Donald G. Jackson
The Final Interview
This is the last interview that Donald G. Jackson gave before his passing in 2003. It was published in Trash Times, Issue #13, an Indie Film Magazine based in France. Special thanks to Guillaume Richard, Editor, Trash Times Magazine.
Photograph of Donald G. Jackson by Scott Shaw.
Could you briefly introduce yourself to our French readers ?
Well, I am filmmaker who grew up in Michigan during the 1950's. From my early years forward I was in love with the magic of comic books and movies. I loved music, as well. I was a great participant in the folk music era and to this day love some of the great music that came out of that period: like the Kingston Trio, the Whiskey Hill Singers, etc., etc., etc.
Is it your early love for comics and serials which led you to be a filmmaker ?
Well actually, I first became a filmmaker when I was a teenager and began working for this guy who owned a photo shop. In association with dealing with still cameras, he also used to film the local high school football games with a 16 mm Bolex camera. One day he asked me to go and film the game for him because he wasn't feeling well. Instead of filming from the side lines, like most sport photographers, I was on the field getting right in the middle of the action. Though the coaches got really mad at me, when they saw the intimate nature of my photography, they knew I was on to something. And that was the beginning of my becoming a no-rules filmmaker.
What are your favorites comics and serials ? Do you still collect comics ? Is there a recent comic title that you enjoy and buy regularly ?
Some of my earliest comic favorites were some of the more obscure comic books like, Doll Man, Robot Man, Sub-Zero, Fighting Americans, and onto some of the more well know one's like The Avengers, Flash Gordon, and Tarzan.
I have been collecting comic books since I was five years old and still love to collect them. Though I have not been drawn to any of the new, major release comic books, I always keep my eyes open for something new and exciting. Just as in my youth, it always seems to be the more obscure comic artists that are the most creative and inspirational.
As a comic fan, what do you think of the recent bunch of comics transpositions to the big screen (like Blade, Spider-Man, Daredevil, The Hulk...) ? If you had the opportunity, which comic title or hero would you like to adapt as a movie ?
Some of the movies are Okay. But, I have not seen any that has really done the character justice. I don't know if it is the casting of the lead character or just the overall presentation of the film. But, in all cases, I have been left unsatisfied.
All of my movies are filled with Super heroes. Whether it been Sam Hell in Hell Comes to Frogtown or Jack B. Quick Space Sheriff in Guns of El Chupacabra, there is always a super hero element to my films.
You declared that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre changed your life. In which way ?
Basically, it allowed me to understand that as a filmmaker I could make whatever style of movie I wanted and there would be an audience to see it. I mean, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable to the film going audience at that period of time and it accomplished that fact for a very small production budget. It inspired me to go and make a movie!
Could you tell us about the making of your first film, The Demon Lover ? And could you contradict this insane rumor telling that your partner Jerry Younkins had to cut one of his finger off in order to finance the film with the insurance money ?
The Demon Lover was a movie I should never have made. As a Christian I was really against the subject matter and the content. I have always wondered what my life would have been like if I had gone with my original idea of making a movie call Lincoln Green -- about a black private investigator. It was really Younkins who pushed for us to make that movie. And, a lot of negative things went hand-in-hand with the making of the film. I have always been sorry I made it. But, it is one of those situations that once something is set in motion, there is no way to stop it. So, all I could do was make the movie the best that I could.
Regarding his finger: Actually, it is true to a certain degree. Younkins came to work at the factory where I was employed. On his first day, due to his careless behavior, his finger was cut off by a machine. Though he promised we would use the settlement money the factory gave him to make the film -- which is why I said, "Okay," to Demon Lover. But, by the time we were ready to shoot the film, he had already spend all the money. So, the film was financed by me taking out a loan on my car and on my house.
Was it the interest in the 70's for movies about the devil (The Exorcist, The Omen and many others) that led you to chose this kind of subject ? Have you done some research on demon worshipers or cults (like the California based Church of Satan) to prepare this film ?
No. As I said, I am a Christian and I really don't like the subject matter of those films and I never want to associate with people who are not walking on the path to light.
How did Gunnar Hansen become involved in this film ? What are your relation with him nowadays ?
Texas Chainsaw Massacre was inspirational. So, when it came time to shoot Demon Lover, I contacted Toby Hooper and he put me in touch with Gunnar and we got him in the movie. After we finished filming, Gunnar and I did not speak again until just a couple of years ago.
A funny story regarding Gunner is that my friend and filmmaking partner Dr. Scott Shaw was doing a film in Texas in 1994 where they were going to use Gunnar as one of the actors. Before they were even introduced, Gunnar walked up to Scott and immediately began insulting me -- as he knew we had worked together. Scott just laughed it off. It wasn't until 2000 that I saw Gunnar again, at the San Diego Comic Convention. Scott and I walked up to say, "Hi." I asked him why he was mad at me and all he could tell me is that I owed him $5,000.00. Actually, the deal was if the Demon Lover ever made money, he would get $5,000.00 in addition to the $5,000.00 he was paid for acting in the film. Though the movie probably did make money, I never saw any of it. I never got paid. So, I could not pay Gunnar.
I really think it is so sad when people like Gunnar hold on to negativity. I mean this movie was made thirty years ago. And, all Gunnar can still focus on is a "Maybe" agreement. How sad his life must be if he stills care about something like that.
How was the film was received by the audience ? What kind of distribution did it received at the time ? Was it a wide distribution ?
Demon Lover was received well by those who saw it and understood it -- meaning that some people understood that we were poking fun at horror movies and horror filmmaking in general. It premiered in New York City and then was distributed to Drive-In theaters. Later, when the video revolution hit, it was distributed under several different titles. The problem is, as is so often the case, is that we, the filmmakers, never saw a dime of this money.
At this time, were you connected to others filmmakers based in Michigan (like Sam Raimi or others) ?
Actually, I came along before Sam. When Sam and Bruce Campbell were making Evil Dead, Sam contacted me and told me that I was one of his major influences for becoming a filmmaker. He asked me some pointers about Independent filmmaking and I guided him the best that I could. I guess it worked, as he has obviously become a very successful filmmaker.
You arrived in a transitive time for independent filmmaking and B movies, right between the last hours of the drive-ins and the dawn of the straight-to-video industry. Many local filmmakers who worked in the 60's and the 70's haven't been able to retrain as easily as you and were forced to give up filmmaking or change their activities. What do you think about that ? Do you have a theory about these sudden changes ?
Mostly, it is about money. Back in that period when everything went straight to movie theaters or drive-ins, it was very expensive to get your product seen. I mean, for every theater there had to be a print made of the film -- which was, and is, not cheap. The Video Revolution allowed everything to be made more cheaply.
