Your new movie Blackbags
- in a few words, what is it about?
Drug trafficking, police corruption, abductions. Masked villains running amok
and creating civil unrest. It's kind of a satire.
How did the project come together in the first place, and what can
you tell us about your collaboration with David Kolenski, who wrote,
co-produced and starred in Blackbags?
is just a crazy manifestation of all the urban/hip
hop, comic book, and horror culture sensationalism I've been exposed to
throughout my life. Once upon a time, David Kolenksi and I met in a band
that went nowhere fast, but we became friends and continued hanging out
afterward. We had our own twisted senses of humour, and “blackbag” was
one of the many slang terms we used – as in, “you're gonna get
blackbagged and thrown in a trunk, if you go walkin' home that shitfaced
by yourself.” What followed was a bit of a domino effect. At the time, I
was recording a lot of songs for my musical project, 13 Bags of Dick, and
had an electronic dance beat that was missing lyrics and vocals. Since
Kolenski was the vocalist of the band we were in, I would occasionally
feature him on 13 Bags songs, and we ended up turning that phrase into the
hook for this beat. He came up with a concept for a brief accompanying
video, which would be him driving around, abducting some random girl off
the street and throwing her in the trunk. He bugged me for years to
produce this, until I finally caved back in late-2010. But I had my own
ideas. If I was going to be involved, it had to be bigger than simply what
was proposed, so Kolenski recruited some girls – who were surprisingly
eager and willing – to be blackbagged. On top of that, I threw this
sorta 'hood terrorist character, Ski Mask Guy, into the mix, which was a
persona created by my friend, Dave Smith, for MC'ing 13 Bags shows. This,
in turn, influenced the corrupt cop sub-plot. The project, more or less,
ended up becoming 13 Bags of Dick: The Movie, in a sense: the Meathead
character was named after one of Kolenski's stage names; a supporting
character, based off our old live keyboard player's stage persona, pokes
his out of the attic from time to time; Michael Adam (who played the
corrupt cop, Bad Lieutenant James) was our long-time de facto roadie for
live gigs. The two projects kinda came together as one messy multimedia
many aesthetic peculiarities of Blackbags,
like the grainy black and white images or the constant zoom-ins and
zoom-outs - was all of this planned from the start, or decided upon during
the shoot or even in post?
The visual style was definitely
planned. I imagined Blackbags
coming to life in this gritty,
black-and-white, noir world that I'd been experimenting with for many
years prior. Until now, this particular style – the crazy zooms, et al
– had mostly been used as an attempt to make my band rehearsal and gig
videos look more interesting. So the ulterior motive of Blackbags
showcase these little ideas, and this harsh, bleak, nightmare realm in
which the movie is set.
So how would you describe
your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
word: free-ballin'. I decided to go unscripted. I had the basic plot and
action worked out, but the dialogue was completely ad-libbed. That might
seem like a pretty dangerous move, but I feel when you're just making a
movie with your friends in your spare time that it's easier to improvise,
instead of forcing them to try acting out scripted lines. The performances
are more natural, and things are more flexible for everyone to work
comfortably in their own styles. So far, everyone seems to be having a
good time, so I guess that counts for something.
do talk about your cast for a bit, and why exactly these people?
Daves were obviously in it because they created their characters, and I
knew they could deliver what was required. I just sorta had Mikey in mind
for the Bad Lieutenant James role because he's enough of a weirdo to play
a strung-out douchebag corrupt cop, and I could see him in my mind in the
shabby suit and tie and hat. And because I wouldn't have to pay him. Same
for the abductees. They were just Kolenski's friend's younger sister
(Melissa Doctor) and her friend (Alexa Slavin), who both wanted to be
“blackbagged” in the movie. I value that kind of enthusiasm, and
reward it by allowing the enthusiastic party to be in my shitty movie. It
all ended up working out, though. At the time, we all had pretty flexible
schedules, so it didn't take a lot of planning to get everyone together
for their scenes – a problem I had faced commonly in the past.
can you tell us about the actual shoot, and the on-set atmosphere?
was unscripted, as I mentioned before, so you can imagine the on-set
atmosphere was fairly casual. Everyone pretty much knew each other
already, so the chemistry was good. The lighting was all natural, since it
was mostly shot in the city at night or indoors. I wanted to genuinely
capture that gritty darkness of the nocturnal urban core.
can you tell us about critical and audience reception of your film so far?
been generally well-received, despite its limited release. But it's an
indie movie, and an homage to bad, weird, low-budget cult movies from the
drive-in and VHS eras, so not everybody is going to appreciate that.
