I’ve been in contact with SV Bell, one of Canada’s best known indie film makers, for quite some time now and watched as he evolved from a cult movie merchant to a cult movie director! SV has been cranking out highly original content for years and if his last two films are any indication, I think SV has a very bright future ahead of himself. His taste for carnivorous femme fatales in his films, coupled with his love for exploitation flicks and b-movies is apparent in all his productions and so far, it’s been a recipe for success. SV was kind enough to take a little time away from his current production, "Rise of the Ghosts" to answer some questions and I for one am looking forward to the completion of his latest project. To find out more about SV and his films, please read on!
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Before we get into your film making career, would you please tell our readers more about yourself? How’d you become so interested in cult and b-films?
Well I’ve been interested in b-movies for as long as I can recall. Watching those midnight movies on TV when everyone was asleep in the house is a great memory! And the next morning, at school, my friends and I were discussing the films, talking about the creatures, the effects, everything, and usually started drawing some stuff to recall the movie. Eventually that led me to draw some comics, and I started telling my own stories that way. I couldn’t know that years later I’d still be telling stories, but through my own movies!
Before you got into film making, you were selling cult movie DVDs from your personal website. Why the sudden change from cult movie salesman to cult movie maker?!
Well that salesman thing was not really something I wanted to do. In short, as an avid film collector, I was looking at a way I could purchase movies for my collection at a lower cost than in stores. The best way was to open a retail store – online – and buy directly from the distributors. I could buy stuff wholesale cost, but in the other hand, I could not buy one title at a time. So for every film I wanted to have, I was buying like ten copies. One went straight into my collection, the remaining ones on my site for resale. There was some interest from the visitors, and I met a lot of b-movie fanatics and had an awesome time with those guys. (Who were also collectors like me.) After a few years I stopped selling films on my site because it was eating way too much time. This is when I started doing my own films. I saw so many crappy movies, I figured I couldn’t do worse, so I began doing films myself.
You started out by making two short films called "Irish Whiskey" and "Cold Blonded Murders" back in 2003 and have since released them onto DVD. A year later you completed your first feature film, "The Night They Returned" which involves cannibalistic sisters and a vengeful, radioactive mutant. How has the cult fan community responded to your first batch films and in retrospect, is there anything you would’ve done differently to improve your early productions?
Well the fans immediately loved “The Night They Returned,” despite its obvious flaws all over the place! The film has a highly entertaining mood that keeps the audience away from the fast forward button of the DVD player. The story is funny, the babes are hot, the monsters are crazy, and non-stop classic rock music makes the magic work. There are lots of problems in the film, and everyone can point out where they are, but the film is still a great piece of entertainment. If I was to redo it all over, the one thing I would do better is planning. Too much stuff was improvised on the set, because of this or that reason. One scene we could not do, we skipped, but had to improvise something else to link the previous and following scene. I learned that when you go on the set, you need a very precise road map, and most importantly, a plan B, a plan C and even a plan D. When something goes wrong – because something always go wrong! – you are not improvising. You have a backup. As for “Cold Blonded Murders” and “Irish Whiskey,” these two shorts were more like projects I wanted to do just for fun, back then I had no real plans on making films. I just wanted to have fun, tell a story or adapt something on screen, just out of curiosity. Many people loved that, and it encouraged me to do something else that was more ambitious.
Now, I’ve just recently seen "Purple Glow" and I enjoyed it quite a bit. In this one, a fallen meteorite turns women into flesh-eating nymphomaniacs! Where do you come up with these crazy movie plots?
Well I am simply doing films I would love to see on screen! I just wake up in the morning, and think wow, that would be cool to watch something with, say, flesh-eating nymphomaniacs from outer space! If I can’t find anything like that, I just make one. I’m pretty selfish, I do those films for myself. Thank God there are other people who likes the same stuff than me!!
Melantha Blackthorne stars in "Purple Glow" and has also been in your previous film, "The Night They Returned." How did you and Melantha end up meeting and working together?
Actually we’re both from Montreal, and the film scene is so small, we were bound to meet eventually! So I talked to her about this crazy film I had in mind ("The Night They Returned") and she was all excited about the project! We love working together, so Melantha has been involved in all the other projects I made so far.
Thank God for that! I’m starting to become attached to her. 😉 So "Purple Glow" has become a pretty popular cult film in a very short period of time and also won the "Best Sci-Fi Award" at the Wreck-Beach International Film Festival! (Congrats!) How has "Purple Glow" fared at other film festivals and screenings?
The film is well received wherever it is shown, but I admit I rarely hear from the people who attend the screenings. Sometimes I see nice feedbacks posted in online forums, but that’s it.
After "Purple Glow" you made "She-Demons of the Black Sun," one of the most visceral rape and revenge flicks I’ve ever seen! The script for the film was written by Robbie Ribspreader, who also aided in the writing for "Purple Glow" if I’m not mistaken. Who is this enigmatic screenwriter and is that his real name?!
