Q: Let’s talk about Zombiegeddon first. How did you get involved with the film?
A: I had always had a serious interest in film. By this point I had already published my first book on film, The 100 Greatest American Films, and had written for a number of film publications. And I had always liked zombie movies. So when I read in the local newspaper that some guy named Chris Watson was planning to make a zombie film with Lloyd Kaufman and some other B movie luminaries in Kansas, I started making calls trying to track him down. Once we did, we found that we had a lot in common. We were both film geeks and we loved movies like Boondock Saints, which very few people knew at that time. This was before it had developed that huge underground following it has now… So Chris and I hit it off and I begged him to allow me to work on the film. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Q: What were some of your duties on the film?
A: Well, I was a producer for one, although I don’t think I really did a lot of the producer’s duties. This was my first real experience working on a movie, and I didn’t really have any idea what I was doing… I was also the primary driver–funny thing, Chris and I wound up driving most of the actors ourselves–driving people to and from the airport. This was interesting because the airport was more than two hours away and I have absolutely no navigational skills. I could get lost driving in a parking lot… So, as you might imagine, this made things interesting as we were constantly getting lost and whatnot. I also helped Chris in casting. I helped him to land some of the actors, although, in hindsight, I’m sure we both now wish we hadn’t gotten some of them that I brought to the film. Hindsight is 20/20, but at the time we didn’t know how these things were going to work out.
Q: What was the cast like to work with?
A: This is a loaded question to be sure. So let me be delicate here… The cast was a lot like any large gathering of people from different locations, backgrounds, and work eithics. Some of them were great to work with and I’d love to work with them again–Lloyd Kaufman, Linnea Quigley, and Edwin Neal spring to mind here–and others, well…they were not so fun to work with. Some of them were difficult and lazy. Some were arrogant and obnoxious. Some of them were alcoholics and drug addicts, which can be problematic. But the cast was comprised largely of actors who were extremely professional. So that’s my answer, I guess: they were mostly professional.
Q: How was it working with Chris Watson?
A: Watson was great to work with, and I have since worked with him on more projects. I think he’s a talented filmmaker who hasn’t had the chance to really show what he can do at this point. What he’s done is fine, but he’s capable of more. He’s very committed to his craft and he has a strong vision of what he wants his films to be. I think, by and large, his biggest gifts are in casting–convincing actors to appear in films with little to no budget–and in promoting his films. He’s a great producer. He just produced a film called Evil Ever After that is just fabulous. He cowrote it with Brad Paulson, who also directed it, and it’s really, really good. It’s over the top and really obnoxious (in a fun way), but it looks magnificent. The lighting and the camerawork are as good as anything I’ve seen in a low-budget film in a long time.
Q: What advice would you give to other producers after your experience on this set?
A: I could write an entire volume on this. I guess one of the main things–and this sounds obvious, I suppose–is to make sure you have a crew that is fully committed to the project. If they’re commitment is anything less than one hundred percent, they will wander off during filming and some of them will leave the set or show up intermittently, causing mayhem. Another is to know about the actors you’re casting. Sure, it seems cool to have "known" actors in your movie. But ask around. Find out if they are professional. A lot of times there is a reason these actors aren’t working. Not always, but a lot of times. Again, there are real exceptions here: Edwin Neal, for instance, hadn’t been doing much right before Zombiegeddon. But you could not have asked for anyone more professional or committed to his craft. But then there are those other instances… If someone acts like an ass and explodes into tantrums on the sets of their other films, they are going to do the same to you. This brings down the morale of the cast and crew and slows things down.
Q: How does the final version differ from other versions being shown around?
A: The final version is much more polished. It has been film-looked and there are edits which should have been made a long time prior to this. The film has been shown in various rough states and there are even bootlegs out there… Again, the finished film is much, much better than those versions would have you believe. The finished version has a terrific title sequences, a few rough scenes have been cut from the film… It’s just a whole lot better; tighter as a whole, I’d say.
