This is Geno McGahee:
This is Andre Perkowski:
Amateur, independent film-making has no more industrious or ambitious proponents than these two forefinger-pointing guys. (I'm tempted to say "compulsive.") They approach making films from different perspectives-- Geno makes serious horror films ( he is a self-described "horror nut") and Andre makes comedy horror/sci-fi/genre films.
McGahee's Evil Awakening is now available at Amazon; a review of the film can be seen at this website. He will be releasing his Rise of the Scarecrows later this year. A review of that film can be seen here.
Perkowski's short films, and previews of his feature-length films, can be seen at www.youtube.com/terminalpictures. Andre's recommendations: "Try KINDERHOOK: THE RISE AND FALL OF MARTIN VAN BUREN as told through Jim Kelly with an afro and a katana. LIVINGSTON! the true story of the Louisiana Purchase with Charles Bronson... and some odd little commercials with Trace Beaulieu of Cinematic Titantic and MST3K doing cameo voiceovers... with TOTAL RECALL (REHEARSED) - a dazzling and horrible adaptation by one man oozing with actability."
I asked Perkowski about how his feature films came to be (they are close in spirit to Ed Wood's films, if Ed Wood had the smarts to send up his own material.) Perkowski replied:
"Back when I was 22 I over-earnestly (barely) pulled off two feature films based on Edward D. Wood Jr. pulp novels and old screenplays: DEVIL GIRLS and THE VAMPIRE'S TOMB - shot on Super-8, 16mm, Video, with acres of stock footage and scrupulous dedication to the angora-ed one. Recently through acts of dark alchemy I've assembled them into a viewable form after noticing 9th generation bootlegs floating around of a rough cut of the first film."
After corresponding a bit with both filmmakers, I decided to put a matching set of questions to both. Here's their answers-- Geno McGahee starts first.
TDSH: Why do you make low budget films?
GM: I make low budget films basically because I don't have many other options. I have a love of film and I'm a writer and when you put those together, it's a natural to combine the two. My love of horror and low budget horror films made me think that I could probably put something together and after years of doing skits, I made the decision to do a full length horror film called Evil Awakening. I hope that I will not be doing low budget films infinitely. I think that I have learned a lot on the job and have improved enough to hopefully turn some heads. I'm on my third film now, Scary Tales, and it's a step up from my other ones, Evil Awakening and Rise of the Scarecrows, although I would still match those two against ANY other film in this genre, let alone the low budget films.
AP: It's a horrible compulsion best explained by a competent psychologist, anything out of my mouth might be self-serving gibberish. I feel compelled to, the movies I want to watch are short in supply so I try to fill the gaps where I can with these shambling celluloid messes. Its very fun to gear up in small groups and fight a short-lived melodramatic "war" where death isn't particularly likely and the worst you can expect is credit card debt and a malfunctioning squib blowing a hole in your chest and embedding melted plastic in your skin.
TDSH: The film(s) that most inspired what you've done?
GM: I'll begin with Don Dohler and his best movie Galaxy Invader. When I saw that, I saw that it was possible to entertain without a lot of money. Obviously, you cannot look at Evil Awakening and not see some influence of the films like Friday the 13th and Madman. Basically, the 1980's slasher films were my influence initially, but now I think that I'm growing as a filmmaker and it's becoming more complex and more influenced by the great gritty films of the 1970's, which was the best time for film, period.
AP: Eraserhead, The World's Greatest Sinner, Wild Guitar, the Kuchar brothers, John Cassavetes stuff - particularly Husbands and Opening Night, Vileness Fats, all of John Waters' 16mm epics, the Firesign Theatre's peculiar little productions, and a huge clamshell 1980s VHS box labeled "Mafia Vs. Ninja" with very little Mafia and inept "Ninja" with holes badly cut into their masks interacting with stock footage in an attempt at summoning guys with paste-on Hitler moustaches to do their dirty work.
TDSH: Who's the audience for your films?
GM: OK, let's cut out the elderly right away. [GM's films are heavily laced with profanity--Max] They are not going to be my fans, but I think that it's safe to say that my audience will mostly be males from 18 to 40 or so, but I'm hoping that others will see what I see. In fact, the very talented writer Polly Frost had some very kind words for Evil Awakening and women are not the target audience...but then again, women love blood and violence too and I think that if the story is good, they could even look beyond the gore and profanity.
AP: I'd love to know. Send details to: Deadbeat Filmmakers of America with SASE and precise measurements and food allergies. Who watches these things? I make them for myself and my friends but that's stretching the truth a bit to make my friends feel better. I make them for myself and desperately hope a few other folks might get a hollow chuckle here and there out of my over-ambitious folly. The YouTube hits swing from 12 (yes, TWELVE) to 22 thousand. One of them got over 30k but I think its just due to folks seeking Asian torture porn or something rather than threadbare old political satire.
