Interview with David Gregory

This week comes the long anticipated dvd release of The Theatre Bizarre. David Gregory is responsible for one of the most original, and twisted shorts in this anthology called Sweets. David is also public relations for Severin Films. The man has a very impressive resume, but why hear me talk about it. Let the man himself entertain you guys and share it with you. This is my interview with the one and only David Gregory.

1.What kind of childhood does a David Gregory have?

Pretty normal. Medium sized city in England. Went to the movies a lot. Went to rock concerts. Good, close friends, most of whom I’m still in touch with. Then the not so normal: Started Super 8 film making at age 8. Watched a lot of video nasties before they were banned when I was 12. Continued making and watching through high school then went to film school in Boston.

2.How did you get involved with The Theatre Bizarre? Going into this film, were you a fan of the other directors? this is your chance, to talk smack if you need too…

It was an idea I had when festivaling PLAGUE TOWN, meeting filmmakers and most of us having some complaining to do about the aforementioned producer interference. I thought wouldn’t it be great if we could make an anthology with like minded directors where we got to do whatever we wanted (taking into account budget and deadlines), just like we did when we got into making films in the first place — driven by the passion of making what we wanted to make. Of course such an idea is all good until you have to find someone to finance it. Luckily a close friend from film school Daryl Tucker (he shot and produced my thesis film SCATHED and was a co-producer on PLAGUE TOWN too), with the help of Fabrice Lambot and Jean Pierre Putters from Metaluna Productions in Paris, completely agreed that this would be an intriguing Frankensteinian experiment in independent horror filmmaking. In particular because horror should be a genre associated with the uncompromising.

I approached most of the directors, Karim first, he recommended Doug Buck; then Richard because we’d done the Blu of HARDWARE through our label Severin; Savini came through Mike Ruggiero with whom I’d done a Spaghetti western documentary for IFC and they were friends; Buddy G I knew a bit from doing The Joe Spinell Story but former Severin Evan Husney was tight with him from doing the COMBAT SHOCK DVD at Troma; and Jeremy I knew through friends here in LA and knew that he not only had tackled Grand Guignol in WIZARD OF GORE but also because he is an aficionado of old theaters, magic shows, spook shows and William Castlesque ballyhoo so he was perfect to do the enveloping story. Yes, it’s fair to say I’m a fan of all their work, mainly because they all have their own distinct vision of horror. And what is most pleasing for me is that each and every one of them delivered a film which is absolutely emblematic of their styles and sensibilities so that lack of compromise shone through.

3.Going into this project, were you a fan of Anthologies?

Yep, love ‘em. DEAD OF NIGHT’s probably my favorite but there are so many I adore. One of my earliest cinema-going experiences was THE MONSTER CLUB on a double feature with THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION — a landmark early cinematic memory. One of the first horror movies I saw on TV was FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE, shown after CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF on BBC2. CREEPSHOW was always a favorite rental — we had a video store in Nottingham where I’m from that had the creep from CREEPSHOW painted on the glass storefront window and every time we’d drive past I’d think that must be the best video store in the world. When I finally went in it was disappointing that the horror selection was a bit shit, but then a few years later the owner sold me all his video nasties that he had to take off the shelves when they became illegal in the UK. So I think the creep on the window was a clue in a deeper treasure hunt. Anyway, I digress…BLACK SABBATH is a masterpiece, TALES OF TERROR is fun, THE UNCANNY, ASYLUM, TALES FROM THE CRYPT, the list goes on.

4.Your short Sweets on The Theatre Bizarre, I loved it. Disturbing and very odd. How did this concept come about? And looking back on it now, do you think this could be something that may be getting a full length treatment?

Thanks. I wanted to do something disturbing but amusing and pretty to look at too so that you get a nice mix of emotions/sensations. Specifically I wanted it to be theatrical, garish and over the top, so with the help of brilliant production design by Lorry O’Toole, art direction by Adam Carr, Makeup by Aubrie Davis and her team of about 15 artists, costumes by Tree Carr and incredible performances by Lindsay Goranson and Guil Adams I was able to spew this absurdly colorful and exaggerated melodrama onto the screen. As I said before some people find it too icky but in general watching the responses with an audience has been delightful because the mix of laughter and revulsion makes me very happy. I don’t think I could have stretched it to a feature because I think it’s very much designed as a two act short. The next film I have in mind is similar stylistically but that’s a ways away.

