Quantcast Kevin Kangas interview - FEAR OF CLOWNS

Kevin Kangas!!!

Writer/Director Kevin Kangas is the man behind 'FEAR OF CLOWNS', 'HUNTING HUMANS' & the upcoming 'FEAR OF CLOWNS 2.' We caught up with him after initially meeting him at a Fangoria Weekend of Horrors convention & spoke to him about the making of all 3 of his films and creating Shivers - the creepy clown from his Fear Of Clowns movies. Read on for our FRIGHT exclusive chat with filmmaker Kevin Kangas!!! - by Robg. 12/06

What are your earliest recollections of the horror genre? Do you remember the first film or films that really had an impact on you and scared you?

My earliest recollections are of seeing something called “Creature Feature” on channel 45 around here. They showed older black and white movies. “Giant Leeches” scared the crap out of me, but I got to see a lot of the classics: “Them”, “Creature From The Black Lagoon”, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, “Frankenstein” and “Dracula”.

One of the first films that scared me was “Giant Spider Invasion”, which I saw when I was eight at a drive-in. It terrified me.

But it wasn’t until I was in my teens that I started seeing “modern” horror, which were the big influences on me: “Halloween”, “Friday the Thirteenth”, and “Nightmare on Elm Street” are the big three.

I had read that you started writing from a very early age, and then towards your late teens, you started writing screenplays. Do you remember at what point you became aware of what went into making a film? What was it that put you on the path of filmmaker?

I wasn’t aware of what went into a film until I took a film class as an elective. I’d been writing since I was twelve, but it was always just something I did. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be a “writer”, but it was hard for me to NOT write so I did it.

In college, I was a computer-science major when I took that film class as an elective, and it all clicked. I thought—this is how I can turn these stories and screenplays of mine into something others can experience. The computer stuff came in handy later—the computer is one of the most important tools a filmmaker has nowadays.

I apologize, but I haven’t seen your first film head ‘Hunting Humans’ yet. However, I love the title and the premise (A serial killer gets stalked by another serial killer) Can you tell us a bit about how this story and film came together? Was it an idea you’d been writing for a while? Or was it more something that came to you once you knew you had the means to make a movie?

I had attempted to put two movies together already—we’d gone through the casting on both of them, and both feel through for different reasons. I was really feeling hopeless, like I was just going to keep getting so far and then the whole thing would crash. I’d never make a movie.

But, being a bit of a sociopath myself in college, I had always been interested in serial killers. I’d read most of the books out there that were available. And I spent a lot of my college days figuring out how I would kill people if I wanted to get away with it (I was an angry youth). So Aric (the protagonist in HH) was simply a better-built extension of me.

I didn’t want the flick to just be about this guy killing people though. He was going to be my “protagonist”, but he’s a serial killer. I had to make him somewhat likeable—he had to be funny. He had to be powerful. I spent weeks figuring out what kind of hook I could use—and then it occurred to me: What if this serial killer who’s so obsessed with patterns suddenly found himself on the other end of the stalking?

I started telling people about it, and every one of them was enthused. It’s not a reaction you get when you pitch them your “slacker with a gun” screenplay, so I knew I was on to something.

We didn’t really have the means to shoot it—I raised barely enough money to pay for the film and the Director of Photography (D.P.) We shot the whole movie, but it took us four years to finish it since we didn’t have the money to develop the film and transfer it to video.

It’s funny you ask about it—all I get now are emails asking me if I’m going to sue the new Showtime show “Dexter”. I watched episode one, and I gotta tell you…it’s tempting.

‘Fear Of Clowns’. The title and box art pretty much says it all. Now, I’d also read that you got the idea from a friend who had a fear of clowns. Do you yourself have a fear of clowns? Meaning, is this subject matter you could relate to? Or more along the lines of a story you knew you could tell?

No, I’m not afraid of clowns. But the story was very much along the lines of “Halloween”. Woman is being stalked by a psychopath who won’t be stopped. And all of us filmmakers want to remake our favorite movies. It’s innate. It’s part of the learning process on our way to branching out and finding our own style. Which is why “Fear of Clowns 2” is so different.

How difficult (or easy) was it to find the right actor to portray Shivers the clown? Didn’t Mark Lassise (who played Shivers) originally audition for another role, even though you had him in mind for Shivers?

It was surprisingly easy to find him. I saw his picture on an agent’s web site and found out he was local. He looked exactly like what I had pictured, if a little more buff. He came in and auditioned for Shivers, but because Shivers has almost no lines, we had him read another character’s lines.

Let’s talk a bit about the clown design. How long did it take you to come up with the right look for Shivers? This includes his face paint, the idea of him not wearing a shirt, him using an axe, etc. You collaborated with your brother on Shivers, no?

I had bought the costume before I wrote the script—it was a vintage outfit (which fit into the fact that Lynn remembers this clown that she paints from her childhood), so I needed a makeup that would fit. I told my brother Paul C. that he’d be bald and have black eyes, and he designed five looks—the one we used for Shivers was my favorite.

