Your new movie Fetish
Factory - in a few words, what is it about?
Itís set in a newly post-apocalyptic Hollywood and it pits gorgeous
burlesque-dancing fetish queens against a pack of eye-popping male
zombies. Itís a serious drama with deep sociopolitical undertones. Iím
preparing my Academy Awards acceptance speech even as we speak.
did you happen to come upon Lony Ruhman's story the film is based on or
was it written especially for the movie? And what was your collaboration
Lony Ruhmann is a producer who develops specific
projects with Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, who is married to the famous sci-fi
actor Michael Biehn. The three of them are producing partners. Lony also
had the bones of an idea, which was presented to me along with a few
others. This was the one that appealed to me the most. Lonyís original
pitch was called Sleaze Factory and he envisioned it being very gritty and
shot in black and white. He specifically stated he wanted the action to be
ďserious and not goofy.Ē Whoops! I definitely took it in another
direction, but it wasnít out of disobedience. Itís just that with my
adoration of 60s and 70s fun-loving European grindhouse aesthetics, the
movie took on a life of its own. Itís saturated with colors and there
are plenty of laughs. I do hope Lony doesnít mind! People who have seen
it dig it, so I guess he canít be too irked.
Basic question: Why did you choose a burlesque
club as the setting of your story?
Burlesque is booming in
L.A. Just about any night of the week, and always on weekends, you can
find all kinds of cool burlesque shows going on. I love to go see them.
They are so much fun and you can tell how happy the girls are, strutting
their stuff and coming up with creative acts to showcase their talents.
So, I thought setting Fetish
Factory in a place of joy and celebration Ė
rather than, say, a strip club which can sometimes have an air of
desperation or emptiness Ė would offset the zombie mayhem nicely.
(Other) sources of
inspiration when scripting Fetish
Anyone who sees it will immediately know
what a fan I am of the classic bombshells Ė Bettie Page, Jayne
Mansfield, Rosie the Riveter, and Suzie Wong are all represented. Diane
Ayala Goldner, who plays the owner of the Fetish
Factory, she came up with
her look (flowing dark locks with silver streaks) as an homage to the
legendary Zorita. Before I was born, my mom was a cheesecake pinup model
and she appeared in several ďnudie cutieĒ magazines, so I guess you
could say a love and respect for those babes of yore is in my blood.
Factory's lead character being a movie buff and you having written
about movies quite a bit over the years - to what extent can you identify
with her, and was she in any way based on you?
based on me specifically, sheís more of a shout-out to geek girls
everywhere. Carrie Keagan, who plays Bettie to perfection, is a huge
horror movie buff and so I knew she would be totally believable spouting
out all that Tarantino-level trivia. The fact that sheís a lot cuter in
a bullet bra than Tarantino makes it that much better!
Factory most certainly has a comedic edge to it - so do talk about
your movie's brand of humour for a bit!
My brand of humor
is a quite winky and droll, so it was really fun to go back and look at
videos of vintage-era vaudeville and burlesque emcees as research. Our
mistress of ceremonies tells a lot of ribald jokes laced with cheeky
double entendre as she introduces each act. So, it was a blast to write
that. Bettie has a ventriloquist act thatís got a lot of silly and sweet
sexual banter between her and her dummy, Victor.
You also have to
talk about the violent bits in your movie, and how were they achieved?
of our actors who play zombies, Benjamin Easterday and Aaron Kai, had
stunt coordinating experience, so that helped a lot. Being a low-budget
production working on a practical set (a private residence which just
happens to have a stage in the living room) we couldnít go too crazy.
Aaron plays a kung-fu zombie, so thereís an element of kitsch to the
violence. But I wanted there to be a believable element of danger, and
thatís where the incredible makeups by Vincent J. Guastini, Mayera
Abeita, and Michelle Sfarzo come in. Itís not a bloodbath by any means
but when people are hurt, it looks painful.
can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at
As the writer, I am pretty specific about what I want
from the actors. The fact that itís a low-budget project and we had only
five days to shoot it means you canít play around and adlib and indulge
the actors in more than a few takes. Wherever possible, I cast actors on
their preexisting strengths. For instance, Chase Williamson has a certain
guy-next-door likability he brings to every role. I expected that, and he
brought it without me having to do anything extra. But there were some
scenes that were improvised Ė mainly the ďplaytimeĒ montage with the
girls and their clients. I will say the atmosphere on set was very relaxed
and everyone pulled together to make things happen. There were no divas.