5.Are we ever going to get a Theatre Bizarre blu ray? Also, on this topic,is there any lost footage or trimmed footage that could make a special edition some day?

I hope so. When our distributor told us that they thought a Blu-ray wasn’t worth their investment we were gobsmacked. In this day and age a new movie, and if I may be so bold, a good looking movie, that appeals to fans and collectors, not releasing a blu-ray is outrageous. We suggested doing the blu through Severin but they just laughed that off. Hopefully some day but it’s not in the cards right now. We have a shit load of material for special features too as you can imagine and we offered to produce material for them but they declined. They had the single worst EPK I have ever seen in my life produced for the theatrical release and were threatening to put that on there (“because the public expects interviews on DVDs these days”…ya don’t say.) but I threw a fit and hastily put together a commentary so at least there’s something of substance on there (even though Jeremy and Udo had to do their bits over the phone). Remnants of the awful EPK remain too in the form of some shoddy, out of context behind the scenes shots. It’s a shame because the background behind the movie is a pretty interesting story. Good thing is that all that material does exist so some day we’ll put it together.

6.What was the experience like to work on Plague Town? Do you have any regrets?

The experience was great. Felt very comfortable directing despite a particularly tough, arduous shoot. One regret I guess is that the movie was much bigger than its budget and I think you can tell. But I’m still very proud of most of it. I think the Rosemary stuff in particular conjures exactly the disquieting mood I wanted. I had a great production designer and art director on that movie too. Still have very close friends from the movie. It was Derek Curl’s first horror movie as well before going on to his bigger movies with MPI/Dark Sky. I did not see eye to eye with one of the executive producers in post production so that kind of soured the experience and I think made them abandon it when it came out but I can’t complain because they’re the ones who took the risk investing in my first feature.

7.Severin Films, your company really gives the fans a lot for their money on the most recently blu ray releases of films like Hardware and Santa Sangre? What is upcoming on the slate?

WILD GEESE with the first interview with 92 year old director Andrew MgLaghlen as well as military advisor/real life mercenary Col. “Mad Mike” Hoare (also 92). And a whole host of other extras. ZULU DAWN, the underrated follow-up to ZULU with Peter O’Toole and Burt Lancaster. New extras on that too. The transfers on those babies are incredible. Doing DVD/Blu-ray combos on both. Some more JOY films. Documentary I’m working on called THE MISADVENTURE OF DR. MOREAU about Richard’s ill-fated movie. MOVIEHEAD – the documentary on BIRDEMIC director James Nguyen — that one’s mindbending. On Intervision we have some more craziness in the works. Starting with an Ozploitation trailer show compiled by NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD’s Mark Hartley.

8. What was the back up plan if none of this would have worked out for you?

Video shop. So I’d be completely fucked now.

9.You are involved in all aspects of film. From director, to producer, to even public relations. Do you read all the press your stuff gets? If so, do you get mad over the bad ones?

Being in distribution you have to pay attention to the PR that your films are getting. And the positive reviews or the announcements or, whatever, DVD giveaways you need to spread around to your sales people, your facebook followers etc. Of course it’s no fun reading negative reviews whether it be of a film I’ve made or a film I’m distributing but you can’t be in the indie horror world and expect unanimous praise. Horror fandom is a very opinionated world and can be a very bitchy world but it’s precisely because a lot of people want to share their strong viewpoints that it’s become a pretty huge and dedicated community. As long as fans are still talking then it’s good. Sometimes you want to take it personally like for example I read one reviewer call all the segments of TB “lazy.” And my first thought is to write some sort of response like “listen, you fucking little prick, if you’d have seen the fucking hours of painstaking work and effort on the part of everyone who contributed to this film for little or no money you could call it whatever you want but you would not call it lazy.” But within minutes I thought that would be silly. That’s just his lazy critical adjective choice.

10.Let’s be honest, in today’s internet you can get away with anything. Do you think some bloggers or critics go too far? If so, do you think there should be lines drawn, as to what they can and cannot say or do?

