Ginger Nuts of Horror
Following their incredible success with 'Leviathan: The story of Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser 2'' and 'You're so cool, Brewster! The Story of Fright Night!', documentary film-makers Dead Mouse Productions Ltd and Cult Screenings UK Ltd have turned their attention to one of the classics of the 80's (and Gingernuts regular Kit Power's favourite movie of all time) - the mighty Robocop. With the Kickstarter already funded and the entering its final week, and exciting new stretch goals announced, we got to chat with Gary Smart, Chris Griffiths and Eastwood Allen about how you go about making the definitive documentary about one of cinemas most beloved movies...
After the Hellraiser and Fright Night documentaries, what attracted you to Robocop?
GARY SMART: Being a fan of all things 80s and of course, being a child of the 80s, movies like Hellraiser, Fright Night and RoboCop are films that have left a lasting impression on my movie tastes. I remember watching RoboCop at a very early age and instantly loving it. The gore, the violence, the action, but above all else, I loved the characters. RoboCop is one of those 80s movies that not only defined that period but also expanded it.
CHRIS GRIFFITHS: Being asked what your favourite film is can be an impossible question to answer, but for me it is hands down Robocop. Since teaming up with Gary and Adam in 2013 for the Hellraiser documentary, it has frequently crossed my mind the prospect of covering Robocop, but never in my wildest dreams did I think that on our third project we would actually be doing it!
Having mentioned it in passing, the wheels began turning when we had lunch with the film's writer, Ed Neumeier whilst on location in Los Angeles shooting the Fright Night documentary and the subject of a documentary came about pretty quickly to which Ed seemed pretty keen at the idea. A few months later and before we knew it, we were having Skype conversations and preparing our Kickstarter campaign whilst acquiring as many cast & crew as we could get.
By sheer chance we simultaneously became acquainted with the project's Creative Producer and Editor, Eastwood who is currently Co-Editing the Fright Night Documentary and like us saw Robocop at far too young an age and is incredibly familiar with the material. This is very much the angle we are going at with this project in not just producing a comprehensive making of, but also try and recreate those pivotal moments in our lives like many others when we were first snuck that VHS into the VCR and had our minds blown at a ridiculously young age. It's great to deliver the facts, but we aim to create an in-depth experience with these projects and we have some very exciting concepts that we are currently working on to enhance the storytelling side of it.
EASTWOOD ALLEN: You have great taste. I still think RoboCop is underrated and doesn’t get the type of respect it deserves. I think the plain and simple fact that this is Chris’ favourite film and certainly in my top 5 made it easy for Dead Mouse Productions to pick a next project. Chris and I had sort of slipped RoboCop into many conversations (quoting the shit out of it). Like we’ve stated before, it’s a film that has everything, Ingenuity, state-of-the-art SFX, visceral action, sub-text. There’s a heart to RoboCop. It’s also an incredibly smart film, way ahead of its time. On the surface its masqueraded as an action film, but its all there beneath the blood and gunpowder. Smart science-fiction is my favourite type of movie, and there’s so much to unravel.
Then there’s the sequels, which all add something to the legacy and have always given sci-fi fans something to talk about.
You’re previous projects have been horror movies - did the fact that Robocop is an action movie change your approach at all?
GS: I strongly believe that RoboCop is also a horror movie. It doesn't have puzzle boxes or vampires, but it does have real human horror. What Alex Murphy goes through is nightmarish and the monsters in that movie are Dick Jones and Clarence Boddicker. Humans are always more scary than fictitious creatures or entities. So my approach for this was pretty much the same, its a genre I love and above all, I love special effects and RoboCop is a standout movie for its amazing special and visual effects.
CG: The shift from horror to action/sci-fi was somewhat intentional (although we have no plans to not go back to horror) in order to broaden our market as a company. We primarily deal with horror but more importantly we deal with films that come from a golden era for our generation and the 80s were rife in both Horror, Sci-Fi and Action movies.
Across these projects you’ve met and interviewed some incredible, iconic talents from both sides of the camera. Are you ever star struck? How do you cope with that?
GS: As a huge fan of these movies and loving them since the age of five, I’m always star struck. I’m sitting in front of Pinhead, Channard and Evil Ed! But at the same time we are also there to do the best job we can, so we need to be as professional as possible (of course we sneak the odd photo and autograph). I’m extremely proud of my crew and the way that they conduct themselves, we’ve always had amazing comments from the interviewees about our professionalism and that has helped us gain a good reputation. The weirdest thing for me is that we’ve become friends with some of the interviewees, I email Tom Holland a lot and we are close to Simon Bamford, Simon Sayce, Nicholas Vince, Geoff Portass and Stuart Conran - now that is unreal for me.
CG: Meeting everyone involved in all these movies has been incredible for us and there might be initial nervousness on everyones parts or some more than others when it comes to meeting the talent behind them but soon enough we all settle down pretty quickly and get to business (with a giant cheesy grin on my face)
I notice from the Kickstarter that in some cases (Nancy Allen and Paul McCrane) you’ve managed to secure their first interviews about the movies. That’s obviously very exciting for us fans - how did you manage to secure these exclusives?
