Saturday, November 29, 2014


Well, folks, it's actually kinda hard to nail down cats during the holidays. Well, that and work around schedules for everyone else. I planned ahead for this, so I have an interview or two in my back pocket before we come back from Hiatus in 2015. Hope ya'll dug what I did, and hope ya'll stay around for me to keep bringing you cool stuff.

Also enjoy the holidays? Maybe?

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Alright, so this interview is 100% nepotism, as I've known Christy pretty much a third of my life. But, she's kind of one of the coolest people around so whatever. If you think I have any shame, you haven't seen how I track down half these interviews.

This is also the first interview I conducted and hadn't quite found my groove, so all the links I usually throw up here in the intro would be redundant as heck. I will say that on December 5th, if you are in the Sacramento area, you owe it yourself to make it out to Miss Trash Pageant. Not only will it a great time, but it will help support independent film making!

Okay so, tell me a little about who you are, what you do, and what you got in the works. Let's start with all the shameless plugs we can.

I'm an artist and filmmaker in Sacramento, CA. I like to paint hot chicks and monsters and images of class brutality. I make awesome exploitation horror movies...our latest BADASS MONSTER KILLER (you can view the trailer here,) will be coming out Spring of 2015. And I produce an amazingly fun midnight movie film festival called the Trash Film Orgy, currently in it's 14th year. And I teach art to kids and I also have a cult 

You really seem to do everything. And your art style is pretty much the through line through all the Trash Film Orgy flicks. Do you have any philosophy to your set/costume designing?

Darin, my husband and art partner (director, writer, etc.) does a lot of the set design ideas...like the hard angles in carvings or stone columns (we always seem to have some sort of Evil Lair). I do more of the color work and light stuff. Amy, our other partner, generally does the costume stuff. We do all get together and talk it out before hand. I tend to light very boldly...bright colors, harsh angles, stuff like that, so we take all those things in to account ahead as well.

I remember telling you the sets for Planet of the Vampire Women (trailer here, for sale here.) were like a technicolor Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, so it's cool to know you had that plan all along.

Ha! That's an excellent compliment,. Thanks! We watched a lot of Star Trek and Mario Bava movies to prep for that. 

I could see that. The kooky sixties Star Trek planets definitely were represented. Now, you guys are fiercely independent, and I think of TFO Productions as the West Coast Troma. At least, that's how I sell it.

I'll take it.

So, how does a project happen for you guys? Where does it start?

With the story. Darin writes scripts and before we start a new project, we get together and decide which script is going to be the most feasible and then we figure out how to make it happen.
Kinda like magic, but with way more hard work.

Are you constantly coming up with new story ideas?

Yeah, but you can only do so many at a time. Gotta keep the focus

Trust me, I've tried juggling a bunch of balls all at once before, I understand. Now cast and crew has got to be interesting for you guys, as before your first picture you already had cred with running the festival for years. Still, how is a typical TFO Production staffed?

Exactly. We already had a good gang of people from the film fest before we started doing the films so we had a base. Before every project, though, we do auditions. This is always fun. We meet a lot of new people and some of them are always amazing. A lot of times, we get actors that we may not use until a later project, too. And a lot of the folks, whether we have them in the films or not, will do the film festival (we have games and freaks and stage shows) or become part of the crew. Our stuff is mostly volunteer, though, so we do have a lot of people leave the gang and new ones come in. We do have a lot of folks who have worked with us for many years, too. They're the best!

And here's the part where I say we've been friends forever and I still haven't made it down to the festival because I'm the actual worst.

Well you DID live like 2000 miles away until recently. And you're still pretty far, dude. It's legit.

I know. Full disclosure's gotta work both ways, though. Alright, so I think we've had enough boring questions. Let's go to the fun bits. Being super independent, money is very much a hurdle to overcome. You guys do a lot of fund raising to get these movies made. What's the most ridiculous thing you've done to raise money for a film?

Blood Wrestling

Every time I see pictures of that I wonder how that hasn't become a thing at all the major horror conventions. It's brilliant!

It does happen, though. We're definitely not the first ones to think it up.

I know. I just want to be able to go to a hotel in New Jersey and get handed flyers for it a couple times a year. I need more blood wrestling. I have a problem.

It was pretty amazing. I don't know if we'll do it again, though. It was pretty dangerous.

Yeah, flipping and flopping around in that stuff, I can only imagine. Now, back to budget stuff. The reason I love indie/direct-to-dvd/made-for-tv genre films so much is all the crazy problem solving that goes into every scene. So you gotta have a bunch of stories of how you cheated an effect to make a scene work. And I want all of them. Because I'm greedy.

Oh god. Microbudget filmmaking is ALL creative problem solving...I don't even know where to start...

As your friend it is my job to put you on the spot like this.

Hmmm... On Monster from Bikini Beach's (which you can watch in its entirety herethird day of shooting, we were coming back from shooting about 40 miles or so out of town at a friend's pond. We're coming home at like 2 AM and the monster falls out of the back of the truck on the freeway. TOTALLY DESTROYED!

Oh God. I can't even imagine. I gotta ask, though. How'd you fix it?

He was waaaayyyy beyond fixing. Just random scraps salvaged from the side of the freeway.
We had to make a totally new one. It caused us to have to push back all the outdoor shoots like 5 months or something because of the season change. We started in September, but by the time the new monster was made in November, there were obviously winter trees. 

It seems like time is always the enemy in micro-budget films. Well, another one.

