Quantcast Elias interview - LovecraCked! The Movie!

Filmmaker
Elias!!!

Elias is an independent Actor/Filmmaker from New York who loves a good laugh. Or a good scare for that matter! Which explains why he's such a funny guy, who's also devoted the past 10 years of his life making horror films. He talked to us about his new anthology film 'LovecraCKed: The Movie', which features a series of shorts based on the work of Lovecraft and has a cameo from Troma president (and all around good guy) Lloyd Kaufman. Elias also seems to enjoy reverting our convo back to Bruce Campbell! Find out why for yourself! - by Bunni Speigelman. 9/06


What's the first movie that really scared you?

Don't know for sure... Probably something that wouldn't be especially scary by most standards. Might not even have been a horror flick. Early on I was pretty easy really. I didn't get to watch a lot of films or TV when I was a kid - part of the whole holistic upbringing my parents believed in at the time.

I do remember that the headless horseman in that "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" cartoon they showed us in school was pretty creepy, and also the witch in "Snow White". Now of course I'm all good and desensitized thanks to years of dedicated exposure to anything and everything in the realm of horror. At present some of the films I still find scary or excessively disturbing are "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (original of course), "The Woman in Black" (a fantastic made-for-tv flick from the UK), "Ôdishon" (aka "Audition"), "Spoorloos" (aka "The Vanishing" '88), "The Haunting" ('63), "The Exorcism of Emily Rose", "The Mothman Prophecies", "Psycho", "The Brood".

What made you want to go into filmmaking?

It started with acting. I also liked to write - scripts and stories mainly. I also remember being especially impressed by Oliver Stone’s “Born on The 4 th of July”. Admittedly the film doesn’t hold up as well now, but back then it really made an impression on me. I wanted to effect others the way that film had effected me back then – to inspire thought, action, reaction... Given the current mess the world’s in I’d say films that provoke progressive thought and action are needed as much as ever – it’s not like we can rely on our elected officials for any of this - and there are filmmakers out there making great movies that ultimately do just that. However, the entertainment value that films can offer is of just as great importance as any personal thoughts or points of view one can communicate using the medium. That’s what I like so much about film, the possibilities are endless, and I’m constantly reminded of this.

I came into horror kind of late as I’d touched on before. It all happened in the first few years of living in Virginia Beach really. I gravitated towards the horror very quickly. I think it’s the most flexible genre with the greatest room for exploration, though I’m admittedly a sucker for comedy and I still have a soft spot for drama. Documentary also holds some appeal as well, but I’ll probably always be hooked on horror – errr… well hopefully not quite literally hooked.

The first flick I ever made, “A Walk in the Park”, had a very definite horror tone to it and that’s pretty much how it all started – the filmmaking and the horror. We screened that first short on a little color TV in an auditorium at that same theater during off hours for a bunch of friends and employees. I remember Chad (also a collaborator on the flick) had provided his home stereo system for the show, and the sound was so very much larger than the picture - it didn’t matter one bit, and I was now totally and completely film’s bitch.

How did you first start pursuing your goal to be a filmmaker?

As I mentioned before, I started out focusing on acting and writing… the rest (directing, producing, editing, etc.) just kind of naturally came about. The desire to expand my ideas, thoughts, abilities also comes into play a bit as well I'm sure. As an actor, I also figured it wouldn't hurt to give myself a break every now and then. Somehow, inevitably I usually end up playing parts that really put me through the ringer both physically and emotionally, so I guess I'm really my own best “fiend”, either that or a glutton for punishment.

One of the most exciting aspects of directing for me is working with the actors - it can be such a great collaboration and a wonderfully intense bonding experience, with strong friendships often forged from the process. I recently worked on a project with these two actors who were so wonderfully committed and open to suggestion… It was quite inspiring just to be in the same room with them. I really look forward to working with them and others like them very soon. The project in question was an additional segment for “LovecraCked! The Movie”, look for it to be included some point in an extended cut of the flick.

What films and filmmakers have had the most influence on your work?

