Presented below is a fun and exciting interview with director Dave Campfield, hot off the successful premiere of his newest creation, Caesar & Otto’s Deadly Xmas, at the Terror Film Festival in Philadelphia, PA. His film has garnished much attention as it involves b-movie icons such as Lloyd Kaufman, Linnea Quigley and Debbie Rochon.
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BC: Basic introductions, your name and film. How long did it take to film and edit your feature.
DC: I’m Dave Campfield, I wrote, directed, produced, and played Caesar in “Caesar & Otto’s Deadly Xmas”. The screenplay was based on a story developed by myself and Joe Randazzo (Ripper). After a 12 day shoot in Los Angeles with a crew of four, post production became a one man show. All editing, sound design, color correction, post production visual effects, music editing was done by me on my little 13 inch Macbook pro. Whereas that helps saves production costs, it slowed down the process immeasurably. Editing ultimately took me a year.
BC: How was working with talented screenwriter Joe Randazzo? Did you learn anything to improve your writing style?
DC: Joe was the co-story writer on the film. Caesar and Otto is my universe just as his Ripper screenplay is his… When I was constructing the story, I’d ask Joe for some ideas. Some I kept, some I didn’t… He wanted the film to be a litter darker, whereas I wanted it to be a little more akin to an Abbott and Costello comedy/horror movie throwback. Its always such a blast to go over ideas, and talk shop with him. We have boundless passion for the craft.
BC: Where did this concept of Caesar and Otto’s Deadly Christmas actual come from, the comedy teams of the 20’s and 30’s? Is it hard to relate that comedy style to current audiences of today that enjoy crude, crass and Jackass humor?
DC: Despite good reviews critically, my debut feature, Dark Chamber, failed to help make a name for myself. It did well at some fests, including a best screenplay award at Terror Film Festival, but when it was released to DVD it sort of got lost in the shuffle. My belief is that for an indie picture to really stand out, it had to be different from the types of stories Hollywood was offering. Now, I loved the Abbott and Costello comedy/horror cross overs. I would watch them religiously when I was growing up. Nowadays, there really aren’t movies being made like that. My idea was to do a sort of Troma style Abbott and Costello movie… Off the wall effects, off the wall comedy and even a healthy dose of satire. It reflects my sense of humor, and the type of movie I enjoy. Caesar & Otto started as a series of comedy sketches I did with Paul Chomicki (Otto) back on Long Island, which later evolved into Caesar & Otto’s Summer Camp Massacre (2011). As far as this being too out of touch with today’s audience? Not all audience members love crude humor. It gets old. And it’s not like we’re talking about some G rated fare here as Deadly Xmas does have it’s fair share of blood and gore.
BC: All films have challenges from budget constraints to film scheduling what/ which did you encounter? Hence, regarding those challenges what did you learn from this project? (Both positive and negative).
DC: Finding locations that will allow you to film, without payment, without insurance, is no easy task. Especially in Los Angeles. But thank God for my friends out there. The key is to be adaptable. If you can’t shoot a certain scene because a given actor just can’t show up, or your given location falls though, ALWAYS have a backup plan. Because if you’re not prepared for the worst when making a microbudget film, then you’re probably going to have the rug pulled out from under you and left with a film you hate.
BC: What is your favorite part of the film process for any of your films? (Script writing, casting, filming, etc.)
DC: Each has their pro and con. It doesn’t cost anything to write. You can do it any time of day, anywhere you’d like. And much of the time, you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself. But at the end of the day, I love movies, not scripts.
The fun of directing is trying to find the most unique way of staging a scene given severe limitations. It’s almost like being handed a bunch of Lincoln Logs as a child and trying to create the best house you can with what you’re given. But when the clock starts ticking down, and you find yourself running out of time, the fun all but dissipates. I hate the feeling of racing the clock to accomplish a scene, but thus can be the struggle of a microbudget filmmaker.
Acting was the first thing I was ever interested in, so it holds a spot near and dear to me. I can be a terribly shy person, and acting, whether as a broad character like Caesar, or a dramatic one like I played in Dark Chamber, is quite therapeutic. When I feel like I’ve connected with a character, I’m euphoric. When I feel like I haven’t… I’m miserable.
Editing is where all the pieces come together. As an introvert, the beauty of the process is that you usually do it alone. But technically difficulties, such as rendering time, and far too many computer crashes take away a lot of the fun.
BC: Was it difficult to star in your film and direct at the same time? Did you find yourself constantly tweaking the dialogue or storyline?
DC: As I hinted earlier, Caesar is a pretty broad character. There’s not a whole lot of nuance to him. He’s sort of a live action Daffy Duck. With a character that simple yet defined to me, I snap my fingers and he takes over.