Time and money. Always one or the other. Like, on the new movie, we're a year or more behind schedule, but we are at only half our original budget. Less money often equals more time

I can only imagine. Speaking of the monster costume from Bikini Beach, what I've always loved is that you guys still use practical effects for pretty much everything. I know you did go partially digital for Planet of the Vampire Women, but, are practical effects always going to be your go to?

Probably at least partly. In the new BADASS movie, we have almost all CGI backgrounds, but almost all practical gore effects and monsters. And dudes in suits. And chicks in suits, too.

Well, that sells me completely.  Okay, I'm going to make you explain shaggy elephant in an official capacity. So, what's the deal with shaggy elephant?

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Shaggy Elephant is an in-joke that I am not in on from the out-of-print first film from TFO productions Curse of the Golden Skull and has confounded me for years. I am including this to show you how low this dumb white whale has taken me]


I don't think I'm allowed to elaborate on the Shaggy Elephant right now. Just think of him as a sort of mascot for now.

And here I thought I could trap you with my press credentials.

It was pretty smooth, dude. I totally almost fell for it.

Alright, let's do some rapid fire questions and wrap this up since I'm sure you got better things to do than answer a bunch of silly questions. Favorite film genre?


Worst job?

Darin and I worked the polls at the 2000 election. That was HORRIBLE!!!

Well, you at least got to be part of history!

Ugh. Luckily, it was only one day

What makes the perfect action scene?

Fights, titties, fast cars, monsters and explosions! And by fights, I do mean knife fights

And there you have it. An interview that was all a ruse to try and  trick my friend into explaining a nine-year-old joke to me. If that ain't the Camp Counseling spirit distilled, I don't know what is.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Of all the people that I've talked to for the Camp Counseling, Milan has to be the most fascinating. A native of Serbia, he has slowly been introducing staples of the horror genre that had been eluding the country until as recently as 2007. With Zone of the Dead, who's trailer can be viewed here, and Nymph aka Killer Mermaid, again, the trailer here, he has introduced monsters to a land that had none. He, alone, is leading a movement that I really hope other people jump onto.
Honestly, I just want more people to support this guy more than anything. Just watching his two flicks shows there is talent behind the lens, and the Serbian landscape deserves to be splattered with all kinds of horror and action and the genre trappings we all live for.
You can check out his personal website or follow him on twitter if you want to keep tabs. Dude's fighting his way up a mountain, so please help make it all worth it.
You're pretty much blazing a new path in Serbia and it is super exciting to see your takes on the zombie film and the creature feature. How does it feel to be the man to introduce monsters to Serbia? Why do you think these types of movies had never been made there before? 

Thank you. I must say I feel lonely. I don’t think people understand what I’m trying to do. Apart from my close associates and producing partners, no one else seems to see the potential of these kind of movies. There were some movies in the horror genre made before – some old movies from the director Djordje Kadijevic, and for something more modern, I would point out slasher movie T.T. Sindrome by Dejan Zecevic. But nowadays filmmakers try to make and develop movies that will be approved by state funds, which are, of course, not horror movies. Which is a pity. Because I remember from my academy days a lot of student movies were genre flicks. Also pretty good ones. But there is general opinion that these kind of movies have no artistic value, even filmmakers think my movies are trash movies, which they are not, and the authors are afraid that they will be laughed at or not considered serious if they make a  genre film. Me, I don’t care about critics -- my movies were made to entertain the audience. And I am very proud of them.

How does a project get started for you?  I am not too familiar with the Serbian film industry, and really'd like to hear how a film gets off the ground there.

The usual way is to submit to state fund, which is once a year, and if you get money there, there is a pretty big chance that you will make the movie. The first problem is they give money to 5 or 6 movies, and more than 40 projects compete. The other problem is everybody submits, and normally, the acclaimed directors and producers have much stronger position. The third problem is most of the filmmakers make scripts tailored for the commissions. Like social commentary dramas or something like that, and they don’t really believe in that. Plus, there is no audience for those movies. Bestsellers are comedies, but rarely supported. So it is a mess and a game with very little chance to win with a genre movie. But I tried to make it anyway… and did it. NYMPH was made with very little money, all from private investors. But in the end, state fund gave us some money for post-production. Which was a big deal to give money to a creature feature! I have hoped they would have realized that genre films are healthy for the entire cinema and to reach wide audience worldwide, but I was wrong. On the last fund the commission again ignored us, even though we had even a better project, and gave money to some movies that no one will see nor care about. Not even those who got the money…

You've gotten to work with Franco Nero and Ken Foree already. What is it like to work with genre stalwarts? Do you actively go after the big names to sell the picture?

Both of them are amazing to work with. Such nice people, good guys, great professionals and fantastic actors. It was my honor and my pleasure to work with them. I hope I’ll be able to cast them both in some future feature.  The good thing is that I am really a fan of them and really love their work, so casting the two of them was my dream come true. On the other side, if you want your movie to be noticed you just have to have a name in it. Actors sell. Period. And after so much trouble to make a movie, I just wanted to show it to as many people as possible and good thing I had such cult actors in my movies. For my next feature I will try to also attach an actor I am fan of, but that has some value in the market.

Zone of the Dead was a really great entry in zombie cannon. What a lot of people don't realize is that it was a big deal on youtube, with almost eight million views. How did it feel to have all those eyes on your debut film?

