Adam Thorn marches to the beat of his own drummer. A lover of no-budget craziness, pro-wrestling and splatter, the director – to his credit – doesn’t let a lack of budget, resources or script get in the way of making a movie. PERSONAL SPACE INVADER exists from sheer force of will, and it says a lot about Thorn that he was able to conscript a group of folks to assist in his mad vision. As he prepares to piece together a sequel, Adam took some time to chat with Daily Grindhouse about crowdsourcing, dog-humping and Dr. Tug Milley.
Sweetback (SB): Talk about the original idea for PERSONAL SPACE INVADER. Where did the idea come from, and at what point did you decide you were going to follow-through and make the darn thing?
Adam Thorn (AT): Well the concept was solely made so that we COULD follow through with it. Justin and I had tried to make a movie a few times and could never get off the script floor. We knew our crazy ideas could never be done on our minimum wage job pay cheques. I started one but it fell apart. Justin, in fact, completed a pretty fun feature length that I helped with but it is forever stuck in re-cut limbo, never feeling just quite right I guess. So I told him we need to get one under our belt. I would come up with a super simplistic idea that we could shoot in 4 weekends. Paint by numbers cliche horror and comedy. In fact, I set the date of the screening the day we started filming. So really it was more of a test to say we could get something done and learn from it.
SB: How much of a script was there originally?
AT: 5 pages. My friends know I write and read at the speed of a senile snail. So as long as they got the concept with a beginning middle and end. All that was pretty much thrown out the window after day 1 of shooting. I know Justin and Bob [Bob Blashchuk, who starred as Sheriff Ralph Goodman] would take over their lines and make them their own anyways. I like to think of it as a Christopher Guest way of writing a script.
Yeah suuuure that is what I did… suuuuure.
SB: Was it difficult to get actors on-board with your idea? Obviously I recognize quite a few as friends of yours, but it was still quite a commitment on their part for an idea that must have sounded a bit.. bizarre on paper.
AT: Well those who know me knew there was no other way than bizarre. Before pitching this movie to friends I had come up with some other ideas which had such working titles as AWESOME SHARK VS SUPER NINJA and PUNCHING SASQUATCH OF DOOM. So they accept it. I put a few random requests on the internet for random girls to show up. I got a few responses, but since I was paying in booze, pizza and some random gifts I couldn’t force people to drop their pre-existing schedules just for me.
Bob still grumbles that we never got the semi-nude shower scene we wanted. A few girls were keen to the idea but it was “Ok, sure we can do that but later, let’s get together and do that later”. You know, like dating in high-school.
I will say though one girl showed up on day one who was a real treat. Sarah showed up answering a message I spread around Facebook. She had never met any of us before and met me in a 7-Eleven parking lot while I was dressed in the Monkey costume. We took her into the woods and she became the girl who gets her really fake arm torn off and shoved up her butt. She was lots of fun. She later that night had a blind date set up and told the date to meet her in the woods where we were filming. So I am not sure who is weirder, her or us.
SB: With credits and trailers, the film still barely squeaks past the hour mark. Did you always envision it as feature-length, or was that a minor concern compared to just getting it finished?
AT: Yeah perhaps that is my biggest regret. Anyone who films anything, you learn a day of shooting can sadly equal the smallest amount of actually usable film. At one point we decided “hey everyone loves fake trailers”. I filmed one at home with my girlfriend and Justin filmed one with his. When we showed each other our parts we were shocked. We both filmed black and white semi-silent trailers that end with everyone dancing. But at that time the clock was ticking. As I mentionedm I set a time period for us and the point was to keep it. So we threw in everything we had and said good enough. As I finish up writing a sorta real script for PERSONAL SPACE INVADER 2 Bob will forever remind me… longer this time longer.
I wanted a lot of SOV cliches, so scenes of people just talking about nothing and walking around looking for stuff with no real point are all in there. But I couldn’t stomach them being anymore than 30 seconds to a minute each.
SB: This sort of anarchic, surreal sort of comedy could really only – for better or for worse – be done as a microbudget production. What was it like screening it for an audience? Did they react as expected?
AT: Well like we said it’s short so if they don’t like it they don’t waste much of their life. We have done two screenings in two different locations, lots of people of whom I have no idea how they knew to be there.
It was nerve wracking, but clowns like Bob and I are used to being fools in public. I think Justin was the most nervous as he has real talent and he knew more than anyone that this was short-cutting and not as good as it could be.
Let me set the story better by saying right now that Justin is as much the director as I am. He brings actual skill where I bring madness and the mindset of bad movies to say “Don’t worry it’s a bad movie, it should look like that”. This nervous feeling is maybe the reason he wanted a fake name for acting and said since it was my idea I should be the solo director credit.
