The term “filmmaker” can be ambiguous. It doesn’t refer to just one job, rather the whole spectrum of work involved in creating a movie. Writing, acting, special effects, directing, stunt work, and producing are all part of that process. So when you call someone a filmmaker, your description may be too wide for some who dedicate themselves to one particular field.
In the case of filmmaker Joe Davison, the term fits just right. He’s done it all from writing to stunts, and all the jobs in between. Joe has also worked making movies not just in the US, but in Europe as well. His production company, Pop Gun Pictures, is dedicated to making independent films both big and small.
Joe has been in North Carolina recently working on his newest project, Highway Hunters, with longtime friend and fellow filmmaker Marcus Koch. However, he still had time to talk with B Movie Man Nic Brown about his recent film 100 Tears and what it takes to keep his XBox Live working.
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Nic- Joe, you were not only one of the stars of "100 Tears" you also wrote the film. Where did you get the idea for Gurdy the clown and his grizzly killing spree?
Joe- I was trying desperately to get another film of mine financed, As Night Falls, and I was working hard at comedy and polishing several other scripts I had. Marcus Koch was also trying to get financing for his film Baby Doll. We were both going to work on each others films, like always. So one day Marcus said, “I always wanted to do a killer clown film.” He began to describe this scene to me where a girl was strapped to a bed and couldn’t move, and standing beside her was a clown. That began that. I took his idea and ran with it; with that one scene I sculpted the entire movie. I only had four days to write it because our investor Elmar Berger wanted to start the production immediately. But because of that pressure I was able to create such a lovable character like Gurdy. Marcus helped quite a bit too. If I didn’t think something flowed right I would run it by him and he’d say, "Yeah, that works!" or "No! That’s so damn stupid!" Or "We’ve seen that in this movie or that movie." And I would be like, “Oh yeah, DAMN!” So, to answer your question, I didn’t go into this thinking that I was writing an iconic kind of character. It was guy who was hurt and lonely, looking for the love he had lost long ago. If you crossed his path you were dead, no questions asked. As far as his killing spree, I always liked the fun from Friday the 13th with the killing of one after another, silent and deadly, or any eighties horror film in general. But, unlike Jason, you can hurt and maybe even kill Gurdy. I wanted to give a shout out to those guys who I grew up watching, to let them know they made an impact on at least on person. Thanks Sean S. Cunningham and Wes Craven!
Nic- So what about that horrific giant meat cleaver that Gurdy wields throughout the film? Was that always his intended weapon of choice and where did you find that thing?
Joe- The meat cleaver was decided by Marcus and myself. I drew out about six or seven different styles of knives choose from. The idea had come from a meat vendor in Japan. They have these huge ass cleavers that they can cut entire sides of beef with. We wanted that. If you’re going to kill people you want something that stops them in their tracks without making noise, and outside your typical stealthy weapons like the katana, blow gun, and bowie knife we needed to create it. Marcus took the idea over to a company we’ve used before called Javian Graphics and they made the model out of .25 inch aluminum for us. It ended up weighing close to ten pounds. Jack Amos loved that about the weapon: the constant swinging it trying not to actually hit any one with it. By the end of the first day, Jack’s arm was almost useless. But, that’s the price you pay if you want to be an axe wielding lunatic, I guess.
Nic- On the Internet Movie Database it says that "100 Tears" got an NC-17 rating. Is that correct and if it is, how does that affect release and distribution of the film?
Joe- Yep! We got an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. That was an awesome day. I got the call at about mid-afternoon. The man from the MPAA was excited and had said that this by far was one of the best indie horror films they had had the pleasure to watch in a really long time. I was listening with my jaw on the floor. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He said, “We have to give you an NC-17 rating due to extreme gore and violence.” I asked what we would have to do to make it an R rating and he said, “Don’t! You would lose too much integrity of the film. Leave it an NC-17.” I was like, "Yes, sir!”
As far as it having any effect on the sales or distribution of the film, I don’t see a large issue with it. After all, we’re probably going right to DVD anyway so who cares. Everyone wants the unrated or special uncut versions on DVD anyway. I could see it being a sales issue if we had the pleasure of going into the theaters but that’s not going to happen…maybe….
Nic- Do you have a distributor lined up for the DVD yet?
Joe- Distribution is always tricky from what I’ve learned over the last several years. 100 Tears is available in Germany and France at the moment, with Uncut Films picking it up in France and I-On New Media picking it up in Germany. We have some vested interests in Taiwan, Korea, and Japan at the moment and we’re trying really hard to get Dimension Extreme to take a gander at us. We also like the idea that After Dark is interested in the film. On our level it’s a gamble for those guys as well as us. They don’t know anything about us or the fact that the project will make any money and we don’t know if the companies signing us are going to rake us over the goals and never pay. So, you have to decide as an independent film if you want your film on the shelves or you want to sit on it until the perfect offer comes along. Sometimes you don’t have time to wait.
