Cheerleaders have a definite appeal for many people. They are lots men’s fantasy, as well as the start of more than one young girl’s dreams of stardom and fame. They are also a lot of fun to watch being chased through the woods by a psycho killer. At least that’s what writer/director Kerry Beyer was thinking when he made his feature film debut with SPIRIT CAMP. The tribute to 80’s slasher flicks may have been made as a low budget, independent feature, but Beyer put the time and energy into making the film the right way and that effort shows on the screen with clean crisp audio, great cinematography and of course… lots of cheerleaders!
As well as a filmmaker, Beyer is also a professional photographer whose work has appeared in magazines such as Vogue and Allure and he uses those skills when he steps puts on his hat as cinematographer to good effect. B Movie Man had a chance to talk with Kerry about his work both behind the camera and in front of it and even found out the story behind why the doctors told his family “the good news is it’s a tumor.”
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Nic- Kerry can you tell us a little bit about your new film SPIRIT CAMP?
Kerry- Spirit Camp is a horror/comedy with an old school 80’s slasher feel. It’s essentially "Friday the 13th" meets "Bring it On!" Hot cheerleaders hacked up at camp.
Nic- So where did you get the idea for SPIRIT CAMP?
Kerry- I love 80’s horror, and I really wanted to make a contemporary film that had that same old school feel. The 80’s horror films were fun, they had lots of boobs, they weren’t as concerned with FX, and in many instances the stories were more of a "who dun it?" The original "Friday the 13th" is that way with Mrs. Voorhees as the killer. Of course I needed hot girls to complete the formula, and with the success of movies like "Bring it On" and the huge cheerleader fetish market, I felt like there was definitely an audience out there that would respond to the film. Every guy that I mentioned the concept to grinned and was like "I wanna see that." And with hot cheerleaders running around in short skirts, I had no shortage of guys wanting to work crew.
Nic- What was the most challenging part of making SPIRTI CAMP?
Kerry- We shot 70% of the film outside at night, on location… one of the things you are not supposed to do as an indie film – so, the most challenging aspect was coordinating the schedules of 25 actors, getting them to the set, housing and feeding them.
Nic- How long did it take you to make the film?
Kerry- A long time, lol… we broke filming up into essentially a series of short films – filming on location for a week at a time. We’d come back and regroup, and I’d make more props, and wardrobe etc, and schedule the next outing a month or 2 later. So, we filmed over the course of a year or so. Then did pickups and SFX shots. I had the rough cut done in less than a month, but the sound design and score took about 8 months. Then a few months to design all the artwork, the DVDs, and do the final 5.1 mix and color grading, etc. I didn’t have a team of post production departments, so I was handling every aspect of post while still running my photography studio full time – didn’t leave much free time.
Nic- I understand that there is quite a story involving your Mother and the film’s production. What happened that made people say “The good news is it’s a brain tumor”?
Kerry- My mother was handling all the catering and craft service for the film – the girls nicknamed her our Spirit Mom, and she definitely kept us from starving. She actually assisted quite a bit on 2nd unit, pulling focus or holding a boom, and even helped with some of the pyrotechnics. One day she collapsed in the grocery store and was rushed to the hospital under the assumption she was having a stroke. After a ton of CAT scans and MRIs, the Doctor came back as said "The good news is it’s a brain tumor…. we can fix that." It’s a scary proposition, because most people diagnosed with a brain tumor are dead in 6 months statistically, but fortunately, she had a benign meningioma. It was a tumor about the size of a golf ball that was pressing on her motor core. She was scheduled for surgery a few days later, they removed the tumor, and she was back in her room and alert an hour after surgery. I’ve actually got an interview with her right after surgery on the Spirit Camp DVD. I was like nothing had happened… you would never think that she had just had major brain surgery. Needless to say, I’m very thankful to still have my parents in my life.
