give thanks directly to Howard Schreiber and Mark Chilcoat - the two professors in that video production department at Southern Oregon University that really pushed us to take creative control and become our own artists. I nearly got them fired with one of my student films, when a boner scene Iíd filmed offended a few classmates. They stood behind our right to expression and defended us to the Dean, but I decided to pull the shot anyways (well, I changed it out to a wide shot instead of a close-up), as I didnít think it was worth them putting their jobs on the line just so we could laugh at a boner scene in a student film. They were very supportive of every student, and I think that teachers like those are real heroes.

 

As far as my approach, I think of the cameraman as another actor in the piece - the hidden character. He or she is the fly on the wall of the scene, and you have to be intimate with the other performers without getting in their way. I love to be moving as a cameraman, whether that means handheld, steadicam, dolly moves, or whatever. In film noir particularly, the cameraman is the storyteller - you only get as much information as they are putting in the frame, and thatís how the story evolves. You canít be afraid to get in the dirt, either. Never compromise a shot because itís easier to shoot it another way. My favorite trick - Iíve been doing this since shooting The Partisan in college, is to lay prone in the back of a car, shooting out the back and have your talent chase you. Pickup trucks work, but a small car with the seats down is better, because youíre at a lower height. Itís such an easy trick, and really effective.

 

I've read in your filmography that you worked on Bruce Campbell's My Name is Bruce - so in the name of all fanboys (me included), I just have to ask you, what was it like working with the man?

 

A few years before My Name is Bruce, the Bruce Campbell came to our university and gave a short lecture about indie filmmaking. His whole approach was basically, donít accept any excuse not to do it, or else youíll never make your movie. Just go for it. Get one friend with a great story, one friend who can act fairly well, one friend with a camera, and then make sure to find one friend who knows business. Make your movie, just do it and get it done, one way or another. Iíll just assume you know the history of the ďShempĒ in the Evil Dead movies - when they ran out of money and their actresses bailed on them, they stuck wigs on each other and kept shooting. They got their movie done. But now that theyíd made Evil Dead - how the hell were they going to make their investorsí money back? Thatís where your friend that knows business comes in. Get someone on your team who can navigate the business world to help sell your film, somehow, someway, any way, so that you can make another one. You donít have to be in Hollywood if you are dedicated to making your movie. Itís great advice, and it really hits home in our Southern Oregon film community.

 

As far as working with him on set, I canít say I interacted with him directly much, as he was producing, directing, and acting in the thing, and I was only there to rig lighting and run power cables. But watching him direct, I was totally impressed. I know heís got a good thing going for him as a performer, but I honestly think he would do great work directing more, if he was so inclined . He was focused, he didnít take shit from anyone, and he pushed for what he knew he wanted out of the production. Another thing I respected him for was that he made sure to bring in as many of his good friends that heís worked with since the early days, when they were all broke and doing it just cause they had to. That speaks a lot to the family you develop in this industry, and being able to have a team you can have fun with, but also trust to do good work.

 


A fun anecdote from set for you: A few months after we wrapped, a small crew of us came back to shoot 2 days of pick-up shots. At that time the Bureau of Land Management was doing controlled burns in the forests around us, and in addition we used a lot of smoke machines for the scenes. Just as we wrapped our last shot at the end of the last day, my nose had had enough smoke and just started gushing blood. Our set was of course a fake town, so I was searching for some running water and paper towels to stop up the flood, and of course the person that I literally ran into was Bruce. I just bled all over his shoes asking if he knew where the medic was, and he did not hide his disgust. I honestly doubt he remembers my name or my face, but if I run into him again, Iím sure heíll remember that! Actually, when I saw the nosebleed scene in Drag Me to Hell, I wondered if Sam Raimi got that idea from Bruce telling him the story about some dipshit electrician bleeding all over him on the set of My Name is Bruce. Iíll just pretend I was the inspiration, even if I wasnít, lol.

 

What can you tell us about your other filmwork prior to Creeper (in whichever position)?

 

I wrote and directed my own stuff in college, but after graduating I had to work my way up the ranks on other people's projects. I started as a production assistant on commercials, got a gig as a grip on the feature film Conversations With God in 2005 or 2006, and then worked as a grip and/or an electrician on Babysitter Wanted, Rogue River, Heathens and Thieves, and some other bigger independents. I really love shooting, though, so did as much camera work as I could on short films with my colleagues, and am proud to say that 2 films I shot, Vampire Camp and Masked, each won Best Film awards at select film festivals. I also really love the role of assistant director, which is a crucial position that is often taken for granted on small-budget indies, and likely the reason many of them suffer. I recently just A.D.íd a short film for director Eric England (Contracted, Madison County and Roadside) and the horror/thriller feature Besetment for Barbed Wire Films, which is in the final stages of editing right now.

 

How would you describe yourself as an actor and as a cinematographer - and how do these two jobs complement one another?

