by Sam Reeve
Santiago Caruso is a young artist from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Most of his work is odd, dark and creepy, and has appeared on the covers of horror books and on several albums. Caruso is currently exhibiting at the Last Rites Gallery in New York, and the Museo de America in Madrid.
Click HERE for Part I of INFINITE BREASTS: An Over-Sized Interview with John Skipp, Andrew Kasch and Cody Goodfellow About Their Short Film ‘Stay At Home Dad’
AK: I’d say it’s fairly equal. Skipp & I are usually of one mind when it comes to creative decisions, and we plan so much that when we finally get on set, we can divide and conquer when we have to. Having two directors on a low-budget set is actually a blessing because you’re usually spread really thin.
JS: It’s a really amazing case of playing to each other’s strengths. I’ve got the story shit down. Andrew’s got the technical end down. And directing is the balance of the two. We both are obsessive movie freaks, understand what makes them work, understand each other’s disciplines, and have a broad palette that runs well beyond genre to choose from when discussing how to attack any given scene.
Past that, he’s a really fun guy to work with. Like Cody and all great collaborators, he’s a throw-down guy, and plays well with others. We have a fucking blast.
CG: There was some friction in the early stages, admittedly. . . Skipp and I have collaborated on so many projects that we locked horns a bit on the script, which I was pretty hung up on keeping my skidmarks on, at least until I handed it to them to shoot. All of it came to a satisfying end, though, because every choice that any of us consciously made had to be a strong one, or the other two would kill it.
AK: Overall it was pretty smooth. We all respect what’s on the page (otherwise what’s the point?) but at the same time, nobody was overly precious about things. Directors and actors need to have room the play and explore – otherwise it’s just a dictatorship. . . and who likes those?
How did the creature designs come together?
AK: That was mostly Mike Dubisch, Cody’s illustrator friend and fellow Lovecraft enthusiast.
CG: Mike Dubisch sweats monsters. He keeps a notepad and just designs hideously deformed and awe-inspiring creatures effortlessly and unstoppably, all the goddamn time. He was working at the time on the artwork for All-Monster Action, so I asked him to do it, and he whipped off the designs we went with on one sheet of paper in less time than it took for me to describe what we wanted. In return for this, I wrote an introduction for his Black Velvet Necronomicon collection (which is pretty fucking incredible, by the way.)
JS: From there, Lindsey Peterson took the reins, designing and sculpting. We suggested. She delivered. She in now our incredible go-to girl.
The dream sequence?
AK: We originally shot a different version of the dream sequence which was an extended conversation in the doctor’s office with Diane Goldner. It was originally supposed to end with the castration but as Skipp & I were putting it together, we realized it wasn’t nearly surreal enough and hurt the overall pace. So we concocted a crazy Ken Russell-style dream sequence with some Lovecraftian imagery so the big reveal wouldn’t come out of nowhere. Cody brought over some of his monster masks and we shot a bunch of wild stuff on a green screen in my living room. Then were lucky enough to nab music video director/VFX master Phil Mucci and my pal Michael Granberry (who did all the amazing stop-motion scenes in Never Sleep Again) who put together 30 seconds of visual weirdness.
CG: Skipp and Andrew got those guys. I still can’t believe that shit, myself. Felix Gelman, the gigantic orderly, should be the Rondo Hatton of our times. I was the monsters in the masks. The knives turned up in the free books box at Iliad Bookshop.
And the breasts prosthetic?
AK: Yikes! First, the application process for Matt (our lead actor) took about 2 hours. The breasts were loaded with condoms to get the sagging effect and were rigged with tubes that shot out rice milk (the crew would get squirts in their coffee cups in between takes). But the tubes leaked the milk into the prosthesis that caused the breasts to smell like month-old rotten eggs.
They would literally give off “breast farts” that would send the crew running from the room. On the plus side, it was easy to get the baby to cry at the beginning of the movie
CG: Yes, I still have them. But I’ve had to steal them back from Matt Holmes twice.
SAHD already won an Audience Award (Bronze) at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Where else have/are you taking it?
