The mock trailers of 2007's Grindhouse created a buzz so loud that some film makers felt the demands of the audience and moved forward creating full length features out of some of their over the top shorts. Since then, there has been no end to the amount of "fan made" trailers displaying the wants and needs of the audience that are rarely delivered to them with big budget releases. Thanks to YouTube you can watch these dreams in the making at any time but most will never be more than a talented vision of an incredible idea. This brings us to one such amazing genre mock trailer that managed to capture XKillDozerX's attention by combining home invasion style horror and punk/hardcore straight edge scene. This excited fans so much that it is now a full blown feature length reality being brought to screens everywhere thanks to Weird On Top Pictures. I was lucky enough to dig up some dirt on both the creation of Straight Edge Kegger and Weird On Top Pictures.
A young punk and a houseful of drunks square off against the gang of militant straight edgers that he's abandoned.
KillDozer: Let’s start by talking about Weird On Top Pictures. What is it and how did it start?
Jason Zink: I’m not 100% sure how to answer this question so I’m gonna tell a story about the name. The film company’s original name was created when I was in high school. It was obnoxious and had an absolutely ridiculous backstory. So the name Weird on Top Pictures comes directly from a movie poster that was hanging next to my bed at the time that I was looking to change it: Wild at Heart. In that flick, Laura Dern says to Nicholas Cage “this world’s wild at heart and weird on top”. The line has always resonated with me and being that we always saw ourselves as a rebellious group of folks, we felt that it fit perfectly with the Mohawk Man logo that we were already crafting.
Short answer, a DIY film house that’s been around since roughly 2013.
KillDozer: How did you become involved in bringing Straight Edge Kegger to the screen?
Jason: I’m the one to blame for the whole damn thing. Luckily, I have a lot of supportive people on my side who helped me to bring this to life; including my girlfriend and producer Shelby Barbee who has been my partner-in-crime through the entire process. But the idea came to me out of desperation. I had spent a few years writing different projects and I couldn’t get anything off the ground so I knew that I had to write something close to home. I hope that answers your question.
KillDozer: How did the mock trailer come about? I noticed that "The Hard Times" was involved, were they a part of the film as well?
Jason: The mock-trailer was really all that this was ever meant to be. It came about because I was trying to stick with the old adage “write what you know”. If there’s anything I know, it’s horror and punk. When the idea hit me, I just knew that I wanted to explore it and I thought that shooting a grindhouse trailer would be a great way to let it play out.
“The Hard Times” just played a marginal role and had nothing to do with the actual film. A friend of mine sent them the trailer and they thought it fit well enough for them to post with some minor alterations. We appreciate them posting the trailer to their site and social media but that’s really where the relationship stopped.
KillDozer: The mock trailer caused a lot of buzz not only in the punk and hardcore scene but among genre fans as well. Was Straight Edge Kegger always going to be a full length film? Was fan response the main inspiration to bring it to the screen?
Jason: It wasn’t always going to be a feature, no. Well, I guess thinking about how things have played out, I suppose maybe it was always going to be a feature. But it certainly wasn’t premeditated. Truth be told, the feature started snowballing into existence due to assumptions that would later be proven wrong. After getting 40K views on The Hard Times social media and some super positive feedback, we did some quick (and incorrect) math and thought that we could ask for a dollar from each view and get the budget that we needed. So their response definitely got the Kickstarter up but it was a small group of passionate and dedicated individuals whom I’m lucky to call friends that got this thing to the finish line.
KillDozer: The poster art work is incredible, it immediately lets the viewer know what kind of ride they are taking. Can you tell us who did it and how you went about partnering with them to get what you wanted out of the final product?
Jason: Marc Schoenbach of Sadist Art Designs is the poster powerhouse that brought this one to life. We were lucky enough to partner with him on our last film and I love his work so much that I really didn’t consider anyone else for SEK. We went back and forth on a few concepts and the overall design for the poster, but the final version that you see (and thanks for the compliment) should really only be credited to him.
KillDozer: Jason Zink writes, directs, and even acts in the film! Do you think this allows a director to bring his true vision to the screen without compromise?
Jason: You noticed that, huh? Haha. It’s all about compromise and the lesser of two evils. I wish that it wasn’t that way but it sort of comes with the territory. I will say that I don’t pride myself an actor. I was only cast in the movie because I knew that I could count on myself to show up. It was one less person to cast and schedule things around. I think I do a competent job but I wouldn’t be upset (or surprised) if the Oscars don’t send me a letter.
However, I will say that the compromises that were made were entirely related to budget and time. I’m super proud of what we accomplished and I think we made a really great movie but there are countless changes that I’d love to have made. “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
KillDozer: What has the feedback been around Straight Edge Kegger? Have you screened it with an audience if so what was the experience like?
Jason: So far, the feedback has been incredibly positive. That makes us hopeful because the screener that went out from film festivals had some mistakes that have since been fixed. As we weave our way through the festival circuit, we’re continuing to improve the cut. We screened at the beginning of January in Portland at PDXtreme and both the screening and Q&A went incredibly well. We had a blast there and we loved chatting with folks about the flick. It was really awesome to get reactions from parts in the movie that I thought would be unappreciated or go entirely unnoticed.