BUT, and may I say as big a butt as in the opening credits, the crowds loved it. Laughter way louder than I could have expected. People busting a gut over jokes that were merely inside jokes just for us as well. Hearing at one show, random shout outs like “If the Sheriff gets it I’m leaving!” “Oh that Cliff is a creepy bastard” and a wrestling chant of YES YES YES when a certain someone gets feces in the face. I could not have been happier, which is why I shall do some more free screenings just to hear strangers laughter.
After the first screening I saw the look of shock and confusion as well as happiness in Justin’s eye. The credits at the end of the film were done but I could change IMDB. Justin asked if I would put him in as an editor. I knew he was more proud now. So I also put him under assistant director even though he told me not to. A few stores carry the movie and shockingly copies sell. So I owe Justin some more beer and pizza, I guess, too.
SB: Both PERSONAL SPACE INVADER and the upcoming possible sequel relied on a certain amount of crowdfunding. How has your experience been with indiegogo so far, and is it something you’re planning on relying on for future projects?
AT: Well we have an Indiegogo for the sequel, but I wont rely on it. We don’t shoot till April (letting the snow melt a bit first) so we have time. Fundraising events and just me counting my nickels and dimes. My close friends were willing to help last time, because they sensed I was finally going to do something silly they could at least see. This time I don’t really want the same people helping as I owe them already.
But I am cheap, so I wont say no. I just won’t ask as much. The fundraiser can be as fun as the filming when you try and come up with creative ideas. I want PERSONAL SPACE INVADER 2 to be much bigger and, well, sorta better, but not too better.. if you know what I mean. Now that we have learned a bit I think we could make another 60 minute flick with no funding at all. Which we probably will do. But if PERSONAL SPACE INVADER 2 is less than an hour and thirty minutes Bob will beat on me. But when making a backyard movie we always say…. Sure we can make it cheap. For some number under 30000 dollars, give or take, of course.
SB: Any particularly memorable anecdotes from the PERSONAL SPACE INVADER set?
AT: We made a movie for several reasons, but one major one was to make commentary tracks. SO we made lots. The commentary track tells you lots of stories. One of my favourites is poor Sarah sitting in the woods as we start to film her. A dog runs out of the trees and jumps on top of her and humps her, and THEN another dog starts to hump that one. While still on Sarah. Poor girl.
Every time I tell that story about the dogs people look at me disgusted, so I just keep telling it. Someday Sarah may block me on Facebook for that.
Anyways these same two dogs then stole our container of soup-based fake blood for that scene. Spilling it in tall grass making it useless. “Make good tasting fake blood so the girls won’t mind as much having it on their faces”, I said. Bad idea.
Also when Bob has to eat a bunch of donuts in one scene he surprisingly had to go through an entire box. He got a huge sugar rush which led quickly to a huge crash making him so grumpy he was unwilling to film for the rest of the night. That is Bob in a nutshell. Hyper, Hyper, Hyper, Tired, “Leave me the fuck alone”. That is the kind of guy Bob is, which is why he was perfect for Ralph Goodman.
SB: What’s the latest update on PERSONAL SPACE INVADER 2? I noticed that the recent livestream fundraising effort wasn’t as successful as hoped.
AT: Yeah, that was a funny day. Some people were watching, but no real money. Howevern then friends came to us in person and gave money and partied up with us that same night, making the livesteam pointless but funny.
Like I mentioned, though, PERSONAL SPACE INVADER 2 will happen and with giving it a longer filming time – as in over the summer – we should be ready for screening before Halloween.
I choose that time only cause it’s approximately a year after PERSONAL SPACE INVADER 1. My only fear is giving myself this time may cause me to lose track or getting more crazy ideas in my head that will make me change things around too much. Bob and I are writing the sequel together and are really happy with what we have. Laughing out loud over the script so far. All I will tell you plot-wise which I know will stay in the script for sure is a killer clown, an old werewolf, a strange man who says he takes care of the place while the master is away, MUCH more Dr Tug Milley and maybe… just maybe a new PSI.
SB: Anything else to plug? Where can readers pick up a copy of PERSONAL SPACE INVADER, or keep up on the progress of the sequel?
AT: If you live in Toronto go to Eyesore Cinema or Suspect Video. They have copies, or at least know where to get them, for sure.
Also my blog/tumblr www.RIOTSHOUSE.com lets you know all the updates and photos and PERSONAL SPACE INVADER appearances as well as random naked photos of Bea Arthur.
SB: Finally, what advice would you have for those looking to tackle their first feature-length directorial project?
AT: Just do it and show it. Don’t hide it. Don’t do it to get signed or picked up for more work. Just do it so it can been seen for better OR for worse.
You could have the budget of a small country and end up in debt for life from making a stinker. Best to just do what you can and learn from it. B-movies are like porn. You push some limits of taste and faking everything you can. If you look like you’re having fun, though, others will have fun as well regardless of your limitations.
Hmmm maybe I should still make that kung-fu Bigfoot movie.
Lastly to the people out there.. Let me know if it took longer to read this interview than it did to watch my movie?
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