Every now and then there is a director who makes a movie and just “explodes” on to the scene which their micro budget independent and they are totally embraced the world and suddenly you have you have you’re “Blair Witches” and you’re “Paranormal Activities.” Other times a director makes a good film but still have to work like hell to get their work out there. John Lachego might not be blowing up over night but I’d be shocked if he doesn’t build a huge following in the next few years.
It seems like you’ve got two films out right that are both being released at the same time “Bio-Slime” and “Killjoy’s Revenge.” “Killjoy’s Revenge” is going to be available in Red Boxes I’d love to ask you how long did it take to get it there?
I have my film “Bio Slime” released only in a few markets now. I do not have a North American release yet, but my sales agent is working on that this upcoming AFM. “Killjoy 3, aka Killjoy’s Revenge” was released on Oct. 11th through Redbox. I do not know how that deal was made. I think it was all Charles Band’s doing. His company, Fullmoon Features, has quite a reputation in home video, so I do not think it was too difficult for him to contact Redbox.
Did you have creative carte blanche?
I think that I did have carte blanche, relatively speaking. Charles Band made some changes to the original script, but they were really minor. I’m also a fan of Fullmoon so I tried to keep the tone of the movie in the same tone as their other films. When I was actually in China I was left alone to do my thing. Tom Calloway, who is a long time cinematographer to Fullmoon made sure that the look of the movie was consistent with their previous films.
I started “Bio Slime” first. I had already shot and commenced post production on “Bio Slime” when we flew to NanHai China to shoot “Killjoy”. Then, after Killjoy was in the can I stayed in China to consult with the Chinese studio (ACE Studios) for a couple months. At that time I was able to complete the post production on “Bio Slime”. I then flew back to the United States and, shortly after, began the post production of “Killjoy 3”. It was like a weird cinematic game of hopscotch. The production and post production schedules for the two movies alternated.
I’d ask you something lame like: was shooting the film in China different from shooting in L.A. but I’d rather address something I think that is serious and key, you seem to be very good at getting actresses naked… is there any coaxing involved, discomfort or are things relaxed enough where it’s not an issue? And if you’ve anything to add about filming in China that would be great…
Getting people to take their clothes off? You can say “I’m an artist – take your clothes off.” That seems to work. But the trick to it is, that you have to be serious. I am an artist and I conduct myself professionally. The point is, there is no trick. I’m also upfront with the nature of the scene from the beginning. In my character breakdowns for my actors I mention nudity first off. If someone is uncomfortable with it they can bow out before they are too invested. If you are a filmmaker and you need someone to be naked it’s a good idea to also hire people who have no problem taking their clothes off. It might take a little searching, but they’re out there. And, whatever you do, do not try to dance around the subject. Be blunt. If you seem nervous, you can come off creepy and that can spook a model who was previously fine with nudity. Most of all, be professional. Have a closed set, provide robes or towels, behave yourself, and don’t make them wait! It’s nothing you haven’t seen before. (I hope!)
“Bio Slime” is so much fun to watch was it just as much fun to make?
I’m very happy that you found “Bio Slime” to be so much fun! That is really my ultimate goal, ‘to entertain’. When a filmmaker is so restricted by budget and resources, “make this film fun” should be a mantra. Was it fun to shoot? Yes and no. Honestly, there are periods of every production where the filmmakers feel depression because it seems like it will never end, especially in post. The odds of finishing a film when you don’t have a normal budget are slim because you have to do so many things by yourself.. You really have to plod on despite the pain. But I have fun as well! I am lucky enough that I have found collaborators that make the process fun for me. I have the best time on set while the cameras are rolling, despite grueling pressure. Some of my collaborators have been with me for a while. I consider the artistic collaboration in a film the most enjoyable part of the job.
Physically, the hardest part of making “Bio Slime” was the shoot itself. We only had 12 days to shoot, and the slime effects were harder to achieve than we thought. When I originally did tests with the slime, it was very manageable on a small scale. But when we did the full size gags the slime was unruly! Otherwise the major challenges were the usual ones; tiny crew, no time, no money. Mentally the hardest part was the end of post production. Post production on a microbudget takes such a long time because everyone else including the director has to go back to their regular jobs. I was editing, sound editing, compositing VFX shots, and shooting FX inserts by myself. It is a very lonely process that can be depressing at times. But all you can do is to make a little progress every day. Eventually the film gets done!