KillDozer: Do you think this film is relatable to everyone or simply the punk and hardcore kids? Was that ever discussed during production?
Jason: It is definitely relatable to everyone. I think for anybody who sees the movie, that goes without saying. What we did discuss and continue to talk about is that a lot of folks likely won’t watch the movie because they’ll assume they have to be into punk or hardcore to care about that movie. So we just hope that people will give it a shot because we think we made a flick for everybody.
KillDozer: How did you go about casting the film? Was it important to cast individuals who could relate to the subject matter?
Jason: For several of our primary cast members (Cory Kays, Evelyn Reidy and Julio Alexander), we were lucky enough to find them on a service called Backstage Casting. The service would probably hate that I compared them to this but it’s sort of like Facebook for casting talent. We received over 400 submissions and so it took us some time to narrow things down but we can happily report that those three and a handful of smaller roles were our first picks. We got incredibly lucky.
Relating to the subject matter was definitely a factor with our lead Cory (playing Brad) but honestly, they’re malleability is what got each of them their respective roles. It was just so comfortable working with them and hearing our lines come out of their mouths.
And a lot of the minor roles as well as some bigger ones we still managed to fill with friends and friends of friends. We’ve always tried to do that but the scope of this movie helped to elevate non-actors to a level that really makes me proud to see. The homegrown, grassroots, DIY ethos is something that I really care about and so it’s great to be able to continue working with those ideals and people who share that sense of community.
KillDozer: Have you received any negative feedback from people who uphold the Straight Edge way of life?
Jason: That’s a great question and luckily, we haven’t had any real experience with this. Of course, we’ve gotten a couple of trolls on YouTube and we can’t really tell what their deal is… but the straight edge community has been incredibly supportive. Truth be told, the mock-trailer didn’t do a good job of conveying the message behind our movie. Hindsight is 20/20, right? But every straight edger that we’ve talked to has seemed to be stoked on the movie. The intention was never to alienate anybody, especially a community that I may not be a part of but I definitely support. So we hope that comes across when everybody watches the movie.
KillDozer: What do you hope audiences will take away from this film?
Jason: Ugh. That’s a loaded question. Of course, I hope that they enjoy the movie. But I have a feeling that it’ll be somewhat polarizing. I wasn’t really interested in making a straightforward horror movie. It’s horror, thriller, character-drama and even has a little romance thrown in for good measure. But I hope it gets them thinking and talking about the subject matter. Look, we had no money and incredibly limited resources. I think that if we can get people walking out talking instead of shrugging, we’ve done about as much as we could have hoped for with what we had available.
KillDozer: Where can we go to follow Weird on Top pictures? What’s up next for Weird on Top?
Jason: We’re on Twitter/ Instagram/ Facebook as Weird on Top Pictures and we double up on Facebook with a Straight Edge Kegger page. If folks want to stay updated on film festival screenings, we post those consistently to the Facebook page.
It’s hard to say what’s up next for us. We have way too many projects that we would love to move forward on but a lot of what our future holds depends on if we can make our money back on Straight Edge Kegger or meet an investor(s) somewhere along the way. I will say that I have two projects in mind that I’m super pumped to put on the screen… but who knows what’ll happen?
KillDozer: Okay, here are a few fun questions to wrap this up: If you could cross Straight Edge Kegger into any film universe which would it be and why?
Jason: This was so difficult and you may not want to use this answer but I finally decided that I’d cross it with anything related to ‘The Brat Pack’: The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, St. Elmo’s Fire, etc. I just think it would be hilarious to see these characters relating to each other on an emotional level in the library. Can I still keep Judd Nelson?
KillDozer: What is your favorite piece of movie memorabilia that you own?
Jason: That is the toughest question you could have asked me. Haha. But I love it. It’s just had me walking circles in my room. I think I’ve settled on a set of two things. There’s this weird poster for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 that looks just like the poster for The Breakfast Club but with the Sawyer family doing the poses. I always loved that poster when I was younger and I became obsessed with it before I knew what eBay or horror conventions were. Finally, I found a copy at a horror convention just a few years ago and instantly found a vintage one-sheet of The Breakfast Club and mounted them right next to each other on the wall. There’s something about those two together that nothing else can replace.
KillDozer: I feel like this film could have a million taglines. What tag lines did you come up with for the film that you didn't end up using?
Jason: You’re going to hate me for this response but really, we came up with only two that we took seriously. That’s why they both wound up on the poster. We had an easier time just coming up with funny things for the narrator to say in the mock-trailer like “If you don’t smoke and you don’t do drugs, then you won’t have to die.” But when it came to the movie, we had moved on from satire and tried to go with something more raw and visceral. So the taglines that we picked were definitely referencing the culture but not mocking it in any way.
KillDozer: I was reading the entire cast and crew slept on set each night. If that information is true how bad did it smell at the end of filming?
Jason: Well, not EVERYONE stayed on set. But the lion’s share were here crashed out in every room and covering the floors. The smell changed on any given night/morning and there were some nights more ripe than others. But people’s sleep schedules were so messed up that there was never a line for the bathroom. People showered every day and usually, you were too exhausted to pay attention to things like that anyway. And when everybody left, there wasn’t really a smell… just a mess.