Your new movie Rust Belt
Driller - in a few words, what is it about?
Aaron Krygier: Rust
Belt Driller is about what happens when the line blurs between truth, fiction,
and what can't be avoided. It's about mental health, isolation, anger,
rage, and perception.
David R. Williams:
At its most basic, Rust
Belt Driller is about an artist, who had lost his grip on reality
long before the film starts, and depicts his descent into full blown
psychosis and homicidal rage.
Now how did the project come into being in the first place, and
how did the lot of you get attached to it? And what drew you to it to
Dave and I have worked together on and off for about 15 years at
this point, and we were discussing how Driller
Killer was on Amazon
Prime back in April of 2020. I had found that it was in the public
domain and suggested we could modernize it and rework it. Someone else
had actually done that focusing their flick in Detroit for purportedly
under $1000! Dave, having more production experience than I, suggested
I should write a more unique story, and by June we were in
known Aaron for over 10 years. I think we first worked together on Red
Scream Vampyres. But he came to me wanting to do a remake of Abel
Killer. He was under the impression that the film was
out of copyright. Now, I've done quite a bit of research into copyright
years ago for another project I was working on, and that just didn't
sound right to me. So I did some digging, and while it looks like the
film itself may not be under copyright - and that's not at all certain -
the script is definitely under copyright, so you couldn't remake the
film without running into some major issues. But I liked the basic idea
of doing some sort of old school, 42nd Street grindhouse horror
film. So I suggested that we could make a film that could pay homage to Driller
Killer but also to the whole no budget splatterpunk genre. And
Aaron took that concept and ran with it.
What were the challenges of bringing Rust
Belt Driller to the screen from a producer's point of view?
David: For me there was always
the issue of time and money. So we knew we had x amount of D-ollars and y
amount of time. So especially during the writing and subsequent
rewriting of the script, top of my mind was always, can we shoot this in
the allotted time and within the available budget. So really, this was
no different than any other film I have made (laughs). Now luckily, over
the years, I've been able to build a solid production team of people who
I can call on, and even though they know I may not be able to pay them
much, I will pay them something, and they know that if nothing else,
it's going to be an interesting project. Also through co-director Tilke
Hill, who is
well connected within the Buffalo film community, we were able to bring
in a few new players who helped us keep travel costs down and who really
stepped up and delivered.
Aaron: 4 months is a pretty insane pre-prod time, and pre-production was
done entirely by myself, Dave, and then Tilke about a month or so into
The biggest challenge obviously, was dealing with COVID, especially
pre-vaccine. We got incredibly fortunate that the restrictions had
eased a little in October of 2020 here in Western NY, because just a
few weeks later everything was tightened back up. So obviously just
keeping a modicum of safety on set was a must.
We had one of our lead actresses cancel out on us literally 6 hours
before I was supposed to pick her up at the airport. 24 hours later we
had her replacement, Veronica, who ended up being so much more than
just a replacement. She was not only so much stronger of an actor, she
also crewed and helped with everything. Blessing in disguise.
Finally, shooting this over 9 days, we worked 12,14, 15 hours a day
for those of us at the top of the production.
what were your sources of inspiration when writing Rust
Belt Driller, and is any of the movie based on personal
Aaron: Oh boy. A lot of this film came out of my own struggles with mental
health, and the frustration surrounding something that's been thematic
of a lot of my life - having all the ambition in the world but lacking
the execution. That comes in a lot of different ways, from being let
down by other people, fear dictating my life, being comfortable in
misery, looking back on regrets... and like many people I think their
30s looking back and saying what could I have done when I was more
fearless and not so jaded by reality.
From a film perspective, my recommended viewing for our team was in
a lot of places, but obviously Driller
Killer, Videodrome and
Cronenberg in general, Lost Highway, Perfect
Blue, Blade Runner, Cruising, and
Session 9. Those were major influences that we were able
to work into a lot of the story, and some homages in there as well,
but from a thematic approach that was a lot of my influence.
David, what can you tell us about
your directorial approach to your story at hand?
David: I approached this as I
do all of my films, knowing what I need to make a scene work before I
hit the set. I don't do a physical storyboard, but I have a shot list in
my head. And that list is constantly being updated and sometimes changed
even while shooting. So I know, I want to start with this shot and then
I need that shot and then I need this other shot, and I edit in my head.
Knowing how those shots come together and how they flow. Of course I
always leave room for input from actors and camera, and if I can make
those pieces fit, and if there is time, I will definitely give it a
go. It's often been said, and I agree, that you make a film three times.
The first time is when you are writing the script, which is sort of the
dream vision version - if all goes well we can do this version. The
second is when you are shooting, and there are times when what worked on
paper just does not work in reality and so you need to "fix"
it on the fly. Or once you are on location or wherever, you suddenly
realize, oh, I can do this instead of that, and this will be so much
better. Because I work with a cast and crew that is flexible, that
happens quite a bit on my shoots. The last time is the edit where you
take all the pieces of the puzzle and put them together and finally see
what you actually have. In this case much of what is on the screen is
what was in the script.
can you tell us about the collaboration between the two of you, and also
with co-director Tilke Hill, on Rust
Belt Driller? And based on that experience, could you ever be
persuaded to work with one another again?
