Most recently I had the chance to see Volumes of Blood, an indie horror that really blew me away. People always discuss, “what is the future of this or that”. I will say this about the discussion of what is the future of horror, absolutely nothing or the crap that Hollywood pushes out and gives us no choice as fans, unless you start supporting some of these films. Films like Volumes of Blood really give the fans passion, heart and a peak into what the future could look like. I wanted to not only brag about this film and what it offers but give one of the directors a chance to talk to you as well. This is my interview with P. J. Starks.
1. P. J. Starks, this is such an honor. What was the first film or television show that inspired you to pursuit film?
I honestly can’t remember the first film, but I believe it was just the visual arts in general that captured my imagination. I grew up with ADHD so I was always playing out these crazy scenarios in my head that eventually translated into me wanting to write and make films. The first film that had an impact on me was Ghostbusters.
2. Your latest film, Volumes of Blood seems to be getting a ton of press. How was the making of this film? Was this something that came to you overnight or was this a work in progress?
Yeah the amount of love the film has gotten is completely unexpected; it’s been an incredible ride so far. Making the film was a total blast. It was a headache at times and producing such a massive project taught me a lot, but in the end we all had a great time making this thing. I’ve wanted to make an anthology for several years now and when the opportunity to film a project at the Daviess County Public Library dropped into my lap I came up with the concept for VOB in a few hours, pitched the concept the same day and got the green light the next. It was an easy sell.
3. You know your film is open up to comparisons to a few films. Do you think those criticisms are fair?
Absolutely. The film was created by horror fans for horror fans so the whole project was tailored to homage the films that we all loved growing up or impacted us the most. The film was written to be highly horror referential and self-aware. Apparently we succeeded and I’m very happy that the genre fans are eating it up.
4. So they have this film released by a billion dollar company called “It Follows”. They are playing this to be some indie film. Do you think fans really know what an indie film truly is? Also do you find it insulting that this film claims to be one? How can you be indie when you have 5 millions of ads to support you?
The term “indie” by industry standards means something completely different then what we consider to be indie, but I think that some films can still be independent even if you have a million dollar budget. The budget for Volumes of Blood was exponentially larger that my previous effort, but at the end of that day it’s not about the dollar amount; it’s about your amount of passion for the project and the ultimate goal. Indie films are about making something that filmmaker can be proud of when it’s all said and done; Hollywood films are about the bottom line.
5. If you never got involved in film whatsoever, what was your backup plan?
I never really had a backup plan. I was like every other artist where my plan was to run off to LA or NY and be the next Spielberg. I met William Forsythe at a convention and we had a 45 minute conversation. He was really cool and also a wake-up call. I decided to alter my plans and aim at being a big fish in a small pond rather than the other way around. I wanted to prove that I didn’t need big money or big lights to make things happen. I feel like I’m accomplishing that goal and still am. If it all goes away tomorrow I’ll have a trail cool people and memories to look back on fondly and be fine with that because it’s not about money or success for me.
6. When people talk about indie film, Kentucky seems to be on people’s lips. You have Big Biting Pig and you guys and a few others in the scene. How do you view the Kentucky scene?
It’s definitely growing. When I directed my first project Hallows Eve: Slaughter on Second Street back in ’08 I was the only aspiring filmmaker that I knew of. Getting that project out there opened the flood gates and other local and regional filmmakers started coming out of the woodwork and contacting me. Now it’s this huge network of filmmakers. It’s great to see and know so many creative people making their big dreams come true on a small scale.
7. People assume when you make a film that you are going to get rich and become the next Blair Witch or Paranormal. Do you care to give us a reality of what happens when you put out a film?
The easy part is making your film. You just need to get motivated enough to get past talking about making it and actually make it. When I made Hallows Eve I had no idea what I was doing. I was a novice at promotion and not very well connected. My resources were highly limited too. Getting the film out in the world was a lot tougher than I thought it would be. You have to sacrifice a lot of your personal time to networking with tons of online resources and media sites that are interested in helping you spread the words. I was lucky to nab some of the bigger sites like Arrow in the Head, Dread Central and Bloody-Disgusting early on. That opened a lot of doors, but because HE was so ultra-low budget it suffered in a lot of areas and this reflected in the reviews. Now seven years later I kept at it. Kept networking and kept being persistent, this helped me garner a large database of sites and critics. Every project is learning about what not to do next time, learning those lessons and applying them to the next film finally paid off I suppose because Volumes of Blood has been extremely well received.
