An Interview with Rick Sloane, Director of Hobgoblins (part 1 of 2)
Agent of Love and Exams, the pretty sailor suited soldier, Mendo Talks to Rather Interesting People from Around the Internet! Douse yourself in water, and repent!
(I couldn’t resist…)
You know, you get some interesting duties in the army. If anyone ever told me the government would pay me to sit at a desk for 24 hours straight, watching movies and hassling pizza delivery men, I would’ve… well, believed you.
When you literally have to fill your entire day with movies just to pass the time, you learn pretty quickly that Citizen Kane and documentaries just aren’t gonna cut it. It’s movies like My Name Is Bruce, Attack Girls’ Swim Team vs. The Undead, and Sukiyaki Western Django that keep you going. You know, the kind of pure id gonzo that keeps the spirit of ‘80s grindhouse alive.
Whether working with pornstars or puppets, Sloane never fails to deliver the goods; Anyone who’s seen Hobgoblins can tell you that.
Of course, anyone who’s seen Hobgoblins will be excited to know that Hobgoblins 2 is coming out later this month! Sure, a twenty year gap between films didn’t help Blues Brothers any, but this is Hobgoblins we’re talking about.
So join us as we talk in-depth (and how) about Hollywood, horror, and just why the hell zombies need an exercise video…
Mendo: How did you get into the movie business?
I decided I wanted to be an animator when I was 14. The fact that I wasn’t the best artist was completely lost on me. It took two years of being rejected by Cal Arts for me to accept that it wasn’t meant to be. In the meantime, I was attending Los Angeles City College, taking the basic art and film courses. My life changed one quiet day during Film History, while I was only 18. Every week we were forced to watch cinematic pabulum, tired films such as Potemkin and The 39 Steps. While the rest of the class was always fascinated by ancient documentaries and all the other boring required films, I could barely stay awake each week.
The final day of class, the instructor thought it would be fun to show a different kind of movie, one of the lowest budget features ever made, Hollywood Boulevard, which was shot in one week for 30 grand and comprised of stock footage from dozens of other movies. It was the most educational hour and a half I’ve ever spent. Hollywood Boulevard still remains as my all-time favorite movie even today, and it helped me forge the path that led me into filmmaking.
Hollywood Boulevard is an obscure title, but I’d recommend it to any fledgling film maker to see what can be created with a budget of only 30 grand. It became a template for all my movies. I’ve repeatedly tried to capture the same lightning in a bottle feeling I had when I first watched it. The rest of the film class laughed at the movie, and I remember them specifically stating that no one who worked on that film would ever become famous. Much like everything else in film school that they were wrong about, many people who worked on Hollywood Boulevard became famous, everyone from director Joe Dante (who later did Gremlins) to art director Jonathan Demme, who later won an Oscar for Silence of the Lambs.
And some of the stock footage was from early Corman films, one directed by Francis Ford Coppola and another by Ron Howard.
Even when I watch it today, I can still see the same twisted sense of humor, overuse of stock footage, and being “in” on the joke of making an intentionally “bad” movie.
Mendo: What’s your take on some other low-budget impresarios like Coleman Francis or the Chiodo Brothers?
Neither one has ever been a big influence on my career. John Waters was always an inspiration, since he did everything himself and was able to keep making films year after year. I never followed Coleman Francis and his Yucca Flats film career. He did work with Russ Meyer, who I’ve always been a big fan of, even to this day. Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! and SuperVixens are two of my favorite films. The style of editing I use is heavily influenced by Russ Meyer: the camera rarely moves, but the edits are all rapid fire. It’s funny you mention the Chiodo Brothers, because we both had the same distributor in common. Killer Klowns from Outer Space was released by TransWorld in 1988, the same year as Hobgoblins. I don’t think I ever met them though, but they had a similar background in animation like I did, and also achieved cult status for Killer Klowns. They mastered puppeteering better than I could manage when they did Critters, and are still working today, so you have to give them credit.
Mendo: Can you tell us a little bit about making your first film, Movie House Massacre?
