RUM, SODOMY AND THE LASHMAN: TALKING TO DIRECTOR CAMERON MCCASLAND

Sweetback (SB): Do you see THE LASHMAN as a tribute to the slasher films you grew up with, or as a continuation of that original tradition of slasher films? Are there specific films you had in mind when you were writing the film?

Cameron McCasland (CM): A little of both I suppose. I’d like it to stand on its own merits, and I do think that the legend we built in the film has an opportunity to expand. In that regard I think it continues the genre. I had never really thought “homage” while making it, as much as I wanted to make a period piece that got us back in a place where cellular phones and GPS doesn’t need to be explained away. The classic slashers were made at a time and place where those things weren’t prevalent. But I did have a very clear idea of what I wanted, and didn’t want out of the genre. On the other side it’s easy for me to see all the homage I put in. We are lucky in that we have years worth of movies both good and bad to pull ideas from. I went back and watched a lot of films early in development. THE BURNING and Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN come to mind, as well as the early FRIDAY THE 13TH films, and THE EVIL DEAD. I’ve had a lot of people tell me they see nuances from TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, which wasn’t intentional really. But that movie has always been in the back of my mind somewhere. I welcome the comparison.

SB: Let’s discuss the origin of the LASHMAN character. One of the things I liked most about the film was the western flavor of its flashback scene, and the pulp western origins of the character himself. Where did the idea for the character originate?

CM: Well there are a few parts to that story. I adore horror movies, but my first love in cinema has always been the Western. And while horror movies are known to be notoriously inexpensive to make, Westerns tend to be more costly in dealing with costumes, horses, etc. I had read Robert Rodriguez book ‘Rebel Without A Crew’ years ago and have adopted it as my movie-making bible. He talked about taking stock in what you have access to and working a story idea around that.

I had started writing a pretty straight forward werewolf story, but soon realized it was going to be too costly to shoot on my own dime. Tim Emery (who plays Sheriff Sam T. Bryner) and his lovely wife Carole (who you can see as our police dispatch) own the Copper Canyon Ranch in Hopkinsville Kentucky. My co-producer on the film Lee Vervoort had shot his film GUN TOWN there the summer before. I went to Tim & Carole to see if it would be possible to use it in the film for the origin, and pretty soon the entire production was moving to Kentucky. We were able to find the classic cars, and the old gas stations, and while scouting in the woods ran across the old cabin you see in the film. So in a sense we had all these great things at our disposal and people eager to help us make the movie. We were able to do period piece from thirty plus years ago, as well as a throwback to the 1800s. It was amazing.

From there I started looking at photographs for something distinct, and ran across a book with pictures of these old Highwaymen in white masks and dusters. And I had this note-card I had sketched this ghostly cowboy a few years ago. We built all that into the idea of what The Lashman should look like.

SB: Having filmed in the woods a bit myself, I know some of the various difficulties that can arise – from getting proper light, to bugs, to sound issues. What were some of your biggest challenges filming in the forest for an extended period?

CM: Haha, then you know my pains. We got pretty inventive with lighting using everything from butane lanterns, car headlights, actual fire, to the trusty old Mole Richardson lights when we could get power. The sound has been a whole other nightmare. We began principal shooting on Friday the 13th in August of 2010. Little did I know that we had scheduled the shoot right at the start of the seven year cicada cycle. The woods were loud, and I mean really loud. Day and night, night and day. It has made matching footage a bit of a chore. And our cast is spread out, so it was impossible to ADR the entire movie. It still pains me, but It was a lesson to learn. And, honestly, I think in the end, the noise brought another type of experience to the finished film.

The real kicker, and I mention this only because I’d like to state how fantastic my cast is. We literally slept in a horse barn for the majority of the shoot. All of us guys in this bunkhouse where they store feed at copper canyon. We slept on cots with fans in August. So these long days and nights of shooting paired with little rest. Jeremy Jones actually told me one morning that he had felt something run across his head during the night that he assumed was a mouse. Said he just went back to sleep because he knew he would never sleep in there again if he got out of bed. I’m amazed I didn’t have a mutiny. So yeah, shooting in the woods is great but next time I hope instead of cicadas my sound problems are someone forgot to turn the air conditioner off.

SB: THE LASHMAN‘s world premiere (at Nashville’s Full Moon Tattoo and Horror Festival) is fast approaching. Are you currently looking for distribution, or plan on touring it around festivals for a bit first?

CM: I am very excited to be doing the world premiere at Full Moon. Nashville is where I live. So it is special to get to do it in my backyard. I have had a handful of distributors reach out to me about the movie. But I’m a bit leery, as distribution has changed so much in even the past five years. No one is paying a whole lot for films at the moment, which makes it hard to continue to self finance things. And at the same time, I don’t like the idea of my movie just being tossed in with a dozen low rent movies with no marketing or budget and hoping people find it. So my plan is to take it out myself and screen it. Show it at festivals, conventions, house parties, etc.

My hope is that we do find a distributor who cares about it, and will give it attention. Until then, I’ll take care of it myself.

SB: Your cast is made up of a mix of familiar faces to fans of low-budget horror, as well as a few newcomers. Was it a difficult film to cast, or did you have a previous relationship with most of the actors?

CM: Well we did a open casting call in Nashville which is where we found David Vaughn, Jeremy Jones, Todd Bush, Terry Gragg, and David Chattam. I had always had Tim Emery in mind for playing Sam Bryner. He just has that face, and looks great in a cowboy hat and sunglasses.