I think the reason that many of the earlier filmmakers did not make the transition is that they were, for lack of a better word, "Snobs." The felt that their product should only be seen on the big screen, either in a theater or in a drive-in. From this, they robbed themselves of an ongoing career, as they didn't accept the fact that times change. As a filmmaker you have to be willing to adapt to change if you want to move forward.
Tell us about the infamous Demon Lover Diary ? When did you understand what was the real motivations of the film maker ? What was your reaction at the time ? Nowadays what's your point of view on this movie ?
It's funny, Demon Lover Diary still shows at film festivals across the U.S. and maybe the world. Just about every year, it is showing at some theater or at some film festival. Last year there was a big presentation of Demon Lover Diary here in L.A. It showed at the Director's Guild of America and several newspapers did articles on me in relation to this film. This is funny, because this film was released over twenty-five years ago.
The reality of it is, however, the people who made Demon Lover Diary were just out to make me look bad. Every scene they used in the film was an attempt to make me look incompetent and all of their comments and narration during the film are very negative and for the most part, not true. They took scenes where I am nice to them and turned these scenes around to make me look like I didn't know what I was doing.
If you watch the movie, you will notice that they were staying at my mother's house while they helped out with the filming of Demon Lover. They were so noisy and rude to my mother, and so dirty, that my mother had to finally throw them out. Of course, that fact never made it into their movie.
In response, all I can says is that I went on to make more than fifty films since Demon Lover, whereas these filmmakers are still attempting to make a name for themselves from one film they made about me twenty-five years ago. Overall, however, I think documentaries are a great art form. I have turned all of my years of behind the scenes footage and all of my film masters over to Dr. Scott Shaw. Next year he will be began to make the true documentary about the filmmaking career of Donald G. Jackson. So, if you want to know the true story about me as a filmmaker, that one will be the one to watch.
At one time you were thinking of doing a sequel called Return of the Demon Lover. Could you give us details on this project ? What the story was ? Was it supposed to be a direct sequel ? Is this project lost ?
This was one of those projects that someone submits an idea to you and you toy with it for a little while but then ultimately reject it. There is a lot of fans of Demon Lover, particularly in Michigan -- where the film was made. There was a group of people who wanted me to approve the project and put it together. They even had a couple of the original members of the cast who were willing to appear in it. So, I thought about it.
For a time I thought, if I were to Produce a second version, maybe I could make a more positive contribution to the horror film market and erase any of my bad karma I may have received from making the first Demon Lover. I wanted Scott (Shaw) to go and Direct it. As he would have been the only person I could trust to bring the essence of the film together. I was going to say out here in L.A. and Produce it. But, Dr. Shaw wasn't interested in the subject matter. And, that got me thinking of how another Demon Lover is just not the kind of movie I want to be involved with. So, I put an end to the concept. If anyone in Michigan goes ahead with this, it will be against my wishes and my legal rights -- as I am the person who owns all Rights, Title, and Interest to the film and the title.
Was it your own idea to make a movie starring wrestlers ? Were you familiar with this universe ? Could you tell us about Ringside in Hell, was it supposed to be more of a fictions movie with real wrestlers than a kind of docudrama like I Like to Hurt People ?
In the Midwest, were I grew up, Wrestling has always been one of the lifeblood's of sports. Every month or so there would be a big wrestling match planned at one of the local arenas and the matches were on local television every Saturday and Sunday. I loved wrestling from the time I was child forward. The wrestlers were like comic book super heroes. So, I really wanted to make a film about them.
What I began doing was to take, first my 8 mm, then my Super 8 Camera, and later my 16 mm Bolex to matches and I began to put a lot of wrestling footage together. The idea for both Ringside in Hell and I Like to Hurt People were both born from that inspiration.
Tell us about I Like to Hurt People. How did you met The Sheik ? Why did you choose a such controversitial character like The Sheik to a more likable one like Hulk Hogan or the French wrestler André the Giant ? What was The Sheik like on the set ? Do you have anecdotes about the wrestlers on the making of this movie ?
André the Giant is in the film. But, Hulk Hogan was and is a superstar wrestler and you just couldn't touch him. He was under very strict contacts -- every time he was photographed or filmed, those images had to be approved by his manager and the wrestling federation. What I loved about The Sheik is that though he was a well known wrestler, he was his own man. I went up to him at a match one day, told him what I wanted to do. And, he was the nicest guy. He gave me full access. He also introduced me to many of the other wrestlers, who allowed me to film them, as well.
Tell us about this project of movie you had with the TV horror host The Ghoul ? Why this project didn't get made and what the movie would have been like ?
The reality of filmmaking is -- there is a million great idea. But, getting them all made is impossible. And, that was just one of those projects.
The problem with filmmaking is, there are so many people involved in every project. So many egos. Sometimes projects just happen easily and naturally -- while others you try and try and they just do not happen. As a filmmaker, you have to be willing to accept that fact and move on and not become obsessed and stagnate if you realize that a particular project is not going to get made.
Why, when, and in what circumstances did you choose to move from Michigan to California ? How did you get in touch with New World Pictures and find yourself implied on the making of Galaxy of Terror ? What was your role on this movie ? Is it on the making of this movie you first met James Cameron ?
I sent New World a copy, they liked what they saw. So, they purchased and distributed, I Like to Hurt People. That financed my move to Los Angeles in 1981. Once here, I needed a job. New World was hiring, so I went to work. I became the Assistant Camera for the Special Effects photography for Galaxy of Terror. That is where I met Jim Cameron -- as he was the 2nd Unit Director of this film.
Can you tell us about your experience on The Terminator ?
Though there has been a lot of stories told about the making of The Terminator, most of them are not true. They are just Public Relations from the Studios. My involvement in The Terminator came on the 4th of July 1983, (American's Independence Day), when Jim (Cameron) called me up and asked if I would like to shoot something for him. He was not happy with The Terminator and wanted to shoot some additional scenes. As the money from the production company had stopped coming, he had to pay for this out of his own pocket. What ended up happening is that I shot the opening scene where Arnold Schwarzenegger comes to the past and is naked at the Observatory in Los Angeles. I also shot several other scenes in the movie.
One funny story is: At one point, the union crew was due for their lunch and didn't want to keep lighting the scene. Jim was worried about having to pay Arnold overtime. So, he asked me if there was anything I could do. We got a small portable light, known as a "Mini Cool," out of the truck of my car and I had Jim hold it and pan it as Arnold walked through the scene. We got the shot, Arnold got to go home without being paid overtime, and the movie was completed.
For me, Cameron's Terminator is nothing but a smart and ambitious B movie, in the sense that it doesn't differs much from others B movies from that time. You knew James at the beginning of his career, how do you explain he evolves so fast from the status of a B moviemaker to one of the most valued Hollywood director ? Are you still in touch with him ?
