WolfCop has been out on home video for a couple weeks now and if you haven’t seen it by now, I just don’t get you, man. Lowell Dean’s film is a riotous romp that works well as both an absurd creature comedy and a cop drama. In a genre that’s flooded with garbage like Sharknado, WolfCop stands tall as a unique work that happens to be damn well made.
I spoke with writer/director Lowell Dean about the origins of the film, balancing the tone, and the hardships of properly hacking off a head in a meth lab.
Before WolfCop you did 13 Eerie and some TV documentary work. How did you make the transition to such a no-holds barred type of film?
13 Eerie was my first film and it was a big break for me in a lot of ways. It was my first time ever directing something with a pretty healthy budget. Prior to that I was just doing my own short films for fun and I’d be lucky if I had a thousand bucks for those. 13 Eerie was a pretty big leap and gave me the taste for feature films.
It wasn’t my script at all, I just kind of lucked into being able to direct it. I learned a lot and I really enjoyed, but for my next film I definitely wanted to do something that I wrote, that’s more of my personality, which is a little but more messed up. WolfCop was just me trying to say, I want to write a feature film as well as direct and it was a tough road to get it made but we did it.
Were there any moments while you were writing or filming that you thought maybe you should pull back, that maybe you were going too off the rails?
Totally. That was a big struggle everyday. From prep to shooting and even when we were editing it, we were trying to find the tone. There were times on set where we’d shoot a scene and it felt too silly. So I’d say, okay do exactly what you just did, but do it as a drama. I think when the movie’s called WolfCop, you know, I didn’t want it to be just a two hour running joke with everyone winking at the camera. I didn’t want it to be Sharknado or even The Naked Gun level of humor. My goal was always a comic book movie, but I didn’t want it to be so funny you didn’t care about the characters.
I really love how some of the scenes are set during complete daylight. You don’t see that a lot in werewolf movies.
We got lucky I guess with the concept of the solar eclipse, so we got to see him in the daylight a bit more. But a big thing for me, is I love practical effects and I love the work that Emerson (Ziffle) did so it would be a shame to hide all that work under the cover of darkness. I mean sometimes it’s good for suspense but with these lower budget films it can also feel like you’re hiding something if you just shoot at night. I like the opportunity to show Lou in broad daylight, you know, in the middle of a convenience store. It’s something you’ve never seen so it’s absurd too, just seeing a werewolf walk into a store.
I really love convenience store scenes in general.
(laughs) I agree.
For the most part the film is all practical effects. What CGI did you have to use?
Our intention was to always try to go for practical first, but this was a very tight budget and a quick shoot. For example, the solar eclipse, we weren’t lucky enough to get B-roll of a real solar eclipse so we had to do that through CGI. There were some practical effects that didn’t turn out as perfectly as we wanted but we didn’t really have time to do multiple takes. It was like, okay we got our two takes of the guy’s head coming off, we’ll have to fix it in post.
Was there anything in the script that you had to take out because it wouldn’t work within the budget?
Definitely. The very first transformation scene in the bathroom was actually supposed to roll into a very big fight scene. It’s kind of impled, some guys walk into the bathroom and then it cuts to the moon. You kind of fill in the gaps. Originally I wanted to have a kick ass epic fight scene and we were going to build a completely fake bathroom and just destroy it. About two weeks before shoot we had the hard meeting, the budget meeting. Deb our production manager basically told me “You have three big fight scenes in your script, you can afford two, pick which one you want to lose.” Sadly that was the one. I’m going to try and hide those gags somewhere in a different movie.
That scene really works though, with the implied violence and the whole face off gag.
It was really the only scene that could be cut. There was no way I was cutting the barn scene.
I love the barn scene. The car is another one of my other favorite parts of the film. Just seeing a cop that’s a wolf drive a car is genius.
That was a lot of fun. The Wolf Cruiser, as we called it, was never even a guarantee. It was discussed but it wasn’t in the first few drafts of the script. J. Joly, one of our executive producers, was like “You gotta put that car in there.” It’s a good indicator I think to the world what the movie is in terms of tone, you know, for anybody who’s slightly confused. If you see a three minute scene of a wolf tricking out his car you have to accept that it’s a comedy at this point.
It was really fun. Justin Ludwig (production designer) designed a version of a cop car and we had fun with it. One of the coolest things is Leo Fafard was actually part of the team responsible for building the car. He was the one who welded the W on the hood. I was like, “You’re really earning your lead role here.”
How is WolfCop 2 coming along?
I’ve already written the first draft and we are slowly tooling away at getting the financing. I hope we can start shooting by summer.
So that’s definitely the next project for you?
100 percent. I’ve got some stuff that I want to do but it looks like WolfCop 2 jumped to the head of the line. It’s really hard making independent films so you jump anytime you think something has momentum.
Awesome, I can’t wait. Could you share any crazy stories from the set?
I think everyday was kind of crazy but one funny story that pops in my brain is when WolfCop knocks off the severed head in the meth lab and starts the fire, we thought that would be a really simple thing. But the way the head was built and the way the table was, it actually kept just bouncing off. So we had our whole crew at one point standing just off camera, taking turns whipping the head at this meth lab. That was a really weird afternoon.
WolfCop is now available on DVD/Blu-ray. Get the damn thing!