Your upcoming movie Flowers - in a few words, what is it about?
is an abstract, surreal horror film centering around six
dead women who wake up in the crawl space below their killer's house only to
discover that they are trapped in their own limbo and purgatory.
labeling it an art-house flick because it truly is a speciality film for a
very particular niche of people. So if you like films like Eraserhead
and Tetsuo: The Iron Man, this is for you.
What were your inspirations when writing Flowers?
About four years back I hit that wall
which reads UNINSPIRED. In short, I got bored with what I was doing and
I had to find new ways of approaching projects with enthusiasm. If
youíre not having fun with what youíre doing, you should probably
I searched around for new writing
techniques and eventually found this interesting little pattern called
the ď8 segment structureĒ. Essentially you are just creating 8 short
segments or short films that all tie into one another to create a bigger
film. How cool is that? One segment ends and transitions into another
and so on. I found that to be a lot of fun in the writing process
I began toying with a way to create 8
short films that would make up a larger film. My instincts immediately
went to 8 rooms of a house, the house being that whole that ties it all
together. THAT was where Flowers
came from. It inspired itself as I took
each room of a house and found ways to create unique scenes and
scenarios to take place within them that could flow into the next.
far as I know, there will be no spoken dialogue in Flowers
- why is
that, and what are the challenges but maybe also advantages of filming a
movie this way?
To be honest. I hate dialog. I hate
writing it and I hate recording it. As a filmmaker, working on a film,
it drives me insane to kill so much time and energy working on one or
two lines. As an illustrator, Iím more prone to telling my stories
visually without the aid of words or dialog. Thatís fun for me. It all
goes back to personal taste and what iím willing to spend my time and
money working on. I want to SEE Mr.X go fishing rather than HEAR him say
ďHey, Iím going fishing.Ē
My first film Below Man had dialog
but not enough for most people and my second film Frank Edge jr had
about 50% less dialog than the first film. Through the process of
evolution, I just relied on dialog less and less till eventually I got
where dialog never even crossed my mind when writing the
I think the challenges really rest
heavy on the audience who are not really prepared to sit through a quiet
film without dialog. Itís alien. Unfamiliar. Silence in a film can
really pull you out of the experience. I think silence can be awkward
for people even if they are just watching a movie or sitting on a bench
with another human being. We live in the age of IMAX 3D and Micheal Bay
action flicks! Louder, bigger, better! We thrive on that shit.
In come the advantages. Love it or
hate it, you will remember it. For me the advantages is really in just
having no sound equipment or dealing with the whole frustrating affair
of recorded LIVE sound. Once you wipe the audio track away, you are
completely free to create an entirely new and experimental soundscape.
Again, taking a picture and painting it with audio is just a lot of fun
What can you tell us about the overall
look and feel of your movie, and how does your work as an artist influence
your filmmaking style?
As a traditional artist with a pen in
his hand, Iím all visuals which goes hand in hand with the lack of
dialog. Pictures donít talk but they can speak to us on a different
level all the same.
The look of the film is dirt and
darkness. We literally have girls crawling through dirt in the dark. The
entire film is just coated in layers of decay due to the film taking
place inside a rotted out farm house. Itís a desolate, lonely place
with a lot of shadows and narrow corridors. Places where bad things
happened, violent things - and we as an audience see the aftermath of
What can you tell us about your
cast, and why exactly these people?
cast is amazing. Period. I tend to throw people in uncomfortable scenarios
and situations due to the kind of films I like to make. I couldnít wish
for a better cast because every single one of them are multi-talented
artists who also double as my crew. I set out to create a team of like
minded individuals who could help in the creation of this project in
various areas. I love being able to say ďThis is OUR film.Ē The
passion and dedication to this project from the beginning has been unreal.
As a dude who was used to wearing all the hats and running all aspects of
production on previous films, you donít take a group of people like this
for granted. Each is valuable to the cause. Itís how these types of
films succeed. Absolute team work and 1000% passion and dedication.