Do talk about your key cast, and why exactly these
Part of what I said about casting people to their natural personalities
and building on that, but also they had to look the part. Carrie Keagan is
known for her light blonde hair, but we put that Bettie Page wig on her
and damn if she isnít a dead ringer for the pinup queen! Jennifer Blanc
is a very experienced actress and she has the ability to make every line
of dialogue sound like itís something she could say. Her comedic timing
and inflection is spot-on. I wanted to cast Diane against type Ė sheís
been in a lot of horror movies, but Iíd never seen her as glamourous as
she really can be.
I talked about Chase, who I loved in John Dies at the End. The male
clients who go to the club to frolic with the girls had to be likable. I
didnít want them to be creepy. They are a bit skeevy, but they are
lovable skeeves! Jesse Merlin is someone I knew from his work in musical
theater. He played Dr. Hill in Re-Animator the Musical, and was hilarious
in Silence! The Musical, and Tonya & Nancy: The Rock Opera. Ruben Pla
is another actor I had known for years and always wanted to work with.
Heís so fun, and it comes across onscreen. The other two fetish-fellas,
Steve Wastell and Daniel Quinn, I did not know before. Jen, doing her
thing as a producer, brought them on. I met Steve at the table read and
was so happy with his take on the character of the Flasher. I had an actor
drop out one day before we started shooting (thanks a lot!) but it was a
blessing in disguise because Daniel was hilarious as Footman. I didnít
meet him until we were on the set, shooting his role. He really threw himself
into the role, toes-first. Great guy. Sadly, he died last summer and never
got to see how much his performance enhanced the movie.
A few words about the shoot as such, and the
We shot everything in one location, the
Horace P. Dibble House, which is a historic landmark. It also just
happened to be a working burly-q establishment. So, we had the stage, the
dressing room, and everything we needed right there. We enhanced the sets,
but very little extra pizzazz was needed. The place was oozing with
kitsch, which I think really comes across in the film. Ours is the only
feature film to have been shot there, and it may be the last since it was
damaged by fire last year. I feel lucky we got to film so much of it,
inside and out.
The $64 question of course, where can
your movie be seen?
Wait. Who gets the $64? You for asking
or me for answering? Well, letís figure that out later. Fetish
Factory has been submitted to a few select festivals for 2017, so fingers are
crossed. We are also actively seeking distribution so Iím hoping itíll
be everywhere on VOD soon. It is a crowd movie, thoughÖ I feel like
Factory by yourself is on par with watching Rocky Horror
home alone, but thatís the world now. If people want to watch it on
their phones, Iíll be happy! Who knows, maybe the famous grindhouse
theater here in L.A., The New Beverly, will play it someday just for fun.
You have recently also produced the
movie The Fiancť - so
what's that one about?
Itís a crazy clash of genres Ė I say itís like Married to the Mob
meets The Legend of Boggy Creek! Dallas Valdez plays a man who falls in
love with a mafia daughter, played by Carrie Keagan. While he tries to
impress her father by getting into the illegal family biz, she is bitten
by Bigfoot. Bigfoot, who is played by the wonderful creature actor Douglas
Tait, has a virus, which infects the bride-to-be, but doesnít kill her.
She becomes a vicious killer and goes after her fiancť.
what extent were you involved with the actual shoot?
helped with the casting of Carrie and Doug, and I brought on another
producer whom I love to work with, Kate Rees Davies. As for hands-on
stuff, I was out there freezing my tookus off in the Topanga Canyon winter
during our late-night shoots and I was also called into action to play a
mysterious mob moll (with no lines, thank goodness Ė the director Mark
Michaels, knows how to cast to strengths, too!).
where can the movie be seen?
Iím very happy to say itís
streaming on Amazon Prime, iTunes, YouTube, Vudu, and Google Play. The DVD
will be on Amazon in January, I believe.
Any other current and
future projects you'd like to talk about?
I have another
feature that I wrote and directed for Blanc-Biehn, called Good Family
Times. Itís a home invasion thriller with a supernatural twist. Itís
in post-production now, and I donít know when it will be released. I
have a cat-and-mouse psychological thriller called Psycho Therapy
debuting in 2017. We wrapped it a couple of months ago. Itís a short,
but itís got a ton of impact thanks to the kickass leads. Brooke Lewis
from Killer Rack shows that sheís got some serious dramatic
acting chops, and then Ricky Dean Logan from Freddyís Dead: The Final
Nightmare totally kills it! I canít wait for everyone see it. Itís
my homage to De Palma.
