Talking With The Dead: 15 Questions With Kevin Strange
1. After visiting your site, I have to admit that I was rolling on the floor after watching your trailers! The twisted and perverse things that I saw not only showed me that you guys have more balls than 95% of the industry, but that beyond the jokes and gore, there is real talent here! How did you first get involved in the industry and what led to the formation of Hack Movies?
First up, thanks for wanting to step into the Strangeville universe and f*ck with Hack Movies and thanks for the props! I don’t consider myself involved with the “industry” in any way. I make extreme, punk rock, guerrilla style, schlock films targeted at people looking for something completely DIFFERENT and outside the normal mainstream of indie flicks. Hack Movies is an island. We don’t make movies like anyone else on the planet. We don’t have investors, we don’t answer to producers, we make the kind of movies we want, when the f*ck, and how the f*ck we want to make them, no compromises!
2. Most film makers may want the same creative freedom that you guys fearlessly present but are afraid that it would be considered career suicide. What made you decide to stray from the serious vein of horror and go in the direction of the outrageous horror comedy?
Well, for starters, I could give a f*ck about a reputation or a career. I make sh*t that I think is funny, f*ck the rest. I chose to make Horror comedy because it’s a style that has spoken to me all my life. I grew up renting sh*t like Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness, Dead Alive, Meet The Feebles, Bad Taste, Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps, Fright Night, The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke Em High, etc.
My favorite music is Insane Clown Posse, Gwar, sh*t like that, sh*t with a theatrical horror/comedy, twisted, offensive bend to it. I’ve always been considered weird or odd because of my off color taste in humor and comedy. I was the dead baby joke guy in high school, I’m the guy who laughs at tragedy…especially my own.
Too many “film makers” try to present vanilla product that doesn’t offend anyone or ruffle anyone’s feathers. I’ve seen dudes blow 25 grand on a flick that has the same tired, recycled, harmless message as thousands of other typical indie flicks, and you know what comes of them all? Nothing. No one gives a sh*t about movies that don’t have a strong or original message. They don’t have to be offensive or perverted like mine, but movies are designed to speak to people, and you can’t speak to people when you have nothing real to say. You’re inevitably going alienate people when you send a strong message, that’s OK. Don’t run away from that! If you have an opinion, voice it through film! People will identify with that opinion, that’s how you make FANS! At least that’s my philosophy, but I don’t know my sh*t from my d*ck so don’t listen to anything I say! I’m just a fat guy in a clown suit selling trash. :)
3. Films like yours harken back to another film studio that I love to death: Troma. With your films, I see comparisons to films like The Toxic Avenger, G.I. Executioner, and Terror Firmer. Were any of these films inspiration to you and do you feel these movies compare favorably to yours?
Yes, Troma was and continues to be an inspiration for me. Lloyd Kaufman is my grandfather’s age. While my grandpa sits on his ass, collects social security, and watches re-runs of Walker Texas Ranger every day, Lloyd is STILL making edgy, offensive movies that continue to push boundaries and entertain generation after generation of Tromites. I only hope that when I’m his age, I’ll have HALF as much passion and balls as Lloyd and Troma.
I consider Hack Movies to be a throwback to the old days. The Roger Corman drive in movies, the Russ Myer sh*t, the exploitation films of Herchell Gordon Lewis and his ilk, the midnight movies of John Waters, the Mom and Pop Video store age of Troma and Full Moon. We have NOTHING like that today. That’s where my passion as a filmmaker comes from, that’s what I want to inspire in todays young filmmakers, the same weird energy and flavor of the movies of our grandfathers’ age. Trash cinema, Schlock Movies, Hack Movies!
4. Having the tremendous amount gore, foul language, nudity and lack of social decorum (this is praise, not ripping!) that your films do, I imagine that finding distribution was a bitch in the beginning. Tempe is handling your films now, but was there ever any consideration from other companies such as Troma?
Internet piracy has grown so pervasive over the last decade, it’s become possible to steal TV shows and feature films just as easily as it was in the late 90s to steal music. Due to this nonsense, the bottom has fallen out of Straight-to-video distribution, making it virtually impossible for DVD Distributors to stay in business, let alone acquire and promote your sh*tty back yard zombie comedy.