David: Aaron wrote the script
and I offered some input on certain aspects of it. Mostly in areas where
there was concern on my part about the aforementioned time and money. At
one time there was a restaurant scene which would have added a third
location, and of course the time needed to breakdown and get there, then
breakdown again and get out of there. Essentially a whole day that
unfortunately we didn't have. Aaron worked with Tilke on casting and I
gave some thoughts on that as well. During the shoot there were times
when I would discuss with Aaron, whom I knew was going to be editing,
how he wanted a scene shot, making sure he had all the material he
needed to make the scene work in the edit. There was less collaboration
between Tilke and myself - because we had three cameras, we were often
able to break out into two teams, and so while she was shooting one
scene, I would be shooting another. What I find interesting is that,
while we both have very different directing methods, I would challenge
anyone to look at the film and be able to tell me which scenes I
directed and which scenes Tilke directed. Though in truth, if there's
gore involved, it was probably me (laughs). In terms of whether I would
work with them again, it would depend on the project. But overall, it
was a good experience.
Aaron: This was a 3 person, 4 month pre-production! So everyone is going
to have a fit every now and then, but we really worked in concert.
I've worked with David and Tilke so many times over the years that
there was definitely a natural understanding for me with both of them.
Tilke with an acting perspective and David with filmmaking in general.
Tilke came in after about a month and did so much with the performers,
she was our acting coach and my sounding board, and helped a lot with
finalizing casting as well.
David and I are a true yin and yang. We have very similar
sensibilities about a lot of things, but branch off quite a bit in the
middle. Having everyone just go along with the flow I think takes the
passion out of it, and even though we had a few disagreements, I still
go over and have dinner with him and his family.
I've worked with both Tilke and David so much over the years, it's
not even a question if I would again.
Belt Driller is a film that doesn't exactly shy away from explicit
violence - so what can you tell us about the gore scenes in your movie,
and how were they achieved?
David: Right from the beginning
we knew we were not going to shy away from the gore. We were lucky in
that I was able to call on Roy Knyrim of SOTA
FX. I have known Roy for
years, since back in the day when he was pouring latex in this basement
in Rochester, New York. He now lives in LA and his resume is crazy
impressive. He's done work for Disney,
Paramount, all of the big movie
and television studios. He's worked with DEVO and Twiztid. So while he
was unable to be on set, he sent one of this team and he provided most
of the practical fx, all the heads we drilled. And he designed and 3D
printed the drill.
Aaron: 99% of the gore is practical effects and lighting. SOTA
everything for us, and we wanted to use that gritty,
70s/80s/grindhouse aesthetic as much as possible. One thing I really
emphasized was that I think too much in modern horror films there's
too many cutaways just when you can push it that little bit further.
Some people have commented to us that the scenes are intense, mostly
just because we unabashedly just...kept the camera there, and they
just kept going. We manipulated the sound to be over the top too during
the fun stuff. David had mentioned that we needed my closeup after the
first kill sequence with Madison, and I told him I didn't want it, we
needed to keep focus on the mayhem, and also the fact that the story
isn't really just about Renn, but what's going on around him and this
(not at ALL, obviously) giant phall - err, drill.
You just have to talk about
the rather creepy paintings you used in Rust
Belt Driller, and were they created especially for the movie or
Aaron: Dave's daughter, Rowan. I'll let him extrapolate but wow. Just wow.
Those were created by my
daughter Rowan who is quite an accomplished artist in her own
right. We knew that Renn's art needed to reflect his mental breakdown.
It needed to have a strong impact. I was doing research on art for the
film, looking for inspiration, and stumbled on the work of Francis
Bacon. I sent a few examples to Rowan and asked if she could possibly do
something in this style. She said sure, and a couple days later we had
the first painting. I showed it to Aaron and Tilke and they went wild.
Rowan did a total of about 15 paintings for the film.
Do talk about Rust
Belt Driller's approach to horror!
David: On a very basic level,
as I said, it's a homage to Driller
Killer and the whole no budget, 42nd Street, splatterpunk, grindhouse aesthetic. But at the same time, for
me, it talks about the cult of celebrity. It talks about toxic
celebrity. Renn has been driven insane by the insanity of the world
around him. The constant barrage of the "if it bleeds it
leads" media. Social media algorithms that weigh in favor of the
tragic and the profane. 24 hour 7 days a week information overload. He
has so far managed to pour it into his work, but eventually even that
Aaron: We wanted that throwback, that little bit over the edge of the
70s/80s, but we also wanted to tell a story. It's gratifying everytime
someone says they not only enjoyed it but that they got that we were
trying to dive a little deeper. A cry for help, taken to the extreme,
everything so many people are dealing with from an emotional
perspective. The goal was to make the splatterfilm of the century with
also play the lead in Rust
Belt Driller - so what can you tell us about your character, what
did you draw upon to bring him to life, and have you written Renn with
yourself in mind from the get-go?
Aaron: As I said, there's a lot of me in this character. I always expected
to play Renn. If not, I'd have been Larcen the detective, which is my
favorite overall scene in the film with Mike Argenteri. I've had a lot
of struggles with depression, anger, betrayal, all that. I take things
very deeply personally. I came from a fairly strict Baptist Christian
upbringing where a lot of things I should've been able to do as a kid
were never going to happen. I was a good kid. But everything was
repressed and then I'm 21 in college and have no idea what to do with
all that. I think there's a lot of that idea in Renn, where he has
some modicum of success, people that care about him more than he does,
and he can't deal with it, and so little matters to him.
You can call it artist imposter syndrome, apathy, fear, everything
the Sith feed on... but I think that my specific amalgamation of an
upbringing has done just as much damage to me as good, and I've had to
accept that and deal with it and finally say, what are you doing?
Because otherwise at this stage I might as well just find a job I can
draw a pension from in 25 years and get a mortgage and... yeck. No.
I think we were able to make Renn a somewhat sympathetic character
even when he's losing his marbles and is so unaware of what he's doing
around him. I think we did a good job of conveying this guy and how
far he's slipping, and he just can't hide it anymore. I think a lot of
people come to that point somewhere in their lives. He just... drills
people in the face... or does he?
Do talk about the rest
of Rust Belt Driller's
cast, and why exactly there people?
Aaron: We couldn't have asked for a better group. Even our day player
extras were just such a great bunch of professionals. Jillian Geurts and I
met through Dave's previous endeavors, and I just knew that I had to
have her be Carol. It was selfish and I don't care who knows it. She
's an incredible artist and we have developed a close bond over the
last few years. She gets me, is wonderful in every way, and just does
the work. Veronica Knightly I've already talked about, and how she saved us.
Steve Jakiel and I have worked together on stage in Buffalo before,
and when he submitted, I knew he had to be that guy. So many people
really just showed themselves to be the right fit immediately. Derek,
Alycia, Ro and Kristina, Anthony. All of them just immediately brought
something to their auditions. And Andy as Benji. I mean, no one else
had it. Period. That was a constant theme. So blessed!
A few words about
the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
David: There were two
locations. One was a house on the lake which doubles as Renn's home.
That we found through airbnb. The other was the Niagara Food Terminal
where we had access to a couple workshops, an incredible basement with
long halls, another room that had been some sort of slaughter house I
think... so any scenes that did not take place at the beach house were
shot at the food terminal. Very grateful to the owners of those spaces
for allowing us access and putting up with the usual film production
Aaron: Crazy, long, days. As guerilla as it gets without it being hidden
cams in crowds. Everyone on the crew did 5 jobs. Tilke and Veronica
formed Team Tokyo and did 2nd unit with Nick Green. The film
wouldn't have gotten done as it did without that. It was all business, but we had our
laughs too. Everyone enjoyed the breaks, lunch, and no one was ever
just isolated. It was a good group.
$64-question of course, where can Rust
Belt Driller be seen?
David: The film has played a
couple festivals so far, but we were recently picked up by Bayview
Entertainment and so should be available on various streaming platforms
this year (2022).
Anything you can tell us
about audience and critical reception of Rust
Aaron: Our reviews are out there on the Googles. We've had a mostly
positive reception, and a lot of people have really 'gotten' it. Even
the reviews that haven't loved us weren't two thumbs down, they're
more tepid than anything because the writer isn't a fan of the
material or the genre. Even those reviews have something generous to
say about the acting, editing, cinematography, etc. Those are the
reviews that make me personally want to watch something more. You
don't like it, but you can't just say NO!
David: The audience reactions
so far have been mostly positive. We've gotten some amazing reviews.
Film Threat gave us a great review. Morbidly Beautiful just waxxed poetic
about it. Of course there's been some less than stellar reviews as well,
but that goes with the territory. I do have to say that, those who were...
less enthusiastic let us say, seemed to miss the point. I don't have a
problem with a bad review as long as it's well written and well
reasoned. But when I read something that was clearly just tossed off
with little thought, that's just pathetic.
Any future projects you'd like to
David: I just wrapped post on Abject, which is more of a psychological drama with supernatural elements
that flat out gore fest. That's making the distributor rounds now. I'm
looking at shooting something in November. A script is in the works, but
it's far too early to tell.
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Aaron: Currently working on 3 other projects, my own script set in the
same universe as Rust
Belt Driller, and 2 collaborations that are in various stages.
Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever
Rustbeltdriller.com exists but isn't too filled out yet.
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
Aaron: Is it real or in his head?
Thanks for the interview!