Get to know your indie directors-Thomas Berdinski ( The Italian Zombie Movie and the upcoming Giant Rubber Monster Movie)

I usually just let the interview do my talking. This one I have to say a few things. I do not know one person who deals on any website, blog or podcast who has one negative thing to say about Thomas. We are all cheerleading for him to become major, he truly deserves it. He is the only other film geek on this planet who I can have hours of conversations about the most obscure films. Readers, if you have yet to meet Thomas he is the real deal. Check him out on facebook, and he is so for the fans, because he too is a fan. Enjoy…

1.What made you want to be a director?

For as long as I can remember, if I’ve really liked something, I’ve wanted to make it myself. I’ve always liked movies so I became an indie filmmaker. I like movie music so I write the music in my movies. Heck, I used to really like video games so programmed my own back in high school. I sometimes wish I could just sit back and enjoy things, but the way my mind works, I have to figure out why I like them so I can make them myself.

2.What does the term “indie” mean to you?

To me, indie means the filmmaker(s) truly had control; there was no studio telling him/her what to do. The filmmaker made the movie for the filmmaker’s own reasons and purposes. They didn’t make someone else’s movie (and hopefully they didn’t make a “spec movie” either, but many do just to get their name out there…) Maybe that’s more auteur than indie, but when I talk about indie films, those tend to be the films I bring up.

3.Do you think the internet gives too many people way too much freedom?

Quite the opposite. Internet freedom is about to get squashed by the big greedy corporations. Lloyd Kaufman of Troma has been trying to educate people to act against this internet takeover for years. The big corporations are pressuring our government (well, it’s supposed to be ours anyway, at least that’s what the Constitution says…) to regulate the internet such that they always get the most bandwidth, search engine traffic, etc., and it WILL HAPPEN because our lawmakers are all in their back pockets. And the politicians will tell you it’s to make the internet better – Get that low quality riff-raff out… BS! It’s to crush the indies and pad all their pockets. Right now, if you Google “Italian Zombie Movies” guess what pops up first? My movies! If Comcast, Netflix and their Hollywood cronies have their way, their movies would pop up first – probably starting with that smashingly awesome Zombieland, followed by the
Day of the Dead remake, followed by whatever else they own the rights to… Hopefully those amazing computer geeks are already thinking of an underground internet for when that happens; and I’ll bet they are… Sign me up for that one!

4.Do you think when someone blames the budget as to why a film is not that well received, is fair, or that they are looking for a scapegoat?

If the budget got cut after they started, I’d say it’s fair. If they knew going in what the budget was going to be, then they really have no complaint. Budget cutting generally means you lose the time you need to shoot something, so you have to compromise. My last movie was made under a schedule that (due to a misunderstanding by me) got cut by almost one month out of the three we’d planned. It led to a lot of sleepless nights and some editing decisions I might not have made otherwise, so I can relate to that complaint. All that said, I still wouldn’t use it as an excuse. If I put my name on it, and I always do, it’s my best effort.

5.Do you think females get a fair shake in indie films and the industry in general?

I think it’s probably better for women today than it’s ever been, but even on my day job I see some of the “good ole boys” still treating women poorly. As younger (more open-minded) males get in the industry, I think it will get better for women.

6.What was the last film beside your own, that blew you away?

That would be Klown Kamp Massacre. Unless I’m very much mistaken, the filmmakers involved in that one really made the movie they set out to make without compromise. I don’t think they cared too much that it would probably never have a “mainstream” audience, heck, I don’t think they cared about anything except making a great movie. Everyone involved was at the top of their game in that one. I’ve watched it several times in just a few days.

7.Do you think indie films have too much freedom and that some films go way too far in its content and subject matter?

Absolutely not. No one is required to watch a movie (unless it’s for a film class, I guess). If you don’t like the subject matter or the presentation or whatever, you can walk out or turn it off. I actually walked out of my first movie in a very long time just last week: “Unknown”. I walked out because it offended me – Seriously! It offended my intelligence! I wasn’t expecting much going in, but gawd… What was Liam Neeson thinking? But somewhat back to your point: I do sometimes wonder when I see a very depraved indie why they made it? Did they want to make their audience miserable? That’s fine, I guess, if that was their goal, but what does that get them in return? I often wonder…

8.How would you deal with an actor or actress who who was not fully behind the vision and script?

Assuming it’s too late to replace them, you’ll really be putting your directing skills to work! First off, because I’m the director and the editor, I am careful to get full coverage of a scene so, if the performer delivering the lines isn’t any good, I’ll have something else interesting in another shot (e.g., a reaction shot) to use instead. I’ll also often have the cast simply read the script on camera, and I’ll coach them while we do this. Then later, I’ll dub in their best delivery. If the performer simply can’t (or won’t) deliver the dialog, I’ll rewrite a subsequent scene and get someone else to cover it. You have to flexible in the low-budget indie world! You may think this is funny, but I have even resorted to impersonating the actors (and actresses) voices myself! I did this just a couple of times in “Italian Zombie Movie – Parts 1 & 2”. I think I did 8 different voices (at different times) in those
movies overall. If you can name them all, I’ll give you an IZM Double Feature DVD! (No purchase necessary – Limited time offer – See official contest rules for eligibility requirements blah blah blah…)

9.Do you think youtube directors are a insult to people who went to school and learned the trade?

Not at all. I think creativity trumps all! I never went to film school, mostly because I never wanted to end up a technician making someone else’s movies. Moviemaking is my passion, not my job, so I went to school and got my degree in Natural Sciences and built my movie studio with the money I made. I took a few elective classes in film and video in college and read probably close to a hundred books, but the truth is this: You learn to make movies by making movies. There is no substitute for just picking up that camera and trying to tell a story with it. And now, with youtube, you actually have a place to show it to people you don’t know and get their feedback. I think youtube is a lot of fun. I just hope it continues to be a viable outlet for creativity and doesn’t get stifled by corporate greed. It won’t be much fun if you start searching youtube and all you find are pre-approved Hollywood clips, advertisements and Netflix
trailers…

10. Do you think the government should take more steps to stop illegal downloading? And how do you feel when you see a review of your film on a site that you know you did not send anything to and do not know how they got it?

This answer may surprise you, but no, I think the government should stay out of it. They do a lousy job enforcing copyright infringement anyway – like that’s ever been a priority for the FBI. But I do have a funny story about this. When I was in the 10th grade I made a movie called “Violent Dreams” and it took the top money prize ($100!) at a student film festival in a nearby town. Mine was the only out-of-town movie that won anything – every other movie was from the same high school that had this big fancy film program. Anyway, about a month later I got a very nasty letter from the US Library of Congress telling me that my movie used copyrighted music and I could be fined, etc. It was true; I’d used parts of songs by Alice Cooper in my little 9 minute horror epic. But really – you’re going to sue a 16 year old kid who won $100 in a student film festival? Talk about going after your low hanging fruit. And I wonder who
reported me? Jealous students – or more likely their teachers? Hmm… Fast forward to a couple years ago in China where they’re selling pirated DVDs of Lloyd Kaufman’s “Poultrygeist” BEFORE it was even released on DVD! And where is our government on this? Ridiculous… I’m rambling a bit here, but it has happened to me too. I googled and found a pirated version of my “Zombie Abomination – The Italian Zombie Movie Part 1” DVD for sale at a webstore about a year ago. I was mad, but at the same time, the guy had written such a glowing review of the movie that I almost didn’t care. On the advice of my lawyer, I contacted him by email. He never wrote me back but he did pull the DVD from his site. (But now I lost his glowing review…)

11.What is your personal goal, dream?

Hmm, to date one or both of the Soska twins… Right after that, I want to make a movie where I can say, “Yup, that turned out exactly how I wanted it to”. I don’t care if it never makes money or finds an audience. I just would like that personal satisfaction. I feel like I get closer with every movie I make, but I’ve a very long way to go to get there. I also want to write a book about my no-budget moviemaking experience someday: From writing the script to shooting it to marketing it afterward. I think I have some good stories to tell.
( Jen and Syl Soska, I will email you that one can we help the young man get this dream to happen..I am going to get beat up..and blamed -this was all his idea…though what a good set up)

12.Do you think alot of blog critics and for that matter youtube and other website critics are harsh on indie films?