8. Do you think established filmmakers like a Spike Lee and Rob Zombie hurt kickstarter when they are asking for funding?
I think that it’s a resource that any filmmaker can tap into and sometimes even established filmmakers have difficulty getting their films made because Hollywood is so fickle. Studios want a money maker, a sure thing and it makes sense because it’s a business like any other. They aren’t into making films for art or pleasure, they make films so they can make bank. Ultimately I would say no because I still managed to garner the funds needed to make VOB.
9. You have a film out, you know what that means? The dreaded critics, bloggers who ruin everything and etc. All jokes aside, do you read all your press? And if you were to get bad press would it hurt you?
I do read the press and no it doesn’t hurt. It did in the beginning, but after all the horrible things that were said about my first effort I don’t believe there’s anything a critic can say about what I’ve done recently that will hurt my feelings. I guess I kinda just laid down the gauntlet…
10. Let’s go back into that last question, most of the reviews I am reading (including mine) are putting your film in a conversation of best films of 2015. Does this kind of talk shock you, or did you watch this film and say, “we made something special”?
Because of what it took to make this film. The time that so many passionate artists sacrificed to make this a reality, I knew that it was special just knowing the reasons and way it was made. How special it really was and how much of an impact it would have on horror fans was completely unexpected. It shocked me greatly. We are over thirty-five reviews in on this film and no bad press; I am very humbled and pleasantly surprised by all the kindness.
11. Let’s also talk about some of the people in this film. Jim O’ Rear who has been working on some really good films. Jakob Bilinski who the site has been praising since his short a few years ago. Speaking of Bit Biting Pig their main star Kristine Renee Farley. Lee from The Lashman and so many talented names on the indie scene. How did you get involved with the cast and crew? Did you know anyone going into this?
I knew a lot of the cast and crew previously in some respects. I was friends with Jakob and Nathan. I helped on Bloody Hooker Bang Bang and was a producer on The Book of Dallas and Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh; I’ve known Kristine for a while and many others. Some of the cast and crew were new or I knew them via facebook. I did make a lot of new connections with this project. All in all there was near one-hundred artists attached.
(ed-I want to say right now Jakob’s Bloody Hooker Bang Bang is up there with Roid Rage as one of the best shorts in the last ten years. If you have not seen this short, you need to seek it out. I know it is on on the Collective Vol 4. This short alone shows you why we have been praising Jakob for so long.)
12. What is next on the agenda?
Right now I’m overseeing all the festival and convention submissions for VOB and the obvious promotions. A small break is next on my “to do list”, but beyond that I’m producing some new web-series that are happening in my area. I just finished producing a new feature called Lattie directed by my friend Kevin Chenault of Blackstrap Pictures. More than likely there will be the inevitable follow up to Volumes of Blood, I’ve been working with Todd Martin and Nathan Milliner on a new concept I have. I’m sure there will be other stuff along the way, like I said a small break.
13. Before I end this, I want to say thank you. For people who have not seen Volumes of Blood yet, any info for them. Also, this is your chance to give the people who read this any final words or thoughts. Thank you so much.
First off I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to talk about this project that has become such an amazing journey. I want to thank all the other bloggers, journalists and reviewers who have loved the film and done all they can to help spread the word about the project. If it weren’t for all the passionate and dedicated individuals attached to VOB there’s no way in hell it would’ve become a reality. Those people are the true backbone of any project and I hope they’re as proud as I am of what has transpired with the film since we premiered it on Friday the 13th this past March. Here’s to the next surprise!
Right now the film is at the jumping off point for festivals and conventions, so the only way to view the film is if it screens or at a venue near you. The best way to keep up to date is becoming a fan of the facebook at www.facebook.com/vobanthology
or checking out the official website at www.volumesofblood.com
It already screened at the seventh annual MayDay Film Fest and won a Best Actress award for Roni Jonah. Congrats to her because she definitely deserved it!