AK: That was really cool because Fantasia is my favorite film festival in the world and I used to spend my summers in Montreal just for that. So it was a dream come true to get accepted. . . and downright surreal when we actually won something.
CG: We’re pretty proud of that. It offsets all the Certificates of Participation quite nicely. But we always intended for SAHD to be the class clown at any festival, rather than the award bait.
AK: We’re on the interwebs now! Free for all on YouTube!
CG: We’ve concluded our festival run, unless anyone asks to run it. It’s on YouTube because that’s where anyone can see it for free. We just want to freak people out.
I was surprise by how many festivals rejected the film outright. . .
Apparently, a lot of tastemakers feel that horror films shouldn’t be funny. At least not intentionally so. . .
JS: We also won Best Short at Crypticon in Seattle. And Matthew Currie Holmes took Best Actor at the World Horror Convention. We also played H.P. Lovecraft Film Festivals in Seattle and L.A., as well as Shriekfest and a couple of others. I’ve screened it for audiences at CG’s Comics and Collectibles in Manitou Springs, CO, and the legendary AK Tavern outside Seattle. So it’s definitely gotten around.
What’s reception been like?
AK: We get two different reactions: “I loved it! It’s so twisted!” or “What the fuck was that?!??” Either one makes me happy.
JS: I’ve seen crowds laugh their asses off, and seen them sit in stunned near-silence. It differs from room to room. Ya never know. But the one thing I love is that people talk about it after.
CG: Audiences generally got a kick out of it. It’s a lot funnier than it is scary, and the best parts of watching it with an audience is hearing a huge group deal with stuff like the sex scene. As it goes wrong and just keeps escalating and these beautiful people are not only comfortable with but turned on by something so unacceptable, the audience is screaming in repulsion and disbelief as much as laughing, or both at the same time. And that’s the reaction we made this film to get.
So that’s Cody’s daughter playing Zoe. . .
CG: (Speaking not as her dad but as her personal manager), Madeline is uncannily bright and articulate and small for her age. so she should be an ideal child actress, if we were going to throw her to the wolves and live off her trauma. . . but she doesn’t want to act, at all. Doesn’t need or enjoy the attention of strangers, bless her heart. The shoot would’ve been impossible if Madeline didn’t fall in love with Andrew. She was totally charmed by him, and so what she does on screen is pretty much her reacting either to him or to her mom. The day he went to Hollywood, Sears Portrait Studio lost one hell of a child photographer.
JS: We’ve got to give a lot of credit to Matthew Currie-Holmes, as well. They did the most acting together. And it was Matt’s insistence on multiple takes that gave us the footage we needed to pull a great performance out of her. Especially in the naptime scene, which I think we did fifty takes of. (You wouldn’t believe how much gold never made it to the screen.)
AK: W.C. Fields was full of shit: Babies are awesome! Madeline (Cody’s kid) was a complete joy and we had no problems with her. For some reason she really latched on to me and triggered some crazy paternal side of me I never knew I had. She was so thrilled to be in the movie that after her last take, she puked on me.
And then there’s Mark Shostrom, which is where my inner teenager goes apeshit. He’s one of those legends that’s not only had some real heavy-hitters on his effects team at any given point, but also has his fingerprints on so many iconic films/film series. What was that like?
AK: Mark was another Elm St alumni I befriended on Never Sleep Again and the man is a total legend – I mean look at Evil Dead 2, From Beyond, Elm Street 3 or any other great make-up FX movie of the 80’s. That was the golden age! He generously hooked us up with his incredible team, Maria Anaheim and Lindsey Peterson who completely knocked it out of the latex park. Mark was away on a gig but came in at the end of the shoot and helped out on set. There was a moment when I was walking down the hallway and passed the make-up room to see Mark working on our actors, and had a total nerdgasm. It’s like seeing Michelangelo painting your house. Those inner-kid moments are the best thing about making movies!
CG: It was excellent and Mark was thrilling to work with, but our principal artists were Maria and Lindsey, for most of the process, and they were awesome. They did our casts of Alisha and sculpted the monster.