Evil Dead and Evil Dead II definitely. Especially early on. I don’t even know how many times I’ve seen Evil Dead II – some films just never lose their re-watchability. Still my favorite from Raimi. Also, a lot of filmmakers from the 80’s like George Romero and John Carpenter. David Cronenberg and Peter Jackson have both been an especially huge source of inspiration as well. They are real Masters of Horror! Love the Cohen Brothers too. Also Takashi Miike, Shinya Tsukamoto, Mario Bava, Ki-duk Kim… Also, in the realm of influence and inspiration let me not forget to mention the brilliant blokes of "Monty Python" – they’ve had a huge influence on my sense of humor after all.

…but “Evil Dead II” was initially the most influential on my filmmaking. The reality of the location. Man, I could so feel the pain of that shoot. Actually one of my other films “The Voice Inside” takes a good deal of inspiration from Evil Dead II. Definitely my performance in it is very much inspired by good ol’ Bruce’s “Ash” and some camera angles were definitely Raimi-inspired as well. In general “The Voice Inside” has been really well received, but there was this one guy in school who felt like it ripped off “Evil Dead II” too much. Kinda funny really as I’d thought he of all people would probably really like the flick.

Just goes to show you never can tell how someone will react. Everyone sees things in their own way in the end. Gave the flick to Bruce Campbell a while back and he hasn’t complained yet, so I think we’re safe since he seems to complain about just about everything else lately. Ya know I love ya Bruce, but just stop being such a whiney bitch all the time. Nobody’s saying you haven’t been corn-holed more than a $10 whore during your career, but you’re an icon of horror for God’s sake and you have legions of adoring fans across the globe! Hell, I bet some of them would love to be where you are right now, so be grateful for what you’ve got and just give it rest for a bit.

What inspired you to do “LovecraCked! The Movie”?

I’ve always really liked Lovecraft’s stories. After I finished college in 2000 I began writing an adaptation of one (“The Thing on the Doortsep”) but it didn’t work out for reasons that aren’t worth going into - it just didn’t work out. It was very frustrating really because I’d put a lot of time into that project… into writing, into pre-production, and I was really looking forward to making the film.

The idea of making a short mockumentary about Lovecraft was born somewhat from the frustration of the previous project’s untimely demise. Also, part of it was that whenever I would talk to folks about Lovecraft they almost never seemed to know who he was. H.P. who? It occurred to me that this might be ripe for parody.

One recurrent theme I really like in his stories is the struggle for identity… this feeling that someone’s trying to take you over and use you as a host. Being trapped in a body that’s not your own… Fear of oneself and the mutation and transformation of that self.

For me, I think identity is one of the most interesting aspects of life. There always seems to be some aspect of duality or schizophrenia in daily life. There’s public personas, social personas, work personas. Many of us are living this way I think. Personally I often want to abandon these other personas and just be that one original version of myself all the time with no further deviation or compromise. Unfortunately I think repression is a way of life - our society really demands this, which ironically is probably good sometimes because otherwise we’d just be masturbating out all our thoughts and emotions at any given moment. Can you imagine that? It’d either be complete bliss or utter chaos - probably a mixture of both really. Some restraint is pretty much a prerequisite to function in society. Maybe anarchy is more the natural way of things, but then I think that would be more difficult in the end, and of course the powers that be are so very reluctant to relinquish even the slightest control. One thing’s for sure… it is great material for a filmmaker!

Since you’re a fan, what’s your favorite Lovecraft story?

It’s probably a tie between the Thing in the Doorstep, the Case of Charles Dexter Ward, and the Outsider. If you notice there are slight references to those stories - well two of them at least - in “LovecraCked! The Movie”.

You remarked after the premiere that even some of the filmmakers didn’t know about H.P. Lovecraft , considering his obscurity how did you discover his work?

My friend Chad again. He recommended him, so I started reading. I haven’t read every story, but I really do like his work tremendously. One of the things I like about Lovecraft’s writing is the arcane forces that are always at work. It’s also about the fear of the unknown. And Lovecraft’s descriptions always seem to leave just enough room for the imagination to do its work.

