EYEPUS Exclusive in-depth interview with the amazing, stunning, multi-talented, authentic, fierce, Filmmaker/Actor ALAN ROWE KELLY (GALLERY OF FEAR, DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT, THE BLOOD SHED, I'LL BURY YOU TOMORROW). Alan Rowe Kelly took the time of his busy schedule to do this interview. I want to give a million thank yous for Alan Rowe Kelly taking part for this interview... So lets begin...
EYEPUS: HOW DID YOUR LOVE FOR HORROR FILMS GOT STARTED?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: I had always dreamed of being in front of the camera since I was a very young kid ogling over Saturday afternoon Creature Features and late night Chiller Theater on television. My love of horror started when I was about 4 years old, watching THE OUTER LIMITS and THE MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE on my parents old B&W television set (Yeah, yeah! You do the math!).
I can recall my first horror movies being ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS and THE WIZARD OF OZ. I was hooked after that. I remember being on vacation in Long Beach Island, NJ when I was a little tot and my dad took my older brother and I to the Colony Theatre to see DINOSAURUS! I was so excited when the tyrannosaurus attacked a bus full of people and it became quite graphic - for 1964, that is! But my brother got upset and we had to leave! I was extremely miffed by that! In retrospect, what I loved about DINOSAURUS! is it was made in 1960, yet still playing in theaters 4 years later. A film is lucky to get 2 full weeks in a cinema nowadays!
EYEPUS: DID YOU GO TO FILM SCHOOL OR WAS IT SELF TAUGHT FILMMAKING?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: Self taught all the way baby! 20 years as a make up/hair stylist on photo, film and commercial sets have been my schooling. I've seen it all, from great shoots, to horror stories where folks have go ballistic during productions. I would sit back, absorb it all and think, "OK, I would never do that", or, "Oh! I really like his/her approach to the cast & crew," etc. By the time I was ready to make my first film I was able to pull together all those pros and cons to form my own easy system for making movies. I hate getting over complicated with things like to keep it what I call 'simple stupid'.
EYEPUS: WHICH HORROR/GORE FILMS INSPIRED YOU TO MAKE HORROR FILMS?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: I loved all the 70's Grindhouse fare I used to see at the drive-in as a teenager. DAWN OF THE DEAD, MANSION OF THE DOOMED, PRIVATE PARTS, EVIL DEAD, THE FUNHOUSE, SUSPIRIA, DEAD AND BURIED, ZOMBIEÉThe list is endless. I just love them all.
But those great monster /sci-fi movies of the 1950's such as INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, NOT OF THIS EARTH, THE BLOB!, MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS, TARANTULA, THIS ISLAND EARTH, BEGINNING OF THE END, ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS - these were my all time favorites, and still are!
EYEPUS: WHO ARE YOUR ALL TIME FAVORITE HORROR FILMMAKERS?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: John Llewellyn Moxey, Curtis Harrington, Roger Corman, Val Lewton, Mario Bava & William Castle. And I never miss a Hitchcock film, no matter how many times IÕve seen it. Something new always appears.
EYEPUS: DO YOU PREFER HORROR OR GORE?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: I love them both and even more so when they meld together in the same film.
EYEPUS: WHAT WAS YOUR LAST HORROR/GORE FILM YOU SAW?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: I just watched FEAST again and loved it even more the second time around. Great pacing! And I'm presently in my Euro- Zombie phase with BURIAL GROUND, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD and HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD. These are real guilty pleasure for me!
EYEPUS: ANY FAVORITE HORROR WRITERS YOU ADMIRED?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: Vincent Churchill (The Dead Shall Inherit The Earth, The Butcher Bride), Owen Keehnan (Doorway Unto Darkness) and Robert McCammon (Swan Song) have been my favorite writers. I find them very inspiring because their stories always read like a film. I can see it and am always transported to another place with their originality, intriguing plots, and great character development.
EYEPUS: CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THE FILM COMPANIES SOUTHPAWS PICTURES AND TINY CORE PICTURES?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: SouthPaw Pictures is my production company based in NJ. I started it when I made THE BLOOD SHED. Tiny Core Pictures is Anthony G. SumnerÕs production company based out of the Chicago area. It's wonderful collaborating with someone who is so talented, smart and understands all the ins and outs of low budget filmmaking. So far we have combined our talents on two projects, Anthony's latest release SLICES OF LIFE, and my upcoming horror anthology GALLERY OF FEAR. Anthony is an inspiration and a real pleasure to work with.
EYEPUS: YOU DIRECTED AND ALSO ACTED IN 3 OF YOUR FILMS THE BLOOD SHED, A FAR CRY FROM HOME/GALLERY OF FEAR AND ILL BURY YOU TOMORROW - HOW HARD IS IT TO DIRECT AND ACT AT THE SAME TIME?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: Since I started out directing and acting in my own films it doesn't seem so difficult. You're already multi-tasking on a set, so the added pressure of an acting role doesn't seem so daunting to me. I also have had the smarts to have a talented AD and cinematographer on board who are also directors. So if I'm missing something on a take, they tell me right away, "bring it up, bring it down, start again try something different". And I listen because I want the best shots possible and acting in a good horror film is crucial. If an audience thinks you're a fake or simply mailing in a performance, you just killed your film. Unlike a play where you get to experiment and reinterpret on a nightly basis to a live audience, film is a final locked performance that cannot be changed or corrected once it's complete. So you have no choice but to bring your best game to set everyday.
