- Vancouver, British Columbia - I first met Richard Mogg while attending film school just over a year ago. The co-producer of my first short film had worked with him in the same film program two years earlier and brought a number of graduates on board to help out a rookie like me. During that shoot, there was some down time where we chatted about what he has been up to since he graduated. He told me of a feature film he had been working on and was planning to shoot in the Summer. Now his first feature is complete, so I took the opportunity to chat with him about the film and his plans for it.
Richard has started up his own Production Company called RickMoe Productions, which is primarily just him and his wife who, when working in the films goes by A.M. Hunter. “She's more of a silent partner,” Richard admits. “She helps me with developing story ideas. I usually credit her as a creative consultant on every film we've done. With this film especially, she's not only a co-producer, but has been involved with the editing process in terms of going through all my rough cuts, and my so-called final cuts and really just helping me fine tune it to get it to a point of consistency.” He also confesses that her interest in film is only through him as she hadn't gone to film school herself. “I don't even think she owned a VCR before I came along.”
RickMoe Productions first feature film is the slasher flick, Easter Bunny Bloodbath. "Twenty years ago, Peter McKay witnessed his father decapitate his sister on Easter morning. Peter never celebrated the Easter holiday again... until now. In an isolated cabin, Peter and his friends will soon be stalked by a killer with an ax to grind. Someone lurking through the woods this holiday weekend... a boogeyman dressed as the Easter Bunny." While not the first Easter themed horror film, he does believe this to be one of the first where the Easter Bunny is the killer.
What also makes Easter Bunny Bloodbath special is that it's a tribute film to the old S.O.V. style. S.O.V. stands for Shot on Video, where independent filmmakers could make their films on low grade cameras that actually recorded directly onto video tapes. “It's not just the fact that the camera was a video camera,” Richard elaborates, “it really is in itself a style. It's almost a forgotten type of sub-genre of horror film. These came out around 1982. The first one was called Boarding House by John Wintergate. There were about a hundred of them between '82 and '92.”
Beyond the recording method and video quality, there were other aspects that made a movie an S.O.V. “There were elements like a lapse in the actor performing as opposed to the actor being themselves. There were times when watching these films, you feel as if the actor is not really acting, they're just being themselves. And because of that you get this feeling like it's a time capsule, just capturing what was happening. Certain scenes that were set up were total improv. Just 'here's the scene, go for it guys,' and let the people figure out what's going on. This usually looks like a food fight or something that happens in a party scene where people are just getting stoned or something. They just let the cameras role.” This would be a luxury that classic film doesn't have in that it would be a waste of thousands of dollars of film stock.
The real charm behind the style is the idea that anyone could make an S.O.V film and, as they always got straight to video distribution, anyone could watch them also. “You could look at it and say I could do that,” Richard continues. “That's the fun part. It's funny because people are acting really scared but I could do that in my backyard for ten cents.” Richard cites the film Blood Lake (1987) by Tim Boggs as the main inspiration for Easter Bunny Bloodbath and says that the script and shooting style were done to pay homage to it.
One of the key elements needed to make Easter Bunny Bloodbath work was the setting. What they needed was a cabin that would not only function as their main set for the film, but could also house them for a week while they were shooting the film. They found an ideal cabin in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada that accommodated those needs and also provided other locations for the film around the cabin. Their crew was absolutely minimal, primarily Richard and his Director of Photography, Chris Clements, who graduated from the the same film program in 2008. Chris often operated the camera, while Richard did location sound. Any other miscellaneous jobs could be filled in by the cast when they weren't on screen. At most, there were 8 people at the cabin, though the shooting schedule needed to be arranged for several members of the cast who needed to leave early. What aided Richard through this was the fact that everyone involved with the production was a graduate from the Langara College film program. “It helped that everyone had gone through the Langara film process. We were all graduates. We weren't all the same year [...] but everybody had the same background of training and we all had been taught by the same instructors, which really helped us in that we all knew what needed to be done to get it all done.”
While shooting, Richard purposefully left out information from some of his actors to help capture that genuine S.O.V. feel. Part of the charm of the genre is that there are mistakes because of how amateur the actors and filmmakers are. Richard's task was to try and replicate that, but he wanted to do so without instructing the actors to do so, otherwise it wouldn't seem as genuine as the real thing. “Before we shot, only the two lead actors had been told 'if it looks like we're goofing around or doing something where we don't know what we're doing, trust us, we know what we're doing.' We didn't tell this to the other four.” Richard admitted it was a bit of a gamble. “The mistakes are there on purpose. […] We didn't want them to play it very serious. We're looking for moments where they were unsure because that unsureness is what carries into an S.O.V. That was something risky on our side because we could have looked like a big disaster, but they went with it so that was good.”
