by Stu Willis
Contrary to what mainstream British film press would have you believe, there is indeed still a very much active exploitation/horror independent film scene here in the UK. Battling against the odds of little or no financial support some aspiring Brit Franco's and Romero's are keeping themselves busy with their own salacious cottage industry of cinematic perversion as SGM's very own indie film connoisseur Stu Willis found as he delved into the world of filmmaker Jason Impey in our exclusive spotlight interview.
Q: Is it right your filmmaking began with 2006's "Murder at the Cafe Resistance"? Can you tell us a little about that film, your experience working as a cinematographer on it, and how that influenced your own career?
Hi. My filmmaking started back when I was 10 years old and made a 10 minute short called Split Second, then at 12 I made an environmental documentary. I continued to make a lot of films until I went to College at 16 to do filmmaking, but a lot of those films remain incomplete, or tapes have been lost. At college I made a lot of student films, and this is were my style and genre love began to seep through. Once I left college at 19 I made my first true independent short horror film called Obsession, which has a great cannibal scene - I have always loved the Italian cannibal films, especially Cannibal Holocaust, Ferox, and of course Apocalypse. I met Tim Cowles who directed Murder at the Cafe Resistance shortly after making Obsession, which I screened to him. He was impressed at my love for filmmaking and the fact I would fight to get a film made! He hired me as his Director of Photography for all the Murder Mystery DVD games he makes, which I still film occasionally to this day. Murder at the Cafe Resistance was very fun to work on, and I had the chance to play around with a lot of interesting camera angels, and dolly work, I love to always put a new twist on camera work. I met Helena Martin on that shoot who starred as the French maid, who became one of my stars in my hard hitting short film Revenge of the Dead, and one of my snuff victims in Home Made 2, so that was a great shoot for meeting a wonderful actress. And Tim Cowles has stood by me and helped behind the scenes with my filmmaking career. Any film shoot inspires me to make more films.
Q: Your name is perhaps best known for the film "Sick Bastard", which surfaced on DVD in America. I haven't seen this particular film and it's not easy finding information about it. Can you fill us in about the film's production and influences?
Sick Bastard is my first true feature film Shot in the beginning of 2006. It is kind of the English version of Andreas Schnaas's Violent Shit. It is a slasher about a madman who escapes prison and goes on a killing rampage through the woods with a detective hot on his trail. The madman also has to fight his zombie father who returns from the dead. I shot this film on SVHS instead of digital to give it a 70's/80's retro look. I spent 3 months making this film, and gained distribution through Maxim Media International who released it on the 2 disc Sinister Souls boxset. Making this film was a real experience in learning how challenging making a feature film is, and plus I got to play around with lots of gore effects! It was great fun, but at the same time difficult, but I have had a lot worst shoots since! This was just the beginning, and preparation for the films I really wanted to make. I set out to make a feature to get my work out their, and make a very gory film, I did succeed, but I wanted more gore, so I used Sick Bastard as testing ground and created my style of filmmaking from it. It was an extremely tight budget of just £200, and I managed to get sex, gore, and crazy situations, so overall I am very proud of this film, and it has done very well.
Q: In "Home Made 2" (which sounds like a rerun of "Sick Bastard"?), you play the killer. You appear to be comfortable in front of the camera. Do you have any background in dramatics?
I used to be very shy when I was younger, and find acting quite hard, and have a lot of respect for actors and actresses, as I think it takes a lot of guts to perform in front of a crew in front of camera. I myself ended up acting to make up numbers when I started out, as we had trouble finding actors, since I first appeared in some short films I gained a small following, and know I appear in a lot of other filmmaker's short films and features, usually doing crazy cameo's and co-starring roles of mad characters, most people don't want to play! I do now enjoy playing mad characters and have great fun acting in fellow filmmakers films.
Q: I felt that "Home Made 2" owed a lot thematically (and visually) to films like "August Underground" and "Amateur Porn Star Killer". Was this a happy co-incidence on your part?
I used Home Made as a test for a Dogme 95 style film. I was influenced by Lars von Trier's The Idiots, and a German film called Suicide that Vipco released. I used the Dogme 95 style of filmmaking to make a gritty snuff film, which was cheap to make, and is a typical horror thing to do - a cheap and cheerful sequel to follow the success of the original I made which was a epic to shoot in the summer of 2006, which is now available to buy on the Brain Damage DVD label. The challenge for this film was to think of different ways to kill people with out cutting the camera to give the true shocking snuff experience, so not much room for special effects!
Q: How do you finance your films?
I self fund my movies, but have managed to gain some private investment. I am constantly looking for funding, but it is a tough game!
Q: On average, what would you say the cost of your films is? I appreciate some - "Demon Scroll" for example, perhaps - are likely to cost more.
They range from some of my early shorts cost only £10 - to my new epic Tortured AKA Sex Slave that cost around £3000, each film I do now is costing more and more! Getting more ambitious.
Q: "Demon Scroll" is clearly influenced by video games. Are you a big fan of them? Were there any particular titles the film owes itself to?
I used to love shoot them up games, especially Duke Nuke'em and Doom. I was a huge fan of House of the Dead as well. A big influence for Demon Scroll was the classic movie Demons, which I am a huge fan of, actually have the T-Shirt on of that film at the moment! They don't make films like that any more!
Q: "Demon Scroll" felt very much like the beginning of a unrealised feature project. Is this the case? If so, do you plan to complete it?
It is a film I would be happy to turn into a feature with Kemal Yildirim, it would be good to secure some money as I think there may be a lot of effects involved in that one!
