Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Interview with Thomas Seymour, co-writer and co-director of Bikini Bloodbath Carwash

What's in a title?

Well, a lot... I think, anyhow. I've never understood people who give their films weird titles, stuff that is esoteric or simply doesn't make sense. A good title is like having a good business card, remember that scene in "American Psycho"? "The coloring? That's bone... and the lettering is something called scillian rail." Really, a film is going to be what it is, but the title helps sell it. The title should capture what your film is about... it's the bow on the present that holds the whole package together. It should make the person reading it understand, at least in part, what they're about to get into. "Star Wars", "Scarface", "Nightmare on Elm Street", "Jaws"... these are good titles. So is "Bikini Bloodbath Carwash".

I actually saw the first film, "Bikini Bloodbath", based solely on the title and, quite frankly, the film is exactly what you'd think it is... and it pays off, in spades. I loved it. So, I was more than excited to review the second installment, "Bikini Bloodbath Carwash", then have the opportunity to discuss it with co-writer/co-director, Thomas Seymour. After checking it out, this second installment builds on the first, both in quality and story. Really, it's a great film, especially if you're into boobs, blood and a laughs. And now knowing that there's more installments coming, I can't wait...

First off, tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences and what brought you into the world of indie horror filmmaking?

Well I love Monty Python, Robert Rodriquez, John Mctiernan, Ridley Scott, Frank Darabont,Sam Raimi, Curtis Hanson and Benny Hill. Yes that’s right I think Benny Hill is a comedic Genius. However, if you're talking about my influences for the Bikini Bloodbath films it's more like films like Slumber Party Massacre, Silent Night, Deadly night, Friday the 13th, Gut Pile but the actual references in the Bikini Bloodbath films are from films like Revenge of the Nerds Krull, Aliens, Jaws, Indiana Jones,Flash Dance, Silence of the Lambs, Streets of Fire, Mad Max films like that.

Film School: Yes or No?

Yes, I went to school for Film and Video and Northwestern Connecticut College

Where did the idea for the "Bikini Bloodbath" series come from? Was it intended to be a series or did the first one do well enough for you guys to think, 'hey, let's go make a few more of these'?

From the very start we planned on making 8 of them. We wanted to push through the age old idea that a film had to be successful to have a sequel, fortunately people tend to actually like the Bikini Bloodbath films and they have done well for the most part in there reviews and there sales. As far as the title goes I had been making indie films for some years when Jon Gorman and I decided to team up. Jon and I knew we wanted to delve into B-movie horror. We were always huge fans and saw it as an opportunity to make fun movies, double our money and improve our craft. We were trying to make up names that summed up everything that the film represented in one title. We had like twenty combinations of words we were working on and then Jon just blurts out "Bikini Bloodbath" and my brother Bruce Seymour and I were like "Yup, that´s the one."

What's the approx budget for these films and talk about getting financing the first one, versus getting financing the second one...

Jon and Bruce we able to get financing for all three. Bikini 1 was eight grand, Bikini 2 was twelve grand and Bikini 3 was twelve grand. The budgets were small some we didn’t need to raise much at all.

What do you shoot on and how long are the shoots?

We use the Canon H1 HD camera. The shoots for the first two films were 9 days and 11 days for the third. I like the Canon H1 one a lot. We may move to the Red camera for the next film.

Debbie Rochon's a bit of a legend in the B Movie world, how'd you manage to get her in the films?

Have you ever heard of Phil Hall? He’s one of the higher profile online critics, he wrote a bunch of books too. He took a liking to my work way back when. We became good friends and started working together on these films. Phil knew Debbie and put me in touch with her. Phil actually has a great role in Bikini Bloodbath Carwash as Professor Ship Wreck. I tried to Cast Debbie Rochon in The Land of College Prophets. That’s a film I did a few years back. She was going to act in the film but had that crazy accident on one of her other horror film sets before the Land of College Prophets shoot. A real machete was on the set and someone chopped her hand up. So she couldn’t act in The Land of College Prophets for obvious reasons. When the Bikini Bloodbath films came around a few years later and she read the script. She was all for it. She’s a great a comedian as well as dramatic actress. I think this may have been a fun role for her at the time.

The bulk of your actors are young, good looking girls who spend most of the time half naked... or naked. Talk about the process of casting your films.

We audition actors and actresses. They’re standard auditions but if we like there performance we basically tell them there about three or four nude scenes, pretty standard topless changing scenes just like in 80’s horror films. We tell them the scenes are important to sell the film and are they’re fine with it. I think the title of the film scares away the shy types. There’s never any nudity in the auditions. Shooting the scenes is awkward as hell. I like boobs probably even more then the next guy but you still have to get the setup done. We basically set up the camera, do two takes and we’re out. It’s not as cool as it seems to shoot these scenes. As a director you’re dealing with a million problems and ultimately you just want to get the shots done, so you know you’ve make a sellable film.