GS: All the cast and crew that we have secured have been amazing and to get the likes of Nancy Allen and Paul McCrane is brilliant for us. I have to give credit to our production coordinator Michael Perez, he has been amazing! he truly has. Michael is so experienced in sourcing interviewees, he worked on Never Sleep Again, Crystal Lake Memories and More Brains! He has a real knack for not only finding cast and crew, but for also convincing them to take part. Michael is now an important part of Cult Screenings/Dead Mouse, he has the same passion as us and that comes across to the interviewees. When they know that you are committed to these projects and that you want to celebrate their movies, they in turn give you the trust that you need to make projects like these. A lot of people are asking us “what about Peter Weller?” believe me we are very close to confirming him.
Paul Verhoeven is an amazing director. Can you talk a bit about securing that interview, and the kinds of things you want to ask him/have asked him (delete as appropriate)?
GS: Paul was hard to get, not because he was difficult but because after a long hiatus in the movie business he has just returned as a director and is busy promoting his new film Elle. We are planning to interview him in either the US or Europe, he really loves the idea of the documentary and is passionate about his fans and his movies. We are really going to go in-depth about the hidden meaning of RoboCop, what his intentions were, did the movie pan out as he wanted and finally what he thinks about the 30 year legacy of RoboCop.
CG: As fans of the film and doing our research, we are very much aware that there have been a number of interviews with Paul already on this subject matter. Given this is a comprehensive making of we will be going over some familiar ground but plan to expand on this and delve into other areas like the legacy and behind the scenes stories that have not been covered before and hopefully deliver the goods for the hardcore fans.
EA: The remarkable thing about RoboCop is that it said so much about US culture in the 80s, and yet it was directed by an outsider. I’ve heard Mr Verhoeven talk about how being a foreigner gave the film such a unique perspective. I think without Verhoeven’s observation of America, RoboCop would be an inferior film to the one we were given. We want to expand on this. What did he personally add to the project that wasn’t already in the script.
In general terms, how long are the interviews that you do? How much of what’s shot ends up in the final documentary?
GS: The average interview lasts 90 mins to 3 hours. As you know Leviathan is long and in hindsight that is due to the amount of questions that we asked each interviewee. The first 15 interviews we had about 60 questions for each interview and we quickly realised that was too much. It was all great stuff but some of it was ‘hear say’ and ‘borrowed stories’. On Brewster we really narrowed the questions down and its now a very tight 5 hour edit as opposed to 9 hours on Leviathan which also had over 90 hours of raw footage.
CG: It's been a graduation process for us with each project. Hellraiser interviews lasted an average of 2 to 3 hours per person and as in depth as they were, we realised that some questions were not fully relevant to certain figures and we ended up with approximately 90 hours of raw footage, 12 of which were released in a 3 disc DVD release. Maybe someday we will release 25 disc edition with everything? With Robocop we are going to have a great amount of people to interview for it and we are currently writing up a very specific set of questions for each individual in order to ensure that we get the best out of what we shoot and will have very little excess material upon producing the final product.
Can you talk a bit about the importance of the Kickstarter funding model to your projects?
GS: Kickstarter and fan input is extremely important to us. 1.) If its a success we know that fans actually want to see what we are doing and 2.) We are an independent company which is virtually non-profit. We don't get paid, our mantra has always been ‘to build’. We want to build the company up as much as possible so that one day we won’t need to rely on Kickstarter. At the moment profits from projects go into other projects such as the 245: TRIOXIN book and the Beware the Moon book. Kickstarter is an amazing tool and we are so grateful that we have developed a loyal base of supporters who want to see our projects made. So thank you!
CG: As a company, our 3 main projects have very much relied on the support of Kickstarter campaigns and for us they have been invaluable in helping us raise awareness to fans and give us complete creative control upon pitching our project to the most important people, the fans. In amongst group discussions we come up with plans of how to present the projects and produce materials that we know fans will love and so long as you are fully aware of what people want and know that you can deliver the goods, it is very much a win win situation. As stated in our videos, these projects are made by fans for the fans.
I realise you’ll all be heads down for this project right now (and good luck with it, can't wait to see the final product) but do you have other projects under consideration? What would be your dream documentary to make?
We have at least 3 projects lined up after RoboDoc. Each project takes roughly a year to produce, so we normally announce the next one around March. Michael is actually on the case for the next one already, which is an ‘action’ film from the early 90s with a huge star. If we can secure that star then we’re a go for that starting pre-production early next year. If not then we have at least 2 other horror documentaries that we know we can get off the ground. I always like to think big! In the next few months we will release Brewster on Blu-ray and DVD, followed by the hardback companion book, as well as the Peter Vincent figure, Beware the Moon hardback and Leviathan hardback companion book.
CG: In terms of dream projects, for me it is happening right now, but there are many other films we all have a mutual love for and we are already conjuring up ideas as to what we will do once Robodoc is complete.
EA: My dream documentary would be to explore James Cameron’s Terminators (T2 is in my top 5). I think those two movies could do with a nice 3 hour treatment, and really dive into the mythos. But the retrospective I really want to see is one on Last Action Hero. Another movie I love! There’s very little on the making of that film, which was a huge production at the time. I think that would be a terrific watch, with more than a few interesting cast/crew stories.
f any of this has piqued your interest, you do still have time to pledge. The campaign closes June 10th, and there's pledge and reward levels to tempt any budget. See
Thanks again to Gary, Chris, and Eastwood for taking time out of their busy schedule to talk to us.