HORRORNEWS: Welcome my very special guest Mr. Justin McConnell to Horrornews.net. It’s been well documented your trials and tribulations while making The Collapsed. What gives an independent producer and director the intestinal fortitude to persevere when arguably many others would have simply given up?
JUSTIN McCONNELL: Ah, ‘Intestinal Fortitude’. That also happens to be a good song by Nuclear Rabbit. In all honesty, I just think I’ve always had an attitude in which I just don’t give up. Early on expected the road to feature film production would be a long and rocky one, and time gave me the wisdom to reinforce that assumption. The way I look at it is – if you want something badly enough, and have the willpower to make it happen, then giving up on the way to accomplishing that goal would make every misstep, roadblock and soul-crushing defeat along the way completely meaningless. And they have to mean something. They have to be part of your education. That’s how you improve your craft, meet your dreams, and in a larger sense, grow up.
HN: What was the inspiration or brainchild behind The Collapsed? Without unveiling any spoilers tell us about this harrowing post apocalyptic tale.
JM: The basis for the story came out of an already established ‘universe’ that my writing partner Kevin Hutchinson and I have been working with over the past 5 years or so. We had written several scripts in this world before The Collapsed was even the glimmer of an idea – The Eternal, Deliver Us, New Generation, Tripped – but in order to open the doors to make our world come to life on a larger scale, we needed the stepping stone film. We took an element of the story from these other films (which I must clarify are also standalone stories, with connecting threads), brainstormed that to it’s logical conclusion, and The Collapsed was born. Chronologically it’s actually the last film out of all those scripts, so hopefully potential fans will have fun as we reveal the various events that lead to the downfall in The Collapsed. We wanted to do a post-apocalyptic film that we could afford to make for the miniscule budget we had to work with, and something that hadn’t been done before, and luckily the answers lay in our other work. Hopefully that explains enough while giving away absolutely nothing.
HN: You’ve been a terror enthusiast for several years. Who were some of your greatest influences? Define what fear means to Justin McConnell.
JM: The dreaded ‘influences’ question. We could be here all day listing these, and I’ve gone on about them ad naeseum in other interviews. I always answer this one and then think “oh crap, I forgot 10 people”. So, with that stated, this is in no way comprehensive. I’ve always loved the horror on the fringe of the mainstream, but have to cite the ‘masters’ that I grew up watching as the first and therefore most important: Carpenter, Romero, Argento, Raimi, Craven, Hooper, Fred Dekker, Henenlotter, Friedkin, Cameron, Scott, Dante, Coscarelli…. But that shouldn’t take any credit from the greats in the indie world… guys like Larry Fessenden, Larry Cohen, Michele Soavi, Xavier Gens, Adam Mason. Hell, there are even some movies that most would consider ‘terrible’ that I’ve loved elements of and found inspiration in. It’s kind of endless.
HN: A known advocate and active participant in the film fests and Comic-cons, what do you enjoy the most about the conventions? What has been your most bizarre fan encounter?
JM: As I attend more of these as a guest or filmmaker, instead of fan, everything just keeps getting more surreal. Hanging out with actors I’ve watched and respected when I was a kid has been somewhat of a bizarre feeling. But I take it all in stride and enjoy most of it quite a bit. I love the networking and festive aspects of the conventions, and the whole ‘you never know who you’ll break bread with next’ side of things. Some of the most surreal moments: being in a big circle of people talking to Malcolm McDowell, and everyone but me only talking about his role on Entourage (I consider this the equivalent of meeting William H Macy and only being able to talk about Wild Hogs)….. the after-hours endless party hallways of Days of the Dead in Indianapolis last year…. Signing at a table next to one of my favorite actors, Michael Rooker, this past weekend in Calgary…. Grayston Holt putting me in a head-lock (all in good fun!)…..
As for things that have happened to us – during a signing at the Anchor Bay booth in Toronto last year somebody had us sign this zombie painting, and we couldn’t figure out why. Then I realized behind our posters for The Collapsed was a massive banner for The Walking Dead. I think the guy thought we were the crew from the show or something. So, somewhere out there a fan has a signed original painting covered in signatures by the wrong people.
HN: On the surface this may appear to be an unusual question yet I’ve received a number of inquiries from fans on availability of The Collapsed and how one may go about getting their own copy. On the same token a much belated congratulations on being picked up by Anchor Bay Canada for distribution. Is there any further development on a release date?
JM: Tons. We’re in 12 countries at this point. It’s already out in Japan. They changed the title to Crazy World and made the cover art look like a Roland Emmerich film. Anchor Bay actually picked up the film for USA, Canada and Australia/New Zealand. In North America it’s out June 5th on a bonus feature loaded DVD and VOD, and in the UK it’s out June 11th via Lions Gate. We have a deal in place for Germany/Benelux but no release date at the moment, and Australia/New Zealand is still undated, but coming.
HN: Let’s talk about The Eternal. I know this project is very passionate for you. Any updates on reprising production?
JM: Yeah, The Eternal is a film I can’t wait to get made. Not just because I’m really looking forward to getting it off the page and onto the screen, but so that I can stop being ‘the guy who is developing The Eternal’ and start being ‘the director of that kick-ass action-horror movie’. Or at least, my hope is that it’ll be enjoyed that much. It’s a very different beast (pun intended) than The Collapsed. I know a small section of the audience for our first film didn’t really get onboard with the slow-burn approach to the story, so this is a film for them. It’s wall-to-wall action, guts, gore and fun. And I think people will be surprised at just how much the story is expanded from the short film that started it all, Ending the Eternal. Not only that, but we’ve got some very exciting cast interested (that I must keep a lid on for now). If it makes it to the screen the way it’s being shaped currently, I think genre fans are in for a treat. We have bigger ideas, but this one is a love letter to the films that first got me loving the genre. Right now we’re in a better position than we have been in the past, so it’s just a matter of getting all our proverbial ducks in a row and finally pulling the trigger. And those worried that the film has a vampire in it, and that vampires are lame – don’t worry. Samuel doesn’t sparkle. He rips your head off for looking at him the wrong way.
HN: What’s on the horizon for Justin McConnell? How can fans best reach out?
JM: The immediate future holds a short film, a web series called ‘Rub One Out’, and with any luck, The Eternal. After that, who knows? We’ll see. I’m on all of the usual social networking, and easy enough to find. The main company homepage is www.unstableground.net, and the official sites for our 3 current films are www.thecollapsed.com, www.theeternalmovie.com, and www.skullworldmovie.com
HN: I thank you Justin McConnell for this captivating interview. We eagerly look forward to bone chilling terror in the release of The Collapsed.
Interview: Justin McConnell (The Collapsed, The Eternal)