Film criticism has evolved. In some cases, people with very little knowledge of film and often little command of the English language have a very loud voice. But they’re entitled to their opinion as much as anyone else. I would like to think that it’s the intelligent, insightful reviewers that people pay attention to but there’s no evidence that that is indeed the case. The fact is it’s thanks to the world of bloggers and internet reviewers that we can get more coverage on a movie like THE BURNING MOON than some mainstream horror movies get. You have to learn not to fight it but embrace it.

11.In hollywood, let’s be honest…horror and extreme films are the bastard step children. When one half way decent film comes out, it is ignored. And when the PG paranormal, or possession films come out they are embraced. In your opinion, why have the fans sort of shunned their own genre?

I don’t think they have. There’s always been mainstream horror but it’s when we discover the weird or confrontational works from the underground or from far off lands that we realize we still have a vital genre. It’s comparable to music in that there’ll always be the pap they play on the radio but it’s the stuff that we discover that actually has integrity and is what we consider ‘good’ that really energizes us, that makes us want to seek out more, tell people about, argue in favor of and shape our tastes.

12.Lets talk about Autonomy Pictures. What made you and Danger After Dark’s Lewis Tice decide on this venture? Was this something that was planned for a while?

It was actually Derek Curl who brought me into the fold here. Derek produced HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, INNKEEPERS, STAKELAND, the upcoming FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY and my feature directorial debut PLAGUE TOWN among others. Derek was keen to start a genre label for new acquisitions and productions so knowing my sensibilities lay in that area, I hopped aboard the juggernaut in January, working closely with Lewis. At the same time my Severin duties remain in full effect.

13.The first film on the slate is coming out in July, and it is this very hyped up, very controverisal film called The Bunny Game. Are there any more films you can talk about, that may be released thru this label?

None that I can mention publicly but we’re certainly in negotiations for some great stuff as well as developing a number of low budget features.

14. Since we touched on the topic of The Bunny Game. When the Serbian Film finally came out on US dvd, they watered it down very badly to make it more accessible to an American audience. As hardcore as that film was, Bunny Game is even worst..because the stuff on screen is really happening. Are you guys going to release this uncut, or are you going to scale down on some of the..ummmm..message?

THE BUNNY GAME will be released uncut. With any film you’re compromising it if you release a censored version but particularly with a confrontational film like this, why would you want to make it un-shocking? It’s certainly not a film for everyone. The Joss Whedons of the world will be complaining about the decline of decent, moral society within the first five minutes and that tickles me. But it’s a grimy, deeply disturbing, underground (albeit beautifully shot) kick in the teeth to anyone who feels horror should be shopping mall multiplex friendly. I’m due to record the commentary with Adam and Rodleen this week.

15. Do you think a film like Bunny Game, or even Serbian Film should get a theater run in american multiplex’s? If so, do you think an audience can handle the material?

I don’t think it should play outside of venues that are not afraid to play confrontational movies, again, it’s not for everyone. It would be really boring if the subversive was forced upon the mainstream and became the norm — which over time it does in a lot of cases but it doesn’t happen instantaneously. Jess Franco got a lifetime achievement Goya award a couple of years ago for example. The best of our genre has always upset the moral do-gooders and because it’s on the fringe but we believe in it makes it something worth fighting for. There are certainly great examples of mainstream horror movies like ROSEMARY’S BABY or even I dunno GREMLINS but they are exceptions. The genre will only continue to evolve thanks to uncompromising artists making movies that challenge us without a corporate mentality shaping them and when something becomes fit for mass consumption then it becomes a mundane cog in the wheel of business.

16.I most recently read a quote by Autonomy Pictures. I would like to talk about this comment…”At Autonomy Pictures, we are not afraid to release a film, which will undoubtedly inspire heated reaction, because it will allow audiences to make up their own minds.” Do you think today’s ” horror” fans can warm up to a film like Bunny Game or even a Theatre Bizarre?