EYEPUS: LAST I KNOW YOU ARE WRITING AND CO-DIRECTING DONT LOOK IN THE BASEMENT WITH ANTHONY G. SUMMER ALSO AS CO-DIRECTOR
ALAN ROWE KELLY: Oddly enough, Director Anthony Sumner and actor Jerry Murdock approached me at the same time in 2007 and said, "you have to remake this film. It will be your crossover movie that could eventually grant you some higher budgets in the future". I always loved this Grindhouse classic by S.F. Brownrigg and started watching it again. It hit me dead on and I thought, "Yeah, we can do this" and we would give it a new life without compromising the original, as do so many 'studio' remakes today.
Anthony and I decided to co-produce/direct it together through our companies SouthPaw Pictures and TinyCore Pictures. I rewrote the script, updated it, added new characters and came out with a very decent storyline. We were set to shoot in 2008, but the recession killed us - as it did everyone - and our backers backed out. It was frustrating, but who could blame them? It was happening to many filmmakers at the same time. Now we have the time to build more interest and begin pre-production while assembling the most amazing cast that includes Jerry Murdock, Zo‘ Daelman Chlanda, Debbie Rochon, Caroline Williams, Jeff Dylan Graham, Raine Brown, Katherine O'Sullivan, Susan Adriensen, Douglas Rowan, Terry M. West, Carl Burrows, myself, and the lovely Deneen Melody.
The film deserves a new life and I truly believe we have the right combination of talent to give it its worth. The proof will be in the finished product, so let's wait and see then. We have so many projects in production and pre production right now that we actually have to wait and see when will be the proper time, this year or next, to make this film a 'reality'.
EYEPUS: HOW CLOSE IS THE LOOK OF YOUR NEW FILM DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT WILL BE TO THE ORIGINAL DRIVE-IN CLASSIC?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: Probably not close at all - I mean, the purpose to a remake is to bring new life to a film and still give it an original feel. Why do a silly frame-by-frame remake when you can watch the real thing? We've added new characters and new plot twists, but we're still remaining true to the original's storyline.
EYEPUS: HOW HARD IS TO REMAKE A HORROR FILM?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: Filmmaking is hard work period. And it is just as hard to do a remake as it is an original piece. I think remaking a film is a bit riskier because there are high expectations from fans of the original. You have the raised antennas from fans and folks who will voice an immediate opinion on how bad the film will be before you even roll a single frame. That always adds pressure for you to deliver even more. My intent for remaking DON'T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT, aside from my love of the film, is simply to deliver a new life to an already terrifying storyline and gather more audience exposure. We'll just have to see how it turns out once it's finished.
EYEPUS: ARE THERE ANY OTHER DREAM HORROR FILMS THAT YOU WOULD LOVE TO REMAKE?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: FROGS! would be totally fun to redo. I love those Nature/Ecology run amuck films! I love Ted Post's THE BABY with Ruth Roman, John Llewellyn Moxey's HORROR HOTEL, Lewis Allen's 1944 classic THE UNINVITED with Ray Milland and Cyril Frankel's THE WITCHES (aka THE DEVIL'S OWN) with Joan Fontaine. But I would really love to take a crack at David Miller's 1952 SUDDEN FEAR with Joan Crawford. Great suspense thriller!
EYEPUS: AS A FILMMAKER - WHICH FILM/VIDEO CAMERAS DO YOU USE TO MAKE YOUR FILMS?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: We have pretty much run the gamut in the past 12 years. My first film was shot on Beta SP back in 1999 and then had to have the entire piece reformatted and film-looked which was extremely costly at $12,000.00 and still not very effective because it was still in it's infancy. And at the time it was the only available resource before Final Cut Pro was born and you could finally do all your own color corrections and cinematic FX.
Then for the next few films we moved to the Panasonic DVX 100 A & B cameras and the picture was always gorgeous. And under the technical expertise and artistry of my cinematographer Bart Mastronardi, we were able to achieve a cinematic look and feel comparable to HD. Now we're working with the Canon 7D in HD. The picture quality is even more expansive and gives you unlimited range to play and adjust for the film's needs in post. But I am a firm believer that despite whatever camera you are using it all comes down to the proficiency and knowledge of your cameraman. You could have the best camera in the world and still come out with a poor looking film if your cinematographer doesn't completely understand how work with the equipment. You should test everything before you start shooting.
EYEPUS: FOR YOUR ACTING ROLES, DO YOU GET TO CHOOSE YOUR OWN WARDROBE DESIGNS AND HAIR/WIG STYLES?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: In most cases I usually insist on designing the look for the characters I play. And fortunately for me, my background is one of the main reasons why I am brought onto a film because I make sure I have a complete understanding of what the director is looking for. So this puts me in a very good situation as an actor and gives me a great comfort level on camera knowing that my instincts are trusted and actually contribute to the storyline.