Nic- In addition to your work behind the camera, you’re also an actor. How do you think that affects you as a director and is it difficult to direct scenes when you’re in them?
Kerry- I think my experience in front of the camera has been invaluable to me as a director. My time on other sets allowed me to see where filmmakers were doing things right, and where they were making mistakes. So that gave me the experience to run a great set, stay on time, and on budget. Plus, as an actor, I knew the way I liked to be treated by a director. I feel my job as a director is to provide an environment where the actor is comfortable and can do their best work. I know exactly what I need from them to tell the story, so my job is to guide them and help them achieve the best performance that they can do. Also, during the writing stage, I act out all the parts myself so that I know they are "actable" and that I’m not writing dialogue that can’t be said naturally.
The thing that was difficult about acting and directing this film in particular was that I was so involved behind the camera since I was also the DP. So, when I left operating camera to step out in front, my focus would always be split between my performance… what the camera guys where doing, and what the other actors were doing. It think it took a few times for John to get my camera style down when I was acting, but he snapped into the groove pretty quickly… any time you see me on screen, John Lansch is probably operating, and I think he did a great job.
Nic- You’re also an accomplished photographer, can you tell us about some of your work in that field?
Kerry- I have been working as a still photographer for over a decade now, and my work has been published in Vogue, Lucky, Allure, The NY Times, Vintage Guitar, and countless other magazines and ad campaigns. That has been a huge help for me as a cinematographer… knowing how to compose, light, and shoot. Working with models, or working with actors, it’s really the same and goes back to providing a positive environment that is going to enhance the creativity of everyone around.
Nic- Going back to your filmmaking, who are some of your biggest influences as a director and an actor?
Kerry- David Fincher is one of my favorite directors… I love the look of his films, the mood he creates. Ridley Scott is another favorite… the cinematography and production design of ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER is amazing. I think Michael Bay has some of the best angles and camera moves in the business (I mean, have you seen his Victoria Secret commercials, lol?). James Cameron, ALIENS, need I say more? I think it’s safe to say that he knows how to tell a story that will resonate with more people globally than any other filmmaker on the planet …and of course John Carpenter and Wes Craven, the fathers of modern horror. Oh, and Clint Eastwood… I don’t know him personally, but he seems like a no bullshit kind of guy and the fact that he’s still making movies and is relevant to the business in his 80s is inspirational.
Nic- Both as a photographer and a filmmaker, how do you think technology is changing your profession(s)?
Kerry- Technology constantly evolves the field. The increase in digital capabilities is exponentially increasing. It’s "Moore’s Law" – processor power doubles every 2 years. It is making things possible now that were impossible before, while bringing the costs down. But that’s also the problem… EVERYONE can be either a photographer or filmmaker now… and that drives the value of the content down. There is a glut of products on the market, and distributors know that they can make a lowball offer on your film and if you won’t take it, the next guy probably will. And though $5 DVDs at Walmart are great for consumers, that leaves little to no room for profit for the producer… and if producer’s can’t recoup budgets, they can’t make films… and slowly, American independent cinema dies. What happened to music with piracy is now happening to movies… and it will be very interesting to see how producers adapt. Despite all the downward market pressure, this is also a time of unprecedented access to audiences via technology, and self distribution is more viable now than ever. It’s kind of the best of times, worst of times.
Nic- What does Kerry Beyer like to do for fun?
Kerry- Making a horror film is a lot of fun… and photographing bikini models is a lot fun… but when I’m not doing that, I love to play my guitar, paint, watch movies, hang with friends, play video games. I’m basically always looking for some crazy artistic endeavor to get myself into.
Nic- Last question, now that you’ve got SPIRIT CAMP under your belt, do you have any plans to make another feature film and if so, any ideas about what it will be?
Kerry- Yes… there was such a huge learning curve with Spirit Camp, but now everything is in place from production to distribution, so I’m gearing up to do it again – only better. Sci Fi horror is up next.
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