Robbie sure is an enigmatic character… He writes lots of movies, books and novels, under different names. His nick for the horror movies is Robbie Ribspreader. I don’t know his real name, but the guy is an expert at writing screenplays. The way he writes, the technical form and layout of the draft he delivers, that says a lot. And I am not talking about the amazing creativity this guy has. I provide Robbie with a basic storyline of the film I want to do, some key scenes, some effects I have in mind, the locations I have access to, and the number of cast I want to have involved. I also tells him how many days of filming I can afford, if it is mostly day or night, outdoor or indoor, that kind of stuff, and Robbie puts together an outstanding screenplay, while keeping in consideration all the restrictions I have. It’s simply amazing! Being able to work with such elements, only a professional writer can make it through.
The production values in "She-Demons" was significantly higher than "Purple Glow" and your previous productions, and there’s a definite evolution in the way you make your films. One thing I have noticed is that all the strong characters in your films are women. In "The Night They Returned," two cannibalistic sisters are the villains who get their comeuppance for their heinous deeds. In "Purple Glow" women unwillingly become vicious man-eaters and are only the villains because they’re minds are under alien control. In "She-Demons" an innocent girl is raped and she seeks revenge, using the dark powers of the occult to punish her defilers. Over three films, your main female characters have gone from straight villain to anti-heroine, so is it safe to assume that in your next movie, the main character will be a fully heroic women (in a prison setting)?
That is funny, I never realized that…! And you’re actually right, in my next film, the female lead is a total hero. The setting is no longer a prison though, and one thing remains across all of my films, the girls are dominant, powerful, and mean. Hahahaha!
And on that note, you’re obviously a fan of the exploitation films of old like "Last House on the Left" and "I Spit on Your Grave." I’m sure these two films had a huge impact on the stories you tell with your films, but what other films and film makers have inspired your work?
Well there are lots of stuff I love: pretty much anything that Roger Corman made, especially “A Bucket of Blood.” But I love Corman, from his early horror b-movies to his recent stuff. This guy has a signature of his own. I also love Albert Band’s “I Bury The Living.” I find that to be a masterpiece, though it’s not exactly a ‘horror’ movie. Other film makers that influence me are Al Adamson, Ted V. Mikels, and the most recent ones I really like the work of are Paul W.S. Anderson and Steve Beck.
One thing that I have to ask about are the ways the rapists are killed in "She-Demons of the Black Sun." Who thought up the more disturbing punishments for the rapists? Also, when the second-to-last male victim is killed, the arm of the demon that attacks him turns into a snake. By any chance was this a nod to the snake-armed character in "Curse II: The Bite?"
Actually I have to give credit of the originality of the killings to my screenwriter Robbie Ribspreader. I didn’t provide specific instructions on how the victims are killed, Robbie came up with those murders, and I found them pretty awesome. At first read, I was a bit unsure about the final killing with the giant stiffy. I was reading it over and over, and after a short while I was like ‘what the heck, let’s do it, people will never see it coming!’ And that was also a nice challenge to make it work on screen with the limited resources I had. And as far as the arm-snake goes, it is also an idea of Robbie. I haven’t seen “Curse II,” so I can’t really tell if it is a reference or not.
That’s ok SV, you’re not really missing out on much. "Curse II" is an obscure piece of junk that doesn’t hold a candle to your films! Currently you’re working on your next film called "Rise of the Ghosts" which I believe takes place in a prison? (Correct me if I’m wrong!) I’m guessing that you’re aiming to make a women-in-prison flick with a supernatural twist? Please enlighten all of our readers (and myself) about the plot to this film. And when is the tentative release date for "Rise of the Ghosts?"
Originally the film was to take place in an actual abandoned prison. After I got the screenplay completed, I received a phone call from the manager of the facility, and he announced that the government has just officially shut down the place, because it was getting too dangerous to go in it. After years of abandon, long, cold winters with no heat, the walls and ceilings were starting to collapse, and chunks of concrete were falling down inside, from three stories high. No way they could allow anyone to go in anymore. So all the film makers who had agreements to go in the facility for filming received calls to cancel their projects. So I had in hands an awesome screenplay taking place in a prison, with no prison to go film in. But I ended up finding another location, which is not a prison, but which is creepy and large enough to make the installment in. Right now we’re fixing the screenplay and make the adjustments to conform to the new location, and then move on into production. We should be filming in late November, and the film is scheduled for release in the summer of 2007. The story for this one is about a girl who had a sister killed in that facility, and has nightmare about her calling in for help. So with a group of friends, they venture into the facility to try to free the soul of the sister, and eventually discover that hundreds of souls are held captive in the walls by an evil being. As the story unfolds, they get to discover the true nature of the being who reigns over the place.
Sounds pretty good to me, now I’ll have something else to look forward to next summer! After "Rise of the Ghosts" is completed, what other projects do you have planned?
I have a number of projects in mind, but none of them are really in the writing process. I have a vampire film in mind, and if budget allows me, I’d love to do a road movie with werewolves.
Awesome! I love lycanthrope flicks and a road movie with werewolves could be a lot of fun! (It’s definitely got to be better than "Werewolves on Wheels.") Well I guess that’ll about do it SV! Many thanks for doing this interview and good luck with your next project and all those that follow it. Do you have anything you’d like to say before we officially close things out?
How about a shameless plug? Stay tuned and visit www.svbell.com for the latest info, pictures and trailers of my productions! Thanks for the interview Jordan!
No problem SV! Thanks for the interview and good luck with "Rise of the Ghosts!"