Tuesday 1 January 2013

Interview: Brian Paulin (producer, writer, director, make-up fx artist)

Today we´re speaking with Brian Paulin, the writer, producer, director and old school special fx wizard behind Bone Sickness, Fetus and BloodPigs.

JL: How did you get into film making?
B.P: The main reason I started making movies was because I loved horror films so much that watching simply was not enough. I had to take part some how. I got into special make-up effects first back into 1988 when I was in high school. After a couple of years I wasn’t satisfied with creating a make-up effect for a few hours to just take a few pictures of it. That is when I started talking about trying to shoot shorts movies with my friend Rich George. Once I shot my first short called Sacrificial Birth, I was hooked and all I wanted to do was write stories and bring them to life on video.

JL: What are some of your favorite films?.
B.P:  The Evil Dead is my favorite movie. Some of my others are The Return of the Living Dead, Creepshow, The Howling, John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness and The Thing as well as Godzilla and Japanese Kaiju films. I’ve loved Godzilla films since I was a kid

JL: Who are some of your influences? I´ve noticed heavy influences from the old Italian zombie-flicks of the 1980s. Especially the explicit and gruesome gore in the style of Lucio Fulci.
B.P: Lucio Fulci is a major influence for me. His movies are layered with so much atmosphere. And of course the amazing gore sequences he wrote and filmed had a huge impact. H.P. Lovecraft’s writing and the complex storylines of Asian cinema are the main influences for the kind of stories I like to write. A non horror influence is John Woo’s work. I study the way he brings his amazing action scenes to life to help create an exciting pace for my movies, especially the complex finales I enjoy filming.

JL: You do all the make-up fx in your movies, all practical stuff.  Some quite elaborate stuff.  When did you get interested in fx?
B.P: When I was in high school I rented the Fangoria video Scream Greats Vol. 1 Tom Savini. I thought it was just a video about the making of horror films, not realizing it was about a make-up artist. I was blow away and became fascinated by Tom Savini’s work. I watched the video many times that weekend and began to try to find ways to learn how to do make-up effects. Soon after that I found a catalog to order from and bought the supplies I thought I would need to start learning.

J.L: What are the most complicated fx that you´ve done so far in a Morbid Vision Films production?
B.P: The nude girl sawed in half in Bone Sickness was a challenge. The fact that there were no clothes to hide make-up seems made it difficult, but I wanted it like that to create a more realistic effect. The arm flaying scene in Fetus was an interesting one. I used different materials than I usually use to pull of the effect in one take so the audience would not be able to see it coming. The largest effects I have done were the Blood Pig creatures at the end of Blood Pigs. The larger scale effects like those and the Plasm in Cryptic Plasm have been an eye opener when it comes to the cost of creating such large effects. You really start to notice the cost more when you have many square feet of space to fill with make-up rather than just a facial appliance. But seeing large creatures that you created come to life on set is exhilarating.

JL: I loved BloodPigs (2010) which in my opinion took the next step in the zombiegenre.  Which films,/what inspired you in the creation of BloodPigs and to take that daring step?
B.P: The influences that helped take BloodPigs into a different direction were completely negative to be honest. After filming the first half of the movie I was so sick of seeing the over flow of the new uninspired wave of independent zombie movies coming out at the time. Everyone was, and is still doing the same thing without putting any effort into the look of their zombies. Half way through filming I talked it over with the others involved with the movie and agreed we did not want to have anything to do with the new breed of zombie films so we changed the story and switched the focus to the evolving digestive systems and body absorption. It was a natural progression for the story because the story of the survivors hunting and eating the zombies was always there. The mutations were a great way to take the rest of the story. So in a way BloodPigs was meant as a middle finger aimed at all the people who are just using zombies to cash in on the subgenre.

JL: What kind of budget were you working with on BloodPigs?
B.P: I think we only spent some where between 3 and 4 thousand dollars on BloodPigs. It was the same with most of our movies. Most people in our past movie were doing it for the experience. We also own our own equipment and I recycled a lot of old make-up effects from other movies to help create the creature effects. Plus I always have make-up supplies stocked. I do not just stock up for each film so I usually have enough left over from other projects when I start a new movie.

JL: Another favorite of mine is Fetus (2008), a dark unsettling occult gory tale. Which films inspired you in the creation of Fetus?
B.P: At the beginning bizarre and extreme Japanese films were what influenced me to make Fetus. Especially Tetsuo: The Iron Man and Guinea Pig: Mermaid in a Man Hole. I wanted to make a splatter punk style movie like Tetsuo. Once I started writing and filming some scenes I realized that did not come natural to me. I would have only been trying to copy it so I gave up on doing that. Fetus came together as we filmed. It grew into it’s own movie and I wrote the story as we went along.