The part about him without a shirt came about because Mark is built—that was something I thought and rethought. Mark just looked scarier with no shirt—you can see this is a guy who can break you in half. With the whole costume on he looked kind of fat. So I decided to cut the costume in half.

As for the axe…that’s been in my mind for a long time. I had a buddy of mine, “Faust” artist Tim Vigil, draw me a picture a long time ago of a clown with a big axe. I have no idea why. As big as the axe we used was, I wanted an even bigger one. Just couldn’t find it.

I love the black eyes on Shivers. Very creepy looking. And you tied it into him having a light sensitive eye disorder? Where’d that idea come from?

There’s that quote in Halloween where Doctor Loomis says “He had black eyes, the devil’s eyes”, and to me it sounded like a shark’s eyes so it was a little bit of an homage to that. Then later I saw a painting of a man with black eyes and I thought—Yeah, we gotta go with it. It’s so freaky.

Then I tried to figure out how I could explain it—I didn’t want Shivers to be supernatural, so to me there needed to be an explanation. I did some research and found a rare eye disorder that can turn the entire sclera of the eye grayish—and I figured I could twist the truth a little. That way at least it’s partially grounded in reality.

Rick Ganz was in your first feature ‘Hunting Humans’. Was it a given to bring him back for ‘Fear Of Clowns’? What’s your working relationship been like from feature to feature?

On the first two flicks it was like working with a close friend. He’s a very talented actor, but then things came up in his life and he decided to give up the acting to concentrate on his family. It’s too bad—I can’t imagine anyone else playing Aric, and someday I intend to do a sequel.

‘Fear Of Clowns’ is a fairly long feature for an independent film. I know you at one point had a 3 hour cut (!) and decided to eliminate completely one of the sub-plots. What exactly was that sub-plot? And if you had to re-edit the film again, would you do anything different? (Change a different sub-plot? Shorten or lengthen anything? Etc.)
The bottom line is this: Going forward with the script at that point was a mistake. We either had to shoot now or wait another eight months until the weather turned suitable. So I elected to shoot it.

The entire ending didn’t work—it was just too much. So I had to cut it. And then by cutting it, a LOT of stuff didn’t make sense. A lot of questions don’t get answered (that were originally answered). Like: “Why is Lynn afraid of clowns?” “What happened during that car accident she has nightmares about?”

All of which is answered in the script, but didn’t work in the movie. If you want to read the script to see what was cut, it’s here:


A warning though: FOC2 is a sequel to the movie, not the script.

If I got to do it again…I’m not sure—the end result is that I got to make another movie, and that’s always your objective. You can kind of consider FOC2 my do-over. It’s the movie I should have made.

How soon after ‘Fear Of Clowns’ did you start thinking about a sequel? Was it something suggested to you by Lions Gate after they picked up distribution on the first one?

Only after they mentioned that they’d be interested in a sequel. I was ready to wash my hands of the whole thing. Even after they mentioned it I was skeptical. I thought—I’m not going to phone this in. If I can’t come up with something that excites me, I’m not going to devote two years of my life to it, no matter how much money they offer me.

After brainstorming for a couple of weeks I came up with an idea that I really liked…then I had to find out if I could get the original actors back. With the exception of Rick Ganz, they all returned.

Did anything influence your writing on ‘Fear Of Clowns 2’? Meaning, maybe something you wanted to do for the first, but weren’t able to?

I integrated some things that were in the first that got cut out—you find out why Lynn is afraid of clowns and what happened during the crash. You also get some resolution—that’s all I can say. There are surprises in the sequel.

I wanted to make the script sleeker, faster. More killing, less talking. Let’s really take Shivers out of his cage and let him go to town. And oh yeah, he’s also got two homicidal friends who escaped with him that he’s convinced to become clowns.

In the sequel, you introduce more killer clowns. Can you give us the break-down on each? Names and stats? And how you decided on the looks/designs for each? Did you work with your brother again?

Tom, once he puts on the paint, becomes Ogre the Clown (though he’s only called it in the script—no one references him by that). He’s played by Clarence McNatt—a 6’8 black man built like Andre The Giant. Mark’s a big guy, and Clarence dwarfs him.

Fred, when he puts on the paint, becomes Giggles The Clown. I think he calls himself that a couple of times, though mostly he just laughs to himself. He’s a pedophile cannibal, and is the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen. He’s going to freak a lot of people out. Phillip Levine, the actor who played him, was incredible. He just melted into that character—one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with in terms of “getting” the character. I cast him from one five-minute audition tape.

I know at Fango, you mentioned auditioning Phillip for Giggles? And didn’t you tell a story at Fango at how creeped out you were by his audition?

He creeped out everyone because he could become Giggles at a drop of the hat. He’d just be this different person. He brought a doll to set that Giggles would carry around—it was a Raggedy Andy doll with tape over the eyes and a bloody crotch. Totally his idea. He’d stroke it…I’m just telling you: If I didn’t know he was the nicest guy in the world, I would believe he was a pedophile cannibal.