Q: Looking back, would you make the film again if given the chance?
A: Absolutely. To do it again I would recast some of the roles where the actors were difficult. I’d leave the main two actors in there. And I’d make a few changes. The only thing about the film (beyond a few actors) that I would probably change is the "hopping zombie," which people have begun calling "frog zombie." It’s funny and campy, but I’ve never been a big fan of that. There are people who do like that, and that particular character has developed quite a following, but I would probably change that. I’d use the same actor, but I’d leave out that hopping shit. I mean, it is funny, but for me, personally, it’s a little bit distracting.
Q: You have also worked on other films. What can you tell us about your work on Slaughter Party?
A: Slaughter Party was originally going to be directed by Chris Watson, but then he fell ill and stepped down. He was then replaced by Fred Rosenberg, who also penned one of the drafts of the script. Fred is a good director. I don’t think the final film is very good, really, but I don’t think it’s Fred’s fault. Some of the problems of that film were inherent in the script, I think. There were some things that weren’t really explained very well, but again, those problems were there before Fred was hired as a writer. And then there were some scenes which were destroyed in a fire in Madrid. Those missing scenes would have filled in some of the gaps and answered some of the questions viewers have when they watch the film. But by that time, however, there was no time to go and reshoot those. There were also some bad performances in the film, but again, those weren’t really Fred’s fault as the cast was already in place before he was hired to direct. That project originated conceptually by a producer named Donnie Galachia, who also wrote the early drafts of the screenplay. So while Chris Watson and I worked on the film as producers, we had very little control over the finished product. Humorously, a lot of people think Chris Watson directed the movie. Of course it doesn’t help that Lloyd Kaufman goofs up in the introduction to the movie and states that, as well. Lloyd and Chris had known each other for a while at this point, so that was an easy enough mistake. But Fred Rosenberg Jr. directed that film using the pseudonym Buck Jones, Jr. Fred is very much a real person and is currently working on a number of films as a screenwriter, director, and producer.
Q: You are an author. What are some of your works and where can we find them?
A: My favorites are The 100 Greatest American Films: A Quiz Book and Turning Points in Film History. Those books can be found anywhere books are sold. Amazon.com is good place to order them. Right now I have three books in the works. One is a book about Orson Welles which I cowrote with Welles’ cameraman Gary Graver. Another is a collection of fifty interviews with filmmakers ranging from John Carpenter to the late Robert Wise. The third is my first novel, which, hopefully, will be published sometime in the near future.
Q: Which do you prefer–working on films or writing books?
A: Writing books. I’m much better at it. Also, if you’re writing a book, you don’t have to line up locations and work to get competent performances from actors. All you have to do is write these things and they will be as good as you can write them. Besides, right now working on movies is just a hobby for me. I initially thought having filming credits might solidify my credits as a film journalist. Ha! To think that I ever could have been so naive as to believe that a credit on Slaughter Party would legitimize me as a film writer! Not to knock the movie, but midget serial killer movies are not the stuff Pulitzer Prize winners are made of…
Q: Give me some of your influences as a writer and as someone working in film.
A: My influences as a writer are Elmore Leonard, Jim Thompson, Kurt Vonnegut, Edward Bunker, Quentin Tarantino, Richard Matheson, Stephen J. Spignesi, David Mamet, Max Allen Collins… And my influences in film are diverse. They reach from Orson Welles to Chris Watson.
Q: What upcoming film projects do you have?
A: I appear as an actor in a film titled The Ancient, which I have not yet seen. I appear as an actor in Evil Ever After, which, again, I fucking love. There are a few film projects coming up. Most of them are horror, and I must say, I’m kind of growing tired of working in the genre… I hope to work on a very ambitious project Chris Watson has going titled Dead In Love. I also have nine porno films coming out soon. Okay, not really. I was just kidding. No porn. "B" horror movies are as close to porn as I will ever come. (Get it, "come"?)