So my goal from the beginning was to hit the ground running. My movies are designed to catch your attention from the titles, to the content, to the behind the scenes features. We live in a world where unless you’re Asylum making their “MockBusters” or you’re willing to make absolute SHIT CGI monster movies for the Sci Fi channel, the best you can hope for as an indie filmmaker is to blow all your friend’s and family’s money making a feature film that will play in 3 film festivals that draw 7 people to your screenings, then die a quiet death and be put out to pasture in the graveyard of awful indie movies. That’s not hate, that’s just the cold hard truth I see month after month, year after year at these horror conventions and film festivals.
The content, attitude, and style of Hack Movies has actually HELPED me to float above the rest of the boring, standard, carbon copy muck that clogs up the indie film scene, build up a fan base, move units, and led to TEMPE VIDEO believing in Hack Movies enough to take a chance distributing COCKHAMMER.
When it comes to distributors, they don’t give a sh*t about content. Everyone has content, there are hundreds of thousands, if not MILLIONS of indie films in the world. These guys won’t even watch your movie. They care about numbers, can you sell product? Once you can show a distributor that there are dollar signs to be made off your name, they’ll f*ck with you. So yeah, I’ve contacted dozens of indie distributors over the years about handling sales for Hack in the mass market, but it wasn’t until I could show some real numbers that anyone called me back. I’d love to have a flick on Troma, but they’re pretty slow about getting around to watching the hundreds of sh*tty movies they get sent to their acquisitions office every week. You snooze you lose, and TEMPE came to me at the right time when the right movie came out, and here we are, mere months away from splitting the proverbial hymen of the mainstream!
5. You have handled the writing, directing and editing reigns for your films. What have you found to be the most challenging aspects of each of these jobs in relation to keeping the films in the aspects you imagined them to be?
The writing can be the easiest and one of the hardest parts of making micro-budget feature length films. It’s easy because that’s where you get all the creative freedom in the entire film making process. It’s not a collaborative effort when you write a movie basically alone. You don’t have to compromise your ideas for anyone. However, the compromise begins when you factor in the 500 dollar budgets. My hands are tied as far as writing big locations such as a chase scene during a football game at a stadium, or a helicopter fight sequence, for example. I can hook my flicks up with tits and blood and ridiculous dialogged, but that’s about it at this point in my career.
Directing came a little harder for me, but I think you can see a steady improvement over the course of my 5 films. When you’re an amateur director not paying your crew, it’s natural to have a “take what I can get and be grateful anyone wants to act in my garbage” attitude with direction. But eventually I learned that my crew was dedicated to making the best Hack Movies possible, and I learned to direct them better. Being an Actor/Director has it’s challenges, but oddly, if I’m not acting in a scene, I need to be behind the camera, shooting the action or else I just feel useless on set. I’ve been told I need a monitor but I have never been, nor will I ever be, the kind of director who sits on his ass and watches his movie shot for him.
Editing is interesting at the Hack compound. I’ve had help from the same editor for virtually every flick I’ve done. Jonny James Posner the 3rd. I’m very impatient and worry about big picture stuff. Getting all the footage captured and cataloged. Did we get all the shots? Is it poop? Do we need to re-shoot anything? I’m very quick to get an assembly cut finished, which is where you’ve chosen rough shots of every single shot in your movie on the time line. From there, Jonny sort of takes over and begins to fine tune the scenes, brining a rhythm and flow to the films that people tell me keeps the pacing crisp and sharp. I’ll come back in near the end and mess with the joke timing, scene structure, and I add or remove sh*t that I think is too cool or too lame to or not to include in the final cut. then together Jonny and I build the sound design and score. Exciting stuff for sure!
6. You have kept the majority of your cast and crew the same for all of your films. Can you give us some background on your cast members and what led you to cast them for the roles that you did?