With this series of films, it’s been very easy to vacillate between writer, director, and actor. Our minds can be like stations on the radio. Shifting from one frequency to the next.
BC: Your film contains the talents of many b-movie actors, are special details that you can share with readers about working with them? Was the casting for this film difficult to acquire?
DC: It was through my friendship with Felissa Rose that I met a lot of the supporting cast. It’s through her I met her husband Deron. She also went on to introduce me to Brinke Stevens and Joe Estevez. I just level with the actors. I let them know there isn’t much of a budget, but I’m doing this because I truly love cinema, and I have every intention of getting the best performance out of them that I can. At the end of the day, it’s not about me, it’s about the team of wonderful players we’ve assembled. And I want every last performer to come off in a way they’re proud of.
Deadly Xmas follows Caesar & Otto’s Summer Camp Massacre, but this time we’ve added Lloyd Kaufman, Robert Z’dar, Debbie Rochon, and Linnea Quigley to the mix. In most of those cases, that was as a result of the tenacity of my producer Joe Randazzo who did a hell of a job wrangling up the names I was hoping for. What I was so impressed by was how understanding they all were with the limitations of these productions. All though I will say that Robert Z’dar has quite a wicked sense of humor. At first I thought he was too close to comfort to his Maniac Cop character. Lo and behold, he gives me a gentle smile and a tap on the shoulder. Not to sound cliché, but I couldn’t have been blessed with a better cast.
BC: What has been the audience reaction to your feature film? Were there any interesting comments that you wish to share?
DC: It’s rare to never that someone will come up with you after a screening and tell you point blank they thought your film sucked. Whether people love the film or hate the film, the reaction you get from them is usually the same. “I loved it!”. or possibly the euphamism “oh, it was… (pause)… interesting”. I can really only speak of the reviews “Caesar & Otto’s Summer Camp Massacre” received though it’s on line reviews… Some love it, some hate it… Some want these films to be darker and more crass, others admire it for its zany innocence amid a horrific backdrop. Someone on Amazon slammed me for being like a live action Donald Duck. Apparently he didn’t realize that’s what I was going for. All I can do is make the kinds of movies I love, and this fits my sensibilities like a glove.
BC: You have a natural showmanship and obvious comedic acting talent that showed on the stage of the Terror Film Festival is that hard for you control on your film sets?
DC: Though truth be told, I sometimes direct in my Caesar voice which lightens the mood on set even more. It at least prevents me from getting depressed when production problems arise.
BC: What awards and at which festivals, has you film Caesar and Otto’s Deadly Christmas won? Also is it available for purchase?
DC: Awards: WINNER – Best Screenplay – Terror Film Festival 2013 (Philadelphia)
RUNNER UP – Best Effects – Action on Film Festival 2013 (California)
WINNER — Best Screenplay — Macabre Faire Film Festival, 2013 (New York)
WINNER — Best Actor (Dave Campfield) — Horrific Film Festival, 2012 (Texas)
NOMINATED — Best Feature Film, Best Director — Elvira’s Horror Hunt/ Horrorhound Weekend, 2012, Best Picture — Austin Indie Showcase
It’s due out November 19th on DVD and VOD through Wild Eye Releasing.
BC: How do you feel about the current state of the horror genre? Are you pleased that it moving away from the ‘torture-porn’ of Hostel or Saw, or dissatisfied that the genre centers itself with remakes and PG-13 films?
DC: I just want a good story. I want a story that’s interesting, and at least somewhat compelling regardless if it’s a straight horror or comedy. Doesn’t matter if that film is PG or NC-17. For me, when a film becomes too much about torture, the experience of watching it likewise becomes torturous. Not scary, not suspenseful, but torturous. So, if the industry is scaling back with that kind of film, I’m not going to complain. And in light of recent horrors like Sinister, I have to say I’m impressed.
BC: What is the best advice you can give to any aspiring filmmakers?
DC: Be willing to be broke and know it’s never going to be easy. I fully expect to live out of my car one day… Pursuing this as opposed to a stable profession has left me without any lasting relationships, and at times penniless. But I’m in this until the better because film is what I love above all else. Maybe in the end, I’ll be recognized for what I do, or… maybe not. In other words, being crazy helps.
Lastly, know your limitations. Don’t write a battle in space if you know you’re never going to be able to pull it off within your given resources. If you can’t pull off a special effect well, I sure hope your film is a comedy.
BC: What is next for you, any hints of current of future projects?
DC: Currently in pre-production on three films. Fear the Reaper, a straight horror with an edge. The next Caesar and Otto sequel, “Caesar & Otto’s Paranormal Halloween”, and the most wicked film of the bunch “Swan Song”. But I don’t want to give away too much about them. I also host a live streaming interactive talk show on Wednesday nights entitled NERDGASM which streams at inravio.com.