Nic- So Joe, you’ve worn a number of different hats as a filmmaker. You’ve been a stuntman, actor, writer, and producer to name a few. What’s your favorite job and why?
Joe- I like all of them and on our level of film making you can’t always afford to hire the right person to do a certain job, so you have to step in and do it all and sometimes all on the same day. I love writing! Love it! I love creating characters in tense situations and pulling them through, dirty, wet, and often bloody. But I also write comedies, seeing that my background is in improv. It’s a funny mix but one that works. But in the end I like them all. I like to do them all and I plan on doing them all. You have to, especially if you want to keep food in your mouth or more importantly your XBOX Live up and running.
Nic- Do you have plans to put on the director’s hat in any of your upcoming projects?
Joe- That’s a great question. I’m actually in negotiations right now for funding for my next feature, As Night Falls, which I will be directing. But Marcus is doing the effects again so we’ll both more then likely be behind the camera just as much as on 100 Tears. The film is an action-packed ghost story with such stars as Debbie Rochon, Raine Brown, Brinke Stevens, with cameos from Marcus Koch, Ted Geoheghan and a few others.
Nic- How did you get your start as a filmmaker?
Joe- Years ago I was with an improv troupe called Beat the Dead Horse. We did a lot of local shows and what not and a film director (Charles Knowles) from Miami was in the audience and thought I might work a lead role in his film. So he talked with me for a bit and sent the script, and the next thing I knew I was on my first ever plane flight and my first ever movie all in one go. I guess if you’re going to do it; might as well jump in with both feet. So that started this whirlwind of film making. Shortly after, I was doing short films, writing scripts, auditioning for other features, and slowly starving myself. But it’s all paying off now. I just hope it continues moving forward.
Nic- You’ve mentioned a number of the horror greats as your influences. If you could work with any one of them, who would it be and where would you want to be, in front of or behind the camera?
Joe- Man that’s a tough one. I have worked with two of them so far and that was fantastic for me. A giggly little school girl you might say. The first was Tom Savini on Craig Kovach’s Unearthed. Tom was fucking cool, man. We still catch up at every convention we see each other at; recently it was the Austin Fangoria Convention. The other was Bruce Campbell. I only got to work with him for about four hours; it still was awesome. And of course I’ve had the pleasure to work with Debbie Rochon and Timo Rose. I still would love to work with so many others but if I had to narrow it down to one actor or director it would have to be Mike Mendez for sure. After watching the Convent and Grave Dancers I see that he is exactly what I like about horror films. His films are full of action and humor and blood. That’s all the things I love in films. The bloodier they are the better! The funnier they are the better! The actionier they are the better! I love that style. Sure you have tons of gore, action, and humor all in one film. I really want to try and achieve that style in my next film, whatever that may be.
Nic- So can you tell us about the project you’re currently working on?
Joe- Currently, I’m working on BEAST, Timo Rose’s newest venture into lycanthropy. I play a werewolf hunter who throws punches as fast as smart ass remarks. Joe Zaso is playing one of the many werewolves in the film. It also stars Raine Brown. It’s going to be blast. I love working with Timo and his gang of miscreants.
Nic- What do you think is the biggest challenge for independent filmmakers today?
Joe- Funding!!! Finding funding is always a stupid battle with filmmakers and the investors. If I hear one more investor say "What’s its marketability?" or "Is there a big star in this film?" I’m going to shoot them dead. From my view point they don’t understand filmmaking for the most part, or they pretend to know it and try to throw out names like Eric Estrada or Gary Busey. Now granted, it takes a certain caliber of actor to sell a film. That I agree with but when you’re shooting a feature for .01% of what a studio would shoot the same script for they have to be out to lunch! Yes I too would love to have Ewan Mcgregor star in my film but that just isn’t going to happen yet. Not until I can continue to make smaller films and climb that ladder of acknowledgment. But for an independent film maker to finish a film and get that film to a festival is truly a great accomplishment in itself. Hats off to them for that. More money just means bigger problems.
Nic- You mentioned keeping your XBox Live running earlier. What would we find you playing if we stopped by?
Joe- HAHAHAHAHA! I switch back from Halo 2 (gamertag; Thee Jack Burton) and Oblivion. Man I just love both those games. Oblivion is a great way to lose yourself in a game and Halo, well, if you just want to blow some shit up! I like Call of Duty 4 a lot too. Speaking of gaming, that’s another avenue I would love to get into. Writing an action game for Ubisoft or any gaming company. That would be damn awesome!