Quantcast Steven Tsapelas interview - WE NEED GIRLFRIENDS

Steven Tsapelas!!!
Steve, Steve, Steve. Who is this Steve Tsapelas guy!? I first saw his name come up as co-writer on John Torrani's 'Alpha Dead'. Then, I watched a short film that he wrote & directed called 'Teenage Superhero Pregnancy Scare', which answers the burning question of what a teenage Wonder Woman would do if she got knocked up by Superman. Did I mention everyone in the film wears those old plastic Halloween masks with the rubberband in the back? No?! In other works, Steve Tsapelas is freakin' hilarious... AND a filmmaker you absolutely have to look out for. Read on & meet him, folks! - by Robg. 9/05

What are your earliest recollections of the horror genre? What was the first film to really scare you?

Well, like a lot of kids, while growing up I was not allowed to watch rated R movies. And this did not make me curious to see horror movies, it made me scared shitless of horror movies! Because my mom would say things like "I saw The Evil Dead once, and there were people in the floorboards, and I couldn't sleep for weeks". And this scared the hell out of me!  I remember my mom had taped Fright Night off of television because she was a big Chris Sarandon fan. And I stupidly taped a couple of episodes of Perfect Strangers after Fright Night on this same VHS. (laughs) So in order to get to Perfect Strangers, I'd have to fast forward through Fright Night. Whenever I stopped, it would always be during a horrifically scary scene. And I'd freak out, and overreact and then have to calm myself down. So, my first memories of horror is being scared shitless of it... thanks to my Mom!

Do you remember the first real horror movie you made it through?

The first real horror movie I saw was probably 'A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors', which I saw because a friend's dad rented it and we all watched it. And there's something kind of safe about your friend's dad being there and watching it with you, rather then going into this environment alone. Then I saw 'They Live' which was one of my early favorite horror films. And then I guess when I got to middle school, I started watching a lot more horror movies.

I remember I saw 'Army Of Darkness' at a birthday party. That was a big moment. So, my friends and I ended up watching a lot of horror, especially considering I didn't get a chance to watch them as a younger kid. The movie's I remember affecting me the most were 'An American Werewolf In London' and 'Evil Dead 2'. I just loved the way they infused comedy and horror. When I saw 'Evil Dead 2', it was like nothing I'd ever seen before, and I couldn't believe it existed.

I tend to notice that a lot of the things you write and take part in have a large sense of humor to them. Do you think that maybe that stemmed from watching these types of films? Horror sprinkled with comedic elements?

Definitely. It's just hard for me to take things seriously when I'm writing, because I guess I don't take myself all that seriously. Whenever I write something that tries to be serious, it just always comes out ridiculous, or with a sense of humor to it. And I know John (Torrani) has that same problem. Whenever we're writing, it always turns into something ridiculous.

When was the first time that you thought you wanted to pursue filmmaking in some capacity?

I can't remember a time while growing up that I was NOT watching movies. I was always watching movies and there was always something I was interested in. And I was always interested in writing things like that. So, from an early age, it was all I really wanted to do. For a while, like a lot of kids, I liked comic books and I thought about writing comic books. I've always liked movies and always wanted to make movies. When I was looking at schools, I knew I wanted to major in film. There was no question about that.

While in college, I'm sure you did a lot of shorts and projects. Can you give us a quick run down of some of the things you made back then?

Sure. When I was in college I met a few dedicated film students, including Brian Amyot, and Angel Acevedo, and with a few others we started a club called 'The Hofstra's Filmmaker Club', which still exists today. We all liked movies and we were always working on them, so we always had something to work on. Through that, we made a lot of movies together. I wrote a good deal of them. One of my first films was this movie called 'Ragtag' which John Torrani is in. It's kind of like a Charlie Brown-esque kinda movie. It's a really weird, strange children's movie, with adults playing children. Like John had facial hair and long hair and he was playing someone who was 12 years old mentally. My next student film was this movie called 'Be My Valentine, Franny Canada'. Which was loosely based on the life of Soleil Moon Frye, aka Punky Brewster. And that did pretty well. It won a best film award at Hofstra and played the LI Film expo and the Palm Springs Short Film Festival. It got picked up for distribution by this company Big Film Shorts. That was my last film for school.

As you said before, John had a bit part in 'Ragtag'. Was that how you two initially hooked up?

We were both in each other's film class before, and John had made my favorite film in the class, it was called 'For The Love Of Plastic'. It was about a guy who loved his Princess Leia figure more then his girlfriend. (laughs) So, we had similar sensibilities right off the bat. And he asked me to work on his next short, which was a horror film called 'Undead Make-up Party'. Actually, I acted in it. It's kind of how we started collaborating. He doesn't talk about these early films of his, but I love 'Undead Make-up Party'. I make John watch it once a year. (laughs)

You co-wrote John's film 'Alpha Dead'. How'd that all come about?

Yea, well that summer, it was after college and we were hanging out a lot with Brian and Angel, who had rented a room in a sorority house. And that's when John pitched the idea of 'Alpha Dead' to me. (laughs) I always end up weaseling my way on board as a writer for things because I'm usually the one who is willing to sit down at the computer and write. And I kept suggesting "What if this happens?" or "What if this happens next?" and I guess we started talking about these ideas, and I was writing them out. I weaseled my way on board of 'Alpha Dead' and became co-writer.

Now, I've seen the short a few times. And there's a lot of wild things that go down. So, where the hell did some of this come from? I mean, my friends and I have watched a bunch of your shorts, and we think you guys are the 'Broken Lizard' of Long Island. (laughs) You have to keep working together on these films!

