After viewing the ClownTown, I had the opportunity to discuss with Tom Nagel, his directorial debut of his first feature film, and how it stands with what appears as a traveling carnival of clown movies swarming onto DVD and VOD (in fact, the characters of clown grace YouTube videos, news media sources and even book covers).
BC: Can you tell me about ClownTown? How it separates itself from the rest of the clown movies flooding the market?
TN: It’s a clown horror film and wanted to pay homage to the 80s and 90s wanted to be unique with the budget that we had and make a slasher film, it’s funny that all of the clown movies are coming out. It took about a year and a half and we just thought it would be a cool idea. There weren’t really that many clown movies out at the time and as a director I thought it would be so much fun to do a clown horror film. Now there’s Rob Zombie clown film 31…
What makes ClownTown different is what I said earlier it pays homage to the 80s and 90s and it’s to the point. It’s got some cool bits, it’s in a strange town & it doesn’t take itself too serious, but it doesn’t make fun of itself we didn’t just slap together some cheap horror film but we didn’t want to make it too serious. It’s a fun film about 2 hours long it’s something you can have fun with has some cool clowns.
BC: Is the beginning of the film homage to John Carpenter’s Halloween?
TN: Yes, it was the producer, writer Jeff Miller is a huge, huge fan and he wrote the script. I didn’t want to copy too much more it was an inspiration and a shout out to our childhood and it was huge when I was a kid.
BC: I could count three key pieces one was the Laurie Strode mailbox, the other was the clown costume the boy wearing and lastly the title card that says 15-years later because that’s how long it takes Michael Myers to reappear?
TN: Yea that’s good really good a lot of people don’t catch the mailbox unless you’re a true fan, that’s awesome that you caught that stuff very cool it’s cool when you hear when people catch the little things the average person probably wouldn’t unless you were a true horror fan.
BC: The true dedicated horror fans are probably the only ones that would figure out the title card they’re the ones that like slasher movies to the max level?
TN: Oh definitely and if you haven’t seen a lot of horror films you wouldn’t catch that it’s pretty impressive that you did.
BC: The beginning of the film states it’s inspired by true events which is common in a lot of horror movies can you give a little insight on what you’re playing on there?
TN: It actually inspired by true events the concept came from myself and my brother Brian and the writer Jeff, we came up with several ideas of making a horror film and what we wanted to do and actually Jeff watched the Bakersfield clown movie. He brought it to us, showed us; it inspired us to do a clown film, Bakersfield there were so many different rumors and things that happened. There was a woman who took pictures of her husband dressed as a clown, around town randomly and according to what I read clowns started appearing in town holding different weapons and clowns terrorized Bakersfield. So it inspired ClownTown with the clowns in a small town between the movie and the articles we read and thought it would be a cool idea.
BC: How did you secure an empty town on what I assume was a low budget?
TN: Yes, obviously we’re not a Warner Brothers or a $100 million movie, my brother and I are from Cleveland and when we conceptionalized the film I knew I wanted to shoot there in a small town like in Bakersfield so we reached out to Robert Kurtzman. Bob did all of our special effects and is a legend his studio is Effects House Creature Corps is actually in Crestline, OH which is a small town about an hour and a half hour south of Cleveland and he’s obviously well connected there. And we being from Ohio we also worked on another project together on another film called The Dead Matter so we had that relationship. We really just talked to the town and some of the locals there and it was incredible the support we received and how we were received and they were willing to shut down the town for us it was a blessing. We obviously didn’t have the money we just called in some favors and respected their town it was just super cool it was a dream come true for me as a director.
BC: You previously directed short films did those short films help you to have a more streamline shooting schedule?
TN: Yes, definitely my brother and I started our production company three or four years ago Steel House Productions and I have been an actor almost my whole life so when we started our production company our goal was to shoot some short films with the intent to shoot a feature. I had known some producers and wanted to show them what I could do with my short films and for 3 or 4 years I studied my butt off and shot anything and everything I could which all really helped with ClownTown. So when Jeff Miller our executive producer saw some and let me direct with our company and his company it did help immensely. For any young director out there the best way to start is make short films it’s about trial and error don’t be afraid to make mistakes I learned so much on ClownTown and I’ll learn more on my next film and the film after that.
BC: Was there anything that you created on paper that you realized you couldn’t do on film?
TN: That’s a good question to be honest not too much, I worked closely with Jeff who wrote the film and with the production studio story boarding and being from Cleveland and knowing the locations. I knew what we could and couldn’t do and from working on the short films we tried things that didn’t work then so there wasn’t a whole lot on ClownTown we couldn’t do of course. As a director I wish we could have done all kinds of stuff the “junkyard scene” from script to picture is the only thing that was a little different I wish we had some time to do more action in the junkyard of course if we had the money we could have done much more and blow it up.
BC: You starred in your own film. How do you as a director direct yourself and know it’s going to look good on set?
TN: I try not to criticize myself, you never like watching yourself I just trusted my team who directed the scenes I acted in I didn’t watch the playback because I didn’t want to see myself. I trusted them to run the show while I was acting and when he said he got it then it was done. To be honest I didn’t have time to think about it too much.
BC: What horror film hooked you on the genre itself?
TN: A Nightmare on Elm Street I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite horror film of all time, but when I was a kid that probably inspired me the most I had a Freddy Kruger keychain and towel. I even went into my parents’ basement and watched The Nightmare on Elm Street TV show that was on late at night. I just got into the film so much it inspired me and I just love horror films now
BC: Lastly, your film seems to keep a door open for a part 2, is there going to be a ClownTown road trip soon?
TN: No, it’s not for sure nothing’s been locked down personally (I can only speak for myself) I would love to revisit ClownTown I really hope it does well enough so that we can revisit it I think I have a lot of ideas and that I could do ClownTown 2 even better. What we learned from the first one and what we can grow on and some more fun exciting things with the clowns so yes I would love to go back and do a part 2 if we can pull it together.
BC: When is the film coming out?
TN: It comes to theaters on September 30th and on VOD on October 4th.
BC: How can people find out about you? What is your social media contact?
TN: You can find me on Facebook under Tom Nagel and the website for the film is along with our production company:
BC: Thanks for your time, and good luck with ClownTown and your future projects.
TN: Thanks Baron!