Your new movie Zapper! - in a few words, what is it about?
In a nutshell, Zapper!
is a crime-comedy set in an alternate dimension where everything is
colorful and cartoony. Several hired criminals, known as zappers, set out
to retrieve a longboard that holds mystical powers. Little do they know
they are pawns in a deadly game set up by a trio of elites.
What were your sources of inspiration when writing Zapper!?
Well I've made a few short films that took place in the same universe as Zapper!
the colors constantly change, and always wanted to make a feature in this
colorful world. My main inspiration was a failed film project I was
working on called The Trip House that
was set in the same universe. Unfortunately the movie fell apart and I
only finished half the movie, but I took a lot of ideas and scenes from
the film and put them all into this one. My main inspiration was my
girlfriend Skye Armenta (plays Lucy/Alice and was also cinematographer)
who is a wonderful actress and film partner who always fuels me with great
ideas and endless creativity. Another main influence was Pulp
Fiction, and that's what gave us the footing to
develop a gangster film that revolves around several main characters. Yellow
Submarine and Son Of The White Mare are influences on the look and wackiness of the
following dream logic and being full of absurd to surreal ideas, how easy
or hard was it to not just go off the deep end and literally lose the plot
in the process?
It really wasn't hard at all. We wanted to create a universe with no
rules, and just go balls to the wall with this one. I think at its core
the main character of Zapper! is
creativity, and it was important for us to really embrace our creative
juices in every aspect. I understand the wackiness might be too much for
some viewers, and not every movie needs to be as out there as ours, but I
really believe filmmakers taking a more transcendental approach to
their work can give a good kickstart to a format stale with stories and
ideas we've all seen a million times.
At least for me, Zapper!'s
also wickedly funny - so what can you tell us about your movie's brand of
was important to the movie, because it would be a sin for a movie about
banana guns to take itself too seriously. We wanted this universe to feel
like the cartoons of the 90s and 2000s that we grew up with on Cartoon
Network and Nickelodeon. The brand we went with was something very goofy
and even childish, which I know annoys some people, but that brand of
comedy was essential in developing the universe and culture of the film.
You also have to talk about Zapper!'s
very own visual language for a bit!
Absolutely! It's definitely the element that makes or breaks the movie for
most people. However, the awesome thing is I think Zapper!
is the very first feature in human history to utilize this specific
visual language for the entirety of it's runtime. The endlessly strobing
hues weren't really even a stylistic choice, but the way this universe
literally looks. It's a world building tool I utilized in some of my
short films, as well as The Trip House, and
was carried over to Zapper!
I loved the look of this world so much that I had to make at least one
feature film in this style. For me it represents creative freedom and
endless possibilities the juxtaposes the bleak monochrome void that
the three elites inhabit in the film. A lot of people have complained that
they hate the look of the movie because it made them feel nauseous,
which is regretful to hear, but I feel that would be an accurate side
effect if we were to travel to this alien dimension, which is kind of
cool for the movie to provoke that feeling. It makes the world of Zapper!
A few words about
your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
The approach wasn't anything too specific. There was never a moment where
I was indecisive about what I wanted. The movie was always in my
mind so it gave us freedom to play around with the script and even improv
at times. I just wanted to create a fun environment for the cast,
because if we weren't having fun the audience was definitely not going to
have fun. The fun element was also critical in developing this live-action
cartoon. I also made sure to stay open to ideas and let Skye and the
actors bring whatever they wanted to the table and let them express their
creativity just as much as mine.
also appear in front of the camera in Zapper!
- so what can you tell us about your character, what did you draw upon to
bring him to life, and have you written him with yourself in mind from the
My character Daffy was an extension of a character I played in a short
film Skye and I wrote called Close-Up: an odyssey.