I had been corresponding with Shawn C. Phillips for a few years. He is one of the few people I know who actually had a larger personal DVD library than me and we shared a lot of taste for these low rent movies. Shawn had done a series of web videos playing these silly characters that I thought were great. He had already been making pretty good headway appearing in horror films, but they all seemed to keep giving him these roles similar to those silly characters, or playing the typical big guy. I wanted to give him something a little different, and wrote the part with him in mind. I think he really shines in it. And Shawn actually is the one who brought Kaylee on board. We had cast a local actress for the part, but she dropped out last minute. Shawn had worked with Kaylee earlier in the summer and she came on just a few weeks before we started rolling.

Larry Underwood of course is my partner in television, and one of the few people who was able to read the screenplay as I was writing it. At a certain point, he wanted to play a crazy old man so I wrote the Eustice part in to the story, and he steals the show getting to toss out some great lines, and warning Lashman Getchya! And oddly enough it was Larry who got Stacey on the film. Ben Dixon, who is Stacey’s husband, runs the Lone Wolf tattoo shops here in Nashville. For years they have been big supporters and sponsors or our show “Dr. Gangrene Presents”. Larry had called Ben one day about something for the show, and Ben asked him what I had been up to, as we hadn’t spoke in a while. Larry told him I was working on a feature film, and he insisted I let Stacey read for it. It was just kind of perfect. I offered to change the name of the Stacy character in the movie, but Mrs. Dixon wanted to keep it, so we did.

SB: Bobby shares my own feelings about the criminal act of putting ketchup on a hot dog, but why does the guy love mustard so much?

CM: I have said before that each of the characters I wrote has a little bit of me in them. This stems from watching my oldest daughter who was 4-5 when I was writing this always drowning hot dogs in ketchup, which I think is just criminal.

SB: Talk a little bit about the origins of your production company Red Headed Revolution Pictures. Are there any projects on the horizon, or is all your attention on THE LASHMAN for the moment?

CM: Red Headed Revolution gets its namesake form a few places. Of course I am a red head, and in a way we are the forgotten minority on the planet. I don’t mean to say we have had it as bad as some of the others, but as a child it was very clearly pointed out to me that it made me different. I had also read about how George Washington was a red head, but of course people know him more with his famous white wig that they put on the money and paintings. I thought that juxtaposed with the historically communist red revolution was interesting. More than anything It was a way of me saying, no one is going to do this for me. Ill put out my own damned movie. From that it was born.

I’m constantly working. In January I was in Austin Texas filming a documentary with the band Quiet Company whom I did my first music video for years ago. I produced a movie for Matt Riddlehoover called MORE SCENES FROM A GAY MARRIAGE last year, and we are doing pre-production on his new film PATERNITY LEAVE. And I’m just about to roll on a anthology project which I am all in as a writer, producer, and director. I’m excited about that one, as Josh Ickes who was the director of photography on THE LASHMAN is going to direct one of the segments. I can’t talk a lot about it, but this first piece is a creature story that was a big part of my childhood, and Dustin Mills who is making some killer stuff on his own, did the creature f/x. Other than that, I’ve got a few things brewing but not anywhere near close enough to mention.

SB: I almost have to ask.. THE LASHMAN was filmed in the Summer of 2010, but has taken nearly four years to make it to the screen. Were there a lot of post-production difficulties?

CM: That’s a fair question, and a long story. Like I said before we started principal photography in August of 2010 and shot the primary cast. We followed up with re-shoots the next month, and I did the western scenes shortly after. We never got a chance to shoot our opening and had lost the leaves, so we decided to start editing during winter and pick it up as soon as we could. It was exactly a year later when we finally shot the opening. During all that my marriage of seven years was falling apart. A few days after we shot the opening I separated from my now ex-wife. I have two young daughters, who I care dearly for and I felt they need me, as I was the one primarily caring for them. The divorce was messy. Long story short, I couldn’t do anything with the film until we got it all sorted out. In the meantime we did a few extra shots and tinkered with it as much as you can as a single dad. Its kind of depressing I know, but its part of the journey to the completion of the movie. In the long run it was for the best. I’m happier now. And at this point we are amicable, and just want whats best for the kids.

SB: For readers who want to check out the film, or follow your work, what’s the best way to do so?

CM: Well following the premiere of THE LASHMAN at the Full Moon Film Fest we will be announcing screening as we book them. All that info will be over on the Facebook page and on twitter @LashmanFilm. I’m also on twitter @CamMcCasland and love talking with people about the movie.

SB: After years of shooting short films and television, THE LASHMAN marks your first feature length film. Having been through the meatgrinder, what advice would you have for young or inexperienced directors looking to tackle their first feature?

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CM: I feel fortunate for being able to hone my skills in television and doing short films. I would recommend anyone who wants to make a movie to grab a camera and start making shorts with no money. You will learn how to make things work, as well as what just won’t work. In the meantime start reading books, watching movies, listening to commentaries, etc. Educate yourself, and figure out where your taste lie. You won’t be good at first, but if you keep working, and keep studying you will start to see things come together. My only other advice is save your pennies, and take an extra job to save money and make a feature. For most first timers you’ll make more money delivering pizza than you will crowd funding. But get it done, by any means necessary.

SB: Thanks for your time, Cameron!

Doug “Sweetback” Tilley

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