back, how would you consider your five year spanish experience
with FILMAX's FANTASTIC FACTORY? Any personal regrets or philosophical
fact I was working on the Fantastic Factory project in Barcelona
for 7 years (not five). It has been one of the best projects of
my career because I was able to do something that I had been trying
to do for quite a few years which was to create a label, or a
line of films. Since Filmax was a local video company with no
real production when I arrived, I had the added opportunity to
help create a production system and help a company become a mini-studio.
This has given me an invaluable experience. Not only was I able
to try out my own ideas and see if they would work, but I was
able to see from the inside the dynamics of a financing/production/distribution
entity and experience the conflicts, support and politics that
this entails. Of course there have been great frustrations to
go along with the great satisfactions. There are wonderful memories
and bitter aftertastes.
One is that general corporate accounting is very different from
how an accountant works within a film prouction. But some companies
have what we refer to in America as a ‘mom and pop’
business mentality.I believe that many of the problems I encountered
can be traced to disagreements from the very beginning related
to the business plan I submitted at the end of 1998. In that plan
was a structure for producing 3-4 low budget genre movies in English
per year using a single production team (not for the shooting,
mind you, but for the mounting and finishing of the productions).
Then the idea was to develop one larger more ambitious film every
year or two in order to aim higher. (This was how DARKNESS fits
in.) The business plan provided for a department to be supervised
by me that included a business affairs lawyer, a development department,
an accountant and a producer for each film. Also there needed
to be an international sales outlet. All of these things were
put in place (although unfortunately, these entities did not report
directly to me) except for the accountant and producer per picture.
This is due to two issues, one which is common to many European
production companies and another which is specific to some but
which is generally limited to smaller companies. The accounting
for the films was all controlled by the corporation’s accounting
department. This is a problem for two reasons.
means that in small businesses in which a husband and wife (‘mom
and pop’) are the owners there is a control of costs based
on one person signing all the checks and controlling all the costs.
This works fine in small businesses, but in a larger one it creates
a bottle-neck and inefficiency. In a film it takes the control
of costs away from the producer. Only in my situation in Spain
did I ever produce a film in which I wasn’t one of the signatories
on the checks for production. Without signing the checks (or at
least having my approval necessary for any check to be written)
it is not possible to create an efficient and creatively flexible
production. This imbalance led to the various departments in the
productions progressively going ‘over my head’ when
a decision didn’t suit them. This is related to the issue
of having an individual producer on each production. In the case
of the producer it has more to do with the creative rather than
the money side (although in a film production creative and financial
are inextricably combined).
is your opinion about the differences between European methods
of production and American ways?
Europe there is an understanding of the producer as the one who
finances the film. This concept of a producer is valid when very
few films are being made and the producer actually finances as
well as produces ‘day-to-day’. It was my reputation
and connections in the international markets that made the presales
possible for the films in the Fantastic Factory (expecially the
first ones) so in a sense I was very much key to the financing
- but, I was not directly responsible for putting up the money.
On RE-ANIMATOR, my first film, I financed the film, supervised
every step of the process from script development to casting to
post, as well as making the distributions agreements. In a production
line situation at a studio or like the Fantastic Factory this
is impossible. So in Hollywood this has led to the position of
‘Executive Producer’ which often identifies the producer
involved with the financing and dealmaking with the distributor.
Then the ‘Producer’ becomes the one responsible for
the production in general especially in the creative aspect. The
‘Line Producer’ is the producer responsible directly
for the production management aspects of the production.
Spain (and much of rest of Europe) there is a lack of an extensive
commercial film industry, and so the title of ‘Producer’
has normally meant what we have referred to above as the ‘Executive
Producer’. And to confuse matters further, in Spain the
title ‘Productor Ejecutivo’ refers to a combination
of what we have mentioned above as ‘Producer’ and
‘Line Producer’. In Spain the ‘line producer’
is normally the ‘head of production’ or ‘production
manager’. However, when you are developing a line of productions
you must develop a more sophisticated system. What we run up against
is the inclination of company chiefs to take the credit of ‘producer’
even if they have little to do with the actual creative or day-to-day
aspects of production. This lust for credit can sometimes lead
to absurd and embarrassing credit blocks which list the same individual
as ‘producer’ as well as ‘executive producer’.