Mark was on-set for Ricky’s death and did up this blood squib that was supposed to burst on the back of his head when Zoe knocks him down. Mark was on-set for that, and we were totally geeked by the moment: Mark Shostrom was pumping our blood, we were making a fucking MONSTER MOVIE. And then the damned blood wouldn’t fucking come out. Too thick, even when we diluted it, and we had to move on to the next thing.
I would’ve liked to see a lot more blood, but there was worry about getting the equipment messy and there was some concern about messing up the house, which was silly, it’s the reason we shot it in my house. . .
JS: Mostly, we ran out of time. We still had the whole rest of the ending to shoot that night!
Richard Grove and Trent Haaga!
CG: I am lucky enough to hold down a bookstore counter with Ricky, who is the most wonderfully real, unassuming guy I know, way more so than your average citizen, and yet I walk by him and I hear the twangy theme song I did for him, and get that strange dreamy flash when you see something you’ve only seen in the movies. I’m sure he thinks I’m secretly in love with him.
And pairing him with Trent was a masterstroke. Ricky’s classically trained, and Trent is a Troma vet, so they instantly went to work and extruded these lovable fuckups out of a couple undercooked dialogue exchanges. If we do another film like this, I want it to be about those guys.
AK: I’ve wanted to work with Trent ever since I saw Terror Firmer in college! He’s a genius at physical comedy and has the single greatest deer-in-the-headlights expression I’ve ever seen on a human being. And he’s just an all around nice and knowledgeable guy who is always down for anything. When you’re in the trenches of no-budget filmmaking, you want to be around people with that same “Viva la cinema!” indie spirit. . . and Trent is one of those types. And of course, I was delighted when Ricky came aboard because I’m a huge Army of Darkness fan! Those two guys had a great rapport!
JS: But let’s not forget Alisha Seaton, who kills as the go-to-work mom. Or Diane Goldner and Kat Harris, who bring the boobs and snip the nads in sterling fashion. Or baby Madeline, who’ll not soon be forgotten. Not to mention Matt, our star. . .
Were there any scenes that got cut out, either in editing or scripting?
CG: No scenes were wasted. . . Skipp and Andrew were very thorough in lining up the shots and we’d been over everything in the script, so we just got what we needed. With more time, we just would‘ve goofed off.
AK: The majority of the doctor’s office dream sequence as mentioned, a few lines here and there for pacing reasons. . . but we stuck remarkably close to the script.
JS: Lots of little moments got lost along the way, usually replaced by better moments. What actually happened was, we added the opening breakfast scene and love scene. The first for setup and relationship grounding that wasn’t there, and needed to be. The second because the day Matt and Alisha met, and we established their chemistry would work, they said, “We totally need a hot sex scene!” And they were right. So we whipped it up. And boy, are we glad we did!
AK: As a filmmaker, there’s always things you think you could’ve executed differently or better. But the script is pretty much there on film.
JS: I know Cody wished there was more blood, and I agree. Past that, though, everything went well past my expectations.
CG: More Zoe. . . We had another appliance made for Matt for a false ending to the nightmare sequence. . . an American Werewolf thing where he wakes up a withered husk, sucked dry by Zoe. We just ran out of time.
What was the most difficult sequence to film?
JS: Ask Andrew, but I think the hardest thing to shoot was the little girl watching Steven breastfeed Zoe in public. I wasn’t there – I was helping set up the doctor’s office – but I heard that shit got tricky.
I think everyone will tell you that the hardest thing of all was getting Madeline to say, “EAT DADDY!”
AK: The doctor’s office scene was the toughest because that was our first day, we were in the only rented location and short on time (not to mention we were competing with a band recording in the next room). So it was hustle, hustle, hustle in a cramped location. And you never ever feel like you’re on your game the first day of a shoot.
CG: I don’t know what they’re going to say, but the bookstore shot on the first day of filming was my most aggravating experience. I didn’t know I was supposed to bring the bra, and had to go bra shopping at Target first thing in the morning instead of eating all the doughnuts and trying to sneak copies of my books into the shot.
No, the aforementioned blood-squib shot is my Newlywed Game answer.
Any plans for future collaborations, perhaps an expansion into a feature-length film?