Initially I used my friends and family that I grew up with in my movies . I come from a really sh*tty, low income industrial town on the east side of Strangeville, so I’ve watched everyone I knew in kindergarten grow up, start f*cking, do drugs, have kids, get jobs and die. This leads to a pretty interesting dynamic in my films because I’m so close with my cast. We act more like a family than a film crew and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Each time out, we tend to add a few newcomers to the fold and we’re beginning to bring in actual legitimate acting talent from all over the world, a true testimate to how powerful Hack Movies is becoming. These new cats are accepted in just like the rest, and we usually form bonds with them just as tight as the core group. You don’t just act in a Hack Movie, collect paycheck and move on to the next gig, f*ck that. You’re joining the resistance man! The f*cking rebel alliance! A cinematic crime syndicate! The f*cking YAKUZA of indie film!
7. Lots of people look at dialogged as being one of the most important aspects of a film. While watching your trailers, I was struck by the fact that while your characters have extremely foul mouths and are in horrendous situations, they have incredibly funny and swift comments for every situation. Do you find it easy to write dialog that is that snappy, or is it more of allowing your actors to adjust and ad-lib to what is going on in a particular scene?
One of the worst things you can do as a low budget filmmaker is to be lazy with your writing. It’s unacceptable to your audience and your crew. Writing is free! I’ve sat through some complete garbage that is virtually unwatchable because the filmmakers though it wise to simply outline the scenes and allow the actors to come up with the dialog on the fly. Who do they think they are, Larry David? Come on. Improv comedy is THE single hardest acting style to pull off. Only true comedians do it well, and even they have a well trained editor waiting in the wings to put their mess together into something watchable.
I write virtually every “Fuck”, “Shit” and “Butthole piece” you hear in a Hack Movie long before the actors utter them on screen. Of course. in every film an actor will go off the cuff here or there and add some brilliance to their role, but it is the exception, certainly not the standard. For example, in Colonel Kill Motherf*ckers, Tim Osapien adlibed the now infamous “Robot Chop” line. He didn’t even run it past me before we shot a take of the scene. In the script he was supposed to do some warrior yell and run at Kill, but he screamed “Now it’s time for my robot chop!” and started doing the robot as he waddled up to the villain. I still think that’s one of the funniest visual jokes in a Hack Movie and I had absolutely 0 to do with writing it.
8. All of your movies interconnect with each other in all kinds of comedic and bloody ways. Is this something you plan on continuing to do with future films, and in the process of writing, have you had to go back when writing a script to adjust things to fit your worlds continuity?
This is, I think, one of the absolutely coolest parts of the flicks. That each story kind of plays off the last in some odd way or another. The most obvious being that the films are all set in the peaceful town of Strangeville. But also, every film since Colonel Kill has included the Black Mage Diary. A Lovecraftian style spell book which contains great power, yet dooms all who possess it. Characters like Nixon and Hogan, Wolfram and Windgate, CockHammer and Terrence and Perander also pop up in multiple films. You’ll start to see villains from one film cross over into another series, all kinds of cool Marvel Universe type sh*t! We’re gonna try to make 50…maybe 100 feature films in the Strangeville universe, keep your eyeball particles peeled brothers and sisters, Hack Movies is where the f*ck it’s AT!
9. You guys have a wide range and mix of music in your films. In particular, the death metal you guys used in Stiff Jobs and Colonel Kill Motherf*ckers is on point! Who is the band, how did you get them involved with your projects and are the songs originals pieces specifically for your films?
The main theme music in Colonel Kill is a cool ass local band called Falo6. There’s even a music video on the Stiff Jobs DVD of a montogue of kills from CKM set to Falo6 music. We use that and tons of other underground metal because our FX master PJ owns Necrotic Records, an old school 80s record label that’s home to all sorts of great heavy metal tuneage.
On top of that we’ve got a legendary local guitarist named Tim Osapien and his motley crew of ax lords called The Adoring Heirs who score much of our music. We also just started working with an awesome new cat from Chicago named Drew Fortier who lent his musical magic to a whole lot of COCKHAMMER scenes.
10. You are not kidding when you say you have some hotties on your website! What can you tell us about Zae, Fash, Melissa and the hottie with the Pumpkin monster? How did they get involved with you and Hack Movies?
