Your new movie Killer Ink
- in a few words, what is it about?
When Gage, now
a popular tattoo artist, was a teen, he lost his mother to a murderer who
was never caught. To make matters worse, his dad ran out on the family,
leaving him to be raised by his uncle, who's played by Peter Mayhew.
When someone he
cares about comes up missing, it's up to him to find her and put an end to
whoever or whatever has taken her.
Killer Ink was produced by Under Fire Studios
Derrick Red Earth Productions.
were your main inspirations when writing Killer Ink
Inspiration for the film came from a number of sources, including
classic slasher films, Rob Zombie films, Dexter, seventies exploitation
films, and personal research on serial killers. More than anything, I
wanted to explore the psychology of a killer, and delve into what his
daily struggles might look like.
To me, the film is a reflection of my perception of how someone with
uncontrollable murderous urges would behave in public, as well as in his
private life. That's what I found most interesting about the project from
With Killer Ink
being a serial killer movie - what will make this one
stick out of the crowd?
Killer Ink is unique, in part, because of the grindhouse
look & feel. Recently, Robert Rodriguez has found success in the genre
with Planet Terror,
Machete & Machete
Kills. Like Dexter, Killer Ink
gives the audience a look into the mind of a killer, which has
always fascinated me. Unlike the show, our film is messy!!!
Another underlying aspect of the film is Gage's (the lead) relationship
with his parents and the women who have tried to get close to him
throughout the years.
Serial killer movies usually
suggest quite a bit of explicit violence - so how did you approach that
aspect of Killer Ink?
over-the-top gore and violence to achieve a specific tone that works well
for the material. FX artist Thomas Giles worked day and night to ensure
top quality gore throughout production. His work truly gave the kills a
fun and unique look. We didn't shy away from the violence. Instead, we
embraced that element and tried to make each kill fun and different. While
I would certainly describe the blood as excessive, we didn't do it in an
ultra realistic way, so it's not really gross. We chose to have fun with
it instead of trying to gross people out.
What can you tell us about
your movie's general look and feel?
Chris Romero, my producing partner & the lead actor, and I spent a
lot of time discussing the look and feel we wanted way before the first
day of principle photography. Together, we decided we wanted to make a fun
grindhouse film that was essentially an homage to exploitation films and
some of our favorite slashers.
For those who don't know, grindhouse is typically characterized by a
scratchy film grain and gratuitous violence and nudity, which are all
represented heavily in this film.
We worked closely with cinematographer Michael Sanchez to achieve the
aesthetic of the film. His experience and love for the genre brought new
life to scenes that might have otherwise been less entertaining.
Peter Mayhew, Lewis Leslie
Your movie features Chewbacca
Peter Mayhew - why him, how did you get him, and what was your
It was a dream to work with Peter Mayhew. He and his wife could not
have been more professional and cooperative. How that came about was that
Chris brought on his longtime friend Digger Mesch, who happened to be
friends with Peter. We worked out a deal where he could be on set for a
couple days and wrote a role specifically for him. His character, Uncle
Clyde, is just so quirky and out there. In one scene, he's sitting outside
on a beautiful day painting red x's over the eyes of a bunch of rubber
ducks casually when Gage shows up for a chat.
At 7'3, it made the most sense to have him sitting in the majority of
his scenes, although there is one where he's standing and you get a true
sense of why he was so good as Chewbacca. Besides his height, kindness can
be seen in Peter's eyes. I think that's another reason why he embodies the
roles he takes on so well. He's definitely a great guy, and it was an
absolute honor to work with him on this film.
And, it's worth seeing just to hear Chewbacca cuss!
Do talk about the rest of your cast
for a bit, and why exactly these people?