JS: STAY AT HOME DAD is exactly as long as it needs to be. A feature would just be sticking an air hose up its ass. But hell YEAH, we have a lot of future films in the works! Cody and I have some insane stories going. And Andrew and I will not stop directing till the world gets around to blowing up.
AK: Skipp & I have a whole slate of projects we want to get going but the closest on the horizon is an adaptation of The Long Last Call as well as Rose: The Bizarro Zombie Musical. But I think it’s safe to say that we want to spend the rest of our lives making movies.
CG: There’re a few film projects we’re all in on, if they ever get financing, and Skipp and Andrew have a bunch of projects in the hopper. Skipp and I are still working and playing together, but probably not on a novel anytime soon. I’ve got more to write than I’ll be able to finish in my lifetime, and I have a way lower threshold of frustration with the film business. It takes so much money and so many people to just get a chance to make a film, and you’re basically mounting a campaign of total warfare on reality to get it to do what you want it to. To just write words on a page and let the reader make the movie in their heads. . . that’s where my head and heart will always be, when I’m not making dreadful techno covers of obscure 80’s songs.
CG: My latest collection of Bizarro creature feature stories, All-Monster Action is loaded with interspecies sex and psychotronic violence, and fits easily in a stocking or a tailpipe.
JS: I’m releasing an insane 99 cent e-short story next week, called Art is the Devil, through my Fungasm Press. And my newest book is a triple-bill of fucked-up fem-o-centric horror screenplays called Sick Chick Flicks. So if you want a peek at some of the next films we’re up to, here’s your big chance!
INFINITE BREASTS: An Over-Sized Interview with John Skipp, Andrew Kasch and Cody Goodfellow About Their Short Film ‘Stay At Home Dad’ (Pt I)
[Note: It’s highly recommended you watch Stay At Home Dad here, if you haven’t already seen it, as this interview doth containeth spoilers. Consider yourself adequately warned.]
I had the pleasure of catching a screening of John Skipp and Andrew Kasch’s film Stay At Home Dad at this year’s Bizarrocon. I’d read Cody Goodfellow’s work before, so I knew to expect the opposite of what was being presented by the time the credits hit. What I didn’t expect was to emote with Steven (Matthew Currie-Holmes plus feeding mounds) while he went through a real-world terror exclusive to women. That is, unless you count when I saw Schwarzenegger’s lesser-known body-horror film Junior and experienced true shit-my-pants fear for the first time. Society often treats women like priority citizens while they’re pregnant, then gets out the pitch forks and torches when it’s time to nurse, and it caught me off guard to see the situation flipped here. I think that the character of Brenda (Alisha Seaton plus pants) probably has a lot to do with that discomfort, as she steps into the traditionally male role of breadwinner and emotional backhand to Steven’s character. But that’s casting a really serious light on a film that’s almost anything but. Simply, this film kicks ass. It’s fifteen minutes of what the shit am I watching until it sinks in. It’s gross-outs and yuks and a bit of old-fashioned horror. Show it to your friends and watch them stir uncomfortably in their seats and then laugh together when it’s over. It’s like that. It is.
So who read de Beauvoir and Lovecraft back-to-back and thought: this.
ANDREW KASCH: This was Cody’s baby – both figuratively and literally. He’s the Lovecraft super-freak of the group and I think he drew a lot from his personal experiences as a new father.
CODY GOODFELLOW: That was pretty much my fault. I was looking for new and different engines to drive the classic 8-page EC-style horror short comic strip, and different sources of insecurity and fear. I’ve stayed home with two daughters and the dislocation, the oddness of it, isn’t just society’s preconception; the kid looks at you like, ‘What the hell are you doing here? Where’s the one with the upfront snack bar?’
I once read a great editorial caveat concerning submissions of Lovecraftian stories to the effect that, if you take Cthulhu out and substitute anything else, and it doesn’t collapse, then it’s not a Mythos story. If you put anything else in here, it only feels like half a joke. The Mythos is such a whole concrete system of meaning that plugging it in just speaks volumes and puts you into a unique aesthetic space. It allows you to do supernatural horror without God and the Devil; it’s materialist mythology. So it seemed like a fun challenge to fuse cosmic horror with very intimate body horror.
