Tate- Hi Janel! I am great! How are you?
I am good! Oh my God. I am so excited to talk to you because I actually reviewed “Face Off” and I loved the show and the work you do!
Tate- That is great! Thank you very much. I appreciate it. I am glad you enjoyed the show. It wasn’t easy.
It was great! Obviously, “Puppet Master” is so legendary. Now, tell us how you became involved with working on, “Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich?”
Tate- Well, it’s really odd. There were several points of connection that I wasn’t even aware of. I was represented by a company called Caliber Media in New York as a director when I lived there. Dallas Sonnier was the owner of Caliber. I was connected to Dallas through that company years and years ago. So what happened was, I relocated to the Mid-West as well as Dallas did and my manager who had worked for Caliber called me up one day and said, listen this guy has moved to Dallas, Texas and he is right near you. You are in Oklahoma. I think you guys should connect. My manager put us on the phone together and that’s exactly what happened. Dallas and I became really good friends and he started telling me about his goal to slowly take over the world one horror movies at a time and the first one would be “Puppet Master.” I was a “Puppet Master” fan as a kid so I was all in. I was really excited to have access to such legendary characters.
How does that feel for you? When you are creating something this incredible for something that you grew up loving?
Tate- It’s surreal. It is surreal and nerve wracking because you know while I am having my own fun, I am enjoying it for my own personal reasons. There is also that added dread of, I am dealing with something that is hallowed ground for so many people. This is such an important film to so many people. What are they going to think about the new designs? What are they going to think about the puppets? So it was nerve wracking for the longest time and leading into the first festival screening I was walking on egg shells. It has been really cool to see that the majority of the “Puppet Master” fan base is really sharing in my vision and they seemed to really enjoy what we did with it.
Now, what aspects of the puppets did you work on and what type of challenges did you face?
Tate- Well, I built all of the puppets from skeleton to skin. From head to toe. Me and my team, we built everything puppet and the challenges were everything… Because puppets don’t listen. They don’t take coaching. So they are literally this limp little piece of wood and plastic that you have to make alive. The additional challenge was we were not going to do stop motion just because we wanted to have something a little more modern looking. At the same time the writer and Dallas were very adamant about the fact that they didn’t want to use any sort of computer additions. Everything you see in the movie puppet-wise is hand puppeteer and rod-puppeteer. So it is all practical stuff. So that is the challenge, you know showing up on a location your unfamiliar with, looking around and saying okay, where do I hide a human body. How do I make a person disappear in here and make a puppet move? So you know it was a process. But it’s super rewarding because you turn around and watch the playback and you see this little, inanimate object coming to life.
Tate- Oh man, I mean we did everything from simple rod placement to full body green screen leotards that have these poles that lead out to the puppets. We had poles leading from our feet to the puppet feet and then our arms controlled their arms and basically a little connective device of all of our joints to all of their joints. It is pretty silly on-set when you see a full grown man in a green screen leotard taking three inch steps to make a puppet move. Then it is pretty cool as soon as you grab that and you remove it and then you just have a little puppet walking across the screen.
Oh, did you have a favorite scene from the film, without giving away any spoilers?
Tate- Oh, I definitely have a favorite scene. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but what I will say is that it is probably the most disturbing horror scene, definitely the most disturbing horror scene in a fun, comedic driven film. Of course there are films like the “Serbian” film that go down and beyond but for a movie like this, there is a scene. How do I say it without spoiling it? You will know it, when you see it.
Ohhhh, I know what you are talking about! I know the scene. It is quite a scene! It made an impact! I love the “Puppet Master” films and “Subspecies” is everything! And “Puppet Master” is the best. People want to see the puppets and they want to know what will they do next?
Tate- Exactly! That is a good point for this movie. There is a lot coming next. We have an entire prequel planned.
So you will definitely be involved with the next one?
Tate- Oh, absolutely. Dallas basically asked for the rights to the rest of my human life so I will be making a lot of films with those guys. They are fantastic and to be honest, I really don’t want to work with anybody else. It is such a rarity to find good producers that are also good people. That is the thing that draws me back to them and the thing that will keep me working with them.
Tate- I just want to say that I hope that you feel the reverence that we had for your favorite puppets. You are not dealing with people here that are just trying to flip a title. You are dealing with people that love “Puppet Master.” Dallas loves “Puppet Master” and I love “Puppet Master.” We both watched it when we were kids. We love these characters and we hope that the love shines through. Give it a chance because I think you will be pleased.
Did you receive any feedback from Charles Band?
Tate- Charlie Band was extremely supportive. I met him for the first time at Texas Frightmare Weekend when we sort of unveiled some of the puppets and we also did a little teaser trailer. It was amazing to have him come up to me, holding the puppets that I made and say, these things look cool. He liked them, supported them and we have a lot of things planned with Charles. This is just the beginning.
Do you have anything else that you are working on that you can reveal at all?
Tate- Yeah, I am directing and speaking of working with Charlie, I am directing the “Castle Freak” re-boot which was another Full Moon.
Oh Lord, I just got goosebumps.
Tate- Yeah! It is going to be insane. Right now we are working on the script and getting things ready for development. We are going to be doing a film with Fangoria called, “Satanic Panic.” Then right after that we are doing “Castle Freak.”
Tate- I know right! Nope, we are shrouding this in secrecy but we have some really fun stuff planned. It is going to be a lot more brutal. We are also bringing in the Lovecraft element that it was based on and amplifying it about a thousand times. So all the Lovecraft fans in the world are really going to enjoy this one and all the “Castle Freak” fans are going to get exactly what they want too and just general horror fans will be blood-soaked.Now, last questions did you have anyone that inspired you professionally when you were growing up?
Tate- Yes, Rick Baker. I watched the making of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and that changed my life. When I saw Rick Baker taking something in his hands and putting it on an actor and turning them into a monster I realized that my obsession with monsters did not have to end the older I got. I could actually just go from the little kid who was smearing ketchup on his face, pretending it was blood into a professional. If it wasn’t for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” I may be a lawyer or something boring like that.
Well, you are kick ass and rad and you do an amazing job so it was an honor to talk to you.
Tate- Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Thank you so much for your time and thank you for all the kind words.