Interview by AngryPrincess
Eric Stanze is the Top Dog of leading independent motion picture production company Wicked Pixel Cinema. Stanze is an award-winning and critically-acclaimed producer, director, writer, and editor of multiple feature length independent movies, all currently in world-wide home video release.
Stanze has also shot, produced, and/or edited educational videos, short films, documentaries, and music videos. He has provided voice over work for various radio commercials and independent movies. He has been a special effects creator for various independent films. He is also an actor in various indie features.
Eric Stanze began producing/directing low budget movies for the direct-to-video market in 1990 (he was only 18 years old at that time). Despite his "Roger Corman" attitudes and techniques, Stanze slowly started becoming a standout name in the indie/horror arena. Gory and hallucinogenic b-movies THE SCARE GAME, THE FINE ART, and SAVAGE HARVEST were directed by a young Eric Stanze. These titles set the foundation that Wicked Pixel Cinema would be built upon.
AnrgyPrincess: When I was young THE EXORCIST really scared me. What movies have you seen in your lifetime that have had a lasting impression or impact on you? Shocked or terrified you?
Eric: The first few times I saw THE CHANGELING it was all cut up on TV and it still scared me. I’d probably call THE CHANGELING the scariest movie I saw as a young lad. Other movies that I saw when I was young that had a lasting impact on me include APOCALYPSE NOW, CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, EVIL DEAD, DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT, CREEPSHOW, Romero’s DEAD films, the STAR WARS films, and the FRIDAY THE 13TH films.
AP: If you could work on a film with any director who would you choose and why?
Eric: If I was there to learn, I’d work with Francis Ford Coppola or George Romero. If I was there to experience an interesting sub-current of world cinema, I’d hop into a time machine and go work with Mario Bava. If I just wanted to collaborate with a peer who I respect and I know I’d enjoy working with, I’d work with Jim Van Bebber, Fred Vogel, or with Jason Christ again.
AP: The first movie I saw of yours was CHINA WHITE SERPENTINE. What made you want to make a film about the seedy soul consuming world of drugs? You see a vicious circle played out along with the deterioration of the three characters; it’s actually sad in a way.
Eric: Yeah, that movie just kinda crept up on me. I was a producer on a movie called THE SUICIDE ROOM, but the production fell through due to scheduling difficulties with that movie’s director. CHINA WHITE SERPENTINE was a project I had in my back pocket. Jeremy Wallace and I had developed it to a degree, just for fun, but we had no specific plans to actually produce the movie. When THE SUICIDE ROOM dissolved, I put CHINA WHITE into production as a replacement. I started writing the screenplay for CHINA WHITE and something about it connected with me. I asked Robin Garrels to help me fine tune the script. There was no director selected for this movie at this time.
I really wanted to direct it, but my schedule was insane and I knew I would be unable to focus on it. I fell in love with the project and I felt like I’d just screw it up if I tried to jam it into my already overflowing workload. I asked Robin to direct and she agreed – hesitantly. She had the same problem as me – too many projects going at once. Eventually it was decided that we "tag team" direct the movie. I thought it worked out fine. I’m proud of the movie.
CHINA WHITE isn’t our movie. It was a producer-for-hire job for me. So to go through so much effort and pour so much passion into this movie says a lot about how emotionally connected to the material I became. There was all this chaos, frustration, and anger brewing in me from my intense work schedule (and its impact on my personal life). All this was vented into that movie. That’s probably why CHINA WHITE is so chaotic, violent, grating, and sad. It was good therapy.
AP: Where on Earth did you draw your inspiration from while planning and making the film ICE FROM THE SUN? It is intensely graphic but somewhat confusing. The storyline states: Alison must journey through this universe of chaos to search for the architect of all this pain, horror and death.
Eric: I probably could have answered that question better ten years ago. I was a very different person then compared to now. Even I look at ICE FROM THE SUN today and find it completely bizarre. I don’t remember what inspired me to write ICE FROM THE SUN, but perhaps a lot of personal demons poured into the script (as they often do). Honestly, I don’t remember feeling angry or somber or confused when I wrote ICE, but to look at the thing today, it would seem I had some seriously dismal personal issues back then!
My memory of writing ICE FROM THE SUN does not include any attempt to make profound statements about death and evil. I just remember being an irresponsible kid, typing up that script, thinking, "this will make a cool movie!" …maybe my mind is blocking out some darkness in my past, but I really don’t remember being in a somber or angry state of mind when I wrote ICE FROM THE SUN.
AP: Now when I reviewed your film SCRAPBOOK, it really took a hold of me. I kept thinking "What if that was me?" I kept thinking about it after the movie was long over. There is a book called "Found" that Leonard uses as his scrapbook. Is that an actual title that readers like me can get a hold of? Or did you just make it up?
Eric: We just made up the title "Found" as something Leonard would have put there on the book. I loved that title because it could mean so many things. It made you think. Was it in reference to the "found" items in the book? Or the "found" victims who wrote in the book? Did it mean the victims had "found" Leonard? Or was it in reference to Leonard’s goal to become famous… as in, the scrapbook would eventually be "found" by other people? I really liked having that interesting touch of ambiguity in the movie, stuck ight there on the scrapbook prop. For about a day, we considered changing the title of the movie to FOUND, but it was better left in the background.