Q: Another big influence appears to be zombie films ("Revenge of the Dead", "Tortured"). Who's your favourite zombie director? What's your favourite zombie film?
I am a massive fan of the 70's and 80's Italian cannibal and zombie movies. My favourite zombie director is Lucio Fulci, and my favourite zombie film is Zombie Flesh Eaters, left a great impact on me when I saw at 14 years old. Also love Fulci's The Beyond and House by the Cemetery.
Q: It seems to me you're attempting to make a film in each different horror sub-genre ("Home Made 2" - faux snuff, "Revenge of the Dead" - zombies, "Tortured" - rape/revenge, "Demon Scroll" - sci-fi horror, "Cut & Paste" - post-modern horror etc)? Is this a conscious effort?
Actually it is. Each feature I make is in the vain of a horror sub genre I love, which is all of them! I try to cross sub genres sometimes and take all the stuff I like from movies and mix them into one crazy one.
Q: "Tortured" opens with a "Grindhouse"-style trailer for a film called "Women Prisoners of SS Camp From Hell". Later in the main film, the two lead characters - Quaid and Kurk - enjoy some Tarantinoesque expletive-heavy banter with each other. Is it true to say you're a Tarantino fan?
I am a huge Tarantino fan and have the Grindhouse Poster above my edit suite. I love what him and Rodriguez did with the film and respect them as filmmakers. Tarantino is a very influential filmmaker, who really pays respect to the style and films that I love, he is a true exploitation fan at heart.
Q: Speaking of "Women Prisoners ...", do you intend to make this?
I would love to, and am attempting to - that is an exclusive for you! I am trying to get this one off the ground and plan to have this into a feature soon - watch this space.
Q: You're obviously a huge fan of horror and exploitation films. What's your personal view on the whole "violence in films is harming society" argument?
I think that is a load of crap. I have watched exploitation films from when I was a kid, seen nearly all 39 DPP listed films, most of the nasties and all the new stuff, but I have never gone mad and killed anyone. The BBFC make life hard for filmmakers, and if you commit a crime because you watched a film you must be a bit nuts in the first place to think about doing it and actually doing it! I'm all for protecting children from violence in the media, but when your an adult your old enough to make your own mind up - ain't we suppose to be living in a free country!? Worst things happen everyday in the world than in films - world war's, child abduction, paedophilia, America don't ban things like England does, but yet crime is not out of control out there. It is only a movie, a form of escapism. Politicians spoil all the fun!
Q: What's the most elaborate effect you've ever shot? Or, in other words, the biggest headache?
That is a tough one, but I think the most challenging effect I have ever shot is the body being ripped apart and entrails eaten at the end of Revenge of the Dead. We used real pig entrails, and Saima Yildirim mad a fake body using good old latex, the smell was bad, it was quite disgusting to set up, and the actor Nick Stoppani was sick on set!
Q: Kemal Yildirim is obviously an important part of your films. Can you offer a few words on your working relationship with him?
Kemal Yildirim is a great Director of Photography I met in the beginning of 2007, when I had just finished making Home Made 2. He responded to publicity I was doing for Sick Bastard, he lived local to me and he too had made a tight budget feature film he was trying to get out there. We met up and discussed the films we loved and all about filmmaking. We discovered we loved the same film, styles, and directors, we hit it off and collaborated on many great films. The first time working with Kemal was on Revenge of the Dead, where he was my Director of Photography, who loved the fact I chose to film on Super 8 as I love using proper film, but it is very expensive! Since then we have been cinematographer's on each other's films, acted in each other's films, and came together to co - direct/produce/write/film & edit Demon Scroll. Kemal also supported me a great deal while making Tortured, and he came on board as a producer who helped me get the most challenging film I have ever shot made.
Q: It appears your earlier films comprise of friends, then your later films - while still featuring many of this core cast - feature fresh faces. How are they introduced to your films?
I have had a nice healthy response from actors and actresses replying to adverts for being in independent horror films. It has become easier to find cast now I have made a few films as word of mouth gets out there, and people see your work and want to get involved.
Q: How did you meet Michelle Young? Since "Naked Nazi", she seems to be a regular in your films.
When I wrote Tortured me and Kemal released that it would be very hard to find an actress to do such an explicit rape scene. So Kemal used some contacts of his and managed to get a few porn stars to audition for the part of Carmel. Michelle was the girl we chose and so the crazy producer I am exploited the fact I had a porn star working on my film and used her to get as much trash content for exploitation films as I could, I would not of wanted to have missed that opportunity!
Q: Michelle is obviously open to film rather explicit scenes of masturbation and nudity. How comfortable are you while filming these scenes? Is it a "closed set" situation?
We do have a closed set for such scenes, I myself am comfortable with such scenes as I know what the audience wants from certain films as I am a fan boy myself, I love Jess Franco movies, so you can tell I don't mind a bit of nudity in a film.
Q: Would you consider the leap to full-on hardcore porn?
I would not say no to making one or two porn films, but want to keep making exploitation films, but would never turn down a big budgeted horror film - such as Hostel etc.
Q: What's next? You appear to have been very busy in building your profile over the last year or two.
I want to make my Nazi sexploitation film - Woman Prisoners of SS Camp From Hell as this is one of my favorite sub genres, and me and Kemal Yildirim are working on the Seven Deadly Sins project - an hour film on each deadly sin, 3 directed by me - 3 directed by Kemal - and one we are co-directing.
Special thanks to Jason Impey - for more details of Jason's work check out his official site here.