DAILY GRINDHOUSE: What’s the first movie that changed your life?
ALAN ROWE KELLY: I have three- ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN, THE WIZARD OF OZ and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. I saw A&CMF on my folks B&W television when I was only 4 years old. I remember it vividly. The film had it all – monsters, atmosphere, gorgeous women & tons of laughs. I think it was my folk’s way of testing my endurance for horror entertainment. If I woke up screaming in my sleep, I wouldn’t be allowed to watch them anymore. So I played it smart and stuffed my pillow in my mouth…lol! I also THE WIZARD OF OZ saw at the same time and it certainly speaks for itself – brilliant color, good vs. evil, beauty, frights and fantasy – all in one! It really brings out the inner child and makes you believe in things that seem virtually impossible. And then THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE made final my decision to become a filmmaker and an actor when I grew up – I was in 7th grade when it was released in 1972 and I stayed in the theater that opening Saturday for almost 10 screenings. I even made an 8MM film about it that summer. But I must also mention another VERY huge influence, and that was Dan Curtis’ soap opera DARK SHADOWS. Everyday for 5 years I rushed home after school for those 4:30 showings before dinner! I was in heaven and it was a great escape for me.
What’s your take on mainstream horror today?
I’m not the hugest fan of mainstream horror because I feel it is usually made by people/studios who despise the genre, feel it an easy way to get a foot in the door and make a fast buck with a two-week release. I always despised the advice of some directors who say ‘make a horror movie first and then move on to what you REALLY want to do’. I don’t know who ever started that stupid train of thought in the first place and I always took that comment as a bit of an insult. It’s not easy to make a good horror film- we all know that. And you can tell the difference between a film with heart and soul and a film that is there only to push someone’s burgeoning career. Frank Darabont always gives me great hope that the ‘system’ will someday return to great horror/suspense films and make it an art form once again. And its great seeing a demand for more independently styled horror films making it into theaters and past the studio gates…there is hope!
And indie horror?
After being around the circuit for 13 years I find the indie horror scene has definitely changed. That grass roots attitude for horror cinema has continued to grow and filmmakers are much more educated and savvy in marketing and distributing their films. Indie horror is not just a fad that appears every 10 years, its here to stay. But with that advancement comes a downside that has become widespread with it’s own lot of ridiculous ‘me first’ egos and ‘reality’ types more concerned with getting their names on every horror zine and social network. EVERYONE is a director, a filmmaker or a producer! Plus the abundant amount of horror blogs written by illiterate people who cannot spell or conjugate a sentence is way out of hand. Since when does some idiot creating a review blog from mom’s basement actually have a say if your film gets released or not? Sad as it sounds, its true! Seems as if nobody is willing to start at the bottom and work their way up. And many take credit for work they never did. I guess it’s just the natural progression of business and the Internet melding together. I’ve come to notice it more recently. So I’ll stick to creating and making films and leave that excess drama to the pros…lol! The Internet can be the very best marketing and selling tool for an independent filmmaker…but if you’re not careful, it can quickly become the ‘Housewives of Indie Cinema.’
What are some names in both fields you follow closely?
I always follow independent filmmakers such as Anthony Sumner, Bart Mastronardi, Mel House, Eric Stanze, Dante Tomaselli, Brian Weaver, Billy Clift, Richard Marr-Griffin, Mike Watt and quite a few others. I’ve climbed the trenches alongside many of these directors this past decade and they continue to create and inspire with their films. Though I don’t know many of these talented folk personally, I feel safe in saying that we probably share the same notion that once filmmaking is your life…that’s it and there really is nothing else. Why else would they still be around if not for their hard work and extreme passion? I also follow J.J. Abrahms, Frank Darabont, George Romero, Tobe Hooper and occasionally Sam Raimi. My favorite old school genre directors are Curtis Harrington, Roger Corman, John Lewellyn Moxey & Alfred Hitchcock.
What’s the last great movie you saw at the theater?
THE MIST…how sad is that? Wasn’t that over 3 years ago?? Lol! I don’t go to the theater often because I receive screeners from a lot of people and always have a stack of movies to watch at home. But I do get to see a lot of new releases at horror conventions. I am looking forward to this new possession film THE DEVIL INSIDE – looks very cool from the trailers.
Working within a small budget, how often are sacrifices necessary to get the ideas in your head onto the screen? Do you see this as a detriment to the final film, or more a test of your creative mettle?
