Thursday, July 31, 2014

Must-See Documentary Chronicles Fimmaker's Revolutionary Grandfather

Documentaries come and go, some hit theatrically, some air on PBS, and then some actually never see the light-of-day until they make it out into the world on home video via DVD.   In the age of D-I-Y filmmaking and the ability to make a film for almost no money whatsoever, how do you find the films that are worth your while when the creative output of filmmakers is up and outlets to show the films are increasing just as quickly?   Do you comb the internet and read reviews hoping to find some good recommendations?  Or do you click through the Documentary category on Netflix Instant and hope that you'll find something that may peak your interests amidst their vast catalog?  It can be a challenge, especially if you're not into the current trend of documentaries on music groups or on films that were never made, almost made, or never released.    Perhaps, the answers aren't known yet, so for the time being I guess we can consider ourselves lucky that WEAVING THE PAST (2014) somehow and someway has shown itself public and is on the path to finding a audience.

Set to be released this August, WEAVING THE PAST,  written and directed by Walter Dominguez and Executive Produced by actress Shelley Morrison (Will & Grace), tells of the filmmakers own personal promise, made to his dying grandfather to search out his long lost relatives. 

Along the way, director Dominguez discovers not only that his grandfather, Emilio "Tata" Hernandez was not just a philanthropist and well respected Reverend in his community but that he too, as a young man had ties to the Mexican Revolution which brought major social and economic justice to the people of the impoverished country decades prior.  

WEAVING THE PAST is a worthwhile film, but more importantly, it is a personal film above everything else.  Director Walter Dominguez has really captured the soul in PAST, and the beautiful thing here is that he has not only captured the soul of his Grandfather Tata but that of himself the journeyman as well.   WEAVING THE PAST leads us on a journey of discovery of family, faith, and hope. It rewards its audience in spades.  Films are art, and Dominguez has really taken this idea to heart.  With PAST he has created something so personal and something so true that it is difficult to resign to any preconceived ideas that one might have about what a film is "supposed to be".  Dominguez explores and tinkers with the traditional documentary format in PAST by including dramatic recreations of emotional moments, while at the same time including talking heads, one-on-one encounters, and dream-like aesthetics.   This is a beautiful work, and Dominguez has really captured an unspoken emotion in his film, and it is really something rather difficult to articulate in words.  Experience WEAVING THE PAST.

For more information about WEAVING THE PAST and to see the trailer click HERE:

What follows is a interview conducted with Walter Dominguez and Shelley Morrison last month:

TV STORE ONLINE:  Thanks so much for the opportunity to take a look at your film before it gets officially released.... I thought the film was just wonderful.


SHELLEY:  You know, this film is our child.  We've been working on it for about thirteen years actually.  We financed this film on our own so we could make it our way.   It is really Walter's film, I'm just the Executive Producer and chief cook and bottle washer.

TV STORE ONLINE:  It's a great film, and for me it really transcends the traditional documentary that we're all familiar with because of just how personal of a film it actually is, and I love the dream-like quality that the film has as well as the reenactments used to tell the story...

WALTER:  You know, so much of the film and the making of it, we were making decisions surrounding the film that were based on deep, powerful and intuitive gut feelings. We just needed to put ourselves back in the time that were looking at in the film.   I really wanted to feel what it was like for those people in that time. I cast professional actors as well as family descendents in the film so we could re-create the feeling of that time.   As I was exploring, I heard some amazing stories and there was just no way to convey those through talking heads and there weren't any photographs to help us either, so  we had to recreate some of it to help convey the drama that these people had to endure.

SHELLEY:  It really was a journey for Walter.   He was led to the people that he needed to be with.   The young boy who plays Walter's Grandfather in the film is fourteen-years-old now.

TV STORE ONLINE:  When you're traveling down these different roads exploring this story...Did you run into dead-ends?  What were some of the obstacles you encountered as you were making the journey to uncover the story of the film?

SHELLEY:   We did.   We hit some very expensive dead-ends.   During a great portion of the shooting, I was still doing Will & Grace (NBC; 1998-2006)  and Walter was traveling back and forth to Mexico with our Cinematographer.   Seventy-five percent of the people that worked on this film with us, either behind the camera or in front of it, we have known for over twenty-five years. 

WALTER:  The film really was a spiritual journey for me, and I really felt that I was being guided in some way.   There were certainly times when I thought that I had reached a dead end.  There were also times when I didn't know where to go next, or how we were going to locate the descendents of our ancestors.   When I first went down to Mexico, I was only in touch with one person, he was a historian that I was planning to interview and that was all.      The rest of the people, were found because I chose to trust my gut and pursue the story. I had to tell this story.    I'm a very spiritually oriented person, as I'm sure you can tell from watching the film, and I put up photographs of ancestors around me with the idea that I was going to need help from the other side, and I do think that we do get help on different levels.   Life is a multi-leveled experience.   It really became a detective story for me, and the help I got was mind-boggling.  People started to come forward and they'd give me some information and that would lead to even more information.  I was really running on blind faith in order to complete the film.

TV STORE ONLINE:   One of the most powerful moments in the film is when you get to see the diary of your Grandfather from the early '50s....What do you think was the biggest surprise that you learned about your Grandfather while you were making the film?

SHELLEY:  I think that it was when Walter realized just how much he was exactly like his Grandfather.   My job was to direct his narration because Walter takes you on a journey in the film.  He really has a remarkable ability to attract all types of people and animals to him in his life and I really wanted that to come across in the film as well...

