You guys all know who Penn Jillette is. The world famous magician, actor and writer needs no introduction (even though I just gave him one). And, since you’re reading this site, you probably know about Adam Rifkin as well. He wrote and directed the great “Wadzilla” segment of Chillerama as well as Look (not to mention penning Small Soldiers for Joe Dante).
Now they’re coming together to give you Director’s Cut, which looks like it’s primed to be one of the more interesting horror/comedy/thrillers in a long time. In order to retain control over their singular vision, they’re going the crowdfunding route with this (it goes live on Fund Anything tomorrow).
I know some people have different opinions regarding this approach to financing. I urge you to put all of that aside for a moment and watch this clip (a BD exclusive for the day) – it’s easily one of the best pitch videos for a crowdfunding project that I’ve seen! You’ll get an idea of the tonal shift about 2 minutes in…
Pretty good stuff, right? I like how it literally shows you the tone of the piece rather than just telling you about it. You can find the campaign HERE (you can also follow the film on Facebook and Twitter).
Perhaps you have questions? No prob! That’s where our exclusive interview with the duo comes in! You can check it out right below the film’s official synopsis! If you’re a Romero fan you’ll definitely enjoy the conversation.
“Director’s commentaries on movies have been popular as DVD and Blu-Ray “extras” long enough that all movie-goers are familiar with the conceit. In fact, movie fans have come to expect them from all of their favorite films and filmmakers. “Director’s Cut” utilizes this collective audience knowledge for a new kind of meta, multileveled plot. As “Director’s Cut” begins, we find ourselves watching a taut cop thriller called “Knock Off”. It’s a creepy murder mystery in the vein of “Se7en” and “Silence of the Lambs”, about an older FBI agent and his gorgeous new partner working on a serial killer case where the murderer is mimicking well known killings of famous serial killers of the past. The movie has a great cast and as it plays out we hear the director’s constant commentary as VO over the scenes. He shares tidbits about the making of the movie and stories about working with the actors. Especially the leading lady. In fact, the director seems strangely focused on his starlet. Fixated beyond what one might expect from a professional film director. It’s creepy. As the film continues to unfold we slowly start to realize that this voice is not the film’s actual director at all, but that of an obsessed fan who thinks he’s the director. He’s actually a psycho who is stalking and terrorizing the lead actress…”
This is one of the best crowdfunding pitch videos I’ve seen. It illustrates what the execution of the piece will be like, rather than just telling you.
Jillette: It’s the same people making it. The same DP, mostly the same crew.
Rifkin: It’s true. We really wanted the pitch video to be as cinematic as possible and reflect a little tidbit of what we hope the movie will look like.
How’d you guys get hooked up?
Jillette: It’s pretty simple, actually. I had written the script and I had shopped it around and talked with a few different people about directing it. I was talking to a friend of mine, Rich Nathanson, and he told me about [Rifkin’s film] Look. And I had heard about Look because Ron Jeremy told me that it was opening in Vegas. And because Ron Jeremy told me about it I didn’t consider seeing it [laughs]. We all love Ron, but he’s not a tastemaker. So I went and got a copy of it from my friend Rich and watched it that night.
10 minutes into the movie I realized Adam was perfect for Director’s Cut. Look is my favorite movie of this century and it had a lot of the same thoughts and feelings I wanted to convey with this movie. This was on a Friday night and at 1AM I went to my computer and fired off emails to my managers and agents saying I needed to talk to Adam Rifkin. Then I went to Facebook and did a search and found we had mutual friends on Facebook and wrote him. And because we are two peas in a pod, he was also doing nothing on a Friday night. He answered instantly and I told him I wanted him to see the script.
I was so excited, I can’t remember a time where I saw a movie and got more jacked up than when I saw Look. We talked for an hour or so and I sent him the script and had an email by Saturday morning saying he wanted to do it. So I sent another email to my managers and agents and said, “too late. You are now introducing me to my partner.”
Adam, what was it like getting this call in the middle of the night?
Rifkin: It was spectacular. I’d always been big fan. I got a call that Friday evening from my assistant saying, “you’re never going to believe this, but Penn Jillette just tweeted about Look.” And then as soon as I got home I had a message from him on Facebook. He gave one of the most compelling pitches I had ever heard, and when I read the script I wasn’t disappointed.
Penn, by nature you seem like an intelligent, probing personality. Is there something about the horror genre that your found yourself questioning and addressing with this?
Jillette: As a child I wasn’t drawn to it. But in the 70’s there was a time when if you wanted to make an intellectual movie and couldn’t get the movie from Hollywood, all you had to do was call it “horror” put in some blood and some tits and you could make an art film.
I didn’t crave it until I realized that. When I saw Night Of The Living Dead it was life changing. All of a sudden, the real intellectual stuff I wanted out of movies was being done in this form that no one cared about. “Give us tits and blood and you can make your movie as smart as you want.” And then Dawn Of The Dead came out, I love James Gunn’s version too but the original one is still my favorite movie of all time. It is a completely intellectual, smart movie that just happens to have zombies.
Some of the beauty of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Evil Dead is that those things have such pure power. The combination of the intellectual and the visceral became an obsession to me. All we want in art is for the intellectual and the visceral to collide going as fast as they can. You get into a roller coaster and you want your visceral side to say, “I’m going to die. This is the end of my life.” And you want your intellectual side to say, “if they actually killed people on this ride they would have been closed down long ago. Their insurance rates would be too high.” You want those two things to hit really hard. And in horror, especially Romero, you can do the smartest things possible and still cut people’s heads off with helicopter blades.
Why the crowdfunding route?
Jillette: To cut out the gatekeepers at the studios. We could get this movie made at a studio, and they would say “we need to put a bigger star in Penn’s role and get a director who’s made a blockbuster before.” We don’t intend for this to be a blockbuster, we just want enough people to watch it to make it worthwhile. What we’re saying to the world is, “be the studio.”
Having seen Adam’s segment of Chillerama you know he can get a great production value out of a small budget.
Rifkin: It was pretty low. I have a lot of experience making a lot of independent films of varying genres and, if there’s one thing I’ve gotten pretty good at, is that it’s I know how to milk a lot of bang out of very little buck. It’ll look like a studio movie, but for independent movie dollars.
Jillette: It’s for 1 million dollars. One of the things that critics of crowd funding say is, “why don’t these people make movies with their own money.” Well, I have. I put my money into The Aristocrats and Tim’s Vermeer. But this movie is a little bit beyond what I can afford and I am very willing to out my time and effort in and not get paid what I would get paid if I were doing a studio movie. It’ll look like a $3 million movie. If we get more than that we can get a bigger star for the female lead, we can put a car chase in [laughs].
Rifkin: And I financed half of Look with the money I made from writing Underdog for Disney. The reason I love being able to write movies like that is that they have afforded me, in the past, the ability to write a check to green light my own movies. But this is a slightly bigger movie.
Jillette: It’s going to be really, really good. I play a wicked *sshole!