An Interview with Jordan Downey – By Kirsten Walsh

Several years ago, I sat down on a dark and stormy night, and turned on Netflix and picked the most colorful, attention grabbing poster of a film to watch. Little did I know that film would change the way I look at turkeys forever! “ThanksKilling” is a hilariously done, so-bad-its-good cult phenomenon of a film that has made it rounds through various outlets. The film was mocked by many, but with its release, it bit its way into cult status and became a hit! The filmmakers set out to do a sequel, and launched a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, raising over 112,000$ (Congrats guys!). With “ThanksKilling 3” released in November, these guys are off to an awesome finish for this year- but that’s not all- there’s a musical coming out soon! Make sure to check the bottom of the interview for links and go learn all about it!

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KW: What film experiences had you guys had before deciding to create Turkie and “ThanksKilling”?

JD: Kevin and I both grew up separately making little home movies as teenagers and then met in film school where we worked on shoots literally every weekend. I did everything from editing, production design, grip, electric, script supervisor, boom operator, you name it. And typically student film shoots are horrible so you learn a lot from other people’s mistakes. We first really collaborated on my junior level student film called “Craw Lake” that we wrote together. It was Kevin’s first time being a cinematographer and we were shooting on 16mm film so he was a bit overwhelmed. I was a nervous wreck too directing actors and overseeing a pretty large crew. We were on location at night, it rained, there were underwater shots, special effects, two units, it was crazy and we really threw ourselves into the fire on that one. This little student film felt a hundred times larger than “ThanksKilling”.

KW: The “ThanksKilling” Empire has been heralded as "the ultimate low budget experience". What was your original intention with the first film?

JD: We wanted to make the best bad movie out there. “ThanksKilling” is 90% intentional – the other 10% falls on us being inexperienced 20 year olds and only having a little over three grand at our disposal. We both really enjoyed watching those cheesy horror movies centered on a corny villain or holiday, so “ThanksKilling” was our way of giving back to that niche genre that we grew up loving.

KW: On your website, you go into gory detail about the distribution process and how tricky that can be for a filmmaker. Do you think that self-distribution is still a way to go for first timers? Looking back, are you glad you decided to self-distribute?

JD: VOD (video on demand) has really exploded since the first “ThanksKilling” was released, so now I’d hesitate to refer to it as “self-distribution” because for a lot of films it’s their full-on distribution. But yes, we didn’t have a studio or production company to answer to, so it’s kind of a grey zone there. We did sell about 1000 DVD’s on Amazon ourselves before getting a DVD deal.

I would definitely recommend the VOD method though. We had such a great experience working with Gravitas Ventures and had all the freedom in the world. I’m sure it’s hard if your first movie is under complete control by someone else, so in that regard it’s nice. Netflix, Amazon Prime, and those digital distribution platforms are the future of “home video” so yes, I’d recommend doing everything possible to find a method of getting your films on there if possible.

KW: Did you guys plan on doing a sequel from the start?

JD: We never planned on making a sequel, no, but we always had the “to be continued in space” joke from the very first conversation about “ThanksKilling”. After the first one proved to be a success, we mulled it over and decided to go for it. Someone threw out the skipping right to “ThanksKilling 3” idea and that alone honestly inspired us to do the sequel.

KW: With the hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, you guys received over your goal, which was WAY more than the budget for the first film. What was the experience working with THAT much more money, and did you guys follow through on all of your goals?

JD: To be honest, there were times on “ThanksKilling 3” that the crew was SMALLER than the on the first “ThanksKilling”. It really wasn’t very different in that sense. Kevin and I were still building props and puppets and getting involved in every department. Having more money just let us build some really cool sets and puppets and pay the people responsible for both. We got a great score and had some of our most talented and best friends help produce and work alongside us, but a hundred thousand dollars still isn’t very much to make a movie in the grand scheme of things. And yes, we made sure to follow through with all the Kickstarter rewards – in fact that was a huge priority of ours. We really took our time making sure to get the merchandise right and to personally thank everyone.

KW: Why did you skip 2 and jump right to 3 for the sequel?

JD: Three reasons – 1) Why the hell not? We loved the idea and figured no studio would ever let us do this later in our careers, so lets do it now when we have full control. And 3), with independent movies you have to stand out from the crowd and we thought this would immediately set us apart and provide an instant talking point.

KW: What have been some of your experiences with the fans? You have a HUGE fanbase that is pretty darn dedicated. Was that an expectation you guys had?

JD: The fans have been amazing. I can’t say enough about them. They might not know this, but sometimes their support can mean so much to young filmmakers facing the ups and downs of working in this industry. Reading a comment, email or tweet can make a bad day good. I feel forever indebted to everyone whose enjoyed the movie we made as fans ourselves. We’ve seen “ThanksKilling” tattoos, custom artwork, fans sending us plush toys of Turkie, you name it. We certainly never expected this.

KW: Do you plan on continuing and making more Turkie movies?

JD: We’ll see. There’s a part of me that feels like there’s unfinished business with “ThanksKilling”and another part of me that wants to move on. “ThanksKilling 3” was such a side step from the first that we’re still sifting through what direction you would even go with another one and what you would call it. We’ve definitely talked about it and have considered every possible scenario, it’s just a matter of finding the passion to commit another couple years to getting it made.

KW: Can you talk a little about your special fx choices? You guys used a ton of awesome practical effects in the first film, what is in store for the sequel?

JD: I’m not a hater on VFX by any means but these kinds of movies are pure comedy to me, so it just always seemed better suited to be predominantly practical. There’s so much humor in seeing a poorly made puppet try to talk and move around. Plus, it’s just cheaper and easier in the end when the goal is to purposely look shoddy.

KW: This one is a fan question- What is the best drinking game to play with the original film?

JD: Drink one handle of gravy-flavored vodka for every closeup on a nipple. You should be feeling pretty good after that. In all seriousness, there’s actually a site out there that made a good drinking game, which I’m sure you can find by searching on Google.

KW: What is your advice for the future filmmakers out there?

JD: Take risks, be bold, and don’t look back.

Thank you Jordan and best of luck with the musical and “ThanksKilling 3”!

Make sure you go check out their website:

And Facebook:

And make sure to tell Turkie that Kirsten from RC sent you!

And check out this hilarious drinking game (yes I Googled it for you) to play along with the film:

*For entertainment purposes only, please drink responsibly