You have to be thick-skinned to be a moviemaker because everyone’s opinion is valid (if they’ve actually seen your movie…) I feel bad when someone doesn’t like my movies because I feel like I’ve wasted their time, but that’s why I like bloggers, podcasters and critics: They let their audience know what they are in for. I’ve read and heard reviews of my movies that I’ve agreed with and some I’ve disagreed with. Many times I’ve written back or even called the podcast to let them know that I appreciate them taking the time to review my work, and maybe offering an explanation for something they didn’t like. I mean, honestly, how many movies do I actually like? A couple dozen – maybe not even that many. So when I hear people (even critics) telling me they’ve watched my movies several times, it makes me feel really good – it more than outweighs the negative comments. I personally think if you didn’t like a movie, you
probably went into it without doing much homework on it beforehand (hence my experience with “Unknown” above!) Do you homework, read the reviews, listen to the podcasts and you won’t waste your time at a movie you don’t like!

13.If this never came to be, or had to end tomm. What would you do for a living?

I’m a very lucky person in that I have a day job I really enjoy in the environmental field that allows me the time and money to pursue moviemaking the way I want to do it. If I never make another movie, I would be bummed, but there are other creative outlets for me, including writing and composing music, so I think I’d still pursue those.

14.If anyone wanted to get started in this biz, what advice would you give?

If you want to be an independent filmmaker, take your time and do it on the side. With technology as it is today, anyone can FAIRLY CHEAPLY make a movie that can be shown in theaters, streamed on the internet and shown on TV. That’s great, but it also means there is a TON of competition for these outlets. Even if you happen to be a great filmmaker and you’ve made a great film, there are still filmmakers with their movies ahead of you in line. I like to think the cream EVENTUALLY rises to the top, but if everyone has already shelled out their entertainment money on other movies, even if the movies they bought weren’t as good as yours, they may NEVER get around to yours before it’s shelf life has expired (and indie movies really do have a short shelf life). The market is beyond the saturation point for low budget indies and has been for years. Even the big indie “hits” you read about probably didn’t make a profit. Most indie
movies just end up being tax write-offs – that’s the ugly little secret in this industry. Most people can’t live on tax write-offs… Keep your day job, learn and hone your trade, write-off everything you can, market the heck out of everything you make, make every movie the best you make it and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be the exception!

15.This is your chance to promote, pimp and thanks so much

Gosh, I have lots going on, but what I’d really like is for your readers to check my movies out on Facebook: “The Italian Zombie Movie” and “The Giant Rubber Monster Movie” or friend me “Thomas Berdinski” on Facebook. Those are best ways to keep up with our convention appearances, DVD specials and such. “Zombie Abomination and Zombie Atrocity – The Italian Zombie Movies Parts 1 & 2” – are still available on Amazon and www.italianzombiemovie.com. “The Giant Rubber Monster Movie: Sascratch Versus Afrodesious” – a spin-off of IZM 1 & 2 – will be available from Jabb Pictures on the new DVD short compilation called “The Collective” and as a standalone DVD soon. I also appear on the new “Midnite Mausoleum – Eurosleaze” DVD available from www.midnitemausoleum.com.

Thanks so much for this opportunity James! Keep up the great work!

  • LAB ~

    Great interview, TomB and James! Your diverse questions allowed me to find out everything I DIDN’T know about TomBy Boy, Dirreto Extraordinaire. The only question left unasked is, “Whose hair is that in the right frame of Tom’s pic?”. My guess, Joe Tardani 😉

  • Becky Carrier

    Very few people get to see this side of Mr. Berdinski. A well versed, talented man who has what it takes to achieve his wildest dreams. So far we have seen the tip of his iceburg and I, for one, hope to be on his team as the rest of the burg sees light.