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An Interview with Travis Campbell, Director of Slaughter Daughter

by Mike Haberfelner

July 2012

Travis Campbell on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your upcoming film Slaughter Daughter - in a few words, what is it about?

 

Slaughter Daughter is a throwback to the 70s/80s stylized films of Dario Argento and Brian De Palma and stars Nicola Fiore and Tim Dax from Mr. Bricks: A Heavy Metal Murder Musical. Slaughter Daughter tells the twisted story of former beauty queen Farrah (Nicola Fiore). Agoraphobic and increasingly mentally unstable, Farrah commits an act of heinous self-mutilation and is dragged kicking and screaming to Bellevue. Once there, she begins writing to a serial killer on Death Row (Tim Dax). Obsession overtakes her, thoughts of murder become her only solace and love, blood and gore soon collide! Slaughter Daughter is in post-production and should be done by this fall.

 

You have conceived the story of Slaughter Daughter together with your screenwriter Lauren Miller. What were your main inpsirations?

 

When I went back home to Ohio for Christmas in 2009, I embraced my feminine side and started watching the Oxygen Channel. There was a marathon of a show on called Snapped and I quickly became addicted. The show tells the story of women who snap and go bat-shit crazy and end up murdering people, usually someone in their immediate family. Anyway, I saw an episode about this teenage couple, and the mom forbid her daughter to date this guy, so the daughter went bat-shit crazy, under the influence of crazy love or as the French say l'amour fou, anyway she stabbed her mom to death, but what got me, what stuck in my mind was as the mom was dying she kept saying “I forgive you, I forgive you.” That's fucked up. That is nuts. So I told the idea to my screenwriting partner Lauren Miller and came up with the title Slaughter Daughter. Lauren was taken with the idea and wrote several versions of the script. Nicola Fiore was the muse of the movie, so it was really cool we could tailor a part for her or go to Nicola for ideas, not only as an actress but as co-producer.

 

A few words about Lauren Miller, who has also scripted your Mr. Bricks: A Heavy Metal Murder Musical?

 

Lauren loves to write. She's always brainstorming new ideas for scripts and books, but the one thing I love that she has that I don't is commitment. I suffer from butt in chair-syndrome, which means I can't sit down long enough to revise what I have written and screenwriting is all about revising. Lauren on the other hand, will work and work and work on a script and revise it until the story and emotional beats are true, correct and right, a hallmark of a great writer. That's why we work together so well. I'm still waiting for the day when I can vomit out a first draft of a script and it will be perfect... I'll keep dreaming.

 

How would you describe your directorial approach to Slaughter Daughter?

 

The hardest part about my directing approach was understanding women haha. The script is comprised of ninety percent women, so understanding the motivations and emotions of the female psyche was quite tasking at times! I remember one day we were filming a scene where the main character Farrah is masturbating on her bed, and Nicola was performing this scene on her stomach, like almost on all fours you know, and I yelled “CUT! Women don't do it like that!” Needless to say I was laughed at by the whole crew (who were all women)! What the fuck did I know about the way women pleasure themselves, that's not how they do it in porn haha! It was a great learning experience. The story is a slow burn, so learning how to tell a story that slowly unfolds with suspense and deception was a challenge I enjoyed, because on my last film Mr. Bricks: A Heavy Metal Murder Musical the characters were singing their emotions through heavy metal and beating the crap out of each other!

 

Slaughter Daughter seems to be quite violent concerning its subject matter. How far are you going considering violence and gore?

 

We are showing a lot of gore when it comes to the violence. Like I said before I was so taken back with the real life events that inspired this movie where the young woman brutally stabbed her mother, I felt the violence in Slaughter Daughter should be as realistic and unflinching as possible. Even the self-mutilation scene (as seen in the teasers) where Farrah cuts off her finger is one take, we SEE the knife slicing through her finger and then she pick it up. Showing the violence and gore I felt was appropriate for this film, but I am also a big proponent of letting your imagination fill in the gaps. Like in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, we don't actually see the hook go through the character of Pam when Leatherface impales her, our mind fills in the gaps, also in Reservoir Dogs we don't actually see Mr. Blonde cut off the ear of Nash, it's all off-screen and our mind makes the horrific event more traumatic by letting us the viewer perceive what an ear-severing might look like.

 

Nicola Fiore

A few words about your leading lady Nicola Fiore, who also co-produced Slaughter Daughter according to my information?

 

Nicola is great. We met filming the DVD intro for Redneck Zombies at Lloyd Kaufman's house in 2008, and since then we had always wanted to work together. We had ideas for movies like a horror musical called Puppet Massacre - yes with real puppets! But that never got off the ground, and when Lauren wrote Mr. Bricks: A Heavy Metal Murder Musical and that got made first, Nicola was the first choice for the role of Scarlet. I think she even showed up to a cast reading of Mr. Bricks: A Heavy Metal Murder Musical unaware of what was going on and I handed her a script and said you're playing Scarlet but make it seem like you're auditioning haha.