Sure, we are still friends -- even though, due to his massive success, he lives in a very different world than I do.
What explains his success? I don't know? What explains anybody's success in Hollywood?
The first thing you learn about success and filmmaking in Hollywood is that talent has nothing to do with anything. So, the people who come here who think they are talented and expect to be successful can forget it. In the case of Cameron, his success was based on a combination of hard work, luck, good karma, and being at the right place at the right time. God bless him, he is one of the few who truly, "Made it."
Could you tell us about your many collaborations and your friendship with Fred Olen Ray ? Do you prefer him as a wrestler or as a director (laughs) ?
Fred is a great guy and a very successful indie filmmaker. Funny story, since you mentioned him as a wrestler. Fred had asked Scott and I to come and film one of his first public wrestling matches. We thought this would also be a great place to get some footage for one of Scott's films we were working on, Rock n' Roll Cops. So, cameras were rolling and Fred came into the ring to start his match. BAM! Fred gets thrown to the ground very hard by his opponent and we notice that his foot is turned completely sideways. He had broken it very badly. So, obviously the match was over. But Fred, refusing to give up the sport, as soon as it healed, he was back in the ring. He is a true wrestler.
Regarding our collaborations: Fred makes a very different type of film than I make. His are more directed towards the mainstream audience and mine are more geared towards the art crowd. Which is probably why he has made a lot more money than I have. Whenever we have worked together, it was out of friendship -- when he needed a little help doing something -- when he can't find somebody else, he may ask me. (laughs).
Tell us how New World came up to finance Roller Blade ?
Roller Blade was not financed by New World. Roller Blade was shot on 16 mm and was financed by my credit cards. The total shooting budget was $5,000.00. New World picked it up, gave me some completion funds, and distributed it. This occurred at a time when the video market was just beginning to take off. Roller Blade was hyped by New World as, "The First Straight to Video Feature Film." Roller Blade made New World over one million dollars. Which is why the financed Hell Comes to Frogtown.
What was your inspiration for this movie and how did you come up with the idea to associate a post-apocalyptic environment with girls on roller skate ?
There is no one single inspiration for Roller Blade. But, I have long had a love affair with the samurai sword and the Japanese samurai films. Combine this with the fact that roller skating was so popular here in L.A. -- you would see beautiful girls skating down the street all the time. From this I came up with the idea "Roller," for the skates and "Blade" for the sword.
Just a note here: I came up with the title long before the Roller Blade style of skate were released. I always wondered if they saw the movie and if that is where the got the idea for their name?
Do or did you use to roller skate yourself ? (ps : personally, I was pretty much into skateboard from the end of the 80's till the middle of the 90's)
No, I leave the roller skating and roller blading to other people.
Tell us about the cast of Roller Blade : Michelle Bauer, Suzanne Solari (a recurrent actress of your Roller Blade saga), Shaun M. Davidson (was she a roller champion ?), Lisa Marie (Tim Burton's wife ?), Terri Cameron (related to James ?), Barbara Peckinpah (she was in a couple of pornos), Pat McClung...
They were all very nice people. I had put a casting noting is a industry newspaper, that was around at the time, here in L.A., called Dramalogue. I meet them all from the submission of their headshots. None of them were related to anyone famous -- they were all just very nice girls and they all wanted to be in an independent feature film.
In a way can we consider your post-apocalyptic movies (The Roller Blade and the Frogtown sagas) as your own Star Wars saga ?
No. I see each of my films as whole and complete onto itself.
Except your own films do you have a favorites post-apocalyptic movies ? Following the success of Mad Max there have been many post apocalyptic movies made. Do you know about the Italian film of Enzo G. Castellari or the Filipino film of Cirio H. Santiago. They were post-apocalyptic movies ? What do you think about them ? (ps : this issue of Trash Times will feature a huge article on post-nuke films from around the world)
No. I'm not really into any of those films and/or filmmakers.
The reason I embrace the Post Apocalyptic world in several of my films is that it is very freeing. As a filmmaker, if you let your audience know that the film is Post Apocalyptic, the backdrop for the scenes can be anything. For who is to say what the world would look like. It can look like anything you want. The environment can be as wild or as sane as you wish to make it.
Could you give us details on your obscure UFO : Secret Video ? You said it could be compared to an early Blair Witch Project, why ?
I came up with the concept for that movie in the 1970's and began to shoot a little bit of it on Super 8. Then, other projects came up, so I let it go for a while. It wasn't until the 1980's that I actually began filming it again. The reason it is like an early Blair Witch is that it is shot on video. This is long before the DV revolution hit -- where everything now is shot on video. I shot this movie on standard VHS. So, I was one of the first people to actually go out and shoot a film on video.
This movie has sat around in my closet for years -- waiting for the right time to be released. About two years ago, I decide that it would be great if I shot a few more scenes for it -- as I am still friends with one of the lead actors, Jeff Hutchinson (Hutch). So, Scott and I got one of the new actresses we were working with, went up to Bronson Cave (The Bat Cave from the T.V. Series) and shot a scene with Hutch, as his same character, almost twenty years later. How many films can claim that length of time -- still in productions (laughs).
As with most of my footage, I have turned it over to Scott and he will be editing it together in the near future and it may finally be released.
Tell us about the genesis of Hell Comes to Frogtown ? Where did you find the inspiration for frog mutants ? What kind of deal New World proposed to you ? And how do you feel about that afterward ?
There is a section of Los Angeles known as Frogtown. The story goes, that back in the 1940's this area was overwhelmed by a large invasion of Frogs -- which is why it got its name. I had a friend Sam Mann, who was one of the actors in Roller Blade and lived in this area. We were driving along one day and he came up with the title, Hell Comes to Frogtown. From there, I ran with the idea and that is how the movie developed.
New World had made so much money on Roller Blade they offered to finance Hell Comes to Frogtown. My original plan was to shoot the movie with Sam Mann and Suzanne Solari (both from Roller Blade) as the leads. I was going to shoot it on 16 mm, with my Bolex, -- as I had done with Roller Blade. But then, New World decided they wanted to "Up" the budget. The problem is, the minute you let the devil in the door, the devil is going to take control over you. And, that is what happened with New World and Hell Comes to Frogtown. They decided that they wanted to cast name talent and take over the production of the film. So, the movie evolved from being a 16 mm art film, to a relatively high budget 35 mm cult movie. Sadly, my friend Sam didn't get to play Sam Hell and Suzanne was only given a small part in the film.
Were Roddy Piper and Sandahl Bergman your firsts choices for the roles of Spangle and Sam Hell ? What were they like on the set ?
No, as stated, my original plan was to shoot the movie with Sam Mann and Suzanne Solari as the leads. But, New World wanted to use Roddy Piper as he was a very famous wrestler at the time -- and this was going to be his first movie.
