An Interview with Alexander Shumake – By Misty Layne

MML: Killer School Girls from Outer Space was your first movie, correct? How did the idea come about and how long did it take to come to fruition?

AS: Yes, Killer School Girls from Outer Space is my first feature length movie. Killer School Girls from Outer Space evolved from a number of situations.

At the time, I was going to college and during one of my classes I sketched a fake movie poster for a film titled Attack of the Killer Bunnies from Outer Space- this was to be a movie about a group of Giant Alien Bunnies that terrorized a city (think Godzilla but with cute, fluffy rabbits that have laser eyes).

As time went on, this concept of “Killer Bunnies” eventually developed into the idea of—“What if instead of having the bunnies being rabbits, bunnies were Playboy Bunnies?” I liked the idea of this and still do to be honest, but somewhere between then and whenever we, Bill- the producer and I, decided to write the screenplay it changed to Killer School Girls from Outer Space.

Whatever the beginning of the movie title ended up being, we knew from years of watching old school sci-fi movies that it had to end with- from Outer Space.

From concept to DVD in hand, the film took roughly 2 years to complete. Production lasted 15 days.

MML: You wrote and directed the movie (and had a small cameo!) – what’s your first love – directing or writing or are you equally passionate about them both?

AS: I’m equally passionate about both, writing and directing. Each offers their own satisfactions. Writing allows for creativity and reinvention. I love watching a movie, seeing a great scene and thinking, “If I did this scene I would have done this…” Typically, this thought is what sparks my inspiration to start a project.

For Killer School Girls from Outer Space, I can remember watching the opening scene to The Blob (1958), seeing Steve McQueen and Aneta Corseaut making-out in the car with the top down and saying, “Yes, I love this! But, if this were to happen today they need to be having sex, or maybe she is giving him a blow job.”

This initial thought paved the way for the blow job scene in Killer School Girls and was the first scene I ended up writing. Also, it is my favorite scene in the movie.

Directing is exciting, unpredictable, and collaborative. To actualize your interpretation of a written work, whether it’s yours or someone else’s, is both a rush and a privilege. Especially, when you have a great cast and crew like we did with Killer School Girls.
On the set of Killer School Girls we – the cast, crew, and I – were confronted with many challenges. We were all working together to make the film on time and on budget so when a scene would come together and we all we nailed it, there’s no better feeling- it gets you off and you’re ready for more.

MML: How did you finance the film? Did you use something like Kickstarter or Indiegogo? What do you think of crowd sourcing?

AS: The film was financed via investors. We put together a package consisting of a synopsis, two test scenes, a full marketing plan, and the SEC required documents including a Disclosure statement and Private Placement Memo.

I think crowd sourcing sites, like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, are both good and bad. Crowd sourcing sites offer filmmakers a way to fund their film (at least partially), connect with fans, and begin promotion – this is great. However, too often I think filmmakers use crowd funding sites as a crutch to avoid learning the business side of moviemaking and learning how to involve investors. The truth is, with a few notable exceptions, crowd sourcing rarely yields enough money to fund a feature film that involves one or more name actors, licensing music, and other elements that audiences are used to seeing in movies.

To be successful today, moviemakers must educate themselves on business and promotion. Obtaining funding is obviously a crucial step.

I encourage filmmakers to continue using crowd sourcing; it’s a great way to get initial feedback and gain insight as to who your target audience is. But it cannot replace the experience and benefits of establishing a long-term business relationship with investors.

MML: How did you get Ron Jeremy in your film??

AS: Bill, the producer of Killer School Girls, initially meet Ron Jeremy at his 49th birthday party being held at, the now out of business, KATZ’S DELI during the 2001 SXSW Film Festival where “The Hedgehog” was promoting a documentary about himself, called The Legend of Ron Jeremy.

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A few years later, Ron Jeremy was back in Austin, TX promoting his new autobiography when Bill approached him with the idea of playing The Sheriff in our film. Ron was instantly thrilled by the offer and passed along his agents contact information.

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Two years later, we had a finished script for Killer School Girls from Outer Space; we e-mailed Ron’s agent the script and made a deal for Ron Jeremy to play “The Father”!