problem of credit was present at the very beginning of the Fantastic
Factory and finally led to the unravelling of the scheme. It is
also why it was not possible for me to get the company to approve
the hiring of individual producers for each production. Sometimes
there is an idea that the director can make the movie by himself
and that a producer is only necessary to provide the logistical
assistance and financing. This is an unfortunate byproduct of
the ‘auteur’ theory, the idea that a film is a work
of art concieved and realized from the fevered brow of one talented
individual. It may be true in some special cases, and perhaps
especially true in ‘art’ films, but in the world of
commercial cinema this can be an attitude that works against the
successful production of audience pleasing entertainment. Normally
a film is a collaborative effort which includes the talents and
criteria of many artists and technicians, and in my experience
there are usually a handful of key creative collaborators. Certainly
the director is almost always central. Other key collabroators
can include, to varying degrees, the writer, director of photography,
editor, actor or production designer. And most often the producer.
But this necessitates a creative producer who has the power of
the purse as well as the time to focus clearly on the project
at hand in order to shape it and better it along the lines laid
out by the distributor, writer and director.
you elaborate a bit on about HALCYON PICTURES? Is it a new company
that you founded or co-founded, a pre-existing company you joined
forces with or what?
International Pictures is a new sales and production company created
by myself, Ted Chalmers and Ray Haboush in February of 2006. The
idea for me was to join with Ted and Ray, who both have extensive
foreign sales experience in a company that would sell pictures
internationally as well as produce our own films. My thought was
that by being involved with them I could have a closer contact
with the sales and thus the financing of films. Also, by being
involved in sales I could get involved in film projects in which
I didn’t participate as director or producer. By handling
foreign sales I could justify my helping on projects like the
Finnish poltregeist film EverDark.
new Brian Yuzna "scream slate" is really exciting, ambitious
and fan-friendly: SPRAWL, EVERDARK and a new RE-ANIMATOR trilogy.
In particular, I'm quite excited and -ahem- fuckin' nuts about
EVERDARK because I know that you've always wished to finally direct
a ghost-story. What can you say or reveal about SPRAWL and EVERDARK?
Can you give me a world-exclusive scoop,
is to be directed by the writers, Tommi Lepola and Tero Molin
of Tampere, Finnland. It is based on a true poltregeist event
in Tampere in the 1880’s. They have conceived of the story
as a kind of Exocist/Poltregeist film and the snowy winter setting
is very atmospheric. I have really enjoyed working with them on
the project look forward to the production. You are right, I have
always wnated to direct a ghost story (perhaps you remember EXHIBITION,
the Amsterdam Ghost Story I was developing before I moved to Spain?),
but in the case of EVERDARK I will not be directing.
SPRAWL is a ‘creature feature’. A story of a rabid
bear attacking a suburban neighborhood that has encroached upon
the bear’s habitat. And the Re-Animator Trilogy is fairly
self explanatory. Three more Re-Animator films with which to resolve
the saga of Herbert West. The proposed first one, HOUSE OF RE-ANIMATOR
would have West being called to the White House to re-animate
the deceased Vice-President. Of course, by the time the dust settles,
even the President has been re-animated and West is the power
behind the throne. The second would be RE-ANIMATOR UNBOUND! West
would have his own feifdom amidst a war zone. There his experiments
take him directly in conflict with religion and face to face with
the Old Ones of Lovecraftian lore. The final episode would be
RE-ANIMATOR BEGINS. After having his mind pretty much erased by
the trauma of Unbound! West is brought back to his senses (during
which we get to see some of West’s boyhood) by a mysterious
doctor who turns out to be his mentor Dr. Gruber’s niece.
Back at the medical school in Switzerland (where it all began
in the original RE-ANIMATOR) West recreates his early experiments,
but makes the fatal mistake of breaking one of his basic tenants
when he finds himself having feelings for....a woman.
high-concept behind HOUSE OF RE-ANIMATOR is freakin' genius, outrageous
and really funny: the world biggest nation is run by a Bush-like
re-animated corpse...Correct me if I am wrong but this time you
and Stuart Gordon got a bigger budget, a prominent mainstream
actor (William H. Macy) and the long-awaited return of Barbara
Crampton in the First Lady role. Stunning...
we are trying to get a bigger budget. Yes, Macy is interested
in the role of the President and we would like to bring back Dan
Cain to confront West for ruining his life. However, because the
picture would be a bigger budget it has presented difficulties
in the financing.