With subsequent viewings of the film, I keep noticing the foreshadowing more. From the plush Cthulhu in an opening shot, to the baby’s cries, solid food, etc that all have a reprise later or serve as a continual build toward a major reveal. It’s a very tightly-coiled structure.
AK: FINALLY! Someone caught the plush Cthulhu! I’m a firm believer in the Robert Zemeckis School of Set-Up™ where even throwaway lines can hint at big things to come.
JOHN SKIPP: We wanted to be incredibly careful how we layered things in. On the one hand, we needed enough clues so that people went “Ah-HA!” at the end. But we also needed to bury them so hard that nobody saw it coming.
But for me, the image that drew it all together was the amazing Steve Gilberts painting over the bed, with the multi-armed aqua-woman that contains astounding things. Imagining Brenda’s face reflected there threw the door wide open for me.
As there are a lot of writers that follow Bizarro Central, I’m sure some are curious as to how fiction writing compares to screenwriting, especially regarding short films. Would you say there’s an easy parallel between short stories and short films?
JS: Absolutely. It’s all storytelling. The same requirements are there. It’s just the delivery system that’s massively different. So just as you can only read the words that are there, you can only see the scenes that are shot. The screenwriter provides the scenes. The director breaks them down into shots.
CG: Screenwriting has to be as tight as you can wind it. Prose can always afford to economize, but if you’re wasting time in a film, you’re telling the audience to go outside and play or change the channel. The refining of this script was a constant process of folding information and imagery into layers, and we started talking about things that would become apparent on repeat viewings, versus stuff that had to come across at first glance. A film screen offers you the luxury of showing and telling and signifying all at once, but you have to keep it up and keep it coherent. Prose is much more forgiving, and it’s actually a relief to return to just making shit up with words.
Being male and not having any experience with parenthood, I outsourced some reaction to a friend. (Alicia, thanks!) She pointed out an attention to detail I’d missed, such as how many of the characters invalidated Steven’s emotions, the appearance of postpartum depression, as well as his difficulties coping with the stigma around public breastfeeding, lactating, etc.
AK: At the end of the day, this is another spin on the “anything you can do, I can do better” theme. Men have it so fucking easy. Being a woman requires more strength and a much higher tolerance for bullshit, so it’s always fun to throw that in the face of a character who thinks he can shoulder all that. My favorite moment is when he gets punched in the boob. Talk about a wake-up call!
JS: I think Steven’s sense of diminishment as a person, the second he settles into those big boobs he’s so excited about, is the most fun, subversive, and heartbreaking aspect of Cody’s story. All the monster shit is awesome, but when you hit the sexual politics of it, that’s where the real nerve endings get smacked around.
Was Steven’s pretty comical nightmare castration a play on a common view that doing things the “other” gender typically does is like being stripped of your own sex?
JS: Being stripped of your masculinity, absolutely. Cuz if this had been a story about a woman growing an enormous cock and saying “YOU stay home!” it would have played very differently. (laughs) Albeit a story to keep in mind!
That’s why casting was so important, and why Matthew Currie-Holmes was such a perfect choice. Hard as he works, he’s a stay-at-home-dad much of the time, so all the emotions were right there. Coupled with his baby face, winning smile, and fierce devotion to the acting craft, he brought every bit of nuance we needed . . . including the manly assertion he whipped up for the ridiculous fight scene.
CG: At its core, this story is a modern take on the old fable about the husband and wife who switch jobs for the day, and the man makes a dog’s breakfast of the household, learning in the process what it really takes to be a woman. And in taking on her role, he learns something he might never have discovered about his wife. Empathy itself has been feminized, so even trying to understand the other side puts you at risk of losing your balls.