I see it more as a test of creative fortitude than a detriment. Sacrifices don’t have to be made if you do your homework and prepare ahead of time. I still feel that with enough artistic ingenuity and a great cameraman you can achieve exactly what you set out to do. Having an Art Director’s background has enabled me to design and construct sets and landscapes out of practically nothing. I think it’s very similar to stage design, where mostly everything is backdrops, flats and painted items. If it is all lit correctly and set back just enough to give an impression of reality – or surrealism – then mission accomplished and no one knows the difference. You have to trick the eye into believing what it’s seeing and fill that frame. You need a lot of tenacity and patience to work within small budgets and make sure every dollar is spent in the right place. If you can do this on a small scale, you can expand your vision even more each time your budget increases. I find it irritating hearing whiny filmmakers bitch and moan about ‘only’ getting $100,000.00 for a budget and NOT being able to make a film at all…’DUH’ is all I have to say to that. I don’t deny anyone their dream of having unlimited resources to make films. Hell, I’d like that too! But ‘in the meantime’, work within your present confines and strive to produce something great. It never stopped Roger Corman, Curtis Harrington, Francis Ford Coppola or Ida Lupino from creating awesome works that are still being viewed today.
Financial restraints aside, there’s a lot of freedom associated with making your own movies. Any apprehension about possibly signing a deal with a major studio, no longer calling all the shots, and losing a good deal of your creative license? Would you be worried about “selling out?”
No! I would handle it strictly as a ‘business’ deal. Go and get paid to do what I am hired for – then take the money and run! lol! (And I seriously doubt Hollywood will be knocking on my door anytime soon…lol!) But if a decent paying Hollywood gig came through – I would take it because it would get me out of debt and pay for my next feature. And it would be done my way. I’ve learned to separate art and commerce…lol! As an actor, I’ve been in a lot of movies that I thought were going to be great while filming them, only to see the end result a year later and think, “That’s not the same film I remember filming!” or simply ”WTF happened?”
So I’m used to the disappointment of seeing decent work trashed by folks who haven’t a clue what they’re doing. You just have to say “OK, what’s next?” and move on. I just recently read a great article on filmmaker Edward Burns, who took on Hollywood with his underdog hit The Brothers McMullen, and was literally thrown away because he could not (or would not) fit into the Hollywood mold afterwards. So instead of licking his wounds and going on to something different, he has continued working with smaller budgets and taking on the new medias available to us to make the films he wants on his own terms and get them out there. I admire that!
Tell us a little about TALES OF POE and GALLERY OF FEAR. Is the latter an anthology in the vein of CREEPSHOW?
I think GALLERY OF FEAR is styled more like the old Hammer and Amicus anthologies. And after 4 years of very hard work, GALLERY is finally ready to go. It could have been done much sooner, but many projects came up in between each of the 4 segments and I couldn’t say no. The nice part was that I was able to take my time and produce each piece like a mini feature – there was no rush. I hope viewers will love and enjoy it as much as we did creating it. It’s a lot of fun and has something for everyone in it; Terror, murder, mystery, suspense, gore, monsters, beautiful sound design, music and cinematography, and great actors like Debbie Rochon, Jerry Murdock, Raine Brown, Katherine O’Sullivan, Benzy, Don Money, Terry West, Mike Lane, Zoë Daelman Chlanda, and oh yeah, I got to be in it too!
TALES OF POE is the brainchild of my film partner Bart Mastronardi, whose film VINDICATION received raved reviews a few years back and a very huge push by none other than Clive Barker. Bart wanted his follow up film to be something totally different and decided on updating the classics of Edgar Allan Poe. TALES OF POE has three tales; THE TELL TALE HEART, THE CASK and DREAMS. Plus we assembled a fantastic cast with Debbie Rochon, Lesleh Donaldson, Randy Jones, Brewster McCall, Desiree Gould, Jerry Murdock, Zoë Daelman Chlanda, Amy Lynn Best, Douglas Rowan, Bette Cassatt, Caroline Williams, Amy Steel and Adrienne King. I co-produced the entire film with Bart and also got to write, direct and star in my version of THE CASK (based on Cask of Amontillado), playing opposite Randy Jones in a love triangle turned deadly. Bart’s TELL TALE HEART has already won many awards at film festivals, so it’s been very encouraging.
In many roles, you portray a woman. Is this a reflection of your life outside of film, maybe a wink at your audience, or simply wild coincidence? Also, are you at all influenced by men who did something similar – an obvious example being the John Waters’ staple, Divine?
I think it’s a bit of all three; A reflection of myself, a wink to the audience, and a wild coincidence since even though I am male – many still regard me as female when it comes to acting. And I’ll be honest – as long as they’re thinking about me AT ALL, I’m cool with what anyone thinks.