 


While filming Mr. Bricks: A Heavy Metal Murder Musical we threw around ideas for Slaughter Daughter, the script had not even been written yet. From a creative stand point it was really cool to bounce ideas off Nicola. I mean I had two points of view from her, one being an actor where she could give emotional input of the character and two, being a producer, where she could give ideas from set design or what we should for lunch! We work really well together, it's like we're always on the same page, and if she doesn't like my direction she'll say “NO! I'm not doing that!” which is good! As a director I like someone who challenges me or gives input on a character that I had not thought of before. Nicola is one of the hardest working, dedicated actresses working in this business, she's a true actress and not a B-Movie wannabe.

 

Ruby LaRocca

Slaughter Daughter also features the first post-accident appearance by Ruby LaRocca. First of all, how was she doing, and how was it working with her, also concerning her condition?

 

Ruby is doing well! She had such a hunger and conviction to play the role of Apple. She brought so much to the part that wasn't on the page. I remember the first time I met Ruby was at my apartment where we were rehearsing, she showed up and did her scenes and I could tell she was in a lot of pain but she pulled through. When it came time to film, she was dedicated and working with her was fun, she had a lot of ideas for the character and would sit in a puddle of fake blood for hours while I was like “should she be on the floor that long?” It was a lot of fun.

 

A few words about the rest of your cast?

 

Leesa Rowland

I love working with new actors and I love lists, so not to leave anyone out, I am going to make a list of the actors in Slaughter Daughter and the reasons why I love them!

 

Leesa Rowland: Leesa was in Troma's Class of Nuke Em High 2 and starred in the TV show Conviction. Lloyd Kaufman recommended her after our other actress dropped out of Slaughter Daughter! I was intimidated because she had done so much stuff and this was only my second movie. But we worked together well, Leesa had ideas about her character that we would incorporate into the scenes and she was such a good sport about having to be covered in blood and laying on the floor for hours! Her portrayal of Phyllis (Farrah's Mother) is so wonderful, it's comedic and dramatic and hits all the right notes. We had a nice screening for Slaughter Daughter in December that Leesa set up at Walt Disney Studios (oh the irony, right?) in NYC and it was incredible! I had never been to a screening like that in my life, it was so surreal thinking this was for a movie I made. I can't thank Leesa enough for such an incredible night.

 

Deborah Das

Deborah Das: When Deborah auditioned for the role of Reema she performed it with a British accent, which was no surprise because on the audition sheet it says British accent! But she did it so well I thought for the longest time she actually was British! Then she said nope, not British at all! That's the kind of actor I love, the one that fools you and makes it seem like acting is so easy! I think audiences are going to be drawn to Deb's performance and really feel for her character.

 

Danny Morales: Danny nailed the role of David in the audition, I was like yep that's it, end of story! He was such a natural on set and his portrayal of David is so real and likeable, his performance goes way beyond your typical “horror movie performance.” I remember on set he had to sit in make-up for hours, he was such a good sport about that and the full frontal nudity! I felt so awkward asking him to do it, but he was like ok! WHISK! And the shorts came off! Slaughter Daughter is an equal opportunity barer of flesh! Come one, come all we have nudity for the entire family! Haha. One last thing I will say, is Danny told me this horror story of losing his driver's license and identity and believe me that is worse then any horror movie! I felt so bad for him, but that's also a sign of a good actor, they show up and do their job no matter what!

 

Mike Connell: Mike is so great, he has this monologue near the end of the movie where he threatens Farrah (Nicola's character) and the way he did it was so pitch perfect and creepy I got chills when we filmed it. I had a blast with Mike on set, when things got hectic it was like ok, I'm taking a smoke break with Mike! We would talk about acting or his son's hockey games, it was great! Mike also gives one hell of a performance as Willard, you have to see this man in action!

 

Alan Bendich: Alan always brings such intensity to every role he has! He plays a newscaster, but he brought such a power to the role it was intense and hilarious! Think of Sean Hannity going nuts about America's most vicious serial killer (Jackson Miles played by Tim Dax) and then verbally assaulting Farrah (Nicola Fiore) through the TV! It was such a surreal, great moment!

 

Kristen Hung: When I saw Kristen's demo reel on YouTube I was blown away! She was jumping on people, slapping them and then there would be these great scenes of her acting. In Slaughter Daughter she plays the nosy neighbor and she was so great at it. Really getting in Farrah's face, and pushing her buttons, you wouldn't want her character as your nosy next door neighbor! Unless your a homicidal maniac!

 

Tim Dax: I love working with Tim. From Mr. Bricks: A Heavy Metal Murder Musical to Slaughter Daughter he loves to change it up as an actor. People always say “oh he's always going to be typecast as the muscleman” but it wasn't like that. Even he was worried about it and we discussed the role of Jackson Miles and he played it almost in an unforgiving way but with humanity. Tim even added a hint of hill-jack scariness to the role and it's just fantastic! When him and Nicola are on the screen it's magic!

 

Tony Enz: I've known Tony for 15 years. We were in hardcore bands together growing up. He moved to Ohio, I met him as a teenager, we hung out, he got into trouble moved back to NYC, I moved to NYC, met back up with him, we recorded music he was the singing voice for Mr. Bricks and now he plays the most ironic part of his whole life, Jimmy the Corrections Officer! It's ironic because if you know Tony, well let's just say he has a problem with authority! Though I will say for a first time actor he was really great, a natural. The guy can do anything!