Lovecraft was deeply conflicted and fucked up inside on the question of sex, and with good reason. His father died in a madhouse of syphilis, and his unstable mother dressed him as a girl and kept him from school. His marriage was a disaster, and he fled it to live with his eccentric spinster aunts. It’s easy to over-analyze Lovecraft through a Freudian filter that sees vaginas everywhere, and a colossal sexual neurosis sublimated into these “indescribable” monstrosities. And it’s rich material for that kind of thing, and may even explain why he wrote it, but is that why we are compelled to read and imitate and expand on it?
The horror we’re mining is the raw stuff that Lovecraft tried to indirectly deal with in his Mythos stories, and tried to escape in his Dreamlands fantasies (of which not enough is said or read). It’s terrifying to be inside a body, once you realize that you are not that body. Bodies fail and fall apart and are always subject to these impulses that threaten to change or destroy your life without warning. Lovecraft is almost archetypal in his outsider-ness. He would’ve been delighted to discover that he was not human at all, or to be removed from his body and transported across space in a brain-cylinder after the end of the world. And I think that’s a feeling anyone who’s going through menopause or cancer treatment can probably relate to.
The transition break in the fight scene was fucking brilliant. It had a very Looney Tunes sort of quality to it. Whose idea was that?
CG: One of those other guys. It’s hilarious, and then to segue into Justin Cruse’s freaky time-lapse of nightfall. . . I want to make up an award to give us every time I see it.
AK: I think Skipp & I were just looking at the beautiful view from the deck and thought “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if. . .” We were both raised on a steady diet of Looney Tunes so it was kind of a no-brainer.
JS: MINE MINE MINE! That was a pivotal Looney Tunes joke for me – from the Bob Clampett/Frank Tashlin school of cartoon comedy – and a way to break up the ridiculous mayhem. From the second I pictured it, I couldn’t imagine not doing it. THANKS FOR NOTICING!
What kind of budget were you working with?
CG: We raised a paltry six thousand from anonymous weirdos when we were looking to make this film ourselves, my wife and I, and Andrew and Skipp kicked in a bit more, but in terms of the talent and tech that they was able to conjure up out of thin air and favors, we got way more than we paid for.
JS: $6,500 and change. Most of which went toward fx.
AK: Less than the craft service budget on a car commercial.
How did the score develop—was the score’s direction a collaborative effort, or did you guys just shove a keyboard in front of Cody and tell him to basically go apeshit?
CG: Mostly the latter. Some of the cues did have sound engineer Justin Cruse’s atmospherics and stuff laid on top of them. I’ve always been a hobbyist composer; I did some really insufferable soundtracks for pornos in college. Skipp is an accomplished composer (ask him about Misty Beethoven: The Musical) and player and we’ve worked on tunes together since before we wrote together. But I really wanted to do the whole thing in a very 80’s electro style. I did everything in Reason, so I was able to make changes as needed pretty easily. The percussion kit in the end credits is made of Space Invaders sound fx.
AK: Cody was working on the music before we even shot a frame. He’s one of those guys that will endlessly experiment in his man-cave and emerge weeks later with dozens of tracks and cues. We had no shortage of stuff and at the end of the day we just used the ones that fit the best.
JS: Andrew and I sent Cody a list of the scenes, with our suggestions for moods and tempos and such. He came up with a whole bunch of music, sometimes two or three pieces per scene. Then we plugged them into the edit and saw what worked. Sometimes none of them worked, but a piece he’d written for another scene worked perfectly. That said, all of the spooky CREEPSHOW-flavored grand finale stuff was composed to the assembled footage, and played exactly right.
The only scenes we used other music for were the exotica for the opening breakfast scene and the muzak for the doctor’s office. There, we needed to set up a sorta ordinary world. And ordinary isn’t Cody’s long suit. So we used Les Baxter for breakfast. And Andrew picked “(Theme from) A Summer Place” as the most horrible song to be stuck in a room with. (laughs) So I insisted we go with the classic Percy Faith.
How did the three of you come together?
AK: I met Skipp on my documentary Never Sleep Again when we interviewed him about writing the ill-fated A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. I grew up a big splatterpunk nerd and he was one of my favorite writers, so I sort of geeked out when he came in. At the DVD release party, we shot a game of pool and I pulled him aside and said “Dude, I really wanna work with you.” And the rest is history. I met Cody through Skipp since they’re writing collaborators and was instantly won over by his stuff. He’s a hyper-intelligent fountain of creativity and I love him!
