I thought it was about time to schedule an interview with Mark Colegrove, the talented director behind the cult favorite Isle of the Damned
(photo courtesy of Schroeder of Cult Movies Magazine)
JORGE: I see you started out as a production assistant on stuff like xXx:State of the Union and the hit television show American Idol. Could you tell us a little about that?
MARK: It was interesting to say the least... most of the production assistant work I did was for short little stints of one week or less. It was long hard hours, demoralizing, and humbling, but I did learn how to brew a great pot of coffee! On the other hand, it was good to see how the big boys run their show... on a major film there's roughly at least 30 people paid rediculous amounts of money to stand around and hold their dicks most of the day.
JORGE: You soon moved into the director's chair with Pleasures of the Damned (2005) and Isle of the Damned (2008). Both movies seem heavily influenced by Italian exploitation films and come accross as spoofs. You even decided on using a fictional crew. What was your vision regarding this unique approach?
MARK: Well in 2004 I got together with Mark Leake, who actually directed Pleasures, I was the DP and Editor on the first one, and then directed the second when Leake was called off to serve in Iraq. We're both big fans of Italian horror, and agreed that there's some things those films do well (cinematography, editing, music and lighting), but are usually terrible in terms of dialogue and storytelling. So we thought it would be fun to do an ultra-sleazy, dubbed and intentionally bad film, and we invented Antonello Giallo to typify the "worst" director of the era. He rips off other people's ideas, writes hammy dialogue, and doesn't care much for continuity or production values.
JORGE: Please tell us about the production of Pleasures of the Damned. I was unaware that Leake directed this one. Thanks for clearing that up.
MARK: No problem Jorge. Pleasures was shot in roughly a one year time frame, and quickly edited together in time for a Baltimore premiere in 2005. It was screened at a few venues in the US, and we sold a small number of DVDs at horror conventions. We recently re-visited it to create the "European Cut". It had been out of print for a few years, and we ultimately felt that the original version was just too slow, many sound elements needed to be cleaned up and mixed better, and a lot of the ideas we had originally didn't come across well with the first edit. So finally now we have a version of the film we can stand behind (somewhat) proudly.
All in all,it was a fun project. It was basically just a bunch of friends hanging out in the woods with a camcorder trying to make each other laugh. Having only made shorts before, we really learned a lot about how to make a full-length movie... as it turns out you actually have to keep the audience interested for awhile. Hopefully the newer cut does a better job of that! The Leake philosophy is that as long as there's some gore onscreen every 5 minutes or so, everybody's happy.
JORGE: That's a great philosophy! Please tell us about the production of Isle of the Damned.
MARK: Isle took much longer, about 3 years total, and we took elements that we felt worked in Pleasures, and scrapped the ones that didn't. There were many more people brought into the fold: Dave Kratz who's a much better DP than me... Shane Vannest and Ian Potter were taking on more over-the-top gore elements, and Paul Joyce stepped up to do an amazing score after Sean Tigert, who did sound design on the first one, was unable to do this film.
It was still a cheap film, everyone worked for free, donating their Sundays each week. We could only shoot during the summer, which is why it took 3 years. We spent around $10K total, straight out of mine and Leake's paycheck, with most of that going to the gore. I spent a lot more time editing. We were cutting it as we shot, and if we saw right away that something didn't work, we'd quickly reshoot it. For such trashy, low-budget, tomfoolery, we were pretty meticulous.
JORGE: You have made a handful of short films which are just as funny as your features. My personal favorite would be Dateline: To Catch a Pervert. How did that project come together? Which of your shorts are you most proud of?
MARK: Thanks! Shorts are fun... they are more instantly rewarding. We've been doing a lot more lately as part of a monthly "sketch" web series called Strictly Platonic, and I'm proudest of those (probably since they're the most recent, and we have some nicer toys to play with these days.)
The Dateline spoof came together as part of a contest at a local venue called The Creative Alliance. Filmmakers had one week to make a short, somehow incorporating footage from a random B-Movie, which we were given the night the contest started.
JORGE: Your films are ripe with schlock, sleaze, and gore; something that we love here at Strictly Splatter. I'm sure your aware, that even among horror fans, some can't handle certain extreme, graphic content. What type of reactions have your films garnered?
MARK: Yeah, I'd agree... and even as I'm getting older I find I gravitate less to the "shock" films that I sought out when I was younger. These days I'd be much more shocked to see an original and entertaining horror film rather than a series of gross-out gags loosly strung on a plot (although a good head-explosion every once in a while is never a bad thing). But given that Isle is a spoof of Cannibal Holocaust, one of the most notorious films of all time, it wouldn't have worked without the cheap shock elements.
We've had almost all postive praise from the niche genre critics, which was nice. But I'll be the first to admit that these films aren't for everyone... usually by the castration scene 13 minutes into Isle there's at least one or two walk-outs at the theatre.
JORGE: I just saw the trailer for Mutantis. It looks fucking awesome! Could you elaborate on that movie? When will it be available?
MARK: We're all excited to have Mutantis in stores (if DVD still exists) hopefully by Spring of 2012. There's still some shooting to happen this Summer, and all the post-production of course. The script is from Mark Leake as well, and it's being directed by Kelly Fitzgerald, who was Assistant Director on Isle. It's a throwback to the 70's guy-in-a-rubber-suit monster flicks by directors like Don Dohler and co. It's sort of a companion piece to our "Damned" movies, in that it'll prominantly feature bad ADR and cheesy wigs.
JORGE: What's the story on DireWit Films? How did that get started?
MARK: It all started in 2001 when my film group in college needed a name to tag onto a project, and it just sort of stuck. I purchased the website at the time, thinking it would be a good place to show short films by myself and other local filmmakers. That never really happened to the extent that I wanted it to, mostly due to laziness.
It took on new life as the business partnership between myself and Mark Leake, when we first released Pleasures of the Damned in 2005. With Isle in 2009 we began to get a grasp on self-distribution, and it is just now starting to grow into a small label, with a couple more releases planned later this year... including Mutantis of course.
JORGE: If you decide to stick with Italian exploitation what do you think about making a spoof on Gialli?
MARK: It'd be great to do a Giallo spoof... after all, Antonello Giallo is the father of the genre!
JORGE: Do you currently have any other features in mind? What can we expect in the future?
MARK: Currently, I've been devoting more work into the "Strictly Platonic" web shorts (funnyordie.com/strictlyplatonic). Mark Leake, on the other hand, is teaming up with our friends Jason Koch and Kaleigh Brown (two amazing filmmakers and special effects artists) to work on a more serious horror flick called The Seventh Day which we'll likely release via Dire Wit.
Eventually, at some point, we do plan on doing City of the Damned as the next Antonello Giallo film. It's set in the early eighties, and it's basically a spoof of Lamberto Bava's "Demons," with Jack Steele dropped in the thick of things, of course. We'll also have to do Planet of the Damned at some point as our post-apocalyptic Bronx Warriors type film.
JORGE: What would be three of your favorite genre films?
MARK: Braindead aka: Dead Alive is my all time favorite, and I would say Evil Dead 2 is up there as well... It's hard to pick just 3 of course, and I tend to go for the goofier Troma-type stuff, but The Exorcist would probably be a close third, just for scaring the crap out of me for years when I was little.
JORGE: What directors or movies have you drawn inspiration from?
MARK: It's hard to name just a few since I feel like there's something I can take from just about everything I see, but I'd say Peter Jackson, Lloyd Kaufman, and even George Lucas have all been very influential... they've all busted their asses to get where they are today as opposed to some USC whiz-kid whose uncle is head of a major studio that drops them in the directors chair of some crappy horror remake.
JORGE: At the end of the day, when your chillin' on the sofa, what would be your favorite alcoholic beverage?
MARK: Last night I had 2 great local Baltimore beers... Resurrection, which is made by a local brewery called the Brewer's Art, and Loose Cannon, made by Heavy Seas. Both of those rock... for the last few years or so I've been going through my "hoppy" beers faze.
JORGE: Thank you for sitting down with us here at Strictly Splatter. Good luck with your future projects!
MARK: Thanks Jorge.
Interview conducted by:
-Jorge Antonio Lopez