As a fan of wrestling, I was happy to have him. But, as you can understand, what occurred was not fair to my friend Sam. I think I may have made the wrong choice by not standing by my friend Sam, who actually came up with the title and the idea for the movie. But, I spoke with him and he seemed Okay with what was happening. Though Hell Comes to Frogtown is, no doubt, my most famous feature, by my accepting New World's offer, I believe it did set a lot of bad karma in motion.
Regarding Sandahl Bergman: She had just finished Conan: The Barbarian, and they wanted to use her for her name power, as well. I had very little to do with any of the casting of the film. Again, this is the problem when a large production company becomes involved in a project -- the actual filmmaker is allowed very little creative control. Which is why I have never again worked with a large production company. But, Piper and Bergan were both very nice people to work with.
Anything to say on Cec Verrell (Centinella) ? (I had a crush on her watching this film -- laughs)
No, just somebody cast by New World. Also, very nice
The "Dance of the Three snakes" scene didn't really stand its promises ? Did Sandahl Bergman had something to do with that ?
In the script, Bergman's character was to be naked in this scene. On the set, she would have nothing to do with nudity, however. So, it was one of those power struggle things happening between the actor and the director. Due to New World's influence and decision, the actor won.
William Smith is one of my favorite actors. How did you get in touch with him ? He would have made a perfect Sam Hell too, don't you think ? Are you still in touch with him ?
Yes, Bill is a great actor and a great friend. He has been around the film industry forever. And, I have known him for a lot of years. I put him in my films whenever I can.
Nicolas Worth is also brilliant, even under his heavy make-up. A very talented actor. Did you notice him from his creepy performance in Don't Answer the Phone (1980) ?
No, he was cast by New World.
The makeup of the Frogmen are excellent, could you tell us about that ?
Steve Wang who went on to direct films like Kung Fu Rascals, The Guyver, and Drive was the main force behind the frog masks and make-up. He is a great guy and has gone on to do a lot of special effects work for a number of very big feature films.
There's always comedy coupled with eroticism and sexual content in your movies that remind me of the films of Russ Meyer. Do his films form part of your influence ?
Some of Russ's stuff in great. Particularly when you think that he made them with out the help of any of the big studios. But, he has never been an influence to me. It was more the avant-garde films from the 1960's like Dr. Chicago and Chinese Fire Drill that really inspired me as a filmmaker.
I think you're also a car lover and "Hell Comes to Frogtown" showcases two amazing cars, were they part of your own collection ?
Yes, I am a big fan of classic cars. I love the cars made in Detroit from the 1950's and early 1960's. One of the cars in Frogtown is a 1962 Plymouth Belvedere. I found and purchased two at the same time. One, we customized for the film and the other one I customized to my own specification and have driven ever since.
R.J. Kizer, the guy guilty to have shot the useless and ugly new scenes of the American version of The Return of Godzilla is often credited as the co-director of Hell Comes to Frogtown. Why ? Was it imposed to you by New World ? Why ? What was your relations with him on the set ? Of which part is it exactly responsible in the final cut of the movie ?
Like a lot of people in the film industry, I sometimes say things, trying to soften the reality of what actually occurred in a particular situation and trying to make it more understandable for those who have never made a film. But, now is the time for me to spell out the truth.
Hell Comes to Frogtown was my baby. Though I have been the one to get the most press from the film, regarding Kizer, again, New World took over the project and said that was part of the deal -- Kizer was going to be the co-director of the movie. Even though I was the creator, my complete creative control was taken away. New World became angry at my desire to maintain control over the project and I was eventually removed as the director and banned from the sets. There was never any collaboration.
Regarding the final cut of the film, New World handled it. Though I watched some of the editing -- they didn't like my flaring temper, when I didn't like something I didn't like. Again, this is why I have never worked with another big production company. Because it just takes all of the creativity away from the filmmaker.
Hell Comes to Frogtown is your one and only film to be released in France (on video under the weird title "Transmutations"), but it seems you always had a great following here with magazines frequently noticing your projects. How do you explain that ?
Wow, that is great to hear. I believe there is a certain type of individual who truly enjoy offbeat art films. And, that is the kind of movies I make. So, I guess these people seek them out.
Now, with the Internet, everything has changed. Now, it is much easier to learn and found out about everything. So, this has really been a big help to my career and getting people to notice my films.
You have to understand, I am from a different generation. We use to publish small fanzine to get the word out about films and music. In the 1960's there were hundreds of these small magazine out there. And, we would all try to track them down to find out what was new. Now, everything is instantaneous on the Internet. And, this is great!
You know French people are known in the world for eating frogs ? In your Frogtown movies, did you never consider to have a French character feared by the frogmen for his cooking tastes. What do you think about that ? (laughs)
Next time... I have assigned all rights to the Frogtown series to Scott (Shaw). So, when he makes the next one, remind him, and he can add a French (Lead) Character to the film. Preferably a beautiful girl.
Did you have other projects planed next with New World before the studio closed its doors ?
No, not really. By the time we finished Frogtown -- they hated me. Because I am a very hands on Director. The downfall of the relationship all stared at one point, the first day of shooting, when they had an art director creating one of the sets. When he finished, I checked it out and it all look too clean and pretty to be a part of the film. I told him about it, but he didn't listen. He had all the arrogance of an art director and felt he had to answer to no one. So, when he stormed off of the set, I got a few can of spray paint and went and spray painted graffiti on the wall of the set. When he came back, he freaked out. He complained to the powers at New World and they had a talk with me. They told me, "Everybody has their job on a studio film. Yours is to direct the actors." So, that was the beginning of the end. I never wanted to make another movie for them.
In 1989 you shot the second chapter in the Roller Blade saga : Roller Blade Warriors : Taken by Force. However, this picture isn't a direct follow up of the adventures of the Sisters in Roller Blade. Why ? What happened to "Roller Blade Part 2 : Holy Thunder", the movie announced at the end of Roller Blade that was supposed to be a direct sequel ?
The reason it isn't a direct follow up is that I realized I had completed the concept and the idea I had for the first film and it was time to move the story onto new realities. This is exactly what Scott Shaw and I did with Roller Blade Seven. Though the movie was based on the same premise, it was time to take the concept to the next level -- which we did.
Regarding Holy Thunder: What I was doing was like at the end of the early James Bond movies -- announcing the next movie to be released in the series. But, like I've discussed -- in filmmaking there is a lot of ideas and some of them just do not get made. That was the case with Holy Thunder.
Roller Blade Warriors is my preferred entry in the Roller Blade saga : very fast paced and entertaining. It seems to me there's many references to (spaghetti) westerns and samurai films as well. Are you a fan of these genres ? What are your main influences (directors, movies) in these genres ? Leone,Peckinpah, Kurosawa ?
