Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Trash Palace Interview: Part IV - 'There are so many things you can do with a film and still have it be about a werewolf'

KE: I guess why I bring up your role as a collector is that you say that you're interested in buying up movies that no one else wants. Yet you have a profound respect for these films, as a collector, but also as a director. I mean, you've made your own films, you know what it takes to make one of these movies. So do you see yourself as an archivist? Do you see yourself as preserving these films for posterity? I mean, we have institutional mechanisms to preserve a Jean-Luc Goddard film, but no one is really interested in preserving 'Force on Thunder Mountain', right?

SC: No, not at all, you're totally right. There's other people in the city who collect films. And there's an element of altruism to all of us. If I didn't purchase 'Force on Thunder Mountain'. Like, public libraries threw out old educational shorts. I mean, I have this old short. 'The Boo-boo Monster'. And the people in the audience just loved it, their laughter was so joyous. And if I hadn't bought it, it would have just got thrown out. That's horrible. It deserves to live, it deserves to have people see it. It's such a disposable culture and we've made it so easy with DVDs and downloads that so much gets lost in the shuffle. I have to be very picky about what I collect. For me, it's not just about collecting films. I collect films because it drives my passion for making my own films. And there's tons of people in the city who collect films. There's Scary Ed who collects old educational shorts, there's Dion Conflict, Greg Woods, Colin Geddes from the Midnight Madness portion of the Toronto International Film Festival - each one has their own reason for collecting. I collect because it inspires my own efforts to make films. I love seeing how somebody else with a low budget pulled off something. Collecting is what gives me the juice for getting back in the ring to make my next film.

I love that no matter how good or bad a film is, it got made. That's all that matters. The rest is all talk. What matters is the reel of film.

Watching these movies is like going to school. When I talk to Ted Mikels, he's my teacher. I watch these films and they take me to school. I don't know how you watch a movie, but I can watch a movie and visualize the camera man and the boom mike operator. And that interests me. And you watch some of these films and you realize that there is a lot going on behind the surface. It's subversive.

KE: Yeah, I mean, you mentioned how you like to add that sort of subversive element to your own films, that you want there to be this layer to the film beyond the tits, guns and gore.

SC: Yeah, these films are never that simple. You can fuck around with gender roles. There are so many things you can do with a film and still have it be about a werewolf. Like, there's so many things yo can say in a film and still have it be this crazy fucking thing.

These films are generally just tits and ass and gore. I mean, I collect Super 8 condensed versions of these films. You ain't seen nothing until you've seen a ten minute version of 'Destroy All Monsters' - just action, no exposition. And I'm inspired by that. When I shoot a short film, I shoot it like it's a condensed film. I drive the narrative forward like a jack-hammer. It's not that I have ADD - I just love these condensed versions of these films.

It used to be that Hollywood films would be like 'Absence of Malice' starring Meryl Streep and Paul Newman. Now the Hollywood film is an exploitation film. 'Spider Man 3'? Exploitation film. 'Fantastic Four'? Exploitation film. The things that used to only be done in exploitation films are now being done with $300 million budgets and CGI. What makes Japanese films today so great is that there's no CGI, it's all masks and crazy fucking ideas. That's low budget film making. If and when you come by the studio, you'll see all these masks and props that I have. And those props write the movies I make. And I have a feeling that the next film is going to use all these props and it's going to be the greatest fucking thing ever. And when I'm done that film, I have another I want to do. I'm getting back into TV and there's a couple ideas that I've pitched to MTV in the States and I hope that project will fund my next movie. But you don't need to have a whole lot of money to make an enjoyable movie. You don't need CGI. These low budget films are quite endearing - I think of my own films as endearing.

KE: You say on your website that if you want to see a 'good' film, you shouldn't come to the Trash Palace.

SC: You know who I'm speaking to, though.

KE: Yeah.

SC: I'm speaking to those people. Like, my whole family would hate what I'm showing. But the people who show up to my screenings say, 'these are great films'. I have to use words like 'good' and 'bad' to show people that it's not high art. However, I have a respect for low art and what can be read into low art. What's a good film? If you went on line and did a poll of what is a good film, all the fan boys would say 'Fantastic Four' or whatever just came out. My criteria for what a good film is quite different from what most people would think was a good film. I mean, three quarters of those people (gestures to pedestrians outside the cafe) wouldn't like the films I show. I actually don't like using words like good or bad, but for people who don't know what I'm talking about, I have to use those words. I have to make it hard for people to come to these screenings because most people wouldn't want to come to these screenings.