Thank you. Interesting thing is that when I wrote the script and started developing it, there were no zombie movies apart from Resident Evil and 28 Days Later. Since it took so long to make it, cause we didn’t have proper support in the beginning, the year it was released it was just one in dozens of zombie titles. It was in 2009, and there were many zombie movies. I remember being in Sitges festival, and watched a bunch of zombie flicks. The tsunami wave of zombie movies started then, and it is bigger than ever. And still ongoing. The ZONE OF THE DEAD trailer has more than 11 million views in just one channel. Millions and millions of illegal downloads of the movie. And it was released in all the big markets. It was number one independent DVD in the UK when it was out. I still think it had a  chance to reach even wider audience if we got out just a few months before. I just think many people didn't realize that we tried to make an“80s B-Movie,” and all the other movies had a more modern approach. But still, I am very proud of that film, especially knowing all we had to do to make it happen. When somebody in the UK or somewhere else comes to me and know about my movie, or brings me the DVD cover to sign, I am still very surprised. I am very happy that I managed to reach wide audience worldwide, but also I am just a fanboy from a small town in Serbia. Who would know?

Speaking of Zone of the Dead, I know you have a sequel in pre-production. Are there any updates on its status you'd like to share?

Initially it was Ken Foree’s idea to make the sequel. He started talking about it on the set of ZONE. He had so much fun making the movie and he liked the character, he thought there were more stories to explore with it. We had several treatments that were a direct continuation to ZONE, but then we realized it was not such a big hit, and that we should try to reach new audience as well. So we came up with a story that can be appreciated by fans of first one, but also to be stand-alone piece that can be enjoyed even if you haven’t seen the first part. Working title is WRATH OF THE DEAD, and it has some pretty cool stuff in it. Some new approach and a bunch of zombie action. We have shot a prologue scene, and people really liked it. The atmosphere and the zombie and the bug that revives the dead. I am hoping we will have a chance to make it soon. I really like the script, written by Barry Keating and Rich Matthews, and can’t wait to get back to a zombie set.

Budget will be an issue no matter where you make a film, and for how much. On the flip side, the smaller the budget, the more creative you have to be. How has money helped and/or hindered your films?

Well, you never know would it be the same movie if we had more money. I know I needed more time to do the Nymph ending as I have imagined it. But we just didn't have money and we had to shoot everything in just three days. And it was like 30 pages of script for the finale. It was epic. But I like the ending as is now, as well. It is more personal and more dramatic. I like how it was done. 

It’s more about having more time. The crews that have worked on both movies had passion and they were very creative in finding great solutions for things we had to do and didn't have money for. I mean, I would have the same cast, the same crew same locations. I would just love to have had more time to develop and elaborate some scenes and some aspects of the story, that’s it.

I ask everyone this: What do you think makes a perfect action movie?

Badass anti-hero in a good story. Or in a bad story but with good action stunts.

You list John Carpenter as your favorite director and Charles Bronson as one of your favorite actors, as those would be the exact same answers I'd give, congratulations on having good taste. This isn't even a question, I just wanted to throw that out there.

YEAH!! Too bad they didn’t make a movie together. Imagine Bronson in Assault on Precinct 13!  

Bronson actually was almost Snake Plissken! But, speaking of John Carpenter, his influence is very apparent in your work. Have any other masters of the genre guided how you construct your films?

I have graduated on Ridley Scott actually. I think his work is extraordinary. But yeah, Carpenter had most influence in my work. I love John McTiernan and Paul Verhoeven. Also, I would say I really appreciate movies of Paul W.S. Anderson. I think he’s the last boy scout of the Hollywood.  Maybe he’s not the best director in the world, and his movies are not that good either, but I like what’s he doing in the era when there are no more real badassness in Hollywood movies.

The makeup work on the Nymph in the titular film is pretty impressive. How important are practical effects to you versus CGI? I know these days we can't completely avoid it, but I still respect commitment to being practical where possible. 

I would do everything practical if possible. When something is real it’s real. But CGI nowadays is so good and it can also improve practical FX. For example, our creature in Nymph is half practical, half CGI. But CGI was also used to make some additional movements on practical effects and also to enhance them. I believe I would rely more and more on CGI in the future, because then you won’t have limitations to your imagination.

And, finally: what's next for Milan Todorovic? I know earlier I mentioned the Zone of the Dead sequel, but is there anything else brewing that you'd like to talk about? Any other horror sub-genres you want to introduce to Serbia?

Aliens! Terror from space. That’s what I would like to introduce to Serbian cinema. I am personally working on the sequel to Zone of the Dead, but also I have discussed with Franco about doing a crime vengeance movie. We have some ideas, so I will try to develop those too. We also are talking about a Nymph sequel. Franco Nero himself wrote a synopsis which I really like, so if we get a chance to do it, NYMPHS will be based on Franco’s story line.

Really, I was biased the second we started talking about Bronson, as he is the Camp Counseling mascot, but man you can't help but kinda love Milan. He just wants to make cool movies in a place they don't exist, and that is damn admirable.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Alright, black and white and holding a big gun makes up for a picture of him not covered in blood, right? 

If you've seen pretty much any big name action movie, today, you've seen one aspect of this next cat's work. Don't believe me? Check out his imdb page. Jesse is kind of a beast on the action scene, but that's exactly why he is super fit to be directing some of the coolest movies you haven't been paying attention to. Don't worry, I ain't gonna get up on my direct-to-video action soap box in this introduction.

I will, however, put on my carnival barker hat and tell you that you can totally pick up a lot of his flicks on Amazon. I recommend The Pit Fighter which has some really good, visceral fight scenes. You can see the trailer here. Now, if you want more guns and a lot more cool, you absolutely owe it to yourself to give Charlie Valentine a look. Just check out this trailer.