TV STORE ONLINE:  You know, I think that worked out well...  As I was watching the film I did remark to myself just how calming his voice was...

WALTER:   Thanks.  I was very worried about having to do the narration.  I had considered getting someone else for it, and then I just realized that it was my journey and that I had to do it myself.  I was worried that people would get tried of my voice over the course of the film but I tried to make it as compelling as I could.   I think it worked out well.

TV STORE ONLINE:   I know editing a documentary can be quite a long process considering all of the footage you may shoot over the course of the journey....

SHELLEY:   Walter's first cut of the film was over four hours long..

WALTER:  Well,  we had hundreds of hours of footage.

SHELLEY:   We butted heads on the editing of the film, but we really listened to each other.   We worked on the edit of the film for over six months.   Finally, he came into our bedroom and put a DVD into the player one evening and said, "Honey, this is the last one."  

TV STORE ONLINE:   Was it difficult to trim it down?  Was it instinctual in regards to the footage used versus what was important to the story?

WALTER:   I did go a lot by instinct and by what footage was the most interesting to me.  I knew we couldn't release a four hour movie.   The film is called WEAVING THE PAST (2014) and I wanted the editing to weave the story.  It was a really difficult process to get through all of the footage.  I was able to do most of it without turning to others for guidance, and when it really came down to it, you ask yourself about what is most important regarding the story.  After a while you can get lost in the weeds when you're working on something like this, so thankfully, I had Shelley to take my edits to.  She is very good with story structure and she pointed out what were key and important moments, but also the things that were fascinating while at the same time would be able to exist as something like a extra feature on the DVD release. So that was really helpful in cutting the film down.    It was a very collaborative process.

Monday, July 28, 2014

20 Years of FREAKED! Alex Winter, Tom Stern, and Tim Burns talk about the making of a new cult classic

 Alex Winter, Tom Stern and Tim Burns reunite to discuss some incidentals regarding the making of the cult comedy FREAKED (1993)

TV STORE ONLINE: So how many variations or script rewrites for FREAKED did you go through before you guys finally came to have  the film as we know it today? 

WINTER:   Originally, we were working on a sick little horror movie...But then we retooled it to PG-13 movie for the brass at Fox...

STERN:  The first draft that Alex and I wrote with Gibby Haynes [Butthole Surfers Lead Singer] was really just him throwing a bunch of ideas at us.  It was really this sick little horror movie at that point.  It was a outrageous and insane little visceral horror movie, but it was that draft that got the attention of a couple producers.   It was really nothing like what we ended up writing with Tim, or the film as it exists today.

BURNS:  What I remember about writing the script for FREAKED (1993) was that we all were writing in that house that I had rented and Tom and Alex were in one room writing, and I was in another room.    We worked out the plot, and we divided up the outline, and I took the odd-numbered scenes and Tom and Alex wrote the even-numbered scenes.   We weren't corresponding a lot even though we were in the next room and the scenes didn't always line up together.  I'd end a scene with a key in someones hand and then I'd talk to Alex and Tom and see if the scene after that mentioned the key.  I thought that it was a really weird way to write a script.
STERN:  Is that weird? I don't know... I thought that was the way you do it when you have a bunch of different guys working on the same thing...(Laughing)

WINTER:  We're kind of writing a new script in the exact same way now...(Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE:  I read an earlier version of the screenplay for FREAKED which had Regis Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford playing talk show hosts, who at the end, are monsters who get stabbed, then proceed to get up, and attack again before they get shot...(Laughing)

WINTER:  Right, we had a lot of drafts.   I just remember that we were working on the script right up until the night before that Tom and I had to go to pitch the movie to Joe Roth at 20th Century Fox.   I remember that we were working on the beats in the script all throughout the night before we were to go in and pitch this pretty elaborate and ambitious movie to a big studio, and we hadn't even shot on 35mm before and we hadn't really done shit either.  I remember that at around 12 a.m. or 1 a.m. in the morning, we panicked.  We decided that we'd just write a completely different movie all together and take that in and pitch it.   Between Midnight and 4 a.m. we came up with this whole other idea about a family who is driving across country and they go into a IHOP and the Maitre'd (who we wanted John Hawkes to play), turns out to be crazy. He kidnaps the family and takes them down into this subterranean universe which was beneath the IHOP...(Laughing)

BURNS:   And that movie became AVATAR (2009)...

WINTER:   (Laughing)...I just remember Tom pacing around the living room in the middle of the night extremely caffeinated and trying to convince me that this was a much better idea...   This was even before Tim came on board, it was during the concept period, before we got the green-light to write the movie.     When we sold the movie to Fox, it was an amazing stroke.   There is no way that I would pitch this kind of insane movie to any studio head today...   We went through so many drafts for the script. Another idea we had for the ending was to have Randy Quaid pull a lever on the stage and this army of hood ornament little-purple-trolls come out to attack everyone.   We had that ending for a long time in the script, but we started to pare it down strictly for financial reasons.   We had no CGI and there was no way that we were going to be able to pull that off.   Tim, do you remember the trolls?

BURNS:  I barely remember that.  What I always remember about FREAKED is how much fun it was to come up with all of the crazy ideas we did.    I remember the very first day of pre-production someone saying, "You guys want this joke which is two-pages long that is going to cost $50,000 dollars or do you want this joke that is a page-and-a-half that will cost us $5,000 dollars."   I had never realized before that there was a price tag on every joke in the script.    One of the jokes I remember was...'Cowboy' had built a replica of the Eiffel Tower out of tube sticks and the 'Human Torch' walks by and burns it without even noticing it.   It was decided that we should cut the joke the minute that the prop guy came in with the replica of the Eiffel Tower...(Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE:  How bizarre is it that we're still talking about FREAKED 20 years later after the film was made?