I was working on another project as a writer when Chris Romero, the
lead from that film, turned to me and said "Let's make a horror
movie." It was his idea to have Gage be a tattoo artist and a serial
killer. From there, I took that concept and built a story that is now Killer Ink. He does a great job in the role. Chris is a real
With the exception of Peter, Digger and Ryan Martin, the rest of the
actors were either locals or friends of mine. I figured, if this was the
only movie I was ever going to make, I might as well give my friends some
fun, smaller roles. Thankfully, it wasn't my only film, but a wonderful
start to a career that has already taken me further than I could have
Turns out, in my directorial debut, we ended up with one of the finest
indie casts around, in my humble opinion.
Actors from Killer Ink
have already gone on to find success
in countless Hollywood films and television shows. Some of the great cast
includes: Marc Bilker, Jennifer Wilde, Valeri Kimbro, Caleb Grant,
Christine Dawson, Kristin Keating, Gregg Stone and Pandora Bellarose.
There are also three generations of Romeros in the film; Chris, his
father Carlos and his son Sebastian. Marc's son Michael is also in the
film, so I guess you could say it's a family affair. My wife Amy even
plays one of Gage's early victims.
What can you
tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
Killer Ink was shot primarily on weekends over the course
of two months. We went back months later and shot some additional scenes,
including a bar scene with exotic dancers. On set, our two camera
operators, Mike and Dylan always seemed to be in sync. Everyone was very
open to input and generally on the same page about the look and feel of
any given scene. Mike even had his nephew Trey on set to help out as Key
It was a lot of work, but for me the experience was so exciting that
the insanely long hours and late nights were pacified by how much fun I
was having. I didn't go to film school, and I had basically just been a
writer until then, so surrounding myself a crew that had schooling and
real world experience made all the difference in the world. I asked a lot
of questions during the shoot and learned more than any school could have
$64-question of course: When and where will the film be released onto the
The film enjoyed a screening at the 2013
Denver Comic Con, as well as a public screening in my home town of Tulsa,
OK, but a public release date is still in the works. We are in talks with
distributors and hope to have an update on that soon, but as of right
now... Lionsgate... Call me!
You're recently also written two
soon-to-be-filmed scripts for Jonathan Moody [Jonathan
Moody interview - click here], Dracula's War and The
Invited - want to talk about those for a bit, and what was your
Working with Jonathan has been a very positive experience. Until now, I
have always written alone. On those projects, Jonathan wrote the first
half and I wrote the second. It was fun finding out where he wanted each
story to go and seeing whether or not that's where my head took it.
Generally, we were on point, but there were a few discussions about
certain characters and story points.
One of the biggest challenges was that I like to kill off a lot of
characters in poetic ways. Jonathan has bigger plans for a lot of the Dracula's War characters, including spin off
movies. We had extensive talks about who to kill and who to spare. That
was a lot of fun!
The pilot episode of The Invited, a ghost webseries, just
had an extremely successful fundraising campaign. Jonathan will be
shooting it soon. I'm really looking forward to seeing how that turns out,
because I've shot all my own projects before now. It will be cool to see
someone else's take on material that I helped develop.
And Dracula's War, which is basically a love letter to
classic monster movies mixed with modern action... I can't wait to see
that! It's a very character driven script with an eerie atmosphere that
promises to be insanely entertaining.
Any other future projects you'd like
to talk about?
My company Under Fire Studios, which is myself and my producers Melissa
Bazis (co-owner) and Emerald Oport, are developing two feature films.
The first is Feast or Famine, a post-apocalyptic mystery
about a man who thinks he's the last person on Earth, until a mysterious
woman shows up at his door.
We are also developing the first script I ever wrote: The Diary
of Melvin Sanborn. This psychological thriller is about a boy who
witnesses his parents' death at the hands of a gruesome monster, and is
tormented by the monster into college when, after losing his closest
friends, he decides to go back to the scene of the crime and face the
monster once and for all.
Both of these projects are very near and dear to my heart. We're
currently exploring our best options to obtain funding, so we can produce
top quality entertainment. Investors... Call me!
Why did you get into filmmaking in the
first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
I started writing short stories as early as high school. Eventually,
that blossomed into an interest in filmmaking. I have read extensively on
the subject of screenwriting and taken a few online courses, but I did not
attend any type of film school.
