Interview: Dave Campfield (Caesar and Otto’s Deadly Xmas)
One of the first films’ I reviewed when I started here at HorrorNews was “Caesar and Otto’s Summer Camp Massacre”. It was one of those movies that kept me smirking from beginning to end. A couple of years later, we now have “Caesar and Otto’s Deadly Xmas” which is just as much fun (actually it is better) than its predecessor. The man responsible for the madcap fun is Mr. Dave Campfield, who I had the pleasure of meeting this past September when “Deadly Xmas” was competing in “Elvira’s Horror Hunt” which began at HorrorHound Weekend in Indianapolis, Indiana. I recently caught up with Dave and had the chance to speak with him at length about his films, career, and future.
Dave Campfield: So what’s going on? I read the review and it was all one could hope for. I even liked that fact that you said some people “wouldn’t get this” and that’s true. I can’t completely understand some peoples’ different sense of humor sometimes but it was very well written and I appreciate it.
Z-Man: No problem. The movie is a blast!
DC: You were really drinking when you first saw it?
ZM: Uh, yeah. I was drinking.
ZM: I wasn’t wasted or anything, I remember most everything about it. I would just rather be completely sober when watching it again so I can give it a fair review.
DC: I didn’t know it. That’s hilarious.
ZM: So what inspired you to be a filmmaker?
DC: It was just falling in love with movies. The first movie I had ever seen and the first time just watching an actor. As a young kid, a 4yr old, I would just watch the actors, then I would start watching the film and it became like a love affair with both sides of the camera. The magic to make a film, the illusion of it, the art, and technique. So I was so enamored by the first film that I saw and that’s when I wanted it to be my entire life. I started working on films as a young kid and just kept learning and learning.
Eventually you will find your own voice, hopefully find your own voice. Which led me to my first film which was originally called “Under Surveillance”. That opened the door, Shock-O-Rama released it, and it was Shock-O-Rama that asked me for a comedy horror film while we were finishing up post-production on “Dark Chamber”, they retitled “Under Surveillance” as “Chamber”. It was really more of a thriller but you have to do a generic horror film. While I was finishing post on “Chamber” I made a $700 feature film called “Caesar and Otto” and that was all shot in my friend’s apartment. I basically waited 6 months while they finished up the technical aspects of “Under Surveillance” so I just, on my own, created this other feature film to keep myself busy and used those characters to make a comedy horror film for Shock-O-Rama. I said lets just insert those two characters, sort of like they did with “Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein”, in the middle of a comedy-horror film and see where it goes.
That led to this whole series of “Caesar and Otto” films and my focus has been on those. Because, A) it is a type of film I like and B) you can do them for cheap. No matter how low the budget is, you can still tell the story. If you don’t have the money for a certain type of effect you can wing it. With the effects looking bad, it only enhances the comedy. Those are easier films to make so that is why I have focused on that so now I am making a departure this year with “Fear the Reaper”. So that is a question that has gone way off the rail. You asked me how I got into filmmaking and it trailed in to where I am at now.
ZM: That works. How did you come up with the characters of Caesar and Otto? Was it all you or did you have Paul (Chomicki) in mind from the start?
DC: Paul and I knew each other from high school and he was a few years older than me. We would get together for sketch comedy. It was just REALLY low budget stuff. These weren’t edited, we would just get together and shoot these sketches. Caesar and Otto were two of the characters. I liked them and wanted to turn it into a feature film. We were always trying different characters out to see how the chemistry was. It was sort of like a hybrid of “The Three Stooges”, where we tried to make the Curly-like character the hopeless romantic. Whether people like these characters or not, they were the ones that worked best for me.
ZM: Were you friends with everyone in the cast?
DC: We’ve become friends. Since working on these films, we’ve done three of these together, one I don’t really talk about. I don’t talk about the original “Caesar and Otto” because it wasn’t up to the quality of the follow-ups. Who was in the original “Caesar and Otto” was Ken MacFarlane and Scott Aguilar who has been in all my films. What was originally a cast list, now we have become friends. So much of the cast has helped me to put this series together.
ZM: You have some B-movie royalty in there, how did you meet up with people like Lloyd Kaufman and Felissa Rose?
DC: Felissa and I met in early 2000 on the set of a New York based commercial and I told her about “Under Surveillance” and she said she would like to audition for it. Little did I know that this was the lead actress from “Sleepaway Camp”. She has become an incredible friend. Like with Brinke Stevens, Felissa told me I should cast Brinke. When I said we should try to get Lloyd Kaufman, my producer said, “I will track down Lloyd Kaufman and I will track down Linnea Quigley”. These are locally shot films so I can get them for a fraction of the rate that they would usually be.
ZM: What was your shooting schedule like for “Deadly Xmas”?