Now I suppose for a
film like yours the perfect location is/the perfect sets are of paramount
importance. So what can you tell us about yours?
script called for an extremely elaborate setup. I had to have girls come
out of floors, travel between walls and under the house. It was extremely
important to the shooting of this thing that these places/locations/scenes
had total filming access as well as the right look. It hasnít been easy
but we were able to be practical about it. I was able to get what the
script called for by creating one massive structure that contained all the
sets. Basically we built a mini-house on a soundstage and itís worked
out great so far. At times, completely bizarre and surreal to work in an
environment like that but itís the nature of this project.
speak, the film is still in production, right? So how far along is it, and
any idea when it might be released yet?
the film is still in production till late September/early October with a
hopeful, YET optimistic release date somewhere in December if not early
projects past Flowers?
course, thereís always this need to keep the momentum going in some
form. Right now, my creative energy is committed to Flowers
so I canít
even really say what's next. Weíve been discussing a lot of neat and new
films to produce but the definitive answer to the question will manifest
itself sometime in the next few months.
What got you into
filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal education on
As a kid, I was always in the video
store trolling around in the horror section. One day my father let me
mess around with an old Betamax camera and I instantly fell in love with
making movies. Before the camera I just made comics for myself, so the
leap from paper to screen was a true revelation. I did not attend film
school for a number of reasons. I think for the most part, I just
wasnít interested. I wanted to keep making movies in my free time
without it becoming something resembling homework? Iím sure there were
and still are a million things to learn about this craft but I prefer my
way. Trial and error. Hands-on experience.
The closet thing to education in the
subject was my first film Below Man. A project that took me three years
to make. With that came a lot of trial and error. A massive learning
experience all around. Iím grateful for that period in my life and it
costs me nothing.
What can you tell us about your filmwork
prior to Flowers?
done a lot of things but iíve never stopped myself from experimenting.
Iím avoiding going into details because itís a vast list which I feel
is divided by new eras of my life. Phil the child filmmaker - phil the
teenage filmmaker - phil the adult filmmaker. A new mutation of me as a
filmmaker and the films I do seems to occur every 10 years or so. Each
project was always important and precious to me in the time and space in
which is occurred, something like a relationship, building upon the last
while always learning, maturing. I wouldnít be able to make a film like
today had it not been for the countless projects that preceded it.
You of course also have to talk
about Phil Stevens the artist/illustrator for a bit, and how would you
describe your style, and what do you draw upon for inspiration?
Iím a quiet dude. I wish I had something more insightful to say about myself but
Iím simple (though some could argue against that). I enjoy sitting
somewhere alone with a sketchpad with some music in my ears doodling away.
Thatís happiness to me. A slice of peace. My style of art has been best
described as a ďpossessed childĒ, the work you expect from that creepy
kid who sits in the back of the class. For the most part I draw from my
own emotions. I used to write in a journal every day and after years of
writing in that journal I discovered I had less and less to write about. I
turned to a sketchpad and decided to use visuals to vent. Each picture
representing a day in my life. Feelings, people, places, thoughts and
would you describe yourself as a director?
Hehe. I donít know how to honestly answer that. Iíd like to think
Iím calm, patient, easy and fun to work with. I hope. Iím determined
and willing to do almost anything to get what I need to get the vision out
of my head and onto that screen. Almost anything.
artists, whatever else who inspire you?
Filmmakers Shinya Tsukamoto, David
Lynch, JŲrg Buttgereit, Lars Von Trier and Takashi Miike have always
been inspiring to me for their attitude against making films. They make
the films they wanted to make without having to answer for them. Films
that alienated audiences but somehow found their places in cinema.
Robert Rodriquez - who any filmmaker on the planet can relate to and
identify with really inspired me and gave me the confidence to go at
film with an open mind while reminding myself to always have fun in
adventures. (READ his book Rebel Without A Crew. If youíre an
indie filmmaker, itíll change your life.)
DIGGING deeper, underground cinema as
whole is where I seem to really float. Filmmakers like Ronnie Sortor,
Todd Reynolds, Andy Copp, Eric Stanze [Eric
Stanze interview - click here], Fred Vogel and Adam Rehmeir have
had a more personal impact on me as they have always given me sound
advice at some point or another and knew which direction to point me in
when it came to my own exploits in film. Mentors of sorts. The wisdom.
The Jedi of indie film. The examples and what you CAN DO with micro/no
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Romeroís Day of the Dead,
Dellamorte Dellamore, Man Bites Dog, Maniac,
... and of course, films you really deplore?
Half-assed, mass produced Hollywood comedies.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
MY NEW FILM -
MY ART -
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
wanted to mention how completely fucking honored I am to have had an
opportunity to do this interview with you Michael.
Thank you. Truly.
for the interview!