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An Interview with Elias, Director of LovecraCked! The Movie

RH: What motivated you to make this film?

Elias: This particular flick came about a few years after I graduated from college in NYC and found myself working for peanuts in retail to pay the rent and student loan bills. I wanted to do a feature-length adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's "The Thing On The Doorstep", and I began developing a script with my friend Chad who was over in Chicago. We kicked notes/ideas back and forth and came up with quite a cool modern version, we thought. For reasons not really worth going into, though, this project never made it to production, and I ended up moving to Germany and getting married of all things! Prior to the move, circumstances in NYC for me had been growing continually worse, and relocating for a while felt like a needed change of pace. It turned out to be just what the doctor ordered in fact, as my brain soon began cooking up ideas.

It occurred to me, probably while in the shower (a place where many a light bulb has gone off in the past), that Lovecraft's great influence on modern horror coupled with his relative anonymity, was a topic ripe for parody. So I set forth to make a short mockumentary on the subject, casting myself as a clueless, inept journalist searching out the truth behind this 20th century icon of horror in all the wrong places, and of course forming all the wrong conclusions. As the shoot began to draw to a close, it occurred to me that it was a shame to put all this work into a film that, due largely to its short duration (appr. 30 min), would end up being relatively anonymous as well. Given the segmented nature of the mockumentary I thought: why not open the floor to other filmmakers and release the film not as "LovecraCked!", but "LovecraCked! The Movie": a feature-length anthology with the mockumentary segements acting as a running narrative or wraparound for a number of other Lovecraftian tales. And that's pretty much how the flick came to be.

RH: How did you get started in this business? (i.e. A bit of background to you and BiFF JUGGERNAUT).

Elias: I started out pursuing writing and acting for theatre when I was a teenager. My mother encouraged me to express myself a lot in these ways, though having no theatrical background herself really. As I grew older and the forums for performance (mainly community theaters) became less and less inspiring, the desire to expand my ideas and my creative outlets, and to just do more than play bit parts in these local productions, grew and I started making short films on VHS and 8mm video with my friends. After a few years this, and a year-long stint at an acting conservatory, I ended up in the film department of the School of Visual Arts in NYC, where I graduated in 2000.

"BiFF JUGGERNAUT" is the name my friend and collaborator Chad and I came up with randomly to label past and future productions. Over the years myself and a variety of other great collaborators have made films and music videos that somehow nearly always manage to put actors in incredibly uncomfortable and adverse circumstances. For this reason (and because with acting I'm just such a glutton for punishment), I often cast myself in the most physically tortuous of these roles. For an example of this check out "The Voice Inside", which can be found online and on the Ltd edition DVD for "LovecraCked! The Movie".

The only way to really make money in the film industry is through feature film release, but the cost of producing such films, financially, logistically, physically and emotionally, can and usually is quite high. Add to that such factors as advertising costs, competition, and the MPAA and one's really got their work cut out for them. In the end the more commercially viable the product the better your chances of financial success, but creating a commercial flick isn't necessarily that easy, especially with a low budget or perhaps worse, a socially unpopular theme. Really if you look at what's successful, I'd say it's largely a combination of simplicity and money.

"LovecraCked! The Movie", though still on the fringe, is the most mainstream flick we've ever done because its feature-length and designed with the primary purpose just to be entertaining. Its release, regardless of financial gain, will help to pave the way for future productions from BiFF JUGGERNAUT and all the filmmakers involved. It's a stepping stone for things to come.

RH: How would you describe "LovecraCked!" for the uninitiated? What were you hoping to achieve?

Elias: Isn't that a bit like having the pot describe the kettle? Nevertheless, I'm glad to whore the flick for those out there reading. LovecraCked! The Movie is a chaotic mass of creeps, freaks, monsters, gore, silliness, sex and of course a little H.P. Lovecraft to make us respectable in the mornin'. At the very least I hope folks find it entertaining; it has a lot of elements, probably nearly something for everyone. It's won great praise from some and has offended and revolted others. It has turned out, somewhat surprisingly to me, to be quite a polarising little flick. Over the last month or two we've been compared to Monty Python, Broken Lizard, Troma, Cronenberg, Kafka, toddlers, dried up crusty dog-shit, cocksnot, punishment -- the list just goes on and on. One critic hated it so much he said all the DVDs and all other evidence of the film's existence should be torched. Ironically, he's yet to cremate his copy and has instead been making his friends watch it so they too can see how awful it is. Even more ironic still, another reviewer from the same site actually quite enjoyed the flick and gave it a strong recommendation. But I stray, I stray. The goal was to create an entertaining flick and help to get some exposure for a small group of filmmakers, from the reactions we've been getting I feel like we've achieved that and then some. I'm definitely happy with the result.

RH: Some of the influences behind the film seem obvious. I detected a bit of Monty Python, but also genre films such as “Evil Dead 2”. True? What else has inspired you?