EYEPUS: HOW DO YOU KEEP YOURSELF GLAMOROUS WITH SUCH EPOCH OUTFITS, COSTUMES AND MAKEUP?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: Well, there has not been one film yet where I appear glamorous or even remotely attractive - lol! So the pressure is off and I can focus on acting and building a character instead of worrying about how I look...lol! It's like playing Halloween all year round. I stopped looking at how I appear on camera a long time ago. It's not important what I think. It's more important on what the viewer sees and accepts in your performance.
EYEPUS: IS IT EXPENSIVE?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: Not really. I just make sure there is a certain amount of wardrobe expense in the budget and I get extremely creative from there. I know a lot about costuming and styling from years spent in fashion design school and working with stylists on fashion shoots. So I'm always able to get access to certain items if I need them for a role or when dressing my actors for my own films. Wardrobe and costuming is vitally important in my book.
EYEPUS: IS IT HARD WORK PROMOTING YOUR FILM WORKS DOMESTICALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: Its simply part of making an independent film. Just because the film is finished and distributed doesn't mean the work stops there. You have to promote your film from its conception and well into its distribution. And you should never depend solely on your distributor to promote your film full time, they have other films to work on and once you've been released, they have to move onto their next upcoming release. So it is solely up to you to get the word out and even update your fans every few months as to the availability and whereabouts of your movies. No one is going to blow your horn louder than you. And there are certainly enough legit horror sites online to post articles, be interviewed, upload links, trailers, banners, etc. to keep you in the public eye. There is no excuse for lazy self-promotion when it is so easy to do it yourself. A film has to grow and continuously be exposed to new audiences. Film is forever. It will be here long after you're not.
EYEPUS: HOW HARD IS THE USA MPAA SYSTEM COMPARE TO OTHER COUNTRIES WHO LET FILMMAKERS BE FREE (UNCENSORED WORKS) WITH THEIR FILM WORKS?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: It has never effected distribution for my films so I pay no attention to it. I make adult-themed horror that is always rated R or NC-17 if they were studio purchased or produced in the US. I make the same type of edgier, extreme horror I always looked for when I was a kid and I'll stick with it. Seems to be my label.
EYEPUS: WHAT IS YOUR BEST ADVICE TO OTHER HORROR FILMMAKERS WHO ARE STRUGGLING WITH ZERO MONEY AND THEY WANT TO MAKE THEIR FIRST SHORT OR FEATURE FILM?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: Most importantly- DO YOUR HOMEWORK. As a beginning filmmaker, you must learn every aspect of what is going on your set and know what everyone on that set is doing. Learn about the camera you or your cinematographer are using and what you can achieve visually from it. See how far you can push your equipment. Learn how to frame a shot and make it look interesting with lighting and the correct exposures. Sound is vitally important as well - you must make sure you LEARN about sound, proper recording and all it's settings. I can't tell you how many independent films I've seen that have been ruined by this lack of attention to a VERY important piece of filmmaking. Horror films are totally dependent on SOUND and its deep connection with your audience.
Also, the people you bring on board to work with you are crucial. Use all the right people who BELIEVE in you and your project. (And please don't bring on all your friends because they think it will be "cool". Trust me - after one day of shooting, they all discover that it is hard work, long days and far from a glamorous profession). One bad apple in your crew can very quickly rot everyone's attitude and enthusiasm. So treat everyone with respect for helping you out and FEED them well. This is no time for Diva antics and a temperament. As a matter of fact, there is never any time for that.
There will be times when it is so daunting you'll ask yourself if its really worth it to continue. I'LL BURY YOU TOMORROW took me almost 3 years to complete. I thought it would never get finished. But it did and the personal rewards of that accomplishment alone were amazing. You have to stick to your guns and not give up on it. You must see it through to the very end and complete it. Many of us work with miniscule budgets. So instead of thinking of this as a hindrance let that lack of funds set you free so your creativity and imagination can take over. If you are not creative, you will have a VERY boring and pointless film.
There will also be those people that tell you "you're crazy for doing it" "it's only a pipe dream", "quit while you're ahead", etc. But you have to pass all those negative people by and move on if you're to complete your dream. Because it is "your" dream. In the end it's ONLY about the film and will people like it? You can't make it a personal crusade where the film will only mean something to you, it has to reach out to a wider audience and captivate them. (Also- watch really bad indie films made by lazy filmmakers who really don't care and you'll see all the creative and technical mistakes unravel in front of you before you make them yourself - It helps to avoid the same pitfalls.)
And last, but most importantly, leave yourself open to learn. Don't get stuck in the thought that you know all there is to know. You'll stifle your set and your film and that will show up on camera. I learned something new each time I walk onto a new set. It's a constant evolution if you're going to get any better as a filmmaker. Be open to the newness of each experience and you can accomplish anything.
VISIT ALAN ROWE KELLY WEBSITE WWW.ALANROWEKELLY.NET