Wow, I don’t even talk to any of those chicks anymore. That section of the website hasn’t been updated in like 3 years. It didn’t take off the way I wanted it to, and like all things Hack Movies, it would require my complete attention to get it popping off the way it was intended, so I’ll probably just take it down in the next version of the site. Maybe when I’ve got the means, I’ll get it going again when I can actually put a new gallery up once a month, like it was intended.
11. You have recently been on tour with your films, events including Hack Movies Cinema Showgasm at Fubar in St Lois, the 10th annual GATHERING OF THE JUGGALOS, the Fright Night Film Fest in LouisVille, KY and the Scare Fest in Lexington, KY. How well did it go for you guys and do you find the interaction with your fans to be as rewarding as making the films?
Man, this sh*t is ALL ABOUT the fans! It’s some kind of crazy, perverted reciprocal energy or some other weirdo sh*t. I come up with these off the wall, insane stories, sell em to people, and then when we do live shows, my fans, we call em Hack Minions, come running up to me wanting their DVDs, T shirts, Titties and Buttholes signed, pictures, autographs, all manner of fresh sh*t, which pumps me up, and sends me back to Strangeville refreshed and invigorated like when my girl f*cks my fat ass real good, so I can get right back to the grind and pump out even more of this schlock!
This tour has been an eye bulging success. We’ve been drawing more and more fans to each screening, the flicks ALWAYS get a great reaction, and the only people who walk out, are f*cking humorless douche bags who didn’t need to be there in the first place. If you haven’t seen Hack Movies live, get your ass to the nearest con, fest, or indie theater screening featuring the pumpkin cause this sh*t’s NOT something your little wiener pieces want to miss!
12. You had mentioned on your website about some of your trailers being removed from a certain online video site. Was this what led to the formation of Hack TV and how do you find the time to balance that with your film making responsibilities?
Nah, HackTV has been there from the start, it’s like the central location on HackMovies.com where you can see all our trailers, teaser scenes, skits, and promo videos. A lot of people don’t know this, but we do short promo type films for each of our features. Usually they involve Nixon and Hogan getting into some kind of ridiculous trouble while trying to watch the new Hack Movie. There’s over 20 videos in the HackTV player, which can be embedded into your Myspace or website so you can rep the pumpkin 24 mother f*cking 7!
As for our trailers being taken off Youtube, well, corporate devil worshiping conglomerates own that sh*t, and their content has to be homogenized and made politically correct so their precious stock holders don’t up and sell their lame asses at the first sign of controversy. That’s just how the world works. Fuck em, their loss. Truly independent cinema was meant to stay underground.
13. Cockhammer is getting ready to be released in January! What would you like to tell the masses about this film, and how do you feel it stacks up to your previous releases?
Oh man, CockHammer is the f*cking SHIT! By far our best flick yet. We shot it on a new Camera I bought last year which makes that sh*t look like film. We’ve got more characters, more tits, more drug use, more carnage! And the fact that it’s being put out by a legit distributor is just f*cking HILARIOUS to me! That sh*t’s all over Amazon.com! COCKHAMMER from Hack Movies, on Netflix! Are you kidding me? How sweet IS that???
14. After the release of Cockhammer and your extensive promotional tour, what is next for Kevin Strange and Hack Movies?
More of the same my man! We’ve got 6 scripts in the works for the rest of 2009, 2010, and beyond! We’ve got at least 2 more cons this year with screenings, we’re working on another local double feature with our homies and understudies, the 13th floor films (www.the13thfloorfilms.com), and I’m hard at work on the next flick from Strangeville, “Strange Times at Strangeville High”! We hope to shoot this bad mother in November. Shit don’t stop around here, believe that!
15. Thank you for being a film maker who is not shy about expressing your creative mind for those of us tired of the mainstream! What would you like to say to your fans and critics alike?
Thank you for the interview! There’s nothing I love talking about more than this crazy sh*t we call Strangeville. To my fans I’d like to say, we couldn’t do this sh*t without you homies! Keep spreading the gospel of Strange! Keep burning these sleaze bombs to disk and infecting the world with our cinematic STDS! And to my critics, I’d like to say, keep my name in your mouths motherf*ckers! Every time you say my name, my star burns THAT much brighter!
Hasta La Bye Bye ball sacks and p*ssy lips!
Interview: Kevin Strange (Hack Movies)