Sure. This was very intentional. Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa are two of my biggest influences. As we filmed the entire movie in a very spacious outdoor environment, I was allowed to pay tribute to these two directors and add my own style to the mix.
Anything to say about the cast of Roller Blade Warriors : Kathleen Kimmont (Lorenzo Lamas ex-wife... later be well known for her role as the Bride in Brian Yuzna's Bride of Re-Animator... her mother was actually in RBW as well ?) and the lovely Elizabeth Kaitan (once again my type of gal -laughs). How did you met them ?
All very nice people. I used to hang out with Kathleen a lot -- which is how I met her mother, the famous Abby Dalton.
Elizabeth, again, just an actress I cast through Dramalogue. Obviously a great asset to the film.
Roller Blade Warriors was your last collaboration with Randall Frakes ? Do you plan to work with him again ?
Randy has remained a good friend. Though we have discussed working on projects together over the years, nothing has really happened. He is so busy writing scripts for other people and I have been so busy finding financing and making movies that we have never teamed up again. Maybe in the next life...
What lead you to work for Troma on the making of Class of Nuke'Em High 2: Subhumanoid Meltdown ? Was it a good experience ? What do you think of this independent company ?
Mostly it was my friendship with Eric Louzil. He asked me to come and help out on the films. So, I was happy to do it.
I think Troma is a great company. Lloyd Kaufman has brought some very bizarre films into the mainstream. But, do I like these films? No, not really. They are just not the kind of films I like to make. They are too story driven. I like to make more abstract movies that allows the different members of the audience to draw their own conclusion as to what is the true meaning of the film and the storyline.
How do you met Scott Shaw and how do you come up with the idea of the Zen filmmaking ? Could you explain what exactly is the Zen filmmaking to our French readers ? In a sense Roller Blade Seven was your first Zen film, right ?
Meeting Dr. Shaw was one of those strange karmic events, that was destine to change history. I was casting a movie and somebody sent me a headshot of him holding two samurai swords. To this day we don't know who it was who sent the photo: his manager, another director, or a fan. We don't even know where the person got the photo.
Since I first became a filmmaker I had been looking for a Caucasian guy who actually knew how to use the Samurai Sword. Scott had spent a lot of years in Asia. So, when I saw the photo, I was very intrigued. The guy who was helping me cast the movie, looked at Scott's photo and said, "You can't call him, he'll get all the girls." I called him anyway. I met Scott that afternoon at the Gower Gulch in Hollywood, where all of the old Cowboy actors used to hang out. I climbed into his 1964 Porsche, along with two of my actresses, and we have been friends ever since.
Zen Filmmaking came about due to the meeting of the minds of Scott and myself. Scott came up with the title and I had the years of low-budget experience. The basis of Zen Filmmaking is "Spontaneous Creativity." We don't use scripts because this would limit the instantaneous nature of Zen Filmmaking. This does not mean it is improve. It is not! What occurs is that we study our cast and location like an empty canvas which we want to create a painting upon. We sense the energy and then move forward guiding the actors to say the right things and do the right actions -- which ultimately construct a form of cinematic art.
I think that most filmmakers could not do what Scott and I do. They need structure, which is why the rely upon scripts. But, at our heart, we are both spiritual artists. This is why we have worked so well together and have created a few great movies. I really see us as spiritual brothers -- when we work together it is like we have one-mind.
Roller Blade Seven was much an art film -- kind of experimental in a way (any references in this domain ?) - than the usual B movie. Do you think that the audience that enjoyed your previous movies misunderstood this one, that the public "slept" on its artistic values ? Which was the audience's reception of this film in the United States and in Europe ?
I have found that people who enjoy art films, vivid cinematography, and intense editing really like it. Those who want to be negative and judgmental can find all kinds of things to criticize. But, that is only because they really don't get it.
I mean, Scott and I spent a long time filming that movie at a lot of very beautiful and spectacular locations. We used the dam from Escape from New York, the Observatory used in Terminator, and tons of very beautiful desert location in California and Mexico. We also invented a new type of cinematography, in association with this film, known as, "The Roller-cam." This is where we had a masterful skater film many scene while skating around the actors using my Bolex. This gives the film a very spiritual sense of nonstop movement.
The problem is, people want to criticize movies. They all want to claim that they can make a better movie. Well, I say, "Let's see it." I would like to see anybody do a film with as many spectacular locations and with as many interesting camera movements as Roller Blade Seven. Particular with the very limited budget which we had to make the movie. Only about $30,000.00. And, this film was shot on 16 mm.
Most people never know how hard it is to make a full length feature film. So, I say, "Stop complaining. Get off your butt, and let's see what you can do. Then, you can talk."
The main thing to remember about Roller Blade Seven is that we intentionally created an art film. Just like Dr. Shaw always says, "Some people love Picasso, some people hate his work but you can't say it isn't art." This is the same with The Roller Blade Seven -- you can love it or you can hate, but you can not say that it is not art.
Can you tell us about the great cast of Roller Blade Seven ? Karen Black (the homage to her role in Easy Rider is very smart), William Smith (excellent as always), Don Stroud (very funny role ! was it his own idea ?), Frank Stallone (difficult actor ?), Joe Estevez, Rhonda Shear...
When we first began pre-production on The Roller Blade Seven, the Executive Producer, Tanya York, said we needed two "Name" talents in the film. We agreed upon Don Stroud and William Smith. As time when on, she kept wanting us to add more and more "Name" talent. So, this is why the cast continued to grow. All of them were great. We met Joe (Estevez) through this process and he has remained a close friend that both Scott and I have used in several films. William Smith is, of course, a good friend. Karen is great. Don was excellent. And Frank, well Frank was Frank...
Regarding the character development. We just spoke with each of them before filming. Karen we told that we wanted to do a tribute to Easy Rider and, as you can see, she was great. She wanted some ideas for dialogue, so we gave her two of Scott's books: Essence and Time, which were made up of spiritual aphorisms, and she just choose her dialogue from them.
With Bill, I wanted to do something different, something he had never done before. So, we put his character in a wheelchair -- claiming the character was hurt in a skate boarding accident. I think it worked great. I mean, we took one of Hollywood's badest, bad guys and had him do something he had never done before -- act from a wheelchair. I think he made the character of Pharaoh, great. It couldn't have been played any better.
Don, we just let him run with character. He wanted to pay his bongos in the film. So, we went out to the California High Desert, and we moved forward from there.
We needed a diabolical character in the film, so we gave Joe Estevez, (Martin Sheen's brother), the name, Saint Offender. He was great -- he also choose most of his dialogue from the same two books, written by Dr. Shaw.
Frank, was a last minute addition. I am sure he expected a big cast and crew when he showed up on the set -- as he was the brother of Sly. But, the only crew was Scott, myself, and later a Camera Assistant.