If that doesn't whet your appetite, check out anything else in that Amazon link. Or everything in this Amazon link. Get the joke? It's a fan trailer for a really cool Wonder Woman spec film!

Currently on the horizon is The Beautiful Ones. The trailer, naturally, is behind this link. For any other news on Jesse, keep up with him on his personal site.

Let's get into this, shall we?

Okay, I gotta get this one out of the way, right off  the bat because the internet has you listed as a third assistant director for The Shawshank Redemption, and if I don't take the opportunity now, before I get into the heart of the interview, I'll forever kick myself. Is there anything you can really say about being tangentially attached to a movie like that? Anything about the experience that really pops? 

Thank you for asking, yes, I had a wonderful time working on that film.  When I first came to the US I worked as an assistant director, and PA, with a very fine group of AD’s, we were lucky to do a few really exciting pictures together.  

The experience of working at that incredible prison (Mansfield State Penitentiary), which was on the grounds of the current Mansfield high security prison was quite invigorating for a young man with an over-active imagination - I was often tasked with directing (setting) the background, getting into wardrobe as a prisoner and doing crowd control and setting up bits of action for the prisoners to perform.  

I’d rate them, and keep working with the ones who understood what was expected.  None had ever been on a movie set before, and there were ex-prisoners who had been recruited from half-way houses and rehabilitation centers mixed in with local drama teachers and re-enactors who had responded to the casting call.  

It was really quite challenging and rewarding - the biggest day was the Prison introduction helicopter shot, we had 2500 extras and they all had to look like they had business and had to be timed and rehearsed, the shot was a few minutes so it mustn't become stagnant.  It was great fun coming up with it all.

The stories the ex-convicts told would make your hair curl, I filled a couple of notebooks with notes, and have often referred back to the experience when writing those type of characters.

I've noticed in this new wave of action directors that have taken the direct to video/independent/made for TV scene and really made it something to take note of, a lot of them have experience as stunt performers. Does it feel like a natural progression from coordinating stunts to directing an entire film? Was that always your goal?

Well, we’re experienced with running a set, making an actor feel safe and thinking on our toes - I’d say it was the perfect place to find a director. We’re also used to working with a budget and interfacing with the production team, with regard to schedule and the nuts and bolts of the production machine.

Do we have an eye and an ear for the overall flow of a scene, the realism of a performance, the tools to elicit a breath taking performance from a psychologically unsound prima-donna? Well that can only be gauged on a one by one basis.

Some second unit directors make lousy first unit directors, they’re so used to copying the style and leaving the difficult artistic decisions to the boss, when they get their shot, it feels watered down and dull - others excel, and show a truly unique voice. I was a short film director and had had a top 20 music video as a director before I performed my first stunt - I love stunts, but they are and always have been, a way to grow and survive between directing gigs.

I will not direct second unit again - I don’t want to give that away to another director.  The last second unit I did, I was paid my rate (DGA minimum), but had no perks, was talked to like a punk and only allowed to shoot on their B camera for an hour a day at the end of the shooting day - it was ridiculous - I sat around on set waiting all day. 

The executive producers brought the sales-teaser to set to show as an addaboy for the crew as they had just sold the international rights to the movie based on the teaser, it was a sort of “pep-session," they were so pleased with themselves, when they showed it, here you go look what you all did! It was 5 minutes of action footage, all of my footage with about eight seconds of first unit, not a single member of the crew watching had even seen the shots filmed!

No, I’m done with making someone else look good and perpetuating their career.  Life is too short. 

That experience was the genesis for The Beautiful Ones. I know people with money, I know quite a few of them, I’ve made a lot of money for investors over the years, so I contacted the money guys directly and pitched them my ideas. They said yes, and just like that, I no longer have those suits/wannabes working as in-betweens, which is all most of them are. I am my own boss.
It is glorious!  

I have directed some of the shittiest, most awful scripts, for these so called middle-men “executive producers," desperately trying to fix their damaged work, up to the hour of shooting.  Then cutting the film based upon their guess work and hearsay.  These guys who have the power to alter your career your livelihood, the guys who have hired you and then don’t allow you to make a good movie.
When you sit down and chat with them, you realize they don’t really even like movies, they’re more interested in TV drama, or documentaries.  There is no passion, no love of cinema - they’re not collaborators, they’re using you to direct traffic on time on schedule, so they can get their next assignment.

No, it has been a delight not to have to filter my ideas through a myriad of faceless opinions.  I hope I get the chance again.

What so few people realize is at the lower end of the budget spectrum, $3 to $5 million, where I have been - the assignment jobs, are drek, you have a three week shoot, a script someone else chose, a cast someone else approved, and a location that offers a financial incentive, then, they go looking for their hired gun director.  Sticking to budget and being pleasant (cheap) is a priority, skill, the ability to make a great movie, that is prioritized in importance on a par with the size of the crafts service table.

How does a directing project originally come to be for you? Are you approached with a cast/script/etc, all ready to go, or are you the one to initiate? 

They must have a list they go through, I don’t really know.  

I am making a marked shift away from this kind of work. If they offer me one and I need the money, who can say, but for now, I am on to a good thing and will hold on with my teeth and nails like it’s my very life I’m fighting for. It is about 98% impossible to make a good film when the production has been put together by an international sales company - the prerequisites that the international sales company require work in direct contradiction to what is needed to make a film original, interesting, unpredictable and fresh.

When I put a script together myself, it is an altogether different experience.  Trying to raise financing is never, ever the same story, and is always difficult and tricky.  But when it works right, you have a chance: Charlie Valentine, The Butcher, The Beautiful Ones.  For me, I stumbled with The Butcher, by acquiescing way more in the creative department than I should have, but I was green, and thought I’d lose the movie if I dug in my heels. I learned a vicious lesson but still feel the film has some personal moments.