KE: OK, so a few more questions. Could you briefly give your thoughts on Tarantino and Rodriquez' new film 'Grindhouse'. I mean, they were pretty blunt about their intentions - they wanted to recreate the sort of experiences they had in grindhouses back when they were young. Do you think this movie succeeds in recreating this experience or does it succumb to that homogenized film going experience you mentioned earlier?

SC: The only way 'Grindhouse' could have worked properly if theatres like the Rio still existed. You can't recreate this kind of experience for people who have only ever been to these homogenised theatres. If you've never been to a second-run theatre, you were actually confused by 'Grindhouse'. The scratches, the parts cut out of the movie - people thought it was terrible. In that sterile environment, people were pissed off but couldn't do anything. If you were in an actual grindhouse, the missing reels and scratched print were just part of the deal. And you could yell at the screen if you hated it. You can't do that in theatres today.
I mean, Tarantino's film, 'Death Proof', was just a Tarantino film. It wasn't a grindhouse film. It was just a classic Tarantino film - strong women getting revenge. In the revenge drama, I've seen 40 movies better than that film. 'Planet Terror', I actually enjoyed. Who cares why she can fire the machine gun that's attached to her leg? I believe it, I'm in. I like the leaps in logic in his film. His film, to me, was much more in keeping with what those grindhouse films were.
And as a genre, I think there should have been more nudity in both films. I've been studying grindhouse films for years. There should have been nudity. Fanboys were complaining about the lack of tits. The fact that the film made so little dough makes a lot of sense. You confused one half of the audience and let down the other half. I mean, what did you expect was going to happen, you dopes? They should have spent less money and gone straight to DVD, because that's where the grindhouse is now. Unfortunately, no one is doing anything intelligent in these films anymore.

KE: Now I'll just ask you one more question, as I know you have to go. What do you see as Trash Palace's relationship with other screenings, like Rue Morgue or the now suspended Kung Fu Fridays screenings? Do you think there is something that could loosely be defined as a Toronto film scene? Or do all these things tend to operate pretty much independent of each other?

SC: I think that there's a film scene, but I'm not part of it. I know the players. For me, it's different. You've heard all the reasons why I'm doing what I'm doing. I'm doing things for my own reasons. For me, it's not just about showing the movies. It's not just about uncovering some dope ass treasure and then bragging about it. That smacks of elitism. The people who collect and show films in town have their own reasons. We're not unified in any larger picture. We all have our own reasons. I'm not doing it to show off. The posters are an expression of my love for this stuff - but maybe the posters are showing off.

I do enjoy talking to these people, though, as there's a lot of stuff that we can talk about. I don't get to talk film with a whole lot of people, so I do enjoy talking to these people. I don't go to other screenings. Because I'm married, I have my own screenings, I have a life apart from this. I don't go to the movies often. If I do, it's with my wife. I'm all about narrative, I'm not an experimental film maker, so there's not a lot of film festivals for me to take part in. I mean, there's the After Dark Film Festival, but I don't have anything I want to screen now. I'm 39 years old, I've learned how to do all this on my own - that's how I roll.
But I'm looking forward to sending stuff out to festivals some time soon. And people like my stuff - it's funny. I remember going to Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal back in 2003 and screening 'Enter...Zombie King'. But before the movie, I screened some shorts, and one of them was called 'Squeegee Rampage' and it was about this wrestler versus these squeegee kids. And all the squeegee kids come from Montreal so to screen it there was awesome. And right from the first scene, which shows the squeegee kid pissing in his squeegee bucket, I had the audience, it didn't matter what happened, five minutes in, I fucking had them. And that's the best, knowing that you got them. That's a good feeling, man, that's a good feeling. So watching these types of films that I screen - they're not very good - but I know they got me. I believe - I'm a believer.

KE: Well, thank you very much for talking with us today.

SC: My pleasure.

* * *

Well, it's almost five in the AM. I've been up for the last five hours transcribing this interview and I'm pretty beat. I hope someone out there takes the time to read this interview in its entirety. Tall order, I know. But I wouldn't be putting it out there if I didn't think it was worth your attention. Remember to check out this week's Trash Palace screening of 'Frankenstein's Daughter' - doors open at 8:30 but tickets have to be bought in advance at Suspect Video (remember, you only know where to go once you've bought the ticket). Apparently, Stacey's come up with a drinking game to accompany the film. You know I'll be there.
Again, the Trash Palace website is trashpalace.ca.

If you want to take Stacey up on his offer and check out his CV on the Internet Movie Database, here's the link.

And here's the link to the IMDB page for Stacey's film 'Enter...Zombie King'.

No comments: