Director of films such as ‘Slime City’ and it’s sequel, ‘Slime City Massacre’, as well as author of ‘Johnny Gruesome’, the Jake Helman Files series, and the Frenzy Cycle series, Greg Lamberson is a multi-talented force in the Horror world. I had the opportunity ask Greg a few questions recently, and here they are for your reading pleasure:
1 Tell us about your upcoming film project, ‘Dry Bones’.
First, I’m not directing it; an actor friend, Michael O’Hear, is. I’m the writer and producer, though. It’s a very funny, very outrageous horror comedy that combines the “thing under the bed” and succubus subgenres. Michael is co-starring in it with Melantha Blackthorne, who plays three roles, and Kevin Van Hentenryck from the Basket Case Films just signed on for a role, which we’re excited about. The film is a real throwback to the original Slime City in that we’re shooting most of it in my house. I’ve put together a great team, and Michael has a great cast, and I’m going to have a good time, because I don’t know when I’ll do this again. Anyone who wants to help a good project out can do so at our IndieGoGo page: http://igg.me/p/291738
2) You just worked on a groundbreaking project for Medallion Press called ‘The Julian Year’. Talk to us about it, if you would.
Medallion has published all of my novels, including two which they reprinted. Back when he was a mere president, instead of the CCO or COO or whatever it is – I like president better – Adam Mock approached me with a crazy idea about an interactive e-book the likes of which no one has seen before. It evolved into the TREEbook – Timed Reading Experience E-book – which employs time triggers and branching technology. The TREEbook app measures each reader’s individual average reading pace, and any time the reader changes that pace – he speeds up because he’s into it or he slows down to watch one of my movies – the book will seek a branch point and the story will spin off in a different direction. Each author will determine what changes are possible, but in the world I created, a person will live in one branch, die in another, go to the dark side, and so on, depending on which branches the reader follows. The reader won’t even be aware that the story has changed until a chart shows them which route they’ve followed when they finish the book. The Julian Year posits a scenario in which every person on earth gets possessed on his birthday, and at the end of one year no one will be left. The guy is a journalist named Julian Weizak, who’s sort of a Kolchak type – a non-hero to set him apart from my Jake Helman and Tony Mace characters – and Rachel Konigsberg, a female action hero who’s as tough as any character I’ve written. I love both of these characters, and it was a fascinating experience to show different aspects of their personalities depending on which branch I was writing. This is a standalone story, not a series, but there’s enough content in it with the different braches for a series. It comes out in December, and it will be for ipads and android phones at first. It’s going to be ka-ra-zy!
3) Switching back to the world of film for a moment, you also did production work on ‘Snow Shark-Ancient Snow Beast’, directed by Sam Qualiana, and ‘Model Hunger’, featuring the directorial debut of Indie Film Queen Debbie Rochon. What were your duties on these projects?
I produced Snow Shark: I raised the money, gave Sam script notes, brought in some effects guys – it was my decision to use a miniature shark in some shots – and brought in Brett Piper and Mark Polonia as editors, and Michael Paul Girard, another micro-budget filmmaker, to do the score. Then I made the deal with Alternative Cinema/POP to distribute it, and my friend Paige Davis is doing a great job with it. The film comes out on DVD February 19th, and it will be available for rent at Family Video in the US and Redbox in Canada, and for sale at Walmart Canada. Pretty damned good for a $7,000 film from a first time director. What I did not do was stand in the snow freezing my ass off.
On Model Hunger, I was the line producer and 1st assistant director. I’ve worked on a few films where I was some sort of producer and the assistant director, which I’m doing again on Dry Bones, and I like that combination because I know I’m not going to yell at myself. Debbie contacted me to see if I’d set the film up in Buffalo, where I live. It was originally going to be shot somewhere else, with a different line producer and different leads, but for whatever reason that didn’t work out. I found the locations, hired local cast and crew, and did the scheduling and production management. Debbie put together a phenomenal cast – Lynn Lowry, Tiffany Shepis, Michael Thurber and Carmine Capobianco are the leads – and we shot a very ambitious movie over three weeks. We took over a block in the heart of downtown Buffalo: rented one full house, which served as our two main locations, with a second house next door that we used for an exterior location, and then rented two other apartments on the same block, plus half of another house. Debbie expects to have a rough cut at the end of the month, and I can’t wait to see it. Wolfgang Meyer shot it and Dan Lipsky lit it, and those guys busted their asses. Tiffany was great to work with, and I honestly believe that Lynn created an iconic horror character with the nut job she plays – truly wonderful. There are times when you wonder if the finished film will be worth whatever struggle you had making it, and times like this when you just feel it will be.
