Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Trash Palace Interview: Part I - 'Everything drives my passion'

Kino-Eye: So how did you come to found Trash Palace and why?

Stacey Case: Well, I'm 39 years old, and this goes back to when I was three, watching Sunday afternoon monster movies while growing up on a farm on Niagra-on-the-lake - (watching) Abbott and Costello, 'The Hilarious House of Frankenstein' - just watching all this crazy stuff on TV. When I was ten I picked up my first issue of 'Fangoria' - that was in 1979, issue number four, 'Salem's Lot' on the cover - and I just knew that someday I was going to make movies. It took a while. I finished high school in '87. The Jackson Vocational Interact Survey decides...you answer all these questions and it guides you in your career path - maybe you want to go this way or take this in university or whatever. My parents though smart people become doctors or lawyers. When I got the results from the Jackson survey I was kind of heart broken because it said to go into something else and I wanted to go into movie and television production. But my parents wanted me to become a doctor or a lawyer, to go to university. But instead I fucked off and went to Vancouver, so I could just do my own thing, which ended up being booking bands - punk rock bands and stuff.

I moved back to Toronto in about '92 and started up a punk rock fanzine called 'Rivet', published sixteen issues or something. And through the course of 'Rivet', I began writing, illustrating, telling stories, and I realized the illustrating I was doing was actually storyboarding for films, and I didn't even realize it. But when I did realize, it took me back to when I was ten years old when I wanted to make movies. So I bought a Super 8 camera, some film, a two-track recorder, a Super 8 projector, wrote a short script, shot a short film (which) played at a few film festivals, shot another short film (which) got chosen for the Images Film Festival Best in Toronto showcase in '96/'97.

I've always been a fan of superheroes and monsters - I'm a comic book nerd. While I'm collecting vintage film equipment and learning how to use it, I discovered at ABC Books on Yonge St. and buy obscure film-making books. If you were to see my library at home, all of it would be film (related). By going to ABC Books and buying old film books, I found all these little boxes of Super 8 films for $7.99 a piece, all these condensed feature films from the '50s and '60s, like Peter Lorre's 'The Beast With Five Fingers', 'The Hideous Sun Demon' or it's British version 'Blood on His Lips'. And the packaging was really lurid and by this time I was already designing (my own posters) and I just started researching and collecting these old films. I started with 8mm and then picked up a 16mm projector.

At the time I was teaching art classes to little kids through the public library system and I got the Markham public library's 16mm projector, because I was working there and they had an AV room with nothing in it because everyone had sold off all the films because everyone was moving to video. But their old projectors were still there, so I bought them off of them. The 16mm projector triggered memories of being a kid and being in class and how the teacher would wheel in the projector and draw the blinds and we would watch a movie in the middle of the day, an educational film, and that was always one of my favourite parts of the day. Either that or running the mimeograph machine. I used to love hand-cranking the mimeograph machine. So I had a fascination with the machinery and the way you have a reel of film that you run through light and how it looks on the screen like motion but actually isn't, it's just (still) pictures. This stuff is just cool.

Before 'Nacho Libre' came out, I started shooting Mexican wrestling films, in '96. I shot eight films and I'm currently editing the final three. Shooting these films was basically my film school. They taught me pacing, timing, how to script a fight, how to draw emotion from an actor - all for 80 bucks a film. I went to work on A&E documentaries after shooting my second film because somebody asked me: 'Oh, you're a film maker. Do you know how to use video cameras?' And I just lied and said, 'yeah'. And they were like, 'OK, do you have a passport?' And I lied and said, 'yeah'. And they asked, 'Do you want to go work on an A&E documentary by yourself in France for a month?' And I said, 'yeah'. So I got everything together, got a passport, learned how to use the video camera, and fumbled my way into a career. And because I'm an old punk rocker, the footage I got there, no one else could have got. I lied my way into buildings - I was following the path of a murderer around for one of A&E's investigative reports, they had captured him and they were retracing his steps all over France and Ireland. And they were so happy with the footage that they hired me full-time. And all this time I was shooting Super 8 films, collecting films, doing my own stuff.

Everything drives my passion - collecting film, collecting lobby cards, collecting old exploitation film ads, all the promotional campaign material. Everything about it, I love, all the luridness of it, everything. I hate today's movie posters. Everything is too computerized. Back in the day, you'd have beautiful hand-painted posters. The illustrators for old movie posters were amazing. Nobody does that anymore. I just love a good ad campaign. I love the guy yelling at you - 'The Chinese professionals! Tiger Man! Rated R!' I fucking love that stuff. I love it so much that I collect it. I collect 16mm trailers for old films. And by collecting it all, it inspires me.I shot the first 500 episodes of NakedNews.com. You look at my CV and you see this path that I've taken and I've taught myself the whole fucking thing. I never went to university or anything, I taught myself everything. After working at Naked News, I got hired to direct a feature by a guy that wanted to make a Mexican wrestling film. And since I'm the Toronto expert on Mexican wrestling, I directed this film. Great experience directing it, but the aftermath was horrible. It was so bad that I left the business. Luckily over the years I have taught myself a trade, screen printing, which has allowed me to turn my hobby - screen printing - into my job while I figure out whether I want to get back into film.

Like, I like narrative. I like a beginning, a middle, and an end. I don't fit in with the film making community in Toronto because it's all experimental art films. I'm all about narrative. I want to see a guy and a girl, I want to see a mummy, I want to see topless girls - that's what I'm about, that's what I grew up on, that's what I like. I want to see monsters destroying a city, I want to see broken arms and blood flying around - that's what I like. And I like being subversive with that stuff, too, and thinking up all this crap that you'd never expect to see in a film like that.So I got out of the business. I directed a feature film and never got my directors cut, I never got to go into the editing suite, I got cut off from the film I directed. It's called 'Enter...Zombie King!'. It's Mexican wrestlers versus zombies, it's got gratuitous gore and nudity. The band I was in, The Tijuana Bibles, had 13 songs on the soundtrack. So all these things completely pissed me off because I feel like I got taken advantage of. I was like, 'if this is what it's like to direct a feature film, then fuck this. I'm going to turn my hobby into my job.'

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