Few people in the film industry can say they have the experience Jim O’Rear does. Well known in the independent film world, Jim has worked in and out of Hollywood for over 25 years as a stuntman, an actor, a writer and a director. His interest in the paranormal and ghost hunting has lead to him writing a book on the subject which is now being made into a documentary. In fact, there are few aspects of the entertainment industry that O’Rear hasn’t tried out, from the big screen to the theater.
B Movie man Nic Brown caught up with Jim at the Famous Monsters of Film Land convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. Although he was busy promoting several projects and signing copies of his films and book, we had a chance to sit down for a few minutes and talk about his new projects, how he got his start and what getting hit in the head a lot does for you!
* * *
Nic – Jim, it’s good to see you here at the Famous Monsters Convention in Indianapolis. How are you doing?
Jim – (Laughing) I’m tired! But, it’s good to be here.
Nic – I understand you’re working on a few new projects now. Would you like to tell us a little about them?
Jim – Yeah, gosh there’s been a ton of them! Not just new ones either, I’ve got some from the past that are finally coming out too.
The one I’m getting asked about the most right now is THE DEAD MATTER. That’s a film I did with Tom Savini, Andrew Divoff and Jason Carter. It’s a zombie/vampire film and it’s coming out July 30th, right around the time this interview will be coming out. I’m real excited about that.
As far as projects I’m shooting, I just finished one called RESURRECTION directed by Jeff Burr, who directed THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE PART III, THE STEPFATHER II and PUMPKIN HEAD II. It’s a crazy film along the lines of 28 DAYS LATER about a town that’s infected. Pretty soon, I’m going to start shooting another film; it’s about the last gas powered vehicle on Earth called THE LAST MILE, or is it THE FINAL MILE… I can’t remember, I’ve been hit in the head too many times doing stunts! I’m also supposed to be shooting one for Roger Corman pretty soon, a giant bug movie, so I’m excited about that.
I’m also going to be working on a couple of my own features soon too. One’s a slasher film called PRANK CALL, and a Civil War vampire film called BLOOD LINE, as well as a couple of documentaries: UNDERGROUND ENTERTAINMENT: THE MOVIE and TENNESSEE GHOSTS… yeah I’ve been busy.
Nic – You’ve been really busy! Now I know you just finished a shoot for TENNESSEE GHOSTS last week. Can you tell us a little more about that project?
Jim – TENNESSEE GHOSTS is a documentary based on my book “Tennessee Ghosts” and I believe the movie will actually be called THE GHOSTS OF TENNESSEE when it comes out. The film goes back to a lot of the places I visited in the book to write about and it stars Scream Queen Debbie Rochon and actress Sebrina Siegel. They co-host the documentary and we revisit these locations, talk about their history and show viewers around them. We also did an overnight investigation in a very haunted hospital, so some of that footage will be in the documentary along with some of the stuff we caught in our interactions with the ghosts.
Nic – OK I don’t want you to give anything away, but did your investigation capture any good paranormal evidence?
Jim – We did. We caught a lot of stuff. I really wish we could have kept the cameras rolling all night long because it kept going all night long. It was crazy! We’ve got some EVPs to share, some photos and some video. We caught a lot of good evidence.
Nic – As someone who’s written about the paranormal, conducted investigations and worked on any number of projects related to it, why do you think there has been such an upturn in the public’s interest in this sort of thing?
Jim – I’m really not sure why it has happened, but I’m glad it has. Many of us have been interested in the paranormal and doing investigations and such for years, I mean 25 or 30 years and up until recently we’ve always been “the freaks”. But something happened when Jason and Grant went on the air with Sci-Fi’s GHOST HUNTERS and people started liking it and becoming interested in it and now it’s something a lot of people want to do. I can’t say what changed that line of thinking, but we owe a lot to those guys for making it more mainstream.
Nic – Let’s go back to your work in film for a minute. You mentioned that you’d been hit in the head too many times as a stunt man, so tell us about your stunt work. Is that how you got started in the business?
Jim – (Laughing) That’s not necessarily how I got started, that’s a long story. Actually, what got me into acting and film work was that I was on tour as the youngest professional magician with David Copperfield and Harry Blackstone Jr. and a TV producer talked me into doing a TV commercial. Then I started doing more TV work which lead to film work. I also love theater and I had a chance to do a some live theater and some musicals and I just kind of lucked into it.
I have studied martial arts from the time I was in kindergarten and I have a couple of different black belts in different styles. I was making a movie one time and they needed another guy in a fight scene and they said “Hey Jim knows what he’s doing and he’s here.” So they asked me if I wanted to do the fight scene and I said sure. After that, they started hiring me for fights and then they found out I could drive, so I started crashing cars and being thrown down stairs, thrown through windows, and blown up. I just sort of fell into it… no pun intended, but I love it. I love the action and I love the fighting, especially the fight scenes because I love martial arts.
Nic – You don’t just do stunt work and act though; you’re also a writer, both of books like “Tennessee Ghosts” and screenplays as well. Tell us a little about that aspect of your career.
Jim – Again, that’s just something I kind of fell into. I was a freelance writer for a couple of horror magazines. A movie producer who liked my work in the magazines contacted me and said he had a script he was going to be shooting and asked me to read it and give him my take on it, maybe give him some suggestions because he liked my style of writing. So I read through it and made a few suggestions like: move this scene up front and this scene to the middle and that sort of thing, just structuring it a little differently within the three act structure and I sent it to him and he thought it was great. So he went into production on the movie and it came out and I got credited as a screenwriter on it. Even though I hadn’t written it, he gave me credit as a screenwriter. That got me thinking “can it be that easy?” So I sat down to write my own and in a couple of months I had a screenplay finished and I sent it to L.A. and in a very short amount of time, I think it was about a month or so, it got optioned. It wasn’t something that I set out wanting to do, but the opportunity was there and so I gave it a try. I guess I just have some weird, different ideas that some people like (Laughing)!
Nic – Thinking about all the different jobs you’ve done in film: actor, stuntman, writer, director… which do you enjoy the most?
Jim – (Groans and laughs) That is such a tough question! I mean I love certain aspects of all of it. If I had to pick one, I’d say that the older I get, the more I like the writing aspect of it, only because I’m not getting the hell beat out of me on set and I don’t have to memorize anything… (laughs again) that’s getting harder to do too because of being hit in the head too many times! Plus as a writer you get to create everything. You create the characters, the sets and the dialogue. I think the older I get the more I like that because I can just sit in my own home and bring these fantasy worlds to life.
That said though, it’s still a tough tie with stunt work. I just love the action, the thrill and the danger of stunt work. I also enjoy working very closely with other guys on the stunts and fights. Of course I’m not getting any younger, so like I said, I’m leaning more towards the writing.
* * *