CG: Skipp and I have worked together on stuff for ages, and Andrew hooked up with Skipp on the Elm Street documentary. When we decided to look outside our own house for a director, we talked to Andrew just as and Skipp were working out a partnership scheme to do features. So it gave them a chance to try out the partnership, and it was great. They were able to cover everything and coordinate and take turns being stressed out so there was always a fresh rider holding the reins.
We weren’t fucking around when we said this thing was over-sized. Want more?! Come back tomorrow for Part TWO!
Below you’ll find Alan M. Clark’s weekly Dilation Exercise. Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the image, and allow your imagination to go to work on it. If the artwork inspires an idea, please use the comment feature to tell us something about it. Need a further explanation? Go to Imagination Workout—The Dilation Exercises.
Alister’s new reality TV series was a hit, but when the crew started catching Cthulhu’s minions and the great old one awoke, the young man had a choice to make.
He could try to make it right and hope the god went back to sleep, or he could film the mayhem, gain glory through ratings and hope at the end of the first season there would be enough world left to cash in on his success.
—Alan M. Clark
Artwork: “Catch of the Day” copyright © 2006 Alan M. Clark.
Interior illustration for Deeper by James A. Moore – Necessary Evil Press.
Captions are original to this post and have nothing to do with the literary project with which the artwork first appeared.
I recently got the opportunity to chat it up with champion mojo storyteller, Mr. Joe R. Lansdale – author of BUBBA HO-TEP, THE BOTTOMS, and DEVIL RED. Just two good ol’ boys from East Texas shootin’ the shit with a mouthful of popcorn and a fistful of cherry coke. Our conversation went a little something like this:
WPIII: First and foremost (because, quite frankly, I can’t wait to hear about it), can you give us any juicy details on CHRISTMAS WITH THE DEAD?
JRL: CHRISTMAS WITH THE DEAD has been shot and is undergoing the editing process. We hope to have it finished by the end of the year, and then start a film festival circuit. What I can tell you is this, it’s based on my short story, CHRISTMAS WITH THE DEAD, and it was done in a limited publication from PS. publishing. If anyone wants one, there are only a few left. You can find out where to get the hardbound chap book by going to the website. It’s about a man who, after a zombie apocalypse caused by strange atmospheric activity, that only effects those who saw it in the brief moments it occurred, wants to find a bit of normalcy by putting up Christmas lights. Doing that during a zombie take over isn’t easy. My son, Keith, wrote the screenplay based on my story. He did a very good job, and I like the screenplay better than the story. His adaptation expands the story considerably, as it should, and it’s very quirky. It’s very much in the spirit of my own works. It stars Damian Maffei and my daughter, Kasey, has a small part and wrote two songs for the film.
WPIII: Since you are a writer who is heavily influenced by film, I’m interested to know what movies you’ve been most impressed with that have come out in the last ten years? What do you think of the JONAH HEX movie? And the CONAN movies (new and old)?
JRL: Haven’t seen the JONAH HEX movie, so no comment there. I’m too close to the material to want to see it. The old CONAN movie was great fun, and I’ll see the new one. But I don’t believe there has ever been a correct film of Howard’s work, with the exception of the old THRILLER version of PIGEONS FROM HELL. I don’t mind variation on Howard, I’ve done that myself, but there’s something that needs to be at the core of the work. And, on film, frankly, that’s very hard to do. What seems incredible and frightening and wonderful on the page, is hard to transfer to film. It just becomes, very often, a big guy with a sword.
WPIII: You’ve won countless awards for your writing career, way too many to list here – the British Fantasy award, the Edgar award, and the Bram Stoker award (a staggering eight times!), just to name a few. What moment so far in your writing career have you been most proud of?
JRL: I think it was receiving the Grandmaster Award for Horror at the World Horror Convention. That was quite a highlight.
WPIII: On top of your many writing achievements, you are also an accomplished martial artist. You’ve most recently been inducted into the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame for discovering a completely new style known as Shen Chaun. What makes Shen Chaun different from other forms of martial arts?