I have doubts about the House of Re-Animator being too specifically
a satire on the Bush administration. Basing an horror movie too
clearly on current events can have the effect of making the movie
out-of-date as soon as it is finished. To my mind the idea of
West in the White House has a kind of timeless quality that deals
with governmental power, hubris and corruption in any country
at any time - especially this one. I like the idea of the government
funding West’s experiments for their own political and ideological
I maintain that politics is a more natural subject for Science
Fiction than Horror. The best Horror deals with psychology, religion,
death, flesh. But a horror film reflects the times in which it
is made, including the political climate. I think that there is
real horror in the White House today, and that if we can keep
our sense of humor it can be the basis of a successful horror
film. It would be great fun to see West running the government.
almost debuted in the comic-book industry with the horror one-shot
METAMORPHOSIS. Is there a release date yet? From the solicitation
it seems to be a project in the beautiful vein of Society and
the Dentist that includes all your personal obsessions, such as
high-class society's bad habits and betrayals. Am I correct? What
can you say about the plot? Originally Metamorphosis has been
conceived like a movie, is there still a possibility that you
are going to shoot it?
have gotten involved in the comics world as a way to develope
movie projects. And that was the idea behind METAMORPHOSIS. Dario
Gulli and I have developed the story of a sports hero, a baseball
player, who has been taking designer drugs to boost his performance.
But, naturally, the drugs are not only making him a champion -
they are having some very unnatural side-effects.... The great
fun of the comics business is that it moves very fast and the
cost of realizing a story is miniscule compared to film. Of course,
there is commesurately very little money to be made on an ordinary
comic book. But the absolute fun of inventing the stories and
seeing them being realized is fantastic. And I think that it can
be an efficient way to develope movie stories. So, I have always
imagined METAMORPHOSIS as a film.The project began when Dario
Gulli was art director of
Comics.We also worked together on a horror anthology which reached
only three issues called HORRORAMA. Unfortunately, it became complicated
to work with Narwain, and Dario has since moved on to enter into
a partnership with Media Mobile which is based in Terni, Italy.
So, METAMORPHOSIS has been taken with him there. I wrote a movie
screenplay based on the METAMORPHOSIS comic screenplay and found
that it was only half the length of a feature film. Now with Media
Mobile we are developing HORRORAMA into an animated series into
which METAMORPHOSIS might fit.
Other comic projects that I am working on include a title based
on Chinese ghost stories that is being written by Rob Aft, and
an adaptation of RE-ANIMATOR that is being written by Barry Keating.
The first Re-Animator movie will be adapted into three comic book
issues and follow quite closely the style and the story of the
original movie. Then the idea is to continue onto the second movie,
but first fill in the story between the first two movies. Finally
I would like to tell the story of West through to the end and
include the other three movies that I would like to make: HOUSE
OF RE-ANIMATOR, RE-ANIMATOR UNBOUND! and RE-ANIMATOR BEGINS (all
are just working titles, of course).
in the '90 I remember that you were developing a live-action version
of GO NAGAI'S DEVILMAN, the all-time best horror japanese manga
ever. I think that this one was, possibly, the perfect material
for your visionary directing skills: Why the movie fell apart?
Can you speak extensively about it? Was there a screenplay about
Devilman? If yes, who penned it? I know that SCREAMING MAD GEORGE
made storyboards about it...
was a project that I developed with Screaming Mad George, Aki
Komine and Taka Ichise. After THE GUYVER the Japanese financiers
were interested in moving forward on DEVILMAN. We had a script
written which followed quite closely the first Devilman Manga
and animes. As we got closer to production Aki Komine and I had
somewhat of a falling out and it seemed to me to be prudent to
not push forward on the project. It was a very exciting project,
difficult to adapt to film in those pre-digital fx days, and very
dark and amoral. I would have to review my extensive files about
this project in order to remember the details of the development.
