Regular SGM readers may recall that, a while back, we reviewed a short film called LEON'S BROKEN MIND. The writer-director of that rather demented movie was Bazz Hancher, got back in touch with SGM recently with an offer of three newer films of his for us to take a look at. Our indie film guru Stuart Willis didnít need asked twice to not only check out the latest shorts but grab Bazz for a chat about his workÖ
Stu: First off, thanks also for providing three of your latest films - "Bonjour Monsieur Trepas", "The Rogue Filmmaker" and "Darkest Secrets" - for review. You suggested that they be watched in chronological order (which they were), which suggests you're very aware of your constant development as a filmmaker?
Bazz: I suppose subconsciously you are probably right. As I have approached every new project, I would like to think that we have improved as filmmakers. However, itís not really up to me to sayÖ
Stu: In "Trepas", you appear to be having a swipe at the apathy of suburban life; the "blind 'me' generation" as Jello Biafra once put it, who don't notice what's under their nose (or care about it) so long as they're unaffected?
Bazz: Stu, I think that you may have given me more credit than I deserve. "Trepas" came about after a practical joke I played on the other producers of the film. We did not really know each other that well at the time, so to break the ice, we all put forward our 5 favourite films for a blog. My choice of films were the least highbrow, so I decided to invent a story about a rare, long lost film, which happened to be called "Trepas". To add further authenticity to my little scam, I concocted a little plot for the film and used an anagram of my name for the director. Michael, spent hours searching the internet for this non-existent film. By the time I let everybody in on the joke, we all thought that the plot was good enough to make into a real film.
Stu: There's a lot of irreverent humour in your work, which is very British in itself. What are your reference points in this regard?
Bazz: I really donít have many reference points. It helps that I have a dark sense of humour and find inspiration from the likes of Frankie Boyle, League of Gentlemen, The Simpsons etc.
Stu: Your IMDb profile describes you as a "self-taught guerrilla filmmaker". What are the most important things you've taught yourself 'on the job'? Is proper schooling necessary, do you think?
Bazz: The most important thing I have learnt when teaching myself the ins and outs of filmmaking is that I should listen to the people who work with me. There is lots that can be learnt from actors, camera operators, soundmen, make-up artists etc. It is always good to understand how they work and apply it to what you do. The basics of filmmaking are nearly always the same and it helps to learn the tricks of the trade. You should never think that you are above this. Always try to learn from your mistakes and rectify them at the first opportunity. Most importantly, I think that you should always treat people with respect and they will help you on your quest to becoming a better filmmaker.
Even though I had no formal education, I have managed to grasp the basic concepts in film production. My advice to anybody that has an ambition to make films is that they should just go out and do it. Then try to get involved with any local indie film productions if you can. This will be a great opportunity to watch, listen, ask and learn! Or just pick up a camera and have a go.
Stu: I like that the mockumentary "The Rogue Filmmaker" employs real-life friends and colleagues to discuss this mythical persona you create for yourself. Your brother Ross, in particular, seems very at ease in front of the camera and is very convincing as a result. Is it easier to direct those closest to you?
Bazz: I think that it is definitely easier to direct those who are closest to you. Ross was to me what Bruce Campbell was to Sam Rami. I also owe a lot to Richard Robotham. When working on "Leonís Broken Mind", even though I had not worked with Richard before; he pushed himself in ways that not many actors would have done, especially for a zero budget film of this nature. My ethos is always to look after the people who look after you.
Stu: The final scene in "The Rogue Filmmaker", that reveal when the camera pulls back and you leave your seat, to me echoed the end of Jodorowsky's "The Holy Mountain". Was this intentional?
Bazz: The short answer is no. Unfortunately I have not yet had the pleasure of watching this film yet.
Stu: "Darkest Secrets" has a more serious tone to your other works, and marks somewhat of a departure in theme by going down a 'gangster thriller' route. What prompted the change of pace and style?
Bazz: I took a change of direction with "Darkest Secrets" because we wanted to do a film which was carried by its dialog rather than my normal gore fest. There was also an awareness that in order to gain greater exposure, we needed to make different genres of film to open up ourselves to more mainstream audiences. Which I hope this film has done.
Stu: You've said you're not entirely happy with "Darkest Secrets" (though it's extremely good) - why is that?
Bazz: The reason for not liking "Darkest Secrets" is because ITíS NOT HORROR. With horror fans, I know that if there is loads of gore, most fans will be forgiving even if the story is not that great. Despite my reservations with the direction we took with this film, I am still proud of what we managed to achieve with a minimal budget.
Stu: The casts in your films tend to be older people, as opposed to the teen brigade that usually populate aspiring filmmakers' efforts these days. I like this personally, as older performers tend to lend gravitas to our kind of fare. Is it a conscious effort on your part to put a more mature cast in place?
Bazz: We do have an idea for the age ranges at script stage and try to keep that as close as we can when it comes to casting. I prefer to work with older cast. In my earlier films I just got anyone who was willing to be in my film and made it up as I went along. Who am I kidding? I still do thisÖ
Stu: Looking at your earlier works, I need to talk to you about "Leon's Broken Mind". That is one fucked up film ... in the best possible sense. Where did that all stem from?
Bazz: "Leonís Broken Mind" was created as a tongue-in-cheek slant on the video nasties of the 1980s. The idea was born out of two bleak films that I really love, William Lustigís "Maniac" and Buddy Giovinazzoís "Combat Shock". These were two films with no happy endings and I really liked this idea. We wanted to shock people with non-stop scenes of gore. Nearly all the reviewers that we sent a copy of this film to universally hated it. One critic said that he did not watch the entire film as his DVD player vomited out the disc! We could not have written a better review ourselves. Leonís Broken Mind was never meant to be watched as a documentary. In its defence, I would say that the real atrocities of the world are what happens in everyday life and not what you see in a horror film. When all is said and done, you can turn off a film knowing it is make believe, but real life has no "off" button!
Stu: Is it right that you're looking into giving "Leon's Broken Mind" a DVD release?
Bazz: We would love to get a commercial release of "Leonís Broken Mind" along with "Trepas", "Darkest Secrets" and "The Rogue Filmmaker". However, due to the content of "Leonís Broken Mind", I think this will be hard to achieve. I will do my best, but it may have to be a self-distribution.
Stu: "Joey's Garage" could be perceived as torture porn, a term that even hardcore horror fans have started to butt against. Can you elaborate a little on the film, its themes and content?
Bazz: Whilst I think "Joeyís Garage" is certainly a torture film, there are no porn elements to it. For me it is a horror revenge tale about a man who is abused by his family and takes his vengeance many years later. It is true that the idea of this film has been done to the death but horror fans like that model. I have fond memories of "Joeyís Garage" as this was my first solo film. It is my plan to remake this into a feature length Giallo style movie in the future.
Stu: Can you tell us a little more about the films we've not yet mentioned: "The Lemon Rose", the music video you directed etc?
Bazz: The music video was for a thrash metal band called Beyond Redemption, who have since split up. To be honest, I did not think that the video was that good. The Band were talented, even though they had problems miming to their own backing track for the video. As for "The Lemon Rose", it is a great example on how not to make a horror film. I think you could give a limbless monkey a camera and it could do a better job. In fact itís that bad, the horror cult classic "Blood Freak" is miles better than this shite! I donít know how it got onto the IMDB.
Stu: The FX in your films are effective considering the low budgets you're presumably working with. Who's responsible for them, and can you give a little insight into achieving such splatter highlights on a tight budget?
Bazz: The reason we can do the FXs within a small budget is due to the work of professional make-up artist Max Van De Banks. He worked with us on "Trepas" and "Darkest Secrets". Max has been great with us and always willing to advise on achieving the FX on a shoestring budget. Like I said earlier, you need to learn from these guys and take on board what they say. I really hope one day I can repay Max for all his help, not only is he a top FX Artist, he is a top guy.