A lot of why I dig on the boom in action flicks on home video is it has felt for the longest time, at least to me, that the action pictures you see in the multiplexes have all but forgot how to stage an action scene. It is all frenetic and jumbled, and at least to me, it feels as though the camera is performing the action and not the actors. The flicks coming out from you and Hyams and Florentine, to name a few, they seem to really love and celebrate practical effects and clean fight choreography. Is this a reaction to where modern action flicks are, or is this more of a nature of the beast? Does your stunt  work inform how you will shoot an action scene?

I haven’t seen any of Hyam’s films, and have only seen Isaac’s action scenes, I love and respect Isaac an awful lot.  But our films have nothing in common.

As to my style - No real filmmaker wants to fix it in post, that’s crap, besides our films usually have $18 post production budgets.  If we want it, we need to make sure we get it on the day and the best way to do that is practically - whether it’s an effect or a location - I once did a Sci-Fi film, I was assured we were working with the best VFX company in Canada, there was a huge deal made about them helping me out, they worked for a year on and off, and when I went up to supervise the final stages I was floored!  It was like an Atari video game circa 1987 -- I realized I would have to re-cut the sequences, drop the effects and move on.   That stuff is difficult to do well, these kids who do it on youtube, do it themselves, with after-effects, you can’t get them to do a film in 4K for cheap. We’re better served doing it with a practical gas explosion


Don’t get me started on these awful fake History channel muzzle flashes we’re seeing on TV now, I guess we’re catering to a generation that play video games and have never fired a real gun, there’s no stress on the actors face, no adrenal  investment. But, the producer’s think it’s the greatest thing since sliced-bread, wow, no fire marshal, no gun-fire permit, no cop, no armorer fee, no blanks to purchase -- they’ll argue all day long, then blame you when the film looks like a $2 turkey.

As to the martial arts and fight sequences, we shoot it that way, because most of the time, we enjoy and understand martial arts, as do the performers we are working with.  When you shoot Drew Barrymore, you have to use a stunt double and shoot from behind, and when you shoot her, keep it a long lens and add some kinetic movement to give it energy, she isn't a martial artist, most big name actors are not - so we are accustomed in larger films to see this style used a lot.

With an actual physically gifted fighter, you can drop the camera back. With a director who appreciates that, he can weave the camera around the moves and isn’t afraid that the footage will be useless. I’m not really a fan of martial arts movies, I like a fight or two, but I was in a lot of fights, and martial arts like the kind we see in martial arts movies would get you pronged up and sent to hospital if you used them on the street.

But, I know what you mean.

A lot of the same actors and actresses show up in all of these underground action movies. You have a healthy mix of genre legends like Van Damme and Lundgren, character actors like Keith David and Eric Roberts, as well as former athletes, guys like Steve Austin who are just a natural fit. What's it like to work with guys who live and breathe and inhabit the genre? 

Most of them are hired to fulfill international sales requirements, we -- I -- usually don’t have a say in it, only whether we accept the film as an assignment or not. The actors are often tired and beat up and don’t really want to be there. It can be very hard getting them to be enthusiastic.  When you do, it can be great fun, and you can get a flicker of that old magic -- but, they’re usually there for the check primarily.

This is why I am tired of this sub-genre and doing everything in my power to move away from it.  
Steve Austin was great to work with, and required no special handling whatsoever, I would work with him whenever and wherever he asked. Keith David is a dear friend and a massive talent and just someone I would like to be like, he has the ability to fair tremendously well in a massive $100 million movie and then bring the same level of commitment to a $3 million movie, I have the utmost and deepest respect for him.

Dovetailing off of that last question, is there a feeling of community in that pool of actors and directors that make up this world? Like, does John Hyams call you up for a pool party and the like? Bad example, I know, but you get the gist.

I am friends with Isaac Florentine, I am trying to find something to produce for him. Mike Hurst who is a producer on The Beautiful Ones, helped out immeasurably with the script and the edit, he is a genius to have in the edit room - I chat with William Kaufman on facebook, and have respect for his work.  

The others I don’t know, and am not familiar with their work.  I have worked closer with James Cameron (Avatar), Steven Spielberg (Lincoln, War of the Worlds), PT Anderson (The Master), Kenneth Branagh (Thor) as a stunt man than the guys you mention, and am more influenced by their styles. 

There was one poor director whom I replaced on three films in a row, I ended up taking him to coffee and becoming pals.  But, otherwise, no, it is not a budget level or quality of film I necessarily want to hang my hat on. I rarely watch direct to DVD (unless it’s a foreign title - I love a couple of the Korean action pics that are turning up), or whatever the 21st century equivalent is, and don’t measure my standard by that quality.  

You have set your standards as high as possible.

What, to you, is the most perfect action scene ever filmed?

Two favorites are the first sword fight in The Seven Samurai, the slow motion death scene, and the duel at the end of SanjuroHowever on a different day, I might choose the showdown at the end of The Good the Bad and the Ugly, or the car chase in Bullitt

Recently, I loved the knife fight in Man from Nowhere and adored the shoot out at the end of A Bittersweet Life.

Budget has to always be a nightmare, as it is on a shoot of any size. How has money affected your flicks?

Lack of money has made many of my films far lesser quality than I had planned. I have had to shoot faster, and with fewer moving parts than was intelligent or rational. I have been too ambitious.