Just like the character in the short film, Daffy is a delinquent who
rather do crime than an actual 9-5 job, but he's also lazy and not very
reliable. He's the type of guy to get shitfaced drunk before setting off
on a big heist. Daffy is drawn from some people I've known in real life,
people I went to high school with but also based on hippies you see in
60's and 70's films. Daffy was going to be the sole character of Zapper!
that we follow throughout the entirety of the film, but taking inspiration from
Pulp Fiction it was decided to include a multitude of
main characters. It was planned that I would play Daffy from the start. I
would've loved someone else to play Daffy with me behind the camera, but
I had to take on the role out of necessity. The Trip
House fell apart because the main actor dropped out
halfway through and I wasn't going to let that happen again.
Do talk about the rest of Zapper!'s
cast, and why exactly these people?
We couldn't have asked for a better cast to work with. Skye Armenta
is my soulmate and a phenomenal actress, and I feel like she is definitely
the backbone of the film, that's why I wrote two characters for her to
play and she did it so well that a lot of people don't even know that she
plays both Alice and Lucy. A lot of the actors in the film were friends of
ours and people we've worked with before. It was important to cast reliable
people for the film, and they all really delivered and were highly
dedicated to the project. Chris Taylor is someone who Skye and I
collaborated with on a short film and he really dived in and literally
became Owsley. There's this great outtake at the end of the film where his
character gets shot and is screaming in pain. After I cut the scene he was
still screaming as if he really got shot by a banana laser because he was
so into character. Dana Moye, Irene Leonard and Evgueni Mlodik are friends
of ours who did an amazing job and brought a lot of great humor to their
performances. Evgueni transformed himself into an anime villain and gave
Grey Shields a very necessary animated touch. Moye, who plays Haze, has a
lot of stunts where he throws himself around, he really committed to the
stunts and created his own character touches such as wardrobe and face
paint that really brought the character to life. Some new faces to the Gatsmenta
roster were Phyllis Ramie, Grifter Timber Wolf and Andrew Scott
Dixon, who play the three monochrome elites and they were fantastic to work
with. They worked off of each other so well you would think they've known
each other for years. This was a very important factor and they performed
it so beautifully. We would love to work with all these actors again and
create a signature ensemble cast.
A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
The set had a very positive vibe, which is a blessing because I've worked
on some sets where everything was a complete clusterfuck. Skye and I are
very laid back and want to create the most comfortable environment
possible, and I think we were successful with that. There were a few
studio locations that were tiny in size and could have caused a lot of
outrage among the cast, but everyone was on their A-game and handled it
all like a champ. There was some days here and there where me and Skye
bickered , and there was even an accident that occurred involving our
camera smashing upon a boardwalk, but overall it was an amazing experience
and I sure hope everyone involved feels the same.
$64-question of course, where can Zapper!
The film is currently streaming on Tubi and Plex, and will be streaming on
Amazon Prime, ThrilzTV and Nuclear Home Video in the coming months.
Anything you can tell us about audience and
critical reception of Zapper!
The critic reviews so far have been very positive - with the exception of
one YouTuber who hates the film. It was a shock to me because my last
feature My Neighbor Wants Me Dead received
mostly negative reviews, so the critical reception has been so refreshing.
The audience mostly seems to like it as well. It's definitely a love it or
hate it movie, so there are so people on letterboxd and IMDb giving it 1
star scores, but we had a screening recently where the audience was
responding very well to the film, laughing at a majority of the jokes and
even cheering at some points. I don't know if they'll watch the movie
again, but I'm sure it was an interesting change of pace from the soulless
cash grabs they're used to watching on Disney+.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
We're still in the writing phase as far as our next project, but we're
planning on a horror-satire for our next project. We also have a little
short film coming out soon that Skye directed and I starred in about a
man's relationship with a walking stick.
movie's website, social media, whatever else?
Films is on Youtube, Facebook and TikTok: @gatsmentafilms
its own pages on Facebook and Twitter: @ZapperFilm
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
Just wanted to say thank you for the opportunity to talk about Zapper!.
been a fan of searchmytrash.com for
many years and it's always a pleasure to speak with you. You also ask the
most thoughtful interview questions! Thank you so much, Mike!
for the interview!