DC: We had to work around Linnea Quigley’s schedule so we shot it in two pieces. She lives in Florida but I found out she was going to be in Burbank, Ca. So before we did anything, we shot her scenes first while she was at a convention. She went right from the convention to the film set, or where we filmed the scenes she was working on. So we shot that in April, then the rest later that year. When we shot the stuff with Linnea, the script was still in flux, pieces still needed to be finalized. So it was two days in April and 10 days in November. Then we spent a little time reshooting scenes I didn’t like.
ZM: There was an animated sequence in the cut that you gave to me that wasn’t in the festival version I saw. Will it be in the final cut of the film?
DC: Yeah, the only reason you didn’t see it at HorrorHound was because they didn’t have the updated version. I went up on stage before hand and said this was the latest copy, could you put this in instead, but then in thirty seconds it still didn’t go on so…. what you saw then wasn’t the final version.
ZM: Where did the idea for the sequel come from?
DC: The same way I came up with the idea for “Summer Camp Massacre”. “SCM” was a matter of convenience. I didn’t want to do an alien film, I didn’t
want to do a zombie film. I wanted to do something that wasn’t effects intensive but still a distinct genre. With “SCM”, I thought I would write this role for Felissa and see if she wants to do it. Knowing Felissa and having a location was how the first one came about. I couldn’t do “House of Dracula” so I had to come up with an idea that was just as much as a distinct genre but still open for a lot of humor. So there is this whole Christmas subgenre with films like “Silent Night, Deadly Night” and “Black Christmas”. It is such a distinct genre in itself that it was ripe for lampooning. We spoof other things along the way but that was the starting point. It was the right thing to do as opposed to the more ambitious “Dracula”. I really enjoyed “Silent Night, Deadly Night”, I think it has some really strong writing and filmmaking as well. I was a bigger fan of that than I was “Sleepaway Camp”.
ZM: You dropped out of film school, right?
DC: I went for one year.
ZM: So you are basically self-taught.
DC. Yeah, I also spend time working on indie films and got my education from working hands on. Now “Deadly Xmas” is my fourth feature film.
ZM: How did you secure financing for the film?
DC: My first was the most ambitious and got money from many local businesses and friends. They financed half and I would finance the other half. But now, the films are much cheaper. It’s basically myself and the producing partners that handle it.
ZM: How well did “SCM” do when it was released on DVD?
DC: It had a small theatrical release but as far as the DVD goes, I’m still waiting on numbers. So I’m not really sure how well it did. It seems that the Amazon sales rank remains intermittently high but I just don’t know yet. It’s doing O.K. but is still slipping under the radar. I’m disappointed that fans of “Sleepaway Camp” probably haven’t heard of it. Which they should!!
ZM: How has the overall response been to the series?
DC: I think there is a lot of love/hate. You’re one of the people who get it and not everyone does. Some people just wonder, “What is this?” It’s a comedy/horror film. Not horror/comedy, its comedy first and foremost. When people get that and enjoy slapstick, they love the films. I’m hoping that at least half the audience loves it.
ZM: You also have out a new short, correct?
DC: Yeah, it’s “The Perfect Candidate” and it is about Joe Esteves running for president. He’s the lead but there is a little Caesar and Otto in it.
ZM: Do you plan on carrying on with these characters for a while?
DC: As long as there is an audience I have every intention to.
ZM: Tell me about your latest film “Fear the Reaper”.
DC: We’ve shot some test footage and later this year we will shoot the entire film. The test footage was really for the Kickstarter campaign I will be doing to generate interest.
ZM: What are your feelings on things like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo?
DC: Other than the fact that EVERYONE is using it, I think it’s great. Every week I get people asking me for money for their projects and I’m just trying to get money for mine. I feel like everyone is using it but nonetheless, it’s a great thing.
ZM: Are you interested in branching out into any other genres?
DC: I feel that right now my heart and soul is in the horror and comedy realm. I love everything from political thrillers to dramas but I realize that really isn’t the place for me to generate interest. So I wanted to prove myself in a genre that is more commercially viable.
ZM: You have obviously grown as a filmmaker from one film to the next.
DC: I hope so, I was trying my best not to make the two films too connected. So if people didn’t see the first film they could follow the second.
ZM: You can pretty much plug those characters into any film and it would work as a standalone film.
DC: People have said to me to do sitcoms with the characters, a western with the characters, but first I want to get them through the “Paranormal Halloween” which would lampoon thing like “Paranormal Activity” and “Halloween”. There are so many ideas and so many subgenres but I want to do that next.
You can learn more about the “Caesar & Otto” movies by visiting the official website. “Caesar and Otto’s Deadly Xmas” will be making its way to New York the weekend of January 19-20 at the Macabre Faire Film Festival in Rockville, New York. You can check here for updates as well as the official Facebook page for “Caesar and Otto’s Deadly Xmas”. Dave is a great and hard-working fella. He is the real deal and I want to thank him for taking the time to talk with me. He deserves our support.
Interview: Dave Campfield (Caesar and Otto’s Deadly Xmas)