You work with a lot of the same actors again and again, Vinnie Bilancio, Victoria De Mare, Al Burke and Ron Fitzgerald to name a few, do you find yourself writing characters for the actors?
I enjoy working and collaborating with these actors very much. I also have worked with Tai Chan Ngo quite a bit, and will do so in the future. Yes, I always have them in mind to some degree. The reason directors use the same actors on most of their films is that anyone who can make a production easier is welcome. A film shoot is already fraught with so many challenges. Having good support and a cast that makes the day easier is gold.
Magus seemed very different from everything else you’ve done where did it come from?
I was inspired to do Magus by Roger Corman’s “The Raven”, starring Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and a young Jack Nicholson. At the end of that movie Boris and Vincent face off and have a wizard Battle. Actually, “Wizard Battle” was the original title of my script. With “Magus” I tried to make a movie that was more serious. I think that I met my objective, but in hindsight I should have taken it over the top. It is not that I want to make all my films campy, but when you have such a small budget I do not think it is wise to try to make your film look just like a studio film. It is just too hard to compete with productions that have millions of dollars in their budgets. What sets a microbudget apart is the ability to deliver something that you would not see, or expect from a studio film, and many times that means taking chances and pushing boundaries.
We got Blood Gnome in the can for 6,200 dollars. We got $5k from Turning Point Productions (Randy Mermell) and then I put in an additional $1,200 of my own money. Post production was probably an additional $15k because we hired a professional sound mixer to give us a killer sound track.
“Bio Slime” and “Blood Gnome” both deal with sexual situation outside of what is typically considered the norm, that being p*rnography and BDSM is the subject matter something you consciously or sub-consciously injected and what is your relationship to the subjects –beyond having them in your films.
Being a curious artist I have always looked into alternative things. BDSM is actually not that rare and has a long history. Even though it is not mainstream many people are familiar with it. If you look it up on the internet you will find a great deal of information on the subject. Actually, I am more interested in fantasy role play. I injected a little bit of that in “Blood Gnome” when I shot the Piggy/Butcher scene. Our on set consultant (and actual practicing BDSM mistress) said she has never seen anything like that before. The practice of “blood sports” and “edge play” are more rare in BDSM but they do exist. As far as p*rnography is concerned: When I made “Bio Slime” I was renting an office inside of a building where I was surrounded by three professional p*rnography studios. I based setting of “Bio Slime” on my situation. Yes, on more than one occasion a naked girl came into my office to see what I was doing! I became friends with the “adult film” directors and was able to use two of their studios to build sets and shoot. They were very cool about everything. I also got to know Gia Paloma at those studios. Otherwise I watch very little p*rnography. Probably less than the average person.
What do you feel is the relationship between sex/gore/violence –if any?
The relationship between sex/gore/violence? I do not think that there is a direct relationship between the three other than they are things which provide a powerful stimulus. It is the stimulus that can be fascinating and entertaining. For my critics that would say I am promoting sex, gore and violence; my answer is that I am synthesizing it in a fantasy, which is the safe forum to explore these things. Sex, gore and violence in reality is very bad for civilization. I think that mixing them is also very powerful because the audience starts to associate them together. That is why so many grindhouse film makers do it. I wanted to explore that in a comical way when I edited together the sex scene and the fight, alternating between shots of both, in “Bio Slime”.
I feel, in a very altruistic manner that your films are very driven as giving to the audience, how much of the film is for you and how much is for audience if any –like said it’s a feeling I have, I can be wrong.