JL: What kind of budget were you working with on Fetus?
B.P: It only cost between 2 and 3 thousand dollars.

JL: How did you raise the funds?
B.P: We didn’t raise any money. Everything was paid for out of our own pockets as well as from friends who wanted to be producers.

JL: How did the shooting go for BloodPigs and Fetus?
B.P: Filming on Fetus went very smoothly. Everything fell into place nicely for that movie. If it wasn’t for my house being robbed and having my camera stolen during production, Fetus would have been finished within a year. But we had to shut down for a few months while we waited for insurance issues. BloodPigs took a long time to finish and we stopped filming once we didn’t want it to be just another zombie movie. It also took months to film the finale alone. There were so many effects that we filmed. The fight between the BloodPig and Rich Caron’s character in the garage took multiple weekend nights to film.

JL: How was it working on BloodPigs and Fetus? You seem to be surrounded by a small but dedicated team of filmmakers.
B.P: That is the great part about filming with fellow die hard horror fans. We are all doing it out of love for the horror genre. Our main crew during filming those two films was Rich George, Joe Olson, Anthony Menna, Rich Caron and my wife Stacey. When we get together to film, we are all friends having a great time hanging out making a horror movie. And I have to give credit to Yael Sanchez for all her help in Fetus. She was amazing and gave me so much freedom to bring that movie to life

JL: How different are the final versions from earlier drafts?
B.P: BloodPigs turned into a much different movie than what we started out to make thanks to the other new zombie films we wanted to distance ourselves from. The BloodPig creatures were not even in the movie when we started. Their concept came to life once we re-wrote the story. The main difference with Fetus is that it was originally going to be a short story. Which is why I played the main character. Had I planned from the beginning to make it a full length movie, I would have given the part to someone else.

JL: What lessons did you learn while making respective film?
B.P: The main thing I learned is what people want to see from us and what makes Morbid Vision Films what we are and what we need to do in our movies to deliver. And of course there are always new techniques you learn while making a movie.

JL: Were there any scenes that didn´t make it to the final films?
B.P: The only scene I can think of was a scene in BloodPigs where we filmed a character during the safe house flashback wondering what it would be like to have sex with a female zombie. We filmed the conversation, but never filmed the sex scene. I realized the scene was going to drag the flashback sequence out for too long and dumped it.

JL: What advice can you give someone looking to get into the industry?
B.P: If you want to make your own movies, do it for the love of it because there isn’t much money to be made doing this. If you want a career then you will most likely have to settle for being a crew member for a local crew. Or move to Hollywood. Something I do not want to do. Which is why I have come to terms with having no money, but have been given the honor of having a following for my company.

JL: I understand that you´ve had bad experiences with distributors, bootleggers and piracy. Could you tell us more about it and what your opinion piracy/downloading?
B.P: We self distribute all of our movies in the US ourselves now because there is no money to be made with a distributor when it comes to independent horror movies. They always have some excuse as to why there are no royalties even though they have sold copies. As far as piracy, I don’t really have a problem with people downloading. It’s the so called fans that upload our movies that are doing the real damage. Yeah people say it’s just sharing. When I share a dvd with someone it’s to let one or two of my friends watch it. Not the whole world! Some one recently uploaded one of my movies on youtube and it had over 5000 views. We only ordered 1000 dvds and still have hundreds of them for sale. So everyone that has uploaded our movie onto the internet is partly responsible for us having to scrape every penny just to try to finish Cryptic Plasm right now. We do not even have the money to order the dvds. But yet uploading does no harm right?

JL: So where do you see yourself heading?
B.P: To be honest, I have no idea. Cryptic Plasm has been very difficult to finish do to lack of funds. I hate to say it, but I do not see how it will be possible to make another movie the way we have always done it. We will have to do a fundraiser for the next movie. If there is a next one. Unfortunately the reality is we might not be able to do this anymore. But we will try our best to continue though.

JL: Besides Cryptic Plasma which is currently in the works are there any more films in your future?
B.P: Yes. Over the past year or so I have been filming a short film in between filming dates for Cryptic Plasm. I’ll finish it once Cryptic is done. And I am writing a script for the next big movie. If we can raise a budget for it, it will be the biggest movie we have made. It will be in the style of BloodPigs with a quest style story, large creature effects and it will contain more gore than anything else we have done before.

I´d like to thank Brian Paulin for taking the time to answering my questions.


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