I’d love to see some really great adaptations made because unfortunately, fairly often…well, let’s just say most of the films made from his stories thus far don’t have very good track records - as most fans know.

Still I think that even though more people have heard of Poe, Lovecraft is probably more influential. Partly because of his network of correspondence. He exchanged so many letters back and forth with the likes of Robert Bloch and Robert E. Howard to name a few, and I know Stephen King - well I don’t know if protégé is the correct word, but he certainly took a lot of inspiration from Lovecraft at any rate.

“LovecraCked! The Movie” is an anthology piece made with contributions by several different directors, can you talk about some of the unique problems and benefits of working on this type of film?

Working with people from other countries and other states is great. That is one of the greatest rewards of the project. Beyond the movie and any success it might have for anyone involved – for me there’ll always be the meeting of all these very cool, very talented people. And the people beyond them who were just interested in the project, like yourself. It’s expanded my network of friends and people I can work with and I’m extremely grateful for that.

What kind of problems did you encounter?

Mainly technical ones like dealing with different master formats, PAL to NTSC conversions, release forms, etc. There was some originally unanticipated editing which became necessary that turned out to be somewhat difficult and time consuming, though ultimately rewarding. At one point a filmmaker who’s work I really liked and who had claimed they very much wanted to participate dropped out rather suddenly, so that forced me to reopen the call for entries for a little while, but it all worked out in the end. Really the most rigorous aspect of the process was probably spreading the word about the project and the constant communication and networking needed. I feel I took a way a lot from that experience.

What was it like working with Lloyd Kaufman?

I really enjoyed the day that we shot at Troma. Lloyd was very cool to work with, very easygoing. Very willing to do whatever we needed, and I do mean whatever we needed – wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more, say no more… Very willing to make fun of himself, and that is a valuable trait for any person.

How he got involved is kind of a funny story: I contacted him and other people at Troma to get permission to use some Troma posters and memorabilia in the background of a shot. He was very cool. Gave me permission right off the bat. Sent me a bunch of posters and promo stuff, which was really nice.

In one of the emails, he offered his services as an actor. He said something like, “By the way, I act for free.” I thought it would be utter folly for me to ignore that because it was a generous offer. And he’s a great figure in independent horror and horror in general.

He’s really an extremely talented improv actor. I wrote an outline for a scene in which we interview Lloyd on the subject of Lovecraft. The only direction I gave him was to make sure that whatever he said in reply to my questions had next to nothing to do with Lovecraft and as much as possible to do with Troma . “Just use every opportunity to promote Troma and yourself”, I said. And he was amazingly good at it even better than I had expected. He ramped and reacted off everything immediately, and the stuff he came up with – well just brilliant!

Incidentally, that Woody Allen movie Hollywood Ending is that not totally ripping off Terror Firmer? The blind director thing? Funny, that never occurred to me until now!

Has Lloyd seen the film yet?

No, not yet, he’s so busy. I’ve sent the film in for the TromaDance and of course he’ll get a copy of his own. He’ll see it.

What about audience response to the film so far?

We had a great turnout for our world premiere at The Pioneer Theater in NYC. Soon after there was a screening in Dallas hosted by the club Bar of Soap and my friend and “LovecraCked! The Movie” co-collaborator Justin Powers. I wasn’t able to make it out there for that one, but I heard it was a full house with folks driving as far as 80 miles just to get to the show! The audience, from what I hear, really liked the movie, and Justin’s already helping put together another show in Arkansas. We’re also planning another show at The Pioneer for this October. It’ll probably be sometime in the late evening on the 14 th. Check back at www.biffjuggernaut.com or www.twoboots.com/pioneer for further info on that show.

In terms of online response, there’s been a lot of interest and excitement generated by the trailer, and I’ve received dozens and dozens of complimentary emails, especially on sites like MySpace. (If you want to hit me up there by the way it’s www.myspace.com/biffjuggernautproductions). Once our first limited DVD release is out (this August 2006) I’m hoping folks enjoy the flick as much as the trailer! So far, from the couple screenings we’ve had we’re rating between a 5 and a 6 on the IMDb. Not too bad really, but I’m not holding my breath as I’d hazard a guess that there’s a good deal of voting out of spite going on. If I can stay above a “5” average I’ll consider that a small victory.