As far as I
know, you entered the filmworld as a journalist and only eventually got
into filmmaking - so do talk about that process, and did you receive any
formal training as a filmmaker?
Yes, thatís right. I have
been a movie reviewer and entertainment journalist since 2002. I worked
for the SyFy
Channel, Horror.com, Fangoria, and many more, as a
freelancer. Iíve always loved movies, especially horror, but I did not
grow up thinking Iíd ever be making them. As a wish for creative
fulfilment, I directed a short film inspired by Edgar Allen Poe, starring
Ogre from Skinny Puppy, whom Iíd met on the set of Repo! The Genetic
Opera. One thing led to another, and I did some music videos. I still
hadnít planned on making any features, until Jennifer Blanc and Lony
Ruhmann saw my work and opened that door to me. Iím so grateful. I love
What can you tell us
about your filmwork prior to Fetish
Factory and The Fiancť?
short films I did were arty and experimental Ė my take on Annabel Lee
was a romantic dreamscape, while my next one, The Night Plays Tricks,
was a Maya Deren-inspired exploration of love and loss based on a Bob
Dylan song. The music videos I did were fun and didnít have any horror
elements in them at all. I really want to be Jean-Luc Godard when I grow
going through your filmography, one can't help but notice that you work
mostly in horror - so is that a genre at all dear to you, and why (not)?
Good Family Times
My dad showed me The Pit and the Pendulum when I was about four years old,
and my mom showed me The Exorcist when I was about seven or eight. Hey,
wait a minuteÖ! I actually was scared, but not traumatized. Those two
totally different movies showed me early on what a broad and vast genre
horror is. I like it all, from the Val Lewton black and whites to the
wildly colorful films by HťlŤne Cattet and Bruno Forzani. When I hosted
the talk shows This Week in Horror and Inside Horror, I got to meet so
many amazing directors, writers and actors. Roger Corman [Roger
Corman bio - click here] was one of our
guests, and I had a chance to show him a clip from my Annabel Lee short
Ė since he directed the very best Poe adaptations ever made [click
here], I was
nervous but eager to know his thoughts. When he said that I captured the
essence of the poem, you can only imagine how I felt. So yes, the horror
genre is very dear to me.
would you describe yourself as a director?
for me to answer but since all the actors Iíve worked with are still
speaking to me, I guess Iím OK. Since I am not an actor and my
productions so far have been more about story than character, I wouldnít
say Iím an ďactorís director.Ē I cast actors who I know will fit
the roles. I do have specific ideas about how the lines should be
delivered and whatnot, but Iím pretty flexible. Iím more focused on
the look of the movie, the composition of the shots, lighting and stuff
who inspire you?
Oooh. How much time have you got? Iím
going to leave a bunch out, but hereís some off the top of my head: I
already mentioned Corman and Godard (hey, thereís two names you donít
see strung together very often), but I also love Agnes Varda, Billy
Wilder, The Coen Bros., Dario Argento, the Soska Twins [Soska
Twins interview - click here], Ken Russell,
Madonna (so sue me: I dug Filth & Wisdom and W.E.), and David Fincher.
As far as favorite filmmakers who inspire me so much that I envy their
work, Iíd have to say Roman Polanski, Gaspar Noe, Nicolas Winding Refn,
and Lars Von Trier. I do wish there was a female filmmaker in that last
bit, butÖ there arenít many who have a large body of work to draw
Your favourite movies?
horror fan will say The Omen, The
Nightmare on Elm Street, and all that. So here are some
genre-bending, dark-hearted relatively recent films I love: Cafť De
Flore, The Duke of Burgundy, Enter
the Void, The Neon Demon, The Monster, and Antichrist.
and of course, films you really deplore?
Deplore is such a
strong word, Mike! There are some movies that the horror community has
embraced that I just didnít connect with. I donít hate It
I couldnít connect and fast forwarded through some of it. I also got
bored with Bone Tomahawk and much as I love Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson
and Richard Jenkins, my eyelids were like anvils after about a half an
hour. Maybe Iíll give it another try. Oftentimes my mood affects my
enjoyment of films.
movies' website, Facebook, whatever else?
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you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
have some horror novels and a guide to ghost movies on Amazon Kindle.
Critics have compared my writing to Shakespeare, Dickens, Tolstoy, and
Hemingway. OK, thatís not trueÖ but where else can you find a sexy
paranormal mystery about identical twin rockĎníroll vampires roaming
the streets of L.A. in 1972 for a buck ninety-nine?
for the interview!