I know that we did have at least one completed screenplay.
what happened to the PATLABOR live-action movie to be directed
by Christophe Gans with 3D FX effects by the late Dave Allen?
was a project that Christophe was interested in doing directly
after CRYING FREEMAN. Kazunori Ito was a writer on the Patlabor
Anime and we knew him from writing one of the episodes of NECRONOMICON.
Unfortunately the budget necessary to realize a live action version
of PATLABOR was unattainable. Instead Christophe developed NEMO
with Samuel Hadida.
hottest and crazy Hollywood trend is the american remake of Japanese
horror movies and manga (The Ring, The Grudge, Battle Angel Alita),
but you have been the first filmmaker in the world genuinely interested
in Japanese culture (Society's Wild Street was funded by japanese
investors) with the production of MUTRONICS and CRYING FREEMAN.
What do you think about this fashionable mainstream tendency?
am a big fan of the Japanese mangas and animes and as you point
out I was one of the first to develop Hollywood films based on
that rich source material. Notice that Taka Ichise is the creator
of ‘J-Horror’, the producer of the RING movies, GRUDGE
movies, DARK WATER, and many many others. I met Taka when he first
came to LA and we produced NECRONOMICON and CRYING FREEMAN together.
also helped him set up the deal that resulted in BLUE TIGER, FIST
OF THE NORTH STAR,AMERICAN YAKUZA etc.
SOCIETY and BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR financing
come from Japan due to the involvement of Paul White, one of the
founders of Wild Street Pictures. Paul lived in Tokyo at the time
and Wild Street was backed by a Japanese company. Aki Komine was
working at Wild Street Pictures, and when Wild Street had an acrimonious
breakup, Aki approached me about making some films. He is the
one who brought me the DEVILMAN project and we worked quite closely
for many years. He also introduced me to Taka Ichise. Aki continues
to live and work in Los Angeles.
The fashion of adapting Japanese horror films to Hollywood productions
can be attributed to the high quality and originality of the films
themselves. And we must not undervalue the part that Roy Lee had
in convincing the Hollywood studios to remake these films. Without
the international (i.e. ‘Hollywood’) remakes of these
films the viewer base would have been limited to the cineastes
and genre fans. Instead the J-Horror style has reached the mainstream
and is regularly incorporated into the general horror film. We
saw this phenomena in the 90’s with the great success of
the Hong Kong action films epitomized by John Woo’s films
(A BETTER TOMORROW, HARD BOILED, THE KILLER). These films lifted
the level of action in film to a new level. Although the films
themselves were not directly remade in Hollywood (because there
was no Roy Lee to make the deals?), some directors (like John
Woo, Ronny Yu) and actors (Chow Yun Fat, Jackie Chan) did make
studio pictures. What we saw then was that the Hong Kong action
film had its heyday and then sank beneath the weight of multitudinous
imitations and lack of new ideas. The Hong Kong action film still
exists as a vital part of the international film scene, it just
isn’t the exciting and fashionable event it once was. This
happened with the ‘spaghetti westerns’ in the 1960’s
and 1970’s before them and is likely to be the fate of J-Horror
today. But, I think that J-Horror will continue and reinvent itself,
just as the Korean Horror and Thai Horror are rising. It is the
Asian sensibility that is giving new life to the horror film and
not just the sensibility of a particular Asian country.
know that in your heart there's an old and very dear "dream-project":
an INVISIBLE MAN remake based on "AMAZON ON THE MOON",
the Ed Begley Jr. segment where he's supposed to be invisible
but no-one notices any difference. Who penned the screenplay?
Can you elaborate extensively about this movie? Is there any possibility
that you can resurrect this project?
I developed the INVISIBLE MAN for Wild Street Pictures and the
project disappeared in the collapse of Wild Street. The first
treatment was written by Woody Keith (one of the writers of SOCIETY)
and was quite faithful in spirit to the original H.G. Wells novel.
It wasn’t like the AMAZON WOMEN ON
(although I am a major fan of it). When Woody left the project
I worked with Wild Street’s development person who brought
in a number of very smart screenwriters to pitch. I had a quite
developed idea of invisibility that I wanted to base the script
on and many of the screenwriters were not interested in that.