I barely ever attempted to get screenings or distribution over the past decade, if it did happen it was almost by accident. I suppose I thought I needed some time to simmer and boil to develop a more original aroma and sick flavor to my stuff. I'm hoping they are fully marinated now in my bile and resentments and are ready for meager audiences to devour during insomnia spells. Who do you think would be the audience for these, Max? And have they gotten help yet?
TDSH: Described something that surprised you (good or bad) while making your films? How did working on the cheap affect shooting?
GM: Something that surprised me (bad) was when I was filming Evil Awakening at my Aunt's house. Well, she shares property with her sister inlaw that doesn't have too many years on me, and she got really bitchy with me and said she didn't want me around her property. I was baffled but I had permission and wasn't on her property. That's when she kicked in with the racial comments because I had a bunch of black guys with me. I guess this woman, Christine, was using that property for her KKK meeting that night and she wasn't going to have time to prepare. What an idiot! Good surprises was just the enthusiasm of some of the team and when they sing my praises. To hear that is something that surprises me. The positive press across the board were pleasant surprises because many can't look beyond the budget to see the heart and the story. I think that an entertaining film is a good film.
Having nearly a zero budget really hurts shooting because of the people. Some have work and some don't care or they don't take it seriously and don't give a good performance intentionally. We've also had others that have seemed to want to sabotage the film by giving me their word that they would be there to film and then never show up and never answer their phone. Frustrating stuff, but you get what you paid for I guess. So, if I had my way, I'd have a budget and paid actors that have to be there to make money, and it'll happen.
AP: Working on the cheap limits everything, overrides taste and good judgment, and makes you rely on coffee and instinct to get you through obstacles and potential temper tantrums. The pressure and pathetic-ness often gives way to grim diamonds in your crappy movie charcoal, moments of inspiration where everything clicks and the cardboard works miracles. That's the hope, anyway. The reality can make you cry yourself to sleep now and again.
TDSH: Name a recent independent, low budget film someone else has made that you recommend.
GM: Can I recommend a couple? I'm a big fan of the Campbell Brothers and their work and they just came out with Poison Sweethearts, a great and funny anthology. These guys are fantastic and I'd also mention I Dream of Dracula by Jim Haggerty. He's got so much grit and ambition that I have to mention him. He is on his way and the Campbell Brothers are already there...the people just need to realize it.
AP: Guy Maddin's MY WINNIPEG is gorgeous, hilarious, and deserves more eyeballs and endless enthusiasm. He's a mad genius and I'm filled with jealousy and awe at the magic he can work with beloved Tri-X Super-8 and 16mm. Canada needs to get its act together and make him some kind of saint and give him whatever he needs to keep making films. I would eat icy terrified horseflesh for months to work on one of his productions but am worried I'd end up plotting to seal his soul in amber or some such in a misguided bid to rule the world.
TDSH: What question didn't I ask that you want to be asked, and what's the answer?
GM: Max, I have never been asked a question like this before, so let me thing [sic]. Hmmmmm.... OK, I guess I would ask myself what are my future plans? Is that OK?
My future plans are to make one movie a year and hope for the best. I'm very pleased that I have a distributor and that my films are given the chance to get me out to the masses and that in and of itself is a great thing. I am hoping that Evil Awakening will sell like crazy and the word of mouth will sell it enough to create a demand for a sequel. I don't think that there is another movie like Evil Awakening and certain scenes will be talked about by many, I think. With all of that Asian remake crap and the American remake crap and the continued watering down of horror, I think that I have the perfect opportunity to make some noise and win over the horror fans. I'm here for them and I'm one of them and critic or not, what they say means something to me. Of course I'm hoping that they love it and demand a sequel and action figures and all that, but if they hate it, then that's fine too. Just give it a chance and if you do and still don't enjoy it, then you're entitled to your opinion. Just remember that it's only good if you like it. Film and music are very subjective and I have a thick skin, unless it's really bad and that's when I trace their IP and find them.
AP: Surely watching my atrocities raise many more questions than answers. Questions of sanity. Questions of judgment. Questions of not knowing what to say here and desperately filling space...
TDSH: Bonus question: Is watching your films made better with a few drinks first?
GM: Are you trying to tell me something (laughing)? I guess they must be if you are asking this. Sure, why not? I do think that people can enjoy them sober. I guess this point is subjective too. Some may like my films while drunk more...I never took that poll.
AP: A light concussion or high fever works very well, failing that one should pursue extreme sleep deprivation for optimal states of exploitation receptivity. If you're not willing to go to such extremes, a decent amount of drink and/or illegal diet supplements can do in a pinch. Just make sure you get your alchemy right to avoid unsettling after-effects and don't say your parents didn't warn you... because they did, you ungrateful little shit.