Are there any projects you walked away from/couldn't get off the ground that you kick yourself over?

I have at least a dozen projects I tried desperately to get made, sometimes going so far as to have scouted, cast, and started, that then fell through. It is heart breaking but part of the game. You wanna cry and give up, or start over again?

I've had executive producers who got shot on the eve of filming, after hotels were booked, visas arranged, locations scouted.  I've sat in production meetings and watched as the accountants left the building, carrying everything they could, because they learned there was no money coming. I've had executive producers leave set the last day of filming, never to be seen again, all paychecks bouncing.

It’s a brutal game - but when it goes right, when it actually comes together, it’s as close to alchemy as you will ever experience.

You are still very active in stunt work, working on things from the 2001 Planet of the Apes to the Amazing Spider-Man Franchise. Do you find it difficult to switch gears from director to stunt person? 

No. If I spend a year trying to raise financing for a project, I need to pay my bills, and stunt work is a godsend. The people that hire me are angels and I love everyone of them with all the fiber of my soul.
I will hit the ground on a stunt so hard, that the monitor shakes, I like the feeling of committing 100% to the gig, focusing on that minutiae of the world, that moment, that gag, that wire, that harness, that crash pad, and then going for it, when every ounce of reason says "what on Earth do you think you;re doing?" You have this internal fight, which you absolutely must win, or risk delaying the stunt and screwing the shot, which is far worse than getting hurt.

Besides, that stunt adjustment is paying my bills until the financing for my next film kicks in, at which time I’ll do my earnest best to hire those angels who kept me solvent.  It’s an awesome, wonderful magical job, and I love it -- it is also exciting as hell sometimes and mind blowing.

With the big blockbusters, marketing is completely ubiquitous, and seems to cost just as much as the films themselves, if not more. How do you, with out that money compete? What methods do you use to get the word out?

It’s different every time of course. Many times the domestic release of the film is a toss away, the film is aimed for and styled for the international market. They will do an extremely brief US theatrical release -- one theater -- with no press to fulfill the SAG limited exhibition contract -- which allowed them to pay a lower fee to the cast -- and then dump the DVD into Walmart and or cable TV at the same time.   In the international market you may get a better theatrical release, but no one will tell you about it or ask you about it, or even mention your name. 

With a passion project, you try you best to hit the good festivals, not the rubber chicken events -- they do no good whatsoever. In this business there are lot of black-tie events where they slap you on the back and give you some gold plated monkey, and a few souls congratulate you and it all means less than zero in the grand scheme of things.  

There are about eight festivals that mean anything, if you don’t get into one of those, you have to come up with a smart way to market the film. You use every ounce of energy you have, whether it’s a homemade viral campaign or face to face screenings you pay for out of pocket. You get out there and do it.

And, finally, I gotta ask, what's next for Jesse Johnson? I watched the trailer for The Beautiful Ones, and I am hyped to check it out whenever I can, but that can't be the last we hear from you in the director's chair, right? 

I have another spec trailer (fake/fantasy theatrical trailer) coming, we’re cutting now. I did one for Wonder Woman which I enjoyed and which ended up being very useful to me. I got meetings all over town for about a month, meetings I had never been able to get before. It came out the same month as The Package, and got me about 500 times as much press, so other than the pay-check, The Package, actually ended up being of less use to my career than the self financed Wonder Woman trailer.
I will be shooting a third spec trailer, with a new DP, next month - to see how he works out.  
Then I have a feature length picture in the new year which will be epic. And unlike anything I have done before, it is the single most significant film of my career, budget, control and cast-wise, and it is going to be something else. So everything I do right now is serving towards that end goal, including these little spec-trailer shoots.  

I’m testing talent, gear and techniques that are on the horizon for the feature shoot -- it is how I do it. I don’t like experimenting on set, we are too lucky to be there -- it is too difficult to get financing not to be as prepared as is humanly possible.

I don't really have a good closing for this interview. Jesse's a damn whirlwind. Give him your money and attention, because if John Wick taught us anything, these underground stunt cats are just one splash away from dazzling the entire world.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


I'm just going to pretend that this photo was planned, and Heather is all "what the fuck is up with the blood soaked bio pictures, bro?"

Heather Dorff is soon going to be in everything, and you will never be happier. I mean, she's pretty much already in everything now but that's gonna explode even more in the near future, Which is a good thing, because she's pretty much the best. 

Right now, you can see her in her youtube series, Filming Round Midtown, as well as Truth or Dare and The Tour which are making the festival circuit right now. There's also Incorporeal, streaming on Amazon, but if you wanna really dig into her back catalogue, or really just keep up with her, check out Heather's personal website. And, of course, like her facebook and follow her on twitter.

Okay yeah, let's dig into the interview I legit never wanted to end now, shall we?

Christ, I don't even know what introduce you with. I mean, you got Truth or Dare out, which everyone should pre-order if they can't see, and I am pretty sure the entire state of Washington is sick of me chiding them for slacking off on Kill the Production Assistant, so hey, I'm talking to Heather Dorff here!

Well I wanted to mention, much to my sadness, I had to back out of Kill The PA. A lot more nudity was required of the role than what I initially signed up for /was made aware of. So I decided instead of putting myself in a bad place and end up possibly hurting the production, because being uncomfortable in a role is never a good thing, that the best plan of action was to bow out gracefully. 

And we're off swimmingly!


It was a hard decision to make but I think the best one for me. Jess[ica Cameron] is a good friend of mine both professionally and personally so she understood completely. I'm excited to see what they end up doing with the films!