MML: Killer School Girls was a sort of homage to Roger Corman and sci-fi B movies of old – how were you introduced to Corman and these sorts of movies?

AS: My first Roger Corman movie was The Trip (1967) starring Peter Fonda, Susan Strasberg, Bruce Dern, Denise Hopper, and a slew of other Corman regulars of the time.

However, I wasn’t introduced to the exploitation genre until I was in college. The summer after my freshman year, my father and Angry Nun business partner, Bill, had rented a women-in-prison movie titled, The Big Doll House. We loved this film.

After the screening, we instantly went back to our video rental store and checked-out the rest of the titles in the sub-genre. From there our interest grew until our collection and knowledge of the genre spanned the entire Roger Corman catalogue.

In regards to Sci-Fi B-movies, I grew up watching these movies. Again, my father was a big influence. He was a classic sci-fi buff and his interests and enthusiasm of the genre rubbed off on me. We both enjoy the fact that these movies are FUN.

MML: What other things have influenced your cinematic aspirations?

AS: I’m a huge fan of the sixties and early seventies- the culture, music, cinema, fashion, etc. Most of my ideas are inspired by the cinema, music, and techniques during the sixties and seventies.

All cinema- good and bad. There is something to be learned from every movie, whether you pick-up on it or not.

But the most important influence is other filmmakers within my circle of friends. They teach me so much, encourage me, and always offer honest feedback. Some of the biggest breakthroughs in my work have come from the simplest pieces of advice from my friends.

I can remember while editing Killer School Girls, I watched a short film my friend had produced. It blew me away – the editing was flawless, the acting was fantastic. I asked him, “How did you get such good performances?” He replied, “Editing.”

As simple and obvious as this answer was, this one word sentence flipped a switch in my brain that inspired a whole new thought process and approach to the way I edited Killer School Girls; allowing me to find the performances in the footage and keep the picture moving.

MML: What are your future plans? Do you have another movie lined up and if so will it be in the same vein?

AS: We, Bill Shumake and I, have a number of exciting and rather diverse projects on the horizon:

We’re working on several commercials for various locally-owned companies in the Austin, TX area, a documentary spotlighting the head football coach of a top ranked university, and a slew of multi-genre screenplays with the intention to both produce and sell.

In addition, we are focusing a considerable amount of attention on Angry Nun Productions’ Indie Movie Making, www.indiemoviemaking.com – an in-depth filmmaking blog that provides movie makers, and aspiring movie makers, with the necessary tools and information that they will need in order to see their movie thru to completion and getting them distribution. We typically pitch it as, learn how-to-make a movie from start to finish and avoid the mistakes we so blindly made.
In terms of another movie, I have two features in the queue. One is a lesbian action movie called Ultraviolence, the second, is a yet unnamed sci-fi movie. I’m still working on the title, but I’m thinking it will probably be something like, Attack of the _______ from _______. Haha!

After making Killer School Girls from Outer Space, I still have so many old school sci-fi ideas bouncing around my head that I would like to make another picture in the same genre and style.

MML: You also are writing an eBook about indie filmmaking and have a blog on the topic – what’s the #1 piece of advice you can offer other potential filmmakers?

AS: The knowledge I gained from producing Killer School Girls was tremendous; the learning curve was exponential.

With Killer School Girls, there was no money to hire an editor, a sound designer, or composer. I had to do and learn everything.

I attended film school at the University of Texas in Austin. While the RTF program was fantastic, nothing compares to the knowledge I gained by diving head first into a feature length production.

So, the biggest piece of advice I can offer other filmmakers is, “JUST DO IT”. Yes, there are a lot of preparations and red tape involved in making a movie, but if you wait too long or over think the process, you’ll second guess yourself and never make a feature.

Don’t be scared. Trust yourself. Jump in.


Closing Comments

Thank you Misty for conducting this interview; it was a lot of fun. And it has been great meeting you!

I would like to urge filmmakers to check-out our blog, www.indiemoviemaking.com, and of course if you enjoy watching beautiful girls in short skirts shooting laser guns, check-out Killer School Girls from Outer Space. You can purchase the amazing two-disc DVD at www.killerschoolgirls.com, and in a month or two can download or stream it from Amazon. If you dig the movie, please share it with your friends and spread the good word. Thanks!