Elias: The running narrative of the flick is definitely inspired somewhat by Monty Python. As far as my own general inspirations go there are many, though for my part in the project the bulk lies with the Python boys. I did find inspiration in Evil Dead II back when I was in school. You can see some of that in a short I did called "The Voice Inside", which can be found on the "LovecraCked! The Movie" DVD and online. Lately I find inspiration in many... David Cronenberg, Peter Jackson, Ki-Duk Kim, Mario Bava, Poppy Z. Brite, Douglas Adams, Warren Ellis, Richard Salla, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Scott McCloud, Frank Black, Ministry, life, people, experience... the list goes on and on...

RH: Though independent productions are often the target of some scorn by, shall we say, “mainstream” viewers, there’s no getting past the fact that independent filmmakers are in a better position to tackle commercially dubious subject matter than those working within the system -- and so can attract a “cult” audience. Where do you see "LovecraCked!" fitting into the scheme of things in this regard? What’s the film’s appeal and what does it do that couldn’t have been done elsewhere?

Elias: Wow, quite a question! Actually, strangely I've found there to be just as much derision towards indie productions from the non-mainstream crowd as there is from the mainstream viewers. If anything, the later just don't seem to notice or care one way or the other much of the time, but I have to admit it's surprised me at times how angry and hostile some of the low-budget cinema fans can be towards actual low-budget productions. Some really rail on everything; it almost seems like they find more fault with indies than with some of the money engorged Hollywood bombs that get dropped. I guess a lot can be attributed to the existence of the internet, which has provided a vast forum for so many of us. It's pretty amazing really when you think about how quickly the web has changed the nature and sheer quantity of communication. It's great, too, for low budget promotion!

As far as indie filmmakers being better suited to deal with fringe subject matter: I guess that's true, when you subtract direct studio involvement. However, at the same time indie filmmakers still usually have financiers of their own to answer to, and once a flick is completed the MPAA will be waiting gleefully with meat cleaver in paw. Gloomy sounding, yes, but that's largely the way of it, I believe. On the bright side, the advent of affordable digital technology has helped to give voice to many that might not otherwise have been heard. Business is business, though, and I think that factor will most often influence the end result on any level -- indie or studio based. Who's better suited depends more on one's own personal level of commitment and willingness to risk everything if need be. Coppola did this when he made "Apocalypse Now", and he was quite established at the time. The more risks you take the more alone you'll be, that's for sure. Who is better positioned? Whomever has the least to lose, I suppose, but that is probably quite debatable, and then again maybe the risks themselves are part of what fuels some our ambitions.

As far as how "LovecraCked! The Movie" fits into all of this... I'm not sure I really know. It's certainly not mainstream, but it does have some mainstream elements -- comedy and horror to name a couple. The intention from the inception of the anthology was to bring more mainstream exposure to the filmmakers involved by creating a more commercially viable product: a feature film. Given the eclectic and diverse nature of the film, it will likely never be seen by most of the movie-watching public, but there are a number of cult niches we can fill, namely Cult Horror/Comedy, B-Cinema, Lovecraft on a Popsicle stick. These cult audiences, though small by comparison to the mainstream, are a force of their own and without them many a memorable film would never see the light of day - take "Serenity", for example. The demand of these audiences goes along way to fuel the low budget/indie filmmaking world. The good thing and the bad thing about LovecraCked! is that it's a really eclectic mix and thus offers something for many, but at the same time this lack of easy definition makes it harder to exploit than a more traditional single-storied feature horror or comedy. At the end of the day, I hope people find it entertaining and I hope it helps to serve as a bridge for the other endeavors of those involved.

RH: The real issue for independent production generally comes down to money... Or lack thereof. How big a hindrance was this in the making of “LovecraCked!”? And how did you get around the problems?

I quite agree. Lack of money can be a huge factor in indie filmmaking, which is why it's especially important not to let one's reach exceed the grasp of one's financing. Of course it's pretty easy for this to happen, but I think it's important to try to operate within one's means -- either that or shoot something else that better fits the budget. The good thing about comedy is that in the name of silliness much can be done that would never be acceptable otherwise, such as tossing an obviously fake dummy down a long flight of stone steps in the place of a stunt-man. I can't speak for the other filmmakers involved, but I tried when shooting the running narrative to exploit every natural resource available in the way of locations, while at the same time poking fun at our own lack of budget by shooting the opening sequence in a toddler's swimming pool. Being as this running segment is a rather hair-brained mock/spoof, I was able to take a lot of liberties, which might not normally have been possible and allowed me to work more creatively within our low budget. I think making the most of a low budget, but not overstepping and drawing unnecessary attention to it is somewhat of a tightrope act, one which I'm trying to better myself at all the time.

RH's review of LovecraCked

Check out Elias' website

copyright©Robert Hood 2007

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