So am I! I actually talked to Tristan Risk recently (last week, even!) so I feel like by the time it's released I will have talked to every iteration of the project from start to finish. Anywho, I watched Incorporeal a few days ago and really dug it. I figure we should open with that since it's on Amazon and we can shill the heck out of it.

 Oh man! Incorporeal! There was the most experimental project I've ever been on ever! So, Mike Johnson of Faux Pas Films actually shot most of the footage around the U.S. randomly and decided "Hey I'll make a movie with all this random b-roll!!! Yay!!!"  So what ended up happening was myself and the other lead actor Dylan Cinti in a very small space (ie: a corner of a hotel room) where we couldn't really move and were on a green screen pretending to be seeing whatever was on the footage without ever really having seen the footage in the first place.  Also, we were improvising, so, yeah. I imagine the green screen bits have to be a bit of a mess. I'm sitting here laughing out loud because seriously it was so crazy!

Not so much a mess as. Okay, Look, I've never been to Chicago. So, I'm watching this, and I'm thinking "wow this city has literally everything."


No, all that footage is from like, everywhere! We don't have caves and massive wooden treehouses or any of that jazz.

Well, dang.

I know. I just ruined your future travel plans!

So, you're kind of taking off right now, and imdb has you linked to an insane number of projects

That it does 

And if you've seen it, you know and I know, I gotta ask: Ed Gein, D.D.S.?

Of course! So Cory Udler is amazing. First off. So is Tom Lodewyck, second of all. FinallyCory got in touch with me one day, being a friend on my facebook, since he was a director and I'm an actress and you know, you try to keep in touch with those kinds of people, and he was like "Hey you want to be in a short with Tom???" Cory, being pretty fun and always completing his projects, and Tom, being an actor I had been in numerous films with but had never been in the same room with together, definitely brought me on board to meet and work with them both in person.

It's a super creepy short, fun, and like a original story of if a bunch of clearly idiotic witches brought Ed back to life cause yeah, that's a good idea!

I am just glad it is a real thing I will be able to see with my eyeballs, more than anything. Also, seriously, witches? Resurrection almost never goes as planned.

Well, resurrecting someone has completely crazy as Ed Gein is pretty much just a hefty serving of silly with a side of crazy sauce. But, to each their own!

Exactly. It's like going to Camp Crystal Lake and thinking maybe nothing bad'll happen to you! Teens and witches, man. They never learn.

Nope. Especially teen witches. Then it's all end of the worlds and stuff.

You hear that, Sabrina? We're on to you. Alright so, now that I've confirmed Ed Gein, D.D.S. exists, and I can die happy, what else you got in the pipe works that people should get excited about?

Well I am talking to one director now about a possible project next year - but I can't mention it yet! Otherwise, I've been kind of sitting back the past few months and not aggressively searching acting work because I'm preparing for a move to Los Angeles. Once I actually get there, I'm going to hit the ground running and really start going cray cray with this whole acting thing. Ever since I started, I've always worked a full time job while trying to be an actress part time, now I'm going to be able to actually focus a bit more time and effort into acting and who knows what that will bring!

 I can't even imagine how you juggled both.

Well I also do a lot of side investments and businesses too! So really it's always been as though I had almost 3 full time jobs! No down time!

The projects I'm most excited about right now that are currently in festivals are Truth or Dare and The Tour. Both of those are "must sees" in my book!

I have not heard a single bad word about either, but Truth or Dare seems to be blowing up like crazy.

That it is. Torture porn at it finest! For anyone into truly disturbing gore Truth or Dare is right up your alley! It's a little light on the plot but heavy on the blood! Super fun times and AMAZING practical effects! It's so fun to see a film do practical effects and avoid CGI! It's rare these days!

Look, everyone needs a little exploitation in their life. And, yeah, practical effects are just the best, and you can only really find them in the underground anymore, which is a bummer/why I talk to all you cats. On the flipside, The Tour is a flick where you get to hang out in a spooky, ancient, haunted British Mansion like an old Hammer film.

So true! It was actually filmed right outside of central London. Such an amazing experience!

I can only imagine, and since I am a sucker for both ultraviolence and spooky houses, I gotta just cross my fingers they show up in my neck of the woods.

I hope so! I'm positive Truth or Dare will get a distro deal and we are hoping with all the success The Tour has had thus far that we can get to go back and shoot a feature film of it! The cast and crew were amazing, so I really hope I get a chance to work with them all again. Making a feature would be amazing.

So, to backtrack a bit, if you're moving to LA, does that mean the end of Filming Round Midtown?

No! Not at all! Actually, we are trying to figure that all out right now;  if we will record it as split screen or just separate segments or what -- Filming Round Midtown is abut to truly begin even! I simply haven't had the time to concentrate on it as I needed to in order to make it as successful as I think it can be! Consistency is key, and with me dropping the daytime gig I truly feel I'll be able to concentrate on things like Filming Round Midtown and make them more of a success!

I kinda want you to 
split screen it and do a Parent Trap type trick and see if anyone catches on for a few episodes.


Good idea! We will definitely do that in one episode maybe! Where Deann acts like me and I act like her! That is brilliant!

Exactly! I am agreeing with you saying I am brilliant!


No seriously that is such an amazing idea though! So much fun and a must do!

You know I'm gonna watch. Heck, I was watching Filming Round Midtown for like months before I realized I could see you in other things because I am an actual terrible journalist.

Yes, other things I am in!

It's like you are an actress or something!

If you want to see a ton of clips, reels, trailers, random shorts and where to see or purchase my films then definitely check out my site: www.heatherdorff.com because I really do try to post everything there!