STERN:  It's bizarre.

WINTER:   Everyone knows the story about how FREAKED never got a proper release.   It came out on DVD in Europe and it played on pay cable, and eventually it came out on DVD here in The United States, so it's nice to be talking about the film again in the recent years since that.  For years, no-one even knew where a film print of FREAKED was.    A film print was found about two years ago and it was saved literally before it was about to be destroyed, and it's actually the only film print known to exist yet for the film today.   

BURNS:  I was talking about FREAKED the other day, and the person I was talking to said, "How did you guys get away with making such a weird movie?"   It is a weird movie, but if you think that it's a weird movie today, you have to know that it was considered an even weirder movie back when we shot it.   I think we were part of this comedy shift that was happening at the time.  The Simpsons hadn't even been on television for that long at that point even.

TV STORE ONLINE:   There's been a story going around for some time about Mr. T walking off the shoot of FREAKED....Have any of you been in touch with T in the years since?

WINTER:   Mr. T is with me right now!  (Laughing)...   I wish he was with me..

STERN: (As Mr. T.):  I suffered emotional abuse on the set of FREAKED.   I'm in therapy yet...  It was a fucked up scene man...(Laughing)

WINTER:  Mr. T.  walked off the set of FREAKED three days before we were done with him.   I wish I could've taped the conversation I had with him over the phone before we had to fire him for walking off.   Our producer said, "I have Mr. T on the phone for you..."   Everyone wanted me to convince him to come back because we needed him for the looping for the film.   When I picked up the phone, I couldn't get a word in edge wise with him for about an hour-and-a-half.   He was philosophizing about how FREAKED had broken his spirit.    He told me about how his mom told him when he was younger that he shouldn't allow anyone to take away his dignity.   When we met him before we started shooting we expected to have this conversation, not when we were almost done with the film!     Everyone on the set loved Mr. T as the 'Bearded Lady' and he was treated like a king. 

STERN:  He didn't want to be just one of the freaks.  That was his problem, that, and he had an in-grown hair problem... Originally, for the ending, when each of the freaks was to walk out onto the stage of the talk show, we were going to have Mr. T. walk out clean shaven but wearing a dress, and he pulled Alex and I aside and told us about his in-grown hair problem that he had.  

WINTER:  I don't think that he wanted to be seen in a dress.  He quietly suffered through the shooting of the film because he wasn't vocal until after he walked off the set.    And we can thank Lee Arenberg for doing all of the dialogue replacement for Mr. T in the looping after he left.    Lee and Mr. T used to sit on the set and do dueling "T's" all day.  It was hilarious.  There are some lines in the movie where you can blatantly hear that Mr. T isn't actually Mr. T.

TV STORE ONLINE:   This next question is for Tim...I wanted to know where you think you channeled the depths of the 'Hideous Frogman" character from inside of you?

BURNS:   That was pretty much my one-and-only acting role.  I think I was just inspired by the fact that we needed someone to play the role who would only work for 40 dollars a day...(Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE:  There was a great scene that you guys cut from the film that is part of the outtakes on the DVD....It's the Wheel Of Fortune sequence...Why did you guys cut that from the film?

WINTER:  I loved that scene.

BURN:  We argued about that.. I thought we needed it  for the "heart" of the movie, but now I see that there is no heart in the movie, so who cares? (Laughing)

STERN:  Well, we were under quite a bit of pressure while we were ending the movie.   Joe Roth had left 20th Century Fox by the time that we started editing, and the new guy who came in to replace him wasn't a fan.  That made our post-production experience pretty miserable because we knew that we didn't have the support of the studio.   We had a new editor come in, and his credo was just cut, cut, cut and he really took the film down to its bare bones.

WINTER:  The scene really doesn't need to be in there, but as an actor I loved the scene, and it was my favorite scene in the movie as the actor.   Ricky is a false protagonist.  FREAKED is really Elijah's movie. Ricky doesn't give a shit, he, as a character doesn't experience any growth.  I had no problem going in as the actor about that.  He's just there to set up the jokes and get us to the finale just like the straight man in AIRPLANE! (1980).  What that  scene had was that punchline, about Ricky not actually having a character arc.    And by not having that scene in the movie, it really takes away from the ending of the movie, and makes it seem a bit flat.  

STERN:   All of the cuts really just came out of the situation at Fox.   We were fighting for the movie and for it not to get scrapped.   Eventually we'd lose that fight.   We had a awful test screening for the movie in the Valley and the audience was made up of "gang-bangers" who called Brooke Shields a "bitch" in the first five minutes of the screening.  That was traumatizing.  Considering that we were very worried that the movie was going to get scrapped by the studio I think we went into panic mode and just started cutting it down so we wouldn't lose the audience.

TV STORE ONLINE:  There was a project that the three of you were working on as a follow-up to FREAKED...  What was that about?

WINTER:  We all sat down in Toronto to talk about the next movie, but what was it about?

BURNS:  I think it was something to do with the Weekly World News, wasn't it?   I remember that idea going around. It was something like all of the stories in the Weekly World News and how they were actually real.

STERN:  Right, I remember that.

WINTER:  All I remember was that I was supposed to play a janitor.  We were thinking about taking the "Lou Kresnik" character that was based on the "Huggins" character from The Idiot Box...