Though it wasn't really intentional, I think we really messed with him when he arrived and we gave him this rubber Knight suit to wear. You could see the expression in his face. He was embarrassed. But, ultimately it looked okay on film and that was all that mattered.
You know, he really wasn't a bad guy. He obviously had an ego because of who his brother is, but he did his lines, we paid him his money, and he went home. We never heard from him again.
There's also two well known actresses from the adult scene: Jill Kelly and Jade East. Can you talk about them ?
This was Jill Kelly's first film. She was a friend of one of my friends, who is now known as Tiffany Million. Tiffany, Jill, Scott, and I met one day in Burbank. Went out to a Mexican food restaurant and got drunk on margaritas. We all just clicked. Jill wanted to be an actress, so the next day she was in the film. The rest of her acting career is history.
Jade East was a friend of Robert Z'Dar. He suggested her for the film as she wanted to do some non-porno roles. At the time Scott and I put her in the film, we didn't even know she was porn star. But, she was very nice and we were happy to have her on the set.
Is it true that Traci Lords, David Carradine and Eric Estrada were supposed to be in this film ? In what roles ? And why they couldn't be in the film ?
Scott and I often discuss how it was a great loss to not have had Traci in the film. She would have really given the film the extra boost that it needed to get it more out into the mainstream. Traci and Scott became very close during the period when Scott was teaching her how to use the samurai sword for her role in this film. Traci is a very nice person and was set to do the film. The Executive Producer, Tanya York, wanted her to sign contact that she could use the footage we filmed for RB7 any place, any time, in any movie. Traci wouldn't sign it. Smart girl. So, we lost her.
Eric was going to play the Great Celestial Mechanic in the film. Scott and I went up to his house to discuss his role. All he could say was, "I don't give a fuck about my career. All I care about is the money." Sadly, money is what kept him from the movie. He wanted $10,000.00 to do the film. And, Tanya would only offer him $9,000.00. This was just to mess him with. So, he didn't do the film.
Scott was the one who courted David Carradine. I think he had worked with him a couple of times before. But, he was just about to start filming the T.V. Series, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues and it was the contract, (the same one that Traci wouldn't sign) that kept him away, as well.
How did the actors of Roller Blade Seven reacted to the fact there was no script for the movie. Did they understood and get along well with the concept of Zen filmmaking without making problems ?
Most were just great. I mean the real actors in the film -- the one's who actually spoke, were all very talented and experienced actors. So, they had no problem not using a script. Whenever someone wanted some dialogue to memorize we would give them the two books by Scott that I mentioned. These books were made up of Spiritual Aphorism. So, this really kept the film focused on the spiritual essence of life -- which is really what I wanted. In fact, near the end of the film when my character, Father Donaldo performs the wedding ceremony for Hawk (Scott Shaw) and Stella Speed, I read the introduction from Scott's book Time. So, it was really a lot of fun using those two books as a guideline.
Scott Shaw is very talented in martial arts and sword fighting but he did not seems to be at ease on rollers. In certain plans where his feet are not seen, one would say that it simulates roller skating...
That was one of the jokes of the film -- that Scott, Hawk as he was known in the film, really hated to skate. If you remember one scene, his character keeps falling down off of his rollerblade and he says, "I can't believe she made me wear these skates."
Roller Blade Seven is full of amazing and eccentric characters: Kabuki (was her look was inspired by the gang of the "Baseball Furies" in Walter Hill's The Warriors ?) the Banjo Man, Fukasai Ninja (nice armor, who designed it ?), the Black Knight, Madison Monk. Can you tell us more about these characters (who got the idea, what was the inspiration) ?
The way these character developed is the essence of Zen Filmmaking. We never had any plans for any of these character. In fact, just the opposite. We asked the girl who played Kubaki to come up with a custom idea and she showed up on the set like that. I mean, how magical is that? And, no, though I love many of Walter Hills' films, RB7 was not inspired by The Warriors. The other character happened the same way. We gave the people a little guidance and they did the rest.
The costume for the character Fukasai Ninja was just something our art director, Mark Richardson had lying around. He tuned it up a little bit to better fit the movie -- so an actor could roller skate in it. And, bam, the character became a big part of the film.
Do you enjoyed playing the role of Reverend Donaldo in this film and his sequel ?
Sure, it was fun. And, that's why I did it -- to have fun and have some fun with a character. Like Scott and I always say, "Fun is what it is all about."
Return of the Roller Blade Seven was shot back to back with Roller Blade Seven ? What was your relation with the producer of the two films ? What exactly is Legend of the Roller Blade Seven ?
I really don't want to talk about Legend of the Roller Blade Seven. The Executive Producer, Tanya York, broke all of the contracts with Dr. Shaw and myself and reedited Roller Blade Seven and Return of the Roller Blade Seven making it one very bad movie. If you see the original film, some of Scott's edits are magical. They set trends long before that style of flash cut and repeat cut editing ever came to MTV and Music Videos. And, this was the first movie he ever edited. He had never edited before! But, he just somehow understood how to make movie magic!. Tanya came along and decide that the two movies were too weird. So, she wanted to make them more normal. All she did was take the two films and have some moron reedit them into one feature and totally destroy our vision.
The funny story about Tanya is that I was one of the people who helped her break into the film industry. I had hired her as a Make-up Artist (I used to call her a Cake-up artist) on Roller Blade Warriors. One day I got really mad at her and was about to fire her. But, I didn't. Keep in mind, she was only about sixteen years old at that point in time. So, by the time she was the Executive Producer of Frogtown II and Roller Blade Seven, she was only about twenty years old. What happened is that after I finished Roller Blade Warriors, I introduced her to David Heavener. She went on to help him produce Twisted Justice. Then she wanted to make her own films. I suggest she put an ad in the newspaper looking for investors. She found a millionaire who was interested. So, due to my long credibility in the Independent Film Market, I went with her to the initial meetings. And, it was my reputation and track record which convinced the man to invest in her films. So, it was very unfortunate when she screwed me over more than once regarding my film projects. She has also screwed over a lot of other people. Today, she is one of the most successful independent producer and distributors in Hollywood. So, that tells you something about karma. What, I don't know.
In retrospect, are you fully satisfied by these two films and by your films in general ?
Scott and I believe that we have made two masterpieces as a team: Roller Blade Seven and Guns of El Chupacabra. So, am I happy with Roller Blade Seven and Return of the Roller Blade Seven -- absolutely! Could we have done more if we had more money. Of course, that is always the case. But, I believe these films will stand the test of time.
Frogtown 2 is a very funny sequel to the original movie. Is it really Tanya York of York Entertainment who co-wrote the story of this film (is it the same person who gave you troubles with Roller Blade Seven and Return of the Roller Blade Seven ?