It’s actually Blood Theater; Movie House Massacre was its foreign title. I was 21, still at junior college, and ready to make my debut as a feature filmmaker. I wisely wrote a fake 15 minute film script which I submitted in class, while I was secretly shooting a feature film with the same storyline. Since everyone else in class spent a year making a 10 minute film, I figured no one would be the wiser. It wasn’t until I was almost completed with filming that the instructor picked up a copy of the full script on set. I could tell he wasn’t pleased when he found out I was trying to make a feature, but when I asked him if he would have allowed it if I asked in the first place, he said, “absolutely not,” so again, it was meant to be.
I later screened the completed feature at school. It was met with dead silence, then multiple recommendations that I should edit the film down to ten minutes. We clearly had very different goals. I found a distributor for the film in its feature length version, it went straight to video, was released in numerous languages overseas, and most importantly, helped me get started on my second film.
Blood Theater was a problematic film: it was my first effort, and the actors were all really terrible in it. The one saving grace was that I was able to get Mary Woronov to play the lead villain. I submitted the script to her, completely expecting to be turned down. (She was the villain in Hollywood Boulevard, so I had set my sights high.) I was shocked when she agreed to be in the film, and I still have great regard for her even to this day.
She was the first real actor I ever worked with, and I learned so much from her.
Mendo: I had no idea film school students were so conformist.
Most of the kids who go to film school are overly pretentious and think they are incredibly talented. The one quote I used to hear from so many of them was, “I spent all day getting this one shot, but it was worth it.” If you went to a film distributor trying to get a deal and said something like that, they would throw you out of their office. I was able to shoot 14 pages a day, and that’s why I became a working filmmaker.
Mendo: You’ve described yourself as a “control freak” when it comes to your films, preferring to write, direct, produce and edit yourself. But other tasks, such as composing and effects, you don’t seem to do except for a select number of your films. Why is this?
I get asked frequently about why I wear so many hats on my films. It’s an easy answer: I’m an only child. I don’t like to share screen credits very often, and I like having the same control that real film “auteurs” (a nice word for being a control freak on a movie), such as Francois Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock achieved. I know I’m not in the same category as them, but when you have no budget, one of the few ways to get a feature made is to do everything yourself.
When there’s no money to pay salaries, it’s just easier to take on many jobs yourself. I’ll admit, I’ve done every job on set except for make-up. There have been days on some of my earlier films where the camera assistant or sound recordists didn’t show up on set. This might shut down other productions until they found someone, but not me. I can load the film magazines, swap lenses, thread the film into the camera, read a light meter, place lights, record sound, etc.
Writing and directing always came as a combination to me. I don’t think I could do another person’s script, especially if it meant they would have a final say before the film was complete. I do all my own picture and sound editing, which I’ve always thought is where my talent lies. I’ve been aware since the beginning that I’m not the best director, but I can hold my own when it comes to editing. I especially enjoy sound editing, which is something people only notice if it’s done poorly. Listen to the bare bones sound jobs on most low-budget, straight to video/DVD releases. I spend months on sound editing, so the final mixes on my films are usually a higher caliber than you’d get on a similarly budgeted feature.
Composing is not one of my strengths. I wisely stopped doing it after my first film. I had no budget to hire a composer on Blood Theater, so I got a really cheap Casio keyboard and scored the film myself. I wouldn’t really call it scoring a film; the Casio keyboard came with all these built-in repeating melodies that I used, plus the “famous magnetic fingers”, where I just held two fingers a couple octaves apart, then gradually moved them together. By the time I did The Visitants a year later, I had already found a real composer.
Mendo: I just have to ask. You’re listed in the credits for Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout, an aerobics video that was apparently meant for zombies. What were they smoking, exactly?
I only have a credit on Linnea’s Horror Workout because she used a scene from Vice Academy in it. I’ve actually never seen that video, other than a clip or two. For some reason, everyone and I mean everyone was releasing workout videos back then. I remember both Ginger Lynn and Traci Lords both had workout videos at the same time as Linnea. I watched Traci’s workout tape hoping it would be unintentionally funny, but it was actually well made.
Ginger’s workout, on the other hand, is pretty funny to watch. I made jokes that she’s really laid back and looks like she’s been up all night doing drugs and having sex. A year later, I met one of the actresses who had backed Ginger on her workout tape, and it turned out I was right about the things I said. Sometimes truth is funnier than fiction.