Again, we don't take too much seriously, so I guess the idea of a zombie penis or a zombie blow-job... (laughs) I don't know. I think we just are always trying to one up each other. Thinking "wouldn't it be funny if...?" We like films that offend. We like films that are gory. We like films that are funny AND covered in blood. So, basically, that comes into play when we make something and we're always trying to one up each other. And not take it too seriously.

I've said it before and I'll say it again... Joe Coburn is my all time favorite character of ever!

Well, we're working with Joe again soon. But more on that in a bit.

You're latest short is called 'Teenage Superhero Pregnancy Scare'. When did you shoot that? And was it meant for anything? Or just for fun?

I shot it in April of this year (2005). It was just the next idea I had for a film. I had been working at a comic store briefly for about a month, and I was picking up a lot of comics for pretty cheap. Things that I had never read. And I just thought "I want to make a comic book movie!". I love comic books. I love comic book movies. So, I want to make a comic book movie. So, I sat down and tried to write a serious comic book movie. I was having trouble coming up with a serious idea. So, I thought, "ya know, let me just see how much costumes cost?" With cheap comic films, the costumes look like crap, so I wanted to see how much a good costume would cost. So, I started looking at some costumes... and these costumes... were fucking expensive! I was like "How the fuck am I going to afford these expensive costumes?!"...

What you ended up doing was genius!

... Yeah. Under the expensive costumes, they had the old, cheesy plastic masks with the plastic suits. And we all grew up wearing those stupid costumes. And then I thought, "Ya know, if I can make a movie where everyone wears these stupid masks & costumes... that would be really funny."

To make a superhero movie with all plastic masks, I thought was an original & unique way to go about it. Yet, very disturbing to see these people talk thru those masks! Now, you had to buy all those masks? I assumed that perhaps they were part of your collection or something...

I did buy them all. John and I went for an auction of 40 plus masks for about $100 bucks. Some of the specific one's I had to buy separately. Like I had to find Wonder Woman. Plastic Man. Batman. Superman. The most expensive one was the Plastic Man costume. It cost me something like $15 bucks. But how could I not put Plastic Man in the movie?

And have Plastic Man be the gay best friend to Wonder Woman.

But... why a teenage pregnancy film with superheroes?

Well, I'd been watching a lot of the Something Weird Video movies. And I really, really love pregnancy scare films, especially this one called 'Teenage Mother'. We actually showed the trailer for it at the Cult Hero Horror Film Festival where Alpha Dead premiered. But I love these films that show the horrors of teenage pregnancy. And all the cliches of the genre. I love that there's always a scene where the devil confronts the girl, usually in a nightmare sequence. I love that nothing ever works out for the girl that gets pregnant. After she gets an abortion or has the baby, something always goes wrong. Sometimes, it'll be something ridiculous, like they get hit by a car randomly as they're crossing the street. I love when that happens. (laughs) Or they off themselves, or the boyfriend kills them. I love that all these terrible things happen to these poor girls in all these 50's and 60's and 70's scare movies. So, I wanted to make something in that genre. And a superhero movie because I love comics. And I merged them together. That's how that happened!

How'd you go about finding the actors involved? Had you worked with any in the past?

Yea, I worked with Jeff Schine, Maureen Fewel, and Chris Carvalho (who played Superman, Rainbow Brite and Batman, respectively) on a few other shorts. And then I had an audition with, Meagan McCaig who played Wonder Woman. She came in and was really good, and had a real vulnerability and sweetness that I thought would come through, even while wearing a mask. And Kevin Collins who played Skeletor (as an abortionist) just blew me away in his audition. He did the best evil laugh I've ever heard. That's probably my favorite part of the film. In the audition, he just went for it, and he totally got the evil laugh. I mean, you can't ask for more then an evil laugh for a supervillian audition.

So, important question now about Meagan who played Wonder Woman... is she... umm... single?

No!  She's married!? Can you believe that?

What!? End of interview! (laughs)

She's a very nice girl and a great actress. She had to deal with us putting her in underwear, and putting her in a skimpy top and running around town on the first day of shooting. A very cold day. Perhaps we weren't too nice to her?

I tend to notice in 'Teenage Superhero Pregnancy Scare' and 'Alpha Dead'... there's a lot of... blowjob humor? (laughs) Is there something you'd like to... confess to us?

I don't know! (laughs) It's just always a great thing to cut to. You need a laugh? Cut to a blowjob. John and I love 80's teen comedies and that scene is always in there! You need that scene! I guess there is a lot of that humor. I don't know how to explain it. I guess we just enjoy poking fun at that.

If ever the opportunity came to expand upon 'Alpha Dead' and make a full length, would you do it?

YES! Of course. That'd be fantastic. John actually came up with a title and we have a loose premise. John came up with 'Dead U'. (laughs) We also kinda talked about the idea of an 'Alpha Dead' sequel. Which would follow around the Phil Katzman character played by Lars Stevens; who is our Bruce Campbell.

Joe Coburn has to come back somehow!

Yes. We were thinking as maybe the head zombie. We love Joe. He's got a big role in the Charlene short.

Well, if someone ever gives me money, I will personally produce a full length 'Alpha Dead' movie.

I'd love to see it expanded.

The horror genre is always in flux, but we've got some decent things coming out recently. Anything in particular catch you off guard?

I absolutely loved 'The Devil's Rejects'. I didn't like 'House Of 1000 Corpses' but I loved 'The Devil's Rejects'. It was everything I could've hoped for in a movie. Also, I really like Shaun Of the Dead. And I love MAY, which doesn't get enough credit.

Anything else you'd like to say to the Icons audience?

Yes. Viva El Salvador!

Special thanks to John Torrani & Steven Tsapelas for his time.

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