Tanya York never wrote anything. As she was the source of financing for the film, she wanted screenwriter credit and took it. The truth is, once financing was in place, I went home and wrote the entire script for Frogtown 2 in eleven hours.
What was the budget of Frogtown 2 compared to the original film ? Did you have to face problems you didn't encounter on the making of the first film ?
The budget for Frogtown 2 was $180.000,00.
When every you work for somebody else there is problems. One of the people who worked for Tanya on this film really wanted to be the Director. As it was my idea, he couldn't do that. But, he tried in every way to get me fired. When he couldn't make that happen, he just made the cast and the crew miserable. He had no sense of camera work or of timing. So, he would throw impossible demands at the cast, the crew, and at me. It was really a miserable time shooting that film. But, I believe that it turned out Okay.
The only problem that I had when I watched this sequel is that the two protagonists (Spangle and Sam Hell) seems to be perfect strangers. Why are some of the background elements of the first film wiped out ?
Most of that was caused by the tension that the previously mentioned person brought to the set. This film was Dennis Duff's first movie and I am sure she felt the pressure more than most of the seasoned veterans. That may have caused some of that lack of chemistry. But, she was very nice and Z Man, as I call him (Robert Z'Dar) has long been, and still remains, a close friend.
Like I stated in regard to the Roller Blade series, it was just time to move the story forward and create some new elements. And, that is what I did.
Frogtown 2 is mild compared to the original, there's not much sexual elements as in the first film, why ? Does the PG13 rating was imposed to you ?
Sexuality is really not my first focus in filmmaking. If it works, it works. But, the reason there is much more sexuality in the first Frogtown is that Randy Frakes was the primary screenwriter. And, sexuality is his style. He wrote the rape scene into Roller Blade Warriors and I was totally against that. I just don't like that kind of stuff. But, that is the problem when you work with scripts, you are locked into what the production company and the actors expect is going to happen.
Does your inspiration for the "Texas Rocket Rangers" came from the old Republic serials (like Commando Cody) ? What is your favorite serial (of the rocket men saga) ? Are you familiar with the Dave Stevens comic : Rocketeer ? And what do you think of the movie adaptation ?
Absolutely! In fact, in Guns of El Chupacabra we introduce a character, Rocket Ranger Dan Danger into the film, played by Joe Estevez. This character is a direct throw back to television shows of my childhood when a commentator would come on and and give you a play-by-play scenario of what was taking place.
Regarding Rocketeer: I have meet Dave Stevens and know about his Rocketeer. But, I was never a really big fan. To me, the character just seemed redundant to many of the comic book characters from the 1950's.
Can you tell us about the cast of the movie : Charles Napier, Robert Z'Dar, Denise Duff, Don Stroud, Brion James, Lou Ferigno (what was his reaction when you told him he had to paint his face green for the most part of the role ? -- laughs)...
There was a lot of people being considered for the film. Lorenzo Lamas and Katheline Kinmont wanted to do it. But, Tanya said, "No." She was very sorry when Lorenzo did his very successful television series Renegade a year or so later.
I was for Z'Dar, as the lead, all along. I mean, with his jaw he looks like such a super hero. In fact, I really wanted him to play the film like Dudley Do Right, the comic book and cartoon character, who is a Canadian Mountie. I though if he spoke like that, it would be so funny. But, ultimately that idea didn't happen. Once Z'Dar was locked in, then I wanted Dennis as she also had the big jaw. The same with Napier. I wanted the movie to be a battle of the jaws... (laughs).
Brion James came on board and he did the character better than I could ever have hoped for. I told him, he could move the dialogue wherever he wanted -- say what ever he wanted to say. But, he wanted to stick to the script. So, he said the word that I wrote.
Lou was brought on board, due to his obvious association with the Hulk. So, he was used to being painted green. (smiles). Lou was a very nice person to work with.
Tell us about Toad Warriors. Why has it been edited into a 30 minutes feature called Max Hell Comes to Frogtown ? Will it be possible to see the 90 minutes cut of Toad Warriors in the future ? Do you really consider making a Frogtown TV series ? Does some networks are already interested in this project ?
The unfortunate reality of filmmaking is that distributors want 90 minute movies for distribution. So, a lot of times, in the world of Independent filmmaking, you have to put a lot of filler in a movie to make it long enough.
Scott and I made Toad Warrior as not so much a sequel to Hell Comes to Frogtown but a project that drew from its influences and could stand on its own merits. When we got to editing it, we found that there were some great scenes in the films, but a lot of footage we really didn't like. But, due to the fact that the distributor wanted a 90 minute film, we had to leave a lot of the footage in that we really did not want to. This is not to say that it is a bad movie. It is just longer than we felt was actually necessary.
The full length version was released in Malaysia, Indonesia, The Philippines, and Japan.
Earlier this year, Scott took the incentive and did something we had been talking about for a long time -- editing the film down to just the scenes and storyline that we felt were the best. Thus, Max Hell Comes to Frogtown was born. It is about 30 minutes in length.
We call this a Zen Speedflick -- taking the essence of a full length film and breaking it down to its most essential elements.
When Scott reedited the film, he didn't even go back to the original source material. He just took what was already edited, cut it down, and made it a 30 minute movie -- which we both feel is a far better version. The story gets told, with none of the unnecessary footage.
Regarding the ongoing nature of Frogtown: There has been a lot of talk over the years about making it a T.V. Series, a cartoon, or a comic book. One of the biggest problems with Hollywood is that there is always a lot of talk. So, nothing has happened yet.
On some of your recent films you used the pseudonym of Maximo T. Bird. Why and where this pseudonym come from ?
I use that when I don't want to take credit for certain of my films because they are so bad or the investors wants their money back. (laughs).
No, not really. It is just my alter ego. Just a fun name...
Was the goal of making cute films such as Little Lost Sea Serpent, Baby Ghost and Rollergator to touch a family audience ?
At the time I made these films, I was financed by a company who wanted Children's films. So, what I did, was give them the Donald G. Jackson version of a Children's film -- weird. These films were all script based. I would come up with the story and they were written by Mark Williams. I believe they all stand on their own as interesting little pieces of art. They are not necessarily my favorite pieces of work from my library. But, none-the-less, they are out there for the world to see.
You shot in many formats, which one do you prefer ?
Right now, I love DV. I mean when I stated out, everything was so expensive. Even 8 mm! You had to buy the film, develop it, and then try to edit it together. If you scratched or messed up the negative, or if you needed another shot, it was so expensive to go out an get it. And, the price wen up with each step: Super 8, 16 mm, 35 mm. I even shot in IMAX for a while. But, with DV, you are so free. You can do anything. You need another shot, you can just go out and get. You can bring it in to your computer and put it anywhere in the movie you want it.
