Friday, December 27, 2013

INTERVIEW: Thou Shalt Not Kill: An Interview With Filmmaker Josh Becker



Josh Becker is the writer and director of such cult classics as Lunatics: A Love Story, Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except, Running Time, If I Had A Hammer. Becker has also directed television shows such as Xena: Warrior Princess and Jack Of All Trades...

TV STORE ONLINE: What was your initial inspiration behind getting into filmmaking?

BECKER:  I've been a film geek as long as I can remember. It started for me with cartoons. I think I was five years old. I made my parents teach me how to tell time, so I could get up to watch all the Saturday morning cartoons. In fact, I loved all the Warner Brothers cartoons, and those took me into Warner Brothers movies. I was watching them all, the Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall movies, and all the Edward G. Robinson stuff.  I can remember seeing in 1962, HOW THE WEST WAS WON in downtown Detroit in Cinerama in the three screen projection process. At this point, I was thinking that this was better than life. And I knew somehow I had to be involved with it. And in '68 I saw, OLIVER and I was like, "Wait a minute! That kid is my same age... Why am I not up on the screen?" Then I figured that I didn't wanna be in movies, I wanted to make them.

TV STORE ONLINE: If someone walked up to you and gave you enough money to make any film you wanted, and said " Just make the film that you want to make and don't worry about making the money back..." What would you do?

BECKER: Well, I've just completed my thirty-seventh screenplay. Right off the bat, what's coming to mind, is a World War 1 screenplay I wrote called DEVIL DOGS which would be amazing. People aren't making pictures like this anymore. It's not anti-war or pro war. It's showing you the very first battle that Americans were involved in during World War 1. This battle was a turning point in the war. The lead character is great, Gunny Sergeant Dan Daily, who's the most decorated marine of all time. And quite frankly, I did a damn good job writing the script.

TV STORE ONLINE: How do you feel about the current state of film criticism as a former critic yourself?

BECKER: I feel like...and maybe this is me projecting..But I feel that critics are afraid that if they don't say anything nice about a film, they'll lose their job. You pick up the paper and you read these huge reviews, and you're asking yourself, "Did they like the movie or not?" They're delaying it, recapping the film blah blah blah.. The current state of movies is horrible. It's a mess. It's gotten to the point to where Hollywood is only making, sequels, remakes, or best selling books and it's just disgustingly gutless if you ask me.

TV STORE ONLINE:  If you Google "Josh Becker" you get the reference to your infamous Film Threat magazine article; the one you wrote about Quentin Tarantino back in 1992. Has that relationship with Tarantino been repaired?

BECKER: No...I probably should get that article taken down off the web. It's probably wrong of me to have that up. I interviewed QT on the set of RESERVOIR DOGS (1992), and I just found him really pretentious and funny looking and no one had ever heard of him yet!

TV STORE ONLINE: What's the greatest film of all time?

BECKER: One of the biggest influences on me of all time is THE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI (1957). I love it. It's one film that you can watch and learn everything about filmmaking from it. And the screenplay to it is just one of the best written of all time. Another pick, and, it's a very damaged film... Orson Welles THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942). Which has so many great moments in it. The film haunts me.

TV STORE ONLINE: What is the worst film of all time?

BECKER: I was just sent a DVD of LISZTOMANIA (1975) by Ken Russell. It's just so bad. And I fucking love Ken Russel!  All I can ask myself when I watch that film, is what drugs where they on when they made this. I hated Tommy, but LISZTOMANIA makes TOMMY (1975) look like GONE WITH THE WIND (1939). I hate TITANIC (1997) as well. It's terrible.

TV STORE ONLINE: How did LUNATICS: A LOVE STORY (1991) come about?

BECKER:  I was living in Hollywood. No money, no food, and I couldn't pay the rent. It was about 1987. I was sitting outside on the porch step. I kept thinking to myself, how the hell can I get out of this hole. So I started brainstorming. I then decided, I should just come up with a good film title and I started thinking about Hitchcock's PSYCHO (1960).  I started thinking about film titles that you could associate with a crazy person.  I thought about PSYCHO, THE CRAZIES (1973), MANIAC (1980)...Then I noticed in the background that someone was playing Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon and I heard that line "The lunatic is on the grass..." And I thought right away, "Lunatic...Lunatic...Lunatics." Crazy boy and crazy girl love story..