Finally I worked with George R.R. Martin who completed a first
draft script. It was not at all like the Wells story. It took
place in the future and dealt with biomechanical limbs, global
warming and virtual immortality - and the invisibility was based
on a pet idea of my own. George Martin is a fantastic sci fi writer
and it was a thrill to work with him on the story. I am a big
fan of his work and would like to adapt some of his stories to
I still carry with me the core of an Invisible Man film idea that
I hope to be able to make some day.
aware that your deepest desire is to make a big-budget movie about
SIMULACRA stuff...Why are you fascinated with such a visual concept?
I got into film I was very interested in visual arts. I painted
etc. And I was fascinated by optical illusions. I guess that goes
along with my interest in fantasy and the fantastic. It was amazing
how an image could change while you were looking at it. This led
me to imagine making a painting in which your eye would be drawn
from one part of the canvas to the next during which time the
painting would become something else, it would be kinetic in that
way. When I began to work with Screaming Mad George we obsessed
on simulacra which is a similar idea. Simulacra is when something
appears to be something it is not. This can be a psychological
projection as when we see shapes in the clouds and faces in rocks,
etc. And it can be a natural phenomena like when a moth or small
fish have markings which make them appear to be bigger so that
predators will avoid them. What fascinated me was the psychological
content simulacra could impart to a film. The problem is that
it is incredibly complicated to make moving simulacra for the
wanted to do it in SOCIETY, but just didn’t have time.
George and I worked on INTIATIATION (SILENT NIGHT DEADLY NIGHT
4) we designed lots of simulacra and even shot some. The story
even tried to be multi layered and psychologically evocative,
kind of stream-of-consciousness. Unfortunately the film did not
work out very well due to my inexperience and over-reaching. But
I am very happy with the simulacra part of the film. Some of it
was inspired by the great scene in Robert Wise’s THE HAUNTING
when the entity is pounding on the door and we imagine faces in
the decorative trim of the door jam. In may of my films I try
to work this method in. For example, in PROGENY you can see simulacra
in the scene where the heroine sees the image of an alien in the
window which then becomes the image of two cops. The intent was
to create a cinematic technique that reflected my interpretation
of the ambiguous reality inherent in the alien abduction theme.
Once again it was less than successful, although I feel like the
film works on its own terms. So, yes, I would love to make a movie
in which SIMULACRA was the theme and technique.
instead of SOCIETY, your feature debut was supposed to be a movie
about a woman discovering all men were aliens: am I totally wrong?
Are there any past projects that you couldn't/can't get off the
ground? Which ones?
must correct you regarding THE MEN. The idea of a woman discovering
that all men are aliens was Dan O’Bannon’s. I worked
with him to develop this into a feature film for him to direct.
There are quite a few projects that I would like to get off the
ground. Many just wait around for the right time, such as DAGON
which was a script that I contracted Dennis Paoli to write in
1985. After many attempts to produce it (first in Wales, then
in Maine) I didn’t find a home for it until I developed
the Fantastic Factory and we made it in Spain. This was almost
twenty years later. So you can see how long a fim project can
The unmade film projects that I have are too numerous to list
and many I don’t even remember until I look into my files.
have been attached in the past to many many movies: WEIRD MUSEUM
penned by Rick Fry, ZEN INTERGALACTIC NINJA, RETURN OF THE LIVING
DEAD 4: HELL MARY, ITALO CALVINO'S THE DISTANCE OF THE MOON, japanese
manga's BAOH, THE DENTIST 3...Is there any update or they are
all dead in the waters?
of the projects that you mention are fairly dead in the water.
WEIRD MUSEUM was one of my favorites. Rick Fry (cowriter of SOCIETY)
has a wonderfully weird sensibility, but I couldn’t find
a way to finance that movie. ZEN reached to the location scouting
phase in Montreal, and we completed many storyboards and extensive
production design. As a director for hire I wasn’t really
privy as to the details as to why the project was not continued.
HELL MARY was just my idea for a sequel to RETURN OF THE LIVING
DEAD 3. No one ever asked me for it, I just wrote it up because
it interested me. Since it doesn’t necessarily have to be
a direct sequel, the project could still be made. However, at
present the zombie genre is a bit oversaturated. THE DISTANCE
OF THE MOON is a project that I still think about often. I love
the short story and upon first reading it appears to be almost
un-filmable. But I have thought of a way to adapt it. I think
that you have confused BAOH with KISEIJU. KISEIJU is a manga that
I was obsessed with making into a film for quite a while. The
problem was with acquiring the rights. But the idea very much
appealed to me and the plasticity of the body parts infected by
the alien parasite was a visual that inspired me. I would still
love to adapt that manga. I was contacted by the producers of
THE DENTIST regarding part 3 about five years ago. However, I
was in the midst of the Fantastic Factory and unable to get involved.