AP: I SPIT ON YOUR CORPSE, I PISS ON YOUR GRAVE was wild! This is one movie in particular where you push the limits and show things other producers and directors wouldn’t let the audience see. Sandy was meant to be a victim but instead ends up the tormentor. Watching it, I was disgusted yet excited she was making them pay. Were you hesitant at all about showing some of these extreme circumstances?
Eric: Oddly enough, everyone associated with the project was enthusiastic about how extreme the movie would be. This was another producer-for-hire job for me. This was not one of our movies. We were making SPIT for companies in New York, the UK, and France. The producers in France asked us to push the limits and take the movie as far as we could. I felt inclined to follow these instructions because these guys were writing the checks. But it was also something I was really interested in doing. I’m a fan of exploitation movies, epecially Joe D’Amato films. I thought it would be cool to make a movie like that …and my cast and crew were shockingly eager to follow me.
I do regret making that movie for one reason. We were very rushed. I knew when I was sending it out the door that it wasn’t done. I knew it sucked. I’ve said negative things about the movie in the past, and it is always misinterpreted I believe. People think I’m embarrassed about making a sleazy exploitation film. Or they think I’m angry because the French investors pushed the movie into such extreme territory. None of this is true. I only have negative feelings about the movie because the filmmaking is bad. You can have all that nasty stuff in there and still make a well executed movie. I did not make a well executed movie. My shooting schedule was too short (only 8 days) and my post-production was extremely rushed. I should not have blasted through it. I should have taken more time to make a better movie when I saw it was coming together poorly. I was under a lot of pressure to finish fast I should have ignored that pressure.
Earlier this year, I was given an opportunity to "fix" I SPIT ON YOUR CORPSE, I PISS ON YOUR GRAVE. I re-edited the movie and I took the time to make it much, much better. It was re-released as "The Official Director’s Version" of I SPIT ON YOUR CORPSE, I PISS ON YOUR GRAVE.
It was wonderful to have that opportunity. It was great to go back and improve an inferior work. But when a movie is made like SPIT was made, you’ll never get it back one hundred percent. It’s not a "great" movie now… The Official Director’s Version elevates the movie up from "bad" to "competent" perhaps. But it will never be "great." Oh well. Live and learn.
AP: Emily Haack is in a lot of your films. Is there any particular reason you favor her as an actress besides the fact that she does a great job at her craft?
Eric: Em is always enthusiastic about being in anything I direct or produce. That positive attitude goes a long way with me. And each time I’ve directed her, it has been a very positive experience for me, so I guess we have an exceptional director-actor relationship. Most importantly, Em is a very good actor. She’s a close friend, but that’s not enough for me to cast someone. She earns the parts she gets by being very good at what she does.
AP: For us fools that haven’t gotten around to viewing DEADWOOD PARK yet, could you fill us in on it’s synopsis?
Eric: DEADWOOD PARK is about the small town of Eidolon Crossing where a child murderer began a killing spree that would last more than 30 years. An amusement park at the edge of town once fueled a very prosperous local economy. When dead children started turning up in the park, the grim publicity eventually shut the park down. The town withered and died in a few short years. In 1979, the killing spree ended. Francis Richardson was the final victim. The killer was never caught. Francis was survived by his twin brother Jake. Now an adult, Jake returns to Eidolon Crossing and begins to unravel the blood-soaked mystery surrounding the unsolved muders. The clues lead him back to the abandoned amusement park.
AP: DEADWOOD PARK won Best Cinematography at the Freak Show Film Festival in Orlando Florida as well as the coveted top prize of Best Feature. How does that feel?
Eric: It was interesting. We went down to Orlando to premiere and promote the movie, but I didn’t think we’d win anything. When I saw the quality of the other movies being shown at the fest, I was just happy to be included in such great company. Winning those awards was completely unexpected… but also pretty thrilling. It’s nice when your hard work is recognized.
AP: What does the future have in store for Wicked Pixel Cinema? Any plans or projects in the works?
Eric: I’m writing a new screenplay now. It’s a horror project, but it’s very different compared to DEADWOOD PARK. It’s more fast, furious, and aggressive. It’s called BUTCHER’S MOON and it will be a definite crowd-pleaser for gore-hounds, as well as for those who just want to see a truly inventive, stylish, and engaging horror-thriller. We don’t know for sure if this will be our next project or not. If it is, we don’t know when we’ll start production. It’s all up to the people who write the checks.
AP: Thank you so much for taking the time to hook us up with some killer info and we can’t wait to have our next Eric Stnze Experience. Try to hit Monster Mania in NJ sometime and I’ll buy you a beer, don’t worry not all of us Jersey girls bite!
Eric: Thank YOU for the support! I’ll definitely make the trek out to NJ next time Wicked Pixel Cinema ventures that way. It would be awesome to meet you in person!