 

I mentioned earlier that as a cameraman, I feel like the hidden performer in the scene. We bring the audience into the story through that lens. As an actor, I initially was way too aware of the camera. Actors really have to ignore that lens and let themselves go in the moment. Too many times I caught myself worrying more about how much I could move while staying in focus, when I should have just gone wherever the character needed to go. Roger Deakins said in an interview something along the lines of, ďyou can get a great performance from the actors, but the lighting is off, or the cameraman lost focus, and as a cameraman, itís hard to see your perfectly framed and focused shot get scrapped because the actorís performance is better in the shot that was out of focus - but that performance is what is better for the film, overall.Ē Iím paraphrasing here, but I agree with that. Now, as an actor I get a little cocky and I challenge the cameraman to keep up. If he (or she) is as good as me, theyíll get the shot, haha. And as a cameraman, I like to challenge myself just the same - if a director asks whether I can get a difficult shot or whether we should try different blocking, I generally say ďLetís go for itĒ and try to get that shot. If I fail, then we can look at different blocking, but if I succeed, then weíve got a killer shot for the film that people are going to talk about.

 

You're also a standup comedian, right? So what can you tell us about your brand of humour, your shows, and how does this help you with your acting, and vice versa?

 

Stand-up is a whole different beast. My persona on stage is still a character, but itís mostly just an exaggerated version of myself. Iíve tried doing other characters in my comedy, but it doesnít really work, I really just have to be myself. It does help with my acting in the sense that to step up on a stage, by yourself, and make a roomful of people laugh is very intimidating. And I have not always succeeded. But one thing I learned during a particular set when I was just bombing, is that if Iíve already lost the audience, Iíve got no one to entertain but myself, so I might as well just get crazy with it and make myself laugh. Iíve had the same joke kill one night, and only get crickets another night - because every audience is different, and even the way I deliver the same material can be different. The same thing applies to auditions - every director is different and wants something that I may or not have, but as long as Iím delivering a performance that I believe in, then I can go home happy, and if it was the right performance, I may even get a call-back. And if that happens and I actually get a part, having the ability to ad-lib or improv in a scene is another great skill developed from my stand-up that can really take a performance up a notch. I try to do most of my ad-libs in rehearsal, so the director can say yes or no then, rather than on set where it could be more distracting.

 

Cinematographers, actors, comedians, filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?

 

Mel Brooks - one of the funniest writers and directors I can think of. Robin Williams is true inspiration. There is an episode of Mork and Mindy where, as an alien, he explores all the different emotions that humans go through in one scene, from humor to rage to sadness to lust to envy ó one after another, just like flipping a coin. The range that that guy had, and how evocative he was with it, is just astounding. He stands alone as a performer to me. I also love the comedy work of Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, and old-schoolers like Tim Conway, Dick Van Dyke, Leslie Nielsen. Iím a big fan of Michael Keaton, also a kind-of hyperactive actorÖ Iím starting to see a trend here.

Joe Dante, Roger Corman [Roger Corman bio - click here], Sam Raimi, George Miller, Wes Craven, John CarpenterÖ those guys are some of my favorite directors.

Stephen King, as a storyteller in general, has always inspired me to create meaningful characters.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Batman (1989) defined my childhood, and Batman Returns is still better than any of the reboots. The Mad Max films are awesome, and action-comedies like Beverly Hills Cop, Lethal Weapon, and The Other Guys are always fun.

Iím a James Bond fanatic - I grew up with the Roger Moore films on TBS, which as a teenager the campiness was great, but as I got older I realized that the darker films with Timothy Dalton never got their due, and are now amongst my favorites. Goldeneye was an awesome way to bring Bond back, though the rest of the Pierce Brosnan era kind of fell apart. Sean Connery is the essential Bond, but I think Daniel Craig has done a great job as well, and the recent Bond films bring it closer to the realism of those Dalton days. My favorite Bond movie of all, though, remains On Her Majestyís Secret Service with the quickly forgotten George Lazenby playing Bond for his one and only time.

I was a big fan of the first Nightmare on Elm Street and the original Poltergeist - those would have to be my favorites of the horror genre. Those and the Tales From the Crypt and Vault of Horror movies from the 70s. Actually, those two led me to a serious fondness for the anthology horror films, like Catís Eye, Creepshow, Twilight Zone, V/H/S.

I can watch comedies like MacGruber, Pooty Tang, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Airplane, and Austin Powers a hundred times and still laugh.

 

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

 

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HmmÖ I found a copy of Return to Salemís Lot in a thrift shop one time. Iím a huge Stephen King fan, and read everything he wrote up until Dolores Claiborne, and watched every movie based of any of his works, for better and for worse. Iíd never even heard of this sequel, and about 10 minutes in, I realized why. I tried to suffer through more, but just couldnít stomach more that 15 minutes or so, it was just horrible.

 

Your website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

http://levianderson.com

http://twitter.com/CameramanActor

http://sidfilmz.com

http://tunnel13films.com

 

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

 

HmmÖ I can usually talk about myself for days, but I think Iíve covered quite a bit already. Thank you for the interview, and thanks for supporting indie and underground cinema!

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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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
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

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

out now on DVD

 

 

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... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Tršume ...

 

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

 

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