I got up, jumped in the car and headed over to Universal Studios where Sam Raimi had his office, which was just a trailer at that time. And I pitched it. He looked at me, and said "We'll buy that!" And they wrote me a check for one thousand bucks.

TV STORE ONLINE: How did Debby Foreman get involved with LUNATICS?


BECKER: Bruce Campbell had worked with her on this really bad movie in Utah, which he invited me out onto the set to visit. So I met her there. Bruce came in to produce LUNATICS: A LOVE STORY and when we were casting Bruce mentioned her, and I said "Yes." So we sent her the script and she loved it.

TV STORE ONLINE: Was it always the plan to make LUNATICS a very wild and colorful film visually?

BECKER: Oh yeah, of course. That was always the plan. We used lots and lots of gels on LUNATICS. And it's in the production design as well...We were choosing certain purples ect..

TV STORE ONLINE: Will LUNATICS: A LOVES TORY ever see an official DVD release?

BECKER: I hear rumors. Anchor Bay wanted to do it. Synapse was ready. But no one could cut through the red tape at Sony. So it's kinda up in the air.

TV STORE ONLINE: Ted Raimi is the "Dick Miller" of the post 60's B movie generation. What is it like working with Ted Raimi on a film like LUNATICS?

BECKER:  Ted was great. I've worked with him a ton as well on Xena: Warrior Princess. He's got brilliant comic timing. He's unlike other actors. He has a hard time getting words out of his mouth, but once he does it's amazing. Ted is great in outtakes. When he screws up, he really screws up. But when he gets it right, it's perfect and brilliant.

TV STORE ONLINE: What are you working on these days?

BECKER: I working on putting together a package of movies for production at the SyFy Channel. We'd love to shoot these in Michigan and not out of country in like Bulgaria.

TV STORE ONLINE: How did your Guide To Low Budget Filmmaking book come about?


BECKER:  I was living in a trailer in Oregon, about a mile up the road from Bruce Campbell. I had left Hollywood. Bruce leaves for his book tour. I was living in this trailer... So instead of becoming the Unibomber, I wrote that book. I was tired of seeing these types of book on the market. They're never written by people that have actual low budget filmmaking experience.

TV STORE ONLINE: How do you sell your low budget independent film today?

BECKER:  It's gotten really hard. When I first started out with THOU SHALT NOT KILL (1983) it was easy.  In 2001, when I made my last indie film... It never got an release. So I really don't know honestly..

TV STORE ONLINE: Did you ever run into any issues when you were shooting your low budget stuff that forced you to think outside of the box creatively to solve the issue?

BECKER:  Well, I've stole a lot of shots. I've quietly walked into buildings and shot stuff. We've done all kinda of crazy stuff. If you wait for permission to do stuff like that, you'll be waiting forever.

TV STORE ONLINE: How do you feel about internet film piracy?

BECKER:  It's a very negative thing. It's costing me money. Everyone under the age of 30 thinks that culture is free. Technology has created this. So it's our job to come up with an alternative way to sell our movies or fix it.

TV STORE ONLINE: Do you think that the internet could be used as an important tool for independent film in terms of selling and marketing?

BECKER:  Well, it's going that way. I hear it a lot. It's still got the same issues. You can put anything you want on YouTube, but if no-one's never heard of it, why would they click on it. You have to market it on the internet as well. You just can't throw it up, and hope people watch it, you have to promote it.

TV STORE ONLINE: What's the best advice you can give to a younger person who's trying to get their foot in the film industry?

BECKER:  You just have to be the best you can be. Don't follow fads. Just try to do good work. I'm old fashioned, and I still think movies are art. You have to use them to express themselves. Read as many books on film as you can. Watch as many movies are you can. Try to be very original. That's my opinion.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung
For more information on Josh Becker, please visit his official website www.beckerfilms.com