I’ve said it a 100 x’s before, I’ll play anything from a truck driver to a showgirl if the part is that well written. I love being a character actor, a lead and a femme fatale. It’s never the same and that makes it exciting for me. I’ve never been influenced by Divine (though I love her!), but many think so because I put on 60 lbs to play Beefteena Bullion in THE BLOOD SHED and they can’t associate with anything else. And that’s totally cool too! Viewers can think whatever they want as long as they buy the film. Personally, I was always influenced at a young age by the ‘Grande Dames’ of macabre cinema such as Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Ava Gardner, Shelley Winters, Grayson Hall and Ruth Roman. I think that’s where most of my acting style and look comes from. I’m a bit of throwback and not very modern or trendy in that sense.
Looking over your filmography, I see quite a few actors you collaborate with on a regular basis – including a few names our readers already hold near and dear. Could you tell us a little about your work with Debbie Rochon and Caroline Williams? Also, what other Rowe regulars should our readers watch out for?
Working alongside Debbie Rochon these past years has been a truly rewarding experience. We’ve already worked on 5 films together and we have more coming up in 2012. It always feels like home when Debbie is on set. She’s a total professional, very funny, and has a huge heart.
And Caroline Williams – What a lovely gal! We met four years back in Chicago at a Fangoria Convention and became instant friends. We will finally get to work together this year on TALES OF POE. Caroline and I were originally slated to work on the DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT! remake that Anthony Sumner and I were producing. Unfortunately that had to be put away due to some very unethical practices of an indie producer, which also lead to the loss of our budget. But that’s a whole other story for another time! It seems like every attempt at remaking this film has been cursed in way or another. The one thing I will say about Ms. Williams is that she is a true keeper of the flame. No matter what the cost to her. She involves herself, defends others and upholds what’s right in this crazy business.
As for the rest of the wonderful actors I work with regularly, there is Jerry Murdock, Katherine O’Sullivan, Zoë Daelman Chlanda, Susan Adriensen, Terry M. West, Mike Lane, Carl Burrows, Douglas Rowan, Raine Brown and Amy Lynn Best. I love these actors. They each have the ability to immerse themselves into a vast array of characters. They’re versatile, flexible and give 150% of themselves to each project. It has been my great fortune to work with them continuously. Also, my films could never be what they are without the enormous talents of Composer/Sound Designer Tom Burns and Cinematographer/Director Bart Mastronardi. They both give my films a life, style and finish all of their own. I am very lucky!
For our readers not yet familiar with your work, where’s a good place to start?
Well I just got a new release for my second film THE BLOOD SHED thru R-Squared Films and that is available everywhere online. THE BLOOD SHED is an insane little romp through the backwoods of NJ with the notorious Bullion clan and is quite a fun ride. It’s a horror-comedy with homages to both Tobe Hopper and Jon Waters and a great way to kill a snowy Saturday afternoon! My first film I’LL BURY YOU TOMORROW is not in distribution anymore, though some copies can be found online (and I still have a box of them myself!). I intend to go back to it this year and do a Director’s Cut with a full technical re-mastering for a new release in 2013/14. It’s a project that will take some time to do, but I always felt the film never had a great release nor looked and sounded the way it should have due to poor DVD compression from the early days of 2001. It kills me to look at the film as it is now, knowing that the original was so much better then the inferior versions available now. The beauty about technology today is all this can now be remedied to give your film a second life and I’m determined to give the film what it deserves.
Finally, what’s next on your cinematic docket?
Well, after completing TALES OF POE this 2012 I want to start a Web Series called GRAND GUIGNOL, in the vein of the old Twilight Zone /Outer Limits series. Since Bart and myself have been mastering the short feature format so nicely these past 2 years, we’ve decided to start a series of 30-minute tales that we’ll begin shooting this spring and make available for online viewing this time next year. There will be a new episode each month starring indie staples such as Susan Adriensen, Jerry Murdock, Leslah Donaldson, Katherine O’Sullivan, Debbie Rochon, Tom Lanier, myself, and quite a few other great people.
Anything you’d like to plug?
Of course! First thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to be introduced to your readers!
PLEASE go to our fan pages on Facebook for GALLERY OF FEAR
And TALES OF POE
and give us a LIKE!
Plus anyone can drop me a line at my website: www.alanrowekelly.net
Lots of good shit forthcoming, Bastards! I was blown away by A FAR CRY FROM HOME. Alan Rowe Kelly is the real fucking deal and not to be trifled with!
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