However, there was a nice little review of it on Fangoria.com, after one
of their writers caught the premiere screening. I thought that was pretty
cool, anyway. But I only recently made it available to view publicly
online, and it was officially released on home video at the London
(Ontario) Shockstock convention, back in April (as a VHS split release
available through Candle Flame Films). So not a lot of people have had the
chance to see it yet, outside of a couple local screenings. I have
submitted it to a handful of indie festivals, but I'm holding out for
something a little bigger down the road...
future projects beyond Blackbags?
prequel/follow-up, entitled the Art of the Wushu, is currently in the
editing stages. It will focus on the Meathead character's origin, and is a
bit more occult-based. There is also another prequel/follow-up in the
works, which will be Ski Mask Guy's origin story. Well, some of it,
anyway. We have a lot of ideas for Ski Mask Guy that go way beyond Blackbags
– or that we just didn't get to use – and are working on
developing a separate pilot movie and TV series for his character. There
was even talk of potentially producing some webisodes in the near future.
And I plan on mashing up Blackbags,
Wushu, and the 3rd Ski Mask Guy origin
chapter to make one big, ugly beast of a movie.
got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal
training on the subject?
I didn't go to film school or
anything like that. I've just been a movie geek for as long as I can
remember, carrying on a family legacy of movie geekery. I grew up an
only-child, so my imagination was all over the place. I was extremely
creative, always writing or drawing or acting out the ideas in my head
with my action figures and Lego. I'd always taken a sort of cinematic
approach to my storytelling, and eventually began writing screenplays
during my early teens. Although, it wasn't until I enrolled in a
broadcasting media course during the last half of high school, that I
finally got to mess around with video cameras and start making short
films. From there, I saved up over that following summer and bought a
really nice Sony camcorder, then went forth with the help of the internet.
What can you tell us about your
filmwork prior to Blackbags?
isn't much to tell. I was briefly in an episode of Creepy Canada, I made
bullshit little short films with my friends during high school and
intermittently over the years that followed. Nothing major though, or
anything that anyone's seen. 2006 was when I first started experimenting
with this weird visual style. But then I went on a hiatus from about 2007
or so until 2010, when I was hired by ImageFM.ca as the main camera
operator for their live concert webcasts. I was beginning to develop
longer and more elaborate concepts, and it was becoming harder to get my
friends together in one place to shoot a scene in our spare time. Blackbags
is the first complete movie project over five minutes that I've
actually taken (somewhat) seriously – as in, trying to make it look a
little more like art and less like a home movie – and where everyone
involved showed a dedicated and valiant effort until the job was done.
I've also acted in a few productions by another local independent
filmmaker, Eves Raja (Orok/Siberian Films). One of my musical projects,
Swords of Texas, made a cameo appearance in his latest release, First We
Take Hamilton..., and recorded an original song for the soundtrack.
would you describe yourself as a director?
I could turn a
crack rock into a motherfuckin' mountain... I dunno. I wouldn't. I even
hate filling in bios and stuff like that on social networking sites.
who inspire you?
To name a few, in no particular order:
Tarantino, John Carpenter, the Coen brothers, Torin Langin (Candle Flame
Films) [Torin Langen
interview - click here], the Soska twins [Soska
twins interview - click here], David Fincher, Jim Jarmusch, Chris Nolan,
Kubrick, John Woo in his Hong Kong days, Scorcese, Walter Hill, Alex Cox [Alex
Cox bio - click here],
Kevin Smith, Marc Gatschner, John McTiernan, Wes Anderson, David Lynch.
Pekinpah, I guess, to some extent. I'm naming a lot of obvious ones, but
forgetting many others. A guy named Alvin Ecarma (Unearthed Films) made a
shot-on-video indie picture back in the early 2000's, called Lethal
which was a huge inspiration after I learned about it through [obscure
movie review site] Teleport City. Robert Rodriguez was also pretty
inspiring, earlier in his career – especially his book, Rebel Without a
Crew, which is a journal he kept while developing and producing El
Your favourite movies?
hate being asked this question. Especially because I go through phases
with movies, like I'll see one for the first time and watch the shit out
of it, then forget about it for a while until I re-discover it later. Or
movies I used to watch a long time ago will suddenly come to mind and I'll
watch the shit out of those. But for a large chunk of my life, I can say
Fight Club and Pulp Fiction were tied for the all-time favourite spot.
Country for Old Men is pretty fucking amazing. Training Day is just
awesome. Boogie Nights is a classic. I feel like I can say
on the list. The Dragnet adaptation/spoof with Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd
is a classic. The Undertaker and His Pals is one of my favourite B-movies,
and Army of Darkness is pretty high up there, too. I always liked that one
over the other Evil Dead-films. I can't count how many times I've seen
Trouble in Little China since I was a kid, and it features Kurt Russell's
best role, next to Death
Proof. I'm gonna stop there, 'cause I could go on
about this for days. Or pages, in this case. And it often just ends up
becoming a list of recommendations.
and of course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
I would recommend
avoiding Prometheus. I genuinely feel like they committed theft by making
people pay to see that movie. I dunno, I guess I have to get into the habit
of not bashing other people's movies, though. So, I think I should start
here. Except for Prometheus. That shit was pointless. Fuck Hollywood,
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
on Distrify: http://muvi.es/w4078
Blackbags on Facebook:
Video McNasties on Facebook:
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
reading this: Watch my movie! On another note, I'd let you twist my arm
into letting you financially back me, if you've got money. I prefer cash.
for the interview!