I would like to do it, however, just for the opportunity to work
with Corbin Bernsen in the role of the Dentist again. At one point
I thought that Corbin was interested in buying the sequel rights
to produce it himself.
spite of low-buget and very short production schedules, your movies
have imaginative angles, visual elegance and a wonderful/perfect
control of the "mise-en-scene": maybe because you're
coming from apainting and artistic background?
you for the kind analysis of my film work. In most of my movies
I have been very enthusiastic and sometimes that enthusiasm and
energy has been able to overcome conceptual and production problems.
I don’t think that I am a ‘natural’ storyteller
and I think that my films suffer sometimes from a kind of narrative
imbalance or lack of narrative resolution. My interest in visual
arts and conceptual ideas has sought to make up for any possible
storytelling deficiencies, and perhaps that is what you are referring
to. Often I think that I chase an idea visually (often blindly,
but with great enthusiasm) and hope that in the end the film embodies
that process and achieves a simple satisfying result. Generally
this simple, satisfying result has not been suficiently achieved,
but to those who have a favorable response to my films the visual
or ideational energy makes up for it. When I have tried to focus
more on the traditional elements of filmmaking, I seem to have
less interesting results.
has been one of the most influential, unique, radical and outrageous
horror of the last 15 years to say the least: the sublime nail
in the coffin of 80's horrors and a near-perfectly sharped satire
of reaganian edonism: do you agree? Have you ever considered a
enough, it took many years before I realized that there was any
real appreciation for SOCIETY. It seemed like a hopeless disappointment
for the audiences I showed it to and the reviews were for the
most part desparaging. I loved it of course. But the American
audiences in particular responded to the weakeness of the filmmaking
and especially the ambiguity of many of the elements. With SOCIETY
I was chasing a kind of free-associative visual development. From
the beginning I was fascinated by the script by Woody Keith and
Rick Fry. The paranoia in it struck a chord with me because I
had just spent many months imagining the paranoia of THE MEN.
When that project fell through, I was completely receptive to
the paranoia of Keith/Fry. However, as you know, I was not satisfied
with the resolution of the original script. I wanted something
fanstastic, so I imagined the images of the ‘shunting’.
Along with Woody and Rick we developed the basic script along
these lines. I am a believer in inspiration. I accept the ideas
that inspire me or a collaborater. So I tried to interpret the
paranoic world that Woody and Rick had created. This took me into
a political realm because the basis of the paranoia was the unease
of someone born into privilege. As a former hippie the idea of
politics as being not only important but entertaining and inextricably
linked to art was a part of my mentality. So I took the idea of
class exploitation and gave it visual and physical shape. This
was for the pure fun of it. Also implicit in the original material
was the desire and fear of incest. So I also worked with the writers
to bring this theme closer to the surface of the story. The working
method for me was to take whatever crazy idea one of us would
come up with and then try to make some narrative sense out of
it. The other main collaborator was Screaming Mad George. With
him I share a fascination with surrealism. He also had inspiring
images in his art. Although his best ideas normally did not fit
into the logic of the narrative, I wouldn’t discard them.
Instead I would try to find the aesthetic logic implicite in them.
This is why some of SOCIETY has a weird exhillarating thrill and
other parts seem like dead ends, unresolved ideas. As a huge horror
fan, I had to admit to myself that SOCIETY did not fit clearly
into the genre. Although this was a little worrisome (gotta think
of the buyers), for my taste it had everything that was fun in
a movie. It gave me a thrill to watch it so I thought it must
be okay. And it was one of the best times of my life to shoot
Yes I have thought about a sequel. Lately it occured to me that
it might be intersting to have a main character who is not one
of Society, but who wants to join, no matter what the cost.
to Mr. Brian Yuzna - copyright Emiliano Carpineta
or total reproduction is strictly prohibited)