4) Your last directorial effort was 2010’s ‘Slime City Massacre’, a sequel to your 1988 cult classic ‘Slime City’. Was it fun to step back into the world of Slime? Will there be another return to appease the Slime? Also, how was it to work with Debbie Rochon ?
Slime City Massacre was the only film experience I’ve had that was as meaningful to me as the original Slime City shoot; it was also the first time I felt like I knew what I was doing as a director, and it was a film I needed to make. I had a great working relationship with Debbie, who’s now a good friend, which is why she trusted me to have her back on Model Hunger; the entire cast and crew was amazing. I would like to do another Slime film someday – I know what the story is – but I honestly don’t know if I’ll direct another film anytime soon. It’s so hard to raise money for independent films these days, and I don’t want to direct a film with a $20,000 budget. If it becomes feasible for me to raise $50,000 or $60,000 again, I’m there. The story is very brain-centric, and my dream is to have Brett Piper do them stop motion. That would be a great collaboration.
5) Writing novels is a mostly solitary effort, while filmmaking is a collaborative art, even on a small budget project. Do you prefer one form of media over the other?
Yes. Making a film is extremely hard work involving myriad personalities. It consumes every minute of your day, and there can be a sense of great satisfaction. But there are a lot of frustrations as well, usually due to difficult personalities. When I finished the Slime City Massacre I was on top of the world, but I’ve also finished working on films and never wanted to work on another one again. For me writing a novel – or a screenplay – is a cakewalk in comparison.
6) Someone comes to you with a ridiculous amount of money for a film project…the only catch is, it has to be a remake. Beyond that, you have carte blanche. What movie would you do, and how?
Salem’s Lot as a feature – I’d nail that fucker. Or I Am Legend – I’d nail that fucker. Or Logan’s Run – I’d nail that fucker.
7) Weapon of choice?
I would say “the pen,” but my handwriting is terrible, so I’ll go with “meat cleaver.”
8) What are some films and /or books that are favorites of yours, or that have inspired you in some way?
I grew up on Hammer films, not the Universal monsters, and Roger Corman science fiction movies. Dan Curtis’s TV work and Marvel Comics from the 1970s – Tomb of Dracula – may really have been my biggest influences. I love The World According to Garp and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story. Have you ever read David Morrell’s First Blood? Amazing.
9) You have several entries in the Jake Helman Files series, with more to come. As a writer, what is it about that character and his world that you find fun and interesting to keep returning to?
I love horror, I love action, I love noir, and this series allows me to do all of them. An author is lucky to create a character he really loves, and that’s how I feel about Jake Helman – even though I inflict more damage on him than any other hero I can think of has had to endure. Four books have been published, and I’m writing the fifth, Storm Demon, now, and hope to do four more after that. I have an ending in mind, but it’s really just the end of an epic origin story.
10) What are some of the difficulties of working in the world of low-budget Indie Horror film? What are the advantages and rewards?
Most people I work with have a good attitude. When I put together the crew myself that’s the case anyway. Sometimes when other people put the crew together you have to eat some shit, but it beats a regular job. Every day is not just a challenge but a hundred challenges, with all manner of problems to be solved.
11) What projects do you have on the horizon for us to look forward to?
Besides Snow Shark, Dry Bones, Storm Demon and The Julian Year? I just signed the contract to write The Frenzy Wolves, the third book in my Frenzy Cycle werewolf series. And I was the 1st AD on a werewolf film called Ward’s Island, which Chris Olen Ray produced; that one had a big SAG cast and car stunts and a boat chase. I was just a hired hand, but I’m looking forward to seeing it.
12) Thanks for your time, Greg. In conclusion, is there anything you’d like to say to the folks out there ?
I wish I had something profound to say. Don’t be an asshole on the internet? You’re such a nice guy, Scott – people should be more like you.