I have always found filmmaking to be the most rewarding art in the
sense that you get to work with a team of creatives, instead of by your
lonesome, like I did with my writing. Since I started directing, I've done
all I could to learn the ins-and-outs of the business and the technical
side of filmmaking. I'm no cinematographer, but I have learned how to
communicate with my camera team and let them know what I want out of a
shot or a particular scene.
Lewis Leslie with Marc Bilker on
T is for Terence
can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Killer Ink?
Prior to Killer Ink
I was a screenwriter for about a
decade. I have completed fifteen feature-length scripts to date. Since
then, I have written and directed a dozen short films, toured multiple
film festivals and even picked up a few awards along the way. Kevin Smith
was actually a judge in one of the contests that landed one of my films in
the Vail Film Festival in CO, where all of my films have been shot.
I have always had an insatiable interest in movies and the art of
filmmaking, even long before I chose this as a career. When I finally
decided to jump in head first, I found that it's both more rewarding and
much more difficult than I had anticipated.
would you describe yourself as a director?
As a director, I like to set expectations early. I pride myself on
being open to ideas and I enjoy collaborating with actors and crew members
alike. There's no way that any one person can think of everything. For
that reason, I like to discuss characters, scenes and themes extensively
with my actors. Some of the best ideas come not from sitting alone in a
dark room, but from conversations with real people in the moment.
It doesn't hurt that I have Melissa Bazis as my assistant director. She
and I have developed a close working relationship that's rich in mutual
respect and an understanding of each other's creativity that's truly a
who inspire you?
I'm inspired by anyone who's willing to take a chance. It's always fun
to watch directors who have a signature style like Ridley Scott, Sam
Raimi, Tarantino, Fincher, Scorsese and Kevin Smith, but I also love the
works of John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg and more recently J.J. Abrams.
It's easy to become a cookie cutter director, getting the shots you
need; standard coverage, and overlooking the things that make watching
films so enjoyable, like those bizarre and unique shots and even just
overall themes and tones of memorable films.
It's amazing how much of an impact lighting can have on a scene and a
film. David Fincher is a prime example of a director who's best known
visually for his lighting style. His films tend to be more dark and moody
than most mainstream directors. Some examples of his work are Seven,
Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button & The Social
enough about him. Where was I...?
Your favourite movies?
I love a lot of
movies, but some of the films that I personally enjoy the most are Donnie
Darko, Fight Club, Seven, The Princess Bride,
A Nightmare on Elm Street
and Legend. I love comedies, but I'm drawn to darker material like a lot
of the films mentioned above. There's something about the psychology of a
dark or troubled character that interests me more than anything. I also
love fantasy, horror and sci-fi.
and of course, films you really deplore?
I'm having a hard time with a lot of the remakes and reboots these
days. I also detest movies that appear to be made quickly and cheaply just
to turn a buck. I know it's a business, but once 100% of my heart's not in
it, I'm done. I can't imagine ever phoning in a film. That's not my style.
I'm not a fan of the mocking films like Superhero Movie and all those.
Maybe some people enjoy them, but to me, they seem like a gimmick and I
hate using gimmicks to obtain fame. That's not me.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Under Fire Studios: www.underfirestudios.com
Under Fire Studios Facebook: www.facebook.com/underfirestudios1
Under Fire Studios Twitter: www.twitter.com/undrfirestudios
Killer Ink on Facebook: www.facebook.com/killerinkmovie
Killer Ink on Twitter: www.twitter.com/killerinkmovie
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
I'm just so grateful for all the wonderful people I've had the pleasure
of working with these past four years. We've had our ups and downs, but
man, what a ride! I'm exuberant about what the future may bring.
Thank you for taking the time and expressing interest in interviewing
me. It's always fun to talk about making movies.
Keep your eyes on Under Fire Studios. We're putting our heart and souls
into every film we make & we're just gettin' started!!!
for the interview!