I try to make my films for the audience. Having said that, I do not do it blindly. I am a movie fan as well, so I definitely make them from my perspective, but I try to make them as pleasing as possible with the resources that I have. At the very least I try to deliver on what the genre demands. If the film is a monster movie I try to deliver the best monster that I can. That is why I invested the most in the creature and effects for “Bio Slime”. Magus was a movie about magic, so I spent a year working on the visual effects. I am surprised how many smaller productions invest so little on what the movie is based on. And it doesn’t have to be money, but I expect time and effort to be expended on what the audience expects and wants to see. I remember watching the “behind the scenes” of another low budget horror movie that I did not like at all. The director said that he wanted to “elevate the genre”, which I think was his mistake. If you plan to elevate horror, what you really mean is you want to change its’ definition. Horror does not need to be elevated. It is well represented by many classic films that are expertly done. In my opinion the horror fans want films that are true to the genre. I remember another filmmaker that was not a fan of horror (in fact he looked down on it) but decided to make a horror film anyway that was in reality more like a European art film. Well, it totally bombed because Horror fans didn’t think it was a horror film and Art film fans didn’t think it was an art film. I think the filmmaker was just being dishonest.
Frankly, I do not really know what my inspiration is. I guess it isn’t anything specific. I have painted a large variety of subjects, from still life’s, landscapes, portraits to fantasy and surreal art. I think that I am inspired by the moment. Yeah, sounds pretty boring. Actually I really do love to think about biology when I am drawing or painting monster stuff. My father was a Pathologist, so I think that I was inspired by his descriptions of medicine and biology. Yes, he performed autopsies, and I grew up hearing about them, so I never thought of them as morbid. Are my paintings Geiger like? Yes I suppose so. Actually I have been drawing like that before I discovered Geiger. When I finally saw Geiger’s art I loved it. Very powerful stuff. But he seems to use a lot of machine imagery in his work. Indeed he calls it Biomechanics. My drawings are purely organic, though they share a similar feel. I would have to credit conversations with my father for my style. I also love the architecture of Antoni Gaudí.
Surreal drawing I did in 1993
How does it affect you as a film maker, a lot of film makers seem very hung up on that Rembrandt 3 point lighting but do you ever have an Edward Hooper kind of day because of it?
Edward Hooper? The artist that painted “Nighthawks”? The painting of the diner? Sometimes I feel like the person inside of the diner. I do not light like a Hooper painting. That would be very high key. I like a two point lighting scheme for dramatic stuff. Conceptually very simple, but you have to be careful with light placement. It’s essentially the same feel that Alex Proyas used in “Dark City”. His DP, Dariusz Wolski, used a very stylized lighting that was highly angled. It is basically film noir lighting which was originally created to look good and be cheap!
Okay 2 part question for you: You know Judo, Brazilian Jiujitsu (caporera?), karate, and grappling and you direct horror have you ever been tempted to direct more action oriented stuff because you’re films are straight up horror?
I would love to direct a martial arts film! Actually I have written a martial arts action script, but breaking into that world is pretty tough. I need to make a name for myself in other genres before I can tackle that one. Yes it is definitely on my to do list! Oh, I never studied Capoeira. I am not gymnastic enough for that one.
One of my films did have a martial arts component. If you watch my movie “Magus” you will see that I feature a lot of martial arts in it. I had choreographed fight sequences as well as scenes depicting a martial arts class. I was playing the assistant teacher in those scenes.
Ha ha, no! I get along very well with my actors. I do not threaten or yell at anyone, and people are good enough to give me respect and cooperation. It has been very rare that I have gotten resistance. Trust me, I am not a big guy, and I am far from scary but I am never intimidated (but not because I think I can beat someone up). I am normally very relaxed and happy, so seeing the opposite is enough to keep trouble makers in line. But once I identify a trouble maker I also don’t work with them anymore. It’s just not worth it.
My father got me involved in the martial arts when I was six because he thought I was very small, and shy. He guessed correctly that the other kids would want to bully me at school. I remember my first day in preschool. Two kids tried to beat me up! So I welcomed martial arts, but as luck would have it, my first karate class was in a Chuck Norris school so I was immediately caught up in his movies!
My brother James, Chuck (pre-beard) and me on the right.
Otherwise I have never been in a fight in my adult life. Of course I have sparred quite a bit in my training, but I’m not a “tough guy”. I have been beaten up by a lot of really tough guys! I guess I’m a glutton for punishment. That’s why I make movies!
Interview: John Lechago (Bio-Slime, KillJoy 3, Blood Gnome)