STERN:  That's right.  It was called LOU KRESNIK: SPACE JANITOR...But I don't think it was something we had fleshed out. I think we just had that idea and a scene or something?

BURNS:  I think the scene was with the janitor, and he goes up on a stage because he's retiring and he's going to get a watch, and he says, "I've worked hard for this company for 50 years, and all I can say is, GIVE ME MY LIFE BACK!"  He starts screaming at them and they have to drag him off the stage.

STERN:  That scene was probably all we had! (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE:  One of my favorite lines in FREAKED is in that funny parody commercial for Machismo where the announcer says, "If you like cheese, and you like being a man..."

WINTER:  That was a Tim Burns original!

BURNS:   That was something I lifted from a CBC radio comedy sketch that I had written early for a show called The Norm.   Back in the '70s there was a snack product called "Squeeze-a-Snack".  It looked like a loaf of cheese.  You cut a whole in the middle and cheese was extruded from the middle of it.   I just didn't see snack products aimed toward men.  From there I was going to make a breakfast cereal for men and other products as well...(Laughing)

STERN:  I just remember that the hand in the scene was our Gaffer's hand.

TV STORE ONLINE:  How much input did you all have into the visual look of the creators for FREAKED?  Obviously, you can see the influence of someone like Robt. Williams, but would it be fair to say that Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's artwork was also an influence?

WINTER:  Of course.

STERN: For sure, in fact we just asked Steve Johnson who created the monsters to make us "Big Daddy Ed Roth monsters", and that is what he did.    It was a challenge because it was quite difficult to make those types of monsters three dimensional.

TV STORE ONLINE:  On the DVD commentary for FREAKED you guys make a joke about how the bomb on an airplane joke is dead...I was wondering if you think if it will ever be able to make a comeback?

STERN: (Laughing)

WINTER:  What can we say?  I guess we had our finger on the pulse of various terrorist activities back then...(Laughing)

BURNS:  I actually saw that same joke on an episode of The Simpsons about a year after FREAKED was released.  I remember seeing it and saying, "Hey! They ripped us off!"

TV STORE ONLINE:   Then how about the song in the movie "Weinersnitchel Polka"....

WINTER:   I still get BMI publishing residual checks for it, even though the amount of money I get isn't worth the paper that the check is printed on...

STERN:   I just remember that originally we wanted to use an actual song for that but that we couldn't afford it.  I think we wanted to use "Edelweiss" but we were told that it would cost too much money.

BURNS:  We looked into a couple other famous songs written about fried veal, but they were copyrighted.

WINTER & STERN: (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE:  And then with the problems you had in the post-production and the poor release of the film....With Joe Roth gone, and Peter Cherin in at Fox as his replacement...What kind of notice were you given, if any, that the studio wasn't going to get behind the movie and release it properly?

WINTER:  Well, to be fair to Fox...They gave us due process.    They ran the movie through a myriad of test screenings and if it didn't do well then they weren't going to get behind it.   The thing that we had with Joe Roth...I remember when we screened the movie for Joe Roth on the Fox lot, he loved the movie.  He knew it, because he was very present during the shooting.  The movie was story boarded, and we shot the boards.  He knew that the movie was going to have a particular audience, and I remember Joe Roth saying, "Let's go out and find the audience."  The new administration at Fox wasn't interested in going out to find the audience for FREAKED.  It was a movie that was specific to Joe Roth's tastes and not specific to that of the new administrations.    FREAKED is a movie that needed someone to get behind it and Shepard it out to its audience, and it just didn't have it.  

BURNS:  I just remember hearing from our agent, and I remember him saying that Cherin said over lunch to him, "I like the guys. I think that they are really talented, but we are going to bury the movie." (Laughing)

STERN:  It was a miserable experience.  I remember Alex and I just battling the marketing department to get just a couple of posters.  They didn't even want to print posters for it.  We were willing to go around city-to-city to promote it and put the posters up for it!

WINTERS:   Movies get buried all of the time still.   They get killed when the power changes at the studio.   They gets scrapped half way through their shooting.   I think that if the technology would have been as far along as it is today with the internet, I think that Fox would've seen then that we had a ground following.   There was no way for the studio to even see that following at that time.  There was no Comic-Con, there was no Ain't It Cool News...Had we been able to work in this newer climate I think that the studio would have probably released the film and marketed it.

TV STORE ONLINE:  What are your favorite memories from the making of FREAKED?

STERN:  Just that I was so young and I got to direct a feature at a studio.  It was such a weird movie and I just remember Larry 'Bud' Melman being on the set with us and there he was, a real freak, amongst all of these prosthetic freaks.   It was a blast to just feed him lines and have him say them.

WINTER:  FREAKED was a magical experience and we were very lucky that we got to make the film. I got to have Keanu Reeves get individual hairs glued onto his face.  That made the whole thing worth its weight in gold...(Laughing)   The moment that we were on the freak compound set and Randy Quaid is there in his Elijah costume with that microphone...I just remember standing there and looking around and just being so blown away by those amazing Catherine Hardwicke sets that she created.   You want to talk about someone plucking your hearts desire out?  I remember being on that set and feeling lucky because we were getting to do what we had always wanted to do.   Shooting FREAKED was one of the reasons why I really wasn't interested in acting any longer, because all I could think about was shooting afterward.   Going back to acting was just anti-climatic.  I wanted to keep going, and I remember getting an offer to act in a really lame and bland teen comedy after the whole FREAKED debacle, and I just refused to audition for it.    There was no way that I was going back to do that, after I had been on that FREAKED set.

BURNS:   I have two moments.  The first is when I bought my ticket to go to Los Angeles for pre-production, because up until that point it felt like the whole thing really was a practical joke.  I remember being on the phone with Tom in my kitchen and him saying, "No, the movie is going.  There is just this last minute problem with the financing."   I said, "Well, is there an office with a phone?  Is there a photocopier?  Do we have letterhead?"    I was literally on the fence about whether or not the movie was actually going to happen.  The moment when Tom said that I had to fly to Los Angeles for the shooting was my favorite moment.  The other is while I was in the Frogman costume.   I had a real oxygen tank strapped on my back for a week or two which weighed about 50 pounds.  I whined and complained about it to the prop guy.  I said, "Can't you make a yellow, round, plastic version of this?"   Finally, after me whining  about it enough,  he finally made it for me. That was 50 less pounds on my back that I had to carry around which was great.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung 
For a more detailed look back at FREAKED with Alex Winter please visit us HERE:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

INTERVIEW: Guillermo del Toro talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his new FX Network series The Strain

If you are a genre fan, or even a fan of movies like HELLBOY (2004), the majority of people out there know the name Guillermo del Toro. I have been a massive fan of del Toro ever since I saw a vampire film many years ago that he wrote and directed called CRONOS (1993).    As I grew as a person and later as a artist myself, I followed everything that Guillermo del Toro put out, and I also paid attention to his words too.  Like most, I have been sucked into the vivid worlds that he has created for both the mainstream and the arthouse. I adored PAN'S LABYRINTH (2006), I was in awe of the giant robots in PACIFIC RIM (2013), and was just recently sucked into the literary and comic worlds of del Toro's  The Strain (2014-)

Guillermo del Toro has made a jump onto the small screen with the latest FX Network show, The Strain.  If you are not aware of this franchise of books and comics that involves a modern twist on the supreme vampire takeover, get ready for the television series because it is nothing like you've ever seen before.

Guillermo, as well as his writing partner Chuck Hogan, have brought their story to life with nothing but love for the genre.  The Strain offers us incredible cinematography, and vampires that are once again given love by a man who sees them as nothing but vicious, ruthless killing machines, and it's about time something like this came to television. 

In this EXCLUSIVE interview with del Toro , TV STORE ONLINE discovers the real inspiration behind The Strain... 

TV STORE ONLINE:  Guillermo, thank you being a part of this with me. And let me tell you without sounding like too much of a gushy fanboy, what an honor it is to be speaking with you right now... Let's get right to it and talk about The Strain.   My first question would be what is the most promising thing to you when it comes to portraying this epic story on the small screen?

DEL TORO:  Well, the thing I am looking most forward to is the Mexican wrestler that you probably know from the books. (Laughing) I am a Mexican geek, so I love the fact of watching a Mexican kick the ass of vampires.(Laughing) But I'm most looking forward to giving watchers of the show a chance to watch a fast paced, fun summer series that I think, or hope people will think fucking kicks ass!

TV STORE ONLINE: (Laughing) I think you achieved that goal with flying colors, sir! When it comes to FX, was there anything that was too intense in the literary world that you had to cut out, or have they been totally accommodating to the entire vision?

DEL TORO:  They have been great! In fact, the only censorship we had was from Chuck Hogan and myself. (Laughing) There was a scene involving Ephraim's wife which was described in the book series we just thought was too much. (Laughing) So that was the only problem we thought there was while FX wanted everything in the show.


TV STORE ONLINE: So they didn't have any issue with the scene where one of the characters d**k falls off and splashes into the toilet? (Laughing)

DEL  TORO: Well, we wanted to sow the dick as well as the balls drying up and falling off. (Laughing) FX was actually okay with the idea, so we even created scars where the dick was. Nothing worked! We did about three or four different versions of that scar. We made patches, none of it fucking worked. (Laughing) So we ended up with the "Barbie Doll" look you see in the episode.

TV STORE ONLINE: Yes, the effect did turn out to be very "Ken Doll-ish". But at least the sound effect of the plop into the toilet was left in, right? (Laughing)

DEL TORO: (Laughing)

Upon reading The Strain book series and finally seeing their form in comics...Did you ever see any physical connection between the vampires in The Strain and BLADE 2 (2002)?

DEL TORO: I have made vampires for CRONOS, BLADE, and The Strain.  But the dimensions for each vampire are very different to me. These vampires are from notes I have had since I was fifteen or sixteen years old. The BLADE vampires I had taken from Filipino lore where they had elongated appendages (sidenote: commonly known as a Proboscis) which they used to ingest the unborn fetuses of pregnant women.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Holy sh*t! That's intense!

DEL TORO: (Laughing) Yeah. The BLADE vampires are taken from the Strigoi, where vampires had two barbs in their mouth to attack their prey.  At my "man cave", or my office (sidenote: called "Bleak House" located in Los Angeles) I have been reading about the vampire obsessively. I think I can compete with any vampire scholar on the subject. (Laughing)   

Blade 2 (2002)
The Vampire Tapestry book also has great, interesting vampires. When Bram [Stoker] writes about the vampire, he decides it is a killing machine who has romantic notions. I have never been into the romantic vampire, I have always liked the vicious killing machine, and that is what I wanted with The Strain.

I love every rendition of your vampire, but most of all I have to thank you for getting away from the fucking loving, sparkly set. (Laughing)

DEL TORO: (Laughing) Don't get me started on that.

TV STORE ONLINE: That's interesting that you touch on history. My next question was right on that same point... Would you consider The Strain to be an old world story told with a more modern technological edge? I definitely see shades of Van Helsing in the older character of Setrakian. Would you agree with that comparison?

del Toro at his "Bleak House" in Los Angeles
DEL TORO: I have to thank Carlton Cuse (Executive Producer) for that.  When Chuck and I wrote about him, he was more reserved. But in the show, he is sort of a hardcore motherf**ker, isn't he?  When Bram Stoker published 'Dracula', he was using voice recorders, telegraphs, stuff like that in the story. What Stoker was trying to say, was that his creature can come back to life in any modern age.   I guess in a way, that is true with The Strain, because as time goes on, it will be considered a classic as well. (Laughing) It's funny to think about, really.

When you realize that 'Dracula' is a modern novel for its time, it does make you think about time itself, and what holds true today won't be the same years from now when it comes to styles of horror and technology. But I am not trying to do that. The one thing I wanted to do with the show was give fans the feeling I felt when I watched shows in the '70s like Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-75) or Trilogy Of Terror (1975).  The fun of the series is what you go with, you know? Or, at least I hope it does. (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE:  Was there any doubt in your mind when it came to putting your vision on the small screen versus making feature films? And would you say that you only wanted to attempt this because there seems to be a "horror renaissance" on television, so to speak?

DEL TORO: I don't know if you know, but I first pitched the show in 2006. There were no horror series on the horizon at that time, and I was very much hoping that this show would happen back then. FX has been a channel where I have always liked most of their shows, and that is why Charlie [Hunnam] was cast for PACIFIC RIM.

TV STORE ONLINE: You're a Sons Of Anarchy fan? That is why you cast Charlie? That is just too awesome for words, man!

DEL TORO: I'm a huge fan of that! But with The Strain, we are starting by building the characters, and then I wanted to show in the first human kill how these vampires think of humans as food. And when they crush the head of the guy, it's almost like a box of juice. What do you usually do when you drink a box of juice? You crush it, right?  So, that is what I wanted to really show. That humans are nothing but drinks to these vampires. They don't give a shit about them, and I think crushing the guy's head shows that. (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE: I have to know about what's going on with IN THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS. I am a massive fan of yours, as well as the work of H.P. Lovecraft, and to just think about the possibility of you doing something that material really has me excited.  Is there any good news on the horizon regarding that project?

DEL TORO: No, nothing to say on that. But stay tuned. I am working very hard on making the movie happen.

TV STORE ONLINE:   That is so good to hear. And my last question involves your book, 'Cabinet Of Curiosities'...  I own it, love it, and swear by much of it when it comes to creation and advice regarding the film industry. You have so many great things to say, so I was wondering if you can leave the readers who want to get into this crazy, hard, worthwhile world of filmmaking or other forms of entertainment any advice?

DEL TORO: The book was done as a very candid book. I talk about a lot in that book, and got into trouble with some of the things I said, you know? (Laughing) Not everyone was happy, I mean I write about family in that book too.  When you are growing up and want to be a filmmaker, the best thing to have is someone who tells you the truth. You need to talk to someone who has made a film, someone who had succeeded at it, and someone who has failed as well. That's what I did with the book. I showed you my successes, and where I f**ked up too. (Laughing)

If someone gets something from that, it makes me very happy. But I think you just have to go for it, and be willing to make mistakes. Not everything is going to be good, and you need to be able to have that ability to f**king fail, and also succeed.  I wish everyone luck if they attempt to get into the world of movies.

TV STORE ONLINE: Guillermo, this has truly been nothing but an honor, and you're such a cool guy to just talk about everything with. Thank you so much for doing this.

DEL TORO: Thank you for watching the show and the love of my work. I wish we could talk more, and I look forward to talking to you again in the future.

You can catch The Strain Sundays at 10 PM EST / 7PM PST on FX

This interview was conducted by Rob DiLauro. Rob is a Georgia based filmmaker, author, screenwriter, and podcaster. His work can be seen on such websites as Dread Central and Horror News. You can follow him on Facebook HERE:

Friday, July 18, 2014

Camera Assistant Peter Robinson talks with TV STORE ONLINE about Kubrick and the shooting of THE SHINING

2nd Asst. Cameraman Peter Robinson
slates The Grady Twins in THE SHINING (1980)

Camera Operator Peter Robinson talks with TV STORE ONLINE about working with Stanley Kubrick and the making of the 1980 film THE SHINING.

TV STORE ONLINE: How did you come to work on THE SHINING with Stanley Kubrick?

ROBINSON: Well, I was working as Second Assistant at the time and when I started work on THE SHINING they had been shooting the film for something like 12 weeks by that time. I had taken over for a gentleman named Danny Shelmerdine.

There had been a hiatus in the shooting of the film at the time I started as there had been an insurance claim filed because Jack Nicholson had gotten injured or something or other. I had been fortunate enough to know someone who had known [Director Of Photography] John Alcott, and as you know, the film industry is all about having connections. So that's how I got onto the shoot.

 TV STORE ONLINE: What was Stanley like to work for?

ROBINSON: Well, Stanley did value everyone that worked on the film, but he prized loyality as well. For that reason, Stanley would get quite nervous when someone who he wasn't exactly familiar with started to work on one of his films. Stanley would use a specific group of people that he trusted on every film that he made, and frankly, I was also surprised by the fact that someone of Stanley's stature wouldn't be comfortable working with someone new as they came to the shoot. Every chance Stanley got, he would grill me about what I knew. He would ask me if I knew what I was doing and he would ask me how I knew that the way I was loading the film into the magazines was correct. You could go onto Stanley's set being the utmost confident of your skills and training and he could just destroy you. He could say something like, "How do you know that the lens is going to remain sharp between 2 foot and 5 foot?" It was just brutal, but then after 6 weeks of that he finally became your friend. He was quite remarkable from that point-of-view.

I can remember being called in to work on off days and when you'd get there Stanley would come in and have a chat with you in the camera room before you started. He was quite wonderful to work with once you gained his trust. Those first six weeks were complete hell on that shoot, but after that, Stanley really takes you into the fold and once you're in, it sort of makes your career. 

TV STORE ONLINE: So how did long did you end up working on the film?

ROBINSON: I worked on the film for about 40 weeks. And by the end of that time Jack [ Nicholson] had already left and went back to The United States, and not long after that. I ended up leaving the shoot with [Camera Operator] Kelvin Pike and the two of us started work on THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980) together. Shelley [Duvall] had also left by that time as well. We had all left and Stanley and those that remained with him stayed on for many many more weeks after that, and God knows what they were shooting. (Laughing)

I remember, there was one day on EMPIRE STRIKES BACK where Kelvin and I were having a problem with something technical with the camera, and Kelvin said, "Why don't you go over and ask Stanley about it." So I went over to the soundstage where Stanley was working and asked him about our problem. He pretty much shut his production down to help me. He went over to the phone and called Arriflex in Zurich to get an answer...I mean, it was incredible. (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE: What was a day shooting on THE SHINING like?

ROBINSON: Well, it certainly wasn't typical I can say that. Usually we would finish with the actors about 5:30pm and then we'd go on to shoot all of these different camera tests. We would test the sets. For example, we'd go over to the Gold Ballroom set and we'd test shoot using various different filters on the lights. We'd shoot it empty with all kinds of different lenses as well. He wanted to test the look of the set. He wanted to get that all out of the way. That way Stanley could focus on the actors during any scene that he was shooting.

TV STORE ONLINE: As we see in Vivian Kubrick's documentary which examines the making of the film...Was Stanley really that difficult on Shelley Duvall during the shooting of the film?

ROBINSON: He was quite hard on her at the time....At the time I wondered if he was doing that because of the era in which the film was made because there was this whole macho thing going on, but in retrospect, I understand that he was pushing her so in the film because he was trying to craft a performance out of her. He wasn't a misogynist as some would believe. He lived with all women and he welcomed and adored his time with his daughter Vivian on the set of the film.  She was there making a documentary that eventually aired on the BBC I believe.

TV STORE ONLINE: What do you remember about shooting the scene in THE SHINING where Jack puts the ax through the door?

ROBINSON: You know, it was just another day for me to be honest. I think that everyone else would probably say the same thing that worked on the film as well. I do remember shooting quite a bit of stuff for the film around that bedroom set. I remember one day, we were standing around waiting for Shelley to cry and she couldn't quite get it. So she ran off for about twenty minutes and then came back and she was in a zone. Stanley was standing there and I noticed that he had looked over at [Gaffer] Lou Bogue. Stanley said to Lou, "What's the temperature of the lights?" Lou said, "Plenty, Governor." Stanley just laughed. That was pretty much the overall atmosphere of the shoot for THE SHINING.  

There was just so much film shot on THE SHINING that at a point I started getting concerned as to whether I could even keep up with the unloading and the loading of the film magazines because it was a constant cycle. Stanley went through so much film on THE SHINING.

TV STORE ONLINE: I think you guys shot 1.3 Million feet of film on THE SHINING...

ROBINSON: It was unbelievable. Once we started on any day, I would be constantly going back and forth from the set to the loading room. What people don't realize about Stanley and his crews was that he always used a small crew. It isn't like today where there is more than one camera unit on a shoot. There was just one camera team on THE SHINING and that meant that the loading and unloading was all in my hands. An example of this would be the scene with Scatman [Crothers] and the little boy, Danny [Lloyd]. It's the scene with the two of them sitting at the table together on the kitchen set... I can't remember the exactly amount of takes that we did for that scene but it was something like 130 takes. That scene went on for like 10 minutes and that was 1 roll of film I remember, so essentially I had to unload and reload the camera 130 times! It went on for like three days! The total film shot for that scene was like 130,000 feet of film! (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE: Right, and why do you think that Stanley went 130 takes for that scene?

ROBINSON: To be honest, I don't know. Scatman did have trouble often with his lines over the course of the shooting, but I thought that 130 takes was a bit much. That was Stanley though. He would go and go until he was completely satisfied with the scene. He was an absolute perfectionist. He was also looking for something in the scene. I don't know if he knew what he was looking for in the scene but apparently he found it somewhere in the end.

TV STORE ONLINE: He had a penchant on THE SHINING of shooting a scene, watching the dailies, and then going back and re-shooting it to his satisfaction...

ROBINSON: Oh Yes. We did quite a bit of re-shoots indeed. He'd see the dailies and he decided that he wasn't happy with something and then he'd want to go back and fix it. I mean, he had the power to do that. Warner Brothers certainly wasn't going to stop him from doing it.

TV STORE ONLINE: One thing people don't seem to understand about Stanley either is just how collaborative he was with his crew?

ROBINSON: Yes, he was. The end of the film was open to suggestion. He threw it open and allowed anyone to offer suggestions in regards to how he should end it.

TV STORE ONLINE: Are you referring to the ending of the move which features the camera moving in on the photo of Jack Nicholson?

ROBINSON: Right. I can't remember who suggested it now, for all I know it just may have been something that Stanley himself had come up with. But I do remember that we did that about 30 times, and it was actually done in reverse, meaning, that we started in a close-up on the photo and then moved back from it.

TV STORE ONLINE: Did you have anything to do with the shooting of the elevator of blood stuff?

ROBINSON: I did. That went on for a quite a long time and we did that near the end of the shooting. Stanley would be unhappy with the way the lights hit the blood, or he would be unhappy with how it came out of the elevator. It wasn't very enjoyable to shoot. We talked about it for months in advance before we even shot the damn thing. But that happened with everything on THE SHINING. There were days, when we didn't even know what we were going to shoot, even though there was a schedule. You would move all over the studio! You'd look at the schedule and you knew you were supposed to be on Stage 4. You'd go to Stage 4 and no one would be there and you'd wait. Then you'd get a call from the First A.D and he'd tell you that you needed to be over on Stage 6. You'd pack your gear up and head in that direction and then you'd run into someone and they would say, "We're over on Stage 9 today." So you'd start going in that direction and you'd then run into someone else that would say, "We were told to go over to Stage 4..." There were many days on THE SHINING like that. (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE: What's your favorite memory of working on THE SHINING?

ROBINSON: We all worked together for such a very long time, and it wasn't like a normal movie set where you show up and you sort of bury your head and don't interact with a lot of the other crew members. We all interacted with each other and Stanley, once he got to know you and trust you, he liked you to be on the set with him. Stanley adored his crew. In that way, it was like being part of a family unit.

Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung     

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Actor/Director Gregg Daniel talks with TV Store Online about the final season of HBO's True Blood

New York born actor/director Gregg Daniel talks with TV STORE ONLINE about his character Reverend Daniels on the final season of the hit HBO series True Blood.

TV STORE ONLINE:   Boy, that sure was a great episode with you a couple weeks back...That monologue in the church with Sam Trammell was just great...

DANIEL:  I'm so glad to hear you say that... I'll tell you...After we finished shooting that  I sent an email off to the writer of the episode and thanked him for that.  It was the first time that I had done that, but I felt like I had to email him to thank him.    When we were doing the table read everyone was saying, Wow...Gregg's got this great speech."    So I wrote the writer and told him thanks for the speech and for caring about 'Reverend Daniels'.   It's pretty rare that a character like Reverend Daniels gets such a moment on primetime television.   I came onto the show during Season 3, and for him to go and reach back into that character's past and give him a back story really meant a lot to me.   The quality of that scene too...The fact that Reverend Daniels taps into his past and gets to his pain....I, as an actor, was just thrilled to get that.   I have a theater background, and for me, that speech was like having something to say from a Eugene O'Neill or Tennessee Williams play. 

TV STORE ONLINE:   I saw that your audition tape for True Blood just popped up on the internet recently...

DANIEL:  I saw that!  (Laughing)

TV STORE ONLINE:    Looking back at that audition tape what are you thoughts on it now?

DANIEL:   Well, when I made that -- I never thought that I'd get the role.   When the Producers contacted me I was in Cape May, New Jersey doing a play.   The Producers contacted me and said, "Can you put yourself on tape?"   The first thing you think of is -- Okay, who can I find that will film me?  It wasn't like I was in New York City proper. It's always better to be in the room with the Producers for something like that because they can feel you and you can feel them -- there's a great alchemy in something like that.      I really loved the simplicity of the scene I was given for that too.  I didn't want to approach the character as a typical fire-and-brimstone southern preacher.  I thought that that would have been too histrionic,     and when I sent it to the producers I didn't think that I'd get the role.   It was about a week after I sent them the tape that they called me and told me that I had gotten the role.  

TV STORE ONLINE:  The Reverend seems like a patient and wise man and I really like where the show writers are taking the character and "Lettie Mae" as a couple...

DANIEL:  Yeah, it's been wonderful.    I'm very pleased with where it's going.  We know that the Reverend has endured loss and he's suffered, just as much of us have in our lives.  Now he has to figure out a way to save Lettie Mae and how does the Reverend save a community that is losing their faith?   Those are nice, big questions for an actor to get behind.

TV STORE ONLINE:  Being on the set for True Blood down in New Orleans...Does the set or the costume help you find the character?

DANIEL:  The sets are amazing.  So, Yes!  Every time I walk onto a set...You wouldn't believe the detail that goes into those sets.  These sets and that environment aren't one that I visit every day.  Costumes, sets, and lighting help a great deal, especially when you as an actor give yourself over to it.   I still remember the first time that I visited the set for Lafeyette's apartment.  I said, "Wow!  Have I ever been any place like this before!" 

TV STORE ONLINE:  I'm sure you're getting questions from fans about what is going to happen throughout the rest of this final season of the show...But have you ever been tempted to just make something up when you're asked about it?   Have you ever been tempted to tell fans that the show is going to end in a big musical number and it's all a dream?

DANIEL:  (Laughing)  I love our fans.  They show up on location, and not only are they very respectful but they know everything about the show.  They know every detail about the True Blood universe.   If anything, I'm sort of hanging onto what they're saying about the show!  If anything, I tell them, "Keep the faith. There will be a ending.   There may be sacrifice, but you will have a sense of closure."  This is the final season of True Blood, we're on top and we're for sure going out with a bang.  

Follow Gregg Daniel on Twitter HERE: 
True Blood airs on HBO Sundays at 9pm EDT.
Interview Conducted By: Justin Bozung