The first Fear Of Clowns was limited in time and budget, and while everything went fairly smooth for the most part, you had a few problems. (Noisy backgrounds, winds, etc.) How did the shoot on the second ‘Fear Of Clowns’ go?

FOC went fairly smooth? Did you watch the making of? Nightmare city.

FOC2 was decent, but still big problems. Time is the biggest hurdle. If we had more, it would go a long distance. Shooting an entire feature with this many setups and effects and stunts and fights...it’s a lot to do.

I saw an outtake from ‘Fear Of Clowns 2’ involving a car exploding that wasn’t exactly as you planned. Can you tell us a bit about this mishap?

The pyrotechnics guy we’d hired showed up with the wrong rig. He was supposed to bring a propane rig, but he brought a gas rig. The thing blew up when he ignited it. The entire sequence is supposed to have a small fire inside the car, and immediately I’m trying to rewrite it to deal with the blazing inferno inside. It was tough. Because the heat was so intense, the actors couldn’t get within twenty feet of it.

Fear Of Clowns 2 Pyrotechnics outtake

I caught some of the clips from ‘Fear Of Clowns 2’ that you screened at the Fangoria convention in Jersey. It seems like Fear Of Clowns 2 has a bit more gore, a bit more humor. It just looks like a more fun film. Is that the case? And was it a fun film to make?

Fear Of Clowns 2 Scene 48

It’s definitely a better movie. It still has some problems, but on the whole it moves faster, there’s more killings, and the story is much more cohesive.

It wasn’t more fun to make—there are fun times, there are tough times. Until you get some distance from them it’s hard to look back and remember the fun. Right now it’s a LOT of hard work, and all I can ever see is how far I missed the mark I was aiming at.

But reuniting for a few weeks with the cast and Mun—it’s almost worth the incredible hardships.

Speaking of the Fango show, what was the convention experience like from your perspective?

It was very cool. It was the first show I’ve ever attended as a guest, so it was quite a kick. I wish we were on a little later, so more people could have shown up, but we seemed to have a good-sized crowd. And we had a great time partying with the cast members who showed up.

One of Icons favorite actor’s appears up in Fear Of Clowns 2. Please, what was it like to work with thespian actor Lars Stevens?!

Lars was great. He came in, always knew his lines and what to do, and he also helped us set up a stunt where Shivers jumps off of a fifteen-foot roof. Me, I had a little bed cushion for Mark to jump on, and Lars was under the impression Mark was going to break a leg, literally. So he rigged up a nice system of cushions for Mark to fall on.

The whole trio of new guys was great—Tom Proctor (a veteran actor/stunt man/ex cage fighter) was simply one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met. Super knowledgeable, very funny, and generous with his time. I’d like to put him in every movie I ever do.

Adam Ciesielski (Shuh-Shell-Ski) is the other new blood. He’s an up-an-comer that’s got a very bright future if he keeps working. He’s got a great look, a great attitude, and is a very talented actor.

You write all your features. Do the resources you have available factor into your writing? Or do you write what comes to you and try to figure out a way to do it later?

It’s a combination. I begin writing and if I get an idea that I’m not sure I can do, I reach out to people I know to see if they can get me access. If they can, I go ahead and write it in.

This was how we got the location that the entire end of the movie takes place in. It’s a camp ground a little like Camp Crystal Lake minus the lake. It’s dark and creepy, with old buildings and stuff. Even has an abandoned train car on it. Frank Lama, who not only stars in the film but doubled as co-Executive Producer with me, got us access to the location. I went there a few times, took pictures and drew a diagram, then wrote it into the script.

Can you tell us the pros and cons of being an independent filmmaker from Maryland, as opposed to working in Hollywood or New York?

The pros are that you can do a lot without permits. You can do a lot without talking to anybody. Just go do it, do it fast, and get out of there. If you’re not bothering anybody then the cops will probably leave you alone.

The cons are that the talent pool for actors is a little less than elsewhere, no offense meant to the local actors. There are simply a lot of people here who want to be actors, but don’t want to do the work involved in learning how to act well. There ARE talented people here, but you really have to dig through a lot of headshots to get to them.

What’s the status of ‘Fear Of Clowns 2’ as of now, and what’s next for you?

FOC2 is being scored right now. I’ve gotten some of the music back and it’s great. I’m putting together the DVD extras—I’d really love to get it into LGF’s hands in time for them to get it out in October of 07, but we’ll see.

Next on my plate is up in the air. I’m writing something I’m very excited about that I’ve temporarily titled “Wounded Creature”. I know the actual name but don’t want to throw it out there yet. It’s a bizarre film that would be frightening to attempt. I’m not sure how sellable it would be—it’s not a very generic movie, which a lot of the studios are looking for now.

I’m also writing another flick that would be easily-sellable, but I’m a little anxious to branch out. Both films have horror elements to them, but I’m not sure you’d call either horror.

And no, I have no plans to do FOC3—no matter how much my cast/crew begs me.

Thanks for talking with us, Kevin!

Fear Of Clowns 2 teaser trailer

Visit: www.KangasKahnFilms.com

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