An Interview with Phil Herman – By Brian Morton

A few years ago, I got a couple of movies in my mailbox from an indie filmmaker, Phil Herman. His movies didn’t have the biggest budgets or the best production values, but they did have something that a lot of the movies that cross my path don’t have…passion. You can tell by watching his movies that Phil really loves telling stories and making movies, and the people he uses in his movies seem to share that passion, and it makes his movies something completely different than the average indie film. When I finished his latest movie, Sickened, I felt compelled to catch up with Phil and find out what makes this amazing indie filmmaker tick.

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BM – Hi Phil, thanks for taking the time.

PH – Glad to do it.

BM – Tell us how you got your start making movies.

PH – I started making movies when I was 14. My parents got a video camera for Christmas. It was one of those heavy clunky ones that weighed more than me. It had the camera and separate Video compartment that you had around your shoulder. But it was a dream come true. We used to make lil silent super films, but never went anywhere with them. This was great, video was cheap and I could edit and do my own music and make a really good looking movie. The world was mine and nobody in my neighborhood, girl or boy, young or old was safe from my bloody cleaver . We were making lil horror movies every week. It was good practice for what was coming around the corner.

BM – Your first movie was ‘Burglar From Hell’, how did that come about?

PH – Burglar from hell was our first successful movie that put us on the map and generated interest in us. At one time New Line Cinema was very interested in the subject and movie and was interested in buying the rights and redoing it. But a change of hands sunk that idea and threw us back out. But Burglar from Hell was brought about my love for the slasher genre. Halloween and Friday the 13th being my favorite. I wanted to create my own killer that would stand against those popular villains. My character, Frank the Tank, rivaled them in his ferocity and wittiness in ways of his kills. It was a project that was plagued with production problems, and actor walkouts because of the grueling schedule and lack of pay. It also introduced us to future Scream Queen and FVideo favorite Debbie D. It gave the world its first glimpse of a naked Debbie D as the flirt Heather and geeky Bookworms wet dream that is ruined by Frank The Tank! The movie was our most expensive and longest shoot, but to this day people always ask us about it and it is available at the web site. I just finished a rewrite and hope to get a production company interested in remaking at a bigger budget version and try to get a lot of the originals in it.

BM – How has your filmmaking progressed since then?

PH – (laughing) Has it? We are still struggling and at our breaking point. Even though because of the reputation we have garnered it is easier to get people to work for us and get features completed. Quality in equipment and editing is so cheap anyone can make a movie. We film in the style of the old grindhouse/Twilight Zone and put our own twist on it. We are not like everyone else who use the color by numbers scripts. We do it our way and don’t follow the rules. We will do and say whatever the script calls for. I write to confuse and sometimes people can’t follow because when you watch a movie you have to pay attention and put this together, I am not going to hold your hand and walk your through. I want to make things appear like a nightmare. I want nothing to be like it seems and once you think you have thing figured out I will throw something else at you. It will never end until the credits come up and still not even then, really. There is no real complete understanding of what one of my movies is…it is whatever the individual viewer makes of it. These are my movies and my rules throw the rules out. ‘Into the Woods’ had the controversial rape scene and ‘Sickened’ had the full frontal. People said you can’t do that. I said yes I want to stand out and show people we can make a point and not shy away from it.

BM – Your movies always feature nudity, is it something you feel is necessary for the movie or do you subscribe to the ‘blood, boobs and beast’ theory of movies?

PH – What we lack in budget we make up for eye candy. It is not just there, but part of the story. People watch indie horror movies for the scream queens, we give it to them in full view and not a tease blink and you miss. It is done tastefully and not explicit in anyway. That is why the girls have no problem showing everything. The girls are treated during production with respect and are not forced to do anything they don’t want to. A lot of times they do more than the script calls for because we don’t pressure them to do want they don’t want to. The female body is a beautiful thing and in Europe it is not covered like it is here. That is a reason our movies do so well overseas cause of the nudity!

BM – Who are some of the filmmakers who inspire you?

PH – My idol(s) are John Carpenter and George A Romero. I idolized them growing up and are still inspired by them. To this day I still put the soundtrack for Halloween on when I am writing. You know what’s so funny though they have been such and inspiration but the few times I tried to touch base with them and just BS, they don’t give me the time of day. But I like their work and not them, I guess, as a people. They are so Hollywood like the rest of the A list people, they look down their noses on us B-movie makers. They forget to where they started out! Sorry if I sound angry, but I, like many filmmakers at this level, are angry about studios like Liongates and other big budget horror studios and they way they look down at us. Yet they will put millions into a boring multimillion dollar horror movie that cost more than it makes. There are so many indie filmmakers with such witty original material that go unnoticed. I have noticed more and more features since I got Netflix that kick ass compare to all the big budget horror movies out there. One day, the big guys are going wake up and say why should I pay these lame screenwriters million and get some rehash or remake while I can pay a quarter of that to a indie screenplay writer and get something cutting edge and original!

BM – If you knew someone who was thinking of getting into making movies of their own, what advice would you give them?

PH – Don’t quit your day job. You have to have the money coming in. Plus, always remember it is not that easy to make a feature so maybe try a short or two to start out. You have to be very passionate about this and be willing to give almost a year out of your life to this feature. From witting to casting, production to editing to final distribution. One giant nightmare after another and you will ask yourself many times why and you’re doing this. But once you start and get rolling you can’t stop. If you do it is not in your blood and don’t bother. Movie making is done because you love telling stories and seeing your stuff on the screen. The most rewarding feeling you’ll ever have in your life is seeing those end credits and your finished feature. Then, when it is over you have to start all over again and put your 200% in it again! You will lose sleep, friend send family during this time but if done right it will all pay off!

BM – Of all the movies you’ve written and directed, which one is your favorite?

PH – My favorite goes to the beginning. Burglar From Hell! It was what I wanted to do and I had a ball doing it. It was a dream and it was fulfilling. I made a slasher flick and created an icon that still lives. To this day at conventions and interviews I am always asked about it and I’ll never forget my roots. I started with Burglar and hopefully get a chance to finish it! A close second is the Jacker series. I was able to act like a total lunatic in it and release all my frustration and anger out on the world. I wrote from the headlines and it was taken from the news some of the situations. At that time carjacking was a big problem. I made a real life person into a killing machine. It was scary because it wasn’t a horror movie but a true horror. He was a real life killer no mask just evil and a gun. Yes, people were scared because it was real. It was happening and people love being scared and the loved the Jacker! All Movies are available at: http://www.wavemovies.com/other_producers/falcon/index.php

BM – Phil, keep up the great work and we’ll keep our eyes on our inbox for more from Falcon Video! Thanks for taking the time.

PH – Thank you.

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If you haven’t seen any of Phil’s movies, then do yourself a favor and head over to http://www.wavemovies.com and check them all out. I’m sure you’ll agree they’re all a good time!