That totally segues into what I was gonna ask next. You are psychic!

I am! It's the whole actress thing. It comes with super powers!

I was gonna say well then why aren't there more actresses out there, they have to know this! But then I was all,  "oh wait..."  

Anyway, I was going to ask, and I will make this question actually make sense wording wise when I post the interview, a lot of the fresh crop of scream queens, I've noticed, have all had to become business women in their own right, what with maintaining stores on their websites and really interacting with the fans in a whole more personal level. I had to know, how much work alone is it just maintaining the store on your website? 


So I actually don't have as formal of a store. That's something I'm actually going to be working on with my new found extra time now! I'm a web developer at heart,  and in practice (that was my day job up until recently!) so I feel it's unfair for me to comment on how easy it is for me to get the website up, but maintaining is always a biatch! I feel like whenever I pick up the pace on once piece of my social marketing or fan engagement I end up dropping the ball in another area. Like, I get my facebook more up to par, but then stop posting on twitter --which is no good. Marketing and fan interaction is such a beast! It's really a full time job on its own. The best you can do is do the best you can and not completely ''ignore" it -- but, really an assistant is always needed with these things! 

See this is why you link your facebook and twitter so it looks like you are posting in two places! And then you lose all your facebook friends when you livetweet something. Wait, scratch that idea.

I do post, or try to, different things to my facebook than to my twitter. The posts are definitely different! I almost feel like twitter is much better for interaction and link sharing and facebook offers more visual promotion.

Yeah, twitter is more like one giant internet forum everyone is on. I mean, I love facebook, but I can't ask Mark Ruffalo about being in Mirror, Mirror 2: Raven Dance and have him respond to me on it.

But don't we wish that were the case?!

Most definitely. Well, actually I wish myspace was still a thing and I could be myspace friends with Mark Ruffalo and have him be in my top 8. But I'll take what I can get!


Oh, the good ol' days! I was in David Copperfield's top 8 on his official myspace page. True story.

That is the coolest thing. Let's just talk about how cool we were when we were young, forget the actual interview.

Actually - I still am one of his top three! Even though myspace totally f'ed up the site.

You know I had to take a screen-shot for visual proof, right?

Alright, I ask everyone this because I am a Cannon Group junkie, and if I could, I'd just talk about 80's Action movies and only 80's action movies until the day I died, so, what in your mind makes a perfect action scene?

Oh Lordy! That's a damn hard question.

I know! (Just say The Raid. Everyone says The Raid)

I think ,on top of outrageous effects/stunts you need a hero wui a strong personality but with great  comedic timing. Think Bruce Willis in Die Hard or Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon. I'm also a huge fan of Jackie Chan and his 90's movies.

Yeah, 90's Jackie Chan is phenomenal. Supercop is a perfect movie.

It really is. I was also a huge fan of the original Robocop. Again, great stunts, great effects, great story, with a hardass hero who was also funny! I ws addicted to Robocop as a kid!

Same here. Robocop and Rambo. Then you watch the moives as an adult and you're like, "they saw this and made kids shows out of them?" Cocaine, you've been the driving force to some interesting things.


I think the mentality of children then and now is much different though.. we just live in a different world entirely. The internet enables kids to grow up too fast where those innuendos are less likely to go over their heads as they would when we were kids.

Ain't that the truth. It's also that weird duality where kids are much much more protected and sheltered by one hand, but given unlimited access to all this stuff on the other.

Yeah. For sure.

We got poignant all of a sudden. Who'd'a thunk it? Let's do some rapid fire questions to fix that!  Favorite slasher?

The original Nightmare on Elm Street. It really f'ing creeped my out as a kid!

See, I'm a Jason guy. Now we are mortal enemies!


I like Jason too! But the dream thing disturbed me. Jason seemed tangible to me, and therefore defeatable!

Alright I'll buy that I guess.

Anything that can kill you in your sleep, in your mind, is so much more of a threat than a real human. Because how does one prepare for that?

Okay I can see that logic. My whole thing was, if a dream demon that can do anything is defeated, he kinda loses all cred in sequels. Whereas with Jason, you basically just put him down long enough to get away.

But like, how many times do you have to shoot a dude before he DIES anyway? Guy was super human!

Michael Myers was the guy that always got shot! Jason was mostly just attacked with farming tools then made into some kinda zombie Frankenstein, then he went into space and was made into a killbot!  

Oh, true! 


Alright I feel like the only way we can end this (because we will just gab at each other endlessly, audience be damned) is if I make you ask me something. So, to wrap this up, is there anything you'd like to ask me?

So what made you start doing interviews?

Well, Camp Counseling was actually a column I had way back in 2005 when IGN had a splinter horror site. That went to a blog format, so I was dormant for a bit due to personal stuff. Then, I went back to straight up reviewing all the underground and cult stuff I'd loved with the column. It went through a bunch of iterations (was even a short lived one-man podcast where you could hear me go actually insane talking to myself in a closet), and I figured: all these movies are cool, but if I keep telling you how cool they are over and over again, it loses meaning. So, why not reach out to the people who are making all the horror and action and made for TV stuff that flies under the radar, and show you just how awesome these people are? Like, the whole point of the site was "hey watch these movies." If I throw in a human factor, it'll push you a lot better into checking this stuff out. I only talk to people who are doing stuff I legitimately love.

Seriously though, you guys, I talk to these guys and gals because I am trying to guilt you into buying their wares. Don't make me have wasted their time for naught! I spent weeks harassing Heather with e-mails to get this interview! You gonna make that mean nothing?