It’s a question of your taste in horror. It’s a very varied genre and we can enjoy debate about what we like and don’t or what’s appropriate and what’s not. Myself, I enjoy the audacity, the fearlessness of THE BUNNY GAME and I’ve already discussed it with people who find it indefensible, but also those, including some women I might add, who feel we need such films because we have become so comfortable even with so called ‘extreme’ horror. THE THEATRE BIZARRE has also had reactions all across the map. For me what pleases me about TB is how it illustrates a variety of perspectives on horror (or specifically how to approach the subject of Grand Guignol) within one feature. I’ve read many reviews that respond to this and love the whole palette. Others enjoy most parts of it and accept that that’s the nature of the anthology, then on the negative side there are those who get angry and declare the whole thing shit. That’s ok, it’s fun when a film polarizes. For me the beauty of TB lies in the fact that the filmmakers were not interfered with and we made our films as part of this anthology so if we have a problem with it we won’t be hiding behind producer interference or any such thing. Yes, the budget was very tight but it was the budget we accepted to make our films.

17. What was the last film that you watched and were offended? Or better yet, so shocked that you loved the film…

Prior to THE BUNNY GAME it was probably MAN BEHIND THE SUN some 20 years ago, and that is a very upsetting film, very powerful. BUNNY GAME was so relentless that I found it a bit of an unpleasant viewing experience but then of course that’s the point. Why should prolonged abuse and torment be a fun, safe thing to watch? Makes you analyze your enjoyment of brutality on screen — not in a Michael Haneke you should feel guilty and never be a degenerate again kind of way I hasten to add, but it certainly pulls away the soft cushion that makes us feel cozy and warm when watching a SAW or HOSTEL movie.

18.This is Name Association..you can say whatever you want..Who am I to tell you what to say, you are David Gregory…

a.Ti West – neighbor, he lives up the road. Liked INNKEEPERS.
b.Richard Stanley – Fascinating guy, learned, humorous, intriguing. Needs a strong producer to make another feature happen but it has to be, budget and schedule considered, with the understanding of letting Richard be Richard. That’s why the brass at New Line couldn’t handle it on MOREAU, they were scared because he didn’t fit into their world. He has ample talent to pull off something special under the right circumstances.
c.Rob Zombie – thankful that he re-introduced violence and blood into American horror after a 15 year drought. What he does these days doesn’t interest me which is fine because it seems not to interest him either.
d.Adam Rehmeier – lovely bloke. Knows more about horror movies of the past and present than a lot of filmmakers I meet. Got a great eye and, as evidenced by his feature debut, some balls!
e.Mitch Davis – Godsend to the genre community. Unlike so many festivals he and his crew will take the time to consider all films and will give exposure to films that would never have seen the light of day without Fantasia and in some cases will take the time to explain to filmmakers why their film isn’t suitable for their fest. I meet a lot of genre filmmakers who are very grateful to Mitch for showcasing and supporting their work when others wouldn’t. Still the finest festival I’m aware of not least because they gave such a gala premiere to TB 😉 He rejected PLAGUE TOWN though haha (and explained why, which makes it a much easier pill to swallow).

19. Are you a fan of 3D? Do you think theaters should all conform to being all digital and 3D capable? Or this is another form of bullying to keep major chains in business and knock out smaller ones?

3D’s dumb. Although I thought it played very well in HUGO.

20.Who haven’t you worked with yet, that you would love to do something with?

Too many to mention. We’ve approached several about doing the follow up to TB

21.David Gregory you are the new President of the United States. It was unanimous, you won. How do we fix the economy?

Can’t be president, I’m English.

22.David, this is my favorite part…promote, plug and announce..the floor is all yours, thanks so much..

Watch out for THE BUNNY GAME in July in some theaters (in the states that will allow it) and on DVD/Blu. Buy THE THEATRE BIZARRE at Amazon, DiabolikDVD, Walmart, anywhere you can find it. Experience THE BURNING MOON. And follow Severin Films on facebook for all the news about our upcoming releases.

So what did we learn from this interview. I learned English people cannot be president. The Theatre Bizarre was a great time for all involved, and that always means fans will dig it. The Bunny Game, has a lot of people talking. And there may be a Theatre Bizarre 2. Check out David Gregory on facebook and support Severin Films, The Bunny Game, Plague Town and The Theatre Bizarre.