Everyone’s entitled to their opinion of course, and I’m certainly honored that anyone cares enough to bother rating or reviewing the film - hate it or love it, but I think it does seem sometimes like really low-budget cinema gets especially corn-holed on the IMDb and elsewhere. Perhaps that’s part of the price of being outside the mainstream. So if you hated our flick feel free to vote/comment of course, but if you liked it… if you liked it then show a little love motherfuckers! That was a bit of a rant wasn’t it? I guess it just gets me steamed sometimes when I hear folks complaining about the studios churning out too much shit, but then when the little guy comes along with his first movie made for peanuts those same folks are all too happy to give him a nice corn-holing for his trouble. Being a low-budget filmmaker is sometimes like being a cheap hooker: you don’t get paid shit and you get it up the ass all the time – except for one difference – it’s absolutely worth every ass-bleeding minute of it!

Any extras on the DVD?

About an hour and a half of extra stuff. One short that I did: “The Voice Inside”. Not all of the extras are related directly to “LovecraCked! The Movie”, some of them are separate BiFF JUGGERNAUT Productions. There are also two shorts that were submitted for the anthology that I couldn’t use for the final film, but I liked them both very much just the same and thought it would be cool to include them on the DVD.

There are also some music videos that I did with Things Outside the Skin. A pretty sweet blooper reel that’s about 12 or 13 minutes. Some of those bloopers are shown in the credits for the film, but there’s a whole bunch of new ones (at least 5-6 min more) that are cut back into the reel. There might even be an Easter egg in there somewhere...

So what’s your dream project?

Well don’t ask Bruce Campbell that question because I asked him that, and he basically said, “Well, I can’t do what I want to do, so next question.” I can understand his frustration, but I would’ve really liked to know the answer to that question. Hell, hopefully I’d be able to hire the guy someday and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to know something like that in advance. The guy’s just become really bitter over the years and not without some justification. I mean, he’s a great actor, who rarely gets the recognition or roles he deserves, and every time it looks like he should break through and get what’s really coming to him it just doesn’t seem to happen. I’m always pulling for ya, Bruce!

Hell, as far as I’m concerned he’s a large part of the reason Sam Raimi is where he is right now, and we see what kind of roles that’s lead to for Bruce… I mean “Snooty Usher”?!? Now that’s just not right! Where’s the loyalty? What… did Campbell piss on Raimi’s Twinkies? Sure, assuming he did soil the man’s Twinkies, then yes, I could understand, but otherwise come on! Bruce’s “Ash” made those films! Sure there’s cool camera work and nice editing, but would those flicks ever have reached the cult status they did without Bruce? I don’t think so. So show a little love Raimi.

Wow, that was a bit of segue I guess… back to you original question.

Actually, I have a number of so-to-say dream projects right now. I'd really like to make this script “Cold” that I finished recently, but due mostly to the costly nature of that project - it takes place partially on the slopes of Mt. Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps – that’ll probably have to wait for now. It’s kinda tough sometimes to write with a low budget in mind. The story’s really about friendship and the obsession of one of these friends which ultimately has disastrous consequences for everyone involved… but since half of it would need to be shot on a rather large mountain or on a rather large set… well same difference really when you’re on a low budget. Maybe I can adapt it to take place in a slightly more affordable setting, but damn if I just don’t dig the thought of such a stark, jagged backdrop.