JRL: Many people have formed arts, and the good ones are based in what has gone before, and what makes them a separate art is the personality and character of the person who establishes it, brings their own creativity and abilities to the techniques. Shen Chuan is something I’m very proud of. It’s starting to spread more and more. I have turned over the main system to Coy Harry, who is doing a wonderful job, and I now teach private classes, and I teach a slightly different, and even more personal, interpretation of Shen Chuan, a Family System.
WPIII: For all the curious writers out there, how does Joe Lansdale prepare to write a novel? Do you use any form of an outline or do you just write what you feel and let the story unfold as you go?
JRL: No outline so far. I just write. When I write comics or a screenplay with someone, and I’ve only done it a few times, we usually discuss some sort of format for the story, as with two people that’s hard to do, because frankly, if I start writing I just go. If it’s going to be a collaboration, then it has to be just that. But I don’t care for outlines. But, if I were to have a story that seemed that was the only way to write it, I’d do it. I outline subconsciously, in my sleep, get up, and there it is. I make occasional notes on the back of an envelope, but so far, except when I started and tried to write outlines, I’ve not used them. Back then, trying to do it that way, as I read other writers did that, it drove me crazy. It was the same way when I was in school and we had to write an outline before we wrote an article. I had to write the article first, then base the outline on that. I get bored doing that, and then feel like I’ve written the story. For me I feel a kind of overwhelming mood, and then a bit of the story creeps in, and I start writing. I write almost daily, and for about three hours a day on average. I break that approach from time to time, but that’s the most common.
WPIII: You have a long list of short stories and short story collections – BUMPER CROP, ELECTRIC GUMBO, BY BIZARRE HANDS, and many others. Which collection do you feel best represents your career as a whole?
JRL: HIGH COTTON, SANCTIFIED AND CHICKEN FRIED, and THE BEST OF JOE R. LANSDALE overlap a bit, but I think they are the best representations when it comes to short stories, which are my preferred form of writing.
WPIII: You’ve edited several anthologies – RETRO PULP TALES, SON OF RETRO PULP TALES, and LORDS OF THE RAZOR. Your latest is called CRUCIFIED DREAMS and is packed full of wildly imaginative tales from some of the best writers in the business. How did this collection come about? Did you just write out a list of some of your favorite short stories and contact the authors about reprinting them or did you take submissions?
JRL: Jacob Weisman, the publisher at Tachyon, he and I discussed and traded stories until we found stories we both loved. The idea that it was Urban Fantasy went out the window immediately. I’m not all that urban, and what I like are good stories, and damn the labels. There were no submissions, as it was a reprint collection. We shopped. I made the final determination.
WPIII: I’ve always thought that your Hap and Leonard books would make for a great film series. If you had the choice of any director living today to direct the films, who would it be?
JRL: The Cohen brothers would be good. I think they have the sensibility to make it work. I love those guys. Their TRUE GRIT is one of my all time favorite movies.
WPIII: I recently read that you are writing a modern day take on Lovecraft’s THE DUNWICH HORROR. That. Sounds. AMAZING. Please tell us more!
JRL: It’s a comic book, and it’s not a literal adaptation, though the original story is touched on, and looked at differently within the series. I’m working on the third issue now. Lovecraft is harder to adapt than I would have thought. He’s all mood, and very little substance. But it’s one hell of a mood.
WPIII: Are there any other new projects coming up that you are able to spill the beans about to us?
JRL: Currently out in Italy is my young adult novel, called ALL THE EARTH THROWN TO THE SKY, due in September, and EDGE OF DARK WATER comes out next year from MULHOLLAND BOOKS. I’m very excited about both of them.
WPIII: Thanks so much for chatting with me, Joe! It’s been a pleasure.
For more information on Joe R. Lansdale, visit www.joerlansdale.com
Today marks the birth of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, and if you don’t know who that is, well, that’s pretty unfortunate.
My favourite of all his stories is Pickman’s Model. What’s yours?
Have any great Lovecraft-related anecdotes to share? Favourite film adaptations? Let’s hear it!