So last month we brought you a month’s worth of exclusive content from up and coming Indy publisher, Hardway Studios, and that was a lot of fun, so we decided to do it all over again this month. Only this time we went a step further and teamed up with someone that I have been getting all kinds of questions about, none other then the crazy people that brought you “GODKILLER”, Halo-8! All month long we will be bringing readers exclusive content from the ‘illustrated’ film makers in anticipation of the release of “GODKILLER” itself later this month! But of course we will also be covering their other projects such as “THE LONG KNIVES”, “LOADED BIBLE”, “MEDUSA YEAR ONE”, and more. So what are you waiting for?! Make the jump for my FULL interview with Halo-8 founder Matt Pizzolo as we speak at length about all of the upcoming projects from the company, how he got started, and more! I will warn you though, you might want to make sure that you don’t have anywhere that you need to be for awhile. Read on for the skinny!
“Halo-8 Entertainment, Inc. is an independent film studio specializing in iconoclastic and music-driven movies and their related soundtracks. It was founded in 2005 by award-winning filmmaker Matt Pizzolo.
Pizzolo had previously founded Kings Mob Productions with partner Katie Nisa, formed DiY-Fest, the not-for-profit touring carnival of Do-it-Yourself mediamaking, and served as writer-director of the iconoclastic indie movie “Threat.”
Halo-8’s formation began with “Threat,” which was produced by the team of fledgling filmmakers known as Kings Mob. Pizzolo ranked as the eldest crewmember at 22 years old. He’d just dropped out of NYU’s screenwriting department and was living out of a backpack in NYC’s Lower East Side. When we say he was the eldest, we mean there were absolutely no executive producers, associate producers, line producers, or even mentors showing the Mobsters the ropes. They got free equipment by interning at a local film co-op, bought 16mm short ends discarded by TV shows, tapped into streetlights for electricity, and jury-rigged their way through the process of feature filmmaking.
Upon finishing a rough cut, the Mobsters piled into a van, drove to the Sundance Film Festival, and were stunned to discover that you have to be invited to participate… so instead they found a Doc Marten’s shoe store on Main Street and convinced the owners to let them use the shop as a makeshift movie theater. They utilized Wal-Mart’s 30-days-no-questions-asked return policy to build a TV installation, and went on to sell out all four showings and earn themselves international press including a 4-page feature in London’s Daily Telegraph Saturday Magazine. The press attention enabled them to launch a tour across the US and Europe, where they played the rough cut to packed crowds at skateparks, record stores, and live music venues.
The independent ethic that drove Kings Mob to produce in such an unconventional way did not stop there. It occurred to Pizzolo that a film is not truly “independent” if it is produced independently and then sold to a Hollywood distributor, who will often re-cut and alter a film before its release. Pizzolo grew fiercely determined to form an independent film studio, rather than to simply sell “Threat” to a Hollywood distributor and start over again from scratch.
In late 2005, Pizzolo formed the DVD & soundtrack label Halo-8 Entertainment with the intention of using an independent record label model to distribute movies, enabling the producers to retain ownership of their films and control marketing. With “Threat” as its flagship release, Halo-8 signed an output deal with Sony-BMG’s RED Distribution. By partnering Halo-8 with Kings Mob Productions as well as independent producers including UnitShifter Films and 456 Productions, Pizzolo built the groundwork for an independent film studio which currently has numerous projects in various stages of development and production. In 2007, Halo-8 left RED and signed with Ryko Distribution, the leading distributor of independently produced home video. In 2009, Warner Music Group folded Ryko Distribution into ADA Distribution, and Halo-8 continued its relationship with Warner Music Group by distributing through ADA Distribution/Warner-Elektra-Atlantic. Thanks to its unique business structure, when Halo-8 changes retail distributors the catalog of films stays with Halo-8 and the films’ respective producers.”
So now, without further ado, here is my exclusive one-on-one with Halo-8 owner and founder, Matt Pizzolo!
THEoDEAD:” First of all thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us. Before we jump right into things could you give readers who might not already be familiar with your work a brief rundown of your body of work? Your origin story so to speak.”
Matt Pizzolo:“ Haha, I really need to retcon my origin story but here goes…
My body of work pretty much starts with Threat, a 16mm indie film I made in NY when I was 21 back in the late 90s. I was living in NY’s Lower East Side (which is now unrecognizable from what it used to be) and I wanted to make a ballsy, angry, punk rock movie arguing that youth violence is misdirected and should be aimed at the class system rather than at other kids. It culminates with a call to destroy Wall Street, which would probably resonate more these days.
The team behind that film was a ragtag army of hardcore kids and underground hip hop kids called Kings Mob and it was totally guerrilla. When it was done, we didn’t really know what to do with it so we decided to get in a van and drive to the Sundance Film Festival… not that we were invited or anything. Along the way from NY to Park City and back, kids on our email list booked local showings of Threat at skateparks, bars, record stores, apartments, and it always drew really enthusiastic crowds. When we got to Sundance, though, our reception by the Hollywood folks was not exactly epic. But it turned out there happened to be a Doc Marten’s shoe store across the street from Sundance’s flagship theater on Main Street. We talked to the skater girls who worked there and they convinced their bosses to let us take over the store for 4 screenings over 2 nights. We went to Wal-Mart and the kids working in the electronics department assured us that the No Questions Asked Return Policy was solid, so we filled our van with TVs, built a huge video installation in the store, sold out all four shows, and returned the TVs. Our renegade screenings were completely ignored by all the Hollywood types, but the kids from Salt Lake City made the trek out to see it, and those long lines out front the store got enough press coverage to launch us on a film tour across the US and Europe.
Instead of selling Threat to a distributor, I started an indie movie studio called Halo-8. It’s basically modeled on how an indie record label operates, but instead we produce and distribute movies. Since it’s totally indie, it enables me to do some weird experimental stuff like creating illustrated-films.”
THEoDEAD:” Halo-8 specializes in illustrated films , not to be confused with a motion comic . What is the difference? Why are these illustrated films so much more like an actual movie watching experience than sitting through a typical motion comic book.”
Matt Pizzolo:“The simple answer is illustrated-films are an attempt to merge comic book sequential art with cinematic storytelling, whereas motion comics seem more intent on re-purposing comic books into cartoons.
And I don’t mean to sound like a dick because I think motion comics are cool, these are just different. On first glance, they look very similar… and people might say “it’s moving comics on a screen, that’s motion comics” to which I say “just because Seinfeld is moving people captured on 35mm film doesn’t make it the same thing as Full Metal Jacket.”
On one level you could see motion comics and illustrated films as siblings like comics books vs graphics novels or TV shows vs feature films, but there are deeper distinctions. Basically, we’re filmmakers so we’re bringing a cinematic sensibility to this… we’re driving the pace with the dramatic voice performances and the sound design and music–that allows us to use more camera-type motion of panning and dolleying through the images. We animate motion in the frame, but the need for motion is different in film… it’s not like Michael Madsen bounces around the frame in Reservoir Dogs the way Wakko does in Animaniacs. We’re not trying to out-motion motion comics. When you have Lance Henriksen’s voice and Alec Empire’s music driving a scene, you can spend more time exploring the visuals in a more sophisticated, filmic way.
Also, these are full-length feature films written in a screenplay format. We broke Godkiller into episodes, but that was really just intended as a very limited edition preview for comic cons and horror cons, we never expected mass-market retailers to stock them… that was a shock, to be honest.”
THEoDEAD:” “GODKILLER” has been an instant hit for you. What inspired you to create this story? Where did the unique ideas behind not only the story, but the amazingly colorful (for lack of a better word) characters come from?”
Matt Pizzolo:“Haha if there’s one thing I never anticipated it would be seeing “Godkiller” and “instant hit” in the same sentence. I actually wrote Godkiller in between rewrites on this mainstream epic screenplay I was writing for a production company set up at Universal. I was really frustrated with the development hell process where over the course of 20 or so rewrites all the texture and riskiness of a story are hammered out to please the broadest possible audience in as many countries as possible. So in between those rewrites I wrote out this bizarro, lunatic movie that was basically intended for the exact opposite of the mass-market: it was written specifically for misfits and fuckups. It’s based on a world I’d been developing for a long time before writing this particular story, but yeah the Godkiller: Walk Among Us Script was basically my free-time fuck you to Hollywood, and in the ultimate irony it’s probably the thing I’ve done that Hollywood has been most supportive of… go figure haha.”
THEoDEAD:” That’s an insane story. I remember seeing “THREAT” a very long time ago, or what seems to have been forever ago when in actuality it was only 2006. I really dug the film, and I loved the rawness of it. Being someone that used to be the A-typical skateboarder punk with mass amounts of tattoos it really resonated with me at the time. So with “GODKILLER” you really tried to ‘stick it to the man’ in a manner of speaking, but ended up getting more than your bargained for? There’s even a clothing line now!”
Matt Pizzolo:“Yeah, man, I totally got more than I bargained for. Seriously, the idea to create an illustrated film was partly inspired by my belief that Godkiller is just too weird to do in any traditional sense… I figured most actors would be freaked out by it and no stores would carry it since the potential audience of crazy people is probably too small. The funny thing is that took a lot of the pressure off and enabled me to just go totally experimental with it. Then I was just totally stunned as more and more actors I love started joining the project. Then all these big chainstores started carrying it… and then Warner Brothers took it on for VOD, which just completely baffles me. I mean, it’s fucking called “Godkiller” and its gonna be pumped into tens of millions of homes across the country. That’s just completely ridiculous. You have no idea how many people warned me that if I didn’t change the title it would never see the light of day. I guess there are more weirdos in positions of influence than I ever realized. And yeah… a clothing line. Haha. Amazingly bizarre.”
THEoDEAD:”So for readers who haven’t checked “GODKILLER” out yet, what is the story about?”
Matt Pizzolo:“The story… well Godkiller exists in a world that I created when I was on tour in Europe with Threat and visiting all the old pagan and early Christian art and museums–it made me want to create a new mythology for fuckups and misfits. So the world of Godkiller is this huge psychosis of conspiracy theories and speculative history and radical economics and post-modern quantum physics… it starts with the moment Lucifer said “Non serviam” (“I will not serve”) and projects into a future where fallen gods and mythological creatures co-habitate the Earth with humans. The illustrated film is a small story that takes place within that world, based on the comic book I created with illustrator Anna Muckcracker (an amazing new talent I discovered who you’ll be seeing a lot more from in the future). It’s called “GODKILLER: Walk Among Us” and it’s about a 16 year old boy named Tommy who lives in an orphanage with his sister Lucy in a post-apocalyptic future. Lucy is dying and desperately in need of a new heart, so Tommy follows an organ-stealing hooker named Halfpipe out of the relative safety of his bordertown and into the savage world of Outer City on a quest to find a new heart for his dying sister. It’s a hero’s journey on crack. I’m also writing a prequel novel called “GODKILLER: Silent War” that lays out more of the world, and each Walk Among Us DVD has a chapter from Silent War on the special features as an e-book and audiobook. So people can either just enjoy the illustrated-film as a standalone story or they can go deeper down the rabbit hole with me.”
THEoDEAD:”One of the things that really got my attention on “GODKILLER” was the amazing voice cast behind the series. You’ve got everyone from veterans of the genre such as Bill Moseley and Danielle Harris, to music stars like AFI frontman Davey Havok! How did a group of people as talented as these come together for this project?”
Matt Pizzolo:“I honestly don’t know how that happened. Originally I was planning to just get my friends to record the voices and I actually built a home-made recording studio in my garage… I just got this canvas box and filled it with audio insulation foam and put a microphone inside. I was like “dude, this’ll sound awesome.” And then my biz partner Brian Giberson was like, “Pizzolo, you’re crazy. This is gonna sound terrible. And the script is cool, I bet you could get some rad actors excited about it. Pick a role that you think there’s a great actor for and let’s see what happens.” So I was like “Lance Henriksen is the coolest.” And we contacted his agent and sent over the script and he dug it, he jumped right on board. My mind was boggled, so I basically made a list of all my top picks for every role and seriously I pretty much got my first choice for everything. Danielle Harris, Bill Moseley, Nicki Clyne, and Tiffany Shepis were next on board after Lance… … they’re all so talented and seasoned that they immediately took the whole thing to another level. But it was also important to me to shake it up a bit and go for a really eclectic bunch. Everyone thought I was crazy when I asked Justin Pierre (singer of Motion City Soundtrack) to voice the lead role of Tommy… even he wasn’t sure he could do it, but I just had a feeling it would fit and he did an unbelievable job–I think you’ll be seeing more acting from him in the future, he’s just a natural. And Davey, that was so awesome… he loves underground culture and got really into it, he was asking all about the broader mythology and just totally dove into the world of it… such a cool guy. And one of my personal favorites is Lydia Lunch, I was so heavily influenced by her when I was growing up that I totally geeked out when she agreed to do it. She lives in Barcelona so it was actually really tough for her to work it out, but she made it happen. We were really blessed with such an amazing dream team ensemble. And none of them recorded in my garage, but I bet it would’ve sounded rad if they did.”
THEoDEAD:”Recently we got word that Halo-8 would be releasing yet another original title with “THE LONG KNIVES”. What IS “THE LONG KNIVES”?”
Matt Pizzolo:“THE LONG KNIVES” is my new comic book and soon to be illustrated film with an illustrator I discovered named Ana Ludeshka (apparently I only work with illustrators named Anna or Ana). The script is a real gritty-realism, bare-knuckled revenge movie. The villains are also anti-heroes and it’s woven through a backdrop of how America morally copes with wartime and crises, but at its center is this straight-ahead, brutal revenge movie along the lines of the first Mad Max. The setup is so tough though that I was worried it would fall into torture-porn territory, and that’s when I found Ludeshka who has this ethereal, Tim Burton-esque aesthetic. I thought it would be perfect to collaborate with her and fuse her surreal art with a giallo style because I love love love giallo especially Argento and Bava and I thought a stylistic move like that would really benefit the story. I couldn’t be happier with the outcome, Ludeshka designed this gorgeous color palette that’s so vibrant it makes the brutality pop without ever becoming overwhelmingly harsh. I write very nihilistic stories, so I always seek out collaborators who come at things from a different point of view… I think a duality like that is where the magic comes from.”
THEoDEAD:”When you start to talk Giallo you really are putting yourself out there throwing your name in the rin with guys like Fulci and Argento. I know you ve said that THE LONG KNIVES will not be torture porn though like a SAW or HOSTEL . Which with the over glutted market right not I can t blame you, and I think everyone would rather see a more layered story with interesting characters than an extra bucket of blood thrown in. Did you go into “THE LONG KNIVES” purposely trying to avoid that trend?”
Matt Pizzolo:“I always intended for THE LONG KNIVES to challenge the torture porn storytelling style that’s been prevalent over the past decade. I feel like torture porn is the “2 Girls 1 Cup” of cinema… it was shocking and we all enjoyed being grossed out and showing our friends without warning them what it was, but it’s not shocking anybody anymore. I think horror audiences want something a bit more challenging now, and I’m hoping THE LONG KNIVES will help shake things up a bit.”
THEoDEAD:”I know we talked about the awesome voice cast that GODKILLER had, but what about THE LONG KNIVES ? Any ideas on who will be working this project on that end?”
Matt Pizzolo:“It’s still a bit early to announce cast for THE LONG KNIVES unfortunately. We’ve had a few high profile folks attached, but these illustrated films really become about finding the right ensemble so we haven’t locked anybody in just yet.”
THEoDEAD:”I know that you guys have some very exciting projects lined up with Ben Templesmith and Tim Seeley later on down the road now, and in a lot of ways your DIY mindset and really kind of punk rock mindset to approaching the business has started to pay off. What fascinates me is how you really just kind of do what you want artistically and don t really care what the jaded Hollywood types think of it. Any tips for kids out there who are dreaming of making it into the industry themselves? Do you think now more than ever is the time for someone at home who is sitting on an idea that he/she thinks is far too radical to pitch to anyone to just go for it?”
Matt Pizzolo:“Well, right now the film business is going through the same thing the music business went through ten years ago: nobody wants shiny plastic discs anymore… so business-as-usual is fucked, and that’s a great time for innovative people with radical ideas to storm the gates. The last thing a kid with a wild idea should do is listen to the jaded Hollywood types because all they’re interested in is what’s cool right now, but it’ll take you years to finish your project and by then whatever’s cool now will be lame… so creators have to be ahead of the curve and take chances pursuing wild shit that everybody else thinks is crazy. The movie business has always been risky and unstable, but these days every job is risky and unstable so fuck it get out there and make something crazy.”
THEoDEAD:”Before we let you go, I want to ask a few quick questions on MEDUSA: YEAR ONE . I know you guys plan this to be a retelling of the Medusa myth, but what exactly is the project all about? it s going to be an illustrated film and a comic book correct?”
Matt Pizzolo:“MEDUSA: YEAR ONE is still in development, but yeah currently the plan is to do an illustrated film and comic book. Most stories focus on Medusa as a monster that Perseus has to kill, but there’s a version of her origin that is just really fascinating… how she was a beautiful maiden cursed by the gods through no fault of her own. I’ve always been surprised that, for such an iconic character, there’s been hardly any dramatization of her as anything other than a monster when there’s already this really compelling, tragic backstory of corrupt power and youthful defiance… but as far as I can tell the backstory hasn’t been expanded much beyond one paragraph in an Ovid poem. I kind of use that basis as a starting point but then totally re-invent the character with this secret history of what really went down. So I don’t know if this is a retelling of the myth so much as a re-envisioning, I’ve decided there’s been a conspiracy to cover up Medusa’s true story and it’s up to me to set the record straight.”
THEoDEAD:”Is there anything that you d like to say to all the Halo-8 faithful out there reading this?”
Matt Pizzolo:“I’d love to thank all the Halo-8 faithful for sticking with us and supporting all our hare-brained schemes and off-kilter projects. What we do, particularly with our in-house productions, is just so completely different from everybody else that we couldn’t possibly take all the risks we do without a strong base of support. We appreciate the support and will do our darndest to keep making weird, innovative craziness for you all and confusing the shit out of everybody else.
We would like to thank Matt once again for the awesome interview and for being such a great sport when doing these interviews. If you would like to check out “GODKILLER”, “THE LONG KNIVES”, “BLACK SKY”, “LOADED BIBLE”, or any of the awesome titles in the Halo-8 repertoire check out their official website. Also keep it locked here at Bloody-Disgusting.com’s Graphic Content as we bring you more exclusives with Halo-8 all month long!