Since his directorial debut with DEADLY DETOUR in 2011, Mike O’Mahony has been an impressively prolific director. In fact, solely calling him a director is doing him a disservice, as O’Mahony regularly wears a variety of hats on his sets; from special effects, to writing, to editing, to composing. In 2012 he brought to life the memorably demented Sloppy in SLOPPY THE PSYCHOTIC CLOWN and showed audiences that he could embrace bad taste and ultraviolence with the best of them. Mike took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss his production company MANIAC FILMS, his influences, and living with the legacy of SLOPPY.
Sweetback (SB): Thanks so much for taking some time out to discuss SLOPPY THE PSYCHOTIC, Mike. Let’s start with digging into your background a bit. What made you originally want to direct films? And what were some of your formative influences growing up?
Mike O’Mahony (MO): I’m not really sure what exactly made me want to direct films. It seems I just woke up one day with the idea and chased it a bit. I always loved movies (especially horror) growing up. I guess years and years of watching them I eventually had to try to make one. I read a couple of how-to books and then got cracking on them.
Growing up I was all about the 80’s horror movies. Going to the video store and renting the grossest looking VHS they had. Movies like the THE TOXIC AVENGER, DRILLER KILLER, HOUSE BY THE EDGE OF THE PARK, etc.
SB: What’s the ethos behind MANIAC FILMS? Is the idea to continue to make high quality exploitation films on low-budgets?
MO: Yep, you pretty much hit the nail on the head there.
SB: You take an extremely active role in your films. In both DEADLY DETOUR and SLOPPY THE PSYCHOTIC you act, write, direct, produce and do special effects – among other things. Is that just the reality of working on a microbudget, or do you get a kick out of maintaining control over as much as possible?
MO: It’s a mixture of both. Besides acting, I enjoy doing all aspects of film work. Part of it is me wanting to do everything, and part is me being unable to find people to commit to my projects for the low pay that I can offer. I don’t think I’m a control freak or anything. I just enjoy most aspects of the film making process, so I do most of them.
SB: There have been a number of killer-clown movies in the past; with some being quite memorable. Where did the inspiration for SLOPPY come from, and was the plan always for you to take the lead?
MO: SLOPPY spawned from a phone conversation between me and Erich Ficke. He was trying to get me to make a story he had written and I was explaining that I didn’t like the idea and wanted to do something more sloppy. Then he added “and psychotic” sarcastically. From there it was just a snowball of ideas and we began writing it.
I didn’t want to be the title character, but was encouraged by Erich to do so. Ultimately I did it out of convenience. We had a crazy schedule and I figured I’d be there every day anyway so i did it. I don’t regret it, I enjoyed the challenge but it’s doubtful that I’ll cast myself in a large role again.
SB: The film gets extremely dark – particularly in its final 15 minutes. Was there any hesitation regarding getting children involved with the violence? What was the mood like on-set during the shooting of those scenes?
MO: No hesitation at all. We knew we that we wanted to be slightly more offensive and kill some kids so we went right for it. The mood was very light, though. The scene took two days to shoot and was incredibly lighthearted. The kids all seemed to enjoy themselves.I thought we were making something very over the top comical, but it is often interpreted as dark and mean, which is ok by me.
SB: Much of the film strikes a darkly comedic tone. Was it difficult to describe to cast and crew the sort of balance between horror and comedy you were trying to strike?
MO: I don’t think so. We’re a silly group of people making a movie with arguably dark subject matter so the blend came natural I think.
SB: What has the response been to SLOPPY since its release? Any angry phone calls from parents?
MO: It’s been mostly positive. Sloppy has a lot of die-hard fans. I have a large growing collection of clown pictures and statues that I have been receiving as gifts since making the movie. I have received some flack for the movie though, specifically the stuff involving the children and special needs people, but that was the point so I don’t mind it at all.
SB: You’ve been admirably prolific since the release of DEADLY DETOUR. What’s coming up next for yourself and MANIAC FILMS?
MO: Well since SLOPPY has come out we finished two other movies. I.B.S. which is a movie about a man with crippling irritable bowel syndrome that realizes murder cures his symptoms. That’ll be in stores this March. You can pre-order it now on Amazon. And after that we made A DARK PLACE INSIDE which is in the vein of MANIAC or HENRY. That’s premiering this February and will hopefully be in stores sometime this year. I got one more heading into pre production now but its too early to talk about it at the moment.
SB: For those who are looking to pick up a copy of SLOPPY THE PSYCHOTIC or your other work, what’s the best way to do so?
SB: Anything else to plug?
SB: Once you conquered your first feature you’ve been rather unstoppable – finishing project after project. What advice would you give to someone trying to direct their first feature?
MO: Make the movie, not excuses. Just shut up and do it! If you really want to, you’ll figure out how.
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