 

Lloyd Kaufman: Lloyd is the most seasoned actor, he's been in like a million movies and he does it for free! He loves to help out the independent filmmaker, who else does that? Nobody. Plus he is my boss and I am angling for a raise here, so in my opinion I think Lloyd deserved a bigger role, perhaps even the lead, we just would have to dress him in drag! But he's no stranger to that!

 

And if I forgot anyone I'm sorry! You were all great! And I appreciate your time and effort, I will never forget it!

 

From what I've heard, Slaughter Daughter's cast and crew was made up mostly of women. Why is that, and in what way did it influence your work and the actual outcome?

 

I initially came up with the idea of Slaughter Daughter and my partner Lauren Miller took the idea and ran with it! She created this wonderful script populated by great female characters. When it came time to shoot the movie, she also produced it and knew the DP Kara Hearn, who was so wonderful, Kara is one of the best shooters out there and when you see the movie you'll know why! I also knew Lisa Forst from Troma, who did some of the effects, like the finger amputation scene that you see in the trailer and teaser. For me, it was different working with almost all women. I kind of liked it, I hate to say it but women seem more organized and crafty and just want to get shit done! Whereas when you're on a set with 50 guys talking about the latest camera equipment or why the Star Wars-prequels sucked ass, a lot of time can go by!

 

With Slaughter Daughter being a horror film - is that a genre especially dear to you, and your genre favourites?

 

I grew up on the horror genre, watching everything I could get my hands on during the VHS era! I never thought I would actually get to make a genre horror movie and am grateful I did. I consider Slaughter Daughter a “grindhouse soap opera” - see I also love the TV show Dallas and I wanted that over-the-top melodrama mixed with the horror genre, especially when Farrah fights with her Mother Phyllis, like Carrie meets Dallas. Those back and forth arguments and caddy fights really liven up the conflict of the scene, almost in a John Waters meets J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman from Dallas) kind of way. Plus the music score I did really captures the feel of those 70s movies/TV shows like Carrie, Suspiria and Dallas. I'm not trying to toot my own horn, it was just a challenge for me to write and score something like that and I am really proud of the results and usually the first thing people say is “oh I really like this music!” Score (no pun intended)!

 

There is a drawback to genre-mixing though, I got nailed when Mr. Bricks: A Heavy Metal Murder Musical came out because critics and horror fans would say “oh it's not a horror movie, or it's not an action movie, the musical numbers aren't real metal, they're hardcore”, you know shit like that. I think in this day and age, especially for an indy filmmaker it's important to mix genres, make yourself stand out! Why make another by-the-book horror romp in hopes of getting some shitty distribution deal where you just get ripped off in the end and have no recognition except being a mediocre filmmaker? It's better to experiment and fail and fall flat on your ass and get your head handed to you on a plate by critics rather than not take chances. If you don't take chances, you're dead, don't make movies. And most importantly, don't let anyone stop you EVER. People will try and stop you, even other filmmakers in this so called “B Movie Community”. When Mr. Bricks: A Heavy Metal Murder Musical came out we were attacked by other filmmakers, even ones from Troma where I worked! I had rose tinted glasses on thinking there was a “brotherhood or sisterhood” of underground cinema, but quickly found most, not all, but most people associated with this world are out for themselves and like to sabotage other people's work. We're at the other end of the wrung from Hollywood, but all the backstabbing still applies! I'm not trying to sound bitter or whine, my point is never let the bullshit or anyone stop you if you have a vision!

 

The $64 question of course, when and where will the film be released?

 

We're finishing the sound mix now. We hope to have it finished by Fall and hit film festivals and see what happens. We also had the idea of just giving the movie away for free on our website (once it's up) and then if people like it they can buy the DVD with extras. Why mess with a distributor or middle-man at this point? You're just going to lose out financially and probably not make your money back. We're trying a new route, hitting conventions with the DVD and giving it away for free, we will see what happens! We could end up flat broke, but at least we tried. This is a new word for the indy filmmaker when it comes to distribution, and it's called freedom.

 

Any future projects you'd like to talk about?

 

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I am currently writing the script for Troma's upcoming Return to the Class of Nuke Em High that has been a blast and they start filming in August. I will also be editing the picture. And I'm working on a documentary about the band Type O Negative, and Lauren and I are writing our next movie called Red Hot Mamas. The genre of the film is based on those old 60s/70s biker movies! We're really excited to try and bring the biker movie back and add some sort of twist to it!

 

Your/your film's website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

Slaughter Daughter Facebook (PLEASE JOIN!): https://www.facebook.com/pages/Slaughter-Daughter/185225688173581

Slaughter Daughter YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/myslaughterdaughter

Travis Campbell Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1236524014

Travis Campbell Website: http://www.wix.com/campfilms/tec 

 

Anything else you are dying to tell us that I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

Please support independent film! Oh and check out this video I did for the hardcore band Biohazard, thank you! - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUFUfUPR0nc 

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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A Killer Conversation

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