Stu: We've interviewed people making films independently within the UK genre scene - Shane Mather, Jason Impey etc - and they all tend to agree that it's a dire field in which to get recognition, promotion, distribution etc. Have you encountered any of this?
Bazz: I sent Jason Impey a copy of "Leonís Broken Mind" and I think he liked it. David V G Davis also liked the film. Iíve seen their work and am really impressed with what they are doing. I agree with these guys all the way. The easy part is making the film. From then on it is finding festivals and venues willing to show the film. Some festivals are run by what I would call cultural snobs, who like to stick with the same darlings of the indie film world. It is hard to get any promotion, distribution or recognition for what you are doing from within the inner circles. In the end you have no choice but to do it all yourself. Maybe the way forward for us indie filmmakers working on micro-budgets, would be to form a co-operative to distribute and promote our films under one banner.
Stu: Have you submitted any of your films to horror festivals? If so, how's that turned out?
Bazz: We have sent "Trepas" and "Darkest" secrets to the Gloucester showcase and they will be shown on 1st June 2013. We are waiting to hear from other festivals. I sent Leonís broken mind to Dead by Dawn and Fright Fest, but I think the screener discís ended up as coasters.
Stu: I suppose with social media being the way it is these days, the avenues are there to self-promote like never before. Do you use the likes of Facebook, Twitter etc much to get word of your films across?
Bazz: We do use social media - we currently have a YouTube channel, Facebook, Twitter and a blog. Unfortunately time is at a premium when you make films so the social media side gets left behind a little.
Stu: Obvious question, I know, but who are your influences when it comes to filmmaking?
Bazz: Directors who inspire me include Lucio Fulci, Buddy G and many others from the horror genre. I love Dario Argentoís "Suspiria", which is one of the best shot films Iíve ever seen from this period. I also like Joseph Ellisonís "Donít Go in the House". The lowbrow in me has a soft spot for any trashy movie that were released on the now defunct Vipco label. I am huge fan of Christmas and Halloween movies such as "Christmas Horror", "Silent Night, Deadly Night" and "Christmas Evil". Special mention must also go to Peter Sticklandís "Berberian Sound Studio", which I thought was not only an outstandingly shot movie of recent times, but also reminds me one of the most exciting periods in Italian filmmaking. Michael introduced me to this film because of his love of sound. Iím glad he did.
Stu: I know you're a family man with a paying job, and the films are essentially a side-line at the moment. However, you've been impressively prolific over the last decade or so. Where do you find the time and resources?
Bazz: Filmmaking is a hobby to me. I do sometimes get earache from my wife and children, but in general my family tolerate my filmmaking obsession. Finding money to make films is always a struggle. We usually manage to pull it off by shooting a little at a time over longer periods of the year. Iím lucky because Michael Walcott, my partner in White Raven Films, is a fantastic guy and extremely knowledgeable on the technical side of things, especially when it comes to sound. Without Michael I could not be doing this. His role in White Raven Films is every bit as important as mine. As we own all the gear we need to make our films, it means that we can be truly independent and self-sufficient.
Stu: Any plans to write and direct a feature-length film? If so, are you prepared to give away any details?
Bazz: I would like to direct two feature films: one will be the remake of "Joeys Garage" and the other will be called "A Gift from War". The latter one will be in the style of Steven Kingís "The Dead Zone". It will be based on one of my short stories and I will be working on a screen play with David Stokes, a fellow producer from "Darkest Secrets" and "Bonjour Monsieur Trepas".
Stu: Finally, if we people want to get hold of your films, how do they go about it?
Bazz: If people want to get hold of our stuff just drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org Stu: Cheers Bazz, best of luck with your production company White Raven Films. We look forward to seeing more of your films in the future.
Bazz: Thanks Stu, the pleasure has been all mine. Thanks to all you guys for supporting us over the years. Iím sure I speak for all the raw indie filmmakers when saying this.
Special thanks to Bazz Hancher and White Raven Films.