Talk about directing style, such as how do you direct a scene like a locker room scene filled with bikini clad girls versus, say, a more dramatic or serious scene.

Well I’ve done dramatic scenes, never in Bikini Bloodbath but I’ve done them. In dramatic scenes I tend to like a lot of slow zooms or dollys. Film Snobs look down on zooms but I love a nice super slow zoom. It’s about using the angles to capture people’s posture, there faces. If you have a good actor, you just try to put the camera in the best place to see it all, sometimes seeing the back of the head means more then seeing the front. Or seeing a trembling hand instead of a trembling face. When shooting boobs in a shower room you point the camera at the boobs and shoot boobs. We just feel lucky we’re shooting boobs because I like boobs, they’re good. We also have like an hour to shoot in the locker room so the coverage was very limited.

"Bikini Bloodbath Car Wash" is the follow up to "Bikini Bloodbath"... what did you learn from the making of the first one that influenced you in the making of the second one?

In the first one we thought we could not possibly make a feature in 9 days so we’d shoot like madmen, and do anything we could to reduce shots and get through the setups. Part 2 we realized it’s very possible and we were able to get better angles and more coverage. We also realized we need to get higher end practical horror effects. We hired Leigh Radziwon to do the practical horror effects for part 2. She’s great.

Tell us about some of the hurdles you overcame to get these films done. Any advice you can pass on to other indie filmmakers who might be just setting out to make a film?

People no-show a lot of indie sets, make sure you have someone you can call if people don’t show up on the set. You also need to be calm and think on the fly. Large problems may happen and you might have to juggle the schedule a bit to make things work or in many cases change your script. There were a lot of very big hurtles on the "Bikini Bloodbath Carwash" set. It was a ton of problem solving. We needed to shoot all hot tub scenes but it was pouring rain and there were no make-up days. My brother Bruce Seymour and friend David James Sheehan went out and bought a huge carport and put it together over the hot tub. We shot all the wide shots using that but the audio was terrible because of the rain. So we went inside and put up a black backdrop, pulled a few camera tricks with the iris and the lens length to blur the background and show the close-ups. It turned out well. You can´t tell the close-ups were shot inside. That is one of maybe ten stories like that just on "Bikini Bloodbath Carwash."

Tell us about the process of finding distribution. What was the process like for you guys and what insight could you pass on to other filmmakers who are looking for distribution?

My Brother Started Brightly Entertainment. The Bikini Bloodbath Films are distributed through Brightly. The only way we’d go with another company is if Lions Gate or Sony offered us a deal. The indie scene is hurting, some people think its dying because indie fim has lost the ability to turn a profit or even break even. I think you need to form your own company and do it yourself. That’s the best chance of recouping your money. Anything else is a huge gamble. It may pay off. If you're just looking for exposure it might be a great idea to go with a medium sized distributor but if you’re looking to sustain a filmmaking career where you continue to make film. You might want to try to do it yourself.

Where can people find out more about the "Bikini Bloodbath" series or, better yet, buy copies?

For those of you who are considering buying Bikini Bloodbath Carwash. The proceeds will go to the fourth installment of Bikini Bloodbath. Entitled Bikini Bloodbath Ghost Town.

Buy it off Amazon

Now, let's talk about the indie horror genre. Where do you feel it is now and where do you see it going?

There sure is a lot of indie horror. I feel like horror is the last strong hold of indie film. When it goes, we’re all in trouble. I personally love bad horror films as much as I like good ones. I say the more the merrier. Of course the market is oversaturated and can’t possibly support it all. We’ll all have to just do horror because we love it, not because we want to make a living at it.

What’s next for you? Do you have any projects in the works?

Well, Bikini Bloodbath Christmas will be out next Christmas. It has Rachael Robbins, Debbie Rochon, Monique Dupree and Lloyd Kaufman in it. I think it will be very silly and weird. We’re doing a horror film called Blood River and also an adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s Mark of the Beast. If anyone wants to invest, drop me a line! After that we will do Bikini Bloodbath Ghost Town. I just finished a new film that's running in festivals right now called London Betty. It’s been getting some really good press lately. It stars Nicole Lewis, Daniel Von Bargen and is narrated by Clint Howard. If anyone wants to find out more go to

Thanks so much Ted for taking the time to talk with me. Also thanks to the readers for supporting Indie horror films especially when times are so tough. You rock!

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