Richard and A.M. Hunter funded the film entirely themselves, figuring it was the safest way to get the project done and done the way they wanted. The Langara film program trains all of their students as producers, but Richard admits that the skill was definitely put to the test in this project. “In every aspect, it's about money. The constant battle between the producer and director is that the director wants to get what they need to get for the film. The producer's job is to find out how they can get that for the minimal cost possible.” Fortunately Richard was able to provide his own camera and sound equipment, and his demand for lighting was minimal, especially since the objective was to achieve an amateur look for the film.
Richard was with the film from conception through completion, which he feels was crucial to the movie being a consistent product the whole way through. “I knew from the inception, even before the script was written, how it would come out in the end. And for the most part it has done that. The product that has been delivered is the product we set out to make. […] If I was not at least involved in one of the development stages the film very likely would not have come out the way it did.” Richard explains that they had an outside composer come in to do the soundtrack of the film but wanted complete autonomy. “He made music that was great sounding, quality stuff, but was not available to use in the film. [...] It was music that was working against what was happening in the film. If I had allowed that music to go through, the film would not have been watchable I think. It would have been terrible. We would have lost that consistency.” He eventually took on the task of scoring it himself along with some music composed by Chris Clements as well. While he doesn't suggest that all independent directors do every job themselves, he stresses that it's important to at least be involved in all aspects of the filmmaking to some degree to ensure that you know what your outcome will be.
The film had a tight budget of $3700. “That's peanuts for a film,” Richard explains. “That's nothing.” There were three big costs that took up the majority of the budget. The third biggest was the transportation to Chilliwack for all of the people and the equipment. The second biggest cost was the cabin itself which Richards says was a great deal due to the multiple locations they were able to get out of it. The strange décor also contributed considerably to the overall look to the film. “The cabin itself was very unique looking. It was green painted which made it stand out even more.” The single biggest cost was buying food and feeding the cast during their week at the cabin. They saved on having their cast and crew work without pay, which isn't unusual for such a low budget project. “People dedicated their own time for this so I give a big personal thanks. They're doing it because they love the project. They're doing it for their own advancement in their career and because we all believe in bettering ourselves and advertising ourselves.”
Of course, once into post production the costs kept adding up. “Once you get that film edited and you're ready to push it out there, everybody wants hands greased for money. Everything costs money. Just to get a poster done you're looking at $20 here and there. You think it's not too bad, but it adds up.” The film's budget jumped to almost $6000 from the various expenses to try and get the film publicized and seen. “To get a film submitted into festivals you usually pay a submission fee that's anywhere from $40 to $80. And to get it there on time for the deadline, plus you want to guarantee a delivery, you usually pay more for a tracking numbers. That's $30 there just to have it sent. As soon as you do that, there you are $100 - $150 out just to submit it to a festival! It all adds up.” Richard explains that you just need to prepare for it and realize that it will cost you right from the beginning. “I told my wife that our tax money is going to be gone because the tax return is going into the film.” However, Richard didn't make Easter Bunny Bloodbath to make money. He wanted it more to be the calling card for the production company.
RickMoe Productions' next project is starting right away and he even has a teaser shot and edited for the screening of Easter Bunny Bloodbath. Richard describes it as a 70s styled femme fatale revenge flick called Bangin' Vengeance. Although, he says the film will be more gritty and full of offensive balls to the wall action, he insists that it is kept in the frame of entertainment. “I enjoy more films where you get that tongue-in-cheek feel. It doesn't have to be slapstick or a wink at the camera, but you know that people are having fun. Films are entertainment. […] so if this is going to be balls to the wall, it's done so that you're going to get a laugh out of your shock.”
Richard stresses that the next movie is more important than this one. He quotes Stuart Gordon, the director of the cult horror film Re-Animator (1985) who said that "anyone can direct, but what makes you a director is not the first film you do, but the next film." Richard continues, “The fact that we shot a feature film is great, but we gotta do the next one now. That's what makes us directors. […] If it's at least good enough that somebody got something out of it, then we can make another one."
Please read my Easter Bunny Bloodbath review here.