If this format were around, even ten years ago, I would have been a rich man. Because, for my entire adult life, I have spend all of my money on making movies. And, this has cost me a lot. Even though I was one of the first people to shot movies on video -- it was still expensive in the early days. You still had to transfer it to VHS or SVHS with time code to edit, and then output it to Beta. But, now that has all change. DV has changed filmmaking forever. I don't even believe there is a reason to shoot on anything else.
Can you talk about your collaboration with Julie Strain and Kevin Eastman. How did you met them ?
I first met Julie back in 1986. She auditioned for Frogtown. Then, I met her again when she audition for Frogtown 2. I first worked with her on a film that was never released, called, Queen of Lost Island. And, we have remained friends ever since.
Kevin, I met through Julie -- as they are married. But actually, my relationship with Kevin goes back many years. He created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When I was doing Frogtown, I wrote him a letter and he answered. I still have the letter.
Like Julie, Kevin is a very nice and very creative person. We even got him to begin acting in films. He has a great role in Guns of El Chupacabra.
Scott and I did several Zen Films with the two of them -- some of which have not yet been released. So, there is still a backlog of our work that the world will hopefully see someday.
Can you tell us about the amazing Guns of el Chupacabra ? What led you to the idea of using this creature from the recent Mexican folklore ?
Dr. Shaw and I were interviewed on a National T.V. show while we were shooting Guns of El Chupacabra, we told them a tall-tale about how we were driving in Mexico scouting locations for a movie and we actually had an encounter with a Chupacabra. But, as discussed, sometimes in Hollywood the truth get a little stretched. But in actuality, I was surfing the internet one day, and saw an article on the Chupacabra and it just hit me -- I need to make a movie about this creature. I called up Scott. And, the rest is Zen Filmmaking history.
Guns of El Chupacabra is another of your Zen film made in collaboration with Scott Shaw. It's very subversive, funny and disorienting even if it starts like an usual B movie. What was your point with this film ?
The point was to present, as in all the other films Scott and I have created, that good overcomes evil. That the world is a spiritual place. Certainly, we have fun in presenting these facts in an abstract manner. But, if you read between the lines, and look to the true essence of the film, it is easy to see what we are attempting to say. Be good, be spiritual, be happy, have some fun, and you will be victorious and some good things will come to you.
In your career you directed straight B movies (like Hell comes to Frogtown, Roller Blade Warriors) and more experimental films referring from your Zen philosophy (like Roller Blade Seven and Guns of el Chupacabra). What kind of movies do you prefer or feel more conformable with ? Do you consider yourself much as an independent B moviemaker or an experimental artist ?
I am an artist first and foremost. Which is why I am probably not rich. Had I wanted to go the traditional route, I probably could have been rich. But, it was just not in me.
Like I always say, "If I wanted to make money I would never have gotten into the film business. I would have opened a hamburger stand." (laughs).
Do you plan to make other Zen films in the future ?
No, probably not. Scott has continued to make Zen Films. Dr. Shaw really is the essence of Zen Filmmaking. He has really taken the art form to the next level. He has shot all of his recent Zen Films in both the U.S. and Asia and they are really great. Me, I have been focusing mostly upon making documentaries for the past few years.
From your experience and point of view as an independent filmmaker what is your opinion on the recent movies and the current movie industry (on both sides, independent and major studios) ?
Most independent films have just gotten boring. Most of them are doing nothing new. They are just presenting the same story we have seen a million times before. The problem is, most indie filmmakers think they have created gold -- when they have just shot the same movie that was made better twenty or thrifty years ago. On the other hand, some of the Lars von Trier stuff is really cutting edge. He has taken a style, based in Dogme 98, and continued to move it forward. I think Time Code, by Mike Figgis was a masterpiece. How the hell did he do that!
So, there is still some very creative, cutting edge stuff being made. Some of the big films are Okay. I mean with big budget you have so many more options. Some of the Michael Bay stuff is great. You can sit there and count and every five seconds there is a cut and a new angle is revealed. Actors like Vin Diesel in XXX Triple are a lot of fun.
What kind of movie would you do if a major studio would give you a big budget ?
The same things I have done in the past. I would just go out there and make a very big Don Jackson movie on a very big scale
Are you connected with filmmakers of the current independent and B movie scene ?
As mentioned, I am friends with people like Fred Ray, Randy Frakes and, of course, Scott Shaw. But, for the most part, Indie Filmmakers are too full of themselves. They bore me with all of their self involved nonsense. So, though I know a few filmmakers, who I consider friends, I try to stay away from most of them. They have nothing to offer me, and I have nothing to offer them.
What would you say, what kind of warnings or advices would you give to a young independent filmmaker ?
Do what you love. Don't make a movie just because the subject matter is popular. Go out and make a film that you have a passion about. Even if the film is not received well, you will still be able to be proud of it and you will have begun to define yourself as a filmmaker, with a specific style and point of view.
Music always had a big place in your life. Do you still host a country music radio show ?
I did that up until just recently. Sadly, the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) came in a shut down the radio station. They said what were were broadcasting was too subversive. Not my show, anyway... But, I guess some of the other DJ's were saying some pretty provocative things.
What are you working on right now ?
Well, right now I am in the hospitable and I am fighting for my life against Leukemia. So, this will probably be the last interview I will ever give.
The project I was about to begin working on was a documentary about the folk music of the 1960's. But, I guess I will have to pass than on to the hands of somebody else.
What are your projects ? Do you plan to make follow ups to the Roller Blade and Frogtown saga ? Does your project called Wheelzone Rangers is connected with the Roller Blade saga ? What is Horny Toads ? Is it a serious project or only a joke ?
Horny Toads was a joke. Dr. Shaw and I toyed around with doing it -- make a very serious movie about a very dumb subject -- just to mess with the audience. But, we let that idea go. Wheelzone Rangers was a sequel to Roller Blade Seven that Scott and I came up with in '94. So, if Scott wants to pick up where we left off in Return of the Roller Blade Seven, he has my blessings. Scott tends to make a different type of film than this, however. You know, the student becoming the master and all that. So, I don't know if he will ever move forward with the concept. But, I have assigned all rights to him. So, you never know...
Where can your fans find and order your movies, especially the more obscure ones ?
Well, there is basically two places: my website: zendance.com -- which, I don't know how long it will be up if I move onto the next world. And, Dr. Shaw's website: www.scottshaw.com. As he is the chosen keeper of the library and legacy of Donald G. Jackson, and I have assigned all the rights to all of my films and tapes, both edited and not, to him, he is probably the best long term source for the works of Donald G. Jackson.
One last world for the French reader of Trash Times...
Get out there and "Do it!" That is what life is all about.
Article Copyright © 2002 Guillaume Richard, Editor, Trash Times Magazine
Photo Credit Scott Shaw Copyright © 2002 — All Rights Reserved