Also I have a script called “InHuman” about a neo-nazi who falls in love with a Jewish girl after accidentally killing her father. I’m thinking of adapting it to have a different racial/religious setting, though the story/plot would essentially remain the same. I guess, I feel the nazi theme, though still relevant, has already been brought to the screen so many times… and there are other religious/ethnic conflicts going on right now that might be more topical or relevant…

Probably the story closest to my heart that I'd most like to pursue is "Angy-Man", a short screenplay I wrote many years back, which I've recently expanded to feature-length. It’s probably about as far from the mainstream as you can get, but it’s coming from a very personal place – funny I actually had the original idea for the story in the shower. Hell, a lot of the best ideas I have seem to happen at times like this. In the end, the next major project I plunge myself into could easily be something entirely different from all of the above. There are a lot of possibilities right now - it's just a matter of what works best. As far as the immediate future goes: I can tell you that one of the other directors from "LovecraCked! The Movie" is putting his own horror anthology together, and I will be writing/directing one of the segments for that.

Who would you most like to work with?

Gary Oldman! He’s fucking incredible! He just ended up getting pigeonholed as the villain type after he broke into the mainstream with “Dracula”… and now… now he’s appearing as a head in a fireplace of a certain franchise I won’t name. Sure it was cool to see him in “Batman Begins” but it was hardly a role that made the most of his talents, though it was a step up from the fireplace. I mean, seriously. The guy is friggin’ amazing! He just vanishes into the part like nobody else. A lot of people I’ve talked to don’t even realize that was him in True Romance. Such committed, transformative performances. I mean just utter immersion in the part: “Immortal Beloved”, “Romeo is Bleeding”, “Sid & Nancy”… has there ever been a cooler Dracula? Shit, man, the guy’s a bloody genius. It’s just a fact. I thought I met him once on the subway in NY, but I think the guy was too young. He really did look like him, though, and I couldn’t resist talking to him. I told him he looked like someone I admired greatly, and he just grinned… very suspicious… to this day I still wonder… but surely he was too young to be….

I’ve heard that he complains that he never gets to have his real hair in films; he always has to wear wigs.

Gary, I’ll let you use your real hair. I swear!

But getting back to your question, I’d also really like to work with David Cronenberg. His last film “A History of Violence” was such a great flick, and yet so different from some of his others. He never seems to get stuck in his own style. His films almost always stand apart from one another, yet still possess that underlying current that links all his work. I saw some footage of him in bed with the Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello, and he’s lying in the middle with his arms around each of them. I watched more of the footage (it’s on the DVD in the extras) and you could really see how great he is to work with and how comfortable and fun he makes the whole process. He really knows how to work with actors, and I’d just love to be with him on a set, let alone have the opportunity to act in one of his films. Now that would be a dream come true!

Also I’d love to work with Christian Bale, who’s commitment and ability is second only to likes of a certain Oldman. Just imagine Gary Oldman and Christian Bale playing opposite one another... and I don't mean the likes of "Batman Begins", though I did enjoy that flick (best of the series in my opinion). Now that I'm thinking of it… there's a virtual slew of fantastic actors and actresses that I'd love to cast: Bruce Campbell, Jeffrey Combs, Johnny Depp, Clive Owen, Lance Henricksen, Jeremy Irons, Takeshi Kitano, Keith David, Kurt Russel, Denzel Washinton, Al Pacino, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, Melinda Clarke, Maria Bello, Alice Krige, Angela Bassett, Barbara Steel, Naomi Watts, Deborah Kara Unger, Lena Olin, Isabella Rossellini, Isabelle Huppert, Rena Owen, Juliette Binoche, Sheryl Lee... there are so very many the list could go on and on...

Anything else you would like to add?

Thanks for the interview, Bunni, and thanks to Rob, Mike and the rest of the Icons crew for the opportunity and for being so supportive of the indie horror scene. You guys are awesome! For more about "LovecraCked! The Movie" including upcoming screenings, the DVD release and other details please visit www.biffjuggernaut.com/lovecrackedthemovie, and check out www.biffjuggernaut.com the home of BiFF JUGGERNAUT Productions for news on upcoming productions, more info and other sorts of fun gobbledy goo from the land of BiFF. Thanks and stay independent!


P
lease Visit: www.biffjuggernaut.com/lovecrackedthemovie and www.biffjuggernaut.com
and
www.myspace.com/biffjuggernautproductions


Special Thanks to Elias!!!

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