Sunday, June 5, 2016

Digging Up The Dirt with KillDozer and Craig Anderson, Writer/Director of Red Christmas

Dee Wallace is one of KillDozer's favorite actresses, so when he found out that she was going to be in a indie Christmas horror movie, and that he had already connected to the film's director through Instagram, he got understandably excited. The Australian director agreed to answer some questions about his upcoming film, which we're hoping can make its way to a theatrical release in the US!

KillDozer: You have a lot of television experience, how does that experience translate to film making? What would you say the current state of film making is like in Australia at the moment?

Craig: Australia has always been a small country with a small market, saturated by imports (American Films/TV and British TV). We make some exciting films but we also make some pretty boring films that are mostly funded by our government. This funding means a lot of the films look the same, deal with the same stuff and share a bizarrely bureaucratized idea of what "our" culture is. Our TV is driven by commercial interest but features a lot of Reality and local love-in's. We hardly make enough drama and far too little comedy- which is my background.
I made some comedy with some friends, Double The Fist being the craziest and most fun. We were not given much money, but in return we were left alone and got to develop our own style and voice, which was great. We made stuff that would have been great on the internet, about five years too early. The other good thing about working in a small country on projects is you can learn lots of different skills, which is useful when making your own low-budget stuff.

KillDozer: In being the writer/director of Red Christmas did that mean you had complete creative control? Are you editing the film yourself as well?

Craig: Complete creative control baby! It's so exciting and also scary. Sometimes notes from companies and elders can illustrate that they don't understand what you are trying to make, but sometimes they point out really obvious stuff that a filmmaker can't see like "your film doesn't make sense" and "I know you can hear that mumbled word in the background of the scene, but no-one else can. It makes the whole scene make no sense". These notes (and notes from anyone) help push a film into what the general population think a film should be, which is kind of useful. So I'm editing by myself in a room and haven't shown anybody, only because I am poor, otherwise I would get someone I trust to edit it with me. The first time I show someone could be totally embarrassing, have you ever hear of The Voynich Manuscript? Look it up. It was written by someone who was not given notes.

KillDozer: Australia has a very celebrated catalog of exploitation and action films under it's belt. Did these films influence you as a kid? What titles stick out?

Craig: As a kid, Mad Max 2, BMX Bandits and a few others, but mostly US exploitation. As a late teen I got into all of Peter Jackson's stuff, he lives just across the water in NZ and was very inspirational. When I started collecting VHS in my 20's I got a lot more into Aussie exploitation- Patrick, The Man From Honk Kong, Chain Reaction, Body Melt, Wake In Fright, Thirst, Razorback and Long Weekend. Being a local I've also been able to discover some little seen titles like Leonora and Cosy Cool.

KillDozer: You have some impressive talent cast in your film. Did you seek these actors out? What was casting like? What was it like to work with a legend like Dee Wallace? What was it like to direct family members who were cast?

Craig: Fortunately I had gotten to meet all of the Australian cast before and worked with most of them, so that was an easy and fun process. Dee Wallace, I had contacted through her agent and she loved the script. I was so happy. Working with Dee is awesome, she is an excellent actor and I love her in Cujo and wanted to give her a role that she could do what she did in that movie again (which means putting her through hell). She was very gracious and trusting to come all the way out to Australia and get picked up by my dad and driven out into the country. We had to put her up in the smallest little cabin and I don't think she had had any frame of reference as to how "low-budget" we can be down under. But she adapted so quickly and then smashed it out of the park.
My dad plays a Sheriff who goes the way of any authority figure in a horror film, Dead. Dad's done cameos in comedy shows I've made before where the acting wasn't as important as the joke, but in this film, there was no room for shit acting, so I really pushed him hard (he only has one line), but he rose to the occasion. Then I cracked him over the head with a bear trap.

KillDozer: Where did the choice come from to make a Christmas horror film? Will you aim for a Christmas release date next year?

Craig: I love Christmas. The only thing that can make it better is everybody dying. It's such an emotional time of the year with loads of iconic imagery and sounds and I wanted to play with that. I love every movie set at Christmas- Die Hard, Gremlins, Black Christmas, Silent Night Deadly Night, The Silent Partner. It would make sense to release it for Christmas, but I don't think I have any control over that.

KillDozer: Are you going with practical effects on Red Christmas? If so what are the pros and cons? How did you go about finding who would do your effects?

Craig: Loads of Practical Effects because I love them. I got two guys who did practical effects on Wyrmwood (a great Aussie zombie film) and have now gone onto work in the workshop for the new Alien film shooting in Sydney. I also have done a lot of stuff in VFX world, so I knew if we got into any trouble on the day we could assist with VFX and the guy doing the lighting is a VFX genius who normally does animation and VFX for a living so he helped out whenever we got stuck. I also prefer editing as a tool for creating gore and did a few effects the old-old way.

KillDozer: Tell us about your amazing VHS posts! I want to thank you for not only posting amazing titles and art work but also taking the time to write a break down of the plot and who is involved with some of these films. Why do you do it?

Craig: Great question, I realized it was the only form of social media I was interested in. I hate Facebook and other things where people you kind of know can espouse deep ideological opinions, it's like watching cows wearing jet-packs trying to perform a ballet. But Instagram seemed pretty cool because it was just pictures. I love VHS's and thought other people might like them too, so found a purpose for them. I also write the synopsis, because one of the best parts of being in a real world video store was that you could pick the tape up an turn it over and read about it.

KillDozer: Will your film be released into theaters in America? How would one go about setting up a screening here? I only ask because the horror community is really good about finding independent theaters and setting up screenings and I'm not sure what your distribution looks like.

Craig: I love the horror community and can't wait to show them. I have no idea how I am going to distribute the film. I'm going to start entering festivals in a few months and then I will see what the world thinks of it. Maybe it's rubbish and the only way you'll see it is on a weird VOD site. Hopefully it's the kind of film that gets picked up by a big studio who takes it and exploits it for all it's worth, then it might be in cinemas, which would be awesome.

KillDozer: What was it like to raise funding for your film?

Craig: About a quarter was cash (mostly my life savings and another investor) the other three quarters involved me convincing cast and crew to work for deferred payment. Luck I have a lot of talented friends. It also meant that everyone was very passionate and had a vested interested in the film doing well. It was a real community atmosphere.

KillDozer: Soundtracks have always been popular with horror/film nerds. What can we expect in terms of music in your film?

Craig: Imagine getting dragged along to a Christmas eve service and having to listen to people sing carols in a large cathedral. Now imagine the floor rumbling and everything slowing down and members of the choir being replaced by cenobites who continue singing, but the singing makes your ears bleed and your insides liquefy. A bit like that.

KillDozer: A lot has been said lately about the lack of control directors have over trailers for their films. Will you be editing your own?

Craig: I already made my trailer, before I started the film, I used clips from other movies to show people what I wanted to make. Then when I shot my movie, the first thing I did was take out the famous movie clips (The Family Stone, Home Alone, Friday the 13th, House By The Cemetery, Eraserhead) and put my own clips. 
I do think there is a value in letting the professionals cut a trailer for you, just to see what sells and how to tell a "trailer story", which pushes the "big thing" in your film. I guess it would suck if they turned my movie into something that looked like it was from the wrong genre or tried to get the wrong audience. But being my first film I don't have the same worries as Simon Pegg.

KillDozer: Just some fun questions - what is your favorite movie collectible?

Craig: Dee gave me a signed ET, which was pretty cool. But I also got Bill Richmond, a guy who wrote for Jerry Lewis, to sign a VHS of Smorgasboard, I kind of love that weirdness.

KillDozer: Top 5 favorite VHS covers?

Craig: R.O.T.O.R. with a cardboard pop out figure on the front

Fright Night 2 Coffin Box
The Video Dead with Hologram TV Image

Driller Killer with drill into head
Boarding House great art

KillDozer: What directors stand out the most to you at the moment?

Craig: Yorgos Lanthimos, Quentin Dupieux, Joshua Oppenheimer, James Wan, Alfonso Cuaron, Harmony Korine

KillDozer: What's the last film you watched in a theatre?

Craig: The Big Short and I loved it.

KillDozer: Who is on your must meet "bucket list"?

Craig: Tom Cruise (Actor)
Martin Bryant (Spree Killer)
Alex Jones (Broadcaster)
Diane Keaton (Actor)
Rosemary West (Serial Rapist/Murderer)
Roosh V (Blogger)

Red Christmas is scheduled to play at this year's Sydney Film Festival in a couple of days, and you can find Craig Anderson's Instagram here.


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