I've mentioned the film "Zombies Anonymous", which was originally called "Last Rites of the Dead", a few times, plus you'll find it residing in our 'Top 10' films on the left there... it was one of my favorites of the year and we talked with writer/director Marc Fratto about it a few months back, here's the link to the interview, if you're interested. Then, not too long ago, I checked out the film "Skinned Alive", which was originally called "Eat Your Heart Out" and it had one of the same actors in it, a guy by the name of Joshua Nelson. Now, in the world of indie horror, it's tough to stand out as an actor, but I noticed Nelson right away. As soon as he appeared on screen, I recognized him and knew I was going to be in for a great performance. Truly, he stands out... and I'm not sure if it's because he has a bit of an 'early DeNiro' look and feel to him. Further, what's really exciting is that another one of his films comes out tomorrow, a film called "Pink Eye", but I digress... again. Aside from being a great actor who's worked both on big sets and small, is that he also writes and produces a lot of the films that he's in, including "Pink Eye" and the film that we'll discuss here, "Skinned Alive". He's definitely a guy to keep on your radar, as he's a great actor, a great writer and, so far, I've found that all the films he's been involved in tend to be among the best indie horror's of the year. So, I was very excited to be able to discuss "Skinned Alive" and the indie-horror scene with Joshua Nelson, who will give you some great advice and insight.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences, where did you get started and what brought you into the world of indie filmmaking?
I was literally born a horror fan...I was fortunate enough to have a very cool, hippy/singer mom that played with people like Jimi Hendrix, so she let me watch whatever I wanted as a kid...and that was nothing but horror & monster movies. I was obsessed with King Kong, Godzilla, The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits as a kid...soon after came Night Of the Living Dead and The Exorcist...that started my continued love of horror. Years later I became an actor and after that a filmmaker, but continued to stay in the horror world!
Film School: Yes or No?
My film school was the real world...I learned everything I knew from being on film sets...and everything from Multi-Million Dollar films to literally hundred dollar films. And while film school is a great thing, I was lucky enough to learn hands on...not to mention I could never afford film school.
You've worked in a variety of roles, including (and not limited to): Actor, Writer and Producer. Where’s your focus? And, subsequently, what drew you to the other areas of filmmaking? Is there an ends to a means here or some sort of method to your madness?
No, Just a bunch of madness...I am first and foremost an actor...however, when work was slow I decided to create my own work...so my longing to stay creative launched me into writing and filmmaking. However, I still have no money, so I had to learn how to make films on no-budget...and while difficult, it is possible.
Let’s talk about the film “Skinned Alive”, which you wrote, produced and acted in. How did you go about securing financing and what was the approx budget?
I was forced to start making Vietnamese Porn again...oh wait, that was something else...The budget was Low, and I don't mean when some indie filmmaker brags that he shot his film on a very low-budget of $500,000...I mean REALLY low. I was very fortunate that Melissa Bacelar, head of Lost Angeles films was looking for a film to Producer and this was the one she wanted. I had been working with Melissa and casting her in my films and plays for years before that so it worked out perfectly.
What was it shot on and how long was the shoot?
Shot on DV, Panasonic 24P and shot in 9 days. A very short time to make a feature but like I said, no money means hard work!
I’ve always found that indie filmmaking differs from big budget films, in that indie filmmaking tends to really be more of a collaborative effort, where on big budget films, people need to play their specific roles. Having said that, I’m wondering, what’s it like to write, produce and act in something that you're not directing?
It sucks....kidding...it's great because I love to multi task and I have found that a small and competent crew is very often better and more efficient than a large crew where there are 20 pa's who basically smoke and sleep and no one knows what's going on. The tough thing is, I want to make larger budgeted films but I know that when more money comes into play, creative control gets lost...and I'm scared of that.
From the concept perspective, there was a lot that I really liked about this film. First off, I think you may have the only film with a cannibal hooker in it… which is fantastic on so many levels. But, secondly, the whole idea of the Jeffrey character falling in love with her and accepting her for who she is… is awesome. Great concept. Where did the whole idea come from?
Thank you! It was completely based on the concept of how far one would go and how much one could accept in the person they love. Some people deal with and accept drugs, alcohol, gambling addiction…violence…so I wanted to know if a man in love could accept the fact the woman of his dreams kills and eats people? Of all the problems I've dealt with in ex-girlfriends, a cannibal would have been the least of my problems!
Also, you didn’t shy away from the gore, which I, obviously, appreciated. Talk about using gore in indie films. As in, do you see it as necessary or was it more of a creative choice?
As a horror fan I love blood & gore...sometimes people say it's not necessary but my favorite time for horror was the late 70's and early 80's so I am a huge gore fan! So I think it's necessary AND my creative choice...I just wish I had a lot more money to put into the FX. I have been super lucky to work with Jerely Selenfriend of Monster In My Closet as his work is amazing and he works with my budget restrictions. And let me mention the case of my film Aunt Rose...it had 4 or 5 really disturbing, kick ass/gross effects in it and they were all CUT from the version Anchor Bay released...they totally de-fanged my film and no one has ever told me why...
Tell us about some of the hurdles you overcame to get the film done. Any advice you can pass on to other indie filmmakers who might be just setting out to make a film?
Yes, Bust your ass in pre-production. Make sure the actors are rehearsed and know their lines and make sure they are comfortable with the script, their characters and that they have no questions going into the shoot. The more prepared they are the better the shoot will be. And also handle all the little things way before hand....secure your locations, make sure every one knows exactly what they are wearing in each scene, have all your props ready and even if your budget is ridiculously low...make sure people eat! It can be pizza and sandwiches but do make sure they eat well and have a ton of snacks, drinks, water on set all the time...if no one is getting paid at least stuff them with Twizzlers and Root Beer!
After it was all said and done, what would you have done differently?
I would prayed a little longer each night for more money...I have always been blessed with great casts and crew...all I have ever needed was more money....oh and not to get screwed over by almost every distribution company I work with...and almost ALL have screwed me kin one way or another.
Did you enter it into any festivals? If so, how’d that go and what can you pass on to other indie filmmakers who are thinking of entering their film into festivals?
I didn't submit Skinned Alive to too many festivals but it did premiere at the Spooky Movie Film Festival in Washington, DC (Those guys are great!) and it won best Feature (and best breasts) at the Backseat Film Festival (Those guys are also great) I was a little disappointed that it didn't get into the New York Horror Film Festival. I mean, come on...even if it sucked, how could they not show a film about a flesh eating hooker eating people in New York City!!!!! I think it would have been a hit there.
What about distribution? How’s that going? Are there any lessons that you would pass on to other indie filmmakers who’ve just finished a film and are looking for distribution?
Yes, basically if you actually sell your film, you're not going to make much, at all, and they now have full control. Distributors changed the titles of films every time. NO ONE GETS OUT was changed to AUNT ROSE and EAT YOUR HEART OUT was changed to Skinned Alive. They can even market your films differently if they want...so prepare for that. Companies that give you no money in a any way usually let your film say as is.
Where can people find out more about “Skinned Alive” or, better yet, buy a copy?
You can buy a copy at VIRGIN MEGASTORE or online at Amazon.com or TLAVideo.com. Blockbuster video, who carry some of the worst shit horror films ever decided NOT to carry Skinned Alive. So Fuck You Blockbuster! You can also rent it from Netflix.
I also really want to touch on another film that you acted in, “Last Rites of the Dead” or “Zombies Anonymous”, as it’s now called. Personally, it was one of my favorite indie films of the year. That’s a film that, I believe, you just acted in, as opposed to wrote, produced and acted in. Talk about the difference between just straight up acting in a film vs. being more attached to it.
I loved Zombies Anonymous, originally called Last Rites of The Dead. It was a fantastic script and wonderful opportunity. It was also great to "Just Act" in that one. I love writing and producing but with that comes a lot of pressure and I'm a nervous person to begin with. When I can be JUST AN ACTOR in a film it's really nice for me now....like going to a spa for a massage...I can just relax and do what I do. But Zombies Anonymous is a must for horror fans because it's such a different take on the Zombie film.
Lastly, talk about the indie horror scene. What do you think about where it’s at now and where do you see it going?
Obviously it's been opened up for almost anyone to be able to make a film these days thanks to DV...and that's both a good thing and a bad as you see really good stuff from people that could never afford to shoot on film and you see really bad stuff from people, well, that should be shot...kidding...but you know what I mean. I also think sights like yours are an amazing way for low-budget, independent horror films to get noticed...we hardly have money to finish our films much less spend money on advertising so I thank you for helping us!!!!!!! (and if your readers want to help indie filmmakers may I suggest you go out and buy SKINNED ALIVE, PINK EYE, ZOMBIES ANONYMOUS, THE BLOOD SHED AND I'LL BURY YOU TOMORROW) Just go on Amazon.com and charge them all, it's like getting them for free...
Thanks Joshua! ...and look out for information on "Pink Eye" in the next post, as it gets released tomorrow.