With technology and film distribution being the way that it is in this day and age, we, as horror fans, have more choices than ever as to what we watch as far as horror films are concerned. We are living in a time where independent horror filmmaking is at its best… and its worst at the same time. I mean The level of ease of putting together an independent low/micro budgeted film is at an all time high… Thus more people are taking the reins of low/micro budgeted horror films… with varying level of mastery. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m definitely not insinuating that it’s easy to put together a horror film. However at time it seems difficult to find a diamond in the rough when it comes to low/micro budgeted horror movies.
Well folks… never fear, I’m here to tell you about a man who has figured out how to overcome the challenges a micro budget presents to create very entertaining films. Tom Berdinski, director of The Italian Zombie Movie parts 1 (Zombie Abomination) and part 2 (Zombie Atrocity) as well as the short entitled The Giant Rubber Monster Movie: Sascratch Versus Afrodesious, is the man who has got the philosophy of creating micro-budgeted film making conquered. I’m not going to review his films in this article. Instead I’m going to highlight the man himself. I mean… It’s not every day that someone figures out the recipe for making great micro-budgeted films. It seems that for Tom, it involves one part homage, one part great writing, another part camp, and a healthy dose of comedy. I was very interested in his latest project in that it seemed to be quite a detour from the formula he had with his IZM set. Tom was kind enough to answer some questions that I had about his background and his newest project: The Giant Rubber Monster Movie.
Why did you get into filmmaking? Any pivotal moments in your life where you decided that this is what you wanted to do?
I’ve been making movies, really, for as long as I can remember. I got my first 8mm movie camera from my grandfather when I was 8 years old and immediately started making science fiction and horror movies. At that time, I was fascinated by giant monsters, Gamera in particular, so my friends and I went out and caught a huge snapping turtle, plopped him on my train board and starting making movies! Soon thereafter (probably because live snapping turtles under hot movie lights are a bit gnarly!) we got into claymation and puppetry pretty heavily. Our biggest “hit” among the 3rd and 4th graders in those days was “Kongo Versus Batzork” – a sort of “King Kong Versus Godzilla” monster mash cramming every special effect we could dream up into 3 minutes of Super 8. I also saw the Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing classic “Horror Express” at some point in my early elementary years and made my first zombie movie featuring a huge (miniature) train wreck on some contaminated ground that somehow causes all the passengers to turn into zombies. Pity we never finished that one. We did, however, perfect our unparalleled intestine recipe at the ripe old age of 10!
You started with IZM 1 & 2… which were rooted in practical zombie and gore effects. What made you want to switch gears and create a sci-fi/horror extravaganza full of digital effects?
I think it was the challenge that motivated me… A little background: Filmmaker Jason Hoover of Jabb Pictures approached me and 9 other indie filmmakers after a convention with this idea: 10 indie filmmakers making 10 different shorts all with the same synopsis – A meat eater terrorizes a small town. (The resulting DVD is called “The Collective” and all the filmmakers sell it at conventions.) I agreed but I wasn’t sure what kind of movie I would do. I’m sure Jason thought I’d make a zombie movie, but I didn’t have any zombie “short” stories in my head (Heck, my last zombie story, The Italian Zombie Movie took two movies and three hours to tell!) but I really wanted to participate. Well, believe it or not, there are actually a lot of green screen and CGI effects in The Italian Zombie Movie. Most were practical, but when we couldn’t get enough zombies to show up, or some actor wasn’t available, we composited or CGI’d them in. Few people have noticed that. That gave me the confidence to “relive my youth” and take on a brand new giant monster movie – My meat eater would be a 200 foot tall giant fly! I figured I’d be the only filmmaker to take that approach! To add to the challenge, I decided to invite some of my favorite horror hosts from all over the country to participate via green screen. I was VERY fortunate that Marlena Midnite, Robyn Graves, Roxsy Tyler, the cast of Count Gregula’s crypt and my villain, Dr. Sigmund Zoid, all agreed to do it all for free – And they did it sooooo well! They shot their own scenes, tweaked the dialog to fit their styles (Gregula wrote his own scene entirely) and sent me their footage to composite. It was a great experience and one I intend to repeat!
Speaking of horror hosts, I know you’ve worked with horror hosts in the past with Midnite Mausoleum. Where did the interest in horror hosts start with you, and how did you come to collaborate with so many horror hosts on this project?
I’ve always been a fan of horror hosts. My first exposure to them was when cable TV made it into West Michigan in the mid 70s, but until the HorrorHound Weekend back in March 2010, I really only knew of a few: Elvira, Zacherley, Sammy Terry and a couple others. At HorrorHound, we were promoting our Italian Zombie Movies and were fortunate enough to be seated right next to the horror host “alley” for lack of a better word. I don’t know how many horror hosts were present – 50, 60 or more? Anyway, horror hosts are fun and very sociable animals, so I got to meet many and chat with them. For whatever reason, when I met Marlena Midnite and her director Blake Powell, there was an instant low-budget-horror-fan connection. Just a few weeks later, they emailed me saying how much they enjoyed my movies, and coincidently, I had just watched their campy Midnite Mausoleum DVD and loved it! We started talking and decided to work together to put my Italian Zombie Movies on their TV show – and the results were AMAZING! The jump in my DVD sales after that showing was huge. It was obvious to me that Marlena, Robyn and the rest of the horror hosts all have great followings, and working with them would be a great way to get my movies further out there. Since that initial exposure on Midnite Mausoleum, my movies (IZM and/or The Giant Rubber Monster Movie) have been on 100 Years of Monster Movies, Alternative Realities TV, Ormsby’s Cinema Insane, The Monster Channel, Roxsy Tyler’s Carnival of Horrors, Count Gore de Vol’s Creature Feature and more are in the works! After the success of IZM on Midnite Mausoleum, I really wanted to incorporate horror hosts into my next movie, to reach an even broader audience. Fortunately for me, the feeling was mutual and I was able to get many of my favorite horror hosts to act (or appear) in The Giant Rubber Monster Movie. Most of the reviews I’ve seen have indicated their appearances were the highlights of the movie!
We met at Horror Hound in Indianapolis this March. I noticed you were walking around in your Sascratch costume. I also noticed that you are planning on being at more horror conventions in the future. What are your thoughts on Horror Conventions? Do you get good receptions from the guests at the conventions?
I love horror conventions! As a filmmaker, there is no better place to get in touch with your friends and fans from all over the country and to make
new friends and fans. There is no better place to meet reviewers, bloggers, podcasters, reporters, etc., than at horror conventions. Most of the horror hosts I am friends with now I met at horror conventions. I know it sounds cliché, but the nicest people I know make and/or love horror movies and attend these conventions! Isn’t that crazy? And Sascratch… Well, that half-human/half-bigfoot unofficial mascot of IZM (and now the “star” of The Giant Rubber Monster Movie) has become quite the popular figure at conventions giving out IZM underwear, urinals, heck, sometimes even useful prizes like t-shirts and DVDs! We always feel welcome at conventions and always try to help everyone else have a great time too!
I’ve only been to 2 conventions (both HHW Indy 2009,2011), but after both visits I spent the rest of the year recovering… How do you do so many and survive?
There you have it folks. Make sure to check out The Italian Zombie Movie